Saturday, May 31, 2014

Feeling a Bit Blue! (Wink, Wink)

After over 3 years of blogging, I've reached a big milestone today:

THIS IS MY 1,000th POST!

Holy mackerel, that's a lot of yakking away over the world wide web!

And what better way to celebrate than by telling you what I found out today at the gender reveal party for my middle son and his wife's October baby?

The icing inside the cupcakes was blue, so...

It was a win-win situation, obviously; either way, this was going to be great news.  But I'm over the [blue] moon, because I have the softest of soft spots for baby boys (and little boys, and grown-up boys).  Cowabunga, this is awesome--our first grandson is on the way!  The Pearl name will live on!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

TBA: Our Newest Grandchild's Gender!

As you may already know, my third son and his wife Preciosa, a couple of starry-eyed newlyweds who were just married on December 7 of last year, are expecting their first child.  It's due in mid-October.

At their recent sonogram, the doctor was able to tell the sex of the baby (who is healthy and on track, thank God).  I'm flying down to VA tomorrow morning so that I can attend a "gender reveal" party on Saturday morning, to be held in honor of the newest little seed Pearl on the family string.

My husband and I had only sons, five of them.  And all three of our grandchildren--twins about to turn three and their 15-month-old sibling--are girls (our oldest son's daughters).  We're anxious to find out what this one is going to be: another sweet little bundle of sugar and spice and everything nice, or one of those energetic little chaps made up of snakes and snails and puppy dog tails.  So what's your prediction? Pink or blue?  Another little girl, or our first grandson?

In my suitcase, I'll be carrying a gender-neutral blanket that I made for the baby.  But I'm also bringing a little seersucker suit that I made for my oldest son back in 1983.  He outgrew it before the event for which I made it; but it was worn a few years later by the first-time daddy, when he was about a year old.  He looked mighty dapper in it, and I assume his boy will do the same.  And for a wee lassie, I made a jumper out of material that celebrates the first-time mommy's alma mater, FSU.  This fabric was actually originally used to make a tablecloth for the couple's rehearsal dinner (less than six months ago!), so there's all kinds of sentimental value stitched up in that little garment.
I'll be sure to let you know which of these little outfits I'll be packing back up to bring home with me (to be given at a later date, I'm sure!).  In the meantime, let me know your guess!

And keep me in your prayers, if you would.  Sometimes that old fear of flying bugaboo (which I start to believe I've conquered) comes back to bite me--and I don't want to feel stressed, when this trip should be nothing but joyful.  Thanks in advance!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Remembrance

Almost 31 years ago, I posed with two of my favorite military men.  Camera-shy as always, I turned away just as the flash went off.

That's my husband in the Navy dress whites.  He was an aviator who flew jets (A-7's and F-18's) on and off of aircraft carriers; so yes, he was indeed THE MAN.
I can't explain the little mark under my guy's right eye.  This is an Ice Age
 snapshot, from August 1983, and the quality isn't the best.
See that "baby bump" there?  That's our firstborn son, who was due to make his appearance about two months after this picture was snapped.

Little could I have imagined back then that the sweet little blond creature who made me a mommy for the first time would one day grow up to be a military man and an aviator, like his old man.  A husband in the service was one thing; a baby boy was quite another.

But that little boy grew up.  And his mommy got used to the idea that she wouldn't be able to keep him home forever in a bubble-wrap cocoon.  And he just recently ended his own military career, as an officer in the US Army, after spending the past eight years on active duty.  He was a pilot who flew those great big Chinook helicopters; and as such he was sent on deployment for a year in Iraq, and then with only a year in between stints, a year in Afghanistan.

But the two men in the photo above are far from the only members of my family who have served, are serving, or will one day serve in the armed forces.  The extended Pearl family has represented every branch of the military, with the exception of the Marine Corps, and they have served honorably and well.  My husband's dad started the tradition by serving as a Naval aviator back in the 50's, and it is utterly astounding how many of his kids and grandkids have followed in his footsteps.  The Pearls are a family that lives and breathes the motto engraved over one of the doors of the Sacred Heart Basilica out at the University of Notre Dame: GOD, COUNTRY, NOTRE DAME.  (Actually, make that GOD, FAMILY, COUNTRY, NOTRE DAME.  There we go, that's it.  That's our motto.)

Just among our own sons, we still have three in the Army: one on active duty, one in the Reserves, and our baby, who is currently an Army ROTC cadet--and whom we just dropped off at the airport this morning, so that he could spend 3 weeks doing a voluntary Army internship at Fort Bliss, followed by a 4-week required leadership course at Fort Knox.  He still has a year of college left before he will be commissioned, and already he is a brave and loyal soldier.

God bless the US military, the greatest fighting force in the world.  Where would we be without the courage of our men and women in uniform and the sacrifices they are willing to make on our behalf? Today, we remember all of these great patriots, but particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives in the defense of their country.

God bless America!  (And my family...and Notre Dame...)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Here Come the H's!

The H pages are done.  HOORAY and HALLELUJIAH!  I'm so happy--happier than a little kid eating birthday cake!


This illustration of "Henry" eating cake is the last one I'm going to use in this ABC Book that's actually a copy of an old drawing from 1993 (when I started a book for my youngest son but never finished it).  From here on out, I won't be hampered by trying to reproduce existing artwork; I always find it easier to start from square one.

I thought he was cuter the first time around.  But he didn't have a name back then.  Now he's Henry...because H is for Henry.

Okay then, have a great weekend, dear readers.

Catholic Writer's Award! (My Nominations)

You might have noticed this lovely new icon on the side bar of my blog.
You see, I was nominated for an award--what a lovely surprise!--by Nancy Shuman, who blogs at The Breadbox Letters, It's Only Write, and The Cloistered Heart.  If you haven't discovered Nancy yet, you should check out her beautiful Catholic sites.  Her posts at The Breadbox Letters are short and sweet; they include snippets of poetry, quotes by saints, Bible verses, and all sorts of inspirational words, along with pieces of stunningly gorgeous famous works of art that just happen to look like they were painted to go along with the text Nancy has chosen.  Even if you're in a hurry, you can stop by for a quick read and find yourself feeling incredibly inspired and uplifted.  (I know I always feel that way.)  Nancy is also the author of a book called The Cloistered Heart.

If you don't know her already and you want to learn more about Melanie Jean Juneau (the administrator of the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers) and the details of this new blogging award she has created,  just click here.

So, now on to the "rules":

Put it in your own sidebar!

Thank you, Nancy, for nominating my little String of Pearls for this wonderful award!!!

Now I want to nominate two bloggers I've "known" for a while now and who inspire me, especially because they are so young--a good three decades and then some younger than I--and yet are already so far ahead of where I was at their age, faith-wise.  They are just the sort of gals a mother of all sons would choose to fix up with her boys (mine are mostly taken now--but the baby's still available!).  But aside from that, they are great writers and their blogs are well worth checking out.

Sarah Therese at Cherishing Everyday Beauty (formerly Footprints on My Heart)
Sarah exudes sweetness, thoughtfulness, generosity, and devotion to the Faith in her writing; and her Saturday series, "Our Friends, the Saints" (with guest posts by other Catholic bloggers) is a real winner.

Iris at Country Girl's Daybook
Iris is a deeply faithful young person, and also often a real hoot.  She does killer movie reviews.  She'll make you think, she'll make you laugh--and when you stop by her blog, you will often get to enjoy the fruits of her passion for photography.

I'd also like to nominate Erica at Boys, Books, and Balls
Erica is busy raising and homeschooling three sons.  She's also a lover of books, knits like nobody's business, and crafts beautiful handmade jewelry.  I have "known" her for quite some time, and Erica deserves this award because she's not only an inspiring blogger, but she's also so supportive of the Catholic blogging community at large.  Plus, she's a Saint (literally!).

Okay, girls--tag, you're it!  Now you get to tag some of your favorites.  God bless you--and all the Catholic bloggers out there who are faithfully using their writing gifts as tools of evangelization!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

WWRW: The Gate

It is with distinct pleasure that I highly recommend Nancy Carabio Belanger’s latest triumphant YA novel, The Gate.  I only wish it had been around when my five sons were in junior high!
I have already read this acclaimed Catholic author’s award-winning Olivia and the Little Way; this 5-star must-read is an engaging, superbly written novel that imparts some vitally important messages to impressionable young readers (and as a bonus, introduces them to Saint Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower,” who is a favorite saint of the author).  Olivia and the Litte Way is not just for junior high girls, however; it is a delight for adult readers as well, as I can personally attest.  I’ve been looking forward to reading its sequel, Olivia’s Gift, which sits at the top of my “to read” pile.

I am a huge fan of the Olivia series, obviously; but as a mother who raised only sons, I have often bemoaned the fact that much of the modern young adult fiction out there seems to be targeted at female readers.  So when I heard about The Gate, which stars a troubled 13-year-old boy named Joshua Lasko and a baseball-loving, crotchey senior citizen named Pietro “Pie” Leone, I simply had to put Olivia’s Gift on hold and read it right away.

The reader is introduced to Josh, a troubled 8th grader and only child who has been a bit lost since the death of his father two years ago.  Once a happy, church-going, clean-living kid who did well in school (a former altar boy, for goodness sake!), Josh no longer really cares about anything—that is, besides the latest violent video game that he wants to buy.  Finding a way to get the money for this game, of which his mom would never approve, is his obsession; and meanwhile his grades are slipping, he’s losing his faith, and he’s heading for some serious trouble.  His mother is now a single parent who has to work long hours, and she and Josh are struggling to stay connected.

When Josh’s class takes a field trip to the senior center, to meet the elderly pen pals they are being assigned as part of a school project, Josh is thrown together with a grumpy old guy named “Pie,” who is recovering from surgery and itching to get healed up so he can go back to his normal life—whatever that might be.  Little does Josh suspect at first, but this will prove to be one of the most meaningful and significant relationships of his life.  As time goes on, Josh and Pie develop a unique friendship.  Pie teaches his young protégé about baseball, pizza-making, and most importantly, the Catholic Faith—about which he seems to know more than the average Joe.  Pie is a mentor who enters Josh’s life at a crucial time, when the boy has begun to lose sight of the difference between right and wrong and is sorely missing a father’s influence.  Once Pie enters the picture, Josh starts down a new path and he is forever changed.

If you’re a Red Sox fan (like yours truly), Pie might get on your nerves.  He’s a dyed-in-the-wool Yankees fan—but that’s my only complaint about him!  Besides that one glaring flaw in his make-up, he is one of the most lovable, memorable characters I have ever come across in fiction—YA or otherwise.  He does for young Josh what St. John Bosco did for so many troubled street boys in 19th-century Turin, Italy.  (And bonus: Just as the Olivia books tell about St. Therese and her “Little Way,” through this book the reader will learn more about wonderful Don Bosco, to whom Pie Leone is very devoted.)

In a recent interview on, Belanger was asked why she writes.  Her answer is the key to why her books are so needed in this day and age, when God has been all but banished from the classroom: “I write,” she answered, “because Catholic pre-teens are not being fed…I write for the young souls God loves so very much.  I write to show them the beauty of the One True Faith which is Catholicism.”

To that, all I can say is: mission accomplished!

In that same interview, when asked, “What one project do you daydream about accomplishing as a writer—your magnum opus?”, this gifted writer answered, “I am telling the truth when I say it was The Gate.”

Again, mission accomplished!  The Gate is indeed a magnum opus.  And although it's perfect for young male readers,  it's certainly not just for kids.  It'll knock your socks off, trust me.  The characters are fully-developed and unforgettable, and the plot draws the reader in from page one.  This novel is a celebration of faith, hope, charity, and love; it is a celebration of the Christian family; it is a celebration of the priestly vocation; and ultimately, it is a celebration of all that is good and true about the Holy Catholic Church. 

Now over to Jessica's with you!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Putting God First: an Engagement Story

I've been teasing you lately with the promise of a great proposal story, and now here it is.

On May 9, our second-oldest son got engaged to a lovely young lady whom we are thrilled to welcome as a fourth daughter.  This is a date my husband and I will never forget because it is also the birthday of my late father-in-law, a figure beloved by so many, who would be 86 if he hadn't been taken from us--way too soon--back in 2003.  Papa lived for his grandchildren, and he would have certainly approved of his grandson's choice of a mate.

Three of our other sons are married already; son #1 got married in December of 2009, son #3 in December of 2013, and son #4 in February of 2014.  Now son #2 and his bride-to-be are looking at a November 2014 wedding date.  Our firstborn pointed out recently that the oldest four in our family were born less than five years apart, and now they're going to all be married within five years of each other.  He had quite a head start on his younger brothers, but the three of them are making up for lost time by getting married in one 11-month period.   

All this is to say that life will surprise you!  Just when I thought it was a possibility that our #1 son's girls might be old enough to babysit for their Pearl cousins, because none of our other boys were dating anyone seriously yet, their uncles totally made up for lost time (and now one of them is expecting his first little one!).  My husband and I have always prayed for our sons' future wives, that they were out there and that our boys would find them sooner rather than later...and boy, have our prayers been answered.

Our three married sons met their wives on  And you might say that Catholic Match had a hand in this union as well, because the bride-to-be is a college friend of son #3's wife Preciosa.  She was a bridesmaid at their wedding last December, and son #2 was a groomsman for his brother.  The two of them talked at the reception, but never got around to dancing with each other.  Yet soon afterward, they began to text each other, which led to epic phone conversations, which led to visits by plane and by car between her home in VA and his here in NH.

It didn't take long for two mature 29-year-olds to realize this might be the real deal.  They saw in each other just what they'd been looking for: both are strong in their Catholic Faith and wanted to find someone with whom to share that; both are teachers; both are extremely family-oriented.  It seemed like a match made in Heaven--but to be sure, they decided to say a 54-day Rosary novena to help them discern if this was what God wanted for them.

They prayed a Rosary together every night, for 54 nights, mostly over the phone (except for on those weekends when one happened to be visiting the other).  With a beginning like that, how could God fail to bless these two kids and their relationship?  Have you ever heard of such an inspiring courtship, where two young people immediately put God's wishes for them above their own?

The novena ended, and they felt ready to move ahead, to take the next big step.  So my son began to devise a complicated plan to surprise his sweetheart with an extremely special proposal.  He told her he was flying down on Friday after school, but in reality he took a personal day on Thursday and stayed with her sister's family that night.  While she was at work on Friday, he snuck into her house and set up a scavenger hunt, with each romantic clue hand-written on antique-looking treasure map paper and sealed with red wax (and a heart stamp).

[A quick aside here: her folks asked my husband if our son got this romantic side from him, and we both had a hearty laugh.  We don't know where our boys get this tendency.  I'm beginning to suspect they're secretly on Pinterest.]

The scavenger hunt ended with a pair of pretty pearl earrings, and then my son's unsuspecting future fiancée's younger brother (who was in on the ruse) drove with her over to their church, where they had plans to take their priest friend out for a bite to eat (supposedly!).  When they arrived at the church, the priest was waiting outside with another scavenger hunt clue, and when she saw the treasure map paper again, she knew what was happening.  Inside the church, my son was waiting for her in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament (the priest had been in on the plan, too, obviously), and that's where he got down on bended knee and presented her with a diamond solitaire.
Right afterward, they prayed in front of Our Lord, and then the priest said a blessing for their marriage and sprinkled them with holy water.

I have never in all my life known anyone whose proposal occurred on a church altar in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament, but apparently it's more common in that part of VA in which the future bride lives.  It makes me want to move to this hotbed of Catholicity!  Have you ever heard of something like this?

These two kids will be getting married exactly 11 months and one day after meeting for the very first time.  But when your union starts off with a 54-day Rosary novena and a proposal in front of the Blessed Sacrament, with God at the center from the get-go, I like your odds for a long and happy marriage.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Regina Magazine Review of Finding Grace

I was thrilled to see a review of Finding Grace in the most recent issue of Regina, an up-and-coming on-line Catholic magazine.  (And this issue was all about Ireland--which of course ties in beautifully with the extremely Irish-Catholic family at the heart of my novel!)

The review was written by Dan Flaherty, a Red Sox-loving, 40-something American male--proof of the fact that Finding Grace isn't just for teenaged girls!  Dan is actually the writer who did articles about two of my sons who met their wives on Catholic Match.  He became Facebook friends with them, which then led to him finding out about my book, and the rest, as they say, is...well, it might not really be history--that sounds a bit grand--but how about serendipity?  I will always be so grateful to him for taking the time to read and review it.  As any Catholic author knows, getting the word out can be difficult, and we can use all the help we can get.

You can read Regina on your computer, flipping the "pages" just as you would a hard copy.  Here's what the review looks like on page 12 of the Ireland issue:
That might be a little hard to read, so if you're interested, here's a link to the article:

God is so very, very good to me.  I think I'm going to celebrate this fabulous review by going to see "Million Dollar Arm" with my hubby.

And as we say to our son who shares your name, Dan: you're the man!

P.S. Dan has written a novel about Irish-Americans, too.  It's called Fulcrum, and it looks fantastic!  Check it out!

Friday, May 16, 2014

The P's Aren't Perfect...But They're Done. Phew!

Okay, I'm not making as much headway on that ABC Book for my grandchildren as I hoped I would have by this point, but I did finally finish the P's.  Phew!

They're not perfect; as I was working on the second page, I had the pope and the pizza finished, and then I went to work on the pearls that were positioned right smack dab in the middle.  Poor planning on my part, because in my effort to keep from smudging the pizza as I worked on them, I made lots of boo boo's and they didn't turn out quite as pretty as I thought they should.  But it's time to move on!

So without further ado, here are the P pages!  (The pearls may not be all that pretty, but I think the puppy--which I originally painted back in the early 80's for use in a children's book that I never finished--is quite precious!  And I've shown you these sweet little piggies before.)


Okay, enough procrastination--I really need to work a lot harder at completing this project!  (Wow, I've used a lot of P words in this post--did you notice that?)
Have a great weekend!  I'll be back Sunday with a beautiful and inspiring tale about a prince of a guy who proposed to his fiancée in a way that would make any Catholic mother proud.  Details to come!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

WWRW: Frozen Footprints

I first read Therese Heckenkamp’s Catholic suspense novel Frozen Footprints about a year ago.  A big fan of Heckenkamp’s work (after reading her debut novel, Past Suspicion), I meant to do a review of Frozen Footprints when I finished it; but I procrastinated just long enough to realize that if I wanted to do the book justice, I would have to re-read it so that I could write about it while the details were still fresh in my mind.

I recently did read Frozen Footprints again--and boy, am I ever glad I did!  I remembered that I couldn’t stop turning the pages the first time I read it, anxious to see what was going to happen next.  And I remembered that faith played a huge role in the story.  But I actually had a deeper appreciation of Heckenkamp’s award-winning book (a recipient of the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval) the second time I read it, even though I knew exactly what was going to happen this time around.  I was struck by just how deft a storyteller she is, and just how expertly and movingly she has woven elements of the Catholic Faith into this edge-of-your-seat thriller.

The story revolves around the kidnapping of Maxwell Goodwyne Perigard III ("Max"), the teenage grandson of Maxwell Goodwyne Perigard I and the twin brother of Charlene.  The twins have been under the care of their selfish and tight-fisted grandfather since their father’s accidental death left them orphans a couple of years back. Grandfather is an extremely wealthy man who lives in a lavish mansion, complete with a chapel for Mass (although outside the doors of this chapel, he doesn’t come close to acting like a Christian); his great wealth—along with the ruthless business tactics he has employed--make him a perfect target for acts of revenge.

When Max suddenly goes missing, his grandfather assumes he’s just playing a prank and doesn’t take it seriously at all.  After all, he’s threatened to run away many times in the past.  Charlene, however, receives a frightening call from the kidnapper, with instructions for delivering a $2 million ransom, and she intuitively knows this is no joke.  When the police, over whom her grandfather has undue influence, refuse to look into the matter properly, Charlene starts doing her own detective work.  Her sleuthing leads her to Max; but unfortunately, she also ends up being taken captive by the same crazed, vengeful, violent man who kidnapped her brother.  The two siblings are locked in a cold, tomb-like hole, underneath a lonely ramshackle cabin in the middle of nowhere.  There is no phone, no electricity…and most likely, no way out.  And because it's winter and the outside world is blanketed with white, if they attempt escape they will leave easy-to-follow footprints in the snow.

Heckenkamp has created a truly terrifying character in kidnapper Abner Morrow; he is a brutal, evil man who is undoubtedly possessed by the forces of darkness.  He is utterly barbaric in his treatment of the Perigard twins--and even his younger brother Clay, who unwittingly becomes part of the kidnapping plan, is not spared the violence of his words and his fists.  She has also created one of the most resourceful and determined characters in Charlene Perigard, who is about as fully rounded-out as any character I’ve come across in my reading travels of late.  She goes through the whole gamut of emotions in the course of the story: despair at the hopelessness of their situation; hope, which keeps her working tirelessly to come up with a way to survive the ordeal; anger—at God, at the kidnappers; empathy--for Clay, who in a way is as much a victim as she and Max; and ultimately, deep faith, which sustains her in her darkest hours.

My husband, a former military man, used to repeat that well-known adage, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”  Yet it is rare in this secularized world of ours to find characters in books or movies who turn to God when they are in extremely dangerous and terrifying situations and their lives are in mortal danger.  It is rare to see them turn to prayer for comfort and refuge.  Heckenkamp’s characters aren’t all as strong in their faith as they should or could be when the story begins; but when they are thrown together into a living nightmare—a true life-or-death situation—they do turn to Him.  Sometimes, in their desperation, they wonder if He’s listening at all.  But they do pray.  And a Rosary Charlene has in her pocket when she’s taken captive proves to be a life-saver, in more ways than one.

This book really has it all, truly.  It’s a page-turning thrill ride; but it’s also an insightful character study, and there are even hints of a love story in there.  Most of all, Frozen Footprints is a testament to the Catholic Faith, and how it makes sense of the most senseless hardships and sufferings in life.  Heckenkamp shows that to believe is to know real courage in the face of fear.  The last page of this book illustrates this message so beautifully that it will bring tears to your eyes.

Highly recommended!

Now head on over to Jessica's blogging book club for more!

Okay now, before I sign off, I just want to get in a little plug for Finding Grace.  You can now purchase  a signed copy of the book here, using the yellow Pay Pal button up there on the sidebar (for $13.00, plus $3.25 for s&h).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Feast of Our Lady of Fatima

Here's an excerpt from Finding Grace, with some of Grace's musings on the subject of Fatima after she learns that her dear elderly neighbors, the Perlmanns, are Holocaust survivors:

          And something was nagging at the back of her mind.  What dire warning had Mary given to Francisco and Jacinta Marto and Lucy Santos, the three peasant children to whom She'd appeared at Fatima?  Wasn't it that there would be a terrible war, worse than the most recent one the world had witnessed?  Our Blessed Mother had appeared to the three Portuguese children in 1917, not long after the Great War, the "War to End All Wars": World War I.  Through three poor, humble, young shepherds, the Mother of God had sought to warn the people of the world that if they didn't change their ways and consecrate themselves to Her Immaculate Heart, an even more terrible holocaust would be visited on the earth.
          The horrible chastisement to which She referred was World War II!
          Aside from just the testimonies of the three children, there was tangible physical evidence that the visions were authentic: Mary had promised and then performed a spectacular miracle, "The Miracle of the Sun," and it had been seen by at least 70,000 people.  The sun had turned colors and danced in the sky, and then appeared to be crashing toward the earth as these awestruck witnesses cowered in fear.  After that irrefutable proof that the children had been telling the truth, how could anyone still insist on disregarding the words that Our Lady had communicated to the world through the three little seers?
          And if only people had heeded Mary's words!  If they'd simply followed Her instructions
--and one of them was to pray the Rosary daily!--Hitler might never have come to power, and the terrible tragedy that had led to the deaths of millions of souls...might never have come to pass.
          Why did God's children ignore the Fatima message?  How different would the course of history have been if they'd heeded it?  What if everyone on earth had fervently prayed the Rosary every single day as Mary had instructed?  Was that too much to ask?  Peace in the world had been promised by the Mother of God Herself, yet the Fatima admonitions had fallen on mostly deaf ears.
          But how was she, Grace, any better than every other person who'd ignored the message of Fatima?
          [Feeling very guilty, and now filled with an interior fire that she wishes she'd felt sooner, Grace begins to pray a Rosary.]

It's so easy to get caught up in our peaceful, happy, everyday lives and forget all about the message of Fatima, as Grace realizes she's done; our Rosary beads lay hidden in drawers, collecting dust.  But we must remember that the most powerful weapon that can be employed to attain peace throughout the world is not a gun or a missile or a battleship; it's the Rosary.  That's the answer, the Rx to all the world's ills: the Rosary.  As the loving, obedient, and trusting children of Our Lady of Fatima, we must PRAY THE ROSARY!

Mama's Got a Brand New Tooth--and It's a Beauty!

Back on November 16, 2013, I blogged about the trials and tribulations I was undergoing when I had to have both molars on the upper right side of my jaw removed not long before the wedding of one of my five sons.  I was saved from the embarrassment of having a big gap in my mother-of-the-groom smile by a neat little contraption that my dentist made up for me.  (Dentists are sometimes super heroes, did you know that?)

Here's that post, which you might enjoy reading all over again; and if you haven't read it yet, let me tell you: this is a story that you can really sink your teeth into.

Mama's Got a Brand New Tooth
Or at least she will have one, soon.

Since this past summer, I've had to have two problem molars extracted on the right side of my upper jaw.  First the back one was pulled--no biggie, because it didn't even show when I smiled and that still left me with one molar on that side for chewing.  Then the one next to it was pulled--biggie, because the hole where it should be is very noticeable when I smile and now I have to chew exclusively on the left side of my mouth.

I've told you about my tragic tooth saga, my Dickensian tale of two teeth, several times already (do I hear yawning?), most recently in this post (skip down to #3 to get to the scintillating part about teeth, or the lack thereof).  And now here I am at it again!  Mommy bloggers talk about how busy and crazy it is with toddlers in the house, and how much they worry about losing their post-baby weight; grammy bloggers tell you about how much they miss their grown babies, and how much they worry about ending up toothless old ladies.


At my latest appointment with the oral surgeon, I found out that the metal "root" he implanted, which will someday have a nice fake molar attached to it, is healing nicely.  In about two months, I'll have the green light to go to my regular dentist and have that new tooth made.  Which is great news--but unfortunately, my middle son is getting married in less than a month and I don't want to feel self-conscious every time I smile on his big day (which I believe will be a lot of times).

So, to tide me over while I wait for my implant, the dentist made me a clear retainer-type device that has a faux molar embedded in it.  I have a slight lisp when I wear it, but the device is almost unnoticeable otherwise (unless you really look closely at it; and if you're that much of a close-talker, I'm going to back away from you anyway).
One of my boys, upon hearing my concerns about the embarrathing lithping, said that no one will notice, because the wine will be flowing, the music will be loud, and I'll fit right in with all the other hard partyers out there on the dance floor.  You know, they'll just assume that I've had too much and that's why I can no longer say an S without slurring my speech.  Thanks, son.  I feel a lot better now.

Okay, readers, I had my husband take pictures of me without the fake tooth retainer
 and then with it.
You really can't tell, can you?  I think I'll be able to fool long as I try to speak without using any S or soft-C words.

Thee you thoon.

Here's the epilogue to that story, with a very happy ending indeed.  I finally did get my brand new tooth, a crown made of porcelain that perfectly matches the color of my other teeth.

As you can see, I'm quite pleased with it.
Ain't she a beauty? 

I got this new tooth just in the nick of time for another son's wedding in February--hooray!--and I'll have it when yet ANOTHER son gets married this coming November.  (Three sons getting married in a span of less than twelve months; that must be some kind of record!)

My local dentist did a bang-up job for me.  But if you've got tooth woes of your own and don't know where to turn, you might want to stop by Dr. Ang's Dental Practice.  They'll have you smiling again in no time!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Am I a Writer? Really?

It has been the most amazing weekend, and I have so much to tell you about...but today is going to be an extremely busy day for my husband and me, and I also need to collect my thoughts before I can adequately describe the way my second-oldest son asked the girl of his dreams to marry him on Friday.  So while I'm getting it together to compose that post, here is one that's been languishing as a draft since I wrote it up last week:

I was reading a post by one of my favorite Catholic bloggers not too long ago, and I found myself saying out loud, "That's it!  That's how I feel!"  Sarah Rhinehard is the Vice President of the Catholic Writers Guild, has authored several books, and regularly publishes articles and book reviews--she is busy, busy, busy writing, but currently not working on a book.  And here's what she had to say on the subject of being a writer:

...that whole "I’m a writer" thing? It feels…crazy, phony, unbelievable. I feel very much like a hack. And no, it’s not that I doubt my ability to write. It’s not that I’m insecure, because I know I’m okay at what I do.

It’s more that defining myself as a writer feels somehow untrue, like it’s a past-tense or a future-tense thing, not a current-tense thing."

Even when I was working on Finding Grace, I had trouble thinking of myself as a "writer."  I was just plugging away at my project in secret, wondering if anyone but my husband and myself would ever read it.  For those four-and-a-half years, when I was writing and re-writing and editing each page to death, if you'd asked me what I was the last thing I would have said was, "I'm a writer."  And now, with no new book in the works (Nicholas Sparks I am NOT!), I feel less like one than I ever did.  I have a few ideas that I've been kicking around, but so far I haven't had the motivation to sit down and get to work on a second novel.

Shortly after Finding Grace was published in the summer of 2012, I contacted author Therese Heckenkamp to see if she would list my title on her Catholic fiction website; she not only did that, but also read the book and posted a nice review (FG's first review by a published author!).  When I emailed her a thank you, she replied that it was her pleasure to help out a fellow author.  When I told her I felt funny about using my name and the word "author" in the same sentence, she said I needed to get used to it.  Almost two years later, I'm still not.

I blog almost daily, and that's writing--so...I guess being a blogger makes one a writer.  And I've been doing a good number of book reviews lately for Amazon and Goodreads.  I am a contributing reviewer over at as well (although I haven't done a whole lot of work for them lately).  But If you're writing reviews--even when you're doing it pro bono--then I suppose you would have to consider yourself a writer.  (Right?)

But still, the tag "writer" (as a job description) still seems much too surreal to me, because I make no money doing it.  But as my husband reminded me recently when this subject came up, I have never been paid for the work I've done throughout my adult life (since I was always a "stay-at-home mother/housewife"); but that doesn't mean my work has been without value.

Well said, oh hero of mine.

So if I use whatever writing talent (or compulsion!) I have, doing my best to employ the written word in such a way that it will give glory to God, then it doesn't matter if I make any money or not.  It doesn't mean that my writing--whether it's Finding Grace, or this blog, or the reviews I pen for Catholic works of fiction--is without value.  This is something I must continually remind myself.

I have always had a laminated copy of our wedding article (from the small hometown newspaper where my husband and I grew up, and then met in high school) on our fridge.  After 33-plus years, it's yellowed with age, but it never fails to make me smile when I look at it.
I clearly remember when I was filling out the form for the press release--writing out the names of our parents and the members of the wedding party, stating where we would be making our first home, etc.  At the bottom, there was a short section for the bride to fill out, telling the name of the high school from which she'd graduated and the degree she'd earned at college, and what she was doing now; and directly following was a paragraph about the groom.  It was easy to fill in what my husband was doing: he was an ensign in the US Navy, attending flight school to become a Navy jet pilot.  For a brief moment, I was tempted to put "aspiring writer" for myself.  But I knew that would sound a little crazy, because at the time it was no more than a pipe dream.  So I left that line blank, and my section just ended by saying I'd graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA with a bachelor of arts degree in English.

Now that I am a writer (pinch me?  Am I really?), I almost wish I'd had the guts, way back when I was a 22-year-old newlywed, to say that I was aspiring to be one.  It took until 2007--when I was a 49-year-old mom of grown kids--to get inspired to start Finding Grace, and a few years more to start this blog.  I'm so happy God sent me the grace to do it, and that I found it.  (See what I did there?)  With Him, all things truly are possible!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

The most important person on earth is a mother.

She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral.

She need not.

She has built something more

magnificent than any cathedral –

a dwelling for an immortal soul,

the tiny perfection of her baby’s body…

The angels have not been blessed with such a grace.

They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to

bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can.

Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature;

God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation…

What on God’s good earth is more glorious than this; to be a mother?

~ Cardinal Mindszenty

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

WWRW: Catholic Books and Blogs

I finally read Kari Burke's wonderful pro-life novel, The Life I Dreamed, which I'd had stored in my Kindle library for quite some time.  I'm glad I finally got to it!  I enjoyed the book on a number of levels.
For one thing, the well-developed characters are true-to-life, as are the tough situations in which they find themselves.  You know how sometimes the plots of novels are so far-fetched you find yourself scoffing, "THAT could never happen!"  (Think wizards and vampires...)  Well, this book is quite different.  The premise is totally believable, as are the emotions and reactions of the characters involved.  It shows the very real struggles human beings go through, and how when they rely on faith and trust in God's plan for their lives, they are showered with unexpected gifts and graces.

The story centers around overworked, stressed-out, stay-at-home mother Emmy O'Brien, who has her hands full with her four small children.  As if she isn't busy enough already, suddenly her husband throws a major curve ball at her: a young girl named Kaila, who is a member of the youth group at the church where he works as a youth minister, is pregnant and alone at 16, and she needs a place to stay because she's had a falling out with her parents, who want her to abort the baby.  Emmy takes the girl in, reluctantly at first.  But will she and her husband even be able to convince Kaila to choose life for her baby, in spite of all their help?

Burke's debut novel conveys a beautiful pro-life message, without seeming at all preachy.  This is such a timely and important message, making it a book that I recommend for impressionable teen readers as well as adults.  (It has earned the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval, so parents can be assured that there is nothing in it that goes against the teachings of the Catholic Church.)

If you'd like to read more about The Life I Dreamed, here is the more in-depth Goodreads review that I posted recently.

So, I've been reading lots of books lately.  Not just this one, but also Nancy Carabio Belanger's The Gate and Therese Heckenkamp's Frozen Footprints (both awesome--and I'll be talking about those in future WWRW posts!).

But I've also been reading blogs (an addiction of mine that ranks right up there with coffee drinking these days).  And one of my favorites, Footprints on My Heart, has moved.  It is now called Cherishing Everyday Beauty.  The young gal behind it, Sarah Therese, is a recent college grad, so now she's leaving her student days behind and will be blogging about making it out there in the big, wide world.  Stop by and visit her at her new site.  She has been running a Saints Series on Saturdays, inviting other bloggers to guest post, if you'd like to contact her about contributing to that.

Okay, then.  Happy reading, everyone!  And speaking of happy reading (and getting together with other peeps who are happiest when they've got their noses in good books!), head on over to Jessica's.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The S Pages are Done--SWEET!

I'm making progress, slowly but surely, on that ABC Book I'm working on for the grandkids.  If you've been following along, I've posted the A through E pages so far.  Well, I know that means I should be on the F's--but I'm skipping ahead to the S's.  (Good thing I'm not doing this for a grade, or I might get an F on the project...tee hee.)

One of the reasons I'm doing the S's now instead of later is that I realized I would be able to "cheat" a little bit again and re-purpose some old artwork.  I'm always thrilled when I can do that.

For the first S page, you might recognize that green sweater from the cover of Finding Grace.  I thought it would be a shame to draw a whole new sweater when I have this one all ready to go.  Am I right?

The second S page is actually a pastel drawing I did many years ago--I think it was before we even had kids yet.   (And actually, wanting to use it in this book so badly ended up helping me to figure out a rhyme that made these two pages come together.)

I have a feeling my baby sister, who is a loyal reader of this blog and thee biggest fan of Mickey, Minnie, and all things Disney you've ever met in your life, will like that one.
Now on to the P's!  (I know, I know: P does not come after S!  Maybe eventually I'll get back to completing pages in alphabetical order...)

Monday, May 5, 2014

I'd Appreciate Your Input

I went almost three years before I made any changes to the look of my blog (because I avoid change whenever possible); but not too long ago I livened this place up quite a bit by choosing a very PINK background, adding some new doo-dads and links to the side bar, and inserting a banner picture across the top.  For the banner picture,  I chose my husband's all-time favorite photo of his five sons with their mom (taken in 2007), because he is one person who definitely looks forward to reading String of Pearls every day and I knew how happy it would make him to see that picture every time he clicked on the site.

But now that I guess I'm no longer avoiding change like the plague (who am I these days?  I'm even on Twitter!), I'm sort of itching to update the banner picture with something that is more representative of what this blog is all about. 

I write about my sons a lot, and about the joy I get from the vocation of motherhood.  But I also talk about my best guy--yet he's nowhere to be found in that picture of my boys and me.  And I'm a Catholic blogger, so I thought the banner should reflect that as well.  Our family is devoted to the Rosary and believe it is through the intercession of Mary that we have received countless graces and blessings.  Therefore, I thought the banner photo should include an image of Our Blessed Mother (to whom I formally dedicate this blog today--which I wish I'd done back when I started out!).

One last thing: this site is called "String of Pearls."  And I know that you're bright enough, readers, to get the metaphor: my sons--and now their wives, and their children--are the Pearls, they make up the string.  But I thought maybe an actual string of pearls (or two) would make a pretty addition to the picture.

So here are my attempts at creating a new banner.  (And just for the record: if professional photographers are well paid, let me take this opportunity to say they deserve that--it's harder to set up a pretty shot that I thought it would be!)

Okay, do you like choice #1?
Or #2?

Basically the same as #1, with a larger copy of the picture on the right.

Or #3?
(I moved my little still life, because I thought the red in #'s 1 and 2 might clash with the pink.)

Or there's always choice #4: keeping it the way it is.

What do you think?  Should I just leave well enough alone, or should I change it up here?  I'd appreciate your input (on this very grave and important matter.)


Saturday, May 3, 2014

The F Pages? Finished!

But...I fudged them a bit.  I re-used some old artwork of mine for these two pages of the ABC Book I'm currently working on for my grandchildren (I'm trying to meet a self-imposed early June deadline, after all!).  The family portrait on the first F page is actually an illustration from a children's book idea I submitted to Dodd, Mead, & Co. back in the early 80's.  It was about a little girl who eats so many chocolate chip cookies that she actually turns into one (it was semi-autobiographical), and then when she begins to eat healthier, she turns back into a "real girl."  Kind of like Pinocchio.

Dodd, Mead, & Co. wasn't interested in publishing my magnus opus, but I hung onto those drawings anyway.  I thought the last illustration (the one planned for the happy ending of that book) could be put to good use here in the F pages of this book--which won't be required to pass the editorial test of any publisher, because I'm going to publish it myself.

For the second F page, I re-purposed an image I painted on the walls of my sons' Catholic elementary school back in the mid-to-late-90's, as part of a mural with the theme "The Faces of God's Children."  I know the style is quite different from the softer colored pencil drawings I've been doing for this book, but I hope it works.

I'm making headway now, but I'm skipping a few letters and going right to the P's and S's.  More to come soon!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Happy 28th Birthday to My Middle Son

Today is the birthday of our middle son, #3 of our five, who joined our family when his older brothers were 2 and 1/2 and 15 months.  (Three kids in 2 and 1/2 years: shouldn't there be a special name for that, like "Irish triplets" or something?)

When this sweet baby boy was born, his father and I were not even 28 yet ourselves (we would both celebrate our 28th birthdays within a few months of his birth).  And now he's turning 28!  It's utterly mind-boggling.  (Did you read my posts yesterday, and the day before?  And here I am again, talking about time, and its apparent ability to fly--at supersonic speeds.  That appears to be my theme this week!)

When this happy-go-lucky, the glass is always half-full, eternally optimistic lad of ours, with the twinkliest blue eyes, the sunniest smile, and the most infectious laugh you've ever heard--not to mention an impressive encyclopedic knowledge of all things sports-related--was born, his father was young and gorgeous and tan...and moustachioed (along with every other young Naval aviator we knew back then).
His mother was young and tired-looking (three babies in 2 and 1/2 years, remember?) and liked to wear glasses the size of ski goggles (and over which no ski goggles on earth would ever fit).  She was on a cloud when this picture was taken--don't let her haggard appearance fool you--and already totally in love with her newest little angel.
At 9 lbs. 13 oz. and 22" long, he was a big 'un, but it was a relatively easy labor and delivery.  In fact, as I was lying on a gurney being wheeled from the labor room to the delivery room, the nurse was assuring me that baby #3 would be born "any time now," but I didn't really even feel like it was all that close!  And I remember saying to my husband, "They better not be messing with me!"  (They weren't.)  The only tough part was at the very end, when it appeared that his shoulders were too big and the doctor might have to break them so that he could make it through the birth canal.  But luckily, that didn't end up being necessary.

However, he had a bit of fluid in his lungs from the distress of being hung up for a bit, so they whisked him down to the nursery for about six hours.  My arms were achingly empty and I missed him so much that I didn't sleep a wink waiting to get him back in the room with me.  (Thus the very puffy-eyed, sleep-deprived countenance in the above picture.)  But while he was down in the nursery, his big brothers got to go and get a peek at him through the window.
Babies checking out babies!  They were so young themselves to be thrust into big brother roles.  But it's amazing that when #3 was a newborn, suddenly these two little towheads looked like giants to me.

Son #3 has always loved perusing a good photo album.  I used to keep them up-to-date, back in the olden days before the dawn of digital photography (which makes it so easy to take thousands of pictures, but so hard to decide which ones to print and put into albums).  So I thought he might enjoy this little look back at the day he was born--he probably hasn't seen these grainy snapshots in years.  (Happy Birthday to you!  You're welcome!)

The amazing thing is that in a matter of about five months, this middle son of ours is going to become a daddy himself!  Wasn't he just born--I don't know, yesterday?

He was an easy baby--so quiet and content in his little infant seat, as his older brothers squealed and yelled while they played and/or fought, that we even worried that he might be deaf.  Nope.  His hearing was perfect.  He was just that easy-going.  That personality trait was there from the very beginning.  Life was good for that little man.  He was--and still is--a pretty happy camper. 

I love this boy, to the moon and back.  He has been a complete joy to his dad and me since this momentous date in 1986, when he came into our lives and made the whole world a better place.