Monday, May 30, 2016

In Honor of Our Fallen Heroes

This Memorial Day, I am so grateful to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country.  And I am endlessly thankful that this guy was not one of them.
This photo is circa 1980, when my husband was in flight school.
My husband was a Naval Aviator for the first decade or so of our marriage.  He went on one four-month deployment (we called them "cruises" back then--but believe me, the aircraft carrier ones did not resemble the Carnival variety in the least), when our oldest son was a year old and we were about four months away from welcoming son #2.
While his father was away flying jets off a carrier, I constantly showed our
firstborn pictures so he would recognize his dad when he came home. 
One day, I followed him into a room and watched as he picked up this
wallet photo and murmured, "Daddy."  (Ow!  My heart hurts.)
Not too long after that cruise, my husband's squadron transitioned from the A-7 to the F-18, so he got to be a land-lubber for a while as he went through training.  And then he became a flight instructor.  So he did periodically have long detachments (weeks of bombing exercises in the deserts out west, for instance), and he worked long days; but he was home with us for the most part.

We lucked out; most Navy families had/have to endure many more separations than we did, and longer ones, in the course of a career.  And many other Navy families had/have to endure losses that I have trouble even imagining.

Yesterday, an old Navy friend of my husband's, a former fellow F-18 pilot, posted a tribute to their fallen buddies (he lists them by their "call signs"--the sometimes funny nicknames that sprang from inside jokes the guys shared).  It is so beautiful and poignant that I thought I'd share it with you today, in honor of all of our fallen heroes:

Tremendously humbled with a deep debt of gratitude on this weekend of reflection and remembering all American Patriots (like Spike) who sacrificed their all at the altar of Freedom! My prayers this Memorial Day weekend are especially with the families of great Naval Aviator friends, warriors and patriots who lost their lives serving their country: BJ, Bone, Nuke, Gramps, Turbo, Bubes, Crazy, Rip, Cashman and too many others----you will NEVER be forgotten and my life and the lives of soooo many are better because of each of you. I pray for the peace of the families of all these heroes who will endure yet another day of grief and pain without them. May God bless and comfort you all!!!

God bless you Spike, BJ, Bone, Nuke, Gramps, Turbo, Bubes, Crazy, Rip, Cashman...along with countless others.  And God bless America.

Friday, May 27, 2016

'Til Death Do Us Part

I just have to say that I was floored by the thoughtful comments readers left on yesterday's post.  It means the world to me to know that something I say here on this little old blog of mine might help another mom out there to accept the emptying of her nest and the sometimes painful transition to the next phase of her life.

If you did read that post, you know that I'm going through a difficult transition period of my own.  I'm trying to figure out where my husband and I belong--where we should spend the rest of our lives, now that our boys are out on their own and aren't able to make it back to their dearly loved childhood home in NH very often.  Last year, we bought our NY lake house, Oyster Haven, with the idea that it would make an idyllic setting for future family gatherings with our kids and grandkids--and boy, it really would.  The plot of land on which it sits is incomparably beautiful.
It's also got the added bonus of being located about three miles down the road from my husband's childhood home, which is still owned and used as a gathering spot by him and his seven siblings.  It's close to where my parents and my two sisters live.  It's right next door to the town where we grew up (my husband from birth; me from the age of ten), where we met in high school, where we fell in love.

With our 40th high school reunion fast approaching, I find myself poring over old yearbooks, looking at the very young and oh-so-in-love (or in like-like, at first) kids we were.  Two babes-in-the-woods with nary a line on our faces, with our whole lives ahead of us.

Here we are (with stars above our gray-less heads), during our first year of dating.  We were going-on-16 when these 1974 yearbook photos were taken.

And here's part of the two-page novel that I wrote to my husband (who at the time, had been my boyfriend for ten months) in his copy of that yearbook:

I have never known a nicer, more intelligent, more considerate, more patient, more unselfish, more fun-to-be-around person than you are...I have had the time of my life this past year, and I'll never forget it--ever...We always have to stay in touch, OK?  Because you are a very important person to me, and a big part of my life.  I hope I will have you for a friend until the day I die.  Because you're really the greatest...There's no one in the world quite like you.

That young girl knew that she'd met the one guy for her and worried that it had happened too soon.  She worried that she was bound to lose him someday to some smarter, nicer, prettier girl, some more deserving Notre Dame or St. Mary's undergrad--because from the time he was knee-high to a grasshopper, he'd dreamed of ending up in South Bend.  She knew that as far as she was concerned, however, there would never be another guy who could stack up to him.

Thankfully, none of her fears were realized.  Their relationship just got stronger and stronger, despite the distance that separated them for the four years they were in college.  She got the guy!  And 42 years later, she still feels the same way about him.

Now we're going-on-58, and there are more years behind us than ahead of us.  Perhaps we'll live to be 95 or 100...but realistically (if you go by average life expectancy charts), we might have only 20 years or so left on this earth.  I'm not trying to be morose here; I'm just trying to come to grips with the fact that we might not have all the time in the world to figure things out. 

So where do we belong?

I'm still not sure.  But as long as we're together until the day I die, I'll be okay.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Where is Home?

Sometimes I wonder if my little String of Pearls, filled with the musings of a grandmother in her late 50's and read by only a handful of folks, has a raison d'etre on the Internet.  "Do I even belong here?" I often ask myself. "Has this blog run its course, become irrelevant?"  I've never really been a full-fledged member of the Catholic blogging club, which is mostly populated with young mothers whom I admire so much. The blogosphere is chock-full of way more interesting and entertaining, way younger and hipper (and wow, way holier) gals than I, most of whom seem to be in the same season of their lives, the season of child-bearing and child-rearing.

My own child-bearing era has become a glorious but hazy memory. It's been years since I last bought a home pregnancy test kit (something they didn't even have when I had my first babies) and excitedly awaited the results--because every other time I'd been so late, another son had been on the way; it's been years since I cried when the tests were negative, because I was embarrassed and disappointed and forced to come to grips with the sad reality that I would never carry another child in my womb.

I wonder if any woman is ever ready to hear that as far as that part of her life is concerned, she is "done."  Even if she thinks her family is "complete," it's a tough thing to accept.

I'm in a new season now, approaching what they call the "golden years."  And they are golden, very much so, in their way.  My husband and I consider our life these days to be one long date, where we get to spend all of our free time together, focusing on each other, now that we're not running here and there to drop kids off and pick them up, now that we don't have a houseful of boys whose demands need to be met.

But my top "love languages" (which I only learned about after my sons got married and my daughters-in-law asked me what mine were) are quality time together and acts of service.  I live for spending time with my family, my favorite people on earth.  And I love to do things for them.  But when you are not physically near your loved ones, it's kind of tough to speak these languages as often as you'd like.  The nest we've made here in NH over the course of more than a quarter of a century, the home where we raised our sons, is now officially empty.  Our four oldest boys have started families of their own and live miles from home, and not long after our baby graduated from college last May, his new career took him even farther away from us than any of his brothers.

So our beautiful Colonial house in NH, a nest that we spent years feathering, rarely has anyone in it these days--and that includes my husband and myself.  Between our time spent in NY fixing up Oyster Haven (our VRBO house on Lake Champlain) and our travels to visit with our kids and grandkids, we never seem to be there for more than a few days at a time anymore. 
Our happy house, filled with love and memories.
My husband and I are coming to a bit of a crossroad in our lives, one that I should have seen coming many years ago but somehow didn't.  We are beginning to ask ourselves where we belong in the world, to ask ourselves, "Where is 'home'?"  Is it here in NH, in the house we bought at Christmastime in 1989 and where we raised our five boys?  Or is it at the idyllic house on the lake that we bought just last year, in the area where we met and our story began?
Oyster Haven...which looks suspiciously similar to our NH home!
(Not that we have a "type" or anything!)
Will this be the happy house that our grandchildren remember?
A few days ago when I drove from NH to our Oyster Haven house (to meet with the cleaning staff who will take care of the turnover between renters), I had plenty of time to think about things.  I was in the car for about four-and-a-half hours, and I was driving solo (since my husband was off working a trip); so as I said...gobs of time to think.  A lot of you probably sing at the top of your lungs in the car (I know I do--badly!); but do you also cry in the car?  I find that from time to time, when I'm all by myself on the open road, a good old-fashioned therapeutic cry is in order.  I'm the luckiest person in the world, with a life filled with more blessings than any flawed human being such as myself could possibly deserve.  So what's there to cry about, you ask?

I guess it's just that sometimes, I feel like I have no home.  Or too many homes.  It's confusing, and sometimes, it makes me feel a bit verklempt.  I know I'm not supposed to get emotionally attached to the lake house, because we're going to have to rent it out to afford it, and that means we're going to have to let other people stay there.  But every time my husband and I spend a few days at Oyster Haven getting work done, it begins to feel like home.  Then we drive back to NH, and I feel I'm home again.  My loyalties have become divided, and that's tough for me.  It's hard to know what's right for us, at this point in our lives.

This song I was listening to in the car, by an Irish band called The Script, didn't help either, as far as the crying went.
You see, I've always been a nester, and I've always been able to make even our most humble abodes feel like home.  When we first got married and my husband was in Navy flight training, we lived in an apartment in Corpus Christi, TX for a short spell; then in an apartment in Beeville, TX for an even shorter spell, until we got into base housing and moved into a duplex where we stayed for a few years, and where our firstborn lived the first two months of his life; then in a brand new ranch--the first house we ever bought--in Jacksonville, FL, where sons #2, #3, and #4 joined the family; then in a rented ranch house in a Chicago suburb, when my husband began his airline career; then in a rental home--a small Cape Cod--in NH, where we spent a year.  And finally, we ended up in our "forever home," our beloved Colonial, only the second house we've ever owned since we became man and wife in 1980.  Over the years we lived here, I really didn't look ahead to the day when the boys would all be grown and gone, when they might not live a stone's throw from us.  So I never really thought about the possibility that we wouldn't always be here.

Sometimes our NH home, so empty and quiet now, makes me feel sad, a feeling that confuses me.  Because it's always been a happy house.  It's the only home our youngest son has ever known, and he wrote a deeply moving "fictional" piece about it for a 9th grade English project (which I blogged about in 2011, if you'd like to read the full post).   Here is an excerpt from that project, about a family he called the O'Callaghans but who were really the Pearls:

...To common passers-by, it is just an ordinary house at the end of some street. And yes, like any home, it is where I sleep, it is where I eat, and it is where I live. But to me, it is so much more than just an inn or a breakfast nook.

It is a familiar face that says, "Hello there! How was your trip?" after I've traveled long distances; a life-long friend that is always there when I don't know where else to go. It is my playground, my home field advantage for all my backyard football games; where our family-famous Wiffle Ball homerun derbies are held. It is my place of study; where I have been schooled for the past five years and still get schooled. It is where I learned about life, about the One who made me, and the One who sacrificed Himself for us.

This is where the seven O'Callaghans live. And although there are nicer houses on our street, our house is a hidden gem, stowed away from the rest of the world. It is everything I want out of a house. Everything I need out of a home.

That kid...

Our youngest son's senior year of college, we had to leave NH in early January to go down to VA to begin our four-and-a-half-month stint as nannies to our sweet little grandson G-Man.  Knowing how much of a homebody our baby had always been, I asked him if it was okay for him to cut his time in NH--his last Christmas break time--short and join us at his older brother's house until he had to go back to Notre Dame for his final semester.  I was all apologetic, but he looked at me and assured me it was no problem.  He said, "Mom, wherever you guys are, that's home."

I'll say it again: that kid... 

When my husband got back from his trip, I was filling him in about my tear-filled drive to NY, listening to The Script and wondering if that song had some kind of hidden meaning that God wanted me to hear.  I talked about how much I loved our NH house, but wondered if we're meant to sell it and settle in NY, to fulfill a lifelong dream of living on the lake.  I asked him how we were supposed to know where we belonged.  His answer was, "I'm always happy when I'm with you.  Whether it's here, or in NY, or at one of our kids' houses.  As long as we're together, I'm happy."'s obvious where our baby gets his heart from. 

So in spite of how happy we've been at our home in NH,  I'm also beginning to realize that if we decide it doesn't make sense for us anymore, that's okay.  The bottom line is that wherever we are--just the two of us together, or with our boys and our daughters-in-law and our grandchildren--that place is home.  It could be MI or VA, or even Germany, but wherever we are together, that's our home.
At home in Germany recently, with our youngest son.
Home is not walls and a roof; home is the people you love.  Lots of things will change in the course of your life, but not that.  Maybe that's the little bit 'o wisdom this old grammy blogger has to offer.  So maybe I'll stick around a while here after all, if for no other reason than to assure all the young moms out there who might stop by this blog that there will still be life after your babies have flown from the nest.  And it will be golden.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Way We Were (Freshman Photos)

In yesterday's post about my upcoming 40th high school reunion, I promised to post pictures of my husband and me from our freshman yearbook.  I'm sure you've been waiting with baited breath for those.

I just dug this mildew-stained piece of our history out of a trunk in the attic.  Are you digging the sort of psychedelic-looking 70's cover artwork?
Anyhoo, as promised, here they are--pictures from 1973, when we were both just shy of our 15th birthdays.  We would start dating within months of when we posed for these group photos, both of us in the center of the back row.
That school year, I was unbearably shy.  Many of the kids in our class had been together since kindergarten and they were a very tight group; but I was one of a handful of "new kids" who'd come from the other Catholic grade school in town.  I could barely bring myself to make eye contact with my husband back then, much less talk to him.  Towards the end of the year, I passed him in a hallway and bravely said "hi"--and it took him so much by surprise that I had actually spoken to him, he didn't even respond!  But by the time we started our sophomore year, after officially becoming boyfriend and girlfriend over the summer, we could talk to each other about almost anything.

So that was then.

This is now.
And life is good!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Coming Soon: My 40th High School Reunion

I've started taking long bike rides every day, on the brand new "Call the Midwife"-style retro bicycle my husband got me for Mother's Day.  (You know, the one I told you all about in this recent post.)  Tuesday, I pedaled 4.2 miles.  Wednesday, I upped that to 5.4.  Today, I logged 6 miles even. I'm hoping to work up to 10 miles a day in the coming weeks.
The view from my handlebars.  Not too shabby.
Along with this new exercise regimen, I am trying to drastically reduce the amount of sugar and carbs I eat, and to cut all my portions down to the proper size for someone my age.  When I was over in Germany with my youngest son for the month of March, I kind of forgot that a 57-year-old woman can't combine eating as many gigantic Milka chocolate bars and soft pretzels as she wants with going out several times a week and ordering schwein filets and baked potatoes smothered in herb butter and sour cream and expect to stay the same size.  I am aware that it is now May, so the after-effects of my German pig-out should no longer be an issue; but even after I got home, I couldn't seem to get motivated to shake the bad habits I'd formed and get back into any kind of healthy eating routine.  (I mean, chocolate is SO GOOD.)
And let's be honest: I can't even remember the last time I took one of my Beach Body Turbo Jam DVD's out of its case.

But I have a really good reason to get motivated now: at the end of June, my husband and I are going to be attending our 40th high school reunion.  And if I don't reduce my caloric intake post haste, I'm not going to be able to fit into any of my clothes.  It's not that I want to "impress" my old classmates. We're all pushing 60 now; most of us have grown children, and many of us are also grandparents.  But I just want to feel comfortable in my own skin, and to be able to get dressed for the reunion events without tears and a pile of discarded, too-small outfits on the floor around me.
Actually, I did order a new dress for that weekend, even though I have plenty of dresses--because I'm a girl and that's just what we do, right?  I wanted one that was mid-calf length, or at least well below the knee, so that perhaps I can actually wear it with summer-appropriate bare legs and sandals.  (I normally wear opaque nude-colored tights with skirts and dresses, even in the middle of a heat wave; but I'm trying to work on being less vain about my veins.)  I also wanted a dress that had some green in it, since green and white were our school colors.  I found this one on the JC Penney website, and was able to use an on-line coupon code to knock the already reasonable sale price of $49.99 down to $39.99.  What really sold me on this particular dress is the ruching at the waist, though.  Hey, anything to help me camouflage my mom bod (the awesomeness of which, unfortunately, does not seem to have taken the social media world by storm the way the dad bod did).

Just for grins, do you want to see what my husband and I looked like when we were fresh-faced freshmen in high school, just months before we started dating the summer after that school year?

You do?  Well, you'll just have to come back here tomorrow, I guess.  (Ha ha!  I bet you didn't know this post was going to be a cliff-hanger, did you?)  Because I don't have my 1973 copy of our Catholic high school's Aquila yearbook on me at the moment.  It's in the attic at our NH house, and I'll be getting in the car in a few minutes to head back there.  So come back tomorrow, when I'll scan and post pictures of my husband and me when we were 8 years younger than our youngest child is now!!  And 17 years younger than our firstborn!  YIKES!!!  We're getting old!

(But all my high school earrings still fit.  So I've got that going for me, which is nice.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #18 ): A Little History Lesson

I woke up this morning in the mood to blog, but I said to my husband, "I have nothing to write about.  I feel like I'm completely out of ideas.  There's nada going on in here [as I tapped my empty noggin]."  (Okay, I didn't really say "nada," or tap my head; but I'm trying to make this post a little more interesting.)

I sat down at the kitchen table of our Oyster Haven VRBO house to face the empty screen of my laptop.  With my trusty Hatch Prints Morning Offering mug by my side--filled with the first of the three or four cups of coffee I will consume by 11:00--I looked out the window, sighing and wondering if I was ever going to get my blogging groove back...

And this is what I saw (minus the helpful arrows, but I'll explain those).
That big island on the left is Valcour Island; and the much smaller one on the right is Gunboat Island.  Beyond the islands you can see the blue outline of the mountains of Vermont.

It's a spectacular view, isn't it?  And you can't see them, but the ghosts of Revolutionary War battleships steam right alongside those two islands.

Oyster Haven is located so close to where the Battle of Valcour was fought in 1776 that this historical marker sits just on the edge of our property.
Gunboat, Valcour's itty-bitty sibling, has a rather interesting story.  Let me show you a zoomed-in shot of it, so you can get a better idea of what it looks like.
Anyway, as I was sitting here on this sunny morning, mesmerized by the sparkling diamonds on the surface of the water, I had an epiphany: since it's book club day, and Finding Grace most definitely touches on the rich history of this area and the key role the lake (and these two islands) played in that history, I thought I'd give you a little excerpt:

          "The Battle of Valcour (which is a large island off the southern shore of Plattsburgh) was fought on Lake Champlain on October 11, 1776.  Led by Benedict Arnold, the Revolutionary War hero who would later become a traitor, the Continental navy was defeated by the British in this battle, losing eleven ships.  However, in ways it was a victory for the Americans, because the British forces had been hurt enough that they retreated into Canada to nurse their wounds for the winter instead of staying to establish a strong presence in the northern colonies.  Had they stayed, it would have cut the colonies in half and could have altered the outcome of the war.
          It was said that in the confusion of the battle, British Colonel Guy Carleton fired upon a small island off the tip of South Hero, Vermont, mistaking its rocky silhouette for an American ship.  Afterward, this island was christened 'Carleton's Prize,' in mockery of the British leader's mistake, but these days it was known simply by the nickname 'Gunboat Island.'  (In defense of the colonel, its outline really did resemble that of a small battleship.)  To this day, local divers frequently brought up rusty old cannonballs found around both Valcour and Gunboat Islands, tangible reminders of the bravery of America's fledgling navy."
                                                                                                                  Finding Grace (Chapter 3)

See, Finding Grace is both entertaining AND educational!  And there's some romance in there, too.  And a bit of humor.  And definitely some strong messages about how our choices have consequences--not to mention the importance of faith in God's will and in His loving mercy.  I call it "a pro-chastity, pro-life, pro-family, Catholic coming-of-age story."  I hope you'll call it "next on my to-read list," or "next assigned reading for our high school homeschool co-op."  Actually, you can call it anything you like, just don't call it late for dinner.  (Is that joke/wisecrack still in circulation, or did it die out back in the 1950's or 60's?)

Okay then, now it's back to window-gazing for me (which ranks only slightly higher than navel-gazing on the productivity scale).

I have an offer for you, before I sign off here: if you'd like to order a signed copy of Finding Grace for $15.00 (and skip the Amazon shipping fees), contact me using the "EMAIL ME" button on the sidebar.  I would love to introduce you to Grace Kelly and her family and friends, and to the history-filled area she calls home.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

My [Pentecost] Sunday Best

I'm joining Rosie today for the My Sunday Best link-up at A Blog for My Mom, to fill you in on what I wore for Mass this Pentecost Sunday (in case you were wondering).
I'm still a bit jet-lagged from our recent trip to Germany to visit with our youngest son, even though we got home on Thursday and my body should be adjusted by now.  (It's called "getting old," I believe.)  We were planning to go to the 9:30, because I thought there was no way I'd ever be able to get up for the earlier Mass.  But my eyes popped open at 6:00, miraculously, so off we went to the 7:30.

My good-natured (but long-suffering) husband, who keeps getting roped into taking pictures of me to post on this blog, got the opportunity to show off some more of his iPhone photography prowess this morning after we got back from Mass.  I posed (rather awkwardly) on the deck of Oyster Haven, our VRBO house on Lake Champlain, which will soon start welcoming vacationers.  (Our very first renters arrive on June 10!)

I was not wearing liturgically appropriate red, unfortunately; instead, I wore a royal blue polka-dotted knit dress that I bought on sale a few years ago when I was out for a day of shopping with my mom.  It's belted around its rather high waist and has a swingy skirt.  I wasn't so sure the shape worked on me, but Mom insisted I should get it and like an obedient daughter, I did.
I decided I needed to wear a cardigan over my short-sleeved dress--because it was a tad nippy outside, for one thing; but also because I just like cardigans, and I also like to keep my skin as covered up as possible for as long as possible.  (Summer is coming, I know; and soon, I'll want to jump into that lake you see behind me here.  But I'm encouraged by the fact that the most recent Land's End catalog that came to our house showcased all kinds of modest swim dresses and long-sleeved swim shirts.  Finally, swim fashions I can feel comfortable in!)

For Mass today I covered my "crowning glory" (although that might be giving my straight-as-a-stick, mousy-brown-and-turning-gray hair too much credit) with a lovely black and gray lace mantilla that once belonged to my late mother-in-law.  Since her death in 2009, her kids have been slowly going through the house and deciding which of her things they can't bear to part with and which need to find new homes.  When I discovered this veil of Mom's tucked away in the back of a drawer, I was so thrilled.  I own about five veils now, but not one of them is quite as beautiful as this one.  The vintage lace is such high quality--soft, with a lovely drape to it.  And it has the added bonus that it was once worn by a woman who was truly like a second mother to me, a woman whom I loved so dearly and miss so much. 
I really like the patent leather wedges I wore today.  They are super-duper comfy and super-duper cute.  I can't remember the brand name (and I've worn them so often that it's been rubbed off the inner soles); but I know I got them at TJ Maxx, where you really always do get the max for the minimum.
As Mass was ending, I was thinking how lucky my husband and I were that just one week ago, we were in Germany attending Mass at the huge, magnificent cathedral that's just down the road from our son's apartment.
But then I looked up at the altar and realized that this church--the same one where we exchanged our wedding vows over 35 years ago--is just about as spectacular as any cathedral you'll ever see.
The altar was dressed in red for Pentecost, even if I wasn't.  And it was glorious.

Now if you'd like to see what other Holy Spirit-filled ladies wore this Sunday, head on over to Rosie's.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Rosary Giveaway Winner

Dear readers, please forgive me for the delay in announcing the winner of the blue cord Rosary made by my friend Sarah.

The contest ended at midnight on Mother's Day...but I have had lots of trouble with the Internet here in Germany, where my husband and I have been staying for the past five days with our youngest son, and I haven't been able to fire up my laptop.  So this post is coming at you via my iPhone.  Yikes--not my favorite gadget with which to blog!  (I dread what auto-correct might decide I meant to say and change without my permission!)

Anyway, without further ado, here is the name of the winner: Kathy Tauke.  Please contact me, Kathy, and let me know where to send the Rosary. We return to the States on Thursday, and as soon as I recover from my jet lag, I'll head to the post office and mail it off to you.

Thanks to everyone who entered to win by leaving me a comment here at String of Pearls. It always delights me to hear from readers, and I appreciate every single comment more than I can say.   May the Blessed Mother wrap you all in Her mantle and keep you safe in Her loving care!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Channeling My Inner Midwife (Call Me!)

Actually, don't do that.  Don't call me.  Because like Prissy in Gone with the Wind, "I don't know nothin' about birthin' babies!"  Well, I might know a little, since I did give birth to five baby boys of my own; but I don't think I could have been on the other end of things during those labors and deliveries.  God bless medical professionals--doctors, nurses, physician's assistants, midwives, et. al.  I couldn't do what they do.

When I was over in Germany visiting my youngest son during the month of March, I discovered the BBC period drama "Call the Midwife."  How did I ever miss this made-for-me TV show when it first came out?  Each day when my boy was at work, I was either doing laundry, cooking, shopping, doing the kind of deep cleaning that a 23-year-old bachelor would never dream of doing...or binge-watching "Call the Midwife."  I raced through the first three seasons (which were the only free ones available on Netflix over there).  I couldn't get enough of it.
If you've never seen this show (adapted from a book with the same title, I believe), here's a synopsis from an online source:

Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth; the story follows twenty-two year old Jenny, who in 1957 leaves her comfortable home to become a midwife in London's East End. She is surprised to find that she will be living in a convent: Nonnatus House. Working alongside fellow nurses and the medically-trained nuns, Jenny has her eyes opened to the harsh living conditions of the slums, but she also discovers the warm hearts and the bravery of the mothers. Even after Jenny leaves Nonnatus, she continues to chronicle the lives of the midwives who have become her family.

I love everything about "Call the Midwife": the old-timey feel of the show, with its vintage cars, fashions, and morals; the heart-warming friendships that form between the midwives who live together at Nonnatus house--all very different types of young women, but each endearing in her own way; the love and charity that the faith-filled nuns who run the convent shower upon the underprivileged families to whom they minister; the compelling stories about marriages and families and heroic struggles for survival.  Oh, and the BABIES!  It's simply a gem of a show.

Now let's talk about those vintage fashions.  I think I was born in the wrong decade sometimes, because I just adore the way these gals from a bygone era dress, with their twinsets and Peter Pan collars.  I even like the starched white caps and aprons that they wear when they're nursing.

I also love the way the midwives ride their bicycles all around East London to make house calls and deliver babies.  So when I saw a retro "Call the Midwife"-style bike at Sam's Wholesale Club about a month ago, I fell in love with it and proceeded to give my husband numerous not-so-subtle hints that it would make an excellent gift.

He was listening to his dear wife, as he always does; so yesterday, he took me out to Sam's and bought me the bike of my dreams.  It is the best Mother's Day gift I could have ever hinted about/asked for!  It's totally "old school," like me.  Even has a drink holder and a basket!
When we went to Sam's to pick up this mint-colored beauty, I was already wearing my trusty black trench coat, which is practically a uniform for me (and which a cashier at the grocery story recently complimented, saying, "It looks very British"); so when we got home, I added my vintage black felt hat, which I've worn for my boys' weddings, and enlisted my husband to use his iPhone camera skills to do a little "Call the Midwife" photo shoot in our driveway.

This was not at all corny.  It wasn't.

If I had a light blue nursing uniform with a white Peter Pan collar on under my trench, and my hat was maroon instead of black, I could practically show up at Nonnatus House and fit right in, don't you agree?

However: if you think you might be in labor, please don't call me.  I might look the part of a midwife...but that's not the same thing as being one, now is it?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Oyster Haven's Irish Cousin

I made the most wonderful discovery on Sunday.  It was like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it truly was.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let me start from the beginning.  Okay, so my husband and I were at Oyster Haven, finishing up a week or so of work on the house.  Located on the shore of beautiful Lake Champlain in upstate NY, we are planning to open it up as a VRBO rental property starting on June 1, and it's just about ready to welcome its first guests.

Anyway, I had my laptop set up on the kitchen table, and I was enjoying gazing out at the lake as I posted this Instagram picture (with a reminder about the Rosary giveaway I'm currently hosting here at the blog).
I've got to admit that I'm enjoying Instagram enormously these days.  I think I like it better than Facebook, actually--partly because no one seems to use it as a proverbial soapbox to trumpet their political views or disparage Christians, but mostly because it showcases some of the most beautiful photos you will ever see.  Instagram has inspired me to put a lot more thought into every photo I take, paying special attention to lighting, angles, and composition.  Coming up with the "perfect" picture fills me with delight, it does.  And I can see why many bloggers have transitioned from the blog to the 'gram, because they are able to say so much with so few words--creating mini-blog posts that are easier for busy readers to digest than full-length articles.

The best 'grammers are the ones who are able to write the pithiest blurbs to go with their photos, and to use the hashtag most cleverly and effectively.  Some of the Insta-hashtags are absolutely hilarious (I'm thinking of Grace from Camp Patton and Dwija from House Unseen, Life Unscripted when I say this).  I have not figured out how to employ the hashtag the way the young whippersnappers are doing it; but I'm trying, folks, I'm trying.

In an effort to abide by the 21st-century rules of engagement, I'm trying to remember to add hashtags to my Instagram posts.  (My hashtags are pretty boring; but #givemeabreak #improbablyoldenoughtobeyourmother.)
Therefore, whenever I post pictures of our lake house on Instagram, I add #oysterhaven.

Well, I don't normally even think of clicking on hashtags to see what else is out there...but for some reason this past Sunday, after I posted my picture, I clicked on #oysterhaven, and it took me to other photos with that same hashtag.  As I scanned the first page, I saw several pictures that I've posted right there front and center, showing both inside and outside views of our Oyster Haven house.
When I first glanced at that picture on the top right, I thought it was one that I'd posted of the view of our back yard...then I realized that we don't have our outdoor furniture yet.  But can't you see how it would make me do a double take?

Here are a few more of our photos, part of the #oysterhaven collection on Instagram.  Note the arrow pointing to our view...
...and here's an arrow pointing to the photo that fooled me for a second into thinking it was one of ours.
To me, those two views were practically twins, or at least distant cousins.  My curiosity was definitely piqued.  So of course, I clicked on that photo to see what it was all about.  And to my utter delight, I found out that it was a picture of a place called Oyster Haven Bay, in Kinsale (County Cork), IRELAND!

Oh my goodness, I could not have been more thrilled to know that we had inadvertently named our lake house after a place in Ireland!  We wanted the word "oyster" in the title, since we are Pearls and oysters are homes for pearls.  And we have a little secluded inlet behind our house, so we considered calling our place "Oyster Bay," but thought that sounded too much like a body of salt water rather than a freshwater lake.  My husband grew up in a neighborhood by the lake that had the word "haven" in its name, so as a nod to his roots we therefore ultimately decided to name our VRBO house "Oyster Haven."  We thought it was a good name; but knowing that there is a seaside vacation retreat in Ireland with the same name (and with some views that look eerily like ours!) is just the icing on the cake.

Because if you've been coming here a lot over the past five years that I've been blogging, you might know that my husband's maternal grandfather (after whom he was named) came to America from County Cork at the age of 19.
You might also know that my husband's family is Irish on both sides, my mom is part Irish (a Kelly by birth), and I am an incurable Hibernophile  (dictionary definition: person who is fond of Irish culture, Irish language and Ireland in general. Its antonym is Hibernophobe. The word originates from "Hibernia", the word used by the ancient Romans to refer to Ireland).  If you are familiar with the content of and/or have read either of my two Catholic novels, you are well aware of this obsession I have with the Irish and their culture.  God love the Irish!

It warms my heart to imagine that many years ago, my husband's grandfather might have gazed out at Oyster Haven Bay, in his native County Cork.  And now, his grandson and I have a home by the water, with the very same name as that Irish cousin by the sea.
Sitting at the kitchen table in Oyster Haven, with a
picture of Oyster Haven Bay, Kinsale, County Cork,
Ireland on my computer screen.
It just seems very fitting.  Very fitting indeed.

(A little reminder before I go: if you'd like a chance to win the beautiful blue cord Rosary in the photo at the top of the page, leave me a comment by midnight on Mother's Day!)