Saturday, June 25, 2016

TRUE Death with Dignity

My brother-in-law is dying.

His poor body has been ravaged by a particularly unforgiving form of cancer called mesothelioma, with which he was diagnosed almost exactly a year ago.  Fifty years after exposure to asbestos while doing chimney work as a young man, this terrible disease struck him like a thunderbolt, just as he and my sister-in-law (my husband's older sister and "Irish twin") had begun the process of fulfilling their dream of starting a craft brewery in an old stone Army barracks that dates back to the Civil War.

In spite of all he's been through this past year, this dream became a reality a couple of months ago, and the historical building he and my sister-in-law lovingly transformed into a brewery/sports bar/tasting room/event center/restaurant/B&B has opened for business and has been wildly successful, breathing new life into the hometown where my husband's family has deep roots, going back several generations.

There is nothing more that can be done for my brother-in-law medically now, other than palliative care.  Surgery and chemo and trips back and forth to Boston to receive the most cutting-edge treatments from the foremost experts on the disease did not produce the hoped-for and prayed-for miracle, and he has come home to die.  He is surrounded by people who love him dearly and upon whom he must depend more and more every day to help him with even the simplest of tasks.

This man has always been exceptionally strong, a warrior, a rock for so many people--both personally and professionally.  It has to be hard--not just hard, but truly humbling--to depend on others for everything now, but this guy makes it look easy.  No one who has been privileged to observe the manner in which my brother-in-law handled the news of his diagnosis a year ago, how he endured the harrowing and painful treatments and recoveries in the past months, or how he has exhibited such tremendous heroism as he walks his own personal way of the Cross on the road home to his Father, will ever forget what they have witnessed.  He is showing us the way to die, the way to have a holy death; and it is a lesson I believe I for one badly needed.

Last night, my husband and I attended a party in one of the brewery's event rooms, and I got talking to my old high school biology teacher (who has a special place in her heart for the class of 1976, as we were her first real teaching job after she got her degree).  I mentioned that I was so awed and inspired by the dignity with which my brother-in-law is facing the end of his life.  He is uncomplaining and serene, appreciative of every little thing his loved ones do for him and thanking them profusely.  He is dealing with his own helplessness with such acceptance and grace, it's a wonder to behold.

"I don't like that word, 'dignity,'" she said.  "It has a different connotation now."  And she's right: the pro-euthanasia crowd has hijacked that particular term and made it mean something different to many folks.  There are some who would look at this man who is suffering in a way that no one should have to suffer (yes, but who is surrounded by so much love, who still has the capacity to give and receive love and find an incredible amount of joy in that, whose dying days have profoundly changed and improved the lives of everyone around him) and say that to give him a dignified death,  his pain should be ended at once.  It would be more merciful, they would argue.

But I would argue differently.

I started out this post by saying that my brother-in-law is dying.  Scratch that; what I should have said is that my brother-in-law is becoming a saint, right before our very eyes.

The first thing this man said when handed the worst news of his life was, "I want to become a Catholic before I die."  Let that sink in for a minute.

Raised a Lutheran, he was inspired (not pressured, but inspired) by my sister-in-law to convert.  He has been attending Mass for years, even going alone when my sister-in-law and he happened to be apart.  But the official process of entering the Church had not been completed.  Well, I am happy to report that last week, a priest at the parish my husband and his family always attended baptized him a Catholic, and he was able to receive First Holy Communion.  If this had happened even a few days after it did, he might not have been able to swallow the Host.  God is so good!

My brother-in-law is, as my husband says, giving the rest of us a clinic on how to die a holy death.  He is facing the end of his earthly life with courage, grace, and deep faith.  He is graciously allowing his loved ones to give of themselves unconditionally to keep him as comfortable as possible (a privilege which is in fact a tremendous gift that those who never get to witness a truly dignified death completely miss out on).  He is not bitter or resentful, despite his suffering.  He loves life, even now; but he is not afraid to die.  This, I believe, is what death with dignity is really all about.

I realize that it is not our place to automatically canonize our loved ones, no matter how saintly they might seem, when they pass from this life; we are instructed to pray for them unceasingly, for no one but God can know the state of any individual's immortal soul.

But I can't help but feel as if I am watching the making of a saint.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Just a Little Something to Brighten Your Monday

Okay, folks, in case you needed something to make you smile today, now that the weekend is is a picture of my adorable but sometimes naughty 20-month-old grandson G-Man, which my daughter-in-law Preciosa posted on Facebook recently with this caption: "Where he hides after hitting his sister. ‪#‎guiltatitsfinest‬ ‪#‎toughbigbrotherlove." 
Is that priceless or what?  (Are you smiling yet?)

One of the main reasons I love Facebook so much (and can't break away, no matter how many times I convince myself that I ought to try) is that I get to see cute or amusing (or both!) pictures of my grandchildren on there almost daily.

And then as an added bonus, I can scroll through the comment streams underneath those pictures and enjoy the hilarious observations of my sons (and their cousins and friends).  Here is what my youngest son had to say about the above photo of that lovable, guilt-ridden little stinker: "The ole' Ostrich maneuver. His form's a little sloppy but he'll get there."

I'm pretty sure I L'ed, OL, when I read that one.

I guess G-Man has no other option but to hide his face in shame when he gets rough with his sweet 4-month-old baby sister, because Princesa is just a precious little bundle of joy, an angel.  Take a gander at her beautiful face.

And she's always, always this happy.

Okay, if you're reading this, you are definitely smiling now.  How could you not be?  So this blog post has served its purpose, and I'll sign off here.  Because Grammy's got a suitcase to pack, so that she can catch an early flight tomorrow morning and head out to the Midwest for a visit with four of G-Man and Princesa's older cousins.

Have a great week, dear readers.  And keep on smiling!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Reviewers Wanted for a New Catholic Novel

My writer friend Anne Faye, a Catholic blogger and novelist, published her second novel, Sunflowers in a Hurricane, less than a week ago.   (Her first novel was titled The Rose Ring, for which I wrote this review.)  I was privileged to receive a pre-publication copy of Sunflowers in a Hurricane and serve as a beta reader for Faye, in exchange for feedback and an honest review.  I enjoyed the book enormously, and gladly wrote a five-star review for Amazon.  And I was surprised and delighted when she asked me if she could include a quote from my review on the front cover of the book!  Wow, what an honor!

Would you, too, like the opportunity to read this wholesome and heart-warming novel?  Anne Faye is offering a free copy in exchange for an honest review.  Here is a June 10 post from her blog:

Reviewers Wanted for Sunflowers in a Hurricane

Would you like to read a free copy of the new Catholic Fiction Sunflowers in a Hurricane in exchange for your honest review on your blog, Amazon, and/or Goodreads? Please send an email to I'm happy to send you a .pdf, Kindle version, or hard copy.

Thank you!

"Sunflowers in a Hurricane is a wholesome and inspiring novel, one that I highly recommend for teens and adults alike." - Laura Pearl, author of Finding Grace and Erin's Ring

George Ferguson, an elderly gentleman, still misses his beloved wife who died in childbirth many years before. Cheryl Callahan is an angry single mother who left her home and her faith after high school and never looked back. Her teenage daughter Ruth chafes under her mother’s rules and resents having to travel from Ohio to Massachusetts to bury a grandmother she didn’t even know.

When Cheryl and Ruth move next door to George, the older man and young girl form an unlikely friendship as all three are forced to face the past in order to create a new future.

I'm always happy to help out fellow Catholic authors, who are writing fiction that is nothing like the usual fifty shades of secular humanism you'll find on the shelves of most bookstores and instead entertains while also giving glory to God!  I wish Anne Faye much success with her work.

Friday, June 3, 2016

An Open Book: Modern Fiction Can Leave Me Sort of...Meh

I recently finished a novel that I had been dying to read for quite some time, Kate Alcott's The Daring Ladies of Lowell
Here's a Booklist blurb about it:

Alcott (The Dressmaker, 2012) chooses another working-class girl as the heroine of her second historical novel. To Alice Barrow, a job at a textile mill in 1832 Lowell, Massachusetts, represents both an escape from her rural roots and a chance to forge an independent future. Although the hours are long and the work arduous, she enjoys the companionship of the mill girls and the opportunity to take advantage of the intellectual subculture of Lowell, including the mill’s literary magazine and lectures at the Lyceum. Alice’s common sense and intelligence attract the attention of Samuel Fiske, the mill owner’s son, who invites her to act as an emissary for her coworkers at a meeting with his family. However, when Alice’s best friend is found hanged, her burgeoning relationship with Samuel is threatened as his family withholds crucial evidence during the investigation. Set against an authentically detailed mill-town backdrop, this novel interweaves the ­industrial ­revolution, feminism, and workers’ rights into an engrossing narrative with a love story at its core. --Margaret Flanagan

The Daring Ladies of Lowell was published in 2014: the same year that I was working on my second novel, Erin's Ring--the same year that Erin's Ring was also published.
When I was writing that book (and also during the years I spent writing my first novel, Finding Grace), I rarely read the fiction works of others, fearing that it would cause me to lose my focus/lose my confidence through unhealthy comparisons/worry that readers would think I'd hijacked the ideas of other authors, if there were any similarities (no matter how slight).  I was especially afraid to read this novel of Alcott's, since Erin's Ring tells a similar story about New England mill girls in the early 1800's.  In fact, my Irish mill girls in Dover, NH participate in a workplace strike in 1828; that "turnout" really happened, and it was the first time women had ever done anything like it in the US.  The Cocheco mill strike in Dover actually preceded the Lowell, MA strike that is showcased in Alcott's novel by four years (although the Lowell strike is much more famous and well-documented).

Anyhoo--long story short, the similarities in content made me afraid to delve into The Daring Ladies of Lowell until I was far removed from Erin's Ring.  But recently, I finally downloaded it onto my Kindle and read it.  And although it is a fairly interesting story, and there's really nothing to complain about as far as the author's command of the English language, it just left me sort of...meh [imagine a slight shoulder shrug here].  It didn't grab me.  The characters were somewhat likable, but never seemed real enough to me to make me care about them deeply.  I didn't find myself thinking about this story long after I had finished it, the way I often do when I turn the last page of a book that's so good I can hardly bear to see it end.

I always know a best-loved book when I'm sure that I will re-read it again sometime in the future, just for the sheer joy that the author's words have given me--it doesn't matter if I know what's going to happen and how the story will end, not if the book is just that good.  And in this humble reader's opinion, this one just isn't.

One beef I had with this book is that most (not all, but most) of the mill girls seem to be against religion, which I find to be sort of unbelievable for that time in history.  (For this time in history, sure.  I mean, show me a novel set in the present that has characters who are Catholic and not portrayed as priest pedophiles or thoroughly unlikable holier-than-thou types, and I'll show you...a book that might be better than 99% of what's being put out by the big publishing houses, but will probably never get seen by the readers who might be both entertained and edified by it.)  I was also sort of annoyed by the fact that the suspected murderer of one of the Lowell mill girls was a tent revivalist preacher, because I thought it played into the whole stereotype of "people who appear to be very holy Christians are really the worst people around."  But then I remembered that the details of the murder investigation had actually come from a real-life case, and even the name of the preacher who was accused of killing the girl he'd gotten in the "family way" was historically accurate.  So I simmered down about that and tried to focus on the good aspects of the story.

And there are definitely some very positive things about The Daring Ladies of Lowell.  I am grateful that there are no inappropriate scenes of passion and intimacy.  The would-be lovers, Samuel (the rich son of the mill owner) and Alice (the feisty mill girl from the other side of the tracks) never engage in anything more risqué than a hug or a kiss.  For that, at least, I admire Alcott.  It must be difficult to become a commercially successful author nowadays without bowing to the gods of secular humanism.  So much of modern fiction seems intent on titillating and shocking readers, but this is actually a rather sweet and chaste romantic tale. Also, the mystery involving the murder of Lovey, Alice's dear friend, is fast-paced and does keep you guessing. That being said, I'm not exactly sure why this book left me sort of unaffected.  But it did.

However, if you're a fan of historical novels, you could certainly do a lot worse than this well-researched bestseller.  That doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement, does it?   But I would be lying if I said this was one of my favorite books of all time.  Maybe it's that the whole Kindle experience doesn't stack up to holding a book in my hands and turning its pages.  If I ever read the paperback version of this novel and have a different assessment, I'll let you know.

Right now, I am reading a paperback copy of a debut novel by Iona Grey, called Letters to the Lost.
Oh my word, that cover!  If a book could be judged solely by its cover, this one would be a home-run hit.  I just adore this image.  It screams, "Vintage style!"  "WWII-era!"  "Hand-written love letters, between star-crossed lovers!"  All things that I am drawn to like a moth to a flame.

 Here's the delicious-sounding synopsis from Amazon:

An accomplished novel from a talented writer, Letters to the Lost is a stunning, emotional love story. Iona Grey's prose is warm, evocative, and immediately engaging; her characters become so real you can't bear to let them go.

I promised to love you forever, in a time when I didn't know if I'd live to see the start of another week. Now it looks like forever is finally running out. I never stopped loving you. I tried, for the sake of my own sanity, but I never even got close, and I never stopped hoping either.

Late on a frozen February evening, a young woman is running through the streets of London. Having fled from her abusive boyfriend and with nowhere to go, Jess stumbles onto a forgotten lane where a small, clearly unlived in old house offers her best chance of shelter for the night. The next morning, a mysterious letter arrives and when she can't help but open it, she finds herself drawn inexorably into the story of two lovers from another time.

In London 1942, Stella meets Dan, a US airman, quite by accident, but there is no denying the impossible, unstoppable attraction that draws them together. Dan is a B-17 pilot flying his bomber into Europe from a British airbase; his odds of survival are one in five. In the midst of such uncertainty, the one thing they hold onto is the letters they write to each other. Fate is unkind and they are separated by decades and continents. In the present, Jess becomes determined to find out what happened to them. Her hope—inspired by a love so powerful it spans a lifetime—will lead her to find a startling redemption in her own life in this powerfully moving novel.

I'm not far enough into this book yet to endorse it; for all I know, it will disappoint me or just leave me feeling meh once again.  But some of the passages I've read thus far are making me fall in love with Grey's prose.  When the new mother-in-law who disapproves of her gives Stella a compliment that is not really a compliment at all, "Stella remembered the roses in Lillian's garden in Dorking, which were as stiff and immaculate as she was, and realized the compliment was as barbed as their stems."  To me, that's just beautiful.  I wish I could write like that.

I'll let you know next time if the story lives up to its promise, if its message turns out to be as beautiful as that metaphor.  But for now, you can head on over to the June An Open Book link-up to see if there are any not-so-meh titles you might want to check out!
(P.S., Carolyn's link-up is on now, too!)

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.