Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #34): a Re-run, Mostly, with Some Sheenazing Thoughts Added

Popular blogger and IG personality Bonnie Engstrom is hosting her Sheenazing Awards over at her website, A Knotted Life.  If you'd like to cast your votes for your favorites in the world of Catholic social media (blogging, Instagam, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter), head on over.  (Personally, there are so many of my favorites on the lists that I had trouble voting for just one in each category!)  Named for Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who used any media sources available to him during his era to spread the Word of Christ, Bonnie's Sheenazing awards have been a delight to the Catholic blogging world over the years.

Okay so head on over and vote...and when you get back, I have some thoughts to share about this crazy new (well, not really so new, I guess!) Internet world, where people who feel like they have something to say and share through the written word --even “little” bloggers and ’grammers, such as I, who do not have legions of followers--can find a voice.

These days, I don’t seem to have as much time to write here at String of Pearls as I did back in my early days as a newbie blogger—or at least I don’t feel like I do, because...well, because GRANDBABIES.  But honestly, even as busy as my precious darlings keep me, I have to admit that I could make time, if I tried harder.  When I published my first blog post in 2011, I was absolutely on fire for blogging.  Every morning, my first thought (after the coffee was brewing, of course) was, "I can hardly wait to crack open my laptop and write a post!"  I would like to have that flame burning in me again, I really would.

I am so in awe of so many bloggers (Bonnie, to name one, along with many of the gals on her list of Sheenazing Award finalists).  These talented writers have found large audiences and are touching the hearts, minds, and souls of countless grateful followers.  What I need to remember, though, is that if I compare myself to others who are more prolific and more popular, I will never enjoy the process the way I should.  I got into blogging thinking that no one would ever read my posts, and I didn't care a bit. I was blogging to fulfill my need to write, and also to make a kind of scrapbook of memories for my kids and grandkids.  I didn't even know, at first, that you could check to see how many people had seen your posts!  But as time went on, I started to lose confidence and couldn't help but wonder now and again: does the blogosphere really need me in it, when there aren't too many readers who know about or stop by my little blog?  This is a question that I've asked myself several times over the years, and I think this post of Bonnie's about little blogs perfectly explains what has kept me coming back here, even after the occasional lengthy hiatus.  As she says in this post, "If you love your little blog with its little following and your little creative space where you can come and go as needed then keep going.  It will be good."   Thanks for that, Bonnie.  It's good advice--Sheenazing advice, even.  Because I do love this little old blog of mine, and even though I don't come back here as often as I used to, it always makes me happy when I do.  So come back I shall!

Anyway, I really wish I'd blogged yesterday, because it was the 45th anniversary of the day my husband first asked me to be his steady girlfriend--way, way back when we were just a couple of fresh-faced 15-year-old kids.  We're not so fresh-faced anymore, and these days we're the grandparents of 13-going-on-14 small humans.  But we're still pretty crazy about each other.  We decided to celebrate the significance of August 6 by taking a gondola ride up Whiteface Mountain, where we used to ski all the time in high school and where our boys also learned to ski.
In honor of this special anniversary, I was going to write an original post about how our love story began back in 1973.  But then I realized that I talked about this very topic in a former Grace-filled Tuesdays Book Club post, and I thought I'd share it again (I hope you don't mind re-runs!).  I mean, it is Tuesday, after all...

So hey, welcome to the club!
And here's that old post from January of this year--which is not only about the early days of my romance with my husband, but also about blogging (how apropos!).  Enjoy!

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #32): I Think I Was Always a Blogger at Heart

There was no such thing as blogging back when I was in high school (back in the Stone Age, as it were).  There was no such thing as blogging because there was no such thing as a personal computer that you had in your house, or this magical entity called the Internet that has become such an integral part of 21st-century existence.

Back then, if you had a burning desire to write about your life the way bloggers do nowadays, you could either use a typewriter or just good old reliable pen-and-paper and keep your musings in a journal or a diary. (I did keep diaries for a while in my girlhood--until I had to destroy one in junior high, after my best friend found and read it and I realized that no one should be writing down their deepest thoughts unless they wanted the whole world to know them.)

The other thing you could do, aside from the "Dear Diary" routine, was to keep scrapbooks.  And starting at the end of 8th grade, that is what I did: I kept simple scrapbooks that were filled with oversized construction paper pages, wherein I taped all the little bits and pieces of memorabilia that seemed of utmost importance to my teenage self (we're talking things like paper napkins and still-full sugar packets from restaurant meals with my then-boyfriend/now-husband, and popsicle sticks with traces of his DNA still on them, I'll bet!).
My high school scrapbooks were stored away in boxes in my parents' attic when I left for college.  I didn't take them with me when I got married in 1980, and when my parents sold my childhood home several years later, I assumed those boxes had gotten thrown out.  It made me a little sad at first, to think that I'd lost all my precious memories of days gone by; but eventually, I forgot all about the scrapbooks.  I was busy raising my boys, keeping up their baby books, and making photo albums and scrapbooks for them, filled with their boyhood memorabilia.  Then in 2002, my decades-old boxes were unearthed in a storage unit on my youngest sister's property and my long-lost scrapbooks were returned to me.  The scotch tape I'd used had disintegrated and they were a mildewed mess, but with the tape marks to guide me I painstakingly put them back together.

Oh my, the memories that came flooding back to me!  And the things I'd kept!   Things like gum wrappers, movie ticket stubs, newspaper clippings, dried flowers.  But along with my taped-in memorabilia, I also wrote about all my activities and feelings during that time.  (I think I was always a blogger at heart, though I didn't know it yet!)

What is so funny to me is to see pages like this one, from July 1973, when my high school boyfriend and I were just beginning to realize that we like-liked each other, and we rode on some rides together at the County Fair:
Or this one, from the first time he and I ever went to a movie together (not alone, but at least we sat next to each other):
I love how I wrote, "I really like him but I doubt he'll like me for long."  Ever the confident one, I didn't believe it would last.  Then about a week later, he asked me to "go with" him (that was the early-70's term for going steady, at least in our neck of the woods).
Aug. 6, 1973, a date I'll never forget!  It was the beginning of a long life together, but at 15 we really couldn't know that yet.  (Although I tell you, by 16, I was as sure as I've ever been of anything that he was the only one for me.)  Well, my dear readers, here's how it turned out: seven-and-a-half years later, we would get married. And now we have celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary...so I would say that my fears that he wouldn't like me for long were all for naught.  :)

It goes on some more...If you'd like to read (or re-read) the full post, you'll find it here.  Either way, I'll be back again--sooner rather than later, I hope.  :)

Friday, August 3, 2018

An Open Book: One Beautiful Dream

It's been a long time since I've joined Carolyn Astfalk's  link-up over at A Scribbler's Heart and Catholic Mom--because with 13 grandchildren living close by now, this here hands-on Grammy doesn't seem to have the leisure time for reading that she used to!  But as Thomas Jefferson said, "I cannot live without books." Books have always been special friends, and I've resolved to work on fostering those friendships once again.

As a matter of fact, I just finished Jennifer Fulwiler's acclaimed new book, One Beautiful Dream.
It was a quick read for me, but that doesn't mean it was short on depth and insight and literary gravitas--trust me, that's not it at all.  It's actually quite profound.  It's just that Fulwiler's writing style is so fluid and entertaining--as if she's just a good friend who's telling you a story over a cup of coffee at the local Dunkin' Donuts (I'm sorry--I was going to say Starbucks, because that sounds a lot hipper; but after living most of my adult life in New England, I will always and forever be a Dunkin' gal) and making you guffaw and have coffee come out of your nose one minute and then saying something so poignant that you have to reach for a napkin to dab your teary eyes the next.  If I had the confidence to think that Fulwiler would even want to be my friend IRL (as we introverted writers who have more Internet friends than flesh-and-blood ones like to say), I would sure love to meet up with her for that cup of coffee.  But although that's one beautiful dream, I doubt it will ever happen!

I am currently in the middle of a beautifully written novel that I'm enjoying immensely, a soon-to be-released sequel that I've promised to read--and provide feedback--for an author friend of mine.  Her name is Annette Young (one of those Internet friends I was talking about, a mom of all boys like me who lives in the far-off Land Down Under, but whom I've come to know through our mutually shared Catholic Faith and love of writing fiction).  Annette's first novel, A Distant Prospect, is one of my all-time favorites, and I highly recommend it if you haven't read it yet.
I had no intention of starting anything new until I'd finished beta-reading my friend's book.  But recently, when I saw that the Kindle version of One Beautiful Dream was selling for $1.99 on Amazon, I thought I'd order a copy to read later when I had more time.  After I downloaded it, I opened up the Kindle app on my iPhone, just to sample a few pages and see what all the hoopla was about...and before I knew it, I had devoured the whole book (reading it on my phone!) in just a few sittings. Let's just say that I would have put it down and gotten back to reading Young's novel, but it really spoke to me.  In a loud voice.  I think it was something that I was supposed to read--and I was supposed to read it right now, not later.

I'm here to tell you that all the glowing accolades, the five-star reviews, and the enthusiastic recommendations are well-deserved.  This is one beautiful book, a must-read for any woman who is trying to figure out how to employ her unique God-given gifts, talents, and passions--the so-called "blue flame" that burns within her--while simultaneously being a loving wife and mother who is fully present for and devoted to the care and needs of her family.  Fulwiler shows that you really can have it all, if you let go of the need for control and truly put your trust in God's will; "it" just might look different than you thought it would.  She illustrates so beautifully how some of the biggest disappointments and setbacks in life actually lead to better outcomes, how God's plan for our lives is infinitely better than anything we could ever imagine on our own.

As I read Fulwiler's book, I felt a true kinship. When she described how writing makes her feel, I wanted to yell, "Yes!"  (Maybe I even did.)  In her words, "When I did this kind of work, it was as if some dormant part of me came alive.  It was more than just a hobby; it felt like a way of connecting to the world--the way I was meant to connect with the world."   Like the author, I, too, had dreamed of writing a book (and actually having it published!) since I was a young girl in love with the written word.  I, too, had spent much of my time either reading or scribbling stories in school notebooks.

But reading about Fulwiler's journey to make her dream a reality initially filled me with my usual self-doubt: why had I put my dream of writing a book on the back burner for all those years that I was raising my five sons?  Why had I waited until I was almost 50, and my youngest son was starting high school, to sit down at my laptop and finally start work on my first novel (Finding Grace)?  How come Jennifer Fulwiler was able to write when she was going through a high-risk pregnancy with her 6th baby in eight years, while I had to wait until my boys were mostly grown to get motivated?  Where in the world was my blue flame all those years--shouldn't I have spent whatever free time I had writing?

Just when I was letting comparison (which as we know is the thief of joy) get me down, Fulwiler came to a realization in her book that resonated with me.  She, too, had been guilty of comparing herself to others whose blue flames burned for different passions than hers did: first to the apparently saintly mom who chose to use her precious babysitting hours to take one of her daughters on a special a one-on-one outing to the bookstore, when Fulwiler had gone there to escape her own noisy house and write a blog post in peace; then to the serene woman from church whose home and children were immaculate and perfectly appointed at all times, when she herself was a messy housekeeper who felt like she was barely keeping it together, with a home that might be described as "warlike, loud, and sticky." But she had an epiphany when this "perfect" woman, around whom she'd always felt so inadequate in comparison, explained that she'd been an interior designer before she'd become a mother: "Style, beauty, all that stuff--it's my blue flame.  I'm using my gifts just like you are,"  she said.


When I was a young mother, my blue flame didn't really burn for writing, not yet anyway; instead, it burned for homemaking.  Keeping a house with five growing boys living in it as clean and tidy as humanly possible was a full-time job (and never fear, I did lower my standards so as not to go crazy).  But I didn't really mind the cleaning or the cooking or the laundry.  And I loved the decorating; I loved working to make my house as beautiful and comfortable as I could on the limited funds left over after the Catholic school tuition bills had been paid.  Looking for secondhand store furniture bargains and painting and refinishing them was one of my favorite hobbies.  I dabbled in sewing, woodworking, porcelain dollmaking, and doing trompe l'oeil paintings on the walls of my house--mostly of whimsical woodland creatures.  When our boys' Catholic grade school opened up a preschool, the principal asked me to paint nursery rhyme characters on the walls of the halls and classrooms, and that whole process was a complete joy to me.  I still dreamed of being a writer one day; but I wasn't passionate about it at that point in my life.  There were other ways that I used some of the gifts God gave me during those busy childrearing years, and I felt happy and fulfilled.

But eventually, when my boys were almost ready to fly the nest and I didn't have nearly as much to do around the house anymore, I felt like it was finally time for me to realize my lifelong dream of being a writer.  I was ready.  I was passionate.  I prayed to God, right before the beginning of a weekday morning Mass, that if I was meant to write the novel I had always dreamed of writing, He would give me the inspiration to figure out where to start...and I had such a sudden flood of inspiration, it was as if I'd been struck by lightning.  The whole first chapter started taking shape right there at Mass (making it difficult for me to concentrate!).  I went home and furiously typed up 20 pages of notes on my computer, and I spent the next four-and-a-half years working on Finding Grace.  Like Fulwiler, I had to put my writing on hold from time to time to attend to the needs of my family; but in God's own time, I was able to finish it and--talk about a beautiful dream!--see it published.

My path to becoming an author was completely different than the one Fulwiler took--but that's why this book of hers is so wonderful: it will encourage you to be the person God is calling you to be; it will inspire you to do what you are meant to do, when you are meant to do it; and it will remind you that you should never compare yourself to anyone else, because you have something special inside that you, and you alone, can share with the world.

Get your hands on this book if you haven't yet! Jennifer Fulwiler's engaging prose will have you laughing out loud one minute, crying the next...and vowing to conquer the fears and insecurities that threaten to extinguish the flame that burns within you. Ultimately, One Beautiful Dream will inspire you to live your best life, as only YOU can, using your abilities in a way that serves God and others and fills your soul with peace and joy.

Now check out the other books you should be reading, over at A Scribbler's Heart and CatholicMom.com.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Are the Q Pages Finsihed, You Ask? Yes, Quite!

I really have to stop trying to come up with catchy titles for these posts about my ABC Book pages.  This one was a little lame, I'll admit.

But the Q's are quite done, and I am quite happy about it!

Before I show you the Q pages, I want you to know that I kind of cheated again.   Not really, but sort of.  I scanned and copied some old artwork of mine, because I was too lazy to try to recreate it all over again.  (Mea culpa!)

The original children's alphabet book that I started about 25 years ago for my youngest son and then abandoned completely after I'd finished just 10 of the illustrated pages (only to dust it off many years later and start working on it again when I became a grandmother) was somewhat problematic.  The artwork was done on very large pieces of paper, and it would have been necessary to shrink the pages down to fit a printed book format--which in my crazy pipe dreams, the children's book publisher was going to do for me.  The pages were also hand-lettered, because it was the olden days and I didn't have a PC with Word on it and therefore didn't have the ability to make the text look utterly professional.

Here is one of those original pages, with my big old size 9 feet nearby to give you perspective.
The first time around, each letter was going to have three pages of illustrations; but having gotten older and wiser, this time around, I decided that there were only going to be two pagers per letter.  (I mean, look how many years it's already taken me to move this project along--and I'm 60 now, as of yesterday. I figured there was a lot more hope of actually finishing this book for my grandchildren before I kick the bucket if I cut down the number of pages.)  I really liked those ducks and wanted to use them again, but I'd already completed my two new pages of D's.  What to do, what to do?

Well, one solution would be coming up with a new rhyme for one of the other letters where a picture of ducks would fit right in.  So that is what I did, and this is how my 25-year-old ducks played their new part in my soon-to-be-completed (hopefully!) ABC Book.
Boo-yah!  Yes, that just happened!

The new pages are drawn on 8 and 1/2 by 11-inch card stock, so they are much more manageable.  I print out the text first using Word and then do the artwork around it. The queen is all fresh and new; but those ducks were scanned and copied from the original book, and then glued into place under the text.

When I first decided to finally finish this long-neglected book as a gift for my grandchildren, I meticulously redid the artwork that I wanted to reuse.  It was painstaking--because it's extremely difficult to try to recreate a drawing that you liked as is the first time around.

Well, no more of that!  It's way too time intensive, and I have to get this thing done while my precious little ones are still young enough to be enthralled by alphabet books!

There is a part of me that thinks my queen needs a bit more tweaking, but I'm going to try to let the urge to improve her go and just move on; I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I think I actually might get this thing finished before 2018 is over.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Turning the Big Six-Oh (Oh No!)

I never got depressed or stressed when I hit any of the milestone birthdays, the "big ones."  Thirty, forty, fifty--those numbers were not all that big a deal to me.  But SIXTY..hoo boy, that's a big number.  That sounds old.  You know, very senior citizen-esque.  That's a lot of years of living on this earth.  At that advanced age, you'd think I'd be the wisest woman in town, but this is not even close to the truth.  (And we live in a pretty small VA town these days.)  I still feel like the exact same person inside that I've always been, like the shy young girl who could hardly look at a cute boy when she passed him in the hall in high school (and then ended up marrying him--proving that anything is possible and dreams can come true!); however, my outside is starting to show a good amount of wear and tear.

But as my dear dad, who died  almost two years ago, just one day shy of his 82nd birthday, would say, "It's better than the alternative."  Dad loved birthdays.  His last week with us, he knew he was dying but he REALLY wanted to hang on to celebrate one last birthday.  That's how much love of life he had in him, even at the end.

So in his honor, I think I'll embrace 60 and remember that it is indeed better than the alternative.  Especially when you are surrounded by the love of a big and ever-growing family.

A couple of weeks ago, when our youngest son was in VA with his girlfriend (on leave and in the States for the first time since last summer), the kids planned a dinner out at a restaurant in our little hometown.  The four oldest boys and their wives got babysitters for all but our youngest grandchild (she was the youngest at the time, anyway--as reported in yesterday's post, another Pearl has since been added to the string), so it was a very rare grown-ups only dinner.  I had been eagerly anticipating this night out with all of my favorite grown-ups on earth.

When my husband and I walked into the restaurant, I realized that it was actually a surprise birthday celebration for me as well--a few weeks early, since our youngest would be back in Germany on my actual "natal day," as my Dad liked to call it.

There were balloons!
There was cake!
There were presents!

But most importantly, there were these precious faces gathered around the table together.  These are my people, and I am the luckiest 60-year-old woman on the face of the earth.
I've got more gray hairs these days.  More wrinkles. More aches and pains.  More fat around the middle that won't seem to go away (no matter how much ice cream I eat--ha ha!).  But I've got this amazing bunch of humans who love me and whom I adore.

Young mamas, look forward to this.  All the sleepless nights, changing dirty diapers, mediating squabbles over toys, fixing dinners for the pickiest of eaters, taxiing carloads of smelly football players, listening to your darlings' accusations of being "the strictest parents in the whole school"--all of those things you're going through now (and that's just the tip of the iceberg, of course) will be well worth it when your children become kind, thoughtful, responsible adults and fill your table with love and laughter, when they start having families of their own.

Life is indeed a gift.  So I'll take 60, with a heaping helping of cake.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Lucky 13

Our newest grandchild, a little boy named after two powerful saints, arrived on July 19--ten days before his due date.  He is our 6th grandson and our 13th grandchild.  (I like to say that we now have a baker's dozen, because any reference to baked goods makes me happy.)

His daddy, our oldest son, has recently started flying commercially, and he was scheduled to go out on a trip July 20-23. Even though they have lots of family (three brothers and their wives) and friends in the area who were willing to help out, I felt like it might be best if I could be there to set my daughter-in-law's mind at ease.  I wanted her to know that someone would be there with her if she went into labor when my boy was on his trip.  And even if nothing happened while he was away from home, I figured it would be nice for her to have another adult in the house to lighten her load at that point in her pregnancy.  My husband and I were up in NY taking care of our VRBO house on the lake, and we had planned to drive down to VA together on the 23rd, thinking that with a July 29 due date, that would be early enough.  But I started to worry that we would be too late; something told me I'd better get down there ASAP.

I hadn't been on an airplane in a while (long story--I can tell that one later), but I decided to two-leg it down to VA on the 20th.  Then when the flights that day looked like they were going to be too full, there was a last-minute decision to fly down on the 19th.  And what do you know: when I landed in NYC and turned my phone on, there was a text from my son saying that it looked like things were getting started that night.  Regina was having contractions and he was not going to be flying his trip the next day.  He was surprised and relieved to find out that I was already en route.  Through a flurry of texts, I was informed that son #3 was going to head over to his house to be with his four daughters until I got there.  I was picked up at the airport by son #4, and he lent me his extra car so I could drive over to his big brother's house to relieve son #3 of his babysitting duties.  I got to their house at 10:30 p.m. and the baby--their first boy after four girls--was born at 11:04.

Talk about great timing!

So lucky 13 is here!
Already posted this one on IG.

And I have been one busy Grammy for the past few days!  While mommy and baby are spending time together in bed, bonding and getting the nursing thing going, I have been reading books aloud, playing library (there is a budding librarian in the group), admiring drawings, telling aspiring novelists how to spell words, changing diapers, filling water cups, making grilled cheese sandwiches, organizing dance parties...well, you get the drift.

Which begs the question, you wonderful "mommy bloggers" out there who are in the trenches raising your young'uns: how in the world do you do it?  How do you have time to blog?  I miss blogging so much, but feel like I just don't have the time or energy to devote to it these days.  I have never been very good at multi-tasking; I can only juggle one ball at a time, I guess.  But I really would like to get back to writing posts here at String of Pearls.  There is something about playing around with words that is almost therapeutic for me.  Writers gotta write, I suppose.

Before I sign off, I thought I'd share a few pictures of the newest Pearl, our Lucky 13.  As you will see, he is well loved and doted upon by his older sisters.  I joked to my son that the little guy was going to be smothered with love by all those little mothers.  And he said, "Or literally smothered."  LOLOLOL!
This one has already been on IG, too.

My husband is on the road as I write this, driving down to VA to join me here and meet his new grandson.  I've really missed him, my "old building and loan pal." (That's one of our new terms of endearment for each other--and if you don't know where that line came from, I don't think we can be friends!  Just kidding, of course.)  I can't wait until he gets here.

Anyhoo--that's what's been going on in our neck of the woods!  (And boy is it wonderful that those woods are filled with so many people we love--our four oldest sons, their wives, and our 13-going-on-14 grandchildren! It's like an enchanted forest or something!)

Now I need to wrap this up and head on over to see the girls, who really hoped I would be there to have breakfast with them.  I'd been staying at their house until last night, when I decided that I needed to sleep in my own bed.  Thank goodness it's only 17 minutes from our place to theirs!

Okay then, bye for now...

Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Home Library (of Sorts!)

Whenever I see photos of amazing home libraries that look like this
or this

or THIS (!),
my eyes get a little green.  I can't help but envy such beautiful spaces to store and read books.

As Thomas Jefferson would say,

We had a number of built-in shelving units in our old "forever home" in NH, thanks to my husband's carpentry skills. He is not a professional carpenter; but he's a talented and exacting one, and the pieces he made for the house wherein we raised our boys were quite spectacular (said his grateful wife).

We had to leave much of the fruits of my favorite woodworker's labors behind when we moved to VA in the spring of 2017.  We miss all those handcrafted shelves; but our new neighbors (our four oldest sons, their wives, and our 12-going-on-14 grandchildren) more than make up for anything we had to give up.  They make up for it and then some.

However, one of the problems I couldn't wait to solve once we moved into our new, smaller house in VA was where and how to incorporate storage for our rather large collection of books.  As it turns out, although we do have a fourth bedroom that serves as a home office (something we never had before, and which I just love!), between our his-and-hers desks, two large filing cabinets, and various other storage pieces that house our office supplies, there was not a lot of room for shelves.  We did manage to add some, including a space-saving tall, narrow, solidly-built all-wood unit bought at a local Amish furniture store.
This one, a small cherry "wood" unit purchased at Walmart, is not nearly as solid as the tall one, but it works in a pinch.
We also managed to fit one little red "wood" bookshelf into our not-very-large family room.  It's not as well-crafted as the one from the Amish shop either (it's mostly made of particle board, a reasonably priced Target find that used to store video equipment in our NH TV room), but it works for displaying our family Bible, our college yearbooks, and some other oversized books.
Even after the shelves pictured above were filled, we still had boxes and boxes of books that needed a home.  What we ended up doing was turning each of the remaining three bedrooms of our new house into mini-libraries.

For the master bedroom, we purchased his-and-hers medium-sized solid pine shelves for either side of our bed from our go-to Amish furniture store (my new favorite local establishment).  These matching shelves were unfinished, so I gave them a light stain and a couple of coats of poly.


The little table below, which I bought with the country-style distressed paint-and-stain finish from the same Amish shop, is actually handy for holding a lamp...which I could otherwise put on my dresser, if it wasn't for the 55-inch TV we have mounted on the wall just above it.  The lamp would get in the way of the Notre Dame game, you see, or the latest episode of This Is Us, so I needed somewhere else to put it.  And how handy that the somewhere else came with space to showcase a few of my favorite hardcover books.  (The little shelf below is what sold me on the table, truth be told.)
By the way, I am aware that this master bedroom is almost embarrassing, it's so big.  I mean, we have room for a king-sized bed, two bookshelves, two easy chairs, two dressers...Oh, and there are also two walk-in closets (I claimed the bigger one!).  I'm not even going to show you our ridiculously large master bathroom.  All I can say is that we never had an expansive and glorious master suite like this when we were young parents raising our five boys.  But now we're a couple of spoiled grandparents--who've earned it, I guess?  (Sure, let's go with that.)

Anyway, the other two bedrooms have some bookshelves in them, too.

In the yellow room where our twin granddaughters usually stay when they sleep over, there is a night stand between the twin beds that was made by my husband over two decades ago for our two oldest boys' bedroom, and which he recently re-worked to add more room to store books.  It used to be stained pine, but I gave it a coat of Irish green chalk paint, and I think it looks terrific.
There is also an inexpensive Walmart faux wood unit in the corner of that room.
In the blue bedroom that I think of as our youngest son's room (mostly because he's the only one of our boys who isn't married yet), there are two nightstands that were made by my handy guy for our old master bedroom many moons ago.  I love the way they look in this VA bedroom.
Ummm...note to self:  I need to center the bed under that picture in the middle.   (A professional home decorator I am not!)
They're small, but they hold a surprisingly large number of books.

So that's the tour of our home library (libraries?), if you can call it that.

Hmmm...Were you interested in seeing pictures of the inside of my house?  I know that I love getting glimpses of the homes of bloggers whom I admire and follow...but this little cookie cutter house in a cookie cutter neighborhood in VA is hardly Gramblewood...Then again, very few houses are!  ;)

In spite of our new home's limitations, at this stage of our long and blessed life together, this is just about the perfect place for us to live. And with a little creativity, it now has the perfect number of bookshelves to keep this bibliophile happy.  For now, anyway.  As our collection grows, my ideas for creating more storage will have to grow as well.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Mad Hatters

I love hats.  I don't always have the courage to wear them, but I wish it was still the thing to do, the way it was back in the day, because I think they're so much fun.  If I lived in England (the land of my father's people), I probably wouldn't be as shy about donning a chapeau--especially if I went to Ascot, or was lucky enough to be invited to a royal wedding.

I mean really, hat-watching is one of the most enjoyable activities for me when these oh-so-British events are televised.
Those two young princes are very cute and all, and their uniforms are quite dapper; but I can't stop looking at the hats!
This isn't the first time I've blogged about the sometimes quite attractive and other times completely outlandish hats worn at a royal wedding.  I did so here, in this old post  from 2014, back when Prince William and Kate Middleton were still the couple everyone was talking about.

There were actually some very lovely hats and fascinators at this recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  Here are a few that I particularly liked.

It is not surprising that Kate rocked hers.  She always looks impeccable.

Back in the summer of 2013, I was invited to a wedding shower for Preciosa (now the wife of my middle son and the mother of his three children).  We met up with some old college friends of hers here in VA (one of them being Ginger, who would meet my second-born son at the wedding and is now his wife and the mother of his two sons, with another baby on the way).  Knowing that I was planning to wear a hat for the wedding, they convinced me to buy a rather dramatic fascinator that we saw in a small boutique.

However, when it came right down to it, I didn't have the guts to wear it. I even removed a long black feather from it to see if that would help me feel less conspicuous in it, but no dice.  I spent $50 on that crazy thing, and it's been sitting in a hat box in my closet for the past five years.

Recently, inspired by a photo Kendra Tierney shared on Instagram, in which she and her eldest daughter were wearing fashionable fascinators with their Easter finery, I dug it out of the closet, put it on, and a took a selfie.  Then I texted the photo to Ginger (who is as loyal a follower and fan of Kendra as I am).
Ginger thinks I should think about wearing this daring headpiece when my fifth and last son gets married.  I just might have to do that.  We shall see...

Before I sign off, I've just got to show you a couple of photos of my youngest grandchild (as of now), an angelic, constantly smiling 6-month-old lass who I've decided to call Rosita here at the blog (she is the youngest child of son #3 and Preciosa, the younger sister of G-Man and Princesa).  This sweet little gal looks utterly fab in a hat, let me tell you!

When I met up with some of my gang at a vineyard on Mother's Day, this fashionable little lady was sitting at a picnic table, waiting to greet me, wearing this wide-brimmed beauty on her adorable noggin.

Can.  You.  Even.  Stand.  It??!!

With that, my friends, I'm going to doff my proverbial hat and bid you all adieu.  Until next time!