Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Flying High, Like His Dad

Our oldest son is currently in the process of training for a new career.

Actually, he's going back to his roots, going back to the career he first had when he graduated from Notre Dame and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army: he's training to become a pilot.

He flew Chinook helicopters in the Army, and now he is learning to fly a fixed-wing aircraft.
I don't think our firstborn ever imagined that he would choose this as his career path.  He never expressed a desire--at least that I can remember--to follow in his dad's footsteps, by transitioning from military flying to commercial flying.  When he went through flight training in the Army, he just thought that flying helicopters would be a fun and interesting way to spend the years he would be in service to our country, repaying the Army for the ROTC scholarship that had made it possible for him to earn a degree from one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the land--and I say that about ND without any bias whatsoever!  ;)

While "fun" might be an unusual adjective to employ when talking about a career that included difficult year-long deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan and having to watch the birth of his firstborn twin daughters via Skype, our boy did get a lot of satisfaction out of being good at what he did and using his abilities to aid his brothers out in the field.  But when his eight-year stint in the Army ended, he assumed that his days as a pilot had ended, too.

For several years after returning to civilian life, he worked as a project manager for a major corporation out in the Midwest.  About a year ago, he left that job when he moved his family to his wife's hometown, and he tried his hand at selling life insurance (which he soon realized is not the type of work that is suitable for every personality type!).  He was unsure of what his next move should be; then his dad reminded him that he was a good pilot and he seemed to enjoy that kind of work, so perhaps he should not discount that as a possibility when thinking about his future career.

Not too long after that conversation, he made the decision to get back into flying.  And he is once again the happy boy I remember, the guy who is comfortable in his own skin and quietly confident without being arrogant.

No matter how old he gets (he's 33 now--how did that happen?), I still have vivid memories of him as a little boy.  From day one, he was an "old soul," as firstborn children often are.  He was a sensitive little guy who always wanted to do the right thing; he never wanted to disappoint us and caused us few worries through the years.  Growing up, he gave 110% at school and in sports.  He was humble. He was kind.  He took his Faith very seriously.  He didn't get into trouble.  At the risk of embarrassing him, I have to say that he truly was a dream to raise.

When he was in 7th grade, he learned a hard life lesson.  He was on his Catholic grade school's junior high basketball team, and as usual he was giving it his all in practice.  There was an 8th grade boy who had had back surgery over the summer vacation and had recently been given the green light by his doctor to get back into playing sports.  He had been the star of the team the previous season, and he was anxious to cement his positon in the starting line-up.  He was playing a bit timidly (so obviously, he wasn't really ready to be back in the game yet--at least not mentally ready), and he began to spread rumors that our son was purposely trying to re-injure him in practice in order to take his starting spot on the team.  The boy's mother told the coach that our son was intentionally targeting hers, even going so far as accusing him of biting (?!) when the two of them went up for a rebound.  Everything that mother-son duo claimed our boy was doing was so out of character for him, if you knew him at all, and we didn't believe a word of it.  The coach had known both boys for years and didn't give the accusations any credence whatsoever either.  But there were still kids at school who believed the lies and gave our poor son dirty looks in the halls.  Ultimately, we told him that people can say things about you that aren't true and there's really no way you can stop that; but you can live your life in such a way that when people hear what they're saying, they won't believe it.  It was really tough on him; but he held his head high and didn't retaliate at all, and eventually, the rumors died away.

This boy of ours has four daughters of his own now.  His twin girls are six.  In the blink of an eye, they will be in junior high, too, and they might have to deal with jealous or insecure peers who want to slander and hurt them.  I have no doubt that with him as their dad, with his loving guidance and his example of faith and fortitude in action, those girls will live their lives in such a way that no one will be able to believe any ugly lies told about them. 

Meanwhile, he'll be flying high--just like the dad who raised him and taught him what it means to be a good dad.

Time Flies When You're Having Grandchildren

Hey, remember me?  I'm a blogger.

It's true.  Pictures don't lie.
That's my trusty laptop behind me in this nerdy selfie.  I opened it up for the first time in weeks today, with fingers itching to get at that dusty keyboard.  (I could have sworn I heard the old girl say,"What is going on here?!"  She thought she was getting the whole summer off, but no dice.  It's back to work, my little beauty.)

I remember when I used to blog every morning, first thing, with a mug of hot coffee parked close at hand and a head full of potential topics, any one of which I just knew would be the perfect subject for the BEST.BLOG.POST.EVER.  (Not really--but I was very enthusiastic about this blog--it was my baby; and after decades of dreaming of becoming a writer but never writing at all, I couldn't wait to write about EVERYTHING.)

I know I sound like a broken record here...but I really am going to try to get back to blogging more regularly. Really.  Pinky swear.  No more of this weeks-and-weeks in between posts.  I'm not going to promise daily activity, because I have found that life gets in the way much too easily these days, so that's a promise I can't possibly keep.  But I can do better. And I will.

But time really does fly when you're having grandchildren!  They keep you young and they keep you entertained and they keep you busy.  Our latest addition, a wee lad I'm going to call "Jedi" here at String of Pearls, was born to son #2 and his wife Ginger in mid-June, and we were able to attend his Baptism in early July.
Papa and Grammy with the new little Christian.
Our youngest son was able to come home on leave from Germany just in time to play the role of godfather for his new nephew. 
Our baby holding his godson; Papa holding Jedi's big
brother, Junior.
We also attended a big, lovely party in Jedi's honor on the Fourth of July, with all the rest of our VA gang, before we headed north for the summer.  Our baby's girlfriend--she's another CatholicMatch.com match!--joined us, too.  (Eight of our twelve grandchildren are present in this photo, four of them in utero; our other four granddaughters are currently living out in the Midwest with our oldest son and his wife.)
For the months of July and August, we will be staying through the week at my husband's childhood home on Lake Champlain, which is only about three miles down the road from our Oyster Haven VRBO property.
This is the view my husband grew up with.  Not too shabby, eh?  (That's his older
sister, owner of Valcour Brewing Co., in the middle, one of his younger
brothers on the far right, and his brother's wife next to him.)
On the weekends, we clean our place and change all the linens as soon as one set of guests leave.  Check-out is at 10:00 a.m. and check-in is at 4:00 p.m., so we have a six-hour window to get everything done for the next set of vacationers.  It's exhausting but so worth it!  (Because someday, hopefully, we'll be in a position to actually spend the summers here and have this little slice of heaven available to our kids and grandkids whenever they wish to visit!)
Our view isn't too shabby either!
One great motivator for me to keep up with this blog is that I am planning to attend the CWBN Mid-Atlantic Conference in Front Royal, VA (not far from our new house down there!) on August 26.  If you follow Time Flies When You're Having Babies, then you know who Catholic blogger Ana Hahn is.  She is hosting this event, which will feature some other popular bloggers you might have heard of if you spend any time in the Catholic blogosphere.  I'll most likely be one of the few ladies in attendance at this shindig who's grown children are the ones having babies; but maybe being an older blogger--old enough to be the other attendees' mother, in most cases--will make me seem wise.  ("Fake it til you make it," as one of my dear Pearl sisters-in-law likes to say!)

But Catholic bloggers are only called bloggers because they engage in an activity called blogging, so I'd better keep at it, right?  No more neglecting this here blog of mine.  I almost-promise.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Lovin' Life in Virginia


I love my new home state.  I do.  I mean I even bought myself this shirt.  And see how happy I am?  I've got some serious Virginia love going on.

In the three months since we've been residents here, after moving away from the house we thought was--but decidedly wasn't--our "forever home" in NH, I have truly, truly grown to love my new Southern zip code.

It helps that three of our married sons and four of our grandchildren (soon  to be eight, actually!) live less than an hour away from us now.  And it helps that all of our VA kids were actually really excited to have us move nearby and become a bigger part of their day-to-day lives.

I got a bad case of poison ivy a couple of weeks ago--something that hasn't happened to me in about 40 years (and I hope I've got 40 more before I ever have to go through it again).


I was put on prednisone and antihistamines, but the rash got much worse before it got better, and new hives kept popping up.  I began to worry that not only was the steroid not working, but that I might be allergic to it.  (I'm allergic to four different antibiotics, after all.)  On Father's Day, my husband and I were attempting to fly out to the Midwest to see our oldest son and his family, but I ended up backing out of the trip, worried that I would have an anaphylactic reaction in mid-air.  We'd spent the whole day at one major DC airport, where we'd been bumped from two consecutive flights.  We were on a train headed to the other airport to try to get the last plane out of Dodge, but I was so incredibly itchy that I started to get panicky, and we ended up driving back home for the night.  I felt just awful.  My husband flew out the next day without me (he had no choice: he was going out there not only to have a short visit with our son's gang, but also to fly a scheduled working trip to Honolulu and back from an airport near where they live).

A few nights after my husband left, I was alone at our new house, and as I stood up I had a sudden sensation of being on the verge of passing out.  I had a serious bout of anxiety, and gripping the counter to keep from fainting, I called 911.  Then I realized I should have just called one of my boys, now that they're so close by.  So I called the 911 operator back and tried to cancel the ambulance, but the EMT's came to check on me anyway.  It was so embarrassing.  Eight of them trooped in the front door, and I spent most of the time they were with me apologizing for wasting their time.  (Who knew poison ivy could cause so much trouble?!)

Long story short, though: my middle son was my hero that night and drove 35 minutes to my house to get me after the emergency crew had left, and I ended up having two sleepovers at his house, with his wife and his two darling kids.

That's just one of the many reasons I'm so happy that we're here in VA now, neighbors to those who are most dear to us.

My husband doesn't have a VA t-shirt.  But he does have this awesome bar glass, part of a gift basket of VA-themed items that our kids had waiting for us when we first arrived here in March. 
Okay, so we've established that I love it here...but right now I'm about to head to the airport with my hubby to take an early morning flight out to Michigan.  Details to follow later!  This post is going out into the blogosphere, finished or not.  (I will probably shudder later and fret about all of the edits I should have done...)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #28): Writing...about Writing

When I go too long without doing it, I really miss writing.
In the new office in our house in VA that I share with my husband:
a vintage typewriter, bought at a consignment shop in NH for $65.
It was something I thought a writer ought to have.
That's not to say that I believe I'm a particularly good writer; it's just that I have a burning need to write.  It's an exercise that feeds my soul.  I love words.  I love figuring out how to arrange them best so that they say just what it is I want them to say.  Not that I'm always successful, mind you; but the process of messing around with them is just so. much. FUN.

I suppose that's why blogging has been such a good outlet for me for the past six years--and why I keep coming back to it, even when I think I've got nothing interesting to say anymore.

I became a writer relatively late in life, after decades of being a stay-at-home-mom.  When I started working on what I was sure would be my one and only novel in 2007, I was 49, my oldest son was a year out of college and a newly-minted officer in the Army, my youngest son was a freshman in high school, and the three sons in between were away at college.  Unless it was summertime or the college-aged boys were home on a holiday break, I was often alone in the house during those writing days, down in my basement "office."  I might still be in my bathrobe at 2:30 in the afternoon, if it was a particularly productive session (with my first cup of coffee on the desk, long forgotten and cold--an almost unheard of scenario for me, if you know how much coffee I usually drink, and proof that writing completely took over my thoughts and energies).  Even though I never really believed that all those painstakingly created pages would actually be published or read by anyone outside of my inner circle of friends and family, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing for its own sake.

During the almost five years that I spent writing and re-writing--and for the umpteenth time, re-writing!--Finding Grace (with plenty of breaks, of course, when I had to close up shop for days or weeks at a time to attend to the needs of my husband and my boys), I was so happy.  Sometimes when I was working on the dialogue between Grace and Tom, or Grace and Jimmy, in a scene that really tickled me,  I'd realize that I had a silly grin on my face as I tapped away on the keys of my laptop.  "Yes, that's it!"  I would think, often saying it out loud.  "That's just what he would say in that situation!"  What an indescribable joy that was, spending those years getting to know that cast of characters who became like friends to me.  I miss spending that time with them, I really do.

Some days, though, I would ask myself why in the world I was dedicating countless hours to a fictional story that few people (if anyone) would ever read; my generous and ridiculously supportive husband, however, would tell me that if it made me happy to write, that was enough.  But I couldn't help but wonder: does someone deserve to devote so much time to an activity merely because it makes her happy to do so?  That seemed rather frivolous and self-indulgent to me, and I worried that perhaps my days would have been better spent doing more tangible good in the world.

What I must remind myself on an almost daily basis is that God has not given us all the same talents and skill sets.  Some of His children have personalities and abilities that make them suited for very big and visible ways of making a difference in the world; and some of them are more introverted and shy, and must do their work in quieter ways, behind the scenes.  I become tongue-tied in most situations where face-to-face, I am asked to explain or defend my Faith.  But I can sit at my keyboard and pour out my beliefs through the written word.  I have let my books' characters speak for me at times, and pray that God will appreciate the effort I've made to use them for His greater glory and not my own.

I have an idea for another novel, a work of historical fiction that would be a sort of sequel to Erin's Ring (in that it would involve the same young girls, now a few years older and learning about another fascinating and little-known historical event in the Catholic Church).  So far, however, I have not been able to get disciplined enough to get past the first two chapters.  I would need to do quite a bit of research, and I'm daunted by that prospect.  Pray for me, will you?  Because there is a beautiful story about Mary's intercession, about an event that happened right here in our country and about which most people probably know very little, that I truly believe needs to be told.  I want so badly to write it--not for myself, because I think it will lead to commercial success or professional recognition, but for the greater glory of God and His Blessed Mother.
You know, I just realized that it's Tuesday, so this little post filled with book talk has officially become the latest installment of the Grace-filled Tuesdays Book Club.  I hope you've been enjoying your coffee while you followed along.  As for me, there's a half-drunk mug of cold coffee on my desk that needs warming up.  And I can assure you, there will be a second cup!

Before we adjourn, though, I have one question for you.  If you read Finding Grace, did you find the end satisfying?  Did you think Grace ended up with the right boy?  Were you "Team Tom" or "Team Jimmy"?  (I guess that's technically three questions.)
I'm not sure why I felt the need to add that image.  It doesn't remind me of my Grace Kelly and the two young men in her life in the least.  But it's obviously supposed to depict a couple of sweet kids on prom night, a night which plays an important part in the book.  (And the bottom line is that I've just always been a big fan of Norman Rockwell's all-American artwork.)

Okay then, until next time...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

My Sunday Best: Vocations, Veils, and Vintage Fashions

Here I am again--blogging for the second day in a row!  (I hope I can keep this streak going...)

This morning, my husband and I attended 8:30 Mass at our new parish in VA.  (Joining us was our youngest son, who flew in yesterday from Germany to enjoy a couple of weeks of leave in the good old U S of A.)  We have become quite fond of our new little parish church, located at the center of our new little town.  We are also growing fond of our new pastor, a very holy and engaging priest who has had an interesting history: during his first career, before he answered a calling to the priesthood, he was a special agent in the CIA. 

Today, Father spoke about vocations, and the need to pray for them.  He quoted Saint John Bosco, who claimed that one out of every three men would receive a calling--think about that, one out of three!  How, then, can Holy Mother Church be experiencing a "priest shortage"?  He reminded Catholic parents of the need to portray the priesthood in a positive light so that our sons who might be called are willing to listen.  What we need to really pray for, he said, is not so much the vocations themselves, because they are abundant; but rather we must pray that the men chosen by the Holy Spirit to have those vocations will be open to hearing and answering the call.  I leaned over and nudged my son and whispered, "You're our only hope, now that all of your brothers are married!"  And because great minds think alike, as we exited the church after Mass and crossed the parking lot to the car, my husband also gently teased him about the fact that he must be the one in our family who's destined to become a priest.  He good-naturedly made sure to point out to us that one in three men didn't necessarily mean one in three men in every family.

When this youngest son of ours was in middle school, he was always scrupulously aware of the state of his soul; he used to come and tell us on Friday nights that he would need a ride to church the next day for Confession (a practice that would continue until he was a licensed driver himself).  He seemed so advanced in his Faith for someone so young, and we used to wonder if he ever thought he might have a vocation.  But he never really talked about it.  Years later, he did admit that the idea did cross his mind on occasion.  But he said that was mostly because random adults, completely out of the blue, would ask him if he ever thought about becoming a priest, and he couldn't help but wonder if this was God's way of letting him know that he'd been chosen.

Anyway, on the drive back home in the car, we talked about how the call to Christian fatherhood is also a noble and absolutely vital vocation in our increasingly fallen world.  And that is the call our baby believes he is hearing--at this point, at least.  He was always a serious and mature-beyond-his-years little guy, trying desperately to catch up to his four older brothers.  He has tried to emulate them his whole life, and now they are all married to lovely Catholic women and bringing forth into the world a small army of souls--of future soldiers for Christ--with those women. It is the sort of life he can well envision for himself one day, too. 

Okay, this a "My Sunday Best" post, so I guess I should talk a little bit about Mass fashions now, shouldn't I?


Today I wore a cotton sundress that I've had for close to 10 years (it was a T J Maxx find, no surprise there) and a short-sleeved black cardigan with a lace collar that I've had just as long (also from T J Maxx). There are pictures of me wearing this same outfit at a wedding shower for Ginger (wife of son #2) back in 2014, and I don't believe I've put it on since.  So I don't follow that common advice of closet organizers/purgers everywhere that states if you haven't worn an item of clothing in a year, it's time to get rid of it.  My favorites can sometimes languish in the back of the closet for several years at a time before I decide to recycle them--and then they feel brand new.
With our three VA sons and their gals at the shower in 2014--and my guy of course.
Awkward selfie taken today, with an expression that's a cross between Zoolander's "Blue Steel"
and Dana Carvey's "Church Lady."  (With an unmade bed in the background, no less.)
For Mass, I also donned a veil, a practice I started about 8 or 9 years ago, after giving myself about 5 years to drum up the courage.  This lovely mantilla is a treasure I discovered a few years back among my late mother-in-law's things when we were cleaning out my husband's childhood home.  The buttery-soft vintage lace is so much higher in quality than the modern stuff you find at JoAnn's Fabrics these days.  It's silver-gray and black, and one day in the not-too-distant future, it will match my hair just about perfectly.

I saw the most beautiful explanation for why I feel compelled to veil in a recent Instagram post, and I thought I'd share it with you here.
This young woman said it better than I ever could.  Wearing a veil to Mass most certainly has nothing to do with wanting to seem "holier than thou."  In fact, my fear that others would think that about me is what made it take so long to get up the guts to do it.

Before I sign off, I thought I'd show you some other vintage beauties that I acquired recently (as long as we're talking fashions here).  My siblings and I held a garage sale a few weeks ago to clear out our mother's home before selling it, now that our dad is gone and she has moved into an assisted living facility.  Mom put aside the things she wanted to have at her new place and then urged us kids to take whatever clothes, furniture, artwork, or knickknacks we wanted before the sale started.  I came across some lovely vintage items that I couldn't bear to part with.  Although I will probably never wear these classic accessories, I just wanted to keep them in the family.
The genuine fur wrap was my paternal grandmother's, and it has her monogram embroidered on the satin lining.  And the long white gloves with pearl buttons were my mother's.  She believes they are the ones she wore for her wedding.  I think these pieces are so lovely.  So classy!  So Grace Kelly, so Jackie Kennedy!  My husband, on the other hand, thinks that if I just added a turban to the ensemble, I could channel Chevy Chase in that attic scene in "Christmas Vacation."
So perhaps I have next year's Halloween costume all figured out.

On that note, I think I'll call wrap up this post.  But head on over to Rosie's.  There are bound to be much better Sunday Best fashions over there. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Back in the Saddle

Hi there, readers--if anyone is still out there.  (Testing: 1,2.3...is this thing on?)

You know, I'm not sure I remember how to do this.  I feel like I've been thrown off the horse.  But you know what they say about making yourself get right back up on that beast again, don't you?  So here I am, back in the saddle, finally.   ("Equestrian metaphors?  Really?  How lame!  Does she think that's the way to make people glad she's back to blogging?")

When I started this blog way, way back in March of 2011, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and filled with thoughts I just HAD to share on a daily basis, I would never have believed that I could go more than a whole month without posting something on String of Pearls. But I just double-checked and yes indeed, my last blog post was dated May 22.  (Has it really been that long since I was here?!)  In my early days as a blogger, and for quite a few years afterward, I was opening up my laptop bright and early every morning while I was still on my first cup of coffee, with fingers itching to get at those keys.  Things have certainly changed. 

Life was very different for me in March of 2011.  My youngest son was still living at home, just about to graduate from high school.  My oldest son was married, but so far wedding bells didn't appear to be on the horizon for any of his younger brothers anytime soon.  (Ha!  That changed quickly--and sons # 2, 3, and 4 got married in an 11-month span, between December 2013 and November 2014!)  In March of 2011, I was still working on Finding Grace, which was about a year away from being published, and I was quite sure it was the only book I was ever going to write.  (Wrong again!)  I was just a few months away from becoming a grandmother for the first time, from meeting identical twin granddaughters who would burrow their way into my heart and open up a whole new world for me.

I had so much I wanted to write about here at the blog: not just about what was going on in my family at that time; but also all that had gone on before, during the years that my husband and I were raising our five boys.  My blog, I hoped, was going to be a sort of chronicle of life in the Pearl family, something I could leave behind for my kids and grandkids to read in the future, to remind them of their history when their memories would inevitably start to fade.  I rarely had a day when I felt like I'd run out of things to say.  Blogging was my wheelhouse.  I loved being a blogger.

It's not that I don't have things to say anymore; actually, just the opposite is true.  I have so much to say--the days are so very, very full--that when I imagine writing about it all, I get overwhelmed and don't know where to start!  My life has changed enormously since I first pushed the "publish" button here in 2011.  My youngest son, 24,  has been a college graduate for two years and is currently stationed overseas (and actually, he has a couple of weeks of leave and is flying home to the States TODAY--huzzah!).  All four of our oldest married sons, who range in age from 33 down to 29, are having families of their own. Those twin granddaughters are--incredibly!--six years old (and reading!); and now with the recent birth of a new grandson less than two weeks ago, six more grandchildren have been added to the Pearl family.  When my two daughters-in-law who are currently pregnant (one with triplets, the other with baby #3) give birth in the coming months, we will have an even dozen grandchildren.

Then there was the big move south a few months ago, from our home of 26 years in NH.  That was tough, leaving the warm and comforting place where we'd raised our sons.  But we are now situated about halfway between two of our boys and their families in one VA city and one of them in another, less than an hour in either direction.  And of course that means four of our grandchildren--soon to be eight!--are less than an hour away from us, too.

Now that we're neighbors, my husband and I are able to do so much with and for our kids.  I have to pinch myself sometimes, I really do.  There have been so many wonderful opportunities to be together, just in the three months we've lived here.  But where to start...

I'll tell you what, I'm going to let some pictures do the talking for me--before I get overwhelmed again and decide to scrap this post altogether.
A restaurant meet-up to celebrate son #3's birthday--something that didn't
happen very easily when we were living up in NH!
My VA boys surprised me with a "Fake Mother's Day" (a week late, because
I was in NY on real Mother's Day); they came without spouses or kids, to
give me a throw-back to what it was like when I was always surrounded by men.
Actually, my little buddy G-Man came with his dad for "Fake Mother's Day"--
and we jokingly said that he was filling in for my youngest son,
who is in Germany.  (I often call him by that son's name, coincidentally!)
I am so thrilled to be able to spend so much time with this little
princess, my Princesa.  (Don't let the innocent, angelic face
fool you--she's a real corker, that one, a little spitfire who is a
good match for her big brother!)

I got to watch this snuggly little guy, Junior, for son #2 and his wife 
when his baby brother was being born not quite two weeks ago.

And I got to watch him meet that little brother for the first time.

This was #8 for us, but it never gets old.  We love being
grandparents!

Four more grandchildren are present in utero in this photo from
the recent baby shower D-I-L Preciosa hosted for D-I-L
Braveheart (the one in the middle,who's pregnant with triplets).

I got to babysit for this dynamic duo (G-Man and Princesa),
yesterday, when their mommy went to meet her new nephew.
I loved how they reacted to our new garden statue of Mary.

Being nearby has made it possible for my husband to share his talents to help
son #4 convert his attached garage into a playroom for the triplets.

As you can see from the pictures, I have a lot to write about!  New babies, baby showers, renovation projects...and let's not forget the tour of our new house, which I started and intend to continue...

Before I go, I have to share a recently discovered blog post that really spoke to me.  Oh my gosh, guys, I found this post on a blog called Writing on My Heart (because the woman who writes there happened to stop by here and leave me some lovely comments, and then I visited her site and found a kindred spirit!).  And I just LOVED it.  These lines from the post remind me so much of what family dinners were always like for my husband and me and our five boys throughout the years:

"In our family, the past lives with us like another family member.  Almost every day, the past is resurrected...I believe my children have grown 'watching movies' of their childhood because of the constant airing that childhood narratives get in our home.  Not a day goes by without someone purposefully steering the dinner conversation towards tender reminiscences of growing-up tickles and mischief...Is it any wonder that our dinners can go on to close to two hours?"

This passage so perfectly describes what it's always been like when our boys are gathered around the table with us. This writer says it better than I ever could, but what her family does is exactly what we do.  And because of this, I can't think of any greater joy than sitting at the table for hours, ignoring the dirty dishes, talking and laughing...because when people get up to start clearing the plates and glasses away, the party always seems to break up.  Now that we're so close to so many members of our gang, I hope that there will be many more happy nights gathered in the dining room, sitting together at the table and waiting until later to worry about cleaning up.  And I hope my daughters-in-law will grow to love those long, lingering dinners, reminiscing over old times, as much as we do.

This blog, I hope, will be like "watching movies" of our lives, too.  That's why feel like I need to keep at it.  So okay, folks: I think I'm ready to ride this horse again.  Stay tuned for more posts in the coming days.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Random Thoughts on a Monday Morning

I had this thought this morning while at Mass with my husband: it's a good thing--a very, very good thing--when you marry someone who makes you a better person.
At our wedding in 1980. He'll say he's the one who "married up";
but it's really the other way around.

I wouldn't have even been at 8:30 Mass this morning at our new parish in VA if I didn't have a husband who, without ever nagging me or intending to induce guilt, pushes me to be a better person.  "I think I might try out a weekday Mass here," he said, without even suggesting that I go with him; and then he proceeded to begin the process of getting ready.  He would be a daily communicant if his airline job allowed it; but whenever he's not flying a trip, it's been his practice to try to get to Mass every morning (although we've been so busy getting settled in the new house that this beloved routine has been interrupted).  I, on the other hand, have the freedom to choose to get up and go to Mass any day of the week I wish...but I usually don't, when he's not home.  Except, of course, on Sundays and holy days.

That's a hard thing to admit here in the Catholic blogosphere, where there are so many people I've "met" (not IRL, but Internet-style) who--like my husband--have inspired me to be a better person and grow in my Faith.

It's not that I'm a big sleeper-inner (that's a word, right?), or anything like that.  In fact, I've always been a rather early riser.  I've always loved being up in the wee hours, before the rest of the house awakes and things get noisy and busy.  Even as a kid, I can remember setting my alarm for 5:30 so I could beat the rush and get my shower in before the rest of my family began to stir, and then as a bonus, I might even be able to squeeze in a little reading time after getting dressed for school.  I am a morning person because I have a selfish love of peace and quiet, of the sense of having the house all to myself (an introvert's dream scenario!).

So without my much-better-than-I and much-closer-to-God husband and the exceptional example he has set for his wife and his boys, I would have been at home this morning, in my jammies, on my third cup of coffee, puttering around my house (maybe working on this blog post), missing out on the opportunity to receive the graces I desperately need but often miss due to my unwillingness to break away from my quiet, cozy little nest.  I wonder if there is a 12-step program to help extreme homebodies like me to get out the door more easily.  I'll have to look into that.

I guess I'm not the only one, though.  I found this post on Instagram.  It's from @carolyn_svellerella (Carolyn Svellinger, who blogs at Svellerella).  I thought it was so profoundly beautiful.

Wow, right?

Anyhoo, as I was saying before I went off on that tangent: because of my husband's quiet example of piety, I was sitting in the pew next to him this morning.  And I was so happy to be there.  I needed to be there.

Here's another random thought I had today: I love learning about new saints--especially female saints who were married women.  (Proof that sainthood is attainable for us all; not just for those who live behind the doors of a convent or monastery, but also for those of us who are in the world and trying with all our might not to be of the world.)

On the way to Mass, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed (a new favorite pastime of mine, obviously) and saw a post from @printableprayers (also known as @kendra_tierney, who blogs at Catholic All Year).  I find truth and beauty from Catholic 'grammers almost every day, which is why I much prefer this form of social media to Facebook!  Anyway, first there was this quote from St. Rita of Cascia, whose feast day is today: "There is nothing impossible to God."  And then there was a synopsis of the life of this powerful saint who is the patroness of impossible causes.

I knew a little bit about her already, but now I know so much more.  At Mass today, the priest also spoke about St. Rita during his homily, and I found myself feeling as if I'd been introduced to a new friend.  I will be invoking St. Rita on the daily, I can assure you.  Because the older I get, the more I realize that a mother's list of intentions for her children does not grow shorter once they've flown the nest and started grown-up lives of their own.  No indeed, it does not; it grows ever longer.  So I want to "meet" and learn about as many saints as I can, and then I need to remember that they are willing to intercede on my behalf if I just remember to ask for their help.

Which leads to another thought I've had a lot lately: "Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems." 
Proof that I was once the mother of darling little boys: here I am at the Mother-Son Dance
at their school in 1992 (when I was in the early stages of pregnancy with son #5).
Adages only become adages because there is truth to them, and there is a whole lot of truth in that old saying.  So many problems can be fixed with a kiss and a Band-Aid when your children are little and living under your roof, sheltered under your wing.  It gets more complicated when their boo-boos aren't as easily fixable.  Watching them fly from the nest, one after the other, to begin their own adult lives is one of the most satisfying things (You've done your job well!  Your child is ready to be independent!) and yet one of the most painful things (How can I let my baby go?  How can I shield him from all the hardships he's sure to face?) your mother's heart will ever have to endure.  And seeing those children who will always be your precious babies struggle through the normal difficulties of adulthood--career challenges, financial worries, risky pregnancies, sick babies of their own--can be brutal at times, even though you remind yourself that you and your husband faced similar difficulties and you got through them.

Without faith, how does anyone get through anything?

Here's a little addendum to that aforementioned adage, another thought I've been having a lot lately: Big kids, big joys!!
Grown sons #2, 3, and 4--our VA neighbors--celebrating a belated Mother's Day
with me yesterday.  (Talk about big joys: these wonderful men are three of mine.)
Yes, it's sad when your nest empties out--especially if you're like me and the only job you've ever wanted since as long as you can remember is to be a MOTHER.  Different bloggers I follow have been writing lately about the tears they're shedding as their oldest children graduate from high school and prepare to go off to college.  Oh, how I can relate!  (In fact, I remember blogging about those bittersweet emotions years ago, when our youngest boy was about to graduate from high school.  I've dusted off that old post from my archives, about facing the end of an era, if you're interested in reading it.)

But guess what?  Your grown-and-gone children sometimes give you even more children.  Our four oldest boys have married and given us four daughters, which we never had before, and our lives have been enriched immeasurably by these sweet girls.  They love our boys, which is the most important thing; but how lucky are we that they love us, too?

And then there are the grandchildren.  If you're reading this and your children are all still young and living under your roof, know this: there is a joy beyond description awaiting you when your children become parents.  My father-in-law used to say, "If I'd known how fun grandchildren were, I would have had them first."  They are the greatest blessing imaginable.  Just when you think the best part of your life is over and all you're doing is getting OLD , they come along and breathe new life into you. They make you feel young again.  They are heaven on earth.
I have lots more thoughts pinging around inside my head, but I think I'll close on that note before the day is gone and I've gotten nothing productive accomplished.  (Although a day that begins with Mass can never be thought of as a day without accomplishment, am I right?)

Have a great week, dear readers!