Wednesday, April 23, 2014

WWRW: Kia Heavey's Underlake

Before I get started, let me show you two of my favorite little readers.
These are my twin granddaughters, Bonny Babe and Cutie Pie, back when they were almost a year old, cruising the furniture but not quite walking on their own yet.  They will turn three in less than two months!!  Sniff, sniff.  I haven't looked at this picture in quite a while, and it brings me back to those happy visits in their AL home.  Grammy is feeling a bit verklempt.  (After AL, we visited them in CO.  They just moved, and from now on, we'll be visiting them in MI.  In fact, we're in MI with them now, helping them settle into their new house.)

My granddaughters have good taste.  Just look what they're reading!  They love Little Golden books, which were always some of my favorite read-aloud stories when our boys were little lads.

But what about Grammy, you ask?  What am I reading? Well, I've been doing some interesting reading myself.

Recently, author Kia Heavey and I began to correspond via Goodreads (which I think of as a sort of booklover's version of Facebook).  We realized that we shared a common desire to write inspirational fiction for impressionable teenaged girls and young adults--stories that will engage and entertain them, but will ultimately (hopefully!) inspire them to swim against the tide--to fight the good fight, if you will--as they navigate the thorny path to adulthood in a confusing and dangerous world.

Heavey's second novel, Underlake, is an inspiring coming-of-age tale with a great message for teens and a paranormal twist.  Though aimed at young adult readers, it is an enjoyable read for adults as well.
In her Goodreads author profile, Heavey explains just what motivated her to write her laudable YA novel: she says, "I wrote Underlake to entertain teen girls trying make good choices in the face of tacky pop culture, peer pressure, and permissive parenting."  (That's basically what motivated me to write Finding Grace, so it appeared I'd found a writing soul mate!)  But there's more; Heavey also reveals that she loves "a captivating, creepy story that weaves a spell." (There is nothing whatsoever supernatural about my novel; but Underlake involves a handsome and otherworldly "Boy in the Lake"--and I don't want to reveal too much about him or I'll ruin it for you; but trust me, there is definitely a "captivating, creepy" element in this book!).

To say that I was intrigued--and quite anxious to read Heavey's novel--is an understatement.  The author generously provided me with a review copy.  As soon as I received it,  I opened it right up and read the dedication that underscores Heavey's deep desire to write fiction with a counter-cultural message, to give encouragement to those teenaged girls who feel they don't fit in with modern mores and fashions and are looking for deeper meaning in their lives; it reads, "For girls everywhere who are less than thrilled with the popular things."

By the time I'd turned the last page of this well-written page-turner (about a day-and-a-half after it came in the mail!), I could clearly imagine how readers in the author's target audience--to whom she lovingly dedicated this book--might be inspired to follow in the footsteps of Underlake's brave and likable young heroine.

That's just a teaser--you can read my full review here.

I'm sure you'll find plenty of other enticing titles if you head on over to Jessica's.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Country Girl's Daybook is Hosting a Finding Grace Giveaway

I hope you all had a blessed and happy Easter!

I've been without Internet for days (noooOOOOOO!!!  Say it isn't so!!).  That's why you haven't been hearing much from these here parts.  We've been on the road and staying at the homes of two different sons, as well as that of our oldest son's wife's aunt and uncle.  (Is that confusing enough for you?)  But we're now in the car on our way to MI, where our oldest son's family is moving into their new house and their new post-Army life.  So I'm blogging in the car, which is a totally new experience for me.  My husband was able to set up an Internet "hot spot" using his iPhone, and here I am typing away on my laptop as we cruise on down the highway.  Internet in the car--what will they think of next?!  It's like magic.

Anyway, I really wanted to be able to pass on some information before it's too late.  Because a friend of mine is hosting a Finding Grace giveaway, and there are only about three days left to enter.

It's amazing how many wonderful people I've "met" in the Catholic blogging world in the three years I've been adding to my little String of Pearls.  One of the sweetest gals I've gotten to know is Iris, the voice behind Country Girl's Daybook--and Iris is giving away a signed copy of my Catholic novel, Finding Grace, over at her lovely blog, if you'd like to stop by and throw your name into the hat!

Just click on this link for a chance to win: Country Girl's Daybook: finding grace book giveaway
My deepest thanks go to Iris, who is helping me to spread the word about my book--though she's never even met me in real life.  I am truly blessed to have friends like her.

So head on over to Iris's--and as she puts it, "May the odds be ever in your favor."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yippeeee! The E's are finished!

I've just completed the E pages for that ABC Book I'm working on for my grandchildren.  As you can see, this elephant is filled with Easter spirit.
I love elephants, don't you?  There is something so sweet and cute about them.  My granddaughters surely love them, too, which doesn't surprise me a bit--because their daddy went through a serious Dumbo phase when he was about their age.  So no ABC book would ever be complete if there was not an "E is for elephant" component to it.

I'm not quite sure why I put the arrows on that page.  I didn't do it on any of the previous pages, knowing that my girls are plenty smart enough to pick out the objects on their own.  (They're Mensa-like.  Seriously.  No Grammy bragging going on here.)  But since I felt the need to point out the egg and the ears on that page, I decided to have the lass on the next page pointing to her elbow.
For the first time since I started this project a couple of years ago, I am exceedingly motivated to finish.  For the longest time, I was in extreme procrastination mode; but now when I complete one page, I can hardly wait to get to work on another.

But the ABC Book will have to be put on hold for the next week-and-a-half or so, because today I'm flying down to NYC and meeting up with my husband (who's returning from a trip to London).  Then we'll fly together from the Big Apple down to VA, to spend Easter with son #3 and his bride...and then it's on to WI to pick up our oldest son's second car and drive it down to his new home in MI, where he and his family are moving the day after Easter. the end of all those travels, we'll get to spend some time with our three granddaughters.  Yippeeee!   And I'm sure just being with them will get me even more excited to keep working on this project once we return home.

Well, time to pack.  Have a blessed Easter, and I'll see you next week.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Our Boys' Life Coach

My husband was always very involved in anything that interested our boys; one thing was football (something he'd played himself in his younger days), and another was lacrosse (which he hadn't)

He arranged his work schedule so that he could help to coach their Pee Wee and junior high football teams, and he even did a stint as a freshman football coach when one was needed during their high school years.  As an airline pilot, he was usually able to bunch his trips together so that he could be off and available for game day, and for as many weekday practices as possible.

When our boys discovered lacrosse, this man of mine ("my hero," as I like to call him) became such a knowledgeable student and true die hard fan of the "fastest game on two feet" that he ended up becoming an assistant lax coach as well, dealing mostly with the defense, throughout our sons' youth lacrosse years.  The head coach, a good friend of ours, saw early on how well he understood the game just from watching the action on the sidelines and asked him to join the coaching staff.  My husband reminded him that he'd never played lacrosse himself, and our friend replied, "That's perfect.  I can mold you."  From there, my husband eventually went on to become the head defense coach at our boys' Catholic high school, and for the many years he was in that role (and later he and our second oldest son--as the greatest defensive coaching duo NH high school lacrosse has ever known, in my learned opinion), he led the squads under his tutelage so well that our boys' teams were always ranked at the top of the pack defensively.

By the end of his youth lacrosse days, our oldest son had made a bit of a name for himself.  The summer after 8th grade, the head coach at the high school he was going to attend got wind of this, and he invited our boy--a mere incoming freshman--to go to a lacrosse camp at Johns Hopkins University with a group of older players who would be his teammates the following spring.  It was kind of a big deal for him to be asked to join them, and he was terribly excited.  There was just one problem: the camp was going to run for five days, from Thursday to Monday.  How was our son going to get himself to Sunday Mass, if the camp was on a secular university's campus and he couldn't find a church in Baltimore that was convenient to get to?  And if his coach was working as an instructor at the camp and couldn't manage to carve time out of his schedule to get him there, who would take him?  My husband voiced these concerns to the coach, who said, "Oh, don't worry, Mr. Pearl.  I'll see that the boys get to church."  Now in his defense, we did believe the coach had good intentions.  But we also knew that many, if not all, of the other players--despite the fact that they were for the most part Catholics--would use the traveler's dispensation, since it would probably be a big hassle getting to Mass.  (Not to mention that doing so would mean they'd have to miss a drill or a scrimmage.)  If our son was the only one who cared about going, chances are it wasn't going to happen.
Coach Pearl, with his two oldest sons.
The more he thought about it, the more this situation ate away at my husband.

[A quick aside: why do five-day sports camps always include Sundays?  I realize that lots of the coaches have other day jobs and maybe weekends need to be involved.  But couldn't some drills be postponed until later in the day on Sunday, so that those who want to can make it to church?  Okay, back to the story now.] 

Well, my husband decided to fly down to Baltimore on Saturday, rent a car, and book a room for the night at a hotel--all so that he could be there on Sunday morning to get his firstborn son to Mass.  It was just the two of them, and it was totally worth it.  Then he dropped our boy back off at camp and flew back home.

And I know what you're thinking--the fact that he can fly stand-by for free, one of the great perks of his job, made this sacrifice a whole lot easier than if he'd had to buy an expensive airline ticket.  That's very true.  But it was a sacrifice nonetheless; because if you were married to an airline pilot (or at least to my airline pilot), you would understand that the last place he ever wants to be on his days off is at an airport or on an airplane.  That feels too much like work.  Pilots are away from home too much as it is, and they guard their days at home, and their glorious nights sleeping in their own beds, quite jealously.  Where my pilot wanted to be was not on a plane heading down to MD, but relaxing at home with our four younger sons and me.  However, when it comes to the devout practice of the Catholic Faith and the role of Christian fatherhood--which means that the father is responsible for passing the Faith on to his children, so that they truly know just how important it needs to be in their lives--there is no sacrifice so great that my husband wouldn't make it for the good of his family.

Fast-forward to the following summer: our second oldest son, following directly in the cleat steps of his older brother, had made a bit of a name for himself in the youth lacrosse world, and the high school head coach decided to invite yet another incoming freshman Pearl to join a group of future teammates (one of them being his brother) down to Johns Hopkins for a five-day lacrosse camp.  The funny thing was that right away, the coach said to my husband, "And don't worry, Mr. Pearl.  I've got it all set up and I'll see that the boys get to church."

Do you think my husband heaved a sigh of relief and stayed home, or do you think he flew down to Baltimore again to make absolutely sure his sons were able to attend Sunday Mass?

If you guessed the latter, you are right.  He just couldn't leave it to chance.  But this time, at least, the coach really had made arrangements ahead of time to have someone take the group to church.  Since he was there anyway, however, that someone ended up being my husband.  And if I remember correctly, there were a couple of other lads on the team who joined the Pearls for Mass that day.

Some people might think this is the story of a dad who went above and beyond what's expected or necessary.  But I don't think there's any way our boys can look at those two trips their father took, when he would have much rather been enjoying his days off at home, and not realize just how important the Mass is supposed to be to faithful Catholics.  During those teen years, so many of our boys' peers were questioning the Faith--and their parents stepped back and let them figure out their own paths on their own "faith journeys," even if that meant watching them miss Mass every weekend.  My husband never had to lecture or harangue our kids about attending Mass.  They just did it because they saw through his example that this is what Catholics do; and Pearls are Catholics, so it's what we do.  Some kids might have been embarrassed to have their dads show up at lacrosse camp to take them to Mass; but to our boys, that was just Dad being Dad.  And accepting--without resentment or embarrassment--that he was there to get them to church on time was just them being them.  He showed those sons of his with his very loud actions that there are some things that take precedence over even your most beloved team sport.  God before lacrosse, that's just how it is. 
It should come as no surprise to anyone, then, that when several of our sons weren't meeting the kind of young women who were "wife material," they went on and found soul mates who shared their Faith, morals, and values.  All three of our married sons met their spouses that way.  It should also come as no surprise that all five of them still go to Mass every Sunday.  Or that our three little granddaughters (who go by non-saintly aliases on this blog) were given the strong and beautiful names of some of the most eminent saints in the Catholic Church.  The Faith is simply part of who our boys (and now their spouses) are.

Our boys are were football and lacrosse players.  They are (or will be) sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers.  But above all, they are Catholics.

I give all of the credit for the way our boys embrace and live their Faith to their father.  He was once their football and lacrosse coach...but he has always been their life coach.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Proms and Party Shoes and Whatnot

I'm seeing a lot of glittery, glitzy dresses in the stores these days, so it's obvious that prom time is almost here.  Have you heard of something called "promposals," which are a real thing in our nation's high schools these days?  Young fellas now feel required to come up with marriage proposal-style ways of asking girls to be their dates for the prom.  I read about this new phenomenon in a blog and, thinking this had to be some kind of joke, I mentioned it to my #2 son, a high school math teacher.  He assured me that yes, it's really happening.  (Then he rolled his eyes, and said it sure wasn't like that back in his day.)
If things have changed that much since the 1990's  and early 00's, imagine how much they've changed since the 1970's!  Things were a bit simpler then, to put it mildly.
In 1975, I went to the junior prom with my cute high school boyfriend, who did not prompose to me by presenting flowers on bended knee, or with the release of helium balloons from my locker, or with a cupcake delivered to my seat at the cafeteria lunch table with "Prom?" written on it in icing.  We were dating, so it was something like," Um, obviously we're going to go to the prom together, right?"  Had we not been dating, this is the way he would have asked: "Will you go to the prom with me?"  Boom.  Simple.  That's the way things were, and they seemed quite all right.
For the big night, here's what I wore: a modest little gown that was made by my mother; a painful sunburn from lying out in the sun THE MORNING OF THE PROM, thinking I would be a bronze goddess by that evening; and a red velvet bow in my hair (which was in the awkward growing-out stage, after I'd had my hair cut short and almost immediately regretted it).  The main thing I had going for me on prom night, beauty-wise, was youth!  Polished, sophisticated, and red carpet-ready I was NOT.  But that boy I was dating liked me enough to see pretty where I only saw flaws.  (God bless him; 33 years later, he's still doing it.)
Okay, now let's break down my boyfriend's prom get-up.  Eschewing the whole tux rental routine (which was probably a wise choice, given that in 1975 the popular colors for tuxes were yellow, burgundy, and powder blue), my husband wore a white sport coat with his dad's tux pants and bow tie (which, coincidentally, he wore again--along with his dad's matching tuxedo coat--when our firstborn son got married in 2009).  He did rent his groovy raspberry-colored ruffled shirt from the tux place, though.  But the piece de resistance of his ensemble was a pair of shiny black and white platform shoes.  Elton John had nothing on him, let me tell you.  Those babies were stylin'.
When son #4 got married in February, my husband thought about renting a fun pair of kicks eerily similar to those legendary prom shoes; but unfortunately the groom-to-be (let's call him "a chip off the old block") had already beaten him to the punch and chosen the exact same pair to wear himself on his big day.  So my husband stepped aside and wore plain old black, but his boy showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree when it comes to fashion sense.

What goes around surely comes around.  First, I posed for a picture standing next to a handsome boy wearing crazy-awesome shoes.   And then 39 years later, I posed for a picture standing next to his handsome son wearing crazy-awesome shoes--a son who was 9 years older than his father was in that prom picture (yikes, how does that happen?).  Life is simply amazing, isn't it?

If that young girl with a sunburned face and a ribbon in her hair could have peeked into the future and seen herself married to that good-looking prom date of hers (and not only that, but surrounded by their five grown sons), how ecstatic she would have been!  Because even back then, she thought he was "the one," and she hoped and prayed that she hadn't met him way too early.

Now for you moms of teenagers, I urge you to encourage them to fight the current trends in prom etiquette.  If you have sons, let them be the ones who nervously ask (with sweaty palms and lots of "um's"), "Would you be my date for the prom?"  To me, that seems so much more endearing than the over-the-top gestures boys feel they need to make, if only to keep up with the Joneses.  If everything is so big--and so WOW!!--when they're only in high school, how can the much bigger, much more important milestones of life (actual marriage proposals, for instance) ever measure up?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Quick Reminder

I just thought I'd post a little reminder today about the Easter discount that was offered to you, dear readers, by the faith-filled folks at The Nativity Stones Collection--because there's only one week left to use it.  When you place your order, you can use the coupon code FAITH15, and you will receive a 15% discount.

Nativity Stones Crosses are beautifully made.  Each piece contains a bit of stone taken from the Cave of the Nativity in Bethelem and comes with a certificate of authenticity.  These inspirational necklaces are not only beautiful to look at--they carry rare and precious souvenirs from the very birthplace of Jesus.

I just love the dazzling Classic Nativity Stones Cross that I received from the company as a gift.  It is an ornate beauty layered in 18K gold and hanging from a 22" chain.
If you decide to get one of these unique crosses for yourself (or someone you love), I don't think you'll be disappointed!

I was so excited a few days ago when I got a Facebook message from an old high school classmate (one I haven't seen in many years) who happened to visit my blog and ended up ordering a Nativity Stones Cross as a First Holy Communion present for his niece.  It meant that this little old blog of mine was able to lead at least one new customer to a website I am proud to promote.
Here's wishing you peace and joy as you prepare to celebrate the Risen Christ next Sunday.  God bless you!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

God-Given Talents

I wasn't even sure I should blog today.  I published a post yesterday, then a few hours later removed it from my site because I realized that I'd gone a little overboard with the self-deprecating comments (something I have a tendency to do, and I know it's an unattractive trait that seems like a desperate attempt to fish for compliments).  If you read that post, try to erase it from your memory banks.  If you didn't, it was about art--a subject near and dear to my heart--and how sub-par my own attempts at creating it are when you put them next to Michelangelo's.  (Well, duh!  Almost everybody's attempts would fall into that category!)

What I need to remember is that God gave me a deep desire to draw and paint--and even though He didn't give me the same degree of talent that He gave the Masters, He gave me some.  He gave me what He thought I'd need.  He gave me enough to do with it the things that I was meant to do--and I'm hoping that one of them is to finish that ABC Book I'm working on for my grandchildren.  He gave me enough so that I would enjoy the creative process, that I would experience such an indescribable joy while wielding a paintbrush or a pastel crayon or a colored pencil, it would make my heart soar--the way I assume one's heart soars when he can play the piano or sing like an angel (two talents that I can't even conceive of having).  God gave me just enough artistic talent so that I would be capable of producing gifts of handmade love for my wonderful, non-critical family members and friends, and donating my time to paint murals on the walls of my sons' Catholic elementary school...and making that ABC Book, of course.

There is a fine line between humility and disrespect when it comes to acknowledging God-given gifts, and I hope I don't cross it too often.  Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to say that I thank God every day for giving me something that has brought such happiness and purpose to my life.  I truly do.

Now you're probably saying, "Look at her, getting all full of herself.  She's really not that good!"  [Insert smiley face emoticon here.]

I have used my artistic talent, such as it is, to paint all kinds of crazy trompe l'oeil thingys on the walls of my house (animals, mostly).  While I'm aware that this habit of mine might lessen the resale value (but hey, you can always paint over them!), I think this unusual wall art gives our home an endearing touch of whimsy.

Just recently, I was bemoaning the fact that we probably can't afford to update our dated and worn-out kitchen cabinets--the ones original to the house, which we bought in 1990--anytime soon.  So I decided, you know what, I can do whatever I want to these cabinets!  Who's going to stop me?  If we have to sell our house, the new owners are bound to gut the kitchen anyway!  I've decided that I'm going to think of all those cream-colored door and drawer fronts as blank canvases.

And so it begins.
Now if houseguests are wondering where the silverware drawer is, they'll have this handy clue.

When my husband and second oldest son first saw this little painting of a spoon, they thought it was some sort of stick-on decal I'd bought.  I considered that the greatest compliment ever!  To me, it was like having a successful art show at a gallery.

So I'll end here by urging you to use those talents God gave you, whatever they are and in whatever degree He gave them, to make your own life happier and to spread joy to others.  Have fun with them.  Don't compare them to the talents of others (something yours truly would never, ever do!).  And I'm not sure if the spoon I just showed you really accomplishes this...but use them for His greater glory, too, whenever and wherever you can.