Monday, March 31, 2014

A Belated Happy 3rd Birthday to My Blog

My blog's 3rd birthday came and went without any fanfare on March 7.  A few months ahead of time, I thought I'd write a special post that day to celebrate this milestone; but I completely forgot to do it.  I'm three years older than I was when I started, and three years closer to senility, I guess.

My blog didn't have the most auspicious beginning.  I had no idea at first how to add pictures to the text.  I didn't really know what an embedded link was, so I certainly didn't know how to add one.  But I was eager and excited and willing to learn.

Here is my first ever post:

Monday, March 7, 2011


Ready, set, go!

On a whim, after talking on the phone last night with my daughter-in-law (who's far more computer-savvy than I can ever hope to be, and has been blogging for some time), I decided to start this blog! (Gulp!) I hinted about it to my husband, and he was (as always) very encouraging and supportive; but not one of my five sons has any idea yet. I am, as they are quick to point out, a total "n00b" when it comes to computers. So I'm not sure what I've gotten myself into here. But after becoming a follower of both my daughter-in-law's blog and Ree Drummond's "Pioneer Woman" blog, I thought it might be fun to give it a shot.

Well, I've just spent the last five minutes shutting down my computer and starting it up again, because the first time I was working on the above paragraph, I hit some key that froze everything and I couldn't get the little arrow to go where I wanted it to go. This may be a sign that perhaps I'm not cut out for life in the blogosphere--but I'm stubborn and I'm going to stick with it, at least for a while.

I was thinking that it's too bad that I didn't have the opportunity to do this while I was raising my five boys, because there was at least one good story every day back then. The first four were born between 1983 and l988--there were times when we had three in diapers at once--and then the fifth came along in 1993. My four oldest are now in their twenties and my baby is going off to college in the fall. But I am about to become a grandmother--of twins!--so that should provide some good material!

After another five minutes spent trying to figure out how to edit out a mistake from what I'd just written (as an English major, typos that look like grammatical errors make me crazy!), now I think I'm good to go.

Wish me luck!

I was so thrilled that I'd successfully posted to my blog, I immediately followed that one up with this one:

Monday, March 7, 2011


I'm a blogger! I blog!

I am so excited! It worked! I just checked out my blog and the first post is there, the profile picture's there. It's like magic. I'm a blogger! I blog! (For those of you who haven't seen the movie "What About Bob?", that's a reference to Bill Murray shouting, "I'm a sailor! I sail!" Very funny--you should check it out if you've never seen it.)

I just tried to find an image of that scene from the movie on the web that I could add in here, thinking it would be a nice touch; but I can't figure out how to manage that...yet. There's so much to learn!
 
 
Since pushing the "publish" button that first day (twice!), here are some of the things that have happened in our family and in my life:
 
1. My baby did indeed go off to college, and he's about to finish up his junior year at Notre Dame.
2. I have three granddaughters (the not-yet-born twins mentioned above, who will be 3 this summer, and their 1-year-old sister).
3. My book Finding Grace was published in 2012 (which, although it hasn't made me a millionaire or anything, fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine.)
4. My oldest boy turned 30--wow, moms, let me warn you: you will be amazed by how fast that happens to your kids.
5. Two more sons have gotten married, so I have three daughters-in-law now.
6. I hardly ever read "Pioneer Woman" anymore, because in the three years I've been playing in the Catholic blogging sandbox, I've discovered so many incredibly interesting new blogs (and blogging friends) to follow.
7. I have learned how to add pictures, embed links, and link up to others' blogs; and I've learned how to spruce mine up with cool little sidebar doo-dads.  (They're cool, right?)
8. I've also learned that "noob" is spelled with two zero's in the middle, not two oh's--so I am no longer the n00b I was when "String of Pearls" was a start-up blog.  (Thanks, dear sons, for keeping me hip and fresh.)
9. I have published 959 posts, counting this one.  (Which begs the question, "What in the world have I been talking about?"  I mean, that's a lot of posts.)
 
There's lots of other stuff that's happened, but those are some of the highlights.

And before I go, here's something I would have been thrilled to add to that second post way back when:

And to REALLY show you just how far I've come, I'll up the ante and add a video clip:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrbY4hsNh64

Happy 3rd birthday to this little old blog of mine!  Here's to three more years (maybe?).

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Linking Up: Weekends with Chesterton

Even though I have a BA in English from a fine Catholic liberal arts college and have always been a voracious reader, I must admit that I have not read any of Chesterton's works (mea culpa!); but I keep saying I'm going to--because I've read so many quotes by the man, and every single one makes me exclaim, "Yes!  He's so right!"  I always love what he has to say, and the way he says it.
 
My daughter-in-law Regina counts his novel The Man Who Was Thursday among her favorite books, and I value her opinion very highly; so a couple of years ago I decided that I was going to read it myself.  Like so many of my good intentions, however...that resolution ended up falling by the wayside.
 
When I saw that there was a Chesterton link-up at Amongst Lovely Things, and that just posting snippets or quotes attributed to him was all that was required, I decided to join the fray.  I want to be Chesertonianized (that's a word--or at least, blogger and Weekends with Chesterton creator Sarah believes it ought to be), and I think I'll thoroughly enjoy reading more of this extraordinary writer's insightful comments.  (And I really hope this will get me inspired to finally read The Man Who Was Thursday.)
 
So here I am, sharing one G.K. quote that really resonated with me.
 
 
Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.
                                                      ~ G.K. Chesterton
 
The reason this quote speaks to me so loudly that it sounds like something my dear husband would say.  In fact, although my better half expresses it slightly differently, he espouses this same idea all the time when talking about people who claim to value their Faith and to "love" God, but then do absolutely nothing in their day-to-day lives to show it or prove it--to the point that if their religion was as sensitive and unforgiving as a neglected sweetheart/spouse might be, given a similar lack of interest and effort, it would break up with them on the spot.
 
When my husband talks about the Catholic Faith, he is passionate, of course, because it is a subject near and dear to his heart--it does, in fact, fill his heart, and his soul; but he is also very logical and rational (as any engineering major/former Navy jet pilot/commercial airline pilot ought to be).  So his take on this subject is very well thought-out and makes perfect sense.

If you love someone, he says, if you're completely in love with that person (think spousal love, love for your one and only, your "soul mate"), you want to spend all your time with him/her.  (So if you really love God, you want to be with Him as much as possible; and therefore, you have absolutely no problem with the concept of spending a mere hour with Him at Mass every Sunday, or sitting with Him for a while during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.)

If you love someone, you think about him/her constantly--you can't help it.  (So if you really love God, then He is in your thoughts throughout the day--He is actually pretty much "with" you, always, even though you can't see Him.)

If you love someone, you want to talk to that person all the time--to talk to him/her about absolutely everything that's going on in your life, to share the highs and the lows and everything in between.  (So if you really love God, you want to talk to Him all the time, too, to seek His counsel in good times and bad--and you'll take time out of your busy day to talk to Him through prayer.)

If you love someone, you want to learn everything there is to know about him/her.  (So if you really love God, you are interested in finding out as much as you can about Him and about the Church He sent His Son to earth to establish.  You will read as much as you can about the Faith in which you were baptized, through the Bible and countless other sources.  You will never grow tired of learning more about Him, just as you never grow tired of discovering new things about your earthly beloved.)

If you love someone, you want to be made aware of the things that annoy and upset him/her, so that you can try your best to avoid doing them; and you will also want to know the things that make him/her happy, so that you can remember to do those things as much as possible.  (So if you really love God, you will try your best to learn which offenses cause Him the most pain, and you will do everything in your power to avoid committing those sins; you will also strive to make God happy by following His laws and commandments with a pure and loving heart.)

These are the kinds of things my husband says about loving God, not in "theory," but in actuality.  True love in marriage is sometimes an act of the will, he'll say, because everyone goes through ups and downs and every single moment isn't honeymoon-perfect. If you only theoretically love your spouse, but don't choose to work hard at keeping that love alive, day in and day out, your marriage will suffer. So it is with religion: if a person depends on warm fuzzies to keep loving God, then at some point (when his life inevitably hits one of those infamous rocky patches), he's going to have to love God and have faith in Him simply because that's what he's chosen to do--just as he's chosen to be true to his spouse in good times and bad, til death do them part.  Sometimes, loving God is an act of the will.  Even the saints have said so.

Anyway, I agree with both Chesterton and Pearl on this one: religion (believing in God, truly loving Him and His Church) can't be just a theory; it must be an honest-to-goodness love affair--a no-holds-barred, I'll love you til the day I die, there is nothing you can do to drive me away, my most precious one--love affair.

I just love this short yet profound quote by Chesterton!  And it was kind of nice spending part of my weekend with him--especially since I can't be with my adorable ersatz cowboy, who is over in Brussels today, resting up for his return flight tomorrow.
Here's who I like to spend my weekends with!
Now if you'd like to get further Chestertonianized, head on over to Sarah's.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

7QTF: Marketing Books, Reading Books, and Blogging about It All

Okay, I'm a day late and I don't even know how many dollars short.  But I decided to join the 7QTF party this week.  My husband is leaving for a 3-day trip today, so what better way to fill the lonely hours than by connecting with all of my blogging friends?

-1-
Speaking of blogging friends, one of my favorites--Iris, from Country Girl's Daybook, just nominated me for a liebster award.  I've been liebstered once before, and I think I've given my readers more information about myself than they'd ever want or need to hear; but Iris has come up with some interesting questions, so...I'm in.  Thank you, Iris, for thinking of me.  I plan to start tackling your questions early next week, and then I'll come up with some of my own and choose some other blogging friends to send them to.

-2-
I was very generously gifted a Classic Nativity Stones Cross a few weeks ago.  This gorgeous cross, layered in 18K gold and hanging from a gleaming 22" chain, contains a small stone that was extracted from the Cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  As in, the birthplace of Our Lord.  Truly.
The Nativity Stones Collection was even honored with a plaque in the Vatican in 2000, so you can be sure that the stones used in these stunning and beautifully crafted pieces of jewelry are authentic.  And right now, you can get one of these amazing crosses at a reduced price, because the people at Nativity Stones are offering a 15% Easter discount to readers of this blog.   Just use the coupon code FAITH15 when you place your order, and the discount will be applied.

-3-
The parents of my middle son's bride, Preciosa, are currently visiting Cuba (where Preciosa's father was born).  While there, they have been snapping photos of good-natured Cuban citizens "reading" my Catholic novel Finding Grace.

I could not have hired a more hard-working or enthusiastic marketing team, I'll tell you--that is, if I had the funds to hire one.  I just wish I could have given them a copy that was translated into Spanish. 
 
Speaking of the book, I recently gave away 7 copies on my blog, and the winners were announced on Monday.  I plan to do another giveaway this summer (because I think Finding Grace would be a good choice for inspirational summer reading for teens and young adults--and maybe even a good beach read for their moms, too).
 
-4-
Let me use this Take to apologize--for using this blog so often (lately, almost daily!) as a forum to talk about my book.  I really must give you guys (or all y'all, for any readers south of the Mason-Dixon line) a break from the constant promotion/marketing.  You might not believe this, but it's hard for me to keep bringing it up.  I'd much rather hide away in a corner and hope Finding Grace will just go out and sell itself.  Unfortunately for this dyed-in-the-wool introvert, it doesn't work that way.  But perhaps I need to try another tack: you know, legwork, actual face-to-face sales pitches, and the like, instead of the much safer route of writing emails that don't get answered and blog posts that very few people will ever even see! 
 
-5-
While we're talking about books (one of my favorite subjects), I am currently reading The Book Thief, and I think it's just amazing.  I saw the movie with my husband and then decided that I absolutely had to read the original prose version that had inspired the screen version (which is very powerful and touching).  Well, I'll tell you this: Markus Zusak's writing is so incredible and profound that it makes me re-read passages, simply to experience again the sheer enjoyment I get from his brilliant usage of the English language--to marvel over how he takes simple words and arranges them in such a way that they astound me.  He is brilliant, there is no other word for it.  A wordsmith like no other.
 
For instance, in one scene, Hans Junior, who has joined the Nazi party and is now a true believer, is fighting with Hans Senior, who has refused to get on board; the son says to his father, "You coward," and then leaves the house in anger.  Here's how Zusak describes what happens next: "Ignoring futility, Papa...rushed the gate and ran pleadingly after him.  Mama hurried to the window, ripped away the [Nazi] flag, and opened up.  She, Trudy, and Liesel all crowded together, watching a father catch up to his son and grab hold of him, begging him to stop.  They could hear nothing, but the manner in which Hans Junior shrugged loose was loud enough.  The sight of Papa watching him walk away roared at them from up the street."  A roaring that can't be heard; what a description.  Later, when Liesel goes to watch the Nazi book-burning celebration in her neighborhood, where an enormous pile of "dangerous" books is going to be turned into an epic bonfire, Zusak says, "Although something inside told her this was a crime--after all, her three books were the most precious items she owned--she was compelled to see the thing lit.  She couldn't help it.  I guess humans like to watch a little destruction.  Sand castles, houses of cards, that's where they begin.  Their great skill is their capacity to escalate."  Chills, right?
 
In the author interview in the back of the book, Zusak says that he thinks there can be a gem on every page of a book.  He explains, "It's what I love about writing--that words can be used in a way that's like a child playing in a sandpit, rearranging things, swapping them around."  And this guy can really swap them around like nobody's business.  In my opinion, there is at least one gem (something that deserves a re-read) on every page of The Book Thief--at least so far.  My friend Iris (see Take #1) was not a fan of the fact that Death is the narrator of this novel; but I think it works.  I'm not finished yet, so I won't say more.  Besides, I think this book may show up in a future What We're Reading Wednesday post over at Housewifespice (a blog you should be reading if you aren't already!), so I'll save any further thoughts for that.
 
-6-
#5 was way too long, so...
 
PASS.
 
(And now I'm plagiarizing writers I admire, because some of the humorous bloggers I know have said this in past 7QTF posts.)
 
-7-
Now I'm going to link you up to a wonderful blog called Footprints on My Heart.  Sarah Therese has a beautiful thing going on over there, wherein she invites blogging friends to write guest posts (published on Saturdays) about their favorite saints.  If you love to read about the lives of the saints, or if you're just interested in learning more about some of our Heavenly helpers, stop by and check out her "Our Friends, the Saints" series.
 
Thanks to Sarah Therese and all of my other talented and inspiring blogging friends out there, in all different corners of the Internet.  You provide me with inspiration, entertainment, enlightenment, and laughter on a daily basis.
 
Okay, readers, time to head on over to 7QTF at  Jen's (where there's always plenty of all that good stuff I just mentioned).

Friday, March 28, 2014

From Cuba, with Love

I recently posted some amusing pictures of a pineapple salesman in Guanabo, Cuba reading--or at least holding and pretending to read--a copy of my novel Finding Grace.  (If you didn't see that post, you can take a quick look by going here.)  These awesome photos were sent to me by my middle son's darling wife, Preciosa, whose parents have been traveling around Cuba (the land of her father's birth).

Well, our wonderful new in-laws just sent several new pictures of Finding Grace making the rounds, turning up here and there all over the island (kind of like that globetrotting character so well known with the elementary school crowd, Flat Stanley).  Here they are, those two mischievous characters, posed with my book in front of a lovely statue of the Sacred Heart.
[Big] Papi and NuNu, you're the best!
Then what do you know, but their copy of FG found its way into the hands of this cute Cuban shopkeeper.  (She looks like she's really enjoying it, doesn't she?)
And after that, into the hands of this affable young man with a beautiful church just behind him. (Wow, these Cuban readers are surely eager.  They don't even need to find a seat to be on the edge of; they just stop right in their tracks and dive right into it standing up!)
Methinks it might be time to translate Finding Grace into Spanish...

But in the meantime, I'm enjoying these photos--sent from Cuba, with love.  Sent from a thoughtful, generous couple (with a great sense of humor!) who are helping their new son-in-law's mom to market her book overseas.  And that mom/first time author can use all the help she can get...so Papi and NuNu, muchísimas gracias, te lo agradezco de todo corazón.  (Google tells me that's how to say "Thank you from the bottom of my heart" in Spanish; so if that's not what it says, that's what I meant!)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

WWRW: 7 People Might Be Reading Finding Grace (I'm Reading The Story of Peace)

Well, today I got to pick the 7 winners of the "Finding Grace in Lent" giveaway here at String of Pearls.  These 7 readers  who left me comments during the contest will be receiving a signed copy of my novel Finding Grace (so sometime in the future it might be what they're reading Wednesday).

Drumroll please...here are the winners, and I hope they'll find grace through reading Finding Grace (did you see what I did there?):
1. Kari Burke, who commented on 3/7 (Author of the Catholic novel The Life I Dreamed--you should read her book!)
2. Joy, who commented on 3/18 (She blogs at http://joyinthemorning-joy.blogspot.com)
3. Nancy Shuman, who commented on 3/21 (She blogs at http://thebreadboxletters.blogspot.com)
4. Iris, who left several comments (She blogs at http://www.iris-hanlin.com)
5. Maia, who commented on 3/8 (She blogs at http://www.fromlittlehands.com)
6. Aileen, who left several comments (I know you already have one--are you up for another copy?)
7. Rosie, who commented on 3/17 (She blogs at http://rosie-ablogformymom.blogspot.com

Winners, please contact me using the "Email me" tab on the right and let me know where to send them, and I'll get those books out to you as soon as possible.

Okay, before I go, I'll tell you what I've been reading.  I just finished Miriam Ezeh's haunting Catholic novel The Story of Peace, and it just blew me away.  Aimed at teen and young adult readers, it is a deeply moving and beautifully written story that will touch the heart of any adult as well.  Days after finishing it, the character of Peace Udomm (a beautiful young African woman who has seen her village and her family torn apart by war) stays with me.  She is the most selfless, loving, humble, faith-filled young woman, despite the fact that her life has been anything but peaceful and easy.  The young doctor who falls in love with her is every bit as exemplary a character.  The relationship that develops between them shows young readers what REAL love--chaste, pure, sacrificial love, the kind that mimics the love Our Lord has for us--looks like.

I intend to do a more in-depth review of the book soon, and I hope to share that here on WWRW.  But for now, I'll just say that I recommend this book highly, and the fact that it was published by Bezalel Books makes me feel honored that Finding Grace was published under the same imprint.
Now head on over to Jessica's WWRW blogging book club, my favorite place to be every Wednesday.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The "Finding Grace in Lent" Giveaway Contest Ends Today

I know I'm a broken record these days, reminding you about this at the end of every post.  But I'm giving away 7 signed copies of my novel Finding Grace (a story about people who are searching for grace--to deal with their losses and disappointments, to have their sins forgiven, to be healed and to find their way to each other...and to God).

If you're interested in winning a copy, just leave me a comment before midnight, and I'll throw your name into the hat.  Winners will be announced tomorrow.

It's worth your time to leave a comment, really.  Just ask one satisfied reader, a pineapple salesman from Guanabo, Cuba, who had this to say: "Qué bueno!"  (He might be thinking that here--you never know!)
(Many thanks to my middle son's terrific mother- and father-in-law, who are trying to grow Finding Grace's readership as they travel around Cuba.)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What I Wore Sunday (Again!): My Nativity Stones Cross

What I wore to Mass today is something I've worn before, and I first showed it to you in my last WIWS post: it's a beautiful cross, layered in 18K gold, with a piece of stone that came from the Cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem (the birthplace of Christ!) in the center.  Last time, I wore it with a liturgically correct purple knit dress from Coldwater Creek.  Today, I wore it with a purple Ralph Lauren sweater, which was a Christmas 2012 gift from my #4 son's new bride, Braveheart.  (I modeled this sweater in a WIWS post a while back, and one youthful commenter "loooved" it, with its unusual horizontal cable-knit.  Even gave it "props."  So thanks for keeping me up to fashion speed, Braveheart!)
If you would like to have a cross as beautiful and meaningful as this one, this is the perfect time to visit the Natvity Stones Collection website.  As a special Easter gesture, they are offering readers of String of Pearls a 15% discount.  Just use the coupon code FAITH15 if you'd like to take advantage of this wonderful offer.

I feel extraordinarily blessed to have received this Classic Nativity Stones Cross from the generous people at Nativity Stones, and I'd like to do the best I can to get the word out about the wonderful work they are doing to share these precious relics with as many believers as possible.

(And don't forget the "Finding Grace in Lent" giveaway: if you leave me a comment before midnight tomorrow, March 24, your name will go in the hat, and you could win one of 7 copies of my Catholic novel Finding Grace.)

Now if you'd like to see what other "Sunday best" fashions were on display this week, head on over to Fine Linen and Purple.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

YOU Could Be Reading It, Too!

Hey, people all over the world are reading Finding Grace...even this pineapple salesman in Guanabo, Cuba.  And you could be reading it, too!



Because I'm giving away 7 copies of Finding Grace.  It's a "Finding Grace in Lent" giveaway.

Just leave me a comment on any blog post, between now--or as far back as March 7--and midnight (Eastern time) on March 24, and you could be one of the lucky winners!

(Full disclosure: my middle son's lovely wife Preciosa is half-Cuban, and her parents are currently visiting the land of her father's birth.  So I suspect that this good-natured pineapple salesman was forced to pose with a copy of my book, and I doubt he's actually reading it...but hey, you never know!)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Grandma's House (the Graves Mansion), Part II

Okay, if you're a "regular" here (and if you are, bless you!), you know that I wrote about my grandmother's house yesterday, and I told you that my family lived there for a year-and-a-half when I was a young girl.  It was an imposing brick mansion, the most impressive dwelling in all of itty bitty Au Sable Forks, NY, built by a wealthy businessman named Graves during the Victorian era.  Many years later, my grandmother and her second husband bought it and tried to restore it to its former glory, to the extent that they could.  I will never forget those days when our family occupied an upstairs apartment that had been part of the servants quarters in the house's former life.

Here's a picture of the Graves Mansion that was circulated on the Internet not too long ago.  I had no idea that it was now a stop on some sort of Adirondack ghost tour...but apparently it is.
I can attest to the fact that during the short time my family lived there, I never noticed any supernatural goings-on of any kind.  Grandma's oversized house was big and drafty and magically old-fashioned; but I never thought of it as a scary place.

My favorite haunt (if you'll excuse the term, after I've sworn that there were not ghosts about!) was the attic.  Grandma gave me permission to go up there whenever I pleased, both when we were living under her roof and afterwards, when we would make the 45-minute drive from Plattsburgh to visit with her.  One amazing find was an ornately embellished antique silk and lace gown that would have been right at home on the Downton Abbey set.  Grandma let us take it, and I ended up wearing it as a costume in a grade school play about Betsy Ross.  I'm quite sure I had the most elaborate get-up of any of the actors in that production.  I don't know what ever happened to that dress--and I sure do wish we'd held on to it.  I think it was a museum quality piece (that is, before its trip to the stage located in the gymnasium of St. Peter's Catholic School, where it might not have been treated with the kid gloves it deserved).

Unfortunately, Grandma's house had a rather clean and uncluttered attic, and as much as I tried to find hidden treasures from the past, I came up empty-handed most of the time.  But sometime around the year 1969, I did find one very intriguing hard-bound book, which was filled with sheet music (Greek to me), and inside of the front cover, the name of its owner was written in pencil.  I remember the first name was Margaret, but the years have robbed me of the memory of the last name.  The date was also inscribed, and it was either 1902 or 1904 (1902, I think--but again, my memory is going!).  "Oh my!" I breathed, as I reverently leafed through that book, my mind racing with possibilities.  "Who was this Margaret who lived so long ago?"  But the best discovery of all was that pressed between two pages in the middle of that book was a dried-out, faded white rose!!  I can't tell you how this fueled my imagination (I was your typical young romantic), and I could only conclude that the flower must have had great significance for Margaret--that it must have been given to her by her sweetheart!  "And who could he have been?" I wondered.

Well, in the wake of finding that old book, here is the story that I started to "write" in my head, determined that I would one day make it into the Great American Novel: a young girl--from modern times--who likes to read and daydream in her grandmother's attic, goes there one day and is shocked to find a handsome boy has invaded her special space.  But the funny thing about him is that he's dressed in an old-fashioned manner (knee britches and boots, I remember thinking he would be wearing those two items), and he uses archaic words and phrases that she's never heard anyone use, except in books.  How mysterious!  It turns out that he's traveled into the future from olden times, but the only place he can appear to this beautiful young heroine is in the attic of her grandmother's old mansion.  So the two of them meet in secret up there and spend all kinds of time together getting to know one another and talking about everything under the sun (it's a very clean and chaste romance, I assure you!).  And of course, they fall deeply in love.  But alas, all those years separate them, and they can never be together because they come from different eras.  They can only see each other when they're in the attic!  It's so romantic--and so sad!  Just exactly the sort of story that tugs at the heart of any red-blooded pre-teen girl!  (Notice that I didn't imagine my hero as a vampire, either.  He was just going to be a nice, sweet boy who'd been born about 100 years too soon.)

I remember vividly thinking about the storyline of this book that I was definitely going to write one day.  I may have jotted down the beginnings of this future bestseller somewhere, in my careful Catholic school cursive in some marble or spiral notebook; but I don't have the written proof anymore (documents that would give credence to my claim that I was writing a time-travel love story YEARS AND YEARS before Christopher Reeve had to travel back in time to court Jane Seymour in the 1980 movie Somewhere in Time, and even more years before the huge success of the more recent book/movie The Time Traveler's Wife).


When my parents sold our family home in Plattsburgh, not long after I got married in 1980 and subsequently moved away, some large cardboard boxes filled with mementos, scrapbooks, notebooks, and what-not from my early childhood/high school and college years were stored away in a barn on my sister's property, unbeknownst to me.  I thought they'd just been tossed during the move, but several years ago, the barn was cleaned out and my mother returned them to me.  Margaret's turn-of-the-century book of sheet music was not anywhere to be found amongst my things, unfortunately.  But I did find several notebooks filled with [really bad!] girlhood poetry and bits of novels I'd started.  Reading through them, it seems that aside from my awesome time travel love story idea, most of my interest was in historical fiction/romance.  And Grandma's Victorian mansion (with its wonderful attic) provided so much of the inspiration for a young dreamer who would spend the next forty or so years fantasizing about writing her first novel.

Now without further ado, here is part of the first chapter of a book I started, written in pen on the lined pages of a spiral notebook.  Skimming through the rest of the 50-plus pages that I had written before I put this one aside, I was surprised to see that there are very few cross-outs.   And from the looks of the handwriting, and "the gang" mentioned in the dedication, I would guess that I was somewhere between 7th and 9th grade when I wrote this...so please forgive the overuse of commas and any other glaring writing no-no's you'll no doubt see.  (I have marked one grammatical error in red, being the frustrated copy editor that I am.)

1880--

The Graves mansion was the most beautiful home in all of Au Sable, and twice as stately and big as any for miles around.  The house, built in 1870, was brick, with a long, wide porch, and a circular drive passing underneath the porte que chereIt's five stories, including attic and basement, made it so high, that, standing on top, one could see to the other side of town.  This was proven once when Mr. Graves climbed the little stairway from attic to roof with his two children, much to their delight.

There were marble walks leading to both the front and side entrances, and above each heavy wooden door a small balcony.  The grounds stretched for acres around all sides of the house, and were enclosed by a wrought iron fence.  Behind the house was a huge garden, encircled by a high stone wall.

Caroline ran lightly up the marble walk, and hopped up the stairs two at a time.

"Caroline!  Don't run so.  You must carry yourself like a young lady."

She stopped short and sailed gracefully in the door, behind which she went into a fit of stifled giggling, lest her mother hear her and reprimand her again.

Poor Mother, thought the young girl.  She had probably never had a good romp in her life, and resented the fact that she was no longer young enough to see what she had missed.

Her guess was not far from the truth; Anna Marshall had been very rich all her life and couldn't remember a time when she hadn't been lectured on the importance of acting like a young lady, dressing finely, and practicing good manners, and she was puzzled by the actions of her daughter, who cared for none of these.

Caroline Graves was six years old, and a beauty, with straight flaxen hair and clear blue eyes, that sparkled with enthusiasm and delight, and crinkled up when she laughed.

She was an odd child, her mother thought, for she didn't care for any of the luxuries about the house, or for dressing up, or playing with dolls, as most young girls.  She longed to be poor and run barefoot, and worshipped the sun, which accounted for a pair of rosy cheeks and two very tanned hands.

She was much brighter than her older brother, Thomas, who had no more ambition than to follow in his [father's] footsteps and become rich.  Thomas's demands were always great; indeed he asked for something new each week.  But Caroline asked for nothing more than the permission to run freely about the grounds, to explore the attic, or to take off her shoes, occasionally.

A bell was ringing in the dining room, and Caroline ran onto the porch.

"Dinner, Mother," she said, and slipped her dark little hand into her mother's pale one, which was wonderfully whitened by staying indoors and doing nothing.

As the chapter progresses, spunky little Caroline--who is quite precocious and the apple of her father's eye--says something funny at the dinner table.

When he heard this, Mr. Graves laughed outright.

"Caroline, what is it that makes you say such things?"

"Why," she replied, quite matter-of-factly, "I believe it is my mouth."

Hardee-har-har, right?  Okay, I think I've subjected you to enough of my adolescent scribblings.  Flipping ahead, Caroline's parents throw a ball for her, as a sort of coming-out or sweet sixteen party; there, she meets the aristocratic Charles Huntington and uses the word "shan't" a bit too often.  She has lost none of her childhood spunk, and the two would-be lovebirds banter back and forth.  But the story suddenly stops (at least in this particular notebook), so I'm not really sure what was going to happen.
 

On the last page of that "book," Caroline is lying in bed with a smile on her face, thinking about this intriguing boy she's just met; then on the next page--in cursive that is not nearly as neatly-rounded (with lots more cross-outs)--a whole new story, with a new cast of characters, begins thus:

1940--

Johnny Blake Tim Burton was on his way to Iowa, as usual.  It was the same each summer: the day after school got out, he would get on the train and ride to [?], and Aunt Pearl would pick him up there and drive him out to the farm.  Aunt Pearl wasn't a real aunt, just a close friend of the family.  She was his mother's best friend--that is, before she died four years ago...

I'm not really sure where I was going with that one (I hadn't even decided on the Iowa town I was going to use as a setting), but it's pretty obvious that when I started it, I was in high school (the sloppier cursive gives it away) and had met my future husband (Aunt Pearl?).  And judging from the date,  I have a feeling that young Mr. Burton was going to be separated from his sweetheart when got sent to fight during WWII.

All of that girlhood zeal for telling stories ended when I went off to college and had to channel my writing efforts into producing papers for my English and history classes.  Then in the decades I spent raising my five boys, I didn't write at all.  I didn't pick the pen (make that the computer) back up until the summer of 2007, when my youngest son was about to start high school.  I kind of hope that in the years that have intervened since I started writing the story of the little girl named Caroline who lives in a grand house exactly like my grandmother's, I've become a better writer--but maybe you can be the judge. If you're interested in reading a copy of my novel Finding Grace (published in 2012 by Bezalel Books), just leave me a comment before midnight on March 24.  I'm giving away 7 copies.

Phew, this was a long one, I know.  But we have a houseguest coming tonight, so I'm probably going to take a few days off now.  Have a great weekend, readers!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Grandma's House (the Graves Mansion), Part I

Yesterday, I wrote a WWRW post wherein I reviewed a book called The American Heiress, by Daisy Goodwin.  It revolves around a ridiculously wealthy young American named Cora Cash, whose mother wants her to find an English royal to marry so that she will have the one thing money can't buy her on the other side of the pond: a title.  The duke she falls in love with, Ivo, lives in a huge, once majestic but now dusty and dilapidated castle--in need of an heiress's fortune to save it from ruin--called Lulworth.  [Sigh...]  I must admit, stories such as that one, set in the late 1800's or early 1900's, with royals and castles and furs and jewels and will-they-or-won't-they love stories, always seem to get to me.  Needless to say, like everyone and her sister, I am a huge fan of Downton Abbey.  I could watch it for glimpses of the gorgeous dresses modeled by the Crawley women or the sumptuous abbey interiors alone.

You will probably be jealous of me when I tell you that when I was a young girl, I lived in a Downton Abbey-esque place called the Graves Mansion, a Victorian beauty where President Grover Cleveland had once been a houseguest.  It is an imposing brick edifice located in a small Upstate NY town called Au Sable Forks, where there was once a booming mill that made the Graves family very rich.


Grandma's house.
Okay, before I go on, I must clarify: I didn't live in the main part of the house, with my grandmother and her second husband (my father's father had died when he was just a small boy); I lived with my parents and four siblings in a cramped and drafty apartment upstairs that had once been part of the servants quarters.

I was Anna!

And I only say that because I refuse to be O'Brien!

Actually, we only lived in this house from when I was mid-way through 3rd grade until the summer before I was to start 5th grade, when I was between the ages of 8-and-a-half and 10.  We moved to Au Sable because my father, who'd been working in NJ and Delaware as an engineer but desperately wanted to return to the North Country where he'd grown up, agreed to change careers and help his mother out by becoming a salesman in the insurance business she and her husband owned and operated out of the big house.  It was a tough situation on many levels, so after just a year-and-a-half, we moved about 45 minutes away from Grandma, to Plattsburgh (which was a metropolis by comparison), and my father started to work for another insurance company. But that short span of time living in my grandmother's magical Victorian mansion left an indelible mark on my young psyche.  It was during that period, in fact, that I first decided I wanted be a writer.

Before I go on, I have to make sure you realize that my grandmother and her husband were not at all wealthy.  They bought the Graves Mansion for a song and went about trying to restore it to its former glory on a shoestring budget.  Grandma found many of the original furnishings in the basement and had them repaired and re-upholstered.  She turned the upper floors into apartments, and the rents from her tenants helped to provide the heat that the dozens of fireplaces throughout the mansion couldn't provide.  She filled her spacious living quarters on the first floor with hundreds of books and countless framed family photos, with fine china and vases of fresh flowers, and the aura of her inborn grace and elegance filled that gigantic home from floor to 20-foot ceiling.  (Those ceilings may not have been 20 feet high, but they sure seemed like it.)

But back to yours truly, the budding writer.  I can remember jotting down little stories in my marble notebooks back in those days; tomorrow I'll share a snippet from one of those notebooks--which amazingly, I still have in my possession.  I'll also tell you about an interesting item I found in my grandmother's attic, and how it inspired me with an idea for a future novel.  (And how when I first saw the movie Somewhere in Time with my husband back in 1980, I said, "They stole my idea!"  Ditto for The Time Traveler's Wife.)  So stay tuned...
(In the meantime, would you be interested in winning a free copy of the novel I finally DID write, Finding Grace, which is not about time travel at all?  Leave me a comment on String of Pearls before midnight on March 24, and you could win one of the 7 signed copies I'm giving away.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WWRW: The American Heiress (I Liked It!)

Last week I wrote a WWRW post about a best-selling novel by Daisy Goodwin titled The American Heiress.  I had started it on my flight out to CO to visit with my oldest son and his family.  I got around 100 pages in (while falling asleep off and on throughout the flight, and having to keep looking back in order to keep the characters and details straight), but I never got around to finishing it while I was out there--because babysitting for 2-and-a-half-year-old twin girls is a full-time job.  And when you spend your days keeping such delightful creatures fed, clothed, diapered, safe from harm, and appropriately amused, the idea of sleeping at night is so much more attractive than the idea of staying up too late reading, no matter how good the book is.
And I wasn't even convinced that this one was going to be that great, because on page 56 Cora is told this about the titled man she is falling for: "He's a Catholic, of course...so Lord knows what twisted Papist fancies are at work."  I thought to myself, "Oh, here we go!"--because I was sure this book was going to put down the Catholic Faith at every turn, like most popular modern novels these days seem to do, and perhaps that's why I didn't get hooked by the book right away.  (It's infuriating--and boring!  If an author wants to be thought of as cutting edge and brave, he should fill his books with likable characters who are faithful Catholics!  Now that would be brave!)

I was surprised, however, to see that Goodwin was not going to use the duke's Catholicism against him.  In fact, as I read on I found out that there is a chapel located on the grounds of Lulworth Castle (this book's version of Downton Abbey), and it is mentioned that the duke's family "stayed Catholic when the rest of the country went Protestant, so they spent a lot of time here, praying."  Small details that point out the young royal's devotion are mentioned in passing, without teasing or put-downs.  Cora is an Episcopalian who associates Catholicism with the Irish maids back in America, and she is not particularly religious; but she doesn't recoil when the duke jokes with her, "Really, Cora, we'll make a Catholic of you yet."  I was disappointed, however, that instead of getting married during a Catholic Mass at the chapel on the castle grounds, the vows between the heiress and the duke are exchanged at Trinity Church in NYC, an Episcopal church where all the big society weddings are held.

Okay, getting back on track here.  Well,  I picked the book up again on the return flight, and once I got home, I literally couldn't put it down until I'd reached the absolutely unpredictable conclusion.  Seriously, until the last chapter, you don't know how it's going to end: will the main character, a beautiful, spirited, and super-wealthy American heiress named Cora Cash who has married a handsome, brooding English duke with the probably-historically-accurate-but-to-me-rather-unfortunate name Ivo (who appears to have married her for her money alone and is carrying a torch for--and having an affair with--his old flame), stick with her husband; or will she run off with her childhood American best friend (a sweet, down-to-earth guy who has always loved her and appears to be head and shoulders above the duke in terms of character and morals)?  I was on the edge of my seat, I really was.  It could have gone both ways, and you could see the validity of either choice (especially for a non-Catholic heroine, who isn't concerned with the Church's teachings on marriage and divorce).   Even the author, in the interview in the back of the book, says that she was of two minds about how the story should end, and she didn't decide until she was writing the last chapter.

Critics of Catholicism will look at Ivo's checkered and sin-filled past and use it to bash the Faith, saying that it goes to show that Catholics are all holier-than-thou on the outside, sitting there acting all pious in church on Sunday, while they're no better--and probably worse--than anyone else.  That attitude really bugs me; because yes, we're all sinners--and Catholics understand this perhaps better than anyone.  Catholics set the bar high, trying to emulate the saints and failing repeatedly.  But we believe in atonement, in forgiveness and redemption; we believe that if we are truly sorry for our sins and try to amend our lives, our loving Father will forgive us.  In spite of his failings, Ivo is a true believer.  Whether he changes his ways and becomes a man who deserves Cora's love is for you to find out--I don't want to spoil the book for you if you plan to read it.

This book will resonate with Downton fans, as promised in a blurb on the cover; if they are "suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal syptoms, [they] will find an instant tonic in Daisy Goodwin's deliciously evocative novel."  It's all there: the distinctions between the classes--even within the upper class, where titled Brits and wealthy Americans are two different species altogether; the distinctions amongst the members of the serving class as well, where a butler and a valet are worlds apart in rank and importance; the unique relationships between the ruling classes and their longtime, loyal servants; the opulent fashions and jewels, which are described in rich detail; and most of all, the will-they-or-won't-they love story of Cora and Ivo (think Mary and Matthew...sort of).

There are scenes of passion between unmarried persons, but they are no more detail-filled than Mary's scandalous tryst with Pamook in Season One.  I wasn't sure I would be able to recommend this book when I started it, but I'm happy to say I can.  It's not my favorite book ever, but I liked it.  It's well-written--and after a slow start, it kept me interested and turning the pages, that's for sure.  And I think the author chose the right ending for it.

(I'm like a broken record here, but just a reminder: I'm giving away 7 copies of my novel Finding Grace (it's a "Finding Grace in Lent" giveaway!).  If you'd like to enter to win a copy, just leave me a comment on any String of Pearls blog post up until March 24 at midnight.)

Now head on over to Jessica's for more book talk.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Irish (and Part-Irish) Mothers

I didn't write a St. Patrick's Day post yesterday, because while my New England boiled dinner was bubbling away in the crock pot, I was working on this post about The Nativity Stones Collection.  (And just a reminder: as a reader of this blog you can use the coupon code FAITH15 to get a 15% discount when you order a Nativity Stones Cross for that special someone--or yourself--as an Easter gift.)

But though I'm late to the St. Patty's Day celebration, I feel I must say a few words about the grand, Blarney-slinging, twinkly-eyed people St. Patrick came to save--from snakes, false Druid religions, and such-like.

I absolutely love the Irish.  My husband is 100% Irish, on both sides.  I'm only half-Irish on my mother's side (her maiden name was Kelly); my father's people do come from the British Isles, but they are mostly English--and were not exactly the biggest fans of the Irish throughout history.  I, however, am a big fan of the Irish.  The biggest.  There is just no one in all the world like an Irishman.

Remember what the crazy Irishman said in the movie Braveheart?
"In order to find his equal, an Irishman is forced to talk to God."
Now that is a classic quote.  And truer words were never spoken (am I right?).

I wrote this post called "Irish My Husband Is" back in December of 2012, wherein I waxed poetic about my very own favorite son of the Emerald Isle (which you can click over to read, if you're interested in visiting my archives).

I just love Irish wit and wisdom, as does every single member of the extended Pearl family.  I am especially touched by sentimental Irish quotes about mothers, these among them:

"God's most precious work of art is the warmth and love of a Mother's heart."

 "There is but one and only one whose love will fail you never. One who lives from sun to sun with constant fond endeavor."

 "There is but one and only one on earth there is no other. In Heaven a noble work was done when God gave man a Mother."

 "A Mother holds her children’s hands for a little while... their hearts forever."

 "A Mother is one who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take."
A part-Irish mother, dancing with her beloved mostly-Irish  21-year-old "baby" and one of her darling twin
granddaughters, at the wedding of her middle son (another mostly-Irish charmer) this past December.

This picture of my youngest son and me makes me tear up, but don't worry--if I'm crying into my green beer right now, you can be assured that the loving expression my boy is wearing here produces only happy tears for this luckier-than-the-Irish mom.

Slainte, everybody (a day late)!

(And one more reminder for you: leave me a comment by March 24, and you could win one of 7 signed copies of my novel Finding Grace--which features lots of endearing Irish American characters.)

Monday, March 17, 2014

What I Wore Sunday: A Nativity Stones Cross

I haven't been participating in the What I Wore Sunday fashion party very much lately, because I feel like I've shared most of my Sunday best outfits with you already.  But yesterday I wore something very special to Mass, something that is so much more than just a pretty accessory, and I thought I'd show it to you (and let you know how you can get one for yourself--at a discount, no less--if you're interested).

With my liturgically correct purple dress (Coldwater Creek), which I've had for years, and lilac-colored chapel veil (Veils by Lily), which was a Christmas gift from my husband, on this second Sunday of Lent I wore a golden cross that has a Nativity Stone inside its center.
That's right, this cross holds a tiny stone that was part of the Manger Room of the Cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  This cross that I wore about my neck contains a stone that was a silent witness to the birth of Our Lord! I am humbled to own something with such incredible historical and religious significance, and I am also awed by the beauty of the ornately lovely piece of jewelry that was created to display it.
My deepest thanks to the people at The Nativity Stones Collection, who contacted me recently, after finding me through this blog, and offered to send me a Classic Nativity Stones Cross (one of the many beautiful designs offered by their company).  Their only request was that if I liked it and felt it was something I would be willing to share with my readers, I would write a blog post about it.  Well, dear readers, to say that I like it is quite the understatement.  I absolutely love it!  Layered in 18K gold, it is both an inspiring sacramental and an extraordinarily beautiful piece of jewelry--and I will be proud to wear it myself and spread the word about the company that created it to others.


The Classic Nativity Cross, which is about 1 and 3/4" long, and hangs from a thick 22" chain. 
Isn't it stunning?  (There is a petite version of this design,
which would be perfect for your favorite First Communicant.)
I was thrilled, after returning Saturday from a week-long stay at my oldest son's home in CO, to see that I had already received my gift from Nativity Stones in the mail, just a week or so after their first contact with me.  When I opened the package and saw the box inside, I was struck by the beauty of both the glorious cross itself and the lovely way it was packaged.
Inside the box, I found a certificate of authenticity stating that my Nativity Stone was truly taken from the Cave of the Nativity, the actual birthplace of Jesus Christ, and that the Nativity Stones excavated in 1963 are the only stones that were ever authorized to be removed from that sacred place.  It also states that in 2000, the Nativity Stones were honored with a plaque in the Vatican, further validating their authenticity.

You might be wondering why anyone would authorize the removal of even one stone from the sacred birthplace of Our Lord.  Apparently, an amateur archaeologist named Stanley Slotkin was vising the Cave of the Nativity in 1963 and noticed that a portion of the inside wall was being removed.  He learned that this one-time excavation was being done for the purpose of making another exit for the thousands of pilgrims who visit the site.  Slotkin asked the Mayor of Bethlehem if he could have the stones from the excavation, and the Mayor agreed and had them sent to the United States.  Initially, Slotkin gave away many crosses containing bits of Nativity Stones to various charities and terminally ill patients, as a way of spreading faith in Jesus; then more recently, his family decided to make them available to a wider audience through Nativity Stones jewelry.  These precious pieces are rare and limited in number, and they are sure to become heirlooms in your family.

What touched me most, when I received the first email from a representative of the Nativity Stones company, was this sentence: "We also sell in different retail stores, but we always try and reach more believers."  I am truly humbled that my blog was considered a way to do this; and any company that is more interested in reaching the faithful and spreading devotion to Jesus than in making money is quite all right by me!

If you are interested in giving a Nativity Stones Cross to a loved one (or to yourself!) as an Easter present, the company has graciously offered readers of String of Pearls a special Easter discount.  If you use the coupon code FAITH15, you will be able to purchase these unique and beautiful symbols of our Catholic Faith at 15% off the regular retail prices.

So go visit this wonderful site, and take advantage of this special Easter offer by using the coupon code FAITH15.  When your Nativity Stones Cross comes in the mail, I am absolutely sure that you will love it and wear it with joy.
(Before I sign off: while we're on the subject of business ventures that are focused on reaching--and making--believers, and on spreading the Truth of our Faith, I wanted to remind you about the "Finding Grace in Lent" giveaway: I'm giving away 7 signed copies of my novel Finding Grace, a recipient of the prestigious Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval.  Leave me a comment on any post through March 24, and you will be entered to win.)

Now head on over to the link-up, for more Sunday fashions that'll inspire you.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

WWRW: The American Heiress and The Browne Twins

Whenever I fly, I like to have a great book with me to help me take my mind off the reality that I am SITTING IN A CHAIR 30,000 FEET ABOVE BELOVED TERRA FIRMA. This is so NOT my favorite place to be, but I've found myself in this position more and more, as my family has spread out across the country.

For plane trips I always try to find a book that is sure to get me hooked and engrossed,  a "guilty pleasure"-type novel.  Don't get me wrong here; when I say that, I don't mean racy or R-rated or anything.  I just mean a novel that I can read with absolutely no plan to rate or review it afterward.  I've been doing a lot of Amazon and Goodreads reviews lately, which I really like to do, to help my fellow Christian/Catholic authors promote their works; but when I read a book knowing that I'm going to review it, I probably don't enjoy the process of reading it as much as I should because I almost feel like I've got a big homework assignment due at the end.  (Maybe someday I'll get better at writing reviews and the task won't seem as daunting; but I'm still a greenhorn.)

Anyway, the novel I chose for my most recent flights (out to CO with my husband, to babysit for our twin granddaughters for five days so that their parents--and baby sister--could take a trip to the Midwest to go house-hunting) is The American Heiress. Here's the endorsement blurb on the cover that convinced me I'd found the perfect book to use as a security blanket on this latest airplane trip: "Anyone suffering Downton Abbey withdrawal symptoms (who isn't?) will find an instant tonic in Daisy Goodwin’s The American Heiress."   Bingo!  Any book that promised to resonate with a Downton Abbey fanatic sounded like just the ticket for me.  Set in the late 1800's, Daisy Goodwin's debut novel tells the story of a beautiful young girl named Cora (what a coincidence!), an uber-wealthy debutante from Newport whose social climbing mother wants her to go to England and marry someone with a title.  Ooh, just what the doctor ordered to offset my chronic fear of flying!  I thought I could get a good start on the book on the plane rides, and then after we tucked the twins into bed each night this week, I could read relax on the couch with a nighttime cup of coffee and read a couple of chapters before turning in myself.  Yes, this delicious, best-selling period novel is what I was going to be reading this Wednesday, folks.
Excuse me while I have a good laugh!!  I got 100 pages into The American Heiress on the way out here, but since then, I haven't read more than about 50 words.  So The American Heiress is really what I'm NOT reading Wednesday.  Because as adorable as my little 2-and-a-half-year-old-granddaughters are, and as fun as trips to the zoo (to feed lettuce and crackers to the giraffes) and to the pond (to feed bread to the ducks and geese) have been, Grammy falls into bed every night completely spent and wiped out--too tired, even, to read.  Now I know why I used to mostly resort to short magazine articles rather than the long novels I would have preferred during the years that my sons were little.  I was tired.  Even though I was a lot younger then, I was TIRED.
Before I move on, doesn't the picture on the cover of this book I'm not reading Wednesday remind you of that artsy photo I took of my newest daughter-in-law, Braveheart, as she was getting ready on her wedding day last month?  I posted it before, but here it is again.

Anyway--if I'm not reading The American Heiress, as planned, then what am I reading, you ask?

Well, I'm reading what these two pint-sized duck feeders want me to read to them, that's what!
And that includes a series of board books about the Browne Twins, by Patricia Frechtman.

I especially like the one about the Browne twins' first birthday, because it ends by saying that the best present of all is the news that the their mommy and daddy are expecting a new baby.  That would make the Browne family very similar in makeup to our son's family, as his twins are 21 months older than their little sister.  I love it that the Brownes are open to accepting the gift of new life, in spite of how busy they are as parents to 1-year-old twins.  That's a mindset our modern world could use a little more of.
Before I sign off, I want to thank Jessica over at Housewifespice for giving my novel Finding Grace a nice shout-out on her WWRW post today.  You might want to head on over there to see what she--and other book-loving bloggers--are reading today. 

(And just a little reminder about the giveaway here at String of Pearls: leave me a comment on any post from now until March 24, and you could win one of 7 signed copies of Finding Grace.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Coolest Wedding Photo EVER!!!

My husband and I are out in CO, babysitting for our twin granddaughters (who are now 2 years and 9 months old) while their mom and dad (our oldest son and his wife) and their baby sister are on a five-day house-hunting trip in the Midwest, where they will be moving this spring.  Papa and Grammy are VERY BUSY (how does their mommy do this every day?!), so blogging will probably not be a high priority for me until we get back home on Saturday--but I'll try to check in from time to time and at least say hi.

We spent a few hours at the zoo today, which was absolutely wonderful.  CO appears to have gotten the memo that winter should be over by now--which our frigid and snow-covered home state back in the Northeast has not yet gotten.  It was sunny and mild all day (the twins didn't even need their jackets), and our little sweetie pies got to hand-feed the giraffes, which is always a thrill.  We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day.  Photos from that outing will be forthcoming, but I haven't had a chance to transfer them from my iPhone to my computer yet.

I do, however, have an awesome picture to share with you from son #3's wedding to Preciosa back on December 7.  Their photographer recreated an image that went viral on the Internet not too long ago (you must have seen it) and basically made my dinosaur-loving boy the happiest groom on earth.  Are you ready for just about the coolest wedding photo ever?
This basically makes son #3 the envy of all of his brothers, I can tell you that much.  (The four of them are among the gifted tuxedo-clad actors who made this priceless wedding memento possible.)

How do you top this, folks?  I don't believe you can.

Before I sign off, I just wanted to add a quick reminder that I'm giving away 7 signed copies of my novel Finding Grace.  Just leave me a comment on any blog post between March 7 and March 24, and you will be entered to win.  :)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The C Pages are Completed!

Well, I followed through on Thursday's plan: Right after I posted my blog, I got to work on the ABC Book I'm putting together for my grandchildren and finished this page, the first page of the C's (I've had the second C page done for several weeks).  I'm not super pleased with it, if I'm being honest.


It looks extremely amateurish and I feel like it could be a whole lot better.  But I think the problem is that I just can't get very excited about drawing stalks of celery.  I only added the word celery so that there would be one with a soft-C sound.  For variety's sake.  I think if I had animated the celery--given it a little smiley face or something--I would have enjoyed creating it a little bit more.

The second C illustration is better.



Although I sort of loathed this picture when I was working on it, because it wasn't coming out at all as I wanted it to.  I almost gave up on it, and I actually asked my husband and one of my sons if you could tell it was supposed to be a cat.  (Their reactions to that question were pretty funny.  Looking at it now, I can see that it's fairly obvious it's a cat.  I mean, what else could it be?)

I added the caterpillar there without naming it; it's like a little secret C word on the page, and it'll be neat to see if the kids notice it.

I'm getting excited to continue working on this project now--especially because the E pages are going to include one of my favorite animals of all--the elephant!  So stay tuned!

(And just a little reminder: I'm running a giveaway.  If you leave me a comment on any blog post between now and March 24, you could win one of 7 signed copies of Finding Grace.  It doesn't have to be long--just come by and say hi, and you'll be entered in the contest.)