Thursday, July 22, 2021

Oh, Hey There!

Remember me? this thing on?  (Lame joke.  Sorry.  Even at my best I was not the most top-notch of bloggers, and now I'm about as rusty as I've ever been.  So bear with me.)

I haven't been here at the blog since Mother's Day, May 9--yikes, that's over two months ago!--which I believe makes this just about the longest hiatus I've ever taken since I published my first post back in March of 2011.

I wasn't really worrying that anyone was missing my blog presence too much, and had actually started kicking around the idea of never coming back at all.  This is hardly a must-read site for many, so I figured I could just let it sort of die a natural death and move on to other things (and other people: my life is so full of grandchildren--lucky me!--that most of my days seem to be as busy as when I was a much, much younger mom raising much, much younger boys).  

I mean, I know that my baby sister misses me when I'm not here, as does my hubby and a couple of my boys and my daughters-in-law (and even some of their young friends!  Ha--that was interesting to find out!).   But I'm not exactly Kendra Tierney, or Jenny Uebbing (a favorite of mine who has also mostly left the blogosphere as of late, but more about Jenny in a bit).  I'm not trying to be self-deprecating here, just stating the facts.

Many--make that most--of the Catholic writers I "met" through their blogs have left this quickly-becoming-anachronistic platform for the more popular online world of Instagram.  These would include talented gals like Grace Patton  and Rachel Balducci.

I can understand the lure of the Insta-posts: they're mostly about the pictures, with minimal writing required; they take a fraction of the time to compose and are easily perused by busy readers. I was on Instagram for about six years and thoroughly loved it.  I found so much inspiration there, so much joy and humor, and even so many facts about our beautiful Faith of which I was unaware.  Actually, I might have loved Instagram too much, and might have been a little too thrilled by the occasional "like" or comment from one of the aforementioned superstar Catholic "influencers."  After our big move from NH to VA in 2017, instead of working on making new real-life friendships, I went to Instagram to visit with my eFriends, and I really did feel as if I had a community there.  I had a hard time imagining an Instagram-free life.  But ultimately, my husband and I both made the decision to delete our social media accounts this past year, for a number of reasons (which I won't go into again, because I wrote all about that here). 

I said good-bye to Facebook and Twitter and Instagram; but blogging was the one thing I felt I couldn't give up.  Not yet anyway.  And apparently, I still can't!

I have so many things I've wanted to write about in the last few months: my mother's three-week visit with us and her many Pearl great-grandchildren in VA in May, when my sainted youngest sister and her hubby dropped her off so they could take a much-deserved extended vacation in their RV; 

our week-long family vacation at our Oyster Haven Vrbo house in Upstate NY earlier this month, when four of our five sons and 12 of our 17 grandchildren were gathered together for fun at the lake;

my husband's and my 45th high school reunion (#highschoolsweethearts) a couple of weeks ago, where I learned that one of my male classmates has been checking in here and wondering why I haven't been blogging (this was a surprise to me!);

some good books I'm reading and planning to read that I'd love to tell you about...

These are all subjects I'd like to tackle, along with some thoughts about detachment as my 63rd birthday fast approaches. I've had a major case of blogger's block since May, but perhaps I can get back into a groove, now that things have quieted down up here by the lake--after a very busy, noisy, and joyfully chaotic start to the month, when so many members of the enormous Pearl clan were sharing this house (my husband's childhood home) with us.  It's just us now, this guy and me.

It's a perfect boating day, so I think I'll sign off now. But before I do, I wanted to share a link to a very moving recent Mama Needs Coffee blog post by Jenny Uebbing.  She has been for many years a prolific writer, blogger, and Instagram influencer, and is indeed a household name in the Catholic online community.  But although she still blogs sporadically, her social media work has taken a definite back seat to her much more important career of full-time motherhood to a brood of six adorable youngsters.  (A thought-provoking post of hers a while back, in fact, was one of the catalysts for my own exodus from social media.)  This line from the post in particular struck me as profoundly true, especially in the context of the selfless, repetitive, seemingly thankless tasks a woman who works exclusively in the home performs daily out of love for her family, without payment or the world's recognition:  Jenny writes, "I feel a little bit like I've discovered the secret to happiness.  But it's such a deep secret that it's possible no one will believe me.  It's this, though, in case you were wondering: give your life away." (Do yourself a favor and read the full, beautifully written post here.)

That's it for today.  The lake calls.  But I'll be back soon...I hope!

Sunday, May 9, 2021

A Mother-Boy Mother's Day Celebration (A Week Early)

Last Saturday the four sons who live in VA came over to our house to celebrate an early Mother's Day with me. (I like to call it a "Mother-Boy" party, but unless you watched a series called Arrested Development you won't get that reference.)  This is an annual event that was the brainchild of son #2's wife, who I think is projecting ahead to the day when her own four boys are grown men.  I never would have thought to ask for this sort of thing, because I love my daughters-in-law very much, and my grandchildren--don't even get me started.  Having the opportunity to spend time with our boys' growing families is the very reason we moved down here in the first place.

But it is true that when your babies are all grown up, you sometimes feel a deep nostalgia for the days when they all lived under your roof and life revolved around your own little nuclear family.  When we get everyone together at our house, it's so much fun--but extremely chaotic!  It's hard to have an uninterrupted adult conversation. So this one day a year when our boys (at least the four who do live close-by) come over all by themselves gives us some very sweet and precious mother-son time together.  Not to mention the "brother time" it gives them, too.  

One of my husband's younger sisters married a man who is the youngest of five boys.  And from time to time, she will encourage him to take trips to visit his mother out west on his own, without her or their kids. He will balk, but then she'll explain that when she's with him, he doesn't give his mom the undivided attention he would if he was by himself.  She is so thoughtful!

Women like my daughter-in-law and my sister-in-law are extremely wise and generous, and I encourage you young moms out there to put this idea of having your chicks fly home to your nest unaccompanied sometimes in the back of your minds, and try to make it happen now and again when they're all grown up and raising families of their own. 

We chose to stay in rather than go out for dinner (actually, that’s what we always do!). My husband cooked steaks on the grill.  We sat on the patio beforehand and then around the dining room table, and we talked and laughed.  It was a simply perfect Mother's Day for me.   

Today, we’re celebrating with my mom, who came down from Upstate NY to stay with us for a few weeks while the sister she lives with is on a well-deserved vacation. She arrived on Tuesday and went almost straight to the hospital, where she spent the next three days—but that’s a long story and the rest of this post was prewritten before she ever got here. So for now I’ll just tell you that she’s home and doing great and has even already visited with five of her great-grandchildren, after a rather drama-filled beginning to her time in VA.  (As she joked, always the drama queen!)

Happy Mother's Day, dear readers!  I hope you are being treated like the queens you are!

Monday, May 3, 2021

Garden Spots

I have the brownest thumb in the world.  Although I love the look of a pretty garden, a gardener I am not. Unfortunately.

That's why I so appreciated the tidy and well-manicured landscaping that came with our house in VA when we moved into it in 2017.  The garden areas in front on either side of the entryway sidewalk are filled with easy-to-trim bushes.  On the left there are several flowering bushes (all the color and beauty with none of the work!), and I think that with our 36" statue of the Blessed Mother in front of them, they make for a nice Mary Garden.  (Does anyone know what these bushes are called?  They have the most lovely blossoms!)

Along the side of the house and near the driveway, the previous owners had planted perennials (again, all the color and beauty with none of the work!).  I left well enough alone and didn't plant anything new, because I liked the low-maintenance garden just the way it was.  I just adore the profusion of gorgeous irises that bloom each spring.  They thrive on benign neglect, which is my go-to gardening technique!

I say I liked it just the way it was; but something was recently, we purchased a new statue to stand amongst the irises.  It is considerably less holy and sacred than the one we have out front.  But you see, my dad, who passed away one day shy of his 82nd birthday in 2016, was known by the nickname "Bigfoot."  (Some kids have a Grandpa, some have a Papa; my boys had a Bigfoot.)  So when I saw this 36", solid cement Sasquatch figurine—which was meticulously created by some local Mennonite craftsmen—calling out to me from a downtown garden shop, I just couldn't resist it.

When I texted our boys a photo of my newly acquired garden statue, son #4 replied in his usual amusing fashion:

A garden Bigfoot might not be "essential" for most folks; but I think it was for me.  I'm  always up for whimsical touches, especially when they have personal meaning.  My mom is coming here tomorrow, staying with us for about three weeks; and I think she's going to enjoy this reminder of her beloved husband—gone, but never forgotten!—when she sits on the patio with us during cocktail hour.

I plan to write more about my mother and the ups and downs of her life over the past five years, and also about the younger sister saint and her husband who have taken Mom into their home (a long overdue post, to be sure); but for now I'm going to sign off by saying that I just love springtime in VA.  Especially with garden spots like these!

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Happy Birthday to Our Middle Son

Son #3 turned 35 today.  What?! How is this possible? Because "just the other day" (to borrow my mother's term for anything that happened before this very moment), he was a newborn baby coming into the world five days early at 9 lbs. 13 oz. and 22 inches.  He was a long and lanky baby.  And his father and I were just a couple of babies ourselves, not quite 28...which means that—oh my goodness!—we were seven years younger than he is now!  It's unfathomable.

His was an easy labor and delivery, despite his size—for me, at least.  For him, it included getting momentarily stuck, because of his unusually broad shoulders, and almost having to have them broken by the doctor so that he could make his way safely through the birth canal.  But other than that brief scare, it went amazingly smoothly.

A couple of grainy 1986 snapshots from our boy's early days.  
(What I would have given for an ever-handy cell phone camera
 and the color and clarity of 21st-century digital photography!)

Those words, "amazingly smoothly," kind of describe how his life has gone ever since.  He was always a happy kid, always liked to see the good in every person and every situation.  He always had a lot of friends in school, with his optimistic, glass-is-half-full attitude, his passion for anything sports-related, and his winning smile.  He was a joy to raise, and it has been a joy watching him in the role of Dada (he is as hands-on as they come) the past six years, raising his own brood of four with his lovely wife Preciosa.

Our middle-born is about 6'3" and a lot more filled-out than he was back in the day; but he's still kind of lanky, even though he's not the skinny, knobby-kneed lad he once was.  ([Sniff!] I remember that sweet little guy so well!)  He often cooks for his kids and oversees their bath time; he changes diapers like a boss and creates his family’s Shutterfly photo books every year (he likes archiving memories—I think he got that from his mom!); he’s an assistant t-ball coach for his two oldest kids' team; and along with other impressive DIY projects, he puts up shiplap walls.  He is a jack of many trades these days.  He is also unfailingly good to his father and me, and is clearly happy to have us living just over a half-hour away, where we can be a part of his and his family's everyday life in VA.

This was taken about a week ago, after his oldest daughter's
pre-K end-of-year show.

About a year before we made the decision to sell our house in NH and head to VA, son #3 and Preciosa emailed us a 15-page powerpoint presentation, complete with pictures and professional-looking graphics, enumerating all the compelling reasons why we should move south.  I shrank each page to the size of a wallet photo so that I could frame the entire document, which hangs in the stairwell on the way to the basement in the VA house we bought in 2017. Every time I pass by and see it, I am reminded that we are just where we're meant to be, and that we are beyond blessed to have grown children who want us nearby.

At the time that this powerpoint was composed, we had three married sons and
three grandchildren living in VA.  That number has grown to four married sons 
and 17 grandchildren.  When son #3 and his wife wrote this for us, they were the
parents of two, and they have since added two more.

I used to fear the empty nest a bit, because I'm not a big fan of change.  There was a time when I couldn't imagine our middle son—along with his four brothers—flying far from home.  But like the mother rabbit in The Runaway Bunny (one of my all-time favorite children's picture books) was wont to do, their dad and I decided that if that was what was going to happen, we would just follow them!  Luckily for us, most of them flew to the same region; so our choice was a relatively easy one to make.

This birthday boy of we love him!  And his powerpoint co-writer...we love her, too. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021


About a week ago, my husband and I returned from a week-long trip to Upstate New York, where we went to get our VRBO house on Lake Champlain ready for our busy summer rental season.

We bought this one-of-a-kind former farmhouse, which was originally built in 1830 with some later additions in the 1940's, when we were still living in our New Hampshire "forever home."  At the time, we thought we might rent it out until my husband was ready to retire, and then we'd sell our NH house and move into it, using it as our home base and traveling from there to visit our far-flung grown children.

But with three of our five sons living in the same area of Virginia and looking like they were settling down for the foreseeable future, we decided to keep the NY house as a rental property, sell our NH house, and move closer to them.  When we made our life-changing move south in 2017, sons number two, three, and four were already VA neighbors; then shortly after we became Virginians, son number one moved here, too.  What are the odds?! I can't believe God arranged it so that those four boys would roam far from their NH roots and serendipitously end up in the same place, giving us the opportunity to have all 17 of our grandchildren living less than an hour away from us.  (We just have to get our baby and his wife to move here—that's still a WIP.)

Our Colonial beauty in NY (which we've dubbed "Oyster Haven") sits on a gorgeous piece of property that includes a football field-sized back yard and boasts 250 feet of lakefront, which essentially gives us our own private beach.  There are spectacular views of historic Valcour Island and its little brother, Carleton's Prize (nicknamed "Gunboat Island"), as well as the outlines of the mountains of Vermont on the other side of the lake.  It is about as idyllic and heavenly a setting as you could ever imagine.

We try to block off a week or so each summer so that our kids and grandkids can spend some time there with us, but otherwise we keep the NY house available for guests.  We spend the summer months staying at my husband's childhood home just a few miles down the road, managing our VRBO property and enjoying boating on the lake.  But the rest of the year is spent in our adopted state of VA, living in a house that has become the perfect meeting place for all the little Pearl cousins.

There is no doubt that the glorious panoramic view from the back yard patio at our house in NY handily beats the nothing-to-see-here view from our tiny side yard patio in VA.  Our modest house in a cookie cutter neighborhood on a postage stamp-sized plot of land has nothing on our spread in NY when it comes to views. Surely, it is not the most impressive place by the world's standards; but as a central location where our gang can gather easily, it really couldn't be more perfect for us.

More on our garden Sasquatch in a future post!

My husband has set up an outdoor video camera at his childhood home, so that when we're in VA we can look at the real time lake view on the big screen TV in our family room. 

And here's my usual view from my overstuffed arm chair in said cozy family room: my husband in his recliner chair over on the other side of the couch, with his nightly glass of scotch on the table beside him; me relaxing with my feet up on my ottoman, wearing my sensible shoes (the ones that navigated miles of cobblestoned streets in Rome with ease), enjoying the company of my favorite human and the peaceful aura of our home sweet home. 

Sometimes views that seem like nothing special are actually the best views of all.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Reminiscing about WIWS—and Navy Blazer Day!

Remember the good old days of blogging, when there was a link-up called What I Wore Sunday (WIWS for insiders) on a site called Fine Linen & Purple?  And people would share their Sunday Mass ensembles, sometimes with funny stories about their kids acting up in the pews, sometimes with touching essays about their deep faith experiences during Mass, and sometimes just with attached links for buying different components of their outfits?  Some of the posts were pure faith and others were pure fashion, but either way, it was a lot of fun.

But that was back in the days when everyone and her sister was a blogger, and no one had discovered the more alluring world of Instagram.

Rosie over at a blog for my mom was hosting a similar link-up in recent years, both on her blog and on her Instagram page, called My Sunday Best.  That was fun, too.

If I wasn't such an old dog, I would try to learn the new [for me] trick of hosting a link-up here at my little ol' blog. But I'm not sure I have it in me to tackle that.  (To tell you the truth, it is practically a miracle that I figured out how to set up this blog in the first place.)

So in lieu of becoming a link-up host, I'm going to give you a WIWS (make that WTWS: What They Wore Sunday) post that's guaranteed to make you smile this Monday morning, as you start your week in this crazy new era of life on planet earth.

Our daughter-in-law Ginger (wife of son #2), texts us photos every Sunday, with her boys—four of them now, aged 6 months to 5 years—in their Sunday Mass get-ups, usually sitting on their front stoop.  I look forward to these pictures every week.  Yesterday’s photos showcased only the three oldest boys sporting their Sunday best, and her comment was "today was a navy blazer on WIWS."

So I hereby give you this special episode of WIWS: Navy Blazer Day!  Featuring three of the handsomest little suit coat models you'll ever see anywhere (no exaggeration, folks!).

Is your Monday less gloomy now?  Thought so. 

Bring back WIWS, I say!  Ummm....but I'm not going to be the one to do it...[she grins sheepishly]

Have a great week!

Friday, April 23, 2021

A Shout-out to "Granny Chic" Style

Back when I was on Instagram--before my husband and I decided to delete our social media accounts a few months ago--I once posted a picture of a corner of my living room, with its pink-and-green floral couches (still in great shape after 27 years) and dark-stained wood furniture pieces, and with a pretty lace doily (remember those at your Grandma's house?) on the table, on which sat a pottery pitcher holding silk roses.  And I explained that although I loved my living room, I knew very well that it was hardly everyone's cup of tea.  I said I realized that I was very old-fashioned and assured the handful of  ’grammers who might stumble upon that post that I was not trying to pass myself off as Joanna Gaines--not by a long shot!  And some kind person commented that as a matter of fact, my rather vintage-y home decor style is actually en vogue these days, in certain circles; and it even has a name: Granny chic.

What is this "new" interior design trend called Granny chic?  Houzz describes it thus: "Granny chic style updates vintage home decor for the 21st-century gal.  It's filled with crocheted, knitted, quilted, and handmade items and includes lovely vintage touches like glass cake plates and small goblets." Another site says it's "a style that mixes patterns and colors to create a layered look filled with personality-rich items."  Bottom line: it's a sentimental, nostalgic style that reminds you of your grandmother's house.

If you do an Internet search of the term "Granny chic," you will see pictures of all sorts of cozy, colorful, pleasantly cluttered rooms, with gallery walls filled with artwork in mismatched frames, overstuffed upholstered chairs and couches with colorful crocheted blankets tossed over the arms, patchwork quilts, toile fabrics and floral wallpapers, and eclectic collections of new and antique furnishings, dishware, and bric-a-brac.  These are the sorts of rooms that speak to me; they are rooms that come together over many years of saving for special pieces, scouring thrift stores for someone else's cast-off treasures, inheriting family heirlooms, and receiving gifts that not only make your house more beautiful but have special meaning to you because they have a story behind them.  Granny chic is my wheelhouse, I believe.

I have 17 grandchildren who come to my house often for holiday family parties and random play I think the shoe fits here.

My oldest son's wife, Regina, texted me one day recently to say that she thought she'd figured out her decorating style: either Granny chic or something called Grandmillenial, which I think is similar but is created by mixing vintage and modern elements.  I told her I thought that was so funny, because of what I'd learned about myself from that IG commenter.  Our text exchange is what led me to the Internet to search for Granny chic information, and this is one of the images that popped up:

Oh my, I'm in love!  If those gorgeous vintage dishes are an example of what you'll find in a Granny chic-inspired house, then yes, Granny chic is most definitely my cup of tea [cups and saucers]!

I mean, look at some of my most recent purchases from thrift store outings with my daughters-in-law: a vintage gravy boat by an American company called Homer Laughlin, and a vintage cream-and-sugar set, made in Bavaria by a German company called Winterling.  I didn't need them...but I sure do love them.

I keep most of my cherished breakables in safe places, and I hang favorite collector plates on the walls, far from the hands of my curious young grandchildren. But those shelves positively crammed with vintage china in that photo above...😍

I’ll be back soon, I think, to show you more nooks and crannies in my house that illustrate just how chic we Granny-types can be.  (Because apparently, I’m fancying myself a home decor blogger or something...NOT!  🤣)