Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Men Are from Mars, Women Love to Talk

I am flying out to see my girls (my daughter-in-law and my 3-month-old twin granddaughters) this morning, and I have to get up in just over two hours so that I can shower and get to the bus that will take me to the airport. I should be trying to get some sleep, but I can't relax--and for some crazy reason, writing calms me down. Hopefully, when I finish this I'll be able to at least squeeze in a little cat nap before my alarm goes off.

Although I am, as always, a bit nervous about the flight, I'm also excited about this trip. I'm really looking forward to some good girl talk! Even if the babies can't respond yet, that doesn't mean I can't talk to them! The last time I saw them, about a month ago, they were really good listeners!

One of the great differences between men and women is that you will often find a guy who's a proverbial "man of few words," but less often will you find such a woman. Women just have a lot more to say than men, generally speaking. I don't know how often I've asked my husband, during one of our comfortable and companionable silences, what he was thinking about and gotten this response: "Nothin'." Seriously, I'll wonder; he has not had one thought floating around in his head, not even "I could really go for some nachos right about now," or "Notre Dame better beat Navy this year"? Nothing? Just a flat line in the old brain? When he asks me the same question, I don't even know where to start. Even when I'm sitting still, relaxing, my brain is flitting around from one thing to the other--and if he really wants to know what I'm thinking about, he better have some time to listen, because I'll talk his ear off.

A few years ago, I found these old postcards in "Just the Thing," a wonderful antiques/gift shop located in our little downtown area. They were mailed in March of 1912 to the Cartmill girls, Josie and Mertie (sisters, perhaps?) of Strickland, MO. I was drawn to the postcards initially because of the quaint Victorian artwork on them. (I've already written about the subject of Victorian paintings--an obsession of mine--at this blog, and I'm sure I'll write about it again!) Also, I am always awed when I hold in my hands a hand-written message sent from one person to another almost 100 years ago. I just have a thing about old stuff. And by the way, how often do you ever find a hand-written letter or postcard amidst the bills and junk mail in your mailbox these days? Anyway, when I flipped the cards over, I was even more charmed by what was on the backs of them than I was by the artwork, and I immediately carried them over to the cash register and bought them.

Since these notes were written in pencil and are difficult to read from these pictures, I'm going to rewrite the messages, complete with grammatical errors (for authenticity!).

First, here's what Cora had to say to Josie: "I am a little slow about sending you a birthday card. We are all well. Forrest has a tooth & can say dad, dad. We have got a hen a setting & have 32 goose eggs haven't set any of them yet am going to put them under the geese. [That was a bit of a run-on sentence, Cora. Slow down, Josie's not going anywhere.] don't suppose your geese are laying yet the men are sowing oats. have you heard from Charlie yet, we saw in the paper that he left Mon. Cora." I'm sure she would have gone on, but she ran out of room!

In contrast, here's Fred's note to Mertie: "Hello How are u I am fine and dandy. How do you like this snow, I think it is just fine I will ring off so bye Yours Fred." It seems Fred was way ahead of his time; u get the feeling he'd b gr8 at sending texts.

Okay, now do you see what I mean? These antique postcards illustrate my point perfectly--that women sure have a lot more to say than men. At least they think they do.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

'Tis Himself, My Husband's Irish Grandfather

This is a picture of my husband's grandfather, whom he never got a chance to meet. This handsome Irishman immigrated to the United States from County Cork when he was 19 years old, and sadly, he never made it back to the land of his birth to visit the family he'd left behind. My mother-in-law would often say of her father, "Imagine: he left home at 19, and his mother never saw him again." To her--a woman who absolutely lived for her own eight children--this thought was incomprehensible.

My mother-in-law's father died suddenly and prematurely of a bleeding ulcer when she was only 10 and her one sibling--a brother--was 13. Her father's absence left an enormous hole in her life, one that she felt until the day she died, 67 years later, in 2009. I recall her saying that she could only remember him raising his voice in anger at her once, when she'd talked back to her mother. She always spoke about what a kind and gentle soul he was, and how well thought of he was by everyone who met him. My husband is named for him and shares many of the character traits for which his Irish grandfather was known.

My mother-in-law's mother continued to love her husband long after he'd left this world, and she never remarried. She lived another 30 years after he died, until my husband was in high school. My husband's grandmother used to tell her daughter, "I miss your father more every day." My mother-in-law missed him terribly, too. He had died on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph (how apropos), and my husband remembers that on that date every year when he was growing up, his mother was not herself, and he and his brothers and sisters knew they needed to behave like angels and give her some space.

My husband's family has always been quite proud of descending, on both sides of the family tree, from Irish roots. This grandfather, however, is the only relative who was first generation Irish, straight from the old sod, and that--combined with the fact that he died so young--has given him an almost mythical quality. But he was a real man, adored by his wife, his son, and his young daughter. And all of us who loved my mother-in-law are comforted by the idea that when she died, she was finally reunited in the afterlife with her beloved father, who'd left her, in this life, much too soon.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Somebody Makin' Soup?

In case you don't get my title, it's a reference to a line from the T.V. show "The Office"--something Creed said in one of the series' more disturbing (yet LOL funny) episodes. (My immediate fam will certainly recognize the line, immediately.)

I decided to post this easy soup recipe, because it's one that was a big hit in this house--especially with my second son. He just recently moved into his own apartment and is interested in learning how to cook. We went to visit him at his bachelor pad Friday night, and I was amazed that there were no dirty dishes in the sink and the whole kitchen was almost immaculate. He's been doing his own laundry (although I'm sure he'll let me do a load or two when he comes home for a weekend visit), and he's been making his own meals, too--not eating take-out every night. "Who are you, and what have you done with my son?" I asked him. We had given him some pots a frying pan to get him started, but he went to Wal-Mart recently and bought himself some pizza pans and two glass casserole dishes (!). He said that so far, he's been just making Kraft macaroni & cheese for dinner, or heating up a Freschetta pizza or some Tostino's pizza rolls. But he said he wants to learn how to make "real" food, and this is one of the recipes he wants me to give him. I thought I'd give it to you, too. You probably won't like this soup if you don't like spicy food--but otherwise, enjoy!

(To enlarge for easier reading, click on the image once or twice.)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

They're Just Takin' Care of Business

If I wanted to be topical with this blog, I'd talk about Hurricane Irene today, the effects of which we should be feeling here in New England by this afternoon (it's already raining cats and dogs out there); but I just don't feel like talking about the weather. I know, I know: I promised yesterday that I wouldn't obsess about my children and use this blogsite solely for the purpose of posting nostalgia-inducing pictures from their early childhood days. Remember, though: I promised that with fingers crossed...and I just became a true empty-nester, so I think I deserve a little latitude here. It's a tough adjustment to make for someone whose whole identity has been tied up with being a mom for the past 28 years! I think when you look at this little gem of a snapshot, though, you'll forgive me. It's just too cute for words, in my opinion. And I know that just about every apple pie-eating, flag-waving, all-American child has set up a lemonade stand in front of his house at least once in is lifetime. But this lemonade stand is special, you see; it's special because it's my two adorable little businessmen who are running it.

That's my #4 son (now 23) on the left and my #3 son (now 25) on the right. This lemonade stand was son #3's brainchild, of course, because he was the one who was always so interested in money. He liked to earn it, to count it, to spend it; he always insisted on being the banker for epic family games of "Life" and "Monopoly." He became a math whiz before he ever started kindergarten because he became so adept at making change during those board games! My fourth son wasn't the one who came up with the "get rich quick" schemes (and don't laugh--those dimes really added up!); but he was always game for being a partner in his older brother's business endeavors. It should come as no surprise that my third son majored in finance in college--my husband and I predicted he would go into business when he was about four years old!

The funny thing is, these two childhood business partners haven't strayed all that far from the old lemonade stand, figuratively speaking. They remain extremely close to this day. They are actually both working now in the civilian contracting business down in VA (which is just a tad more lucrative than the lemonade selling business). They not only work in similar jobs that utilize their Army Military Intelligence training; they even work in the same building, though on different floors. They drill as Reservists at the same Army base. And just as they shared a bedroom growing up, they share a condo now, along with their cousin's boyfriend. Some things, thankfully, never really change!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Yes Sir, That's My Baby

Okay, bear with me here. I know I posted a picture almost exactly like this yesterday; but I think this one is just so cute, too--it must be shared! These two priceless photos of my boys never made it into any of my albums, but were tucked away for use in a possible project many years ago--so finding these forgotten treasures was an unexpected pleasure. I was so tickled when I saw them. Especially because both of them have my baby in them, front and center, and I'm really missing him these days.

This photo really brings me back. I particularly love the expression on son #3's face; he's the one with the impish grin sitting right behind my baby. The grin is impish because my middle child was an imp! A lovable imp with a sparkle in his eye. And check out the bruises up and down son #4's shins (he's the one on the far right). That boy had only one speed and was constantly bumping into things and getting boo-boo's. I'll never forget the time we were at a yearly check-up, and the pediatrician looked at his banged-up legs and asked how they'd gotten that way. I began to say, "He's a bit accident prone--" but he cut me off and said, "Let him tell me." (That's right, he had so many bruises that most of the time, the poor thing looked like someone had hit him in the legs with a baseball bat--but what was Doc implying?!) How he made it to adulthood in one piece, I'll never know.

In this moment captured on film, brothers #1, #2, and #4 only have eyes for their baby brother, the star of the show. Awww...was he a cute little guy, or what? And he was like built-in entertainment when he came along and joined the other four boys after a five-year hiatus. He made them laugh, but he also taught them patience, selflessness, and tenderness, and these lessons enriched the lives of that little fraternity of rough-and-tumble boys.

It's hard to believe that the little guy who's center stage in this photo is now a 6'2" young man, an Army ROTC cadet, and in college! But he is. I miss having him here; I miss his sweet personality: his unique blend of maturity, compassion, kindness, obedience, devotion to his Faith, and a silly, off-beat sense of humor that you might miss if you're not listening, because his clever comments are often delivered sotto voce. (He's definitely not the loudest person in our family.) But I think he's doing just fine where he is. Yesterday, he posted these simple words on his Facebook page, and they made me smile: "Complete first week of college: check."

I promise that this is it, for awhile at least, as far as old pictures of my boys. I'm not just a one-trick pony--I have other interesting things to blog about besides my children...okay, I'll come clean: my fingers were crossed. But I really will try to get onto other subjects!

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Boy is...

Yesterday, we were at a party and I met a young mother who had one little girl getting ready to start kindergarten. When she found out I'd raised five sons, she gave me that familiar wide-eyed look and said, "Oh, God bless you! Five boys!" I know that there was a time when having five children wouldn't impress anyone, but it sure does now (and then add in that they're all boys, and people stand in awe of you). During the 60's and 70's when my husband and I were growing up, five was a pretty average-sized family, and many people we knew had much bigger families. My husband was one of eight, and a family down the street to whom they were very close had eleven children. So five was really no big deal. But in this age of shrinking families, having five boys will get you comments like, "You're a saint!" My neighbor, a mother of two girls, has said that to me on more than one occasion--to which I can only reply, "I wish!" To me, being the mother of five boys has been a unique joy and privilege, and I thought I'd share a couple of poems about boys that I stumbled upon. Both are very simple and by authors unknown, but they really hit a chord with me. Boys, I believe, are naturally allergic to or repelled by poetry--at least mine are--but it's okay for their mothers to enjoy it. So here goes.

A Boy Is...

Trust with dirt on its face,

Beauty with a cut on its finger,

Wisdom with bubble gum in its hair,

And the hope of the future with

A frog in its pocket.

God Made the World out of His Dreams...

God made the world out of His dreams,

Of wondrous mountains, oceans and streams,

Prairies and plains and wooded land,

Then paused and thought, "I need someone to stand

On top of the mountains, to conquer the seas,

Explore the plains and climb the trees,

Someone to start small and grow

Sturdy, strong like a tree," and so...

He created boys full of spirit and fun,

To explore and conquer, to romp and run,

With dirty faces and banged up chins,

With courageous hearts and boyish grins.

When He had completed the task He'd begun,

He surely said, "That's a job well done."

Boys are wonderful! 'Nuff said.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Little Trip Down Memory Lane

It's 2:30 in the morning, and I'm wide awake; so I thought I'd blog now, because I think I'm going to be sleeping at my usual blogging hour! I hope so, anyway.

Above is a picture from 1986 that I doctored up as a birthday gift for my husband. (I thought I was so clever!) I'm feeling nostalgic here in my big empty nest, so I thought I'd take a little trip down memory lane--and while I was at it I decided to share this picture, because unless you have a heart of stone, it's just about guaranteed to make you smile.

It's hard to believe that my three oldest sons ever looked like this! The sweet "big boy" who's two-and-a-half and holding his baby brother is now an Army helicopter pilot, serving in Afghanistan, married and the father of twin baby girls. The cute little 15-month-old monkey on the left has just started teaching Algebra I and Algebra II at a high school not far from us, and he's also the offensive coordinator for the freshman football team. The wee newborn baby in the middle is 25 now, working as a defense contractor and serving in the Army Reserves. They're not babies anymore; I blinked and they grew up.

I wouldn't go back to the days when my boys looked like this (and all three of them were in diapers at once, albeit only for a short time), because I would miss the men they've become too much. But they were so darn cute, and I do love to look at old pictures of them. And I think this picture is a real hum-dinger.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Miracle of Twins

Sometimes I still can't believe that our oldest son is the father of twin baby girls. And identical ones, at that. Identical twins are created when a fertilized egg splits in half, resulting in two exact copies of the original. How amazing is that? As if the creation of one tiny human life isn't miraculous enough! And what are the odds? Actually, writing that question made me curious, so I just took a quick break to look it up on-line; and apparently, the odds of having identical twins are about 1 in 250. That's only a 0.4% chance, but still, I was a bit surprised by that. I thought they'd be about 1 in 1,000.

My twin granddaughters have identical DNA fingerprints, but here's another little factoid that I learned during my research: identical twins don't have the same fingerprints. The arches, loops, and whorls that form on the fingertips result from different environmental factors, such as womb pressure and contact with amniotic fluid; so no two people on earth share the same prints, not even identical twins.

Along with different fingerprints, identical twins also have different personalities (my son and his wife have already commented on these differences with their babies); this is because early in their development, environmental factors and external influences in the womb can change the personality--and even the appearance--of twins. It's obvious that whatever goes on inside the womb as twin babies are growing and developing can result in differences in appearance: my little granddaughters are easy to distinguish from one another (at least so far) because one was more than a pound bigger than the other at birth--and she continues to outweigh her sister. But hey, what happens in the womb, stays in the womb. :)

It is a miracle that we have two little girls in our family now, after being an all-male household for so many years. But it's even more miraculous that they are identical twin girls!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Life is Still Wonderful in Our Home Sweet Home

My nest is empty.

My husband and I returned last night from dropping off our youngest son at college, and the house seems too big and too quiet. I have had some teary-eyed moments since we got back. I mean, I love my house, and I've been missing sleeping in my own bed the past week--a lot. And I've been missing "having all of my things about me"--like that fiery Irish lass from the movie "The Quiet Man," starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. (If you haven't seen that one, rent it ASAP! It's fantastic.) At heart, I'm a real homebody, and I'm happiest when I'm on my own stomping grounds. So it is good to be home; but I'm coming to grips with the fact that home isn't quite what it used to be.

My kids have been moving out and moving on rather gradually over the past nine years, so I've had time to adjust to their absences. But for the past five years, my second oldest son and my youngest have been living with us full-time at home. And now--boom!--they're both gone. First, son #2 moved into his own apartment an hour away from here almost a month ago; and now, my baby is living at a college far, far away out in the Midwest. Adjusting to the two of them being gone is probably going to take awhile.

But as much as I miss my boys, I'm happy for them. They're all in a good place right now--except of course my oldest, who is still on deployment, but he will be coming back soon. And now he has a wife and twin baby daughters, so a wonderful home awaits him. Son #2 has begun a new job as a high school teacher and coach; the academic year hasn't even officially begun yet, and he has already started to make his mark at the school. Sons #3 and #4, always best buddies as little guys, are living and working together down in VA. And I know my baby is going to be alright, too. My husband and I checked out his Facebook page last night and saw that he has already added a long list of new college friends.

My husband and I are now going to be on a continuous date. (That's how a guy he knows at work put it, and I've decided that's a good way to describe being empty-nesters.) So even though I'm feeling just a little sad at the moment, I still believe the sentiment on this sign that hangs over the sliding glass doors in our family room:

It is. It really is.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Words to Live By

My husband and I are getting on the road in a few minutes, planning to make the 16-hour car trip home all in one shot, if we can do it. Yesterday, we said good-bye to our baby when freshman orientation ended, and it was tough; but we know we've left him in good hands at this amazing Catholic university, where God's presence is felt everywhere. Just one of the many sights that moved and inspired me while I was here this past week was this tableau nestled deep in the woods near one of the small lakes on campus. From a distance, it almost blends in with the surrounding foliage; but as you move down the foot path and get closer, you find life-sized statues depicting the crucifixion of Christ. I was told that this was at one time a part of a giant Stations of the Cross, and there were other stations scattered throughout the trees. Wow.

There were many inspirational words spoken throughout the weekend; but during the events yesterday, one of the successful athletic coaches who represents this school gave the class of 2015 some advice, some words of wisdom, that brought tears to my eyes and my husband's, too; she said: WHEN YOU WERE BORN, YOU CRIED AND THE WORLD REJOICED. LIVE YOUR LIFE SO THAT WHEN YOU DIE, THE WORLD CRIES AND YOU REJOICE.

I can't think of anything more to say today. That says it all.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Supper at the Dining Hall

It's Sunday, the Lord's Day, so I thought I'd take a day of rest from blogging and just post this picture of an enormous reproduction of da Vinci's "The Last Supper," which is painted high up on one of the walls in the dining hall where my son will be eating his meals from now on. This dining hall is so amazing--so enormous and Gothically beautiful (in fact, rumor has it that it was the inspiration for the dining hall at Hogwart's in the "Harry Potter" movies); you really have to see it to believe it. The food served there is equally amazing. I don't care what you're in the mood for--Italian, Chinese, Mexican, designer sandwiches and omelettes, pizza, stir-fry, homestyle chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy, or just about any other kind of food item you can imagine (and soft serve ice cream to top it all off after every meal)--they have it! In abundance! And it's all-you-can-eat! If I was a college freshman at this place, I think I'd pack on about 20 pounds by the time I went home for my mid-semester break!

But how wonderful it is to know that when my son has his supper at the dining hall, this beautiful symbol of his Catholic Faith hangs there on the wall! It's a reminder that although this university has all the bells and whistles that make it a sort of Heaven on earth (including the best dining hall food imaginable), that's not the thing that makes it great. What makes this Catholic university great is that it is a place where the Faith is in evidence everywhere you look, a place where my son's personal faith can flourish.

(This was longer than I intended. I guess I didn't really take that day of rest, did I?)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Smell of a Man

We have been busy moving our son into his dorm room. Somehow, even though my husband drove our car out packed to the gills with his things, accomplishing this has taken three trips to Wal-Mart (and counting), to pick up fans, plastic dressers, extension cords, toiletries, desk supplies, and countless other sundries. Right now, the room looks great: everything is organized and in its rightful spot, and the sheets on his bunk are freshly laundered. I am not naive enough, however (after seeing the way my four other sons lived in their college dorm rooms--and even worse, how a couple of them lived in off-campus apartments...let's not even go there!), to believe that this is the way my son's room will look--or smell--the next time we come out to visit him here. I think his roommate (or more likely, his roommate's mom) is the smartest person I've ever met, because he brought an item for the room that I've never even thought to buy: a can of Oust, an odor-killing air sanitzer. I was so impressed that I took a picture of it sitting there near the sink that the two boys will be sharing. (Is this, now, the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen?)

Years ago, our family watched a movie that was somewhat humorous, but pretty ho-hum in general--I think it was called "See Spot Run," but I'm not even sure if that's the correct title. (Let's just say it was not nominated for any Academy Awards or anything.) Anyway, this obscure little movie provided us with one of the funniest quotable lines ever, one that's utterly perfect for a male-dominated home like mine that has a bit of a locker room ambience about it. Here's the set-up: a young man's friend, a single mother, had to go out of town on business and had arranged for a sitter for her little boy; but the sitter canceled at the last minute, so she was desperate and asked the young man (a bit of a Peter Pan type) to watch her boy for a few days. When the little boy walked into this guy's "man cave," he wrinkled his nose and asked, "What's that smell?" The guy answered, "That, my boy, is the smell of a man." Great line. If you've ever had a boy go away to college, and you've had the unique joy of seeing his dorm room after he's had a chance to really burrow in and remove all the traces of a mother's touch, you know exactly the smell I'm talking about. So forget the mini fridge and the T.V.; this can of Oust may be the most important item in that room a few months from now.

Moms forget sometimes that boys don't care about the things we girls care about. On one of our trips to Wal-Mart, I asked my son if he'd like me to get him a shower caddy. First, I had to tell him what it was, since he'd never even heard of it. I told him it was something desgined to carry his shampoo, shaving stuff, etc. back and forth to the shower. "Sure, I guess," he said. But when I brought it over to the cart, he took one look at it--this large black plastic purse--and said, "Uh, there is no way in the world I'm ever going to use that." I'll bet the girls all have them, in pink and purple! It's a whole different experience, I've heard, moving girls into their dorm rooms. My sister-in-law, whose daughter is a freshman out here, too, told me that one of her daughter's roommates had an aunt who'd come and hung curtains for the room, put a rug down on the floor, installed furniture, and even set up a little table with a coffee pot and matching coffee cups. My sister-in-law said it looked like something out of a magazine. As good as my boy's room looks (now at least), I don't think it would ever be featured in a magazine! But the little cubby area under his lofted bunk is pretty cozy and efficient, and I think this room is going to be a good home for him for the next year.

I don't expect my son to ever use the decidedly un-manly words "cubby" and "cozy"; but I really do hope that he and his roommate will remember to use that can of Oust from time to time!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Now This is Inspiring

In yesterday's post, I talked about my son's new home, his all-male dorm on the most amazing Catholic college campus in the world (is that hyperbole? I think not). I mentioned that each and every dorm has its own chapel, but I forgot to add that each men's dorm also has its own live-in rector, a priest who says Mass in that chapel every Sunday night. (The women's dorms have chapels as well, but rather than priests living in their halls they have female rectresses, and priests come in on Sundays to say Mass for their residents.)

I'm going to quote Rudy's dad here (from that scene in the movie "Rudy" when he enters the Notre Dame football stadium for the first time in his life); because when I opened the door to this chapel, which is on the first floor of my son's dorm and just around the corner from his room, here's what I thought: this is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen!! Okay, that might count as hyperbole, because I've said that a lot in my life--most recently upon meeting my first grandchildren, beautiful identical twin baby girls, for the first time; but I do think this little chapel is quite an inspiring sight to see. It warms my heart to picture my son and other fine young men from his dorm gathered here for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And I know from experience that going to Mass together in their dorm chapels is one of the many ways that the kids who go to this school become a tight-knit group within their dorms--they become almost like a family.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Boy's New Home

My youngest son will return from his four-day Army ROTC orientation today; and this afternoon, my husband and I are going to help him move into his new home, the building in the photo above with the giant "F" on it. (The "F" is the first letter of the dorm's name, not the grade its residents usually get, I hope!) This dorm occupies a prime location on campus. It is situated right next door to the dining hall (a great place to be on those mornings when there's snow up to your knees and you might opt to skip breakfast if you have to walk too far) on a big, beautiful, grassy quad (where my husband tells me there is always something happening in good weather: ultimate frisbee, pick-up football games, catching rays, etc.). We think our boy is going to be very happy living here for his freshman year--and possibly longer. Actually, it is the norm at this famous Catholic university, where dorm life is rich and full and spirited, to stay in one dorm all four years. There are no fraternities or sororities, but the dorms offer that same feeling of brotherhood or sisterhoood to their residents. Each dorm has a unique personality and its own long-held traditions, so dorm life here offers kids all the positive aspects of Greek life without the rushing, hazing, and pledging.

The other wonderful thing about residential life at this university is that all of the dorms are single-sex, which--I'm sorry--is really the way it ought to be everywhere, even at public institutions of higher learning. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it! Granted, coming from a Catholic perspective, single-sex dorms are the only way to go, because they best protect the kids from occasions of sin and assaults on modesty. But they also just make sense, even if you have no particular moral objection to having girls and boys living on the same hall--and at some colleges, even sharing the same bathrooms! (I would have gone unshowered for four years if that had been the case at the school I attended!)

And you know, at this place, the students are huge fans of the dorm situation. If you ask the kids who go here how they feel about it, most of them will tell you they love it and wouldn't have it any other way. A few days ago, a young female Army cadet gave a tour around campus to some of us parents, and one parent asked how she felt about dorm life. Even though she'd told us earlier in the tour that she wasn't a Catholic and wasn't particularly religious, she said she loved the single-sex dorms. As she put it, "I have a lot of guy friends, and I go and hang out with them at their dorms. But at the end of the day, I like to go back to mine, where I can kick back and relax. You know, I can wear nothing but a towel and I don't have to worry about having guys around. And boys are gross--their dorm rooms are so messy! I like living with just girls." If you ask me, even if you have no religious or moral objections to co-ed living, there are just so many practical reasons for keeping the kids separated.

On top of everything else, every dorm on this campus has its own chapel, with Mass held there on Sundays. This place is a Catholic parent's dream! Although it's far from home, I feel like I can leave my son here and know that he's going to be just fine.

Because this university does such a good job of acting in loco parentis (the way all colleges used to do, back in the day when no matter what political or religious affiliation you belonged to, the line between right and wrong/black and white hadn't become so blurred), it will be easier for my husband and me to make that long trip back home to our now-empty nest, leaving our youngest son behind in his new home away from home: the all-male dorm with the big "F" on it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

He's in the Army Now

On Sunday morning, I dropped my youngest son off at his college for his Army ROTC orientation, and he is now officially a cadet in the program. He has a uniform with his name patch on it, Army boots that need some serious breaking in, a ruck sack that weighs a ton, a huge green duffle bag jammed with PT apparel and all kinds of other Army paraphernalia--and I don't really know exactly what else he's been issued; but I do know that he's suddenly the owner of a whole lot of Army gear. I haven't seen him for the past few days, because he was bused away from campus with the rest of the new cadets to learn things like Land Navigation and how to fire an M-16 rifle. There's no denying it: he's in the Army now.

Once my boy donned his ACU's (fatigues, as we old-timers like to call them) and I saw him in them for the first time, he almost took my breath away: he'd been transformed from a boy into a man in an instant--at least in this mom's eyes. Gone was the unruly mop of curly hair and the Mountain Dew t-shirt. And I tell you, with his extreme new military haircut (you may have seen my post about it called "Hooah" on August 11), his fit 6'2", broad-shouldered frame, and that crisp new Army uniform, he looked about 25 instead of 18. And to me, he looked like the quintessential soldier--an Army recruiting poster come to life.

Here you can see how my son's newly shorn head looks when he's in uniform. I think he makes a very sharp and good-looking soldier! (Can I get a hooah?)

My husband and I will see our son at a barbeque for all the new Army cadets and their families tomorrow, and afterward he can put his Mountain Dew t-shirt back on, and we will begin the process of moving him into his dorm and helping him out as he goes through the university's regular freshman orientation. We can hardly wait to hear the "war stories" from his four-day ROTC indoctrination.

I am so very proud of my son for choosing to go through the ROTC program in order to defray the cost of his college education. He--along with the other fine young people in the program like him--knows that the very real possibility of future deployment to a war zone exists, and yet he was willing to join up. God bless him, and God bless all of our troops!

(God bless the internet, too. Boy, I've missed it the past few days!)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Paean to Dunkin' Donuts Coffee

Yesterday morning, my youngest son and I flew out of Logan Airport in Boston. (My special thanks to God, Our Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Joseph of Cupertino, and my Guardian Angel for listening to the prayers of this nervous flyer! Both of our flights went off without a hitch.)

I've been to Logan about a gazillion times, but yesterday was the first time I truly noticed the insane degree of homage that is paid there to that staple of New England existence: Dunkin' Donuts coffee. I just love the giant coffee cup inside the door. Lucky for you, my son and I were trying to hustle over to security when I snapped this picture, or you would have been subjected to an image of me posing by it, pretending to drink. (It would be like acting out a scene from the greatest dream ever!) The giant coffee cup is neat, but the other picture shows something that really amazed and amused me: right near the airport, there are several huge cement support pillars holding up the highway that are decorated as giant Dunkin' Donuts cups. Now that's some serious advertising.

Bostonians--and New Englanders in general--just love their Dunkin' Donuts. It may be the blue collar cousin to the hipper, trendier, more expensive--and in this coffee lover's opinion, nastier-tasting-- Starbucks; but as hilarious comedian Jim Gaffigan mimics (with a killer Boston accent) in one of his routines where he's poking fun at Red Sox-loving, Dunkin' Donuts-swilling New Englanders, "Dunkin' Donuts ROCKS!"

In New England, there is a Dunkin' Donuts store every few blocks. Our town is not all that big, but we have two. Even gas stations that have convenience stores often have small Dunkin' Donuts sections in them. If you crave Dunkin' Donuts coffee, in our neck of the woods you don't have to go very far to find it. And I admit it: I am hooked on Dunkin' Donuts coffee. It's such a nice, mild brew, and I can't handle the really strong stuff that they sell at Starbucks. And if you take yours "regular," like I do, there's so much cream and sugar in it that--as one friend of mine so aptly put it--it tastes almost as if there are doughnuts in there!

I tell you, I just gotta have my Dunkin' Donuts. One Lent, I decided to give up two of my favorite addictions: the T.V. show "Everybody Loves Raymond," which was on constantly in re-runs, and Dunkin' Donuts coffee. One of my sons made fun of me for the Lenten "sacrifices" I had chosen. "Really, Mom? You're not giving up T.V.--you're just giving up ONE show? And you're not giving up coffee--just ONE kind of coffee?" Sheepishly, I tried to explain that this was a very special kind of coffee, not just run-of-the-mill coffee like I brew at home...and having to pass by a Dunkin' Donuts without going to the drive-through window to get my "road coffee" as I ran my errands was going to be an enormous sacrifice for me...and c'mon, did anyone expect me to actually give up coffee altogether for 40 days? (I know, I am a pathetic individual.)

Sometimes I still feel guilty spending over $2.00 on a single large cup of Dunkin' Donuts when for about $8.00, I can buy a can of Maxwell House big enough to keep me in java for a couple of weeks. But some things in life are just worth it, and Dunkin' Donuts coffee is one of them. And if the tributes to Dunkin' Donuts that abound near Logan Airport are any indication, I'm not the only one around here who thinks so!

But here's the kicker: where I am right now, out in the Midwest, THEY DO NOT HAVE DUNKIN' DONUTS! It's not Lent, is it?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Facing My Fears

It's almost midnight, and in about 4 hours my alarm clock is going to go off--and there will certainly be no time for blogging in the morning. (I'm wide awake right now anyway, and writing calms me; so I should be sleeping, but instead I'm blogging.) I'm heading to the airport with my baby boy at the crack of dawn, and the two of us are flying out to the Midwest together. My husband, who was going to take him out to college and drop him off at his Army ROTC orientation, got stuck in Europe while flying a trip, and he didn't get back tonight like he was supposed to. Our original plan was that he would fly out, drop off our son, and fly back; and then the two of us would make the long road trip together in a car jam-packed with all of our son's things, and we'd arrive together in time for the regular freshman orientation. That plan is no longer viable, so I am finding myself in the unusual position of being the one to take care of big things. It makes me realize how many burdens my husband has always carried with ease on his wide shoulders, and how easy he has made things for me. I'm never the one having to rent the car, check into the hotel, etc. I have been cared for and treated like a queen! But I suppose it's about time that I helped my husband out a bit more. I'm over 50 now; I guess it's time to grow up!

Luckily, I have been out to visit this special university where our youngest will spend the next four years many times already: to take our three oldest sons to a lacrosse camp one summer; to visit my baby's four older brothers when they were students matriculating there; to enjoy Pearl family football tailgaters/reunions. It is not a completely unfamiliar place. But I have an unfortunate tendency to get hopelessly lost when driving to or from any location that's more than 1/2 hour from my home, so I'm a bit anxious about getting us from the airport to our hotel (which is, thankfully, very close to the campus). But I need to prove to myself that I CAN DO THIS! Everything works better when my man is around, and we certainly perform best when we can be a team; but I know I can do this.

If only it didn't involve flying! Not one leg, which is bad enough, but two! I'm learning, through necessity, to face my fears--although I will certainly be in touch with my Guardian Angel in the morning, and while I'm at 30,000 feet, I'll try to imagine a nice angel bear hug. Just look at this beautiful illustration I found. Wouldn't it be far more comforting to fly in the arms of an angel than in one of those big, noisy, metal contraptions? Then again...this angel isn't even holding onto that little girl with both arms...yikes, maybe airplanes aren't so bad after all.

Wish me luck, and I'll be back next week (unless I can find a way to get on the internet while I'm out there!).

Keeping Scraps, Better Known as Scrapbooking

Apparently, scrapbooking has become an extremely popular hobby for many folks. These days, there are whole sections devoted to scrapbooking in craft stores. The binders that you'll find there to hold your mementos look more like photo albums than scrapbooks--at least what we considered scrapbooks back in the days of my youth; and your pages filled with photos, cards, letters, and other precious items can now be slipped into plastic sleeves for protection. There are fancy papers that you can buy to fit your scrapbooks; they look nothing like the simple, utilitarian, tan construction paper pages of yore (like the ones in this oldtimer's high school scrapbooks, above). You can get bows, buttons, stickers, and every imaginable kind of decorative items and whatnot, all specifically made to embellish your scrapbooks. You can get whole packages of themed stickers with matching papers, so that you can make one scrapbook about your beach vacation and another one about your first year of college, and the result will be two color-coordinated, beautifully decorated pieces of art, polished and pretty enough to become coffee table books. It's a good thing scrapbooking hadn't become such a craze yet when I was a girl, or I would have undoubtedly spent a fortune on it. Instead, I just taped the bits and pieces of my life--the precious scraps--onto plain pages and wrote little blurbs next to them with a Bic pen. I didn't produce any works of art, but these scrapbooks are so dear, so heartbreakingly sweet and hilarious at the same time, that they are invaluable to me.

I kept scrapbooks religiously throughout junior high and high school, having decided that it was infintely better than keeping a diary or a journal. As a little girl, for a short time I kept a diary that I still have; there are hardly any entries in it, because really, in third grade, what could I possibly have to say? On January 4, I wrote, "Today is Wednesday. It is the second day back to school. Tomorrow will be the third day back to school since the Christmas vacation. Tomorrow will be Thursday." Scintillating! I also had a brief and disastrous experiment with keeping a diary in 7th grade; what I concluded from this experiment is that I should have locked it if I didn't want anyone to find it and read my deep and important adolescent thoughts. (Especially if I didn't want the very friend who read the blasted thing to find out that I'd been mad at her about something which was by then long forgotten!) I destroyed that ridiculous little book and decided then and there that I would no longer keep anything that wasn't fit for public viewing.

After the diary debacle, I began to assemble scrapbooks filled with movie ticket stubs, restaurant napkins, cards, letters, notes passed to me in school, dried flowers, dried leaves, report cards, programs from plays, coins, gum wrappers, sugar packets from dinners out with my boyfriend/future husband (yes, sugar packets; I have one in one of my scrapbooks that is 37 years old!); you name it, I probably kept it--and all of it had some special meaning to me. I even have a Popsicle stick and its wrapper (with 38-year-old traces of my huband's DNA on it!) that I taped into a scrapbook in 1973; next to it, I wrote, "After school T___ wanted someone to [go to the corner store] and get him an orange Popsicle before [football] practice started. I ran as fast as I could!!" What can I say? I was in love!

When my parents sold our family home and moved into a condo not long after I got married, my mother cleaned out the attic and gave me boxes filled with my childhood things. I only found one scrapbook in there, and it was in dire shape. The tape I'd used had disintegrated and all the scraps were loose. Years later, I decided to reconstruct the whole thing, using the tape stains to fit everything back where it had been. The covers had fallen apart, so I ended up removing the retooled pages and slipping them into the plastic sleeves of a modern-style scrapbook (it's the one that's standing up in the above photo). I must say, one big plus for present-day scrapbookers is that there are acid-free sticky squares and double-sided tapes available, so that you have better options for permanent adhesion than Scotch tape or Elmer's glue. I make a mess when I work with glue, but seeing the condition of my old scrapbooks, I think tape was probably the wrong choice! Anyway, I'd always wondered what had happened to my others, because I knew I had more than one scrapbook; but eventually I forgot all about them. The years went by, and then suddenly last Christmas my mother told me she'd found two more boxes of my things; for the past 30 years, they'd been sitting in a storage unit that had just been cleaned out. So that's where my other high school scrapbooks had been hiding all that time! What fun it was to go through them again--to fix them up, and while doing so, to remember things that I'd almost forgotten.

Maybe it's silly to want to hang onto all of these old bits and scraps of my life; it's not as if I need them to hold onto my memories. I suppose if I didn't end up marrying the boy who takes center stage on most of the pages of my scrapbooks, I might have burned them long ago. But I do love them; and I think in their way, they are more beautiful than the professional-looking, designer-style ones that are popular today. In my eyes they are, anyway.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


My youngest son, son #5, is leaving for college in two days. He has to arrive on campus earlier than most of the students, because he has a few days of Army ROTC orientation before the rest of the freshmen arrive for the standard freshman orientation.

Last night, my baby asked me to give him a pre-Army orientation haircut. My husband and I have been cutting our boys' hair since they were kneehigh to a grasshopper. Most of them wore crew cuts when they were little sprouts, and that was easy enough to do right here at home with electric clippers--it seemed silly to pay a barber to do what we could do just as easily ourselves, for free. As they got older, some of them wanted to wear their hair a bit longer, and we learned to use the different settings and blend different lengths. My husband is better at it than I am, but even I have become a somewhat skilled barber (emphasis on the "somewhat").

At first, my baby thought he might like to get a traditional Army "high and tight," which would have been a fine choice. If he showed up with that, the ROTC folks would have no doubt that he was planning to be a serious cadet. But after some thought, he decided he wanted to pretty much shave every hair off his head instead, and he instructed me to use the bare clippers without any attachments. And this is the son who sported 70's-style longish hair--surfer dude hair--throughout most of high school! "Are you sure you don't want me to at least put the #2 thingy on there, or even just the #1? Your hair would still be plenty short," I said. No, he told me; he wanted me to take it all off. "I've always wondered what I'd look like if I was bald," he explained. Haven't we all, though? It's as good a reason as any to shave all of your hair off, I suppose. And as he reminded me, "Hair grows back."

I've never liked giving this haircut. My #2 son used to wear his hair like this in high school (it was his football "intimidation" haircut), and I always had trouble pressing the clippers firmly against his head and watching scalp appear. And I had trouble again last night. But when I was done, I thought the no-hair thing looked pretty good on my youngest son after all. In fact, I think if my boy does end up losing his hair down the road, he will make a very handsome bald man. Sporting this hairdo would be infinitely better than having a bad comb-over.

Well, at least I know that when my son goes through his first Army inspection, there's no way he's going to hear, "Pearl! Your hair's too long!"


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Football Season Is Here!

It's football season again, a favorite time of year for all of the men in my family. We've already made plans with our second son, who has just settled into his new place and lives about an hour away from us, for watching Notre Dame football games together. We're going to alternate weekends: one weekend at our house, where the flat screen T.V. is only 42 inches, but the cook has lots of experience and lots of recipes to choose from; and the next at his apartment, where the game day food may not be as elaborate--but the flat screen T.V. is 60 inches! (This man-sized T.V. was our gift to him when he earned his master's). So it's a win-win situation, especially since both T.V.'s are high def. By the way, how did we even enjoy football games back in those cave man days, when we had to watch them on a puny 19-inch set with little to no def?

The weird thing about this football season is that we will have no sons out there on the gridiron. Since 1994--when our two oldest signed up to play Pee Wee football--we've had at least one son (and usually, multiple sons) playing football at some level every fall. My husband, of course, signed up at the same time they did--to be an assistant coach for their team--and thus began a long and rewarding career of coaching our boys in football and lacrosse. But their high school had its sign-up/equipment hand-out meeting on Sunday night, and for the first time in ages, we didn't have to go.

Going to watch our boys' games has shaped our lives for the past 17 years, and we'll miss that. So excuse me if I get a little verklempt. It's hard to believe that, although we'll always be parents (empty nest or not), we'll never be "football parents" again. So many things will change! There won't be a jock strap or a sweaty, dirty practice jersey in sight at our house...we won't be tripping over size 11, 12, and 13 muddy cleats every time we walk in the door...we won't have to drive to remote towns hours away on rainy Friday husband won't have to tell people not to give him updates on the score of the Notre Dame game, on those Saturdays when our sons have a game and he's recording the ND game at home to watch later...we won't have to collect fees from parents, find volunteers to run the chain gang, host spaghetti suppers for hordes of hungry boys and their parents...I could go on. I know I sound like I'm complaining, but I'm really not. For the past 7 years, I gladly and willingly washed the Varsity uniforms for our sons' high school team, week in and week out. People thought I was nuts, but it was exactly the kind of behind-the-scenes grunt work that I enjoy--and in fact, one year when the coach told me he didn't want me to have to deal with the laundry anymore, I begged him to let me keep doing it. You must think I'm weird...and I probably am. But I really enjoyed my role as a "football mom."

Anyway, although all of the work that goes into being a "football parent" has given us a sense of purpose over the years and has brought great joy into our lives, I suppose there are some really positive aspects about seeing the end of that era. I no longer have to cringe at the sound of helmets crashing into shoulder pads (and occasionally, helmets); after 17 years of listening to it, I never got used to the sound of a good, solid hit. I won't miss worrying about concussions and injuries! My husband won't have to record Notre Dame games anymore; he should be able to watch the Irish play in "real time" every weekend. And without a football schedule here to tie us down, we may even get out to South Bend more often to see our beloved Irish play on their own turf. Again, my husband and I are coming to terms with the bittersweet ending of a really great time in our lives; but as usual, there is lots of sweet mixed in with the bitter!

Go Irish!

(Painting by--you guessed it--Norman Rockwell. His renderings of little boys give me a little lump in my throat.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cowabunga! Where Did the Time Go?

One of the boys in this picture (which, to me, feels like it was taken about two months ago rather than two decades ago) moved into his own apartment yesterday. He's about to begin his new life as a high school math teacher and freshman football coach. Cowabunga! How in the world did THAT happen? Just yesterday, he liked to pretend he was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle--the blue guy, specifically, who was called Leondardo--and now, he's going to teach kids who are way too old to dress up like action heroes. My boy is all growed up. (Sniff.)

When our four oldest were little, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle craze was at its height. There was an animated T.V. show that was on after school, and the toy section of every store was filled with every kind of TMNT toy imaginable--not just the action figures, but vehicles for them to ride in and all kinds of other associated thingamajigs and doodads. And thanks to good old Santa Claus, we managed to amass a fortune in TMNT toys.

But seriously, what red-blooded little American boy could resist four enormous turtles who were crime-fighting heroes with awesome ninja skills, were mentored by a wise old rat, talked like surfer dudes, and ate nothing but pizza? My boys loved them! And the TMNT's were a perfect fit for them, because there were four turtles and that meant each could choose to align himself with a different one. Without a bit of argument about it (and these boys argued daily about things like whose turn it was to ride shotgun in the car), they each chose a favorite turtle, and not one of them ever changed his mind and tried to steal away his brother's favorite. It was kind of eerie how they each assumed the identity of a particular turtle without a moment's hesitation. So son #1 was Donatello (purple), son #2 was Leondardo (blue), son #3 was Raphael (red), and son #4 was Michaelangelo (orange).

When the first TMNT movie came out (that's right, there was more than one--if you can believe that--and the stars were actors in costumes, not CGI-generated creatures), my husband took the boys to see it and used it as a great teaching moment on the importance of FAMILY. "You see how the four turtles always stick together and help each other out? They're like brothers, and brothers always have each other's backs. That's you guys. The four of you need to be like the turtles and always stick together." Not many people could find such gravitas in a silly TMNT movie, but that's my guy for you. (Isn't that sweet? Can you see why I love my husband so much?)

(Sigh.) I love this picture. Even though it reminds me of how much time has gone by since it was taken, it still makes me smile. But here's a word of advice to all you moms out there who still have little ones playing dress-up: I know you hear this ad nauseam, but enjoy every minute; because someday you'll be packing your kids up to move out on their own, and you'll be wondering where the time went.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Dear Deer Friends

It is not that unusual an occurrence to see a deer emerge from the trees behind our house. We've never seen a buck; but I can't even count the number of times we've been visited by a doe (or even two or three). We'll catch her standing at the edge of our back yard, looking as if she's trying to decide if it's safe to come closer to the house and nibble in our garden. If we're lucky, she's got a spotted young'un--awwww, a little Bambi--trailing behind her, too. It's happened enough times that it shouldn't be that big a deal. But each and every time I see deer friends on our property, I am struck anew by the beauty of these animals, and I run to get my camera and snap some pictures of them through the sliding glass door before they have a chance to dart away.

I know having deer come into the yard on a regular basis presents problems, and it's probably more of a nuisance than a blessing. They eat your bushes and sometimes leave Lyme-infested ticks in your grass. But they are so regal and majestic, so beautiful and serene, and so quick and agile in flight! I still get excited every time they come to visit us.

Years ago, before our cul-de-sac street was developed, the land behind our house boasted some of the best deer hunting in the area. It is thickly wooded, with a babbling brook running right through it past all the back yards on our side of the street. When we first moved in twenty years ago, our neighborhood was brand new. Our house was one of just a handful that had been built yet, so there were empty lots up and down the street. It was still such a wild, almost uninhabited-looking place, and back then, it was not unheard of for orange-vested men with hunting rifles to park their pick-ups in the circle at the end of the road and head off into the trees. Yikes! This was very disconcerting for an overprotective mother, especially one haunted by a tragic news story of the time: there was a woman one state away from us who was out back with her kids one fall day and waved at them with white-mittened hands, and a hunter mistook those flashes of white for the tails of deer. He shot and killed that poor woman while she stood on her own deck. Needless to say, our boys (who were quite young when we moved here) were not allowed to play in the back yard during hunting season! And I never wore white mittens, either. But luckily, we have an expansive front yard that provided our guys with plenty of frog and snake wrangling opportunities, and more than enough room for their epic sessions of "ball tag" with their neighborhood friends.

Since those days, many residential neighborhoods like ours have sprung up around us as our small city has grown and prospered, so the deer population near the brook behind our house has undoubtedly dwindled considerably. But they're still back there; and when they make an appearance, I still run for my camera.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

No Cats, Please!

Here is a sweet Victorian illustration that I've always absolutely loved, loved, loved--and I love it even more so now, because it puts me in mind of my tiny twin granddaughters and makes me look forward to the day when they're having little tea parties with their dollies and teddy bears (and their Grammy, I hope). But they probably won't be wearing old-fashioned bonnets like these little ladies are (which is truly unfortunate!). And they better not have a cat. If they do have a pet someday, I really hope it will be a dog rather than a cat. Let me explain.

When I was growing up, my family had a dear dog named Taffy who lived to be 15. She was a mutt, white with big caramel-colored spots and huge, soulful brown eyes. She was the most loyal, obedient, and affectionate creature; she was composed, I believe, of nothing but smelly dog hair and LOVE. Taffy slept on my bed for years; and I grieved when, shortly after I got married, I was told that she'd died.

We also had many cats over the years. Some were nice enough, like our very first one--a black female officially named Licorice but called simply "Kitty." She was such a good-natured cat, and she was so attached to people that I think she may have had a bit of dog DNA in her. But we had some bad cats, too, and the very worst one of all was an evil black male named Harvey. He was a descendant of our sweet Kitty, but nothing like her. This cat was like something out of a Stephen King novel; he was an attack cat--I'm not exaggerating! And he was sneaky about it. Once when I was climbing up the stairs, minding my own business, he was lying in wait for me at the top. He cornered me on the landing and trapped me there by hissing, growling, and swiping at me with his claws. I kid you not: there was true blood-lust in those scary yellow eyes of his. Terrified, I yelled, "Help me! Harvey's going crazy!" and proceeded to cry like a little girl. (Well, actually, I was a little girl at the time.) Before this incident, I would advise my boyfriend/future husband to "just ignore him" whenever this cat pounced on him (I'm surprised that darn cat didn't break us up); after, I finally understood how bad Harvey really was. So, sorry cat lovers, but no, I am not a fan of feline pets. I just don't trust them.

To sum up today's post, here's what I wish for the twins: tea parties--yes; cats--no.

(Hey, this is a first: I've written a post that falls under the category of "animals," and it's not about my son's beloved dog Allie!)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Date to Remember

No, it's not my wedding anniversary. But it is the anniversary of another very important day in my life; because 38 years ago today, on August 6, 1973, my husband and I officially began our courtship.

We were hanging out with some friends at one of their houses--probably bemoaning the fact that summer was going too fast, yet celebrating the fact that at least when school started up again, we'd be sophomores now instead of lowly freshmen! Then suddenly, my future husband casually asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. It was raining out; but like a good postman, I was undeterred by the weather. I would have followed this guy through rain or sleet or snow or dark of night.

I can still remember what I was wearing: my awful 70's hip-hugger bellbottom jeans and a bright yellow puffy-sleeved top that was sort of like a grown-up sized onesie, with snaps at the bottom. So although my jeans sat too low (I cringe now when I think of them), there wasn't a speck of belly flesh exposed; thank goodness for that, at least.

We walked a couple of blocks and ended up standing under the little overhanging roof of the ticket booth by the field where our school played its Friday night football games; and there, in the pouring rain, the cutest and nicest boy I'd ever met asked me to "go with" him. (That was the terminology for "going steady" back then, at least in our neck of the woods.) We were just a couple of babies, both having celebrated 15th birthdays that summer, and thus began our great romance.

Just over seven years later, with college out of the way, we got married.

And after 30-plus years of wedded bliss, we're still "going together." And he's still the cutest and nicest boy I've ever met.

(P.S.--I'd also like to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of my lovely nieces, with whom I share a name.)

Friday, August 5, 2011

"Inspirational Artwork Week," Day 5

There are so many different images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to choose from, all very beautiful; but I decided on this one because it's a painting that my husband brought home from Rome, and we have it hanging over our bed.

In the late 17th century, Our Lord appeared to a nun named Margaret Mary Alacoque (now St. Margaret Mary), asking her to be the instrument for spreading devotion to His Sacred Heart. These 12 promises were given, through the humble nun, for those who practiced this devotion:

  1. I will give them all of the Graces necessary for their state of life.

  2. I will establish peace in their families.

  3. I will Bless every place in which a picture of My Heart shall be exposed and honored.

  4. I will console them in all of their difficulties.

  5. I will be their refuge during life and especially at the hour of death.

  6. I will shed abundant Blessings upon all of their undertakings.

  7. Sinners shall find in My Heart a fountain and boundless ocean of Mercy.

  8. Tepid souls shall become fervent.

  9. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.

  10. I will give to Priests the power of touching the hardest hearts.

  11. Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart never to be blotted out.

  12. The Great Promise: I promise Thee, in the excessive Mercy of My Heart, that my all-powerful Love will grant to all who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays of 9 consecutive months, the Grace of final repentance. They will not die under My displeasure or without receiving their Sacraments. My Divine Heart will be their safe refuge in their last moment.

It seems, according to Promise #3, that Our Lord realized the power of art to inspire human souls. Just as He specifically instructed Sr. Faustina to paint the image of the "Divine Mercy" so that it could be venerated (see yesterday's post for more on this), through St. Margaret Mary He asked the faithful to venerate the image of His Sacred Heart.

This ends "Inspirational Artwork Week." I hope you've been inspired!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"Inspirational Artwork Week," Day 4

If you're looking for Catholic religious artwork, statuary, Rosaries, or other sacramentals, Rome is about the best place in the world to find anything you could ever want. My husband's job has taken him to Rome countless times over the years, and he has brought back many lovely works of art--such as this painting, called the "Divine Mercy"--which now adorn the walls of our house.

The "Divine Mercy" painting has an interesting history, as it was divinely inspired. In 1931, Christ appeared to a young Polish nun by the name of Sister Faustina (born Helen Kowalska, and now a saint), and brought with Him a wonderful message of mercy.

Sister Faustina tells the story of this amazing visit from the Lord in her diary:

"In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From the opening of the garment at the breast there came forth two large rays, one red and the other pale. In silence I gazed intently at the Lord; my soul was overwhelmed with fear, but also with great joy. After a while Jesus said to me, 'paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.'" Later, Our Lord spoke to her again: "The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous; the red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My most tender Mercy at that time when My agonizing Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross...Fortunate is the one who will dwell in their shelter..."

This painting, as closely as possible, depticts Our Lord as he appeared to the humble nun. I think it is such a beautiful image of our merciful Savior.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Inspirational Artwork Week," Day 3

There are so many incredibly beautiful paintings of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that, again, I had a bit of trouble choosing just one image to post today. But I just love this one. Our Blessed Mother's face is so serene and beautiful! I never get tired of looking at this picture.

The Memorare

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to Thy protection, implored Thy help, or sought Thine intervention was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto Thee, O Virgin of virgins, My Mother. To Thee I come, before Thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petition, but in Thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Inspirational Artwork Week," Day 2

To me, some of the most inspiring pieces of artwork are those depicting the Madonna and Child, the Blessed Virgin Mary and Her infant Son, Jesus. I was looking through a collection of such images--and this has obviously been a favorite subject of artists throughout the centuries, because there are a lot of them out there--trying to find one to post today. I had a hard time choosing just one--they were all so beautiful! I finally narrowed it down to these two paintings; so today, you're getting a bonus, a two-for-one.

My twin granddaughters turn two months old today. (When they were born, they came two-for-one, too!) Within the past week or so, they have begun to smile, which is so exciting. I can hardly wait to see their little cherub faces and hold them in my arms again!

There is nothing quite like the look of love on a mother's face as she holds her precious baby. I think it's just about impossible to look at these paintings of the most loving of all Mothers and not be filled with peace and joy!

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Inspirational Artwork Week," Day 1

Discovery Channels' "Shark Week" begins today, and that means a good number of my small group of followers (my boys and their cousins) are going to be tuned in to that for the foreseeable future. I actually considered doing my own little tribute to sharks, but then thought better of it. I can't compete with "Shark Week," and I'm not even going to try! I did a "T-Rex Week" in June, which was a lot of fun. But I wanted to do something really different this time.

So I decided to have a week, beginning today and ending on Friday, devoted to art--specifically, beautiful pieces of religious artwork. I am always so drawn to images of the saints, Our Lord, and the Blessed Mother. I love images of angels, too. So many great artists have used these holy subjects as their inspiration for some of the most magnificent artwork ever created in the history of mankind. (Think Michelangelo's "Pieta" and his paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.) There is something about gazing on these types of images that helps the viewer "ascend more easily in spirit to Heaven." (This is a quote from the Fatima Crusader that may sound familiar, as I used it in my May 15 post.)

After writing about St. Philomena yesterday, I found I was still thinking about her this morning. So I'm going to start out "Inspirational Artwork Week" with this lovely painting of St. Philomena, the young virgin martyr who is called "Powerful with God."

"Pray to St. Philomena, whatever you ask from Her She will obtain for you." (Pope Gregory XVI)