Friday, August 30, 2013

On Marriage

I read the most beautiful blog post about marriage yesterday on "The Catholic Young Woman."  It was written by a young, newly married Catholic blogger named Clare Asper. With my middle son's impending marriage in December, I find myself thinking a lot about weddings, but more about the true meaning of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.  I read this post and thought this young bride spoke on the subject so eloquently that I wanted to share it with you today.

I urge you to check it out.  It is simply beautiful.

And now, I must go.  The Notre Dame campus is calling me--and that's a call I'll always take.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Tale of Two Teeth

Warning, readers: I'm about to tell you a story about teeth.  (Sorry if that sounds boring; by the end, you may feel as if I've administered a healthy dose of laughing gas.  Only you probably won't be laughing.)

I thought about this post yesterday afternoon while on my four-mile walk, so please take that into account when you look at the selfies I snapped for it right after I got home.  (Here's another warning: yes, there are selfies in this post.  And that sheen on my face is not sweat; it's what they call a "glow.")

If you read my blog yesterday morning, you know that I wasn't feeling like the most lovable of wives. The night before, I'd made my husband feel like he was so, so wrong, even though he wasn't because it absolutely WAS about the nail--that is, the tooth.

Okay, I better back up here.  I have been going through a rather painful and discouraging saga involving the molars on the upper right side of my jaw.  It started quite a few years ago, with an aching pain that made its way through my cheekbone and right up into my eye. Nothing ever showed up on x-rays, so I went around thinking I was just one of those people who suffered from inexplicable pain.  Or that I had sinus problems that made my teeth ache. "My face hurts me.  Does it hurt you?" I'd jokingly ask my long-suffering husband. (Hardee-har-har.)

Finally, a little over five years ago, I could no longer bite down on my two back molars and the wisdom tooth behind them, and something had to be done. The wisdom tooth was extracted and the two molars in front of it first got crowns, and then had root canals.  Some of the roots of those molars were curved and hard to fill, and the endodontist who worked on them warned me that those teeth might not last forever.  For a time, however, it seemed that my problems were at long last over.  I had a full set of teeth and I wasn't in pain.

Fast forward to earlier this summer.  That awful aching pain returned, and it was determined that the back molar either needed a surgical procedure to remove a twisted root, or it needed to be extracted. I opted for surgery, hoping to keep the tooth.  But that meant going on antibiotics before the procedure, and I ended up in the ER suffering from a severe allergic reaction to the medication.  I'd already had allergic reactions to three other antibiotics, and I was running out of options; so the endodontist advised me to just get rid of the tooth, since she couldn't guarantee the procedure would be a success anyway.

"You absolutely won't be able to see that the tooth is gone.  Even when you smile your biggest smile, it won't show."  That's what everyone--my dentist, the endodontist, and the oral surgeon--told me, and they were right.  "If you lose the one in front of it, though, that's a different story.  But really, you can't tell at all."

You're still there?  Okay.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  Guess which tooth started to give me problems?  And guess which tooth I had to have extracted about a week ago?

I'm ashamed to say that I have been the biggest possible baby about losing this latest tooth. My poor dad had to have the front of his right foot amputated, and he handled that better than I'm handling this.

Anyway, while my husband was away on a trip, I came up with a great plan to make it look like I have a tooth where there is none.  I combined some white and yellow gum to get just the right shade, made a nice little wad that fit just perfectly into the gaping hole on the side of my jaw...and check it out!


 And after:
When I showed my husband my ingenious plan for faking a tooth until I can get a permanent implant about six months from now, he said, "You really can't see that gap, you know, unless you exaggerate your smile and put your face right up next to mine." Men aren't mind readers, so it's not his fault that what I wanted him to say was something along the lines of, "Wow!  You should go into business making prosthetic teeth!  It looks so real, you'll totally fool everyone with that."  It's not his fault that telling me the gap is not really noticeable made me act in an irrational manner.  He was only trying to make me feel better.

But the truth is that I don't want to have to walk around with a wad of gum in my mouth at my middle son's wedding in December, and luckily, it looks like I won't have to.   My dentist suggested making some sort of temporary "tooth" that I can wear until I get the implant.  It's expensive, and it won't be covered by insurance. But my husband is a softie and wants me to be happy, and I did tell him that "all I want for Christmas is my two back teeth."

It's silly, I know, to be so concerned and embarrassed about missing teeth.  I've had myself fooled, thinking that I'm not a very vain person--because the grays are coming in, but I don't color my hair, and the wrinkles are multiplying, but I don't plan to resort to plastic surgery or Botox.  But this whole saga with my teeth has made me realize that I am indeed much too vain about my appearance. I recently read Michelle Buckman's awesome novel Rachel's Contrition, and in the course of the story her heroine is deeply affected by St. Therese of Lisieux's autobiography, The Story of a Soul. Reading Buckman's book made me want to redouble my efforts to follow the example of that amazing saint, who never would have let the extraction of a couple of teeth fill her with self-pity and cause her to be cranky with her loved ones. But in spite of all my good intentions, I've already failed in that mission. Boy, I could sure use some help carrying my measly little crosses without complaint!

I'll end this way-too-long-already tale with two thoughts: thank God for patient husbands and modern dentistry; and St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for me!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why I Love My Husband (Installment #1)

In this modern world where man-bashing is such a popular sport among women, I thought I'd join up with Kaitlin of More Like Mary~More Like Me.  Tired of hearing women complain about their husbands, she wrote a blog post bragging about hers, and she got so much positive feedback that she decided to start a little link-up.  "Let the bragging begin," she challenged.
Challenge accepted!  (Oh dear, mea culpa.  I'm embarrassed that I know the TV character who is associated with that quote, because he's a scoundrel of the first order.  But Barney Stinson could be one of the funniest jokesters on the tube, if his humor and that of the whole gang at "How I Met Your Mother" wasn't cringe-producing-ly inappropriate more than half the time.)

There are an awful lot of reasons why I love my husband--too many to count.  But the one I'm thinking of today is that he loves me even when I know I'm at my most unlovable.  He loves me in spite of all my faults. He loves me when I would drive any normal, less saint-like person to the brink.  He loves me when I am moody, overtired, and unreasonable.  He loves me when I'm being too ridiculous for words.  (Have you seen the "It's Not About The Nail" YouTube video yet?  If not, take a moment and watch...and laugh...and if you're like me, girls, sheepishly wish it wasn't so very true!)  When I think I look the most hideous, he sees only beauty (love most certainly is blind, thank the Lord!).  I don't really understand why he loves me sometimes, but he does; he's a rock, the one person I can always depend on to be there no matter what.  He would never give up on me, and his love is nothing short of miraculous.

This sort of all-forgiving, unconditional love reminds me of God's unwavering love for all of His children, no matter how sinful they are. That's one of the many reasons why I love my husband, and why I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the best possible person to be the head of our own little domestic church, our family.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

{simple saturday}: Bridal Shower

Hello, blog world!  How have things been?  I've missed you!

But it was a busy, action-packed long weekend for me down in VA, visiting with my middle son, his bride-to-be, and other assorted family members.  My husband's older sister and her daughters threw a lovely family shower for my son's intended on Saturday night, and I thought one simple picture would give you an idea of how simply wonderful it was.

So here I am posing side-by-side and cheek-to-cheek with my soon-to-be daughter-in-law. (How's that for a string of hyphenated compound words, all in one sentence?)
Okay, I lied; make that TWO simple pictures.  Now here's the blushing bride-to-be surrounded by a bunch of Pearls who are thrilled to welcome her onto the ever-growing family string.
I know how much she loved wearing that hat, fashioned out of the bows and ribbons from all her gifts. Almost as much as she loved modeling her new "Little Black Apron," complete with a June Cleaver-esque pearl necklace attached (a gift from me--and as luck would have it, I have one of my own, so we were able to do the twin thing).

When I started this post, I thought I'd try to link up for {simple saturday} with Iris, but even though most link-ups do stay open for a while to give us procrastinators a chance to join in, I see I'm a bit too late for that.  I'm a just a wee tad out of the loop here.  I haven't just been avoiding Iris; I've been avoiding everybody!  I haven't just been not-blogging; I've been not-reading other blogs I usually enjoy and not-commenting on them.  But sometimes my real life gets too busy and full to keep up with my on-line life (which I believe is a good thing!). I doubt you even noticed I was absent from the blogosphere the past few days, but I guess I'm officially back.  And after crashing back down to earth after such an eventful weekend, I hope I'll be able to come up with some interesting things to write about.  You know, because keeping up with my blog is just a very, very important job.
See you tomorrow...I hope!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Back in April, Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur--a freelance writer, editor, and book author--was kind enough to read and then do a review of my novel Finding Grace, which she posted on her Spiritual Woman website.  In case you've been sitting on the fence, wondering if this is a book you should have your teenage daughter read (or even read yourself, because it's written for an adult audience as well), maybe this review will inspire you to get your hands on a copy...or inspire you to suggest it as a book club choice, if the gals in your group are looking for something a whole lot more wholesome than Shades of Gray...or inspire you to incorporate it into the curriculum of your homeschool reading group (for grades 8 and up).

I know I've been talking about my book a lot recently on this blog; but one thing I did learn at the Catholic Writers Guild conference a few weeks ago is that although Catholic writers are rarely rich and famous, they have an important mission, a vocation: they are evangelizers. As the coffee mugs that were given out in our conference goody bags say of those who work in the field of Catholic literature, "I am a journalist, I am an editor, I am a writer, I am a publisher, I am a CONTENT EVANGELIST."  If it's meant as an evangelization tool and it sits hidden away gathering dust on a shelf, then my book isn't going to do anybody any good.

And truly, when I set out to write this novel, I did think of it as doing my small part to evangelize.  I wanted to present an alternative to all the damaging secular messages that are being thrown at our young people on a daily basis--on TV and the Internet, in movies and books--and show the beauty and Truth of the Catholic Faith, and how the answers to all of life's most difficult questions can be found in its teachings.

Okay now, without further ado, here's the Spiritual Woman review.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Book Review: Finding Grace

Finding Grace
by Laura H. Pearl
Waterford, MI: Bezalel Books, 2012

“Finding Grace” by Laura H. Pearl  is a Catholic coming-of-age novel set in the 1970s. Grace Kelly shares a name with the famous princess, but little else. She’s a plain, awkward girl entering her teen years, struggling to find her place in the world as she grows up in Plattsburgh, New York. She has devout Catholic parents, a house full of older brothers, and a best friend, Irene, who possesses all the beauty and grace she lacks. 

What Grace does possess is the desire to become a saint. At her father’s urging, she begins to read lives of the saints and tries to fashion her life after them. Admittedly, this isn’t always easy. She is starting high school and becomes the favorite target of Sister Immaculata, the much-feared Latin teacher. She also becomes friends with two young men – Jimmy Sullivan and Tom Buckley, one who she dreams of being with, and one who dreams of being with her.

The novel follows Grace and her friends from 1972 – 1980, when she is studying to be a teacher in college. This was a turbulent decade when many of the world’s morals were changing. Grace struggles to keep her virtue and her resolve to be a saint. Her friends struggle with their choices as well.

Pearl depicts the era well, especially the changes wrought by Roe v. Wade. Two characters in the novels become pregnant and make very different choices. Pearl explores what those choices meant to the character’s future lives.

“Finding Grace” is a long book and not a quick read, but it is worth spending time with and following Grace as she grows into a beautiful young woman. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday: The Truth about Therese and Rachel's Contrition...

...and I thought I'd mention, too, that hey, maybe this Wednesday you should be reading Finding Grace!  Or giving it to your teenage daughter to read!

Shameless, I know.  I'll get to that in a minute.  But first I do want to tell you about the two books I'm currently reading.   (I can't seem to stick to just one at a time these days--so many books, so few hours in the day!)
The first is one I told you about on the link-up last Wednesday: Henri Gheon's The Truth about Therese. I'm still only about half-way through this slim volume, but it's simply beautiful--a must-read for fans of the Little Flower, for sure; but I think almost anyone would enjoy it and be inspired by it.

The second book I'm currently gobbling up is Michelle Buckman's Rachel's Contrition. This novel was the 2012 winner of the Catholic Writers Guild's CALA (Catholic Arts & Letters Award) for adult fiction.  I was lucky enough to meet the author herself (a really sweet woman!) at the CWG conference in NJ earlier this month, and we did a book swap: I gave her a signed copy of Finding Grace, and she in turn gave me a signed copy of Rachel's Contrition.  (I was practically star-struck, being around all those authors!)
Clutching my precious hand-signed copy, with a personal note inside that says,
"To Laura, God bless you on your journey."
Buckman's novel is extraordinarily well-written, and it's a real page-turner.  Be warned, however: this is no lighthearted "beach read."   The subject matter is quite difficult: after the death of her baby daughter, Rachel Winters' marriage falls apart, she loses custody of her four-year-old son, and she is in danger of losing her very sanity as well.  Her grief is so well-described and so harrowing; any mother will be able to relate to it--because even if she hasn't lost a child, she imagines every awful accident that could put her in Rachel's shoes.

What really drew me to this book (long before I met Michelle Buckman in person, when I saw the title listed on a Catholic blog I was reading) is the fact that St. Therese of Lisieux actually plays a big role.  When she's about as down and out as she can get, Rachel Winters finds a tattered holy card with a "sketch of a nun" on it--and as the story goes along, St. Therese seems to start doing for Rachel just what she promised before her death, when she said she would spend her heaven doing good on earth...showering roses from the heavens.

My little heroine, Grace Kelly, also develops a special relationship with St. Therese, so I was curious to see how Buckman would incorporate this saint near and dear to my heart into Rachel's story of pain and healing. In fact, Buckman and I got talking and found out that we both possess genuine relics of St. Therese.  I inherited mine from my grandmother, and Buckman was sent hers by a friend just as she was finishing up Rachel's Contrition.  I feel a real kinship with her now.

Okay, so that's what we're I'm reading Wednesday.  Now about you, and this book I think you (or your teenage daughter) might like...well, instead of telling you about it myself, tomorrow I'm going to post a fairly recent review by writer Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur.  So if you come back then, you can see what she had to say about Finding Grace.  (Can you tell that I went to some marketing presentations at the CWG conference? And that I learned that if I really want the young people for whom I wrote this book to ever read it, I've got to travel a good bit outside my comfort zone and promote the heck out of it?)

Okay, enough about that--now you can click your way over to Jessica's, if you want to see where all the other noses are buried today!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Puttin' on the Brits

Oh my gosh, you GUYS!  I made the most delicious dessert yesterday (if I do say so myself).  I had a hankering for something sweet, a hankering that would not be denied.  When that happens, I often make shortbread, because you need so few ingredients (butter, sugar, flour, and salt).   I've made shortbread about a gazillion times, and I have several different recipes I use--all of them very similar, all of them very good.  But I wanted something a little different this time.  And I got thinking about these candies I bought on an impulse once, while waiting in line for an open register at TJ Maxx (whoever decided the check-out line was a good place to put irresistible gourmet chocolate goodies was a genius, I tell you). They were caramels covered in dark chocolate, then sprinkled with sea salt. Pretty much the best thing I'd ever tasted, no exaggeration.

I love sweet treats and salty treats just about equally.  You know how some people say they can resist cake, but not potato chips--or vice versa?  Well, I can resist neither.  (It's a problem.)

So...I decided to make shortbread, iced with dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt.
Then, because I have so much English blood flowing through my veins (my father's people are almost all from the British Isles--and in fact, a direct ancestor of Dad's fought with William the Conqueror and has an English castle named after him), I decided to enjoy my oh-so-British shortbread with a spot o' tea.  (And yes, I did break out some made-in-England transferware dishes and some lacy table linens--made by a great-great aunt and passed down to me from my mom at my wedding shower--so that my little snack would remind me of a true upper-crust British tea.)
Okay, I cannot tell a lie.  I had my shortbread with coffee, because I don't care who you are, you've got to admit that coffee beats tea by a country kilometer any day of the week.  Am I right?

I was contentedly sipping my coffee and nibbling on my shortbread--and as if a mug of hot java and a slice of uber-buttery-chocolatey-salty shortbread wasn't enough to make my day brilliant enough already,  I was also perusing my latest issue of Victoria magazine, which just so happens to be dedicated entirely to "Romantic England." (Could my day get any more British than it was?  It could.)  And to top it all off, on the cover of said issue of Victoria there was a picture of a castle that will look very familiar to anyone who's a fan of PBS's "Downton Abbey."  It's actually called Highclere Castle, currently the home of the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.  Julian Fellowes, the man responsible for the epic drama series that might be the best show ever,  is a longstanding friend of the Earl and Countess and a frequent visitor to the castle that was the inspiration for the show.  What "Downton"-ites will find interesting is that in 1895, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon married Lady Almira (the wealthy American heiress of Alfred de Rothschild), and this generous woman transformed Highclere Castle into a hospital for wounded soldiers during WWI.  Does any of this sound familiar? Is anyone reminded of Cora at all, or is it just me?

And speaking of "Downton Abbey," it has a way of making husbands/fiances/boyfriends who would normally never in a million years choose to watch a show even remotely like it become hopelessly addicted. My husband started watching it with me, and he got really hooked.  But he kept saying, "If someone asked me what I like about it, I'd have to say, 'I really have no idea.'"  My husband's brother got into it with his wife as well, and she told me that they would sit down to watch an episode or two on Netflix, and as each one ended they would say "Just one more!"--until suddenly, it was 3:00 in the morning!

My husband and I have watched the first three seasons on Netflix already; but we recently started them over again (in order to get prepared for the coming fourth season), and our second oldest son watched a few episodes with us.  His observations went something like this: "I'm sort of bored when I'm watching it.  This show has everything I hate: English accents, old-fashioned clothes, people talking all the time, with no car chases or explosions to break up the monotony...but every time an episode ends, I want to see what happens next!  I'm not even sure why I want to keep watching it, but I do."

So there you have it: "Downton Abbey" is a show for chicks; but men like it, too, even if they don't know why.

Now here's that shortbread recipe, so you've got something to nosh on while you're watching "Downton Abbey."  If you haven't gotten hooked on it yet, there's still time to catch up before the new season begins!

Sweet 'n Salty Shortbread
Beat til creamy: 1 cup softened butter, 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
Add and mix in: 2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt

Press mixture into buttered 9" square pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.  Poke holes in top with toothpick.  Bake at 300 degrees until golden brown at edges.  (The recipe says it takes 40 minutes, but my oven tends to cook things more quickly and it only took 30 minutes.)

Melt together in microwave-safe bowl: about 1 and 1/2 cups of dark chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons of butter (I'm spit-balling here, because I didn't really measure), and spread this over the top of the shortbread. While the chocolate topping is still all melty (before it has a chance to cool and harden), sprinkle with sea salt.

You're welcome!

Cheers, then.  Tarra, cheerio, and all that good stuff.  Have a jolly-good week!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Yet Another Saturday Morning Re-run

I woke up today thinking, "Should I even blog today?  What could I possibly have to say, for post #810 (#810!!), that I haven't said already at some point over the past two-plus years?"

Then I thought, "Of course, I'll resort to the old re-run routine!"  It's this here lazy blogger's go-to solution for writer's blogger's block.

My long-time followers (all ten of them, most of whom share a last name with me or are in some other way personally connected) may remember the May 2012 post I'm about to re-share.  But if you're new here (Hello!  And thanks for stopping by!), at least it will be new to you.

I sometimes whine and moan on this blog, Eeyore-style, about the fact that my kids and grandkids live too far away for me to see them on a regular basis.  So I thought I'd re-post this happy little piece, to prove that I'm not always walking around with a little black rain cloud over my head (Pooh-style).

Read.  Enjoy.  And have a great weekend!

Monday, May 21, 2012

My Nest Overflows

Yesterday was the most wonderful day!  It was a completely ordinary day, but as so often happens in life, the ordinary can be truly extraordinary.

To begin with, it was positively glorious here in New England, sunny and about 75 degrees. After 9:00 Mass, my husband and I ran into some of our oldest and dearest friends in town--friends who've known our boys since they were knee-high to a grasshopper--and caught up with them over coffee and doughnuts.

In the afternoon, son #2 (who'd gone to a later Mass, as had his slugabed college-aged youngest brother) drove up from his apartment about an hour south of here to spend some time with us.  He brought his overflowing laundry basket with him, but that was okay with me.  He's getting so independent and almost never does that anymore, so having the opportunity to do his laundry for him was almost a...I was going to say "treat," but that makes me sound like a lunatic.  Let's just say it was a pleasure to get to spoil him a little and send him home with piles of clean, neatly folded clothes.

While we were waiting for son #2 to arrive, our oldest son and his wife Skyped with us, and we got to see our adorable almost-one-year-old granddaughters toddling all around their house.  Those girls are so unbelievably beautiful, precious, adorable...there aren't enough adjectives.  When we're on Skype, they come close to the screen sometimes and smile at us.  We could just eat them up.

Doesn't this sound like a great day so far?  But it wasn't over yet.

When son #2 got here, we watched the Notre Dame v. UVA lacrosse quarterfinal game, which my husband had DVR'd earlier so that we could watch it with him and his brother. My husband and I sat with our sons in our "new room" (we've had this room--which used to be our garage--for about 7 years now, but it will always be new to us) and enjoyed some snacks and beverages while we cheered on the Irish together.  In a gritty contest between two well-matched teams, Notre Dame pulled off a 12-10 win to move on to the semifinals.

Could things get any better?  They could.

Son #4, who was on a long road trip from VA to MA, called several times to chat with us while he was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Jersey Turnpike.  Son #3 sent a series of texts, along with photos, giving us updates on his weekend fun--which included playing in a men's league lacrosse game and scoring 4 goals.

I've blogged several times this year about adjusting to an empty nest after raising five boys in this house, but I'll tell you: the nest didn't feel very empty yesterday.  Two sons were with us in the flesh, and I felt the others here in spirit.  My cup--my nest--overflows!

As I was standing at the kitchen sink after the game, cleaning up the mess I'd made putting together some raspberry cobbler for my husband (because the day hadn't been perfect enough yet), I glanced out the window.  I always love the view from the kitchen window, because our yard is bordered by thick woods that give the feeling that we're out in the country instead of minutes from downtown.  The trees look beautiful in all seasons; and while our woodland view might not be as spectacular as the lake view my husband had growing up, we know how blessed we are to have it.

The view I had yesterday was particularly lovely, though, because of the two brothers who were standing in the yard with their lacrosse sticks, playing catch.  Watching them out there, smiling and talking as they lazily tossed the ball to each other, filled me with so much happiness.  Such an ordinary sight--one we used to see all the time when this house was filled with growing boys--but extraordinary to me.
I think Zac Brown (my new favorite singer) said it best when he said, "Life is good today." 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Feast of the Assumption

A note for my boys:

I hope you've all found a Mass you could get to today.  I'm sure you have, but I just thought I'd send a little reminder.  Your Mother (the Blessed Mother, that is) would certainly like to see you there!  (And Dad and I would, too.)

And now a note for Mary, my Mother:

Please keep my boys in Your loving care.  They're raising little ones, making cross-country trips by car as they head back to college, serving in war zones, preparing for the Sacrament of marriage, and getting ready to begin a new year of teaching high school students.  (The five of them aren't EACH doing ALL of these things, simultaneously...but You get my point.) They could really use Your help, Your protection, and Your grace.  I know You love them even more than I do, so I know I can count on You!


(P.S.  And now a note for you, dear reader: if you'd like to see more posts dedicated to the Assumption, the faith-filled ladies over at Fine Linen and Purple are hosting a blog link-up in honor of Mary's special feast day.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday: Miriam and Therese

I'm joining Jessica and my fellow 'worms over at Housewifespice (to talk about one of my favorite subjects--BOOKS!), and you know what this link-up is called:
I think one of my favorite things about this weekly Wednesday link-up (besides all the book talk!) is the meme above.  So vintage!  It evokes a pre-smart phone, pre-Kindle, pre-2,000 channels on TV era that I get nostalgic about. I'm a grammy who's old enough to remember that simpler world really, really well.  A world where everything was black and white,  just like old movies--which is seriously how our sons thought the world used to look when their ancient parents were kids, back when they were cute little boys in short pants...or Mickey Mouse undies and no pants, because that's how they liked to roll when they were hanging around the house. You must cut them a break though, because it was sweaty hot all the time where we lived back then--Florida's hot, you know?

Have I gotten far enough off-track here?  Time to focus: back to books now!

I have so many books in my "want to read" pile, I don't know how I'm ever going to get through them all.  I just finished Cheryl Dickow's wonderful Catholic novel Miriam, Repentance and Redemption in Rome (and I'm working on getting reviews of Miriam posted on Amazon and  While I was reading that, I also started working my way through a new book about St. Therese of Lisieux that I picked up at the Catholic Writers Guild/Catholic Marketing Network conference last week at the Sophia Institute Press booth: The Truth about Therese, An Unflinching Look at Lisieux, the Little Flower, and the Little Way, by Henri Gheon.  It's terrific so far.

If you want to see the other titles that have me salivating right now, look at all these books stacked up on the table in my bedroom!
I started Michael D. O'Brien's Father Elijah, An Apocolypse but then switched to Dickow's book.  So my first order of business is to finish O'Brien's novel, which came highly recommended to me.  The other titles are: Frozen Footprints, by Therese Heckenkamp; Murder in the Vatican (part of the Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes series) by Ann Margaret Lewis; Padre Pio, The Wonder Worker, by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate; A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms, by Lisa Hendey; Olivia and the Little Way and Olivia's Gift, by Nancy Carabio Belanger; Rachel's Contrition, by Michelle Buckman; and Under the Mantle, Marian Thoughts from a 21st Century Priest, by Fr. Donald H.Calloway, MIC.

Phew! Wish me luck!  (And I think I'll have plenty of material for future "What We're Reading Wednesday" posts!)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hello Again, St. Padre Pio!

It's amazing.  It seems that ever since St. Padre Pio was chosen to be my special patron saint for 2013 (randomly chosen for me, using the Saints Name Generator), he has been stopping by often to say hello.  Giving me little nudges, little reminders that I should pray for his intercession.  Getting in touch with me more than I ever remember him doing before.

I realize that a lot of the "messages" I've been receiving from him come in the form of what would be considered "junk mail" by many; they are free gifts and prayer cards that have been sent to us (and probably addressed to my husband, in fact, rather than to me) via snail mail, from various Catholic charities.  They are exactly the sort of thing we get all the time--but I really don't ever remember being sent so many mementos of this particular saint--and certainly not this close together.

These days, when I go for long walks and say the Rosary, I'm using a metal Rosary ring that's easier to take along than traditional Rosary beads.  It has a small piece of cloth that was touched to a relic of St. Padre Pio on the back its of cross.  This beautiful sacramental made its way into our mailbox not that long ago (Heaven-sent, if you ask me), and I blogged about it in this post. Then yesterday, we received a mailing from the Capuchin Franciscans, and attached was a small plastic pouch filled with healing oil--oil that has been blessed with a relic of who else but...St. Padre Pio!  I am considering sending a small offering to the Capuchin friars, and in return, they will send us a larger bottle of this healing oil.
There is a prayer that came with the oil, and I thought I'd share it with you:

Prayer for the Intercession of St. Padre Pio:

Dear God, You generously blessed Your servant, St. Pio of Pietrelcina, with the gifts of the Spirit. You marked his body with the five wounds of Christ Crucified, as a powerful witness to the saving Passion and Death of Your Son.  Endowed with the gift of discernment, St. Pio labored endlessly in the confessional for the salvation of souls.  With reverence and intense devotion in the celebration of the Mass, he invited countless men and women to a greater union with Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Through the intercession of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, I confidently beseech You to grant me the grace of (here state your petition).  Amen.

Glory be to the Father...(three times).

If you'll excuse me now, I think I'll spend a few minutes with a special friend of mine.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: Volume 16

I haven't participated in the WIWS link-up in quite a while.  And today I'm sort of cheating, because I'm going to show you what I wore [Mother's Day] Sunday...WAY back in 1961, when I was an almost-3-year-old.
This photo has made an appearance on the old blog several times already, most recently in this August 6 post.  It was taken in front our house in Somerset, NJ, where my family lived from 1960-1965.

This past Thursday, while attending the Catholic Writers Guild/Catholic Marketing Network conference in Somerset, my husband and I took a little lunchtime side trip over to our old address (which was literally minutes from the conference hotel!), to see if the Harding homestead is still standing.  Well, it is.  It's got new siding on it, and the car port has been turned into a garage, and there are wrought-iron railings now on the little concrete stairs by the front door.  But it's there.  The owner was out front when we pulled up, and we asked permission to take a few pictures.  For one of them, my husband tried to have me stand near the same spot where I'd stood for the 1961 snapshot.  (I really wish I'd had an Easter bonnet to wear and a little purse with a chain handle to hold, to make the re-enactment more accurate.  Maybe some bangs, too.)
Okay, so I've shown you what I wore one Sunday 52 years ago, and what I wore last Thursday at the CWG/CMN conference (lace-overlay dress: Tiana B., from JCPenney; cropped sweater: from Dress Barn; flower brooch: from TJ Maxx).

Now I'll show you what I wore for Mass today, along with my Sunday Best and a lace mantilla: a "Battle Saint" bracelet I purchased at a booth on the showroom floor at the conference.
Let's take a closer look at that bracelet.
Isn't it lovely?

Battle Saints is a family-run ministry founded by Cynthia Lemay.  This organization creates beautiful wooden bracelets decorated with images of different saints who are relevant to the military.  They also make Battle Saint scarves--which you may have seen in some photos from the war zone, where they are often worn by members of our military.  A contribution from the sale of each Battle Saint bracelet and scarf is dedicated to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.  My husband and I have a son who is currently on deployment in Afghanistan, and we thought the least we could do was to buy some of these bracelets and give them to loved ones.  When I wear mine, it reminds me to pray often--not just for my son, but for all of our brave men and women who make extraordinary sacrifices to ensure our safety and freedom.

May all the warrior saints, like St. Michael the Archangel and St. Joan of Arc, surround our troops with protection and keep them out of harm's way!

Now head on over to Fine Linen and Purple, if you haven't already.  And have a great week!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday: The Catholic Writers Guild Conference Edition

I haven't linked up with the Quick Takers over at Jen Fulwiler's Conversion Diary since way back on June 28, so I thought it was about time to do a 7QTF post.  But I actually didn't have the time to put one together yesterday, because it was one of the busiest Fridays of my life--jam-packed with new experiences and truly life-changing for me.  No hyperbole there, I assure you. (In fact, the two days before it were pretty amazing, too.)  And it also included what should have been a five-hour car trip home, but with traffic and construction and you-name-it was more like an eight-hour drive.

My husband and I traveled down to Somerset, NJ, on Tuesday night, to attend the 2013 Catholic Writers Guild conference (which was held in conjunction with the Catholic Marketing Network conference).  We spent three days with incredible people who are devoting their lives--whether it's through writing, publishing or retailing--to spreading the Truth of the Catholic Faith.  I could write a book on how inspiring it was to spend so much time in the company of people who are using their talents for God's greater glory rather than their own--who use their unique gifts for the purpose of evangelization, knowing that they will probably never achieve the kind of worldly success by which most endeavors are measured here on earth.  I mean, every single presentation at the conference began with a prayer.  I plan to write a post all about the experience, but I'll need a good chunk of time to sit down and do the topic justice. So for Takes that are Quick, I'm going to give you mostly pictures today, while I digest everything that's in my head and heart right now about the conference and figure out a way to get my thoughts down on paper in a blog post.

First of all, I spent time in the company of some pretty important people when I was in NJ. 
Is that cardboard cut-out amazingly life-life, or WHAT?!  It stood in front of the Ignatius Press booth, and it was the first thing you saw when you walked in the door of the CMN showroom floor.

My husband had his brush with greatness as well.  If you're a pro-life Catholic, I think you'll recognize this face.
There was a chapel set up in one of the large event rooms of the Double Tree hotel where the convention was held, and every day included a group Rosary and a Mass.  On Thursday night, Fr. Frank Pavone was the main celebrant.  My husband has been donating to Fr. Pavone's Priests for Life ministry in our family's name for many, many years.  What an honor it was to meet him!

In my last post, I mentioned that I finally met author and CWG president Ellen Gable Hrkach, after months of carrying on an e-mail friendship.  I also connected with other writers with whom I've heretofore only corresponded on-line, such as successful Catholic author Michelle Buckman.  She is a lovely woman, and her novel Rachel's Contrition was the winner of last year's Catholic Arts & Letter Ward for fiction (CALA).  I was thrilled to do a book exchange with her, giving her a signed copy of Finding Grace for a signed copy of Rachel's Contrition. (I was going to make a joke there about who got the better end of the deal in  that exchange--but after the conference I realize that I've got to stop apologizing for my work and get fired up to promote it!)

I was also thrilled to be able to give a copy of Finding Grace to writer,blogger, and Catholic Writers Guild VP Jennifer Fitz, who kindly promised that if she didn't have time to read my book she would at least be willing to give it a little blog shout-out.  She had two young daughters with her at the conference, and I told her that in a couple of years, they would be just the target audience I was trying to reach with FG.

My husband and I met and were "adopted" by a lovely couple from Georgia, Gary and Nancy Garner.  We are about the same age as the oldest of the Garners' children, and they took us under their wing.  We went out to dinner with them on Thursday night and had the most wonderful time.  Gary is a master woodworker and carver who runs his own business called Images of the Cross.  He has also written an inspirational work of non-fiction titled Swept Up By the Spirit (which is available as a free download on Amazon from Aug. 9-11, if you want to check it out).

I didn't win the CALA award, as I've already told you.  But it was wild seeing my book displayed along with the titles of the other finalists, and to have a signing with some of them on Friday morning.
I mean, I sat next to Michelle Buckman and John Desjarlais (!!!  What in the world was I doing there with those two?), and we talked about the important role Catholic authors play in spreading the Truth of the Gospel, and how unimportant money, fame, or accolades are in comparison to that mission.  My arms are black and blue, I've pinched them so much lately.

Okay, best (or most unbelievable, anyway) for last everyone.

On Friday morning when I was at the CWG table for the signing (but really only signing books to give away to or do an exchange with some of my new author friends), an EWTN crew came by to interview the folks who were there at the CWG booth.  And that included the authors at the table...and that included...[gulp!]

Suddenly, with no time to prepare, no chance to think about what in the world I would say, I saw the interviewer talking to Michelle Buckman, who was two down from me on the left, and I realized that only John Desjarlais stood between me and that dreaded microphone.  I don't even like to have a video camera pointed at me during family events, and behind the man holding the mic was a TV camera man.  (Oh no, Oh no, Oh no.)  As Mr. Desjarlais was being interviewed, my arms and legs began to tingle, I felt light-headed, and spots started to form before my eyes.  I'd only felt this way once before that I could remember: I was a sixth-grader, standing nervously on the top row of a small set of bleachers that were set up on the stage for a Christmas concert, with all my classmates assembled there...and I'd had to exit the stage before singing a note.  "Dear God, please don't let me faint!" I prayed.  Then I said a quick Hail Mary, and somehow I got through my turn without passing out, stuttering, or standing there silent like a deer caught in headlights.  I can't really remember now exactly what the interviewer asked me or what I said in reply, but my husband assures me that I was looking him in the eye, smiling, and even using hand gestures, as if I was just as comfortable as you please.  He said he was so amazed (as he watched me conquer the urge to react the way I normally would in such a situation--which would be to shrink away and curl up into a fetal position!) that he asked himself, "Do I know that woman?"
I have no idea when this segment is supposed to air on EWTN.  And I'm not at all sure my little portion of the interviews will make the final cut (I tend to doubt it); but if it does, I'll be interested to hear what I said.  It was such an out-of-body experience for me that I'm still asking myself, "Did that really happen?"

Pray the Hail Mary, that's all I have to say.  Your Divine Mother is more than happy to help you, if you just remember to ask Her to!  The fact that I survived that interview is proof of the power of prayer.

Now head on over to Jen's, if you haven't already.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Theme Thursday: Statues

On Day 2 of the Catholic Writers Guild/Catholic Marketing Network conference, I'm linking up with Cari for Theme Thursday--blogging from a hotel room in the Garden State (but I took some pics on Tuesday before I left home, just so I'd be prepared).  I love religious statues, so I was excited to see that today's theme lends itself to showing them off.

When my #4 son was about eight, he bought me an old plaster statue of Our Lady of Fatima--spending a whole $1.00 of his own money--at our boys' Catholic school's annual tag sale.  It was chipped when he gave it to me (Our Lady's nose was broken right off), and the paint job was faded and peeling.  But I thought it was indescribably lovely just the same.
We have a lot--I mean A LOT!--of statues in our home (of the Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Grace, Our Lady of Fatima, St. Joseph, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Patrick, and others), but I think this one is my absolute favorite.  Even in its run-down, hand-me-down, tag sale state, I loved that statue.  But then I put a lot of TLC into it, repairing the plaster and doing paint touch-ups where they were needed (even using some actual gold leaf paint on the embellishments that decorate the mantle of the Blessed Virgin Mary and on the Rosary She's holding), so now it's even more beautiful than it was before.

The reason this statue is my favorite is that I love the gentle expression on Mary's pretty face.
This statue, my favorite out of all the Marian statues in our home, takes pride of place in our living room, right next to (but a little bit below) a larger Sacred Heart statue that my husband brought back from a trip to Rome some years back.  It is one of the sweetest little boy gifts I was ever given.
And while we're on the subject of statues--or trophies, or what-have-you...I am not going home with the Catholic Arts & Letter Award.  But I'm more than fine with that.  My husband, the moral supporter extraordinaire, was much more disappointed when my title (Finding Grace) was not announced as the winner at the CWG/CMN breakfast this morning than I was.  So I may not have won the CALA statue...but look at all this wonderful Catholic SWAG we're bringing home from the conference!
And it's not even over yet!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

CWG Conference, Day 1

What an exciting and interesting day it's been!

My husband and I are in Somerset, NJ, at the Catholic Writers Guild conference (which is running alongside the Catholic Marketing Network trade show).  Conveniently, all the conference rooms and sales floors are right here at the Double Tree hotel, where we have a room.

The morning started out with a Rosary at 7:00 a.m. followed by a beautiful and holy Mass, and then there were all sorts of informative talks throughout the day about writing, getting published, and marketing books. We've learned a lot already; hopefully we'll be able to put this valuable knowledge to good use when we get back home, and it will lead to finding a wider reading audience for Finding Grace.
I had my first book signing, from 11:00 to noon...and let's just say that it wasn't necessary to load up our trunk with every single copy of the book we own and lug them to NJ.  I did have a couple of Catholic retailers stop by my table to ask questions, and they took flyers and business cards.  But I actually only sold and signed one book.  Baby steps, though. Baby steps.
Since my book received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval back in November of 2012, I've been in frequent contact with CWG president and successful Catholic author Ellen Gable Hrkach.  Here is a picture of me with Ellen, my once on-line friend only and now new friend IRL (that's how the kids are abbreviating "in real life" these days, isn't it?).
Ellen gave an awesome talk on Kindle marketing, and my husband and I are fired up to figure out how to tap into that market.  Ellen has written four novels so far.  They have done amazingly well in Kindle sales on Amazon, and two of them have been ranked in the top ten of their category since January 2012.  One was even in the #1 spot for 280 of the 365 days that year.  I have read Ellen's two most popular novels, Stealing Jenny and In Name Only. They're wonderful and I would recommend both.  In my opinion, they are more satisfying and inspiring than similar "chick lit"-type books--because unlike most popular mainstream women's fiction, they are infused with Catholic and pro-life themes throughout.  And they're a really good deal as Kindle downloads, if you want to check them out.

Stay tuned--there'll be more on the conference tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Heading for New Jersey

This afternoon, my husband and I are setting off on a five-hour road trip to Somerset, New Jersey, to attend a Catholic Writers Guild conference.  I'm excited for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I actually lived in Somerset when I was a sprout, from 1960 to 1965 (age 2 to 7), and I haven't been back since.

This is me in Somerset in 1961, standing in front of our house (with my two brothers and my mom, who's pregnant with one of my soon-to-be sisters, in the background).
And this is my older brother and me in 1962, looking like a couple of angry little thugs. (What was up with those sullen, tough-guy faces?  Didn't we like it in Joisy?)
I plan to go back to our old house (which is apparently still there, according to Google) and have my husband take a picture of me in front of it.  My dad has also instructed me to check and see if the split rail fence he built out front is still standing.  I may even work up the nerve to knock on the door and introduce myself to the current residents, depending on what state the old neighborhood is in these days.  The thing I'd love to see most is the basement, however.  My Conservative Republican dad tried to spell out "Goldwater" with floor tiles down there, without thinking he ought to measure carefully first.  He ran out of room by the time he'd reached "Goldwa." (Re-tiling the basement floor was probably the first item on the new owners' to-do list, but you never know...)

I wasn't originally planning to attend the CWG conference, preferring to stay home with our youngest son (who's been gone most of the summer and will be leaving in a week to start his junior year at Notre Dame) and our second oldest son (who is moving back home for a year and whose things are still mostly in boxes). Plus, even though Finding Grace has been in print for a year now and I guess that means I should consider myself a real author, I thought I'd feel rather silly and out-of-place at an affair filled with all kinds of well-known and successful professional writers.  But then an author e-friend of mine, Ellen Gable Hrkach (who is the president of the CWG, and like me is the mother of five sons!), urged me to attend it, along with my boys and my ever-supportive husband; so I went on-line and registered.  It wasn't until after I'd decided to go that I was notified that my novel had been chosen as a finalist for a CALA (Catholic Arts & Letters Award), and that the winner would be announced at the conference at a breakfast on Thursday.  So. Win or lose, my husband and I will be there for that.  And I'll get to meet some people with whom I've only had the pleasure of talking on-line. It would be wonderful to have e-friends become actual friends! I'll also have my first book signing, for an hour on Wednesday.  (Yikes!  Gulp. My hands feel sweaty.  Etc.)

Oh, and guess what?  Today is our 40th anniversary.  My husband and I have only been married for 32 and 1/2 years, but today is the 40th anniversary of "Will you go with me?"  This is one of the most important dates in my life--because if it had never happened and I hadn't ended up with the best guy on the planet, I don't know where I'd be today.  But I'll tell you where I wouldn't be: in a car on my way to my old stomping grounds in NJ.  Because without my husband's undying faith in me, his support, encouragement, and love, that book I always dreamed I'd write never would have gotten written in the first place.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

{simple saturday}: It's a tough life!

I'm a day late with this post, but I'm linking up with Iris for another {simple saturday} installment.

You see, I was too busy being not-busy yesterday, lounging around by the lakeside with my hubby at his family's childhood home, to get to my computer and blog.  We decided to take a somewhat spur-of-the-moment trip to Upstate NY with our youngest son, since he'd missed the big reunions that had been held there on both sides of the family tree this summer (because he was either en France or jumping out of airplanes), and this would have been the first summer of his life without even one trip up there.  Our son called two of his cousins, a boy who is four days older than he and a girl who is two days younger (they are the first set of "triplets" to be born in the Pearl family, the second set being a legitimate one), to see if either or both of them would like to join him for one last hurrah at the Pearl compound before they all have to head back to college for their junior year. The girl cousin was not able to come from CT; but the boy cousin was available and up for it, and he brought his younger brother along.  Those two boys drove 11 hours north from their home in VA to be with our son for two days, and they're driving 11 hours back home tomorrow.  I hope our boy realizes that cousins like that don't grow on trees and that he is--to put it simply--very blessed.

So yesterday, my day looked a lot like this:
And like this:
It's a tough life, but somebody's got to live it!

Have a happy and holy Sunday--and if you haven't done so yet, why don't you head on over to Iris'?  'Kay?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Open the Cabinets! (Redux)

Yesterday, I saw something funny (and deja-vu-ish) come across my Facebook news feed. One of my young married nieces had posted a picture of her kitchen, with almost every cabinet door in it opened wide.  She said her husband is incapable of closing them, thus making it look as if their apartment has always just been ransacked and robbed.

I had to chuckle.  And then I remembered this post from way back in the spring of 2011. This one's for you, M!  (I think your guy is just trying to tell you that he wants to party!)


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Open the cabinets!

Don't you just love it when really great, memorable family moments happen out of thin air, when you're not even planning them? Moments that make you laugh, and then provide you with insider "you had to be there" quotes that forever become a part of your family's lexicon? This happened in our kitchen about 15 years ago, when my sons were still in grade school.

My husband has a thing about people leaving kitchen cabinet doors open. Even though he's not the most accident-prone person in our family, and he's usually not the one who ends up banging his head into them, it still drives him crazy.

He travels for days at a time for his job, and for some reason there was a stretch where every single time he came home he'd walk in the door and find a cabinet door left open. Finally, he'd had it. "Do you guys do this on purpose or something? What goes on around here when I'm not home?" he asked, a bit exasperated. Without missing a beat, our oldest boy sprang up from his chair and started flying around the kitchen, opening wide every door while shouting gleefully, "That's right, Dad! When you're not around, it's party time! We're all like: 'Woo hoo! Open the cabinets!'"

Everyone laughed so hard--especially my husband, the butt of the joke. And from then on, "Open the cabinets!" has been our family's little celebratory catch phrase for commenting on happy or exciting news.

There's nothing like family. Just thinking about mine makes me want to open the cabinets.

I hope your weekend is full of fun--and those kitchen cabinet doors are just flying open!

Ode to a Rose

A couple of days ago I read a Facebook post one of my nieces wrote to her mom, who'd helped her locate nursery furniture at a hugely discounted rate for her soon-to-be-born little girl.  It didn't surprise me, because this sister-in-law of mine to whom that FB post was dedicated is the eBay/TJ Maxx shopper extraordinaire (and because of it, gives the best and most unique presents to all of her loved ones), a bargain basement shopper like you read about.

Like me, this superwoman raised five spectacular children, and they are devoted to her.  But unlike me, she was busy doing so many other things concurrently that it's nothing short of a miracle that she was able to do it all--and do it so well.

My husband's older sister is the oldest of the eight siblings in his family.  A retired Army colonel (who spent many years in the Reserves when her children were young, switching to active duty later on), she is now a company bigwig in the intelligence community.  In her position as such, she has found contracting jobs for just about everyone I know under the age of 30--her own kids, their friends, and two of my sons (one of whom calls her "boss"), to name a few.

This woman works hard at a time-consuming, demanding job, yet still finds time to pore over episodes of HGTV and learn everything there is to know about DIY home renovations.  With her husband and kids, she has made massive improvements to both her main home in Northern VA and her second home, right next to the family homestead, on the lake in Upstate NY.  I have trouble keeping up with one house; she keeps up with two of them--not to mention several rental properties and some land near her NY house, on which she and her husband plan to build a brewery.

Oh yeah, did I mention that?  Her high-stress job isn't enough of a challenge for her, so she and her husband have been taking brewing classes and are planning to tap into the local microbrewery know, in their spare time.  I'm sure once it's up and running, she'll hire every family member or friend who's looking for work.

My sister-in-law has been instrumental in launching the careers (and even marriages) of some of her siblings. Numerous family members have lived under her roof when they needed her help.  Currently, my fourth oldest son's girlfriend is living in her basement in-law apartment while he's on deployment in Afghanistan.  When the enormous Pearl clan gathers at the family compound by the lake, she is always willing to open her doors for the overflow. With her, it's all about family.  She is so generous--some might say almost generous to a fault (if that's even possible, really).  When the Pearl sibs set out to start an LLC for the purpose of keeping their childhood home in the family, she was all in--even though she owns a home of her own right next door.

Are you feeling slightly intimidated by this dynamo yet?  I know I often am.  Because on top of all I've just told you (and I know I'm leaving stuff out), she's intelligent, good-looking, charming, out-going, faith-filled, and funny.
That's her, the second from the left, with her three sisters (who are all
amazing in their own unique ways).
Sometimes I wish I had the kind of dynamic personality that I admire in her and others like her.  I find myself wishing I'd been born different, which is so wrong--and which my husband can't stand.  "Hey, don't do that--you're putting down my girlfriend!", he'll say.  He'll remind me that he chose me just the way I am, and then ask me if I think he has terrible judgment in other areas of his life--and if not, why do I think he might have made a mistake by choosing me?  (He's always right, that guy.)

Sometimes I feel so small when I compare myself to people like my amazing sister-in-law. I feel like I don't have talents that are helpful or useful in the world.  I fear I may actually be a more contemplative, artsy-fartsy person than I like to think I am.  I love to draw and paint. I love crafting and sewing.  I love to write--I wrote a Catholic YA novel and I sit down to write this blog almost every day.  Those seem like little things in comparison to running companies and starting new businesses and being a "life of the party"-type person whom everyone loves to be around.  But I need to stop wishing I were more like this person or that person, as wonderful as they might be.  I can't be a good anyone else; I have to try to be the best me I can be.  My husband, the wise sage, tells me this whenever I allow my self-esteem to take a nose dive.

Yesterday, I quoted dear St. Therese of Lisieux, who reminds us that "The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm.  If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness." Yes, that's it!  Words to live by, for sure.  God made me a little wild-growing daisy for a reason, one I won't find out until the next life (maybe--hopefully!); and until then, I need to learn to live side-by-side with the hothouse roses and have confidence that there is a place for me among them.  It's a big garden, after all.  And God loves all of His flowers equally.

(But I think it's okay if I still can't help but admire those gorgeous roses!)