Monday, June 30, 2014

My Brother, My Friend

I've been doing a bit of spring cleaning lately (summer cleaning--potato, po-tah-to), and I came across this old shapshot in a drawer.  It has always been one of my favorite childhood pictures, of me with one of my favorite childhood friends--my older brother, who is 16 months my senior.
This 1967 photo, snapped at the top of Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid, NY, was taken by our aunt, our father's only sister, who had no children of her own and treated my four siblings and me as if we were the most special people in the universe. My brother was 10 here, and I was 9.  Just a couple years after this picture was taken, the two of us rode a Greyhound bus by ourselves to NJ to visit her, and she took us to our first Broadway play.  Every kid should have an aunt like her.

I feel like this picture should be captured in oils, it's so endearing.  And I think the perfect artist to do it justice would have been Norman Rockwell, who was so good at depicting heartwarming scenes of small-town life in these United States.  In fact, I think my brother looks an awful lot like some of the boys Rockwell painted--he could have been one of his models.  Look at him up there with his perfectly shaped head, perfectly shaped face, and cute upturned nose...and those blue jeans with the plaid lining are killing me.  Everything about him screams "All-American boy."

He reminds me a little bit of this lad.
And these sports fans here.
And this cutie-pie, too.
My older brother is one of the funniest people I've ever met--that guy has always been able to make me laugh!  He teased me mercilessly when I was young, never letting me forget that I was a nerdy-looking thing.  He was the one who dubbed me "the fly," because of my ginormous glasses.  But I always knew that he loved--and liked--me.  We always got along so well.   My dad has told me that even when we were little tykes, we never really fought.  "You were best buddies," he said.

Well, my old best buddy is about to have a big life change.  The eldest of his three children, his only precious daughter, is getting married in a few weeks.  He's ready for it, though...especially because it means he gets to be a grandfather soon.  Like me, he has always lived for his children.  And like me, now he will live for their children as well.

Some things really don't change, no matter how old you get (thank goodness).  One of them is that my brother and I are still the best of friends.  And as you can see, he's still making me laugh. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Boys and Poetry (Two Things That Go Together Like Oil and Water)

We are only about four months away from welcoming another little boy into our family, when our fourth grandchild and first grandson comes along in October.  My husband and I have fallen madly and completely in love with our three granddaughters, and would not have been at all disappointed if this latest Pearl was going to be another wee lassie.  But I must say, it will be fun to have a little lad in the mix.  I miss having little guys around (and big guys, too, for that matter!).  There is something uniquely wonderful about the way boys think and talk and move and play.  I thought having all sons was the best, despite the fact that half the world believed I'd been cheated somehow by not getting any daughters.  (But here's the great news: when sons get married, they bring sweet daughters home to you, all raised nicely and ready to be your friends!  Thanks, boys!)

If you come to this blog often, you know that I sometimes like to go the lazy route and re-post oldies but goodies--especially on Saturdays.  I have over 1,000 posts in my archives now, and I doubt you've read them all (unless you're one of about four or five people I know who check in without fail and give me the business if I skip a day); and even if you have read them all, you've surely forgotten most of them by now.

Okay, so here's a short paean to those crazy and delightful little creatures called boys, a smile-inducer from three years ago.  Son #3 and Preciosa, this one is for you in particular, as you await the birth of G-man.  (Hmmm...will that be his blog alias?)

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 struck 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."

I'll get back to writing original posts on a more regular basis, pinky swear.  But aren't you glad I posted this?  Aren't those sweet poems?  If you are a mother of little boys, doesn't it make you want to grab them and kiss their grubby little cheeks?  God bless 'em.  And God bless you!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

For His Greater Glory (and Those Aren't Just Words)

In December of 2011, right around the time I was finishing up my manuscript for Finding Grace, I began to search the Internet for information about how to go about having it published.  My cyber-travels ultimately led me to this 2007 article about Cheryl Dickow, a former middle school teacher who had started her own Catholic publishing house called Bezalel Books.  I was immediately struck by the thought that I'd started writing Finding Grace in 2007, and that was the same year that this article originally appeared in Catholic Review--and I believe the same year that Cheryl started her company.  I felt an immediate connection with Cheryl and it seemed that God was pointing me in the direction of Bezalel Books.
I will always be grateful that I stumbled upon that particular article about this extraordinary woman at that particular time.  Thanks a million, Google! (Of course, my undying gratitude really goes to Someone else--whose name, coincidentally, also begins with G.)

Cheryl Dickow is not only a publisher; she is also an editor, a speaker, a blogger, and a contributor to many Catholic periodicals.  She has written both fiction and non-fiction works.  Her two novels--Elizabeth, a Holy Land Pilgrimage, and Miriam, Repentance and Redemption in Rome--are excellent books, God-centered and inspiring.  They are Catholic "chick lit" at its finest, and would make perfect choices for your book club.  In fact, if you go to the Bezalel website, Cheryl lists some other Bezalel titles that are just right for that purpose.
Now having given those recommendations, I cannot do the same for this novel, which I started on my plane trip out to MI last week and finished on the way back home.
I had made a vow to myself that I would give up reading others' novels while I'm working on one of my own (a YA novel for Bezalel), but sometimes reading is the only thing that takes my mind off flying.  It's really too bad, though, that I broke my vow for this sub-par novel...which was definitely not worth the time I gave it.  Part-way in, I thought about putting it down and not finishing, but by that point I was "researching the enemy" (as my husband and I like to call it when we watch or read mainstream things that go against our faith and conservative values--if only to see what the majority of Americans are seeing and hearing from most media outlets).

Emily Giffin is a bestselling author of five or six novels.  At least one, Something Borrowed, has been made into a movie--which I'm a tad embarrassed to say I sort of enjoyed because it starred Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin, both really likable actresses, and John Krasinski, who to me will always and forever be the all-too-adorable Jim Halpert from the show "The Office."  But the premise is just dreadful!  It all revolves around this great "love story"...where a girl sleeps with her best friend's fiancée, yet somehow is portrayed as the sweet and lovable party in the whole thing!  Why would you root for her?  And why in the world she loves a guy who would cheat on his fiancée is the 64,000-dollar question, no matter how much of a crush she's had on him since they were in law school together.

The premise of this book is similar in that it involves a character who can't keep himself from falling into bed with someone to whom he's not married.  It revolves around a couple whose marriage has hit a rocky patch.  The husband, a renowned plastic surgeon, begins to fall in love with the single mother of one of his young patients, a boy named Charlie, and eventually he cheats on his wife with her.

I wish I could have cared about the cheating husband when he realizes the gigantic mistake he's made and goes back to his wife, begging forgiveness.  But I never connected with him or thought he was such a great guy.  He showed more interest in the young burn victim he was treating than he did in his own two kids.  As a matter of fact, I never really connected with any of the characters, with the exception of Charlie.

Here are a couple of things I had a problem with--aside from the affair, of course!

The author makes a point of telling the reader that the main character (the woman who gets cheated on) doesn't think her Italian-Catholic mother-in-law approves of her, because she isn't raising her children in the Catholic Faith--or in any other religion, for that matter.  That's how it always seems to be in modern fiction: characters are either irreligious or anti-religious.  It's not only annoying and disturbing, but so predictable it's downright boring.

The term "MILF" is used.  Eww.  Enough said.

There's plenty more not to like about Heart of the Matter, but I'd be embarrassed to spell it all out for you here, as this is a family-friendly blog.  And I'm not alone; I actually read some one-star reviews of the book, in which the readers commented that they wished Amazon would allow them to assign zero stars.  I personally could not possibly give this book more than one star.

And I'll bet Giffin's publisher didn't take her contract for this book over to the Adoration chapel so that it could be covered with prayers and blessings from the very beginning, the way Cheryl Dickow recently did with mine.  Cheryl really does believe in fiction that both entertains and gives greater glory to God, and she puts her money where her mouth is.  Bezalel Books may not have a slew of titles that are sitting at the top of the NY Times bestseller list or being made into Hollywood movies; but they do inspire readers, and they do give glory to God--which makes their worth inestimable.

Cheryl Dickow started Bezalel Books to offer readers something deeper and more meaningful than the mainstream fare.  And honestly, that's the very reason I was inspired to write Finding Grace.  I wanted to leave my sons--and especially their children--with something from my heart; to leave them something with a message that would provide an antidote to the poisonous and ever-growing God-lessness in this country.

When my guys were little, they had their noses in books all the time.  They knew more facts about dinosaurs by the age of four or five than most of us (the non-paleontologists, anyway) will ever know.  They used to fall asleep reading their books.
Sons #1 (with the book on his face) and #2, circa 1987.
So far, it looks like my grandchildren are cut from similar cloth.  So my darlings, keep this in mind: Grammy writes for God.  And she also writes for YOU.

I'm Back! (And Linking Up at 7QTF and WIWS)

Hey, remember me?  I used to spend a lot of time keeping this little blog of mine updated almost daily; but recently, I've been a bit of a slacker in that area.

Lest you think I've become a slacker in other areas of my life, however, let me tell you how I've been spending my non-blogging time lately.  And I'm not only going to do that, but I'm going to endeavor to turn this post into a double link-up opportunity.  I think I can make it work for this
and for this, too!
I'm late to both of these blog parties, but let's see if I can pull it off.

First of all, my husband and I just returned from a five-day trip out to the Midwest to stay with our oldest son's family, so that our boy could have some help with his three little girls while his wife attended her college reunion.  We took off from Boston's Logan Airport last Thursday morning and returned last night.  So I've spent a lot of time sitting in a chair with a view like THIS.
Talk about "touching the face of God"--a line from an aviator's poem that is a favorite of my aviator husband (and by favorite, I mean it's probably the only poem he really likes at all).  Really, who can look at that magnificent view and not believe that this earth has a Maker and He loves the people He created to populate it?  Feasting my eyes on that slice of Heaven right outside my window could almost turn a scaredy-cat like me--who used to write "Good-bye my beloved sons, if I don't make it home from this trip, know how much I love you, etc. etc." letters before each and every flight I was forced against my better judgment to take, and who figured out ways to get out of pretty much every situation that would involve having to board an airplane--into a fearless flyer.

Full disclosure, however, because I just can't lie to you good people who stop by here (and thank you for that, by the way--I know I haven't given you much reason to lately): that picture was actually not taken on this latest plane trip.  I snapped it with my iPhone back in May, right after take-off, when I was heading down to VA (without my husband, who was working that weekend--sitting in the driver's seat of a different aircraft) to attend the gender reveal party for our latest grandchild.

So while I was gallivanting around the country, going to parties and visiting with my kids, the poor hubby was in uniform and on the job.
There he is.  That's my favorite guy.

But I digress, so let's get back to this past weekend.  As always, it was a total joy to spend a nice little chunk of time with our granddaughters.  The twins, Bonny Babe and Cutie Pie, are three now, and Little Gal is 16 months.

The twins are utterly hilarious.  They have the most lively imaginations.  In the course of the five days we spent there, they each changed identities about a dozen times.  My husband or I would call one of them by their given name and be told, "No, it's giraffe--sorry" or "No, it's Fergus--sorry."   (Their parents would say "Oh, giraffe--sorry" when they'd forget to call one of them by their name of the moment, so now the "sorry" is something they automatically tag on when correcting people!)  At any given time, one or the other of them was Emily, Percy, Hudson, Fergus, Hello Kitty, giraffe, gazelle, tiger, rhinoceros...If you have a young child, you probably know who Percy, Hudson, and Fergus are--but my husband and I are a bit out of the loop.  We think some of those names have to do with Thomas the Train (a favorite of theirs), but we're not even sure.  (I've heard that Cutie Pie is also occasionally Grammy--and if you don't think I'm absolutely thrilled that she pretends to be me sometimes, then you don't know me too well!)

Here's another thing they do that slays us.  My husband's trademark is his leather cowboy hat.  The girls will say, "Grammy, you have no hat.  Papa has yes hat."  :)

Little Gal is every bit as loquacious as her big sisters now, pretty much parroting everything she hears.  I'm sure it won't be long before she is correcting us when we call her by her given name as well.

Our granddaughters spend a lot of time with books and a limited amount of time in front of a TV screen.  Their mom set up a "book nook" for them in a cozy little area between the stairs and their bedroom on the second floor of their house, and they love to hang out there.  I don't post pictures of my granddaughters on the blog anymore, out of respect for my son's family's privacy.  But this wonderful illustration that I found on one of Nancy Shuman's blogs gives you a good idea of how they look much of the time.  (They even sleep with stuffed giraffes and baby dolls, along with about ten other "must haves" each.)
By the way, readers, you should really get to know Nancy, who has three phenomenal blogs: The Breadbox Letters, It's Only Write, and The Cloistered Heart.  (Three!  I can barely keep up with this one here, and she regularly posts on all of hers.)  Nancy is a great writer, and the artwork she chooses to go along with her prose--whether it's a painting by one of the masters or a sweet vintage illustration--always gives me a lift.

In case you were wondering what we wore Sunday for Mass while we were out at my son's house, take a gander at Little Gal's get-up--a mash-up of fashion don'ts that on a 16-month-old add up to a killer ensemble that is a major fashion DO!
Her adorable dress, which looks like a t-shirt and flowered cotton skirt combo, is accessorized with striped socks and leopard shoes.  I don't believe I would put these particular items together myself, but they seem to work here.  Agreed?  (Excuse the blurriness of this iPhone photo--this little sweetie-pie is a girl on the go, and getting her to pose for a fashion shoot was easier said than done.)

I won't even show you what I wore, because it's my old traveling stand-by, a wrinkle-proof dress that I've modeled on this blog already.  I did wear my lace mantilla, as always.  The neat thing this weekend was that I was far from the only woman in the church who was wearing one, which is often the case.  We attended a Latin Mass (with the three girls in tow--isn't our son courageous?), and there were many other similarly covered heads in that congregation.

After the Latin Mass, I chatted briefly in the back of the church with a beautiful young mom who was holding her baby daughter (who had a lace mantilla on her sweet little head, tied under her chin to keep it in place--she looked so precious!).  Apparently, she'd met my daughter-in-law Regina recently at a homeschooling co-op group meeting, and she asked where Regina was.  During our brief conversation, I remembered that Regina said she'd met Dwija after Mass not too long ago and they'd chatted, and I thought this nice young mom I was talking to looked a lot like her.  "Are you Dwija?" I blurted, before I could stop myself.  She said she wasn't, but that she did know her.  And now I feel like a total blog-celebrity stalker.  It's becoming a bit of a habit with me!  On one of my recent travels to VA, I also spied Rosie at Mass, and I went up to her afterward and babbled like a star-struck fan.  (She is, by the way, even sweeter in person than she is on her blog.)

I know anyone who frequents the Catholic blog world doesn't need me to explain who Dwija and Rosie are; but for my family and any other readers who might not recognize their names, these well-known ladies blog at House Unseen, Life Unscripted and A Blog for My Mom.

Okay, so if constant traveling (and staying in places where WiFi is not always readily available to me), hanging out with three little girls who are three and under, and blogger stalking aren't enough good excuses for why I haven't been devoted enough to my poor little String of Pearls lately, here's another very good reason:
The ink on the contract has dried, and I've had my nose to the grindstone.  I don't want to divulge too many details, but I will say that I was approached to write a YA novel for Bezalel Books by Cheryl Dickow, a publisher like no other.  Case in point: when she received the contract with my signature on it, she took it to Adoration with her so that it would be covered in prayers before she signed it and sent it back to me.  Somehow, I doubt that all the big-name publishing houses do that at the start of a book project.  With God involved right from the get-go, how can I doubt that I was meant to write this book (as I did, I must admit, when the offer was first presented to me--because as all of the above Takes illustrate, I'm on the road visiting with kids and grandkids a lot these days)?  I don't doubt it.  I still have moments when I wonder if I can do a good enough job with it, but then I put it all in His hands and try to just enjoy the process.

I'm not going to say much about the book, except that it's not a sequel to Finding Grace.  But here's a little hint about the content:
I know, I know--I have a major soft spot for the Irish, which is evident in my first book.  But this one is quite different, I promise.

Okay, now if you want to see what other bloggers (whom I stalk online, and sometimes even in person) are saying, head on over here (where Kathryn is guest hosting for Jen) for some more Quick Takes.  And if you'd like to see grown-up gals who dressed even better on Sunday than my wee granddaughter did (if you can believe that!), check out Fine Linen and Purple.

Monday, June 16, 2014

St. Francis de Sales, Pray for Me!

I'm trying to remember to pray to this guy, and pray to him often.
He is St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of Catholic writers.

St. Francis de Sales, a Doctor of the Church, is a fount of wisdom about so many things.  I thought I'd share some famous quotes of his, which I believe will be a great help to me as I work on my second book--a Catholic YA novel that I hope will bless and inspire many young readers.

When I find myself worrying that this is too daunting a task for me to accomplish, or that I don't have the talent to do it well, I'll try to remember that with God, nothing is impossible.  These words should inspire me:
"Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections."

When I feel stressed, wondering if I'll be able to meet all the appointed deadlines, I'll make myself study and memorize this quote:
"True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice."

My publisher has encouraged me to have fun with this project; I think I'll be able to do that if I take this advice from my patron saint to heart:
"Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit.  Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset."

So far, I'm feeling pretty good about things, and the book has been progressing, "quietly and persistently."  I pray that God will give me the tools to keep moving forward successfully--and most importantly, to feel at peace while I write during the coming months.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Toast to Fathers

My husband has savored every minute of being a dad--from the time our sons were babies until today, when one of them is a dad of three already and another is looking forward to welcoming his first boy in October. 

I don't think there's a more heart-melting sight than a big, strong, handsome, manly-man who is turned to mush by his children.  To illustrate this point, here's a snapshot of my best guy with son #3, taken about 28 years ago on a family trip to Sea World.
I am pretty much weak in the knees looking at this picture.

What a great father he was and is, and what a great example he's been for our five boys.  Because of him, they know what it means to be a good father.  They know it is a vocation--and because they've all wanted to follow in his footsteps, that is the one they've chosen.  As Catholic parents, of course we would have been thrilled if any of them had chosen a vocation to the priesthood; but we also know that in this crazy world of ours--where good is bad and bad is good, and so many children are growing up confused, depressed, and devoid of hope--there is a desperate need for good fathers.

The baby boy in that picture above is all grown up now.  He and his wife will welcome their first child a mere ten months into their marriage, and our son is already so excited about the role he's going to be playing in his little boy's life.

Preciosa gave him the cutest gift for Father's Day.  He opened it up at midnight, unable to wait 'til this morning.  As she says, "He's super pumped!"
Can you tell he's pumped?  Do you think he's looking forward to being a dad?

Boys need strong fathers as their role models.  But girls need them, too.  So I can't forget to give a Father's Day shout-out to my own terrific dad--and here's a picture of us back in the day, when I was just a teeny-bopper who was dating the super cute boy who would become a father to my sons.
And now for a toast to all the fathers out there who sacrifice so much, work so hard, and love so fiercely:  You have been called by Our Father in Heaven to be the heads of your domestic churches here on earth--a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly, by any means.  It's a daunting job, but you do it.  God bless you all--where would the world be without you?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hey Girl, Time to Write Another Book

I have some exciting news to share.  I am writing a second book.
This is really not something I ever expected to do, to tell you the truth.  When Finding Grace was published in 2012 (after I worked on it sporadically for almost five years), a girlhood dream--to write at least one novel in my lifetime--was realized.  I was perfectly content to be the author of one book and focus my writing efforts on blogging and reviewing the Catholic fiction works of others; I really wasn't all that sure I had another book in me.  I used to kick around the idea of a sequel, but then decided that FG is a stand-alone book, and that I'd rather have readers imagine for themselves what becomes of all those characters in the following years.
Finding Grace truly was "my baby," the book I always dreamed of writing.  I put everything in there that was near and dear to my heart, thinking that if I never wrote another book, that one would encompass everything I would have ever been interested in writing about.  (Irish-Catholics; a family with five sons; the city of Plattsburgh, NY, where I grew up; Notre Dame, which is my husband's alma mater, and Holy Cross, which is mine; a love interest very much modeled after my own high school boyfriend/now husband, as well as a second very likable guy, so readers would wonder which one my main character would end up with--because I love a great "will the girl get the boy?" storyline; the lives of the Saints; devotion to the Blessed Mother; and dozens of other people, places, things, and events that are hidden in little references, specifically for my family and friends.)  I knew that book would never make me rich; but I hoped it would bless even a handful of readers--especially impressionable teen readers, for whom I was inspired to write it.
Well, when I was least expecting it, I was recently approached by Cheryl Dickow and given an amazing opportunity to write another YA novel for Bezalel Books--this time a shorter work, and definitely appropriate even for younger teens, middle-school and junior high readers who might not be quite ready for Finding Grace.  (Because FG deals with out-of-wedlock teenage pregnancy, underage drinking, abortion, and the Holocaust, it is really for older teens and adults--and I believe a parent should read it first before giving it to her young reader.)  This time, I'm also working with deadlines, so I have to carve hours out of each day to sit at my laptop and work.  I must treat my writing as a job rather than a hobby.
So I tell you, I've been typing away like a madwoman Ron Swanson.
I've been going over each page with a fine-tooth comb, trying to make sure I don't have any grammar boo-boo's.  Because Ryan Gosling has a point when it comes to this subject.

He really likes to give advice on writing, I've noticed (among other things--his "Hey girl" memes are literally all over the Internet).
I actually like that one.  He makes writing fiction sound so easy.  And FUN!  Cheryl told me to have fun with this project, and that's what I intend to do!

I'm not going to divulge what the new book will be about.  But I will say that there might be an historical fiction component.  And because I'm so fascinated by all things Celtic in nature, there might be an Irish character or two.  For now, the book's working title is Erin's Ring.

I told my husband that although I do love to write, I worry that being "a writer" means I'm a little strange.  (As Ryan Gosling so aptly points out, I'm playing pretend and then sharing it--not the most normal way to spend one's time.)  But here's what I need to remember, I guess:
ER is slated to come out sometime in early 2015.  Until then, please keep me in your prayers, as I'm a little nervous about this project; I so want to do a good job with it, to reward Cheryl's faith in me.  But if I can give greater glory to God through this book, then no matter what happens, I will think of it as a success.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

One Lucky Gal

My husband has always been my most loyal supporter.  When I was writing Finding Grace, I talked to him about my imaginary people and the imaginary things that were happening to them, and he didn't think I was a nut job.  He never acted bored; in fact, he always seemed incredibly excited and interested in the whole process.

He's doing it again.  I know I'm one lucky gal, and I need to make sure that guy of mine knows that I know it.

So a million thanks to my dear husband.  This post is for you.  I love you.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Some thoughts on Modesty, and a Book Recommendation

Recently, I was traveling by airplane down to VA--something I do a lot these days, since I have two boys who have settled there with their wives, at least for the time being, and another who will also be settling there very soon (his fiancée is from VA, not far from DC).  The purpose of this trip was to attend a "gender reveal" party for the baby our third-born son and his wife will be welcoming to the world in October.

In case you didn't read the post where I let you in on what color the icing inside the cupcakes was, here you go:
It's a boy!  After three utterly darling granddaughters, we are now going to have a wee lad in the mix as well!  A grandson to carry on the Pearl name.

Anyway, so I was heading down for this sweet and exciting event, and while I was going through the security line at the airport, I couldn't stop staring at this twenty-something gal who had chosen an extremely bizarre traveling outfit to wear that morning.  This lucky young girl was built like your basic Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.  (And by the way, moms of boys: we always threw out those issues before the boys could see them; they may have looked at them elsewhere, but I hope not.  Because I think they’re almost pornographic these days!)   You know the type: slim yet well-endowed on top, with a Coppertone tan and long, bleach-blond hair.  She had the most enviable midriff--and I know this because it was exposed for all the world to see/ogle.  Her tank top was tight, low-cut, and only went down as far as the top of her ribcage.  She was wearing a knit maxi skirt, which is quite a modest choice, yes?  No, not in this case!  The skirt was incredibly tight, just like the tank top, and she wore it slung low--below her belly button, like a bikini bottom. 

Anyway, this girl had the kind of body that makes a 55-year-old grandma think with a touch of sadness, “Wow, I remember when I had a young body like that.”
Wait a minute; I didn’t.  Even when it was young, my body never looked like this girl’s.
But even when my body was a lot prettier than it is now, I always had a natural urge to cover it.  I always liked winter best, when piling on the layers was the way to go. I couldn't walk in a one-piece bathing suit without a beach towel tied around my waist.  I could never, in a million years, have gone out in public in the get-up this girl was wearing--at the beach or elsewhere.
If I found myself glancing in her direction (if only because I was thinking that I'd like to run over there and throw a blanket over her shoulders!), who else do you think was giving her the once-over?  What was her purpose in dressing like this for an airplane trip?  Was she hoping to inspire the males waiting in line behind her with impure thoughts?  I'm sure she wasn't, but when young ladies dress in such a manner, they should realize that this is exactly what happens.  And if they don't think it's going to happen, they're just kidding themselves.
It didn't surprise me at all that an older guy in front of me had his head on a swivel.  He couldn’t stop sneaking peeks at this scantily-clad goddess; and there didn’t seem to be any spouse traveling with him, so he could enjoy the view as much as he wanted.  And boy, he did.  (And I doubt his thoughts about this young lady were of the chaste or fatherly variety.)
I think today more than ever young girls need to get the message that they can be attractive, fashionably dressed, and pretty--but still be modest!  That it's okay to want to look beautiful--in fact, it's part of a woman's nature to have that desire.  But we can teach them how to accentuate their natural attributes and dress properly for their individual body types without sacrificing their purity in the process.  We can remind them that dressing in an immodest manner can attract the wrong kind of attention from the opposite sex.
Having been blessed with five sons and no daughters, my husband and I never had the challenge of helping a teenaged girl to navigate the minefields of adolescence--and I think in many ways, that would have been tougher than it was with our boys.
But if you, dear reader, are currently (or will one day be) raising daughters, you might want to pick up a copy of this wonderful book, All Things Girl, Truth for TeensCo-authored by Cheryl Dickow, Peggy Bowes, Heather Renshaw, and Kayla Brandon and published by Bezalel Books, it contains a gold mine of practical tips, vital information, and inspirational reading.  (This book normally sells for $5.99 on Kindle, but if you order within the next four days, you can get it for $0.99!)
In this 2014 second edition (the first edition came out in 2009),
Finding Grace is mentioned on p. 142
as inspirational reading for teenaged girls!
This marvelous book, which is written in a conversational style that makes material that might otherwise be too dry very entertaining and compelling, contains chapters on a number of subjects, including Relationships, Influences from the Feminist Movement, Exploring the "ME" in Social Media, Fashion, Skin, Hair and Make-Up, and others.  There are so many nuggets of wisdom and practical advice within the pages of this book, and for a Catholic parent, so many beautifully-worded inspirational passages, such as this one on modesty: "Every girl, every woman is created with a very special gift.  This gift is the ability to carry a life within their bodies!  Our Lady is called the Ark of the Covenant because she carried Jesus in her womb.  She is your role model in the ways in which you want to live as a daughter of the King.  Because of the priceless gift of your womb, your midriff should be protected and hidden.  A way to do that is to cover and veil this area.  It is sacred.  This is why it is good to avoid two-piece swimsuits out in public--and veil the precious gift of your womanhood."  This is a book I wish the gal in the too-revealing outfit at the airport that day had read!  This is a book that I want my granddaughters to read when they are entering puberty.

Here is a great passage about chastity: "You are the keeper of your 'secret garden' and only you allow entrance by your invitation and the only one who should be allowed to enter is your husband, for he is the only one worthy.  When a woman wears suggestive clothing she is giving the message to men that she will give herself to...anyone who will give her attention.  Modesty--veiling what should remain hidden--will reveal to a man the woman's dignity.  He will see how she sees herself."

And one about finding a future husband: "Women dream of being pursued by a worthy man.  God has a plan for every young woman's life.  Let Him bring you a worthy suitor.  Trust that if you are being called to the vocation of marriage, God will provide you with a worthy and suitable husband as long as you do your part, which is to uphold your own dignity and value." 

All Things Girl, Truth for Teens will inspire your teen to eat healthily, exercise regularly, accentuate her natural beauty in a modest and appropriate way, be a good friend, date the right type of boy, avoid the traps set by the world regarding pre-marital sex and contraception, imitate the saints, and most of all, to appreciate and value the God-given gift of her femininity.   I highly recommend this book--it would make great summer reading for your daughters and granddaughters.

Now head on over to Jessica's for more summer reading recommendations.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Hunger in the Heart (for Reading and Writing!)

Well, today has been a writing day.  I've been at it for about four hours straight now, and I thought I'd take a very brief break to send my two cents out into the blogosphere.'s what I look like today: I look so much like this calm, beautiful gentlewoman whose pen is poised mid-thought.

Sad to say, there is not a vase filled with fresh roses by my side when I'm writing.  Just the cold dregs of my hours-old coffee and a protein bar wrapper.  (No artist in his right mind would want to immortalize the scene here at my dining room table in oil paints.)

I'm not dressed in a ball gown like this lovely lady here, either; I'm still in my flannel nightgown at 1:30 in the afternoon (oh the shame!).  My hair isn't done up neatly and tied with a silk ribbon; it's a scraggly mess (and full disclosure, it's greasy, too, because I haven't gotten around to showering yet).  My expression is not nearly as serene as this Austen-esque writer's (and if you don't believe me, I'm going to take a selfie and post it, I warn you!).  I have been poring over my hastily scribbled notes and highlighted print-outs, along with the iPhone photos I took of some old documents I found in our local library during my three-hour research session yesterday.  I think my face looks a tad more...haggard, let's say, than this lovely Victorian-era maiden's.  (Or is she a Regency-era maiden--I just don't have time for any more research right now!)  But I hope my face looks happy and excited, too, because this has been a pretty productive day in the old salt mines.

And though I'm not reading books these days (for fear that they will take my focus off the task at hand), I did finish reading a great one not long ago, for which I recently posted a very brief five-star review on Goodreads.  It's a terrific novel called A Hunger in the Heart by Catholic author Kaye Park Hinkley.
Really, it's SOOOO good!

Now head on over to Jessica's for more recommendations and reviews!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Diary of a (Very) Young Girl

Lately, I've been playing hooky now and again here at the blog, but I have a very good reason.  I spent the past week or so contemplating the possibility of taking on a writing assignment that I never thought I'd be offered; and thinking about that--trying to discern if there's adequate time for such an undertaking in my oh-so-busy life as a stay-at-home, empty-nesting Grammy slash world-traveler (or these here United States-traveler, at least)--left very little room in my brain for anything else.  Since deciding that yes, I can make the time, I've been busy getting to work on said project.

I've always loved to write.  But have I always been a good writer?  Let's see, shall we?  I did share some of my childhood scribblings with you here before.  Remember spunky little Caroline Graves?  (Oy vey!)

But as you will see, my efforts before Caroline's story were even more pathetic less skilled.  And much less interesting.

When I was in third grade, I got my first diary for Christmas.  (I only ever had one other, in junior high, which I stopped keeping and destroyed after I realized that putting down your adolescent thoughts in a place where anyone could read them is not such a great plan: let's just say that I once wrote that my best friend was annoying me because she was flirting with my "boyfriend"--term used loosely--that day at school, and while on a sleepover, that very friend peeked into my "private" world and read all about it!)
This little red diary was stored in a cardboard box of girlhood mementos in the attic of our old house, then stored elsewhere when my parents sold it after I'd gotten married and moved away from home. I had forgotten half the stuff in it existed until the box was found and returned to me three decades later.  And thank goodness, this sweet little diary was one item that had survived intact; because let me tell you, there are deep and thought-provoking literary gems abounding on each and every page.

For instance, here's a scintillating look into the life of your average 8-year-old schoolgirl:
"Today is Wednesday...Tomorrow will be Thursday."  "...Tomorrow is Friday."  I hope back when I was keeping this diary, the lock was working and I kept the little golden key hidden in a super-secret place, because I was revealing a lot of my soul here!

Actually, I did let my diary in on the boy who was one of my very first loves.
If you're old enough to remember who this guy was (the cutest member of a squeaky-clean 60's pop sensation, a family called the Cowsills, that's who! And I had their album!)...well, then you're old enough.
I believe John is the one to his mom's right with the gigantic tie.
But seriously, please pray for me as I begin my new writing project.  God bless you!

Now before I sign off,  I'm going to leave you with this video of the Cowsills performing one of their hit songs from their album "The Rain, the Park, and Other Things."  (It was one of my favorites--and I think it'll make you smile!)

Monday, June 2, 2014


Three years ago today, a pair of angelic little girls--identical twins--came into the world and made me a Grammy.

Words cannot express the way I feel about these two extraordinary little sweethearts.  If I could sit and snuggle with them 24/7, I would be more than happy to spend my days that way.  They're so funny and spirited--and like sponges, they absorb every detail they hear and see.  It is astounding to me how much they know and remember.

Those girls have got to be the most affectionate people God ever put on His green earth, and when my husband and I are with them, they make us feel so incredibly loved, appreciated, and cherished.  When we're visiting at their house, the minute they see us at the kitchen table when they wake up in the morning, they are as excited as if it's Christmas morning and Santa has just come and left them a pile of Melissa and Doug toys.  They fly at us with smiles and giggles.  One hops into Papa's lap, and the other hops into Grammy's. They're the best huggers and kissers in the world.  I'm telling you, if my husband and I ever need an ego boost, a visit with them is sure to do the trick.

It's hard to believe how fast they're growing up!  It seems like yesterday that they looked like this.  And now they're THREE!
My wonderful late father-in-law, who adored his grandchildren with every fiber of his being, used to love the saying, "If I'd known how much fun it was to have grandchildren, I'd have had them first."  You know what?  As much as I loved raising my sweet boys, their Papa might have been onto something there.

God bless my angels!  Grammy thanks you for bringing so much joy into my life, just in the three short years I've known you.  Think of how much joy there is yet to come!