Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cowabunga--It's Trick-or-Treat Night!

Tonight's the night!  In our NH town, for some reason trick-or-treating always takes place on the night of October 30 rather than on Halloween night itself.  I'm not really sure of the reason behind this.  Someone once mentioned to me that it was because the city government was trying to discourage "Mischief Night" activities, such as smashing pumpkins and toilet papering people's lawns.  But I just thought, "Okay, wouldn't mischief-makers just push back and pull their pranks on the 29th then?  How does moving it up a day solve anything?"


For whatever reason, the 30th is the big night for scoring candy in our burg.  Here's a picture of our four oldest boys, ready to hit the streets on their first Halloween [Eve] in this town, in 1990. 
As you might have guessed, like everybody and his brother in the late 80's and early 90's, these little guys were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fanatics.  Big time.  And I've told this story before on this blog, but here I go again: these funny little fellas decided which characters they were going to be, without a bit of disagreement or contention (and they were a mighty competitive bunch, let me tell you), and from then on, they forever associated themselves with their specific Turtle counterparts. No arguments, no switching back and forth.  Done and done. Our oldest (in the purple mask) was Donatello; our second-oldest (in blue) was Leonardo; son #3 (in red) was Raphael; and son #4 (in orange) was Michelangelo.  Each of the Ninja Turtles had different personality traits and skills, and these four boys all reached a peaceful and unanimous consensus about which ones they should be.

I guess it's a lucky thing that our #5 son didn't come along until 1983, so that by the time he would have wanted to join the gang, the Turtle obsession was waning.  Which Turtle would he have been?  Could we have had two Michelangelos?  Two Raphaels?  (He would not have wanted to play the role of April O'Neal, that's for sure!)

Moms, enjoy these halcyon days when your kids are dressing up in cute costumes, their eyes lit up with joy at the prospect of all that sugary booty they're going to amass.  Those days fly by, and suddenly your children are too old and sophisticated to participate in Halloween activities.  Little boys who thought dressing up as their favorite Ninja Turtles was the greatest thing EVER will no longer think that's at all cool anymore.

Oh, wait.  There was that recent shopping trip, to a party store in VA, with son #4 and his wife...
Yep, that's right: 24 years after that photo of him and his brothers was taken, he's still Michelangelo for Halloween.  Thank goodness, some things never change!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

WWRW: The As-Yet-Unpublished Erin's Ring, The Longest Ride, and Unbroken

Is there still a What We're Reading Wednesday link-up?  Is that still a thing?  I've been out of the loop so long, I'm not even sure what's going on in the blog world anymore! 

Tell you what: I'm going to do a WWRW post just in case, and afterward I'll head on over to Housewifespice and see if I can link up with my fellow bookworms.  If not, well hey--no harm done, because I love to talk about books!  I love everything about books.  I love to read them, I love to review them...and amazingly enough, in my old[ish] age, I even love to write them.
As Thomas Jefferson said, "I cannot live without books."  I'm with you, T.J.
Right now, I am currently hunting down typos in my second YA Catholic novel for Bezalel Books, Erin's Ring.  The writing (let's call that the "easy" part) is done; now for the editing--and after the publishing, the promoting and marketing...

But let's not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?

The cover of this soon-to-be-published book is a winner, in case you haven't seen it yet.
This cover artwork, chosen by my uber-awesome publisher Cheryl Dickow, is so evocative of a particular scene in the book (a very romantic scene between two characters I became incredibly fond of over the course of the past five or six months--a scene that will make your heart go pitter-pat, yet is very chaste at the same time) that it's positively uncanny!

What has been so satisfying for me this time around is that there isn't even a smidgeon of semi-autobiographical content in this novel, as there was in Finding Grace (which was set in my girlhood hometown and included a female protagonist who, though definitely not me or much like me, happened to start high school in 1973, just like I did, and had a major crush on a handsome, gap-toothed charmer, who was sort of a dead ringer for my then boyfriend/now husband).  The characters in Erin's Ring came completely out of my imagination and don't resemble anyone that I know in real life, so I was able to--at the risk of sounding heretical--"play God" and make them in exactly the image I thought they should be.  Once the characters become "real," however, they actually led the story in directions that were different than those I'd planned.  I began to know what they'd say or do in various situations.  This happened with Finding Grace, too; but in that book, I actually tweaked some real-life events and conversations to fit them into my story.  Not so with Erin's Ring.

When I was a young, starry-eyed, impressionable teen and pre-teen, I read just about any novel I could get my grubby little hands on.  Some were great (Wuthering Heights, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird); but some were way too adult and inappropriate for my young psyche to handle.  I remember at 13 or 14 reading The Godfather, a paperback copy of which my parents had left where I could find it, on a bookshelf in our house.  (I doubt they knew I was reading it, and I think they might have taken it away from me if they had.)  I remember being shocked by that book--not just by the violence, but by the R-rated content.  It was a huge mistake for me to read it.  What I needed then is what all young people need (and older people, too, because we all, regardless of ageshould be edified and inspired by what we read): I needed stories that were entertaining yet chaste; I needed to read about people in love who weren't falling into bed together without the Sacrament of Marriage to bind them;  I needed history and adventure and characters whose courage, fortitude, and faith would inspire me to be a better version of myself.  But where to find these sorts of books?  Well...
You could say that I wrote this new book, a book I would have liked way back when, about 40 years too late for myself and gals my age; but apparently statistics show that the fastest growing reading audience is adults who read YA fiction.  That can only be good news for Erin's Ring.

If you're still reading this (bless you!), and you already read Finding Grace (bless you again!), please note that Erin's Ring is less than 200 pages long--and those pages are a good bit smaller in size than the oversized pages of FG, with a larger, easier-to-read font to boot.  It's a quick read, and my publisher feels very strongly that it will appeal to women aged 16 to 60.

Okay, enough said about that (for now!).  I haven't been reading much the past six months, since I've had to devote most of my time to writing instead.  But on plane trips, I always have a paperback with me.  And here are my thoughts on two I've read recently.

On trips out to the Midwest and back for Notre Dame football games, I read Nicholas Sparks' The Longest Ride.  It's okay.  I admit that I couldn't stop reading it, because I was curious to see how it would all get tied up and resolved.  There were two love stories going on simultaneously: one between a ninety-year-old man, trapped in his car after it skids off the road and lands in an embankment, and his beloved long-dead wife; and the other between a college student and a bronco-riding cowboy whom she meets at a bar.  I particularly liked the story about the older couple, because the man's wife appears to him as she looked at different ages in their long marriage, and you find out the history behind their touching love story.  The younger couple's story didn't grab me the way it should have, because I didn't end up caring enough about either of them.  So I can't believe I'm going to say this...but this is one book I believe would be better as a movie (and I have little doubt that, given Sparks' history, it will be coming to a theater near you one of these days), because I have a feeling that depending on the actors who are cast, the young couple could be very compelling.

Here's my beef with Sparks: He does write touching stories, about people who mostly try to do the right thing.  His books are usually Christian in tone.  But in this novel, like in the few others of his I've read, the couples in love end up in the sack in pretty short order.  In The Longest Ride, I can almost believe it of the younger couple, who probably cut their teeth watching T.V. shows like "Friends."  But it doesn't ring as true for the older couple, whose marriage begins in the WWII era. I know that human beings have always been tempted to sin, and I'm not naïve enough to think that pre-marital sex didn't exist before the dawn of cable T.V.  I just wish that Sparks--a Catholic father of five, and a Notre Dame graduate, too--would use his formidable talent and popularity to write novels that show the beauty of his own Catholic Faith and its teachings.  That's all.  I'd probably get all kinds of hate-filled comments for dissing Nicholas Sparks, if it was the norm to get many comments on this blog; but I just had to say it. 

Although I usually pack works of fiction in my carry-on bag, on a recent trip I also read a non-fiction spell-binder: a bestseller called Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand.  Wow.  Incredible.  A must-read of the highest order.  This story is so, so, so heart-breaking and inspiring, it's hard to put it into words.  It is a testament to the strength of the human spirit--the spirit of an Olympic runner and WWII POW named Louis Zamperini.  This amazing man refused to be broken, despite having to endure the most indescribable torture and suffering.  Get yourself a copy; you won't be disappointed.  And the movie version, sure to be a great success, is coming out in December.

That's it, I promise.  This post is finally coming to an end.  Now I'm heading over to Jessica's to see if there's a WWRW post today.  Happy reading!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Home Again, Editing a New Book and Missing a Wee Boy

Well, I'm back home again.  If you want to know where I've been and what I've been up to, I think my middle son's latest blog post will do a better job of filling you in than I could do myself.  (I told you about my "daddy blogger" son, right?  The man behind Daddy and the Doctor?  You know that brand spanking new must-read blog that you simply must check out?)

I can tell you this: I'm missing a little man dressed in miniature sweat pants and dinosaur t-shirts.  Missing him bad.

Just for kicks, I decided to change the picture banner across the top of my home page today.  How do you like it?  In the pile of mail the post office had been holding for my globe-trotting husband and myself, delivered to us in a huge bundle today, we found an envelope containing the prints we ordered from our baby's recent senior picture photo shoot (he's due to graduate from Notre Dame in May).  I've had a fifth matching frame put away for five years now, so that he could join his older brothers in this line-up of handsomeness.  So that up there, that's my string of Pearls--oldest to youngest, starting from the left.  My original string, anyway.  It's getting longer by the minute, it seems!

I've spent most of the day going through the galley of Erin's Ring with a fine-toothed comb.
I love the cover!  My publisher picked the perfect image for this story!
I received the galley from my publisher while I was down in VA hanging out with G-Man, but I couldn't bring myself to start working on it there.  I knew I wouldn't be able to concentrate on it and give it the attention I should.  Not when I was distracted by levels of cuteness heretofore only seen by these eyes of mine in five sons and three granddaughters.  To illustrate, here is a picture of my little buddy, taken during one of the early morning visits we had while his exhausted parents grabbed a few hours of much-needed sleep.
He's a determined little sleeper...
unless it's the middle of the night!
But now that I'm home, I'm hard at work trying to ferret out every little typo in ER, so that it will be all set to go to print...and then I can relax and look forward to the upcoming wedding of son #2!  Which means another trip to VA!  And another visit with my grandson, along with my three granddaughters!  So much excitement...I think I need a nap!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Introducing a New Little Boy...and a New Blogger!

I've been AWOL again.  But here's why.  (Get ready for a photo dump made up of pure cuteness.)


He's a deep thinker.  (Like all my grandchildren, he's a genius.)

He and Papa see eye-to-eye on things already.

He does interesting things with his little hands.

Sleeping is pretty much his favorite.  (And eating.  And pooping.
And keeping his parents up til ungodly hours.)

He was Grammy's date last night,
while his mommy and daddy had a rare dinner out.

Not only did this little guy come into the world and make my middle son a daddy...he made my boy a blogger, too!  That's right, son #3 is now in the family biz.  He started a blog called Daddy and the Doctor, in which he will chronicle his son's life in once-a-week posts.  (He's written three posts so far, in order to go back and start from the beginning, when G-Man was born on October 5.)  My son is not an M.D., so if you want to find out why the blog is named thus, you're just going to have to click on over and see what all the hype is about!

You really need to check this blog out!  (It's worth it just to get a peek at the heart-melting photo of my boy holding his newborn son, which he used as the banner for his home page.)  Even though I have a special interest in the content of this new blog (obviously), I can also objectively say that he's an entertaining writer and I believe almost anyone would get a kick out of reading his blog.  There are a lot of "mommy bloggers" out there, but not that many "daddy bloggers," as far as I know; so I think he fills a unique niche in the ever-growing blogosphere.  When his popular and friend-rich wife Preciosa posted links on her Facebook page, his blog got hundreds and hundreds of "hits" almost instantaneously.  His mom is absolutely tickled by his blogging success.

I've only got a few more days here in the land of adorableness, and then it's back home to prepare for the big trip back down this way for the wedding of son #2.

Life is busy.  But it's good.  Very, very good.  And now I've got to go--because a very handsome young man just came to hang out with me.  So I'll leave you with one last shot of my little guy, taken just moments ago.
Good-bye for now. (And don't forget to visit Daddy and the Doctor!)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

My Wedding Hat

If you were here yesterday for the fashion show, you know that I've spent a lot of time lately playing the role of mother of the groom.  And buying pretty dresses.

One problem for me when picking out an outfit to wear for this role is that it has to look okay with a hat.  Not just any hat, but a vintage black felt hat that I bought for $10 back in 2009 at an antiques/secondhand store, embellished with a wide gross grain ribbon bow and the remnants of a face veil that had long since disintegrated.

Let me backtrack a little here, and tell you that I normally wear a chapel veil or lace mantilla when in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, a practice I started not too long before the wedding of my oldest son in December of 2009.  But I didn't feel comfortable wearing a veil for his wedding Mass--I thought that privilege belonged to the bride alone--so I decided I would wear a hat of some sort.  But I didn't want anything too big or wide-brimmed or attention-grabbing.  (I didn't want the kind of crazy millinery that was on display at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, for example.)

Um, nope!  No, thank you.

Are you kidding me?

Some could pull this off...not I.

This is actually quite pretty...but still, too much for me.

I wanted something small and unobtrusive, something that wouldn't leave me with irreparable "hat head" when I removed it for the reception.  I wanted something just like my little black felt hat, the one I just told you about.  I figured black goes with everything, so I paired my petit chapeau with black shoes, and I think it worked.
You almost wouldn't notice I was wearing a hat at all, would you?

Well, I've made that sweet vintage hat work three times already.  I wore it with royal blue for the wedding of son #1, and with the teal and purple dresses I showed you yesterday, the ones I wore for the weddings of sons #3 and #4; and I plan to wear it yet again with the silvery gray dress I'm wearing for son #2's upcoming November wedding.  I guess you could say it's becoming sort of a "trademark" for me.  I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not.  (If you asked my incorrigible older brother, he'd say NOT.  He loves to tease torture me about my "beanie.")

Back at the time of my first go-around as a mother of the groom, I didn't know where to look for an appropriate ensemble (what a newbie I was!).  So I sat down at my laptop and Googled "mother of the groom dresses with jackets."  The Internets took me to a number of sites, including AmeriMark, where I found the above outfit on sale for $ a catalog filled with old lady gear such as orthopedic shoes, support hose, and housedresses.  When it arrived in the mail, I didn't care where it had come from--I loved it!  The jacket has these lovely satin ribbon scrolls (which are hidden by my hair, unfortunately), and the sleeves are sheer--although you can't tell that in the picture--and buttoned at the cuff (much like the sleeves of my own wedding dress).  And royal blue is just about my favorite color.  I decided to add a ribbon closure at the waist, because the jacket was a little too big.  Overall, I was pleased with and comfortable in this outfit.

(Have you clicked on the AmeriMark link yet?  It just goes to show that you never know what you're going to find on the World Wide Web, and where you're going to find it--there are all sorts of treasures waiting to be discovered out there, sometimes in the most unlikely of places!)

Okay, have I covered mother of the groom fashion thoroughly enough yet?  Are you really, really hoping son #5 doesn't get married for a few years, so you don't have to listen to me yammer on about what I'm going to wear to HIS wedding?

If you're still with me here, hats off to you!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mother of the Groom Fashion Show

One of the really fun things about having three sons get married within the space of a mere eleven months...

Whoa, Nelly, what happened?  Did I faint or something?  Where was I?

Oh, yes: one of the really fun things about having three sons get married within the space of a mere eleven months is that you have to get three new "mother of the groom" dresses, all in the same year.  And what woman doesn't love a good excuse (or three) to get herself a fancy new dress?  Am I right?

I mean, for this upcoming wedding of son #2 in November, I could recycle one of the dresses I've bought and worn recently.  Such as this one, an ankle-length teal beauty that I wore for son #3's December 2013 wedding.
Or this deep purple tea-length stunner, which I sported for the wedding of son #4 in February of this year.
I loved both of these comfy and attractive dresses (although I wish my frame was such that they'd hung on me like they do in these pictures, in a runway-worthy manner).  They seemed to fit the types of weddings they were chosen for, and the mothers of the brides in both cases were wearing floor-length gowns, so I would not have wanted to go any shorter.

This time, the bride's mother will be wearing a beautiful knee-length dress and jacket, and originally, I was going to wear a pale green embroidered jacquard suit (comprised of a fitted 3/4-sleeve jacket and matching tea-length slim pencil skirt).
However, when I tried it on again recently, I realized it would make me very nervous if I had to wear it to walk down a church aisle with too many eyes upon me.  Although the suit fits, the skirt is relatively form-fitting (especially for a gal who can't stand to have any piece of clothing even close to hugging her skin); and with the light color, panty lines were showing and I was stressing over how I was going to make them go away.  My husband saw that I was distressed, and although it would have been in his best interest to encourage me to wear the green suit (which I'd purchased years ago, marked down from $90 to $17.99), he told me I should get something new.  Not only that, but he said he wanted to tag along with me on a shopping trip to David's Bridal--what a guy!  So off we went to spend about six times what I spent on that green suit.  (Oh well, maybe someday I'll find the perfect occasion to wear it!)

Here's the new dress my husband helped me to choose.
That's not me modeling it, by the way.  In fact, truth be told it doesn't fit me like it fits this poor underfed model.  And it's longer on me than it is on her, hitting just below the knee--thank goodness!  I won't be wearing strappy stiletto sandals, either, with smooth, bare, tanned legs on display; I'll be wearing sensibly low-heeled black patent leather pumps and gray opaque panty hose that camouflage my varicose veins.  But despite all of that, I feel comfortable and pretty in this dress.  And its tiers hide a multitude of sins (as well as those aforementioned pesky panty lines!).  I love the cropped jacket, don't you?

I had a special pearl and Miraculous Medal necklace made (by an Etsy artisan) to match that green suit, but it doesn't look right with my new get-up.  Which is a bummer, because for me, it's important to wear my favorite Catholic devotional at all times.  But as luck would have it, my oldest son and his wife gave me some gorgeous dangly earrings this past Mother's Day.
And as you can see, these beauties (another great Etsy find!) incorporate both of my dress-up jewelry must-haves--pearls and the Miraculous Medal--and I think they'll make the perfect accessory for my new outfit.

So, have you had enough of mother of the groom fashions yet?  Not to worry.  We'll only have one single son left after this next wedding, and he's not even finished with college yet--so I don't believe there will be another wedding in the Pearl house any time soon...Although just a couple of years ago, if you had told me how quickly our lives would change, I never would have believed you!  So stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Oh Boy, Do I Have Some Catchin' Up to Do!

Hey, there!  Whatchy'all been doin' lately?  Have you been wondering what I've been up to (other than not posting anything on this blog)? 

Well, hold onto your hats, because I'm going to take you on a whirlwind ride here through the past ten days.  A LOT can surely happen in ten days, let me tell you.  Not the least of which is seeing the baby boy in this picture (taken shortly after he was born in 1986)
holding his own baby boy 28 years later.  (Talk about deja vu all over again!)
But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Okay, so we were out at Notre Dame (our home away from home) with our oldest and youngest sons (our "book end" boys) on October 4--not quite enjoying a tailgate in the cold, pouring rain, but muscling through it because that's what you do when you're a die-hard ND football fan--when we got a call from son #3 with some exciting news: it looked like Preciosa was in labor and they would be heading over to the hospital.  Not quite a week before his official due date, little G-Man realized that his mommy had had enough already of carrying around his 8 lb. 3 oz. self.  She was anxious to finally meet him, and being the good son that he is, he decided to oblige.
G-Man's "book end" Pearl uncles.
Like most first labors and deliveries, this one was long and tough.  Preciosa's mom and dad took off from Florida when they heard it was go time and drove 12 hours through the night, thinking they would probably arrive after their first grandchild had been born.  But even though Preciosa had been at 10 cm hours earlier, she still hadn't delivered by the time they reached the hospital.  After hours of pushing (too many hours, in my book), G-Man finally came into the world before lunchtime on Sunday October 5.  He and Preciosa were both battered and bruised, and the poor little guy had a bit of a cone head; but otherwise both mom and baby were doing just fine.  And shortly after his entrance into the world, G-Man met his maternal grandparents.

Papa and I were in the stands at the Notre Dame v. Stanford game on Saturday night while our poor daughter-in-law labored, but because of the miserable weather we left at half-time (something we have never done before--but believe me, the second half was a lot more enjoyable in the warm, dry living room of the rental house we were sharing with some other family members, including our oldest son and his wife and three daughters).

The next morning, we went to Mass at the Basilica, and afterward we hopped on a plane and three-legged it to VA to meet our new grandson, with stops in Detroit and NYC along the way.  By the time we got to the hospital Sunday night, it was after 11:00 p.m.; but visiting hours were 24/7, so we stayed for a few hours and got acquainted with G-Man, who is just as precious as can be.  Then we spent all day Monday at the hospital with the sweet little family of three and our daughter-in-law's parents, taking turns holding the baby and running out for not-hospital food for the tired new parents.

So, would you like to see some pictures?  Thought so.  But get prepared for some killer cuteness.  (And make sure to note the matching father-son going home outfits, which our boy received from his wife on Father's Day.)

So that was the biggest thing that happened since we last spoke, obviously.  After spending just a short time with this adorable little human (who just happens to look an awful lot like his old man used to look, back in the day), we had to get back on an airplane Tuesday morning and two-leg it back home.  Because bright and early on Wednesday, I was scheduled to have surgery to have one of my parathyroid glands removed.  (Remember I told you about that?)

So on the morning of October 8, I went in for surgery.  And while I was still in recovery, the doctor told my husband that all had gone well, and that in the hundreds of hundreds of procedures like this he's performed, my tumor-like gland was more than twice as big as the biggest one he'd ever removed.  It was about the size of a walnut, he said.  When my husband told me this, I immediately smiled and said, "I win!"  Because what I've learned over the years in my testosterone-heavy household is that everything is a competition.  Everything.  Of course, our boys came back with some hilarious comments when they heard I'd called myself a winner.  My middle son, the new dad, said, "Mom, you're the Lebron James of parathyroid tumors."  My second oldest son, who was texting to go over some details for his upcoming wedding, started with, "By the way, congrats on your award-winning tumor."  My older brother--my bestest childhood buddy and the guy who prepared me for life as the mother of a boatload of boys--said he was going to have the gland bronzed for me so I could put it in my trophy case. Is it any wonder why I love boys so much, and why I feel privileged that God gave me five of them to raise?

Anyway, I'm totally cured of hyperparathyroidism now.  The only reminder I have is a scar about 2-3 inches long on my neck, but over time it should fade and blend in with one of the natural creases that's already there.  For my son's wedding in November, I plan to hide it under my vintage "Pop-It Bead" faux pearl necklace, which I can adjust to any length I want.
(No, I'm not going to wear the awesome Etsy necklace I had made specifically for the wedding...because for one, it doesn't cover the scar; and for two, I totally changed my mind, ditched the pale green suit that clung a little too tightly to my nether region and had me worrying about undergarment lines, and bought a new dress at David's Bridal.  As I said, it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind...)

So, do you think all the excitement ended with the operation on Wednesday?  Silly readers, of course it didn't!  I spent Wednesday night in the hospital, and before I was discharged on Thursday morning, I asked the doctor if it was okay to travel by airplane the next day (because my husband got tickets to every single Notre Dame home game this season, you see, and the Irish were playing North Carolina on Saturday).  And he gave me the thumb's up, saying I could do whatever I felt comfortable doing.  So with the help of a prescription of souped-up Tylenol and some anti-embolism stockings to wear on the flight, on Friday morning I was winging my way out to the Midwest once again with my best guy in the seat next to mine.  After spending a night with our oldest son's family, we headed over to South Bend early Saturday morning to set up our tailgater and visit with two of my husband's brothers and their wives--and our youngest son, of course, along with this buddies and their parents.

The tailgater was worlds better than the one the weekend before, because this time we had glorious fall football weather: sunny and in the 50's.  It was a perfect day all around, ending with another Irish win.
Sisters-in-law make the best friends.
We drove back to our son's house in Michigan after the game, and Sunday morning we went to Mass with his family at their parish church.  Afterwards, there was a pancake breakfast in the church hall, and while there I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite bloggers, Dwija.  She is every bit as beautiful, funny, and charming in real life as she appears to be on her blog.  She and her little ones, with their deep-dimpled smiles, are utterly adorable.  I've now met three of my favorite bloggers, IRL (as they say): Katrina outside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, just before Mass; Rosie when I was down in VA visiting my second-oldest son, just after Mass, as we were heading out the door of the church; and now Dwija in the church hall after Mass.  I think it's amazing--and totally apropos--that every time I meet a Catholic blogger I admire, it's in or near a church, before or after Mass!

Sunday, we two-legged it back home, and that's where I am now.  (Hi house!  I missed you!)  I'm using these rare days at home to get some things done (sewing flower girl dresses, writing the final chapter of Erin's Ring, etc.), and then Thursday afternoon I'll have a follow-up appointment for the surgery.  Once I get that behind me, guess what I'll be doing on Friday?  If you guessed flying off somewhere, you're right!  And guess where I'm going?  If you guessed down to VA to spend some more time with my little G-Man, you would be right again!  I plan to stay there for about a week and a half, and then it's back home to prepare for our road trip back down to VA for son #2's wedding on November 8.  Phew!!

So that's it in a nutshell, that's what I've been up to.  I've missed coming here and talking to you, but lately I've just been too overwhelmed by real life events to spend much time in the blog world.  However, I'm back.  And it feels good!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Wedding and an Award

Last weekend we had a wonderful get-together with my family, to celebrate the wedding of my baby sister's youngest son.  All five Harding siblings and spouses were seated together at one table at the reception, and it was such a blast.  We had the best, most fun table at the party, that's for sure.

It's such a blessing that both my husband and I have brothers and sisters that truly like each other and love spending time together.  I think I can speak for us both when I say that our siblings are our best friends.
We are family!  I got all my sistas with me!

We were able to get a nice family photo taken after the ceremony.  Unfortunately, my dad was not able to make it to the wedding because he wasn't feeling well, so there's a space where Bigfoot should be.  (That's my dad's handle, in lieu of "Grandpa" or "Papa," in case you're new here.)  My poor dad ended up in the ER yesterday and had to have emergency surgery to remove another infected toe, which had caused him to become septic.  Bigfoot is down to three toes out of ten now.  (More on that at a later date.)  He'll be recovering in the hospital for about a week and could really use your prayers!  My younger sister's husband was also not there.  But otherwise, this is us:
Before I left for the weekend,  I was notified that I'd been nominated for a Liebster Award by my Aussie friend Erin at Seven Little Australians and Counting.   I love Erin!  She's a homeschooling mother of ten, an avid reader and writer.  I love how she writes, too, using terms that we Americans don't really hear too often anymore, like "fortnight" and "whilst."  I admire how she labours at home with a smile, savours life to the fullest, cooks flavourful healthy meal for her troops.  She's one of my favourites!  And the opportunity to make friends like Erin--someone I would never have had the opportunity to know otherwise--is one of the amazing and wonderful outcomes of becoming a blogger.  It's something I never imagined would happen when I started out almost four years ago, writing for a tiny handful of followers (who were also family members).  You really should click over to Seven Little Australians and Counting, if only to see the beautiful picture of Erin's family on her home page.
Okay now, on to the Liebster, which Erin aptly describes as "a high five in recognising and supporting the work of fellow bloggers."  I'm pretty psyched to nominate some people, I must say, because there are a number of blogging ladies I used to follow quite regularly, but whom I've been ignoring too much lately.  Not because I don't love their blogs, but because between traveling hither and yon for family events and working to finish my YA novel (coincidentally titled Erin's Ring), I just haven't been reading as many blogs as is my wont.  I haven't been blogging as much as I used to, either.  But I'm closing in on the final chapters, and then look out, people.  Daily blog posts will be comin' at ya.  Comments will be appearing in your comboxes, my friends.  Oh yes, that. will. happen.

Okay, before I nominate others and come up with some questions for them, here are my answers to Erin's questions:

1. How do you express yourself creatively?
Writing, painting, drawing, baking (and decorating cakes), sewing, crafting.
2. What is your favourite genre of books?
Once upon a time I was a college English major, and I fell madly in love with 19th-century English lit.  I've always loved good historical fiction, too, especially novels set in WWII.  I also love young adult books, the kind of classics that are assigned in junior high and high school, but are every bit as inspiring for adults--like To Kill a Mockingbird.  (When our oldest son graduated from Notre Dame in 2006, Harper Lee was an honored guest and paperback copies of her book were given to every graduating senior.  I was thrilled to see IRL the author of one of the most significant books of my girlhood days.)

3. What is a favourite childhood book?
I remember loving Stuart Little when I was really young.  And then in middle school, I adored Little Women.  But the book that made me want to become a writer was To Kill a Mockingbird, which I read when I was about 11.

4. If you had a whole day to 'yourself' what would you choose to do?
I am your quintessential introverted bookworm, so I would probably curl up with a good book.  And if I wasn't reading, I'd probably be writing.  Basically, I really like spending time with words.  (Now if this whole day of which you speak included my husband, this would be a totally different answer.)

5. Would you consider yourself an introvert, extrovert or somewhere in the middle?
Introvert!  I've heard that if you're an introvert, you get energized by having quiet time to yourself, whereas an extrovert is energized by engaging in social activity.  I do enjoy social activities.  In fact, my husband and I are almost always the last ones to leave a party, and though I don't seek them out, I always have fun at them.  But if I have nothing but one party after another, it exhausts me and I crave a little "down time."  Coming up with small talk overwhelms me after a while--I'm not naturally good at it, like some people.  I think most people fall somewhere in the middle, but I know I lean much closer to the introvert side.

6. What is your preferred method of exercise?
"Turbo Jam" work-outs (with lots of punching and kicking--but I'm not a violent person, I swear!).  You can get them on CD's from Beach Body.  I also like to take 3-4 mile walks.

7. Share a quote that has 'spoken' to you.
From The Story of a Soul, these words by St. Therese of Lisieux: "God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized; so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint."

Today just happens to be St. Therese's feast day, too!
8. What is your favourite genre of movies?
I would say romantic comedies--but they so often disappoint me when they include the gratuitous scenes that all PG-13 movies seem to have in them.  Unnecessary sexual innuendo (and then some) really wrecks what would otherwise be a fun, enjoyable movie experience.  So I guess I'll say clean, inspiring sports movies like Rudy, Remember the Titans, and the new one that's out called When the Game Stands Tall.  (And as the mother of five boys, I have learned over the years to really go for a good action/adventure movie as well!)

9. Share one blog you 'must read' regularly?
That would be my daughter-in-law Regina's blog--because it's filled with pictures of our three granddaughters and keeps me up-to-date with the goings-on in our oldest son's family.  I would share a link with you, but it's not a public blog.

10. How many bloggers and whom have you met irl?
Fun question!  The answer is TWO.  First, I met Katrina of Cedars and Tiny Flowers.  My husband and I were traveling out to Notre Dame for a weekend about a year ago, and I got in touch with her ahead of time.  We met for a few minutes at the lake across the street from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, just before Mass.  She was expecting her second son, glowing with pregnancy, and had her older boy (the most adorable toddler) with her.  She was as sweet and beautiful IRL as she appears on her blog.  And then my husband and I were down in VA with our second-oldest son and his fiancée some months ago, and during Mass I recognized Rosie of A Blog for My Mom.  She was there with her oldest daughter, and this was before she announced that she was expecting child #5.  I felt like a blog-stalker/crazed fan when I went up and excitedly introduced myself to Rosie on the way out of the church.  Like Katrina, she was just as lovely and grace-filled in real life as you'd expect her to be after reading her blog.  Isn't it funny that I met both of these Catholic bloggers in or near a church, before or after Mass?  How apropos.

Okay, then--that's it for me.  Thanks again, Erin!

Now I'd like to nominate some gals whose blogs I really enjoy (but which I haven't been reading lately nearly as often as I'd like to).

Madeline of A Dash of Snark
Beth of A Mom's Life
Sarah Therese of Cherishing Everyday Beauty
Erica of Saint Affairs
Joy of Joy in the Morning
Tiffany of Life of a Catholic Librarian
Christina of Filling my Prayer Closet
Iris of The Starving Inspired
Nancy of The Breadbox Letters
Kate of Something Ivory

I would've nominated Erin, too, but she just went through this so I'll give her a rest.

Now here are my questions for you, ladies:

1. Do you have a favorite saint, and what drew you to him/her?
2. I think every Liebster questionnaire includes a question like this; but I'm crazy about books, so I just have to know: do you have a best-loved book that you've read multiple times?  (And will you probably read it again?)  Or do you always just read a book once and pass it on to others?
3. What is your family's Christmas Eve tradition?
4. When you dress up in heels, do you wear panty hose/tights, or do you go bare-legged?
5. How did you and your husband meet?  (And if you're not married, what's the most important quality you're looking for in a spouse?)
6. What's your go-to prayer in times of distress?
7. Where is the one place in the world you would visit if you could?
8. How many siblings do you have?
9. Are you a worrier?  (I'm worried you'll think that's a weird question.)
10. What, if any, sport do you enjoy watching the most?

I look forward to reading your answers!