Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Blogging about the Shower, While I Wait for My Flight

Here's a post I started writing on Sunday, determined to get it up on the blog post haste...and yes, it's now Wednesday, so obviously that grand plan fell through the cracks.  My husband and I left for Upstate NY on Monday, to get some work done at our Oyster Haven VRBO house.  That's where I am now.  And I've been so busy that I've been like, "Blog?  What blog?"

So  anyway, here's that post that's been sitting there on my blogging dashboard unfinished, waiting for its close-up.  (I think I was going to add more pictures, but I'm posting this before another three days goes by!)

[Sunday afternoon]
Well, I'm stuck in the airport in NYC, awaiting a flight that has been delayed more than an hour.  I can't really go anywhere or do anything; so this is a perfect time for me to catch up on my blogging.  I have some complimentary free WiFi at my disposal, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to write a post for my somewhat neglected String of Pearls.

I am on my way back home from a weekend trip to Northern VA, where I attended the baby shower of son #2's wife Ginger.  It's always a crap shoot flying on non-revenue stand-by passes, but the trip down to VA went like clockwork.  However, the return trip--not so much!  When I arrived in NY from DC today, there were some complications (baggage issues, having to wait for a shuttle bus between terminals, etc.).  So I ended up missing my connecting flight to Boston.  And now the next flight heading there is going to be late getting out of here.

Anyhoo--I'm such a slacker lately as far as this blog goes.  So I thought I'd use this unexpected "free time" I have today to share some pictures from the shower.  It was an all-gal affair, hosted by my daughter-in-law's sweet mother at her lovely home--well, not quite an all-gal affair, I guess: there was also one bearded guest, who happens to be the father of the soon-to-be-born little Pearl.  He was a great sport and seemed to really enjoy himself, charming all the ladies with his typical easygoing humor and deep, pleasing laugh.  (Not biased about my boy here; no not at all.)

Okay then, here are some images from a beautiful event, which I was quite privileged to be able to attend--and I'd do it again any day of the week, even if it meant being stuck in an airport for hours afterward.  It was so, SO worth it.

Don't we look like twins?

Ginger and her older sister, who is expecting her 6th at around the same time.

Selfie time with Preciosa and Braveheart.

The only one missing is my sweet Regina.

The soon-to-be first time parents!  Adorable!

My son dealt with being the only male at the shower by
harkening back to his boyhood days and building a fort
out of the gift pile.

One-of-a-kind onesies, made by Preciosa.

I love this boy!  And he's going to be a great dad.
Today (the 30th) is a very special day--because it's the birthday of my mother (she's turning 80!), and also one of my sisters and my daughter-in-law Regina.  The Happy Birthday post is going to have to wait until tomorrow...because right now, we have to head back over to Oyster Haven and assemble bed frames!  But stay tuned...

Friday, September 25, 2015

Catching Up, Between Trips

Well, I'm on a bus to the airport.  I'll be boarding a flight to DC in a little while, because my #2 son's wife Ginger, who is expecting their first child in November, is going to be the guest of honor at a baby shower tomorrow and I'm heading down to spend the weekend with her and my boy.  I haven't missed any of the wedding or baby showers for my daughters-in-law yet, and I wouldn't miss this one for the world.

Not even a year ago, Ginger was a radiant bride.
And soon, she's going to become a mother.  For years, Ginger has devoted herself completely to her kindergarten students, but now she is going to devote herself to a wee one of her own.  She is on a cloud.

I am so fortunate that my husband's job affords me the luxury to travel to such wonderful family events using non-revenue stand-by tickets.  I'm sure I would have to miss some of them if not for him.

So, I haven't been here at String of Pearls in a while.  I believe the last time I blogged (on my daughter-in-law Preciosa's birthday six days ago), I had just returned from travels that included back-to-back Notre Dame football game weekends, the first one in South Bend, IN, and the next one in Charlottesville, VA.  It was fun but exhausting.  Finally, I was back home in NH, glad to be sleeping in my own bed again and puttering around my own house...but when my husband went on a trip a few days later and I was alone in that house, I started to wonder if I belonged there anymore.

I love my home here.  It has 100 percent happy memories for me.  It's where my husband and I raised our five boys, where they lived while they went through grade school and high school.  It's the nest they returned to on their breaks from college.  For so many years, my life here was full and busy, and I had many friends who were going through the same life stages as I was.  I saw the parents of my son's buddies on a regular basis, at football and lacrosse games or at team spaghetti dinners.

But now that my husband and I are almost constantly on the road, off visiting with our kids and grandkids (none of whom live close to their childhood home), we don't really have time to keep up with our old friendships.  Lately, it seems that we only stop in at our house to catch up on the mail we've had held while we've been away, and to make sure the place is still standing.

So I was driving to the post office one day last week, while my husband was away, thinking about all of this and getting really sad.  "Where are my people?" I thought.  "I have no people."  But then I pulled into the post office parking lot and saw one of my oldest and dearest Dover friends.  We hugged, and then I told her that she couldn't know how perfect it was that I'd run into her at just that moment, when I was feeling so lost and alone.  We made plans to meet for coffee the very next morning, at a local bakery in downtown Dover where we used to meet periodically when my baby and her son were besties in grade school.

We had our coffee and breakfast--her treat, a belated birthday gift to me--at an outside table on the sidewalk, on an absolutely glorious, sunshiny day.  We caught up as much as we could before she had to run to work.  She is the kind of friend I could meet up with after years spent apart and feel as if no time had passed.  It was blissful.
This friend is Irish through and through--I think she bleeds green.  Her Irish family tree has branches all over this town, and her family's roots here go way back--maybe not back as far as the events that I wrote about in Erin's Ring; but her relatives play an important role in Dover's Irish history.

A few hours after our meeting, I stopped by my friend's office to give her a belated birthday gift, too: a copy of Erin's Ring.  If anyone could appreciate the subject matter in this book, it's this woman!
It's good to know that I do still have people--like this friend--here; but with all the changes in my family over the past few years, it is also getting easier to imagine someday retiring to Oyster Haven, that house on the lake in Upstate NY that my husband and I recently bought and intend to use as a vacation rental property for now.  I popped up there for two days while my husband was at work. I painted the foyer and scrubbed every inch of the kitchen; I put dishes away and hung pictures.  There's still much to do, but the kitchen is almost all set up.  We just need to get a few more gadgets and utensils, and it'll be ready to go.

You guys...the kitchen there is TO DIE FOR!  Check it out.
I mean, there are two ovens--TWO!

And as wowser as the kitchen is, the lake view out those windows is even more amazing.

But more about that later.  It's getting tougher and tougher to blog on this bumpy ride, with my laptop resting on my knees.  And we're getting close to the airport now.

I'm praying for a safe flight and looking forward to a great weekend.  Hope yours is great, too!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Happy Birthday, Preciosa!

Today my blog is dedicated to our sweet daughter-in-law, Preciosa, who married our middle son in December of 2013.

She is now the mother of almost-one-year-old G-Man, and is expecting baby #2 in February.  She was a successful working woman before the arrival of her adorably chubby and incredibly busy little son, but she has decided to stay home full-time with G-Man and his future siblings.  It is a big sacrifice, but the rewards will be even bigger, I'm quite sure.

That little boy of hers sure loves his mama.
That not-so-little boy of ours sure loves G-Man's mama, too.
Preciosa has many lovable qualities.  But what my husband and I can't help but love about her most is the way she loves these two.
As the mother, she is the HEART of son #3's precious little family.
She is a daughter to me.
And she is so incredibly generous to both of her in-laws, never stingy about letting go of that little cutie pie and handing him over to his baby-hungry Papa and Grammy as soon as we arrive for a visit.
She deserves the happiest of birthdays--and I hope her men treat her like a queen today!
Preciosa, whenever I feel like I just don't know what to blog about anymore, you encourage me to keep blogging (thanks for being a loyal reader, by the way).  And you remind me that sometimes people just like to see a lot of pictures.  So I thought you might enjoy this little photo album I put together, to share with anyone who might stop by this blog on your special day. 

Happy Birthday, Preciosa!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Thank You, Prayer Warriors--and St. Therese!

I just wanted to update you on my brother-in-law, who underwent a lengthy surgical procedure yesterday that could have had several outcomes--and one of them would have been utterly devastating.

Thanks to the prayers of many, many people--and the intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux--he came through the surgery with flying colors.  Afterward, his surgeon (a world-renowned specialist for the type of lung cancer my brother-in-law has) told my sister-in-law that things had gone very well. "He looks great," he said.  "Go see him."  This doctor is a man of few words who wouldn't sugar-coat it if he didn't think things had gone well.

She did go see him, finally--after a worry-filled day that seemed like it would never end.  He was in the ICU in a medically-induced coma, hooked up to all kinds of machines; but his color was good, and aside from the wires and tubes, he looked like he was sleeping peacefully.

He will remain in the ICU for a while and his road to recovery will be long and difficult; but we are all feeling very hopeful.  He had the best of all the possible outcomes as far as the surgery goes, and this man is a fighter.  As a friend told my sister-in-law over the phone yesterday, "He's the strongest man I know."

So, dear readers, if you saw yesterday's post and it inspired you to say a prayer for my brother-in-law, thank you from the bottom of my heart!  And my sister-in-law thanks you from hers!  Many, many people were storming the heavens for him, and those prayers were what got him through this ordeal.  Those prayers, along with a dear heavenly friend after whom his wife is named.
I told you yesterday that my brother-in-law, who is not a Catholic yet but plans to convert, held my precious relic of St. Therese as he awaited surgery.  He put that relic on his chest, right over his diseased lung, and he didn't take it off until they wheeled him down to the operating room.  We all believe that the Little Flower was there with him at that hospital in Boston yesterday, and that it is through her intercession that his surgery was so successful. (As Donna commented on yesterday's post, St. Therese died of tuberculosis, a lung disease; she is a wonderful intercessor for any cause, but it is so fitting that we were asking her to intercede for an illness affecting the lung.)

There was a showering down of roses from Heaven yesterday, that's for sure.  And I think we know someone we can thank for that.
There are still hurdles ahead, and my brother-in-law needs a miracle.  But we believe that St. Therese is just the one to give it to him.

Thank you for coming to Boston, St. Therese!  And please stick around for a bit, if it's not too much trouble.  We're still counting on you.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

St. Therese, We're Counting on You

Back in the summer of 2012, I received a precious inheritance from my deceased maternal grandparents: an authentic relic of one of my most beloved saints, St. Therese of Lisieux.  I wrote this post about it not long after this heavenly gift, along with an authentic relic of St. Catherine Laboure, came into my life, if you're interested in reading it.
I keep St. Catherine on a shelf in our living room at home, and I stop by to visit her there often.  She is dear to me because of her association with the Miraculous Medal, which I wear always.  But I love St. Therese--she of the "Little Way"-- in a very special way, and she is always with me.  I keep her relic in a zippered cloth pouch that is embroidered with an icon of the Blessed Mother and the Baby Jesus (a souvenir from the time I tagged along on one of my husband's working trips to Athens).  That pouch is always in my purse, or in my carry-on bag when I fly.  It is especially comforting to me to have St. Therese along when I'm on an airplane, because I'm a recovering white knuckle flyer and she is the patron saint of aviators.  I figure she'll take care of those guys up front--whether that means so that the flight will land safely, or so that if it doesn't, the souls on board will suffer as little as possible and be ready to meet their Maker.

Yes, this is the way my brain operates.  This is the way I think every time I board an airplane (which happens A LOT these days--and you know this if you stop by String of Pearls very often).  So I thought it would be well nigh impossible for me to ever let that St. Therese relic out of my sight.

But I found someone who needs her more than I do right now.

I have a sister-in-law (who just so happens to have been named after Our Blessed Mother and St. Therese) whose husband was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive type of cancer some months back.  Today, he will undergo a grueling 13-hour surgical procedure on his lung, and if all goes well, his post-op recovery will take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks.  This brother-in-law was raised a Lutheran; but because of my sister-in-law's quiet yet persuasive example, he is planning to convert to Catholicism as soon as he can schedule his RCIA classes. In fact, the first thing he said when he was diagnosed was that he didn't want to put it off any longer, because he didn't want to die before he became a Catholic.

Wow, how's that for inspiring?

Last week, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision and handed my brother-in-law that zippered pouch, with the precious cargo inside of it, and told him that I wanted him to have it with him while he's going through his surgery and recovery.

I am on a bus to Boston right now, to be there with my sister-in-law on this, the most difficult day of her life.  I got a text from her not too long ago saying that her husband was holding onto that relic while he was waiting to be taken down for surgery.  That childlike faith in St. Therese's intercession, coming from a man who wasn't raised to know her and hasn't even been sacramentally received into the Church yet, is so touching that it brings tears to my eyes.  I pray that she continues to provide him with comfort and solace in the weeks to come.

Please pray that my brother-in-law's surgery today will be a success.  And continue to pray for this wonderful couple, that they will have the strength to endure whatever trials they will face on his road to recovery.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Football with Family

Testing, testing...1,2,3...
Is this thing on?  Hello?

This is my blog, right?  I mean, I used to know how it all worked, but I've gotten just a lee-tle bit rusty as of late...

So I thought I'd check back in and let you know that yes, I am still blogging.  I've got to stop using the fact that I live most of my life on the road as an excuse to neglect my writing.  Writing is so much fun.  It's sort of my favorite.

Anyway, I think I'll use some cell phone pictures to show you what I've been up to lately.  Here's a hint: back-to-back Notre Dame football games were involved.

The first one was out in South Bend on Sept. 5, where our beloved Irish beat Texas handily.  ("We're awesome," we thought.  "Maybe this is our year!")  And better yet, along with a whole slew of Pearls of all ages, I got to see my "bookend boys": our oldest son was there, along with his wife and four young daughters, for the epic Pearl tailgater before the game, but they headed back to their home in MI afterward since it was going to be a late one; and our baby was there, too--he got four days of leave and flew in from OK (it was the first time we'd seen him since he left home about two weeks after his ND graduation).

Here are some pictures from the ND v. Texas weekend.
The twins wore their Notre Dame cheerleading outfits.  (Wonder where they got those?)
Pearl brothers.
He'll always be my baby!
The second game was this past weekend, on Sept. 12 down at UVA in Charlottesville.  We won again, but just by the skin of our teeth.  ("Hmm...we made Texas look bad last week," we thought. "But maybe they just are, in fact, bad.")  We were so outplayed by the Cavaliers for most of the game, we probably shouldn't have won--but who am I to quibble?  Notre Dame's starting quarterback Malik Zaire broke his ankle and is now out for the season, sadly; and the back-up QB, DeShone Kiser, had a rough start--but then the kid pulled a long touchdown pass out of his hat, at almost the last second, to win the game for the Irish.  It was ugly, but it was a W.

The game was lots of fun, and so was the pre-game tailgater; and several of my husband's siblings made it to that one, too.  But the best thing of all was getting to spend time with our middle three boys, their wives, and our grandson G-Man.

I love it when in the span of two consecutive weekends, we get to see all five of our offspring and their significant others.  That, sports fans, is a win-win in my book!

Now here are some pictures from the ND v. UVA weekend.

Pearl brothers (the next generation).
My guys are all wearing matching ND sneakers (and you can get your own pair,
with your favorite NCAA team, at Row One).
With 3 of my 4 sweet daughters-in-law.

Win or lose, we're fans for life.  Go Irish!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Keep, Donate...or Toss?

I have a hard time letting go of things that remind me of my boys--things that remind me of the days when our big old Colonial-style house was a lot fuller than it is now.  For many years, this house was filled with five growing boys, whose always loud (and after a while, very deep!), voices rang out in every room.  Those were happy days, filled with laughter and busy-ness and purpose, and anything that reminds me of them probably won't find its way into the "donate" pile anytime soon.

Those five sons eventually did the once unimaginable--of course they did: they grew up, they moved out, they started grown-up lives of their own.  And now, two (soon to be three) of the five are experiencing the joy of having their own homes starting to fill up with their own children.

So I should be ready to part with some of the stuff 'n things and this 'n that and bric-a-brac we accumulated over the 25-plus years we've lived in this house, right?  You know, some of the clutter that my sons wouldn't even miss if I boxed it up and carted it off to Goodwill?

You would think so, wouldn't you?

We are in the midst of renovating our downstairs half-bath/laundry room; and between that project and the even bigger project of getting ready to turn a house on the lake in Upstate NY into a VRBO vacation rental, I'm suddenly in the mood to cull through all the junk and get my house in order.  (When you live in one house for a quarter of a century, and you raise five sons there, it's amazing the stuff you'll accumulate!)

When we took out the old vanity in the downstairs bathroom, I realized that its drawers were holding a lot of useless items that we could toss.  So that got me thinking: what's hiding in the drawers of the vanity in the upstairs bathroom that our boys used to share?  I thought I remembered finally throwing away years-old acne creams a few years back (wow, was that long overdue!).  But look what I wasn't able to part with when I got rid of the ancient Clearasil containers.
Seeing the items in this drawer made me say, "Awwww...."

Because...look at these cute things.
On the left, a L'il Shaver shaving kit (we still have a pair of them).  When I look at this, I remember our two oldest sons playing at being men: brushing soap lather onto their smooth little cheeks and pretending to shave alongside their dad, using their red plastic razors.  Not gonna toss them.  Not yet.  Can't do it.

And the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cup on the right?  One Christmas many, many moons ago, all four of our oldest sons got TMNT toiletry kits from Santa, each with a toothbrush, a comb, a brush, a cup, a packet of tissues, and a little bag to carry it all in.  I put their names on all the items in their kits with a Sharpie marker, and they used these cups for years.  (The combs and brushes--not so much.)  These TMNT cups used to litter the vanity top in their bathroom.  Not gonna toss them either.  Nope.

Speaking of those "heroes on a half-shell"...even though we're trying to update our house a little, I'm not gonna remove this tacky Turtles switch plate in the upstairs hallway.  It's been there, under that precious picture of our four oldest doing their best TMNT impressions (Turtle power!), since just after we moved in, and I simply can't bring myself to say good-bye to it.  Not yet.  I don't care if Chip and Joanna Gaines or the Property Brothers would chide me for keeping it!  I don't!
But back to the drawers of that vanity.

How about this ridiculous item?
I tried to add a caption there, but it's so small you can hardly read it.  So I'll tell you what's going on here. That's a Spongebob Squarepants bath sponge.  My sons range in age from 22 to 31; how long do you think it's been since it saw any use?

Speaking of things that haven't seen any use in this decade (or the last one, either), here are a few more choice offerings.
Those captions aren't really working.  So I'll tell you that what we have here near the bag of cotton balls are a couple of syringes for giving medicine to infants, along with a rectal thermometer for taking an infant's temperature.  Every time I look at them they make me think, "I was a mommy with babies once!"  So no, I have not been able to toss them yet!


After perusing the drawers in the bathroom, I brought a load of stuff up to the attic (more stuff that we probably don't need, but that I can't part with just yet), and I cracked open a few of the large plastic bins up there.

One is filled with clothes; newborn-, toddler-, and little boy-sized.
Awww...son #3 wore that red dinosaur sweater on top of the pile for a family portrait we had taken at Sears, when he was just a little tyke.  And now he has a baby son of his own named G-Man, who tends to sport a lot of dino-themed clothing.

I'll go through that bin some other time.

Another bin is filled with dinosaur toys.
Some of these dinos were your daddy's, G-Man, and Grammy's saving them for you!

I also have lots and lots of used football and lacrosse gear squirreled away up in that attic: football knee pads, thigh pads, girdles, and practice pants and jerseys; lacrosse gloves, arm guards, shoulder pads, and helmets.
I actually asked my boys not too long ago if I should keep all of that for any reason, and they said no.  But I hesitated to give it the heave-ho, because my goodness, so many years of our lives were tied up with watching them play these two sports.  Then son #2's wife, Ginger, said she thought it would be neat if they had a son someday and could show him his dad's old sports equipment.  Boom!  Decision made: the football and lacrosse gear stays!  For the time being, anyway.

It's just STUFF, it shouldn't mean anything.  But it's all so intricately tied up with my family's history that I get misty-eyed just looking at it.

Because it all goes so fast, doesn't it?  If you're a parent, you know what I'm talking about.  Your children grow up in the blink of an eye.  And suddenly, your youngest is a college grad who's out on his own and hardly needs his dear old mom anymore...
Taken this weekend at Notre Dame, where my husband and I met up
with our baby and a whole bunch of other Pearls for the football opener.
Shucks, you know what?  No matter how big your sons get, or how long it's been since they pretended to shave with a L'il Shaver playset (because now they have honest-to-goodness man stubble on their faces)...they'll always need their mom.  I know they will.

And the next time that tall, handsome, grown-up guy in the picture above comes home, his Spongebob Squarepants bath sponge will be there.  Just in case he wants it.  For now, anyway.