Monday, December 31, 2018

X and Y Page: It's Been a Process!

Warning: ABC Book update coming at you.  (That's right, the ABC Book that was going to be a Christmas gift for the grandchildren this year...but is still several pages shy of completion.  Yep, that ABC Book.)

I have been working on the X and Y page for this book (a love gift for my grandchildren) for a while now.  That's right, I said "page," not "pages."  It's just one page for the two letters, and you'd think that would mean getting it done would be a piece of cake.  Here I thought that devoting just one page to two letters (instead of two whole pages of illustrations for each letter, as I did throughout the book until I got to X, Y, and Z and decided it was time to wrap things up already!) was going to make things move along pretty quickly.


I printed up my cardstock page and began working on the drawing of the yak...and to my horror, part-way in I realized that I had forgotten to highlight the featured words in the colors that coordinate with those of their letters.  Horrors!
The word "yak" needed to be blue, and the word "x-box" needed to be red.  So it was back to the old drawing board for me.  Literally.

I used the fact that I was going to have to start over as an opportunity to incorporate a Y adjective into the page, and I decided that the yak was now going to be yellow.  (Yes, yellow!)  I also realized that I had misspelled the word "x-box."  Since this is a real product, I knew I had to spell it properly and changed it to "Xbox."  (That would lead to a whole new headache, but I'll get to that in a minute.)

So I was practically finished with the page, and it looked like this.

And then my heart kind of dropped.  Because I realized that I can't use an image of a trademarked video game system if I plan to try to sell this ABC Book.  Not that I think I should do that, or that anyone would really buy it if I did.  But I have had several kind readers, both here and over on Instagram, comment that when I finish, they would like to buy a copy.  Whether or not that would ever really come to pass, I don't know.  But if it does, I can't have an Xbox on this page and risk a legal problem over using a well-known trademarked product in my humble little book.  (I don't know what I was thinking!)

I simply could not get myself motivated to start fresh on yet another image of the hairy horned beast!  So instead, I decided to cut away the yak portion of the now-defunct page and glue it to a new one.  And this time instead of an Xbox, I decided to use that familiar ABC book stand-by for the letter X, the x-ray.

Here's the final version.

So what do you think?  Does the yellow yak (with the X-rayed horn) work?  Yea or Nay?

Even if your vote is Nay, I don't think I can possibly bring myself to do another version of this page.  Because Yikes, I'm eXhausted!

(But just four more pages to go!  Two K's, one O, one V.  I can do this!!!  Look out, 2019; I have big plans for you!)

Happy New Year's Eve!  I will be sure to toast all of you fine readers when my husband and I have our typical wild New Year's Eve jammies, at home, by the fire, with a movie on the TV...

Saturday, December 29, 2018

It Was Merry!

Yes indeed, it was!

We had a wonderful Christmas, with our whole family home (even our youngest son, who returned recently from a 3-year tour of duty in Germany).  We had 30 for Christmas dinner: 16 adults and 14 children (aged 7 and under!).  All 5 of our boys, all 4 of our daughters-in-law, all 14 of our grandkids, our youngest son's girlfriend, and one daughter-in-law's parents who were visiting from FL got together at our house on Christmas day for a few hours of glorious chaos, an always eagerly anticipated Yankee Swap, and a roast beef dinner.  It was a day of blessings.

We even managed to get a few photos of all 14 little ones sitting on a couch together, but I won't post those here because I'm honoring the wishes of one of my sons, who doesn't want his kids' faces publicly shared on the Internet (which I totally respect and understand).  But I will post this one of what I like to think of as my husband and me with "The Big 5" ("This Is Us" fans will understand the reference).
Our  boys...the 5 greatest gifts we have ever received, that's for sure.  (Each INFINTELY better than a Red Ryder BB gun.)

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, and I wish you many blessings in the coming New Year.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Little Boys in Red Rompers

At the end of my last post, which was about my grandson G-Man's pre-school Christmas show, I warned you that there might be a sequel.  Well, here it is, as promised!

Back in the fall of 1985, with Christmas on the horizon, I made matching red corduroy rompers for my two wee sons to wear when we had our Christmas card photo taken at Sears.  (Back then, if you wanted a "professional" photo shoot, you went to the studios at Sears or JC Penney; or if Olan Mills was in town and you could afford the exorbitant prices they charged, they were the best around.)  Our boys were almost 2-and-1/2 and almost one that Christmas, but it was the first time I decided to send out photo Christmas cards.

To go with the rompers, I bought matching plaid round-collared shirts--which look so sweetly vintage now.  Those two little guys looked adorable, they really did.  I was very proud of that first card.

The rompers showed up a few more times, as we had four boys in four years, and someone could always fit into one.
By the time son #4 was wearing one of the rompers, I had added little iron-on embroidery 
wreaths to the button-on tabs on front.  I had meant to have the tabs monogrammed originally,
but...four boys in four years.

I regret that I never got a picture of son #5 (who came along after a bit of a break) in this get-up.  He was too big to wear the smaller one for his first Christmas, and then I forgot to dig these precious garments out for his second.  Ah, well...


This past Thursday our 3-year-old grandson Junior had his pre-school Christmas show.  And he was all dressed up in one of the beloved red rompers.  Before it started, his dad (our second oldest) and his mom (our darling daughter-in-law Ginger) both warned us not to expect much.  I think they had visions of him running off the stage, or perhaps bursting into tears.

Junior did not do either one of those things.  But he didn't stand with his little classmates and sing, either.  He got very, very shy, covered his eyes with his arm, and then sought comfort in his teacher's lap for the remainder of the program.  It was actually quite adorable.

During the show, I was feeling very nostalgic, seeing his dad holding his one-year-old boy--who was wearing the very same outfit he had worn 33 years ago for our first Christmas card.

Junior was very happy back at home, after the show, when he didn't have to be on display anymore.  Then suddenly, his little brother Jedi got camera-shy...

I don't know if I can adequately describe how touching it is to me to see these red rompers being worn again, by little boys who melt my heart the same way their daddy and his brothers did when they wore them.

I wish now that I'd made more matching rompers for my boys when they were little. (But I guess I didn't have the time back then...because four boys in four years--followed by a fifth.)  Maybe it's better that I didn't, though, because these red Christmas ones would not be nearly as special to me if there were countless others like them.

But I will say that I am enjoying making matching rompers for son #2's boys now, because their mommy is a sucker for anything vintage-looking.  And hopefully someday she will be able to see her own grandchildren wearing outfits that their great-grandmother made for their dads.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


It doesn't seem like all that long ago that it was Christmas 1987 and I had three little boys, aged 4, not quite 3, and 20 months, and I was a couple of weeks away from giving birth to son #4.  The fact that it was actually 31 years ago is nothing short of mind-blowing.

Once upon a time, my Christmases were filled with excited little boys like these.
Forgive the poor quality of this blurry Instamatic snapshot, made blurrier still by 
scanning and enlarging.You young mamas are so lucky to have the amazing photo-taking 
capabilities you have today!

Fast-forward 31 years to Christmas 2018, and there are still excited little boys in my life.

The very (very!) excited little guy in the above photos is 4-year-old G-Man, the oldest of our seven grandsons and the oldest of our middle son and his wife Preciosa's three small children.  We were privileged to have the opportunity to attend his preschool Christmas show recently.

Such is the poignant joy of being a grandparent: getting to sort of experience it all over again, as you watch your grown children going through it--knowing just how long and slow-moving the days sometimes seem to them now but how very, very soon they will be scratching their heads, wondering where in the world the years went.

This is my husband and me with son #3 after G-Man's electric performance on stage.

Hard to believe this is my boy, when just YESTERDAY, it seems, he was a little blond tyke wearing a red romper, sitting between his two brothers in front of the tree with his precious stash of Matchbox cars nearby.

Working on this post today reminded me of a poem that was given to me by a friend many years ago, when we lived in NH and our boys were small (and son #5 wasn't even a twinkle in his parents' eyes yet).  This friend had married a guy who was one of four brothers, and his mom had a poem about being the mother of sons framed and hanging up in her house.  At the time, we had four sons, too, so my friend's mother-in-law thought she should make a copy for me.

Here is that sweet poem.  (Go grab your hanky; I just grabbed mine.)


To press my lips,
Upon a fair cheek, or a brow,
Of my young sons--
So long have I stooped down.

But suddenly to my surprise,
I find that I must lift my eyes
To meet their eyes;
That I must stand on toe tips
And reach up
To kiss their lips.
These tall young sons--
Each straight as any pine,
Can they be mine?

Soon I must share them,
Soon I know that they will go.
But O, I am so glad
That I have had 
Small sons to stoop to,
Tall sons to reach to,
Clean sons to give
That other sons may live.

I don't think there is a poem that speaks to me more loudly than this one, by an unknown author who apparently saw what the life God had planned for me looked like as clearly as if she knew me inside out.  I shared my sons (the four oldest, anyway--so far!).  And because I did, my married boys now all have at least one son of their own (and three of them have daughters, too).  This poem, IMHO, is practically perfect in every way, just like Mary Poppins.

So on that note [sniff!], I will say goodbye for now.

(P.S. Tomorrow we'll be attending a preschool show featuring Junior, the oldest of our second-born son's three young boys.  So perhaps this post will have a sequel...)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

In the Pink on Gaudete Sunday (And Here are the Giveaway Winners!)

It was quite easy for me to dress in a liturgically appropriate fashion today, on Gaudete Sunday, and that's because of a lovely pink winter coat that I got about four years ago at an after-season sale at Talbot's.
Here I am wearing the coat back in 2015.

They had this coat (which I blogged about before, here) in a slew of tempting colors: Kelly green (my fave), royal blue (my next-up fave), and vibrant hot pink (my husband's fave), to name a few.  So...I was going to say guess which color I chose; but you can plainly see that I chose the pink.  (Not that I live to please my man or anything.  But when he likes the way I look in a color, I try to wear that color as much as possible!)

To tell you the truth, I'm almost surprised that he didn't insist that I buy one in every color they had in my size (something he does too often, because he is a total softie when it comes to me: he treats every day like it's Christmas, or my birthday).  I guess the main reason he didn't insist is that even with the after-season reduction in price, it still wasn't cheap.  If cheap is what I was after, I should not have been shopping at Talbot's.

I probably would have picked a different color, left to my own devices.  But I do love this coat!  When it's the middle of winter and it's depressingly cold and dreary outside (and ugh, getting dark by 5:00!), it gives me a bit of a lift to wear a coat in this beautiful, happy shade of pink.

Plus, it's the perfect garment to wear on Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, when the pink candle gets lit.
Here I am in my Talbot's beauty this morning, when I paired it with a dark purple dress for
Mass (and also a lilac-colored lace mantilla).  I matched the Advent wreath perfectly!

Happy Gaudete Sunday, dear readers!  I pray that you and yours are in the pink--healthy and happy-- as you await the joy of Christmas day!

But before I go, I do want to announce the
--make that winners!

Two names have been chosen among those who entered by leaving comments here at String of Pearls. The winner of a copy of Finding Grace is a Pettis.  On Dec. 10 she left a comment on my Nov. 30 post.  (a Pettis, I have your email address, so I will be in touch to get your mailing address.)

And the winner of a copy of Erin's Ring is Erin Carlson (how perfect is that?!); on Dec. 13 she left a comment on that same post.  (Erin, please contact me via the "Email me" tab up there on the sidebar and provide your addresses, so I can get your book mailed out to you ASAP.) 
Congratulations, ladies!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

From Our House to Yours

I just realized that title sounds like a Christmas card greeting.  But no, I'm not here to reveal our 2018 Pearl family Christmas card.  I'm not even sure I'm going to get one of those out this year. (Although as my husband likes to remind me, I've been saying that every year for about 10 years now, and it always seems to get done eventually.  I can't seem to give it up!)

What's actually going on here is that I was just admiring the view from our front hall this morning and I snapped a picture on my iPhone...and then I thought I'd share it on the old blog.

Don't judge me for saying this, all you hip, young HGTV enthusiasts...but I don't really love the whole open-concept thing.  At best, I have a love/hate relationship with it. We did not have it going on at all in our old house in NH, where we lived for 26 years.  That house had a traditional Colonial footprint that included lots of walls.

As you will see, there aren't that many of them in our new house.  Standing near the front door, at the edge of the dining room, I can see into both the living room and the family room...and I can also see both Christmas trees.  We have a 7-foot "Griswold overlit tree" in our living room, with over 3,000 LED lights (thus the atomic blue glow coming from that area), which we got last year for our first Christmas in VA; and now we also have a 7-foot "slim" tree in the corner of our family room, which I bought this fall.  When we downsized from the rather epic 9-and-a-1/2-foot tree we had in NH, we had too many ornaments for one average-sized tree, and last year a whole storage bin filled with them never made it out of the basement.  The Rx for that situation was having two trees for our second Christmas in the new house.
I do like rooms with walls, and I miss having more of them in this new house.  (Less privacy, less places to hang stuff!)  But I also like being able to see both trees at once.  So I'm going to consider this a plus for the VA house, which--as much as I fight against change of any kind--is slowly but surely growing on me. 

What about you: do you--like JoJo Gaines--have the desire to knock down most of the walls in your house; or do you prefer having separate rooms?  Do you have only one Christmas tree, or do you have two (or more)?  Do you decorate mini trees for your kids' bedrooms (like I did for my boys, once upon a time)?

That's a lot of questions, I know!  But if the spirit moves you, leave me a message--I'd love to hear from you.  :)

One more thing: don't forget that the giveaway contest ends at midnight tonight.  You could win a copy of either Finding Grace or Erin's Ring!  It's easy to enter--just leave me a comment and you could be a winner.
My grandson G-Man is excited--I hope you are, too!

(P.S. Is there anything cuter than a pre-school Christmas show?  Rhetorical question, obviously.)

Friday, December 14, 2018

Last 2 Days to Enter the Giveaway!

Tomorrow is the last day to enter the giveaway contest.

I am giving away a paperback copy of my first novel, Finding Grace

and also one of my second novel, Erin's Ring.

Those photos were taken a couple of years ago, when my husband and I were out in South Bend for a football weekend and  I had the thrill of seeing both books on the shelves of the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore.

Having your books on the shelves there does not guarantee that they will be hot sellers...but it is a thrill nonetheless!

My books have received mostly very positive reviews.  Even this one for Finding Grace, the most critical of the pack, has some good things to say about the book.  It's true that, as you will read if you click on that link, I did try to cram about three books into one--because you see, I truly thought I would only write that one novel in my lifetime.  And I wanted to include every single thing I thought I would ever want to write about.  And I really set out to do it only as a legacy to leave my sons and their children and grandchildren, never dreaming it would ever actually get into print.  So...

I do have a few things to point out, if you do decide to read that linked review: (1) the book is not a memoir, although I did strive to show my love for my five sons through the character of  Peggy Kelly--who has six children in all, not five; (2) all of the central characters are indeed Catholic, but there are also some Jewish characters in the book who have a big impact on the life of the main character, Grace Kelly; and (3) I did include lots of Catholic theology and stories of the lives of the saints, but I tried really hard not to moralize heavy-handedly.  It could have been a shorter book, I suppose.  But like I said, I wanted to touch on all the things about which I was passionate, in case I never got a chance to write another novel.

Then I got to write Erin's Ring!   And see it get into print, too.  I have to pinch myself sometimes, or I would be sure that I was dreaming.

I have been so lucky, so inordinately blessed--to be both a stay-at-home mom and then later in life, an author.  The fact that I haven't made any money at it is neither here nor there.  In fact, that may be the very thing that leads to the BEST thing for me.  God knows what He's doing.

I love this quote from Saint Mother Teresa, which popular blogger/podcaster/writer/speaker Mary Lenaburg posted on her Instagram stories today:

"If God answers your prayer, He is increasing your faith.
If He delays, He is increasing your patience.
If He does not answer your prayer, He is preparing the Best for you."

Leave me a comment by midnight, and you'll be entered to win one of the books.  Get excited!
"Come on, what are you waiting for?"  (That's what my little Rosita is thinking here, I'm pretty sure.)

Have a great weekend, y'all (as we Virginians like to say).

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Giveaway Reminder, Roses, and a Snippet from Finding Grace

Yesterday was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

I was thinking about Her yesterday, and about Juan Diego and his famous tilma.  And about the roses that fell out of it, before the miraculous image of Our Lady appeared on it.

And then I remembered that I dedicated a page of Finding Grace to telling that story, as well as other stories well-known to Catholics in which roses play a part.

Here is page 124 (in Chapter 13 of the book).

Finding Grace gives a lot of information about the lives of the saints, but it does so much more.  It's a sweet story about a girl who loves a boy but thinks he'll never love her back.  It's about the mistakes people make, some of them life-altering, and the way they find redemption through faith and family, and through the Sacraments of the Church.  It is a proudly pro-life, pro-chastity work of fiction, but not at all preachy.  It is filled with endearing characters--and I hope readers will regard them as special friends by the end of the book (that's what happened to me during the writing process!).  I believe in this novel and the power it has to do some good for young readers, even though it has not been widely read and probably never will be--especially now, since after the New Year, it will only be available to the public in the Kindle-formatted version.

So for Christmas, I wanted to give away a paperback copy.

The giveaway is about to end, dear readers.  Tomorrow night at midnight, I am going to pick two names among those who have left comments on my recent blog posts.  I will be giving away one paperback copy of Finding Grace and one of my second novel, Erin's Ring, as well.

God bless you for stopping by!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Christmas Carol, and a Minor Christmas Miracle to Boot

Before I get started and tell you about the special way I spent this past Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, I wanted to take care of a bit of business.  I haven't blogged in almost two weeks, and in my last post I announced that I'm running a giveaway here.  I got a few comments on that post, and I just got around to replying to those yesterday (sorry for the delay!).

If you didn't see that original post about the contest, I wanted to say again that I am giving away one copy of Finding Grace and one copy of Erin's Ring, two Catholic novels with appeal for readers young and old (I hope!), to be mailed out in time for Christmas gift-giving.  If you want more information on these books, you can click on their cover images, over there on the sidebar, and it will take you to their Amazon pages.  I will be choosing a winner at midnight on the 15th, so leave me a comment if you're interested in having your name thrown into the hat.  Let me know which title interests you more, and you'll be entered to win it.

I've been at this blogging business a long time now, since March of 2011.  I was already four years into writing Finding Grace when my first daughter-in-law Regina (wife of son number one) mentioned that I might enjoy being a blogger.  I hardly knew what a blog even was back then; I had only read Pioneer Woman's--and I'd only found hers because I'd seen a link to it at the end of an article in Redbook or Good Housekeeping or some such women's magazine.  (Does anyone even get subscriptions to those anymore, or is online reading the only way to go?)  Apparently, though, there was already a thriving Catholic blogging community out there--who knew?  So I tentatively dipped my toes into the blogging pool, and bam!  It was pretty much love at first sight.  Or first word.  Or whatever.  During those first few years, there was a new post up here at String of Pearls pretty much daily.  A day without blogging was like a day without sunshine.  (Or coffee!)  

Little did I know how much starting a blog would change my life.   It's hard to even describe how many blessings blogging has given me over the years.  I have come in contact with so many wonderful people, most of whom I may never meet in person, but who feel like true friends nonetheless.  It's like having a whole list of endearingly familiar pen pals: people you come to really care about; people who pray for you and your family when they know you're in need, and you pray for them right back.  It's the most amazing thing.

One of these special people I'd met through blogging is a young girl named Sarah who was still a student back when we first started corresponding via the comboxes on each other's sites.  I was impressed by what a sweet person she seemed to be: a hard-working, deep-thinking, devout Catholic pre-school teacher, writer, and maker of cord Rosaries.  In fact, I have ordered numerous Rosaries from her, for my grandkids and for my husband and myself.  He always carries his Notre Dame blue-and-gold one with him in his pocket, and I carry my Irish-green one in my purse.  (We had them with us on Sunday, and I think Sarah was touched to see that her Rosary-making ministry has had a big impact on the Pearl family.  But I'm getting ahead of myself here.)

Sarah very generously read and reviewed Finding Grace about five years ago (you can read that review here).  In the years since, this young woman graduated from college, embarked on her teaching career, and got so busy with other projects that she gave up blogging.  But we still keep in touch sporadically.  I'm old enough to be her mother (she is actually about the same age as the youngest of my five sons), but I consider her a friend.

I knew Sarah lived somewhere in Northern VA, and she knew that we'd made the move to the area not too long ago.  Well, out of the blue she emailed me a couple of weeks ago to let me know that she was playing the violin in a community theater production of A Christmas Carol, opening on Dec. 7, and she wondered if now that I'm a local, I might like to come to one of the shows.  It was playing in a community center just a little over an hour from where we live, and this past Sunday my husband and I had the opportunity to attend a matinee of the performance.

What a delight it was!  (If you live in NOVA, you might want to check out this creative take on the Dickens classic: set in the Depression era with accompanying Bluegrass music, it's a play within a play--and the cast is terrific!  The show will be playing again this weekend, Dec. 15 and 16--get your tickets now!)

My sweet and talented young friend, with the playwright who wrote this particular adaptation of  A Christmas Carol.
The thing that was so cute and sweet was that when the cast had taken their bows at the end of the show and started to come out to talk to audience members, Sarah made a bee-line right over to us.  After all those years of blog friendship, she had no trouble finding me.  
See those fingers of mine on the left?  I kept patting her shoulder in a motherly (grandmotherly?) fashion while my husband snapped our photo.  And I was nervous and excited, so I might have babbled a bit...

But the most wonderful thing about meeting Sarah IRL (as they say) is that I truly did feel like she was just the person I already "knew" through her writing.  We were not strangers at all.

I can only speak for myself, though.  I hope she got the same feeling when she met me.

I'm considering having the opportunity to meet Sarah a minor Christmas miracle; not as big a miracle as Scrooge's conversion in the play, of course--and surely not of the magnitude of the miracle that is the Reason for the Season!!  All right, maybe it wasn't quite a miracle; but it was certainly a gift.

God bless us, everyone!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Office Space (Just What a Writer Always Wanted!); and a CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY!!

Once upon a time, when I was writing novels, I would have given my eye teeth to have an office space to work in like the one I have now.  That is one HUGE plus of our new house in VA, where we moved in March of 2017 in order to be closer to our grown and married sons and their families.  We did downsize considerably when we moved here; but one thing our old house didn't have was an office.  Oh, initially we did carve out office space in our basement, which was mostly finished off thanks to the DIY skills of my hard-working husband.  But after our boys got older and outgrew the desire to hang out together down there, playing with their toys and video games, heading down to the basement to write or do filing or paperwork felt like being banished to the dungeon.
I eventually fashioned an office space for my husband, behind the couch in the family room, where he could keep up with the family finances without getting a bad case of FOMO.  I did write most of Finding Grace down in the basement, because I was using an ancient (and finicky!) tabletop computer for the first few years I was writing it, and that old girl couldn't be moved to another room.  But after my husband saw that I really was going to do it--I was going to finish that novel!--he got me my first laptop.  And so by the time I was writing Erin's Ring, I either worked at the dining room table or went off to Barnes and Noble for the afternoon, where I ordered one Starbucks coffee (and maybe a pastry to go with it!) and sat at a little table in the café area, happily pounding the keys of my laptop until my battery started to run out.

In our new house, one of the four bedrooms upstairs had been used as an office by the previous owners.  Since we no longer have any boys living under our roof with us, and that means every bedroom other than the master is now a guest room, we decided to follow the previous owners'  lead and continue to use the fourth bedroom as an office.
His work area.

And hers.

More hers.

Full disclosure, dear readers: those photos were snapped shortly after we moved in and set up the room.  Almost two years later, the office has seen a few changes.  (And it is much messier than it was back then, especially on my hubby's side.  Wink, wink.)
I love that our grandchildren's artwork now decorates my side of the office.

My desk is crowded and messy...but I don't dare show you his!

I cannot tell you how absolutely wonderful it is to have a place where my husband and I can both work so efficiently.  We each have our own desk, our own printer, and we sit in matching faux leather rolling office chairs.  We have two filing cabinets and plenty of storage and shelving.  It is everything I ever wanted in an office, and as I said, it makes it so that in some ways, we are better set up than we've ever been--even though we loved our big Colonial in NH, where we spent 26 of the best years of our lives.

It's almost too bad that I don't really write anymore, now that I have a great place to do it.  I don't even blog as much as I used to.  (See above: we live near a small army of Pearl grandchildren now...and time spent with them and their parents trumps time spent at my laptop!)  I'm so happy that before life became too hectic to do it, I fulfilled that long-held childhood dream of becoming an author, of writing just one novel that might make some infinitesimal difference in the life of even one reader.

Well...Hopefully, that has already happened.  Because I recently was given the rather discouraging news that because Finding Grace has not sold well enough in the six years it has been in print, after the end of 2018 it will no longer be available to the public in the paperback version.  It will still be available as a Kindle download, however.  Erin's Ring has not exactly sold like hot cakes either (my husband, who makes me laugh every day, jokes that it's more like "lukewarm cakes").  For the coming year 2019, it will still be available in paperback from Amazon.  But after that...I'm not sure.  It was never formatted into a Kindle book, and unless my husband and I decide it's worth investing whatever it takes to have that done, it will probably not be available at all.

In our correspondence over the years, my publisher (Cheryl Dickow of Bezalel Books) often comments that although I have been blessed in so many ways, having my books be financially successful just isn't one of them.  But I do believe that there is a reason for everything: I fully believe that I was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write my first novel; and I also believe that it was not meant to be a best-seller, but had some other purpose (which I may never know in this life).  So I am a bit sad that the paperback version of Finding Grace will no longer be available for sale on Amazon; I much prefer it, personally, because I use a lot of dashes in my writing and they look the same as hyphens in the electronic version of the book, and I worry that it's confusing to the reader.  But at least it will live on in Kindle.

I vacillate between not even believing that anything I've ever written is of any real worth or that I am even a real writer at all (instead of just "sort of" a writer), and hoping beyond hope that my books will find their way into as many hands as possible--particularly the hands of young adult readers whose lives might be changed, even in some small way, by these Catholic works of fiction. I trust that God knows what he's doing, and if Finding Grace  and Erin's Ring are meant to go the way of the dinosaurs, there is a very good reason for that.  But I have to admit that in my heart of hearts, I'd love to see those books available for my grandchildren's children.

In the meantime, I have plenty of copies in the office to share with my family.
And you know what?  I think in the spirit of Christmas giving, I'd like to give away one copy of each novel between now and Dec. 15. 

Leave me a comment by Dec. 15 and tell me which one you'd like to win and whom you'd like to give it to, and I'll toss all of your names into a hat (one for each book) and choose two winners randomly.  I will mail the prizes out to the winners the next day, and hopefully they will arrive in time for Christmas gift-giving.

I think I'll head on over to Instagram and post the contest there as well.  Thanks so much for stopping by here--and maybe I'll see you over there?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

ABC Book Update: An Homage to Two Mothers

I have been working rather feverishly lately, trying to finish up the ABC Book project started long, long ago--back in 1993, when the youngest of my five boys had just recently joined our family.

This is what he looks like now.
That "Motherboy" selfie was taken a few weeks ago, when we met up with him at Notre Dame to watch them beat Florida State, giving the Irish 10 straight wins (and to my two daughters-in-law who went to FSU: sorry-not-sorry!).

As you can see, the boy for whom I started an ABC picture book in 1993 is a little too old for it now.  He's a tall, fair, and handsome 25-year-old Army LT who just returned from a 3-year stint in Germany.  Not a baby anymore.

But there are a lot of other babies and wee children on Team Pearl these days, so a few years ago I picked up where I left off and decided to finally finish what I'd started for him.

If you've been coming here lately, you know that along with all the original artwork I've done, I've been re-purposing old artwork (cleverly sneaking it into the rhymes whenever possible!), with a two-fold purpose: to preserve it for my kids--who will never hang these pieces up in their homes, but still might like to have them--and to save valuable time!

Once upon a time, I painted acrylic portraits of both my mom and my husband's when they were little girls, and I gave these framed canvases to them as gifts.  When my mother-in-law died in 2009, her painting came back to me.  And when my mother sold her house and most of her belongings and moved in with my baby sister a year ago, her painting came back to me as well.

These two canvases now hang in the "potty room" in our master bathroom.  (I don't know what else to call it!  It's a special little room, with a door, where you can get some privacy when Mother Nature calls.  Someday I've got to give you a tour of this bathroom, which is so roomy and well-appointed it's almost embarrassing!)

Here is the artwork my husband and I can study while we're in that tiny room, doing...whatever.

I have completed the pages for the letters V and W, and at the same time honored both my husband's late mother and my mom in the process by incorporating those two paintings.

Each letter has two pages of illustrations.  Here is second of the V pages, featuring my husband's dear mother.

And here is first of the W pages, featuring mine.

I do sometimes worry that there isn't enough unity of style in this book: some of the illustrations are relatively muted colored-pencil drawings, while others are vibrantly-hued acrylic paintings.  But then I remind myself that it's really just a gift from a Grammy to her grandchildren.  And in some ways, the fact that there is a lot of history in it might make it an even better keepsake for them.

I recently completed and scanned the N and W pages, so I'll be sharing those soon.  Now I'm down to 6 pages of illustrations left to complete, and one of those is about half-finished already--so really 5 and 1/2.  I can see the light, as I emerge from the tunnel after 25 years!  And I am so excited!

Feeling thankful, readers!  And I hope you have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Dusting Off the Blog

When I first started blogging in the spring of 2011, I could hardly wait to sit at my laptop every day to write about favorite family memories, or about what was going on in our household at the time, or just to do a bit of mindless navel gazing.  It was a joy to me to exercise my writing muscles on a daily basis.

For a good number of years, those muscles were in pretty good shape.  Now...well, they might not have atrophied completely, but if I don't start using them more often, they will.

If you come here much, you know that the Pearl family has been growing by leaps and bounds in the last few years.  When I started this blog, I had only one married son and his wife was a few months away from giving birth to twin daughters.  Since then, 3 more daughters-in-law have joined the family, and the grandchild count currently stands at 14 (with the addition of a new grandson just last month).

I have had so many great topics to explore here--so, so many--but ever since we moved down to VA so that we could see our kids and grandkids on a regular basis, it seems like I've been too busy living life to write about it.  I mean, here are some of the things I've wanted to write about, from the deep and serious to the frivolous and mundane:

1. My dad's amazing last week on earth and his beautiful passing into eternal life, about which I have not been able to write in full (and the second anniversary of his death is fast approaching)

2. My mother's trials since losing her husband of 60 years, her frightening health decline, and the astounding (practically miraculous) way she has bounced back recently

3. My saintly baby sister and her husband, who lovingly took my mom into their home a year ago and are more responsible for the improvements in her health than any of the medical procedures she's had done 

4. Pearl family birthdays and anniversaries (there have been many which I have not gotten around to documenting)

5. The births of new Pearl grandbabies (we got a new grandson in June, named after my husband's dad, and another one in October, named after my husband!)

6. Family parties (including a fun shower I hosted for my daughter-in-law when she was about to have a boy after 4 girls in a row--and which I thought was practically Pinterest-worthy, but I might have been giving myself too much credit!)

7. Notre Dame football weekends this fall, with our boys

8. More installments of the house tour, wherein I show you some of the rooms of our new house in VA (which I am slowly but surely starting to consider HOME, after leaving a beloved Colonial on a quiet street in NH, where we'd lived for 26 years, about a year-and-a-half ago)

Those are just a few of the things I imagine blogging about...and then before I know it, it's time for a bone-tired Grammy to go to bed and another day has passed without a new blog post.

Sometimes, I really do wonder if the whole blogging phenomenon is about to die off and go the way of VHS tapes (and even DVD's).  I mean really, who needs those anymore, now that there are new-fangled smart TV's that allow you to stream just about anything you want to watch?  And who wants to bother to visit a blog, when so many former bloggers are on Instagram, offering much-easier-to-digest posts that don't take quite as much time out of our busy lives as a full-length blog post does?

For whatever reason, however, I'm not quite ready to leave the blogosphere, a place where I've "met" so many amazing people who seem like friends.  I've been blessed in countless ways since I set up shop here in 2011.  So instead of giving up, I think I'll just dust this blog off and spruce it up a bit, and maybe find the mojo to keep at it.

I'm not sure if I'm ready to give my site a whole new look (even though I've heard that it's best to have a mostly white background...and mine is, as you can see, very GREEN).  But there are a few improvements I can make.  After my most recent book club post, which was all about writing, I got to thinking that perhaps it was time to update my "author photo."  The one I've been using for a long time now--here at the blog, on Goodreads, on my Amazon author's page, etc.--is one that my husband took of me back in 2012, shortly after the publication of my first novel, Finding Grace.  We thought I should be sitting at my laptop, with my trusty cup of coffee at my side, looking very "writerly."  So, this was the pose I assumed.
That picture was taken 6 years (and at least as many pounds) ago.  I was only 54, and I'm not that young anymore.  (It's amazing how when you turn 60, 54 seems young to you!)

Also, I have a smaller laptop now and bigger glasses.  I have 14 grandchildren and back then I just had 2.  And I no longer live in NH, where the photo was taken, so I no longer have that spacious dining room with the red walls and outdated-but-I-still-love-it wallpaper border.

On Halloween, 11 of our 14 grandkids and their parents came over to go Trick-or-Treating in our new VA neighborhood (which is just about the most perfect neighborhood for that activity I have ever seen: it's flat and well-lit, with hundreds of houses situated very close together, wide sidewalks, and minimal outside traffic).
A cute pair of Trolls: G-Man as Branch and Princesa as Princess Poppy 
(these are the two oldest children of son #3 and his wife Preciosa).

Pumpkin as the Cowardly Lion, Paquita as Dorothy, and Peanut as the Scarecrow, along with 
the parents of those adorable triplets--son #4 as the Tin Man and his wife Braveheart 
as the Wicked Witch.

Before they got here in their killer costumes, I wanted to test out the expensive digital camera my husband gave me as a gift years ago.  I'd lost the battery charger for it, and for ages now I've just been snapping photos using my cell phone.  I'd finally gotten it up and running again, and I wanted to see how pictures turned out using the "smart portrait" mode.  So I took this picture of my favorite guy while he had a "Why are you doing this?" look on his face.

And I took this selfie.
Those are the new (kind of ridiculously large!) glasses.  Those are the stairs of the new VA house.  I like that you can see my Miraculous Medal, and that along with my orange and black Halloween ensemble, you can see part of the white apron I was wearing while I made the mac and cheese for the grandkids who would be arriving soon--and then never got around to taking off.  This is real life, folks; I have an apron tied around my waist about 75% of the time.  One of my boys insists that I even wear it when I sleep, but that's pure exaggeration.

Okay, maybe not.  Here is a photo of my apron collection.

And that doesn't include my newest apron, this buffalo plaid flannel number that I was wearing when I took the picture of the others!

I have gotten so used to the old picture up there at the top, which I associate with anything having to do with my writing activities.  And I really love the Irish-green color of the sweater I'm wearing in it.  But I feel like it's not really "me" anymore.

So what say you?  Should I use the selfie-on-the-stairs pic here at the blog--or perhaps get my husband to take an updated one for me?  Or should I just leave well enough alone and be forever 54?  Should I change my blog's background, get rid of the green?  Your thoughts?  (I realize your thoughts might be something along the lines of, "I don't care!"  But you guys are so nice, you probably won't say that!)

Dust blog: check.  Stretch blogging muscles: check.  Let's see if I can keep this streak going!