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!