Thursday, April 28, 2022

It's Showtime!

I’m a little late getting this one posted.  It was languishing in my drafts for a while, unfinished; then our recent trip to Nashville to visit our youngest son and his wife took center stage here at the blog for a bit.  But I wanted to write about a really sweet week that I had recently before my old lady brain forgets all the details!  So here we go.

Spring is the season for going to shows, down here in VA.

The Sunday before Easter, I got to attend a high school production of Hello, Dolly! with my second-oldest son and his two oldest boys (Junior, 6, and Jedi, 4).  The play was put on by his wife's Catholic high school alma mater, and it was absolutely fabulous.  The sets, the costumes, the acting and singing, the choreography--it was all so incredibly well done!  I was pretty much blown away by the professional quality of every facet of this production.

The two leads were particularly talented, and my little grandsons developed a bit of a crush on the gal who played Dolly (one of them called her "the queen").  I have to give those boys credit: this was a two-and-a-half-hour show that started at 7:00 PM, and they stayed mostly attentive throughout.  (After the intermission, the 4-year-old quietly asked when it would be over a couple of times, when there was still about an hour to go; but for his age, he did remarkably well!)

Here are my darling grandsons after the show, getting their picture taken with the lovely lead character (an extremely gifted young gal whom I wouldn't be surprised to see on Broadway one day).

Well, hello Dolly!!

Then the following Tuesday evening, I got to attend another show.  This one was at the Catholic elementary school in our town where our 4-year-old triplet grandchildren (who belong to son #4 and his Braveheart) are in pre-K.  Their class did a tribute to Mother Goose, with all the traditional nursery rhymes included.  Although the sets and costumes (and ahem, the singing and acting) were not nearly as polished as those of the high school musical, this show was just so incredibly SWEET!

When it came time for "Old King Cole," the triplets played the very apropos role of the fiddlers three. :)

After the show, I went to Chick-Fil-A for a celebratory dinner out with son #4's family (something that doesn't happen very often, as they have four rather rambunctious kids, aged 4 and under, and they usually go to the drive-through!).

As if one pre-K extravaganza wasn't enough excitement for one week, on Thursday of that same week I got to attend yet another.  This time, the star of the show was our Shirley Temple lookalike granddaughter Hermosa, the 4-year-old middle child of our middle child (son #3).  And this time, Papa (who had been up in NY working on our vacation rental house and missed the previous two shows) was able to come, too.  So I had my favorite date with me.

I love this time of year with our young grandkids, with the end-of-year school shows and the little graduations (kindergartners in caps and gowns—can you even stand it?).  If we hadn’t made our big move south five years ago, we would be missing so many of these special events.  I'll tell you, we are just loving our VA life.

*Just a little postscript: I am having technical difficulties with my Google account for this blog and can no longer leave comments on other people's blogs or reply to the ones left on my own.  I'm going to get my favorite IT guy to try to help me figure it out, but in the meantime, I'm sorry if you left me a nice message recently and I didn't acknowledge it!

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Music City Memories

If you read my last post, you know that my husband and I are in Nashville, visiting our youngest son and his wife.  On Friday night, we went out on the town.  After walking around the bustling and noisy (music- filled!) downtown streets, we stopped at a local distillery and enjoyed a few fancy cocktails.  With live country music playing in the building, of course.

Then we went to Nashville’s Assembly Food Hall, which is basically a giant multi-level food court with over 30 eateries and bars and pretty much every kind of fare imaginable.  And while we ate, there was a live country music performer nearby, giving us an awesome free concert.  I mean, of course there was. Because, you’s Nashville.  They call it "Music City" for a reason.

I had to.  He was the King, after all.

Again...we had to.  This vignette seemed tailor-made
to be a backdrop for a Pearl fam photo op.  ;)

Last night, we had tickets for the Grand Ole Opry.  It was the first time for my husband and me, not surprisingly; but it was also the first time for our son and his wife, who've lived in the area for less than a year and just hadn't had the opportunity to check it out yet.  That made it extra-special.

The show was absolutely spectacular.  The house was packed, and everyone in the audience was pretty jazzed to be there.  On stage that night the talent ran the gamut from stars who'd been in the business for more than 50 years to young singers making their Opry debuts.  One of my favorite performers was an actor/comedian/singer named Charles ("Chip")  Enes, who actually starred in a show called Nashville, but whom we remember enjoying years ago with our boys on the Drew Carey show Whose Line Is It Anyway?  He was so entertaining!

The Opry was so much fun, and I feel like Opry-goers are my kind of people!  Getting to see a live show there was something we never thought we'd do, and I suppose if we never had, we wouldn't have missed it.  But boy, oh boy, y'all, I sure am right happy that we got a chance to experience that!

Let's see, what else is there to report...oh yes, I tried grits.  Yesterday morning our son was helping a classmate with a film project, so our daughter-in-law took us to brunch at the coolest little place called the Nashville Jam Cafe.  I've never had grits; but they had smoked Gouda grits as a choice for a side on the menu, so I decided to be daring for a change and give them a go.  Dang, those cheesy grits were delicious!  I may become a true Southerner yet, my friends.  (And after walking around Nashville last night, I'm finding myself thinking that I might need to get me a pair of cowboy boots!)

Today we went to Mass, with Confession beforehand and our son and his wife singing in the church choir; then we watched our daughter-in-law's adult league soccer game; in a little while, we'll enjoy a nice steak and potatoes dinner at home...and then tomorrow morning, we'll be heading back to VA as early as we can get the car packed up. This has been such a wonderful visit, I hate to see it end.  But although this is our first rodeo (that is, trip to Nashville!), I'm quite sure it won't be our last.  And I'm hoping that next time, I'll be wearing new boots.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Red Carpet Affair

Our youngest son is just about to finish up his first year of studying for his MFA in Film and Creative Media.  After he graduated from Notre Dame in 2015 with a degree in finance, he spent six years in the Army (three of them stationed in Germany), fulfilling his ROTC obligation and then some.  It's quite a career change for him, from field artillery officer to aspiring movie maker; but for his dad and me, it feels exactly right.  This is the boy who would watch a video called The Making of Jurassic Park over and over, on a loop, utterly fascinated by all the behind-the-scenes work involved in creating the magic of his favorite boyhood movie; this is the boy who dressed up as a movie director for career day in third grade, and made a short stop-motion animation film using his Jurassic Park action figures and dinosaur toys--with me playing the part of his rather inept cinematographer.  (He won't like it that I'm telling you this, but his third grade magnus opus was called T-Rex T-rouble.  I thought that was an extremely clever title for a little guy to come up with!)  He has always been a movie buff, and even had a movie review blog for a few years (but his day job in the Army kept him too busy to post as often as he would have liked).

My husband and I took a two-day road trip, from our home in VA to Nashville, to visit our baby and his wife, stopping in Knoxville for the night and arriving in the early afternoon yesterday.  And last night, there was a huge event for the film department at his university called "5 Min Film Fest," where the five-minute live action and animated films and scripts of students were up for awards.  It was really something!  Everyone was dressed to the nines.  The whole affair began with a delicious buffet dinner.  Once we got seated in the venue and the awards ceremony began, there were entertaining presenters (one being Mike Nawrocki, the co-creator of the popular VeggieTales series and the voice of Larry the Cucumber), showings of all the nominated cartoons and films on giant screens, and a live band adding snippets of music throughout.  It was absolutely awesome, and so much more elaborate than I was expecting.

Our son had both a script and a film nominated for awards.  His works didn't win the big prizes; but with the size of this program at this school, it truly does appear to be an honor just to be nominated.  (We got to sit at one of the special tables reserved for nominees.)

The university at which our son is studying is Christian, and the films created by the students there are intended to be family-friendly.  (In fact, no vulgar language was allowed.  And one of the professors who spoke attested to the fact that the aim of this school's film department was to create content that would ultimately give glory to God.  How great is that?!?! It was so refreshing to see the winners go up to receive their prizes and mention their gratitude to God in their little acceptance speeches.)

When I told her I wasn't sure what dress to pack, my baby sister suggested the dress that I had worn to my youngest son's wedding in 2019.  Genius idea!  So I got to wear it again--and on the red carpet no less--for another important event in his life.

When some people found out that our son was planning to study film, their initial reaction was the old, "Oh no, he can't go to Hollywood!  He'll lose his soul!"  And I get that worry, I do.  But TV and movies are popular, and their power to affect the culture is huge and all-pervasive.  They are very much with us.  So I think the more young people we can get involved in creating entertainment that combats the atheistic, secularized fare that makes up the bulk of those genres, the better.  (Think Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ; or Bella, a 2006 pro-life movie; or the 2012 film about the Christeros war, For Greater Glory--to name a few powerful counter-cultural movies from recent years.)  And Hollywood isn't the only place to work in this field.  Nashville, in fact, might be a place for our son to find work after graduation.

Anyway, I am quite confident that if anyone can be an agent for change in our fallen world while also doing the thing he loves, it is my boy.  (Oh, and one last thing: I am also quite confident that when it comes to those two awards he was nominated for, he was robbed!)

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Easter Sunday Fun Day

We had the most lovely Easter; I hope you did, too!

My husband and I went to the Easter Vigil Mass, so we were free on Sunday morning to get ready for our gang to come to our house for a brunch get-together in the early afternoon. We had sons #2, #3, and #4, their wives, and the 13 children they have between them gathered under our roof (and out in our little strip of side yard), along with son #4’s in-laws and a dear family friend who went to college with two of our daughters-in-law.  So 11 adults—and 13 kids aged 7 and under!  It was the very best kind of chaos.

G-Man, 7, the oldest child of son #3 and our oldest grandson, gave a little speech he’d memorized, telling the story of Easter and it’s true meaning.  It was beautiful.

My girls and I joined forces on the food, and it was delicious and plentiful: we had quiches, bacon (6 pounds of it!), all kinds of doughnuts and pastries, pulled pork sandwiches, salads, fried chicken tenders, hash brown casserole...everyone ate their fill and was able to take home leftovers as well.

We were able to enjoy the mild, sunny, VA weather outdoors, and had we an Easter egg hunt for the little ones.

All in all, a blessed, perfect (tiring!) day.

Our youngest grandchild, #19, napping with his daddy as the festivities came to an end.  ❤️

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Reflections on Our Beautiful Catholic Faith

In the most recent edition of a Catholic newspaper called The Wanderer, I read an article by Donald DeMarco entitled, "The Invulnerability of the Catholic Church."

Here is the opening paragraph of the article (along with the first sentence of the second paragraph):

"The Catholic Church is a paragon of balance. In this regard she has no peer.  There is sin, but there is forgiveness.  Punishment is tempered by mercy.  Nature is elevated by grace.  Sex is conjoined with responsibility.  Rights are counterbalanced by duties; work is counterbalanced by prayer.  Will is tethered to reason.  Where there are difficulties, there is hope. Where there is doubt, there is faith. Where there is goodness, there is love. Problems are resolved; order is maintained.

The secular world knows no such system of balance."

I read that and all I could feel was a deep gratitude that God had sent His Son into the world to establish this Church, which as those words describe has no peer.  I felt gratitude that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, God's Only Begotten Son, died on the Cross so that our sins could be forgiven.  I felt gratitude, too, that I was fortunate enough to be exposed to our beautiful Catholic Faith from my earliest days on earth and was given the grace to believe it was the One True Faith.

I thank you, God, for the gift of Faith.  And I pray for all those unhappy souls who wander the earth searching for the Truth, searching for peace.  May they be led home to the peerless Church established by Our Lord, where all the answers to life's toughest questions can be found.

God bless you on this Holy Thursday, dear readers, as we prepare to celebrate the summit of the liturgical year, the Easter Triduum. ❤️

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Another Pearl Has Been Added to Our Ever-Growing String!

[Cough.  Sniff.  ACHOO!!]

Just dusting off the old blog, and, um...I'm allergic to dust, so...

I know.  Not funny.  So moving on now--to tell you our latest Pearl news.  And I'm pretty late in making this announcement, because I don't know why, but finding time to blog has become problematic for me lately.  But this is very exciting--although no longer breaking--news: we have another grandbaby, a sweet little fella who was born in the wee hours of the morning on March 29.  He has a super cool name, but I've yet to figure out what I'm going to call him here at String of Pearls.  

This precious little boy is the fifth-born child of son #3 and his wife Preciosa, who have another son (7) and three daughters (6, 4, and 2).  He is the 19th grandchild for his overly blessed Papa and Grammy, and the tally stands now at 10 girls and 9 boys.  I think someone needs to make it an even 20, but no pressure, guys!

A very cute boy.  And his very cute baby boy.

It's funny, I used to joke with our boys, way back when they weren't even dating yet, that I hoped I'd have 25 grandchildren one day.  My husband's parents had 32, but they also had eight kids to our five, so I thought that might be a bit ambitious.  But wow, my dreams are coming true, I'll tell you.  I know that there are countless mistakes my husband and I must have made along the way, and a myriad of ways we could have done better (thanks, Blessed Mother, for filling in the gaps for us); but the fact that all of our boys appear to want to have lots of children makes me feel like they must have had happy childhoods, and that they share the same deep love of family life that their dad and I have always had.  God is so good, all the time.

Here's a picture of our middle son's family, with their new little addition front and center.  It's guaranteed to make you smile.

Aren't they adorable?

Happy Palm Sunday, dear readers.  Have a blessed week!