Decluttering : It’s Just Stuff

Photo by Félix Prado on Unsplash

I grew up in a pretty clean house. My mom was an “at home” mother until I went to college and she loved a neat and tidy home. We were never made to run the sweeper, do dishes (back in the days before dishwashers), laundry, or anything like that. She said when we got older we’d have enough housework.

When I went away to college I needed to do laundry so I went to a coin operated laundromat. I was so spoiled I had to ask someone to show me how to use the washer. One day I left a new pair of Wrangler jeans washing in the New Ken laundromat and went back to my half duplex one block away. When I returned they were gone. Someone must have really wanted them if they took them soaking wet.

I don’t remember being really neat in college or when I lived, single, in my Winebiddle Street apartment afterwards. I hated going to bed with dirty dishes on the counter (still do) so I made sure they were done. I did live in an old, old house that had been converted into one room effficiencies. One day I came home and my Free Spirit 10 speed bicycle was in the window sunlight. I looked and it was encased in a giant, intricate spider web. I don’t remember what I did about that but I probably wiped it down.

Once my babies were born, I remember launching into clean mode. I spent way too much time worrying about how clean my house was. With my first, I went back to work. With my second, it no longer made sense to give day care my salary so I stayed home and became a plastics party queen. I loved a clean house back then even though I remember toys everywhere for a very long time.

Last night I went looking for a specific music CD and it was gone. So was my stack of probably 40-50 CD’s that were on a shelf in my guest bedroom closet. I had a flash of panic. My husband and daughter rented a dumpster about a month ago and cleaned out the house. I participated very little in this. I have been decluttering for at least four years, since I quit my full time job, and even before that so I felt very little need to join in.

The reality began to set in a minute later that my CD’s were GONE. I sent Jim a text in the hopes that he might know where they were. But I knew. Twenty years worth of music- Christmas, Greek, Rock and Roll- gone to a dumpster and a garbage dump somewhere. Good thing I had a couple of my favorites in the car.

Now if my husband threw these away, I don’t blame him. Yep, I don’t. Because I should have participated in this and honestly, he probably thought they were old CD’s of the kids that no one listened to anymore. In the process of looking through my closet (just in case they were in a box somewhere), I did find a treasure trove of children’s music that probably belonged to my grandson from 15 years ago. Those are going to Penny.

I will be sad for a couple of days but I will move on. Decluttering is a good feeling in the end. It is just stuff. I listen to music in the car occasionally, but most times I enjoy the quiet. I think I’ll be ok with that.

If you want to de-clutter and don’t know where to start, I recommend this book written by a friend. It’s awesome and will get you started. Restore Order, Restore Joy by Dorothy L. Clear. 

Is there a clutter area in your house? How does it bother or not bother you?

 

 

What’s Your Plan?

Photo by Afrah on Unsplash

It’s hard to believe it is almost mid- August already. Where has the summer gone? I remember early May like it was yesterday. Easter was over, I was anticipating a summer of KDE weddings, and preparations for my own son’s wedding were building.

Fast forward almost three months later. I am trying to relish every single day of August (well, the ones where it doesn’t rain) and count my blessings. I didn’t have a single rain day on any of my outdoor weddings. What a blessing! My daughter has moved home. We now have three dogs and life is overflowing.

I wonder sometimes what life will be like in twenty years. Turning the big six-oh this year is something I’m going to celebrate. But twenty years added to me now equals eighty. Will I live in a tiny house on my daughter’s future farm? Will I be in a senior housing apartment (doubtful). Maybe I’ll still be here, on an acre of ground, trying to figure out how to keep it all mowed.

I ask people sometimes if they have plans for their senior days. Most of them look at me with a blank expression on their face. They can’t imagine it I guess. But I do think about it. When you care for an aging parent you cannot help think of it.

At times I straddle the now world with the one in the future. I preach about living in the moment but I do think that reality dictates that we make some plans.

My mom is dependent on me for anything outside her home and some things on the inside. Shopping for groceries, laundry, picking up her medications, doctor appointments, church. This does makes me think of my own elder time, which isn’t all that far away. Am I going to pay someone to help me? Try to maintain my independence?

I think that most people don’t even think about what their needs will be in the future. As I try and enjoy everyday life, deal with the sorrows and the celebrations, pay bills, and anticipate holidays, somewhere lurks the possibility of quiet retirement. I pray that my health will be good and my strength will hold out. I also am a firm believer in what you give will come back to you. I nurture my relationships with my cousins, children, and grandchildren. I hope they look out for me and I think they will.  🙂

Taking care of my mom has taught me that you need to have thoughts of a plan. Just a tiny one. Nurture relationships with people you trust that can care and look out for you. Then go and enjoy your days, your children, your spouse, and your moments.

Photo by Lisheng Chang on Unsplash

Living Joyfully

Penny’s Selfie- She’s my example of living joyfully.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a writing and podcasting conference at Antiochian Village. This jewel of a lodging/conference center/spiritual retreat rests in the Laurel Highlands of Ligonier Pennsylvania. I believe I have written about this beautiful place before. I launched my book, Ordinary is Extraordinary, there last April of 2016. This was now the third time I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and enjoying Antiochian Village (AV).

Ancient Faith Ministries (AF) sponsored this conference and I was overjoyed to be there. I missed last year’s conference and so when the opportunity came up this year I blocked off my calendar. As I write more and more for the OCN, I have become interested in the possibility of writing a book for Orthodox Christians. I couldn’t wait to see what the conference had to offer.

Interestingly enough, I was quite sure I’d know not a soul there. I did have a friendship with Melinda, the marketing director of AF. She gave me my start at the OCN two years ago and is now with Ancient Faith. But that was through a virtual connection and other than her, I knew absolutely no one. Scary? Maybe. But not really. I knew these would be people living a spiritual life and because of this I had no apprehensions.

I walked in the door and Melinda was the first person I saw. We greeted each other with a warm hug and I thanked her for giving me the opportunity at OCN. Since my room was not quite ready, I wandered into the bookstore (yes, on location at AV) and introduced myself to Father Andrew Stephen Damick. We chatted, looked over the generous display of books, and he showed me two of his books. I brought one of those home and am absolutely loving it.

Throughout the two days of the conference, I was educated, motivated, inspired and spiritually captivated. None of us got much sleep as there was just too much excitement. AF provided us with great speakers, the opportunity of chapel services morning and evening, and AV gave us delicious meals, inspiring sunrises and sunsets, and comfortable rooms.

The view from my window- Antiochian Village.

If you are a writer, do you attend conferences? I admit to not being active in a writer’s world (yet!) because I have so much else going on. But this conference helped me realize that we really do need to re-charge our batteries regularly by being around like minded people. It doesn’t matter what our interests are. Gather with others who have similar passions and watch the fires light.

I met Dr. Gary Jenkins next, waiting for dinner on the first night. We struck up a conversation and it turned out we both knew Father Paul Abernathy. Gary wrote a blog when he arrived home that captured how I felt about the AF conference (#afcon). And honestly, this gift of meeting amazing people continued for the two days of the conference. My standard opening lines were Where are you from? and What motivated you to be here? I met children’s book writers, podcasters, motivational speakers, priests, and even a small baby! One of my God moments was meeting Presbytera Stacey of Eikonia. She and her two sisters sing beautiful hymns of the church that bring tears to my eyes.

So what did all this do for me? Within a day of arriving home, I began a sequel to Ordinary is Extraordinary that is about joyful living. This inspiration came while at Antiochian Village and on the beautiful ride home. And of course I pitched a book idea to Melinda over breakfast and she gave me some good direction. I am pursuing the research and contemplating my book submission to Ancient Faith for this fall of 2017.

What brings you joy? I would really like to know! The sequel I am writing will be about the moments that have brought me joy but I would like to also incorporate some of your joyful moments. Is it the birth of your children or grandchildren? Is it a walk in the woods with your dogs? How about time with sisters, brothers, or other friends? No thought is too small and I would be overjoyed to hear your joys! So please comment below or send me a private message through Facebook. Or simply email me at joannejamiscain@gmail.com. (Your comments can be anonymous if you wish.)

Many things bring me joy. I’ve chosen some of my favorite moments below.  One more amazing side note to all of this. It turns out that Melinda, who currently lives on the West Coast, is moving to Cranberry PA this summer. Cranberry is about 40 minutes from me. Wow. How’s that for grace?

Live, love, laugh joyfully. Enjoy every day and find the nuggets within.

 

 

 

Kindness Rocks

The Kindness Rocks Project

I was on a girl’s weekend with a few of my friends. We happened to be at Susquehanna University, a beautiful campus with lots of quiet and flowers. I wanted to stay in the shade and decided to walk under a line of trees to keep cool.

Turning a corner, I saw the large flat stones. It stopped me right in my tracks. Here’s what it said.

How fitting that this should be on a college campus. So many people of all ages probably go to this school, work and study hard, and sit among the trees on a gorgeous day. Maybe on a tough day they need to see this. Perhaps they pick up a rock and take it back to their room. It’s possible it will make their day a little brighter.

I decided to be needy and so I took a rock. It said, “You are Worth It.” I love it. I brought it home and placed it in the soil of my growing fig tree. I hope the tree will note this message and feel free to grow tall and strong. I did briefly wonder if I should not take a rock since I didn’t have one to leave. I don’t think this is the main purpose. I think the rocks are there for the taking.

I would have loved to be in the room when these were being painted. How did the painters decide what quotes to choose? There were some rocks with only one word on them. Others had more sayings. Since then, I’ve looked up the Kindness Rocks website and wow, there are so many more wonderful rocks!

I told my friend Ms. Child about the Kindness Rocks. She thought maybe she’d start one in her area. Lo and behold she went on the website and it turns out there is one near her! She’s excited about creating some rocks of her own and visiting the project. How cool is that? To find out if there is a Kindness Rocks project in your area, click HERE.

This is bigger than you think. Check out the video.

I love this wonderful idea. A landmark birthday is looming this year and I’ve already reached out to my township to ask them for an opportunity to start a Kindness Rocks project in my local park. If you live near me, let me know if you’ll come and paint with me.

PS. The Kindness Rocks website is full of information! Many gorgeous rocks and a downloadable “how to” on the best materials to use.

Memorial Day Gratitudes

Sewickley Pennsylvania Circa 2014

I love parades. That said, I am one of those people who cry at them. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is the blend of trumpets, drums, and clarinets together that may bring reminders of my Ambridge high school band (which I was not in – I was in chorus). Perhaps it is the emotion that the music stirs in me. I often wear dark sunglasses at parades and I tend to forget my tissues. It is a challenge to keep it together. 

The older I get the deeper my love grows for my country. I see what’s going on in the world and it’s very frightening. We live in uncertain times and still we come together as Americans to share common goals. Memorial Day is for those who died while in service to our country. I cannot remember ever losing a family member to war. I know how lucky this is.

To others who gave up their lives for our freedoms, I am eternally grateful. I often will lay my head on my pillow at night, thankful that I am safe. There are many less fortunate. It goes without saying that we have to pray for and remember those who sacrificed and those who continue to do so. I am in awe of the service men and women who step up to keep our nation safe.

While we are enjoying our hotdogs and hamburgers today, we should all take a moment to thank those who lost their lives while in service. It would be a humbling thing to do.

 

America is hope. It is compassion. It is excellence. It is valor. Paul Tsongas

Motherhood and The Duty of Family

Three Generations- Granddaughter, Grandmother, Great Grandmother

Duty: obligatory tasks, conduct, service, or functions that arise from one’s position (as in life or in a group)-i.e. was his duty to support his family. Source

It has been four years since I left my full time job to help my mom. In that time I have been through many things and learned much about patience, acceptance, and gratitude. I have started a small business, penned a book, experienced the joy of another grandchild, and spent consistent and overflowing amounts of time with my mom.

In this time with my mom, I often reflect about the two decades devoted to the raising of my two children. They are now beautiful young adults, responsible and contributing members of society.  They are good kids with big hearts. I couldn’t ask God for more and yet He gave me two amazing grandchildren as well.

I remember back to my child rearing days and I’m grateful for a husband who loves and adores his kids. Jim has always been a good provider, often working long shifts and weekends. Many times the kids and I were on our own, attending parties and functions without Dad in tow.

Though I deeply loved my children, I remember feeling at times the need to go to the top of a mountain and sit there for a while. Maybe I’d be quiet, maybe I’d scream, maybe I’d pack a lunch and eat it all by myself without interruption. Even as the kids got older and more independent, the responsibility of them continued (and really still continues to this day). It is a juggle to nurture and encourage our young and adult children without stifling them. I like to think of it as a balance to allow them to be themselves but within the social boundaries of society.

I see my duties with my mom as much of that same responsibility. Sometimes the nurturing and encouraging is on her part, sometimes it’s on mine. I am making the same sacrifices I did thirty years ago. Living on less financially, saying No to things I don’t have time for or basically cannot afford. As an oldest child, this is how I was raised. My sense of duty and responsibility to my family is deeply rooted.

My mother told me once that when I was in elementary school I often brushed my sisters’ hair and helped get them ready for school. I remember consistently looking out for them whenever we were playing or when my parents were not around. My dad told me I was the one they would look up to and to behave accordingly. I may not have behaved in my teenage- hood but I certainly did in my later years.

It is hard for me to describe my views on the caretaking of my mother to others who are not caretakers themselves or not “the oldest child.” I can see the lack of understanding on their faces and part of my acceptance is knowing that they simply cannot understand how it truly is. If you are the oldest or only child and/or the current caretaker of an elderly or aging parent (or even grandchildren), you do understand (and I’d love to hear from you). I am blessed in that I have a couple of dear friends who truly know what it is like. They are my saving grace.

With my mom’s 88th birthday fast approaching, I want to say how much having the experience of spending time with her has meant to me. She is my biggest cheerleader, best friend, and confident. Remember to spend time with your mom this coming Mother’s Day. If that is not possible then be with someone you truly enjoy.

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”
Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm

Read more of my writing at the Orthodox Christian Network. Click HERE for the link.

Serenity at the Beach

Joanne Jamis Cain- Siesta Key Beach

“In every out thrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”
Rachel Carson

I look forward to it every year. Some way, some how I get to the beach. It’s not a matter of maybe, it is a matter of when and how.

Thankfully my mom, sisters, and I have made this happen for the past three years. We have been vacationing together for one week on beautiful Siesta Key beach. My mother’s brother Steve and his wife, my Aunt KC, made this happen. They were the ones that encouraged and suggested it. (thank you!)

Mom is coming up on her 88th birthday but she is always game. She loves to see everyone from her hometown and hang out with her three daughters. This year Jim’s Aunt Joy and her daughter Donna came down for an afternoon. Both my cousins, Nick and Steve came down too which made it extra special. I missed Kristen but I did get to see Olivia. It was Taylor’s (my cousin Steve’s daughter) 18th birthday and well, that only happens in once a lifetime.

The family gets in on Taylor’s Birthday!

What can I tell you about this amazing vacation? There were so many wonderful moments- seafood at the oyster bar, the Greek restaurant in St. Pete’s, breakfast on the lanai with the view of the ocean, sunsets to make your heart stop. Siesta Key is truly paradise. White sand, weather in the high 70’s, palm trees outside your window…even weddings on the beach.

If you think you don’t have time for a vacation think again. You must make it happen.  You have to book the week, save your dollars and pennies, and GO. (I hope we can go for two weeks next time!) If you wait, wait, wait, you will never go. Then when you are old you will say, “the heck, why didn’t we take more vacations?”

It seems as soon as I get one hour outside of home my brain begins to relax. I forget about meal planning, responsibilities, bills, you name it. I stick my toe in the sand and sit in my beach chair. There are mini sandwiches in the cooler, cold water bottles, chips, and fruit. I stuck my arm out with a small piece of sandwich in my hand and a seagull took it. No kidding!

We had a challenging stove and between Mary and me we burnt pancakes, hamburgers, and fried eggplant. Oh well! So what! It’s vacation! Many things turned out delicious. Scrambled eggs with basil and tomato. Honestly, I don’t remember much else but everything we ate was wonderful.

I’m going to share some pictures (if you haven’t seen them on Facebook already) so you can motivate yourself to book a vacation. Till next time!

Lunch at Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar.
Flowers Everywhere.
The Acropolis Taverna, St. Pete
Sun kissed and happy at Siesta Key Oyster Bar.
My Sisters Eating Oysters! Notice the money all over the walls!
Donna, Aunt Joy, Moi, and Mom.
The Jamis Girls eating Gelato.
Aqua Water So Clear!
Orange Dusk. Breathtaking.

 

 

Faith with a Dose of Uncertainty

I’m sitting here in a sunny window, listening to my dog Jordan chomp on the new soup bone my daughter bought her. She is most assuredly enjoying every moment, every bite of that delicious bone. Snow has fallen the last two days and it looks like a Norman Rockwell painting outside.

I saw the headlines today and there is a sadness in the pit of my stomach. I’m trying to process what is going on. It would be really scary if it wasn’t so absurd.

My grandparents came over on the boat from Greece and Turkey. They came for the opportunity to have a better life. Each generation since has lived that better life and much of it is owed to my grandparents. When I think of the hardships they faced, the Great Depression, no knowledge of the English language, I am filled with admiration for them.

Yiayia and Papou

I don’t know, I’m not sure, but I think that time will tell. “It will unfold” as I like to say. And as always, it is faith that will get me through the hardest parts. Keeping silent has been difficult at times; I don’t believe in slander, sharing slanted websites, or name calling. That doesn’t work for me.

So for today, I will take nuggets of happiness where I can find them. I will listen to Jordan eating her bone and I will watch the cardinals come to my bird feeder. I’m feeling a bit under the weather so there’s a pot of soup on the stove. Soon the smell of onions, garlic, and chicken will fill the air. I will pick out a great movie and watch it with wild abandon.

Courage is fear that has said its prayers. Karle Wilson Baker

A Letter to Penelope

Jessica, John and Penny at her baptism, July 2016

Dear Penelope,

I can’t believe you are already a year old! Where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday I was at the hospital, holding you for the first time. I was filled with such love and emotion that day. You were absolutely beautiful then and you have grown even more beautiful with each passing day.

Watching your personality develop has been a joy. You smile and laugh at other babies, even when they are not as enthusiastic. 🙂 When we walk into a room, you scan and take it all in. New people are given the once over (as it should be) but you never cry (yet!) over meeting someone you don’t know.

I see other parts of who I think you will be. Forward, assertive, a leader. I took you into a restaurant once and while we were waiting for our guest, I sat you on the table. You opened your arms and began to babble. It was as if you were addressing the crowd. The same thing happens when we go to church. You love to look around and take it all in. I feel like you are absorbing, maybe memorizing it all so that you will always know that church is your home.

Your parents love you deeply and have made many changes to place you first in their lives. They have the entire living room buffered for your safety. Your bedroom overflows with books, stuffed animals and clothes. The toys you have are great for learning. You love to explore, punch musical buttons, and play with your favorite toys all day long.

Seeing the advantages and love you have gives me much to pray for. For all the other babies in the world, I wish that they would be as loved and cared for as you are. When I am not with you, I am never concerned for your safety for I know that your parents are on it. They keep an eye out for you always.

Watching you grow so fast in the first year has been a remarkable experience for all of us. I look forward to the next year and all the joy you will continue to bring to us!!

Love, Nana

My son John, with Penelope Katherine
Mom and Baby
I’m one month old!
My daughter Michelene and granddaughter Penny, on a beautiful summer day.
Helping to serve the cake.
Probably my favorite picture
With Godmother Kristina. Penny still looks at Father E this way.
The only selfie you’ll ever see me do is with Penny.
Fashionable already!
Playing is hard work.
A special birthday with Nana.

“I don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child.”
Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

An Attitude of Gratitude

Source

“God gave you a gift of 84,600 seconds today. Have you used one of them to say thank you?”
William Arthur Ward

I went to a memorial yesterday for a friend who passed away on December first. I thought I was doing fine about his death but when I arrived at the center, pictures of him were flashing on a screen. Many pictures, beautiful ones, of my friend in health and sickness. I could see the effects of the disease that took a toll on his body.

It was sad. I started crying a bit, not heavy but slow tears of sadness. I hugged his family members and found a seat. Good food was being served and that helped. A nice service followed and friends were encouraged to get up and speak, which I did. I mentioned a book I gave GB to read when he was in the hospital. It was “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” If you haven’t read this book, it is worth the time to check it out.

My word of the year is gratitude. This memorial was a good opportunity for me to think and practice saying thank you. My friend who passed was a good friend, not just a fair weather friend. I knew GB for at least twenty two years. Though he traveled much for his job, we still made a point of having lunch or a phone conversation regularly. I am grateful to God for this person who made me laugh, think, and embrace spirituality on a deeper level.

This ache in my heart will pass. It may come back sporadically but I have faith it will give way to warm cherished memories in years to come. His children are beloved to me and always will be and I hope to stay in touch with them.

As I go forward into this year, I’m wondering how to practice more gratitude. As if an angel was watching over me, I received a text message from my blogger friend, enticing me to read a book together with her. I said, OK! and the next thing you know the book arrived at my house. It is The Happiness Dare. We are going to read it together and talk about it. I love this idea.

I hope you have a wonderful week. Thank you for reading my blog and staying with me on this journey. I wanted to share a song that marked my feelings for every reader that has supported my writing. Here it is.