Yesterday I was going through some office papers when I stumbled across a note that Jim wrote to Gavin last year. I was supposed to post it to my blog but somehow I completely forgot. (please forgive me Jim)
While Jim and I were on vacation last year, Gavin assumed most of the care of our home, including our 13 year old dog Jordan. During a shopping experience at the Nantucket whaling museum store, Jim picked a beautiful compass for Gavin as a gift. He gave it to him when we arrived home.
Without further ado, here is the letter Jim wrote to Gavin.
Compass: A tool often used to help with direction.
While proving yourself this past week by taking care of the house, chickens, and the dog, I was thinking of myself when I was your age. I don’t think I would have done as good a job as you did. Most likely, I would have declined direction or refused the instructions offered to me, thinking that I knew better. Most of the time in my life, when I found myself lost, it was because I declined to use the tools and direction that were so freely given to me.
My hope is that if you use this compass to know the direction you’re starting in, you will always be able to find your way home. But please remember that it works best if you know where you are starting from.
Hopefully, with some Good Orderly Direction, you will never get lost. Always know that I love you. Jim
PS. Clean up your room, stand up straight, and listen to you mom (lol)
When I found this yesterday it melted my heart. Gavin is going to be 17 this coming April. Hard to believe. It feels like yesterday that he was just a little guy.
Thank you Jim for helping me clean out my office and for writing this beautiful letter.
You might remember that this past June I happened to be at Susquehanna University. It was there that I stumbled upon a Kindness Rocks Garden and stopped in my tracks. It captured my attention and so much so that I contacted my daughter’s childhood friend, Steph, who worked for the Recreation Department of Findlay Township.
I told Steph about the Kindness Rocks Garden and asked if there was a chance that we could make one in Clinton Park. “Sure!”, she said. And that was the beginning.
Since I am turning 60 this month, I wanted to do something to honor my friends and community. Creating this project filled the bill. On Thursday, November 9, about twenty new and old friends gathered to paint rocks and write inspirational sayings on them.
Armstrong Telephone gave us a grant and through them, we were able to buy all of the supplies. The Kindness Rocks website has a pdf form that makes it so easy to get everything you need. The oil based markers were terrific. We also had pre-painted about 25 rocks, just to get the evening started.
My deepest thanks to Steph, Findlay Township, and everyone who turned out! We will be creating the actual garden in Clinton Park this coming Spring of 2018. I promise to keep you posted here and on social media. If you live in the area and would like to make rocks for this project, feel free! We would welcome groups or individuals who love to create. Feel free to contact Findlay Recreation at 724-695-0500 extension 240.
Here’s what a fabulous evening it was.
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
― Maya Angelou
From the time I was a little girl, I loved nature and I loved color. I remember there was a book that I read to my daughter when she was little. It was about loving mixed up colors best, a baby robin’s speckled breast… Oh how we read that book over and over.
As a young child, I used brightly colored crayons in pages upon pages of coloring books. Even as a grown up, I love to color. It is no wonder that I love fall.
Normally I get so tired of driving but during autumn, that’s a different story. I log about 300-400 miles a week because anything out of Clinton Pennsylvania is a drive. I drive to mom’s, to Penny’s, to the grocery store, to church, on and on. Most of my CD’s are gone although I find myself not missing them much these days. With all the quiet there’s time to think, to pray, and relish the solitude. There was a time when I needed constant stimulation and a racket in my head. Anything to keep my mind occupied.
These days, quiet wins. I like being with myself and I love the peacefulness. There’s been so much going on lately- weddings, events, three dogs in the house- truly, it’s a welcome relief.
If you live where there is fall foliage, do you notice it? When you’re driving are you in awe of the golden yellows, oranges, and reds of the season? I look around every time I drive. I find myself taking back roads just to see the color.
I am ever amazed at the hurry people are in these days. They like to cut the next guy off, they get mad when they don’t catch the green light, and they don’t wait for those poor pedestrians to cross the street. I love to do my “three things a day that no one catches me at” and stop, wait, and let those who need to cross the road.
If we take time to slow down and look at the colors, we will be amazed every day at what we’ll see. The world will open up. The gratitude of the season will have more meaning when we see those small little things. If we only focus on what’s wrong in our life, we will not see the gorgeous beauty awaiting us every day.
Last week John and Jess brought Penny to Hozak Farms. We have been going there for YEARS. I took John and Michelene as children, Gavin when he was a little guy, and now Penny. Instead of riding the hay wagon to the pumpkin patch, Penny headed straight to the straw hut. Nothing fancy but Penny loved it. While we ate fried pickles (and I shopped), Penny spent close to an hour throwing straw with other kids. She had so much fun.
Hozak’s was beautiful. Yes, it ‘s a bit more crowded these days but I still love it. It’s a wonderful place to see lots of trees, life, and color. The memories of past visits fill me with nostalgia. Life goes by so fast. Take the time to look around and drink in the color.
When you think of your home, what space would you most like to treat to a makeover? Recently, Jim and I made the big decision of removing our wall to wall carpet and exposing the gorgeous red oak floors below. It was a major move for us. The floors have been covered since we moved in thirty four years ago. No sanding or varnishing was necessary. The floor is absolutely beautiful.
My home doesn’t look like the picture above (I wish!). But it’s ok for a girl to dream, isn’t it? Since I’ve been taking care of my mom for the past four years, I’ve been embracing simplicity. There are limited extra funds these days but I’m ok with that. Being able to spend time with my mom is worth it. Still I know the day will come when I will pick a new look to go with those hardwood floors.
Let’s dream together, shall we?
I’d like to make my living room the kind of space that would be a welcome retreat. When I come home from a busy day with mom or Penny, I’d like to melt into a comfy sofa with lots of pillows, a throw blanket of fleece or warm cotton, and my perfect reading lamp nearby. Arhaus has a lot of great lamp options you can check out. It might be snowing outside so I’d have a delicious mug of cocoa (yes, with mini marshmallows).
Or, I’d have a warm and inviting chair I could cuddle up to, a soft ottoman to rest my feet on, and the sunshine of the day behind my shoulder. The other colors in the room would be neutral and soothing.
I checked out the Arhaus website recently and found this gorgeous chair. It would be perfect next to the oak floors. A throw pillow behind my back and I’m ready to relax. I’m a fan of white walls. They look so clean. How about a few potted plants? There are plants everywhere in my house including my bedroom. Did you know certain plants are helpful for rest and relaxation?
What would I be reading? I love fiction novels with happy endings, non fiction books that inspire, and decor dream magazines like Country Living. My books would be stacked in fair trade baskets from Serrv. I love their mission and what they stand for.
This past weekend, out of the blue, I ended up in Wexford PA. I stopped at my favorite clothing place and behold, an Arhaus was next door! I stopped in and walked around the store not once but twice. I asked one of the nicest saleswomen ever to take my picture. She asked if this was going to be my Christmas card. I laughed and replied no. I said, “A girl can dream, right?”. She said, “Absolutely!”.
I hope this post will inspire you to think of your home as a sanctuary. Clean out clutter first. Go through your things and decide what’s really important and give away what is not. If you don’t have the energy or motivation to do this, hire someone to help you. Organizers are worth every penny. Then think about what you’d like to do. Check out Pinterest for some great ideas. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming and who knows? When we set an intention, we let the universe know what we want. And I believe the universe will conspire to bring it to us.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know that I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe that God is at work, making things real, bringing people together and spinning His magnificent magic.
There have been a couple of things that happened recently that drove this home even further for me. My son was married on Labor Day weekend and so many wonderful and amazing things happened. I want to share some details that I’m still in awe about.
Amazing thing #1-
About an hour before the church ceremony we realized that Penny’s dress was at home. This was fine except we were half an hour away at the church when we realized this. I frantically called my sister in laws, managed to reach one of them, and fifteen minutes before the ceremony, they arrived with dress in hand. Penny walked down the aisle like nothing ever happened.
If my future daughter in law would not have said to me, “So where is Penny’s dress?” when she did, Penny might have walked down the aisle in her old pink onesie. Ha! Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
Amazing Thing #2-
A blogger friend of mine, Daleen of Sunday’s Child, happened to be on the east coast from the west coast just days before the wedding. We have been phone friends for five years, sharing stories and encouragement in all walks of life, and here she was (and her lovely husband to boot), coming near me for the first time ever.
Almost a year ago Daleen and I realized this could happen. I kept hoping (and praying) the timing would work out and yes folks, it did. The night before the wedding Jim and I met Daleen and Bruce in the lobby of the Pittsburgh Hyatt (surreal!!) and whisked them to the rehearsal dinner. Wedding day dawned and we met for an early breakfast in the hotel. It was then that Daleen did the unimaginable. She offered to come over my house and gather the sunflowers into bouquets for Jess, Michelene, and Jana (and others!).
When we arrived at my house I ran around getting things together while Daleen made bouquets. The mason jars of fresh sunflowers from McConnells’ Farm were already together and I made yellow rose boutonnieres the day before. I decided to use soda pop plastic holders to contain the mason jars (genius!) and Bruce and Jim loaded everything into the car for the trip to the church.
When I nearly had a meltdown over Penny’s dress, Daleen and Bruce calmly offered to go and get it. Thankfully that wasn’t necessary but still, wow, what an offer.
Amazing Thing #3-
My sister Mary and I made a rogue Greek CD of music to play at the wedding. I wanted to do the official bridal dance while Jim splashed money over John and Jess. We had a blues band at the wedding- Eugene and the Night Crawlers (yes, that is really their name)- and I called Eugene a couple weeks before the wedding to see if he had a CD player attached to his speakers.
“Yes M’am”, he said. Ok, I figured we were all set except when it came time to play the song, Eugene’s CD player was one of those compact Walkmans from probably ten years ago. The disc was spinning but nothing was coming out of the speakers.
After a few tense minutes, my son wandered over and used his IT skills to diagnose the problem. I said a silent prayer something like, “God, help me. Can you please make this happen?”
Within two minutes, my sister had downloaded the song on her iphone and we plugged it into the speakers. Out came the official bridal dance song, played at just about every Greek wedding I’ve ever been to. We danced our hearts out to that one song.
Where was God? Everywhere. He was just ……everywhere. The icing on the cake was the comment Daleen made to me after the wedding. She said that Bruce’s definition of happiness from now on was going to be my face as I walked down the aisle. His definition of radiant? Jessica, as she walked down the aisle.
There are amazing things going on in our life every day. Instead of taking those wonderful moments for granted, or chalking them up to luck, think again. It’s the spiritual that really makes those things happen. I’m still in awe over my son’s wedding and thankful for the many blessings then and now.
A load of gratitude to my sisters who took great care of my mother the week before and week after the wedding. Thank you so much!!
Blessings to Ann, Jess’ mom, who is recovering from health issues. Please say a prayer for her.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. (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.
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.
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