Life in Pennyopolis

Penny discovers napkins

Penny discovers napkins with Grandpa Jim

“Everything is ceremony in the wild garden of childhood.”
Pablo Neruda

I stood next to Penny while she played with her new toy- a small plastic basketball hoop. As she plunked the ball through the net, the crowd cheered. When she put it through a different hole behind the hoop, numbers would count down on the screen.

throwing-hoopsThis was fascinating to Penny. I sat behind her, not wanting her to fall backwards, while she stood and put the balls through the holes over and over. Every now and then she would turn around, look at me and smile. It was like she was saying “This is so cool isn’t it!”. I was right there with her, discovering new stuff all over again.

My granddaughter Penny was born on January 24, 2016. If you do the quick math, she is now almost nine months old. I raised my own two children, Michelene and John, plus I helped with my grandson Gavin (now 15 years old- wow!). I’m blessed to spend consistent time with Penny these days.

Life in Pennyopolis (as I like to call it) is like looking under rocks all day long. What we take for granted on a daily basis is brand new to her. Every day is an opportunity for discovery, exploration, and learning.

The day starts out with a good breakfast. Scrambled eggs and the comfort of nursing with her mom. Then maybe a short (or long) nap and it’s playtime. There’s at least an hour or two of solid play before the big afternoon nap.

Lots to do in this fancy toy!

Lots to do in this fancy toy!

I know we all have things to do in our adult life but I think we could take a lesson from children. What if our day was made up of learning, relaxation, exercise, and play? We do have work and grown up responsibilities but what if we allowed ourselves the chance to learn something new or really relax? And, connect with others. Penny is a very outgoing child. She loves to meet new people and usually offers them a big smile. People feel drawn to her, just by virtue of her warm and happy personality.

Every time I spend the day with Penny I am reminded of how simple childhood (and life) can really be. Do we need fancy things or lots of money? No. Even with a basket of napkins to amuse us, life can be enjoyable. 🙂

How about elaborate entertainment? No need for it as there is always music. Penny loves music and will often move herself easily to rhythm. Since she was born, her dad has played his guitar and she has listened.

Penny’s mom Jess has a second degree black belt and they do simple exercises together. Penny giggled and laughed the one day when I was witness to this. It was heart warming.

What if we played simply, laughed more, and lived with less? Getting down to basics has it advantages. More down time, less clutter, more happiness. Reaching out to love, connect, and socialize (without substances or social media) allows us to connect on a fundamental, spiritual basis. This is truly the way to live.

“Play is the highest form of research.”
Albert Einstein


Punt and Kick



Punt: to kick (as a football or soccer ball) with the top of the foot before the ball which is dropped from the hands hits the ground.


This wasn’t what I saw, but this is nice!

It’s football season and if you’re from Pittsburgh, chances are you own something black and gold. Driving home from watching Penny the other day, I saw a black/gold car and couldn’t believe it at first. But then I realized- I can believe it- such is the way of the Pittsburgh Steeler pride around here.

Football reminds me of punting. And kicking. Especially when it comes to something challenging or upsetting. A good friend of mine posted on social media this morning. It was a distress call, a cry of pain. I messaged privately and asked what happened. The answer was- someone overdosed.

This is happening a lot around here (and I’m sure) in many other places. Drugs are mixed with other things, with tragic results. I bet if we all thought for a minute we could think of at least one or more persons who have lost their lives in the past year in this way. And it doesn’t have to be drugs. It can be a myriad of other things, including health issues.

How many things do we have control over? The answer- None. We only have control over ourselves (and sometimes we don’t have that either). We can set boundaries with other people with regards to what we are willing or not willing to do. But in the end we can only control ourselves.

If you’ve read my book, you know that I had to surrender when certain parts of my life became unmanageable. It was too difficult to keep fighting at times (and I am a fighter). I see no surrender lately in the political campaign. It makes me feel bad for the candidates when they can’t feel the beauty of tossing in the towel (at least not till later). 😉

So at every turn, they punt. And kick. And slander and beat the other up. I am watching posts on social media, choosing to hide the ones that make me judge others badly or make me not want to be friends with them. I heard something recently that as Christians, we need to be above all the mud slinging, just as Jesus was. He was a great example of peace. Ever been in a tug of war game? How hard did you try and win? Try laying down the rope and walking away. That was Jesus.

As tough as it is when we lose someone we love, I say this. Feel your feelings. Get all mushy in them, as if you are in a wonderful warm bath for hours and your skin gets all pruney and wrinkly. Then, get your football and go kick a few in the back yard (or where you can’t hurt anyone). When you’re tired and worn out, take a rest. After that, pull up your pants by the belt hooks and get back in there. There’s work to be done.

Philippians/4-13 I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.




God Delivers

Cook Forest 2016

Cook Forest 2016

“Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.”
Chad Sugg

There’s a chill in the air when I wake up at dawn. The grass is covered with dew and my legs get wet when I walk Jordan outside in the morning. Our garden has turned pale and most of the tomato plants have withered.  I see trees dropping leaves to the ground; fall is here.

The days seem to fly by anymore. Where did the summer go? It seems to have passed by in a blur. This was the first time in years that I didn’t mind the heat (hot flashes are finally backing off!) and I relished more backyard activities than ever.


Beautiful Penny- now 8 months old!

I did so much this summer. I helped my mom, babysat Penny (love it!), and hosted the baptism. I coordinated eight events for my business (x 2 or 3 pre-planning meetings each plus rehearsals and day of duties), entertained fussier details than ever before, and accommodated bigger expectations. I am thinking that my days as a planner are numbered and my days as a writer are coming in closer. There is a fine line between control and grace. I started my event planning business as a way to bring grace in closer to brides and their families. Thankfully, this has happened many times. But sometimes the personality clashes, obsession to details, and unreasonable expectations begin to do me in.

When it seems that I am about over the edge, God sends me a sign. Last weekend’s wedding was a good example. It had a daunting weather forecast. The ceremony and reception were due to take place in a botanic garden, with a tent attached to the back of a gorgeous, 100 year old barn. The prediction was thunder and rain at the exact moment of the outdoor ceremony. If that wasn’t bad enough, more stormy weather was in store the rest of the evening.

At the rehearsal the venue coordinator suggested a last minute tent over the lawn (the ceremony area). The groom and I looked at each other and quietly said NO. The family was in agreement. No tent. We practiced a rain plan ceremony inside, on the dance floor, as a backup just in case.

Morning dawned on wedding day. I started watching the storm path from 9am, checking it each hour. I do this primarily because I feel responsible for the safety of the guests. The barn is a large outdoor structure and 138 guests were expected. Dancing and a sit down, three course dinner were part of the evening.  I said small prayers all morning, lit my candle next to Panayia, and turned the rain issue over to God.

By early afternoon, the storm was moving away from the garden site. By 3pm, we had placed all the chairs for the ceremony out on the lawn, such was our confidence in the predictions. The storm completely veered off to the north, leaving my bride and groom with a partly sunny, beautiful wedding day. Perfect temperatures- not too hot or cold- were the miracle of this day.

God delivers. That’s all I can say. Grace presents itself in the most obvious ways sometimes. I told the family that my perfect wedding weather average was pretty good but even I was impressed! I don’t claim to have the pipeline; I just have faith.



A gorgeous day for a wedding!

Check out my latest post on the Orthodox Christian Network by clicking HERE.

Penny’s Baptism

With Paul and Kristina at Altar

From L to R, Godmother Kristina, John, Jess and Penelope, Godfather Father Paul. Thank you to Joe Indovina for these pictures!

On Sunday morning, July 31, I walked Jordan outside very early. We live next to a large field and lately, I noticed two young bucks with emerging antlers were often there to greet us. On this day, there were three. Three young bucks. They stared at Jordan and I for a moment and then dashed off.

Three GardeniasI took note of this and then looked at the gardenia plant I had been nursing for three months. It had three gorgeous blooms. My first thought was three for the Holy Trinity of my church. These spiritual signs felt significant to me. I often look for signs of God in nature.

John and Jess arrived at our house before we all departed for the church. I realized I forgot to tell Jess that Penny would get her new christening dress after her baptism. I decided to check my vintage stash and I found a little white dress that I knew was from a past baptism. Jess said it would fit and it did. Penny is wearing it in the picture below. My mom told me a day later that it was my sister Mary’s baptismal dress.

PK and Dad

There were so many other special things about Penny’s baptism day. Aunt Joy sent a beautiful heirloom ring that was given to her by her parents on her sixth birthday. Gold and tiny, I gave it to Jess for safekeeping until Penny is a little older and can wear it. My friend Daleen sent an embroidered handkerchief that I placed in the box with Penny’s dress. My friend Cathy sent the very first card and it was on the gift table at my house. It was Jess’ departed brother Alex’s birthday weekend and I thought of him many times. Friends came from miles around, as far as Minnesota, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Penny was in her usual joyful mood. She is such a happy child! Smiling at everyone, including her godparents Kristina and Paul, made us all feel blessed to be a part of this amazing day.

Christening box

At the picnic at our house afterward, Jess’ mom Ann had “Penelope Katherine” bottles of wine for favors. John made his special brisket (awesome!); Chris’ Watermelon Feta salad was a huge hit. Aunt KC brought her famous stuffed grape leaves. I made American potato salad (10 lbs worth!) and topped it with shredded cheddar and crumbled bacon. That was definitely popular!

The sky got a bit dark at times and I felt a sprinkle while in the yard during the picnic. I held my breath and hoped it wouldn’t pour. It didn’t! We had 40-50 people at our house and getting them all inside might be a bit challenging! Later I found out that only a few miles away was a downpour enough to create puddles on the road. There are some things that are grace, pure and simple, and this was one of them.

I will have a lifetime of memories from Penny’s baptism day. Thank you God for such a beautiful day! Here’s a few more pictures I want to share with you!

The Stockdale Gang

The Stockdale Gang greets Penny

My Magnificent Church, Holy Trinity Ambridge PA

My Magnificent Church, Holy Trinity Ambridge PA

The Font

The Font

Penny in her carrier

Beautiful Penny

Father Emmauel and Paul

Penny loved Father Emmanuel's bible

Penny loved Father Emmanuel’s bible

Amma and Boston

Amma and Boston

Women Photo

Kristina, Penny, Me and Jess

Around the Font

The Celebration

Father and Penny

Father Emmanuel captivates Penny


It’s over! Back to Mom and Dad!

Penny and her buddy Alex

Penny and her buddy Alex

Cain Family


John Jess and Penny back of church

John, Jess and Penny



Summer Reflections

My Pink Rose

My Pink Rose bush

The morning that I am writing this I have opened all the windows, in every room of my house. This has become a pattern with me on warm summer mornings. Before the air conditioning turns on, I walk around opening windows. Letting the fresh breezes in, as well as the sounds of birds chirping, makes me feel lighter somehow and sets in motion a quiet start to the day.

When I’m in a calm mood, I light a candle and do a spiritual reading or two. I like to sit outside with my coffee, soaking in some early morning sun and centering my thoughts. When the day gets off to a hectic start, sometimes it’s harder to do this. But try I do, and many times I manage to squeeze in one or the other, time outside and/or the spiritual readings.

This summer is the best for me so far in terms of mid life. It has been a rocky few years with hot flashes and I’ve not wanted to be outside much. This seems to be shifting, finally, and I can stand being outside for longer periods. I can tolerate warmer temperatures, even needing a sweater on chilly evenings. I’m relieved at this and can almost remember what it was like to love summer.

Next year Jim and I will turn the big six oh. I’m actually excited about the landmark. I feel like I can at last say, I’m too old for this or that, plus I can own my silver hair more fully, I can tell someone I’m just too old to commit to that, so sorry. For the last couple of years I was planning the big landmark party (in my head) that I was going to throw for Jim and I, for this big birthday. Now my enthusiasm for it has gone right out the door. It’s been replaced by a desire to have a week at the beach with my kids and grandkids. Jim is game for this thank God.

Penny’s baptism is coming up and I’m excited to be planning that. Everyone is coming over to our house afterwards so my event planning skills are of good use here. I’ve already got my lists- what I’m going to serve and how to set everything up. I even mapped out my calendar- when I will do what- after long sessions of questions from my mother prompted me to just get it down on paper. Inviting immediate family members only kept the list down. It’s hard to draw boundaries with that. I want everyone here but it’s in my backyard, with limited space, I have to set parameters with myself as well or I will go crazy with worry as to where everyone will fit.

My days are filled with taking care of mom, babysitting Penny, meeting brides, and grilling whatever catches my eye at the farmer’s market. I’ve eaten fresh peaches, zucchini, onions, and tomatoes already and I’m loving it. Every now and then the committee in my head chastises me for not working more, for enjoying this time with my family too much, for not making a full time income. But I tell it to stop, that I am loving this time that I have with my mom and grandchildren. I will never get it back and so there. I’m going to love it.

Here’s more pictures of my summer so far. I’m blessed.

Penny's from Heaven

Penny’s from Heaven

My June Wedding, Tara and her Bridesmaids

My June Wedding, Tara and her Bridesmaids

Meeting an old friend, Drema after twenty years.

Meeting an old friend, Drema after twenty years.

My favorite sunrise picture

My favorite sunrise picture

Lillies at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

Lillies at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

Jim and Michelene's jars of honey and lotion at their Honey Party

Jim and Michelene’s jars of honey and lotion at their Honey Party. Katherine’s Daughter events is their sponsor 🙂

Mom looking at pictures of her brother's recent trip to Greece

Mom looking at pictures of her brother’s recent trip to Greece

Another June couple, Nichole and Arnold!

Another June couple, Nichole and Arnold!

The new house built across the street- I think it's sold.

The new house built across the street- I think it’s sold already

Dundee Farm, Sewickley, where Michelene and I promoted Beefuddled Farms, her and Jim's honey business

Dundee Farm, Sewickley, where Michelene and I promoted Beefuddled Farms, her and Jim’s honey business

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
Henry James



As Sweet as Honey

My daughter Michelene and granddaughter Penny, on a beautiful summer day.

My daughter Michelene and granddaughter Penny, on a beautiful summer day.

She’s an angel of the first degree
She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee

Tupelo Honey, Song by Van Morrison

We are in the full throes of summer aren’t we? It’s July already and there’s lots of sunshine, beautiful flowers, and fourth of July fireworks. Perhaps you’ve already been to the beach and back? I am enjoying delicious fruit pies (peach!), the birds singing outside my window at early dawn, and honey (strawberry) moons.

I remember now what it was like to relish the longer days of summer. Instead of wishing for cool fall weather all the time (the hot flashes are finally backing off!), I am enjoying my morning coffee outside with a good book. I try to leave my cell phone in the house. Why ruin a perfect morning with technology?

I’m also spending lots of quality time with my granddaughter Penelope Katherine. She’s as sweet as tupelo honey. 😉 She just turned five months old and I can see her personality developing right before my very eyes. The little things she does, like touching my face with her sweet hands just melts my heart. God bless Penelope.

My husband Jim and daughter Michelene had their first Honey Party in June. It was a great success with thirty guests who sampled different seasons of honey, learned to be good bee ambassadors, and had ice cream sundaes topped with the honey they spun that afternoon. The future bee ambassadors, the children, are just magic. I love how they participate, ask questions, and smack their lips over the ice cream sundaes.

Love the little one with the raised hand!

Love the little one with the raised hand!

Simple pleasures are the best. Lately I am relishing those. It doesn’t take much to make me happy these days. I’ve done four events already (for my wedding/event business) and learned something at each one. My book has done well, actually it has exceeded my expectations. I started a new page on Facebook called “Recovering Perfectionists” and I’m enjoying the quest to find material to post.

Ah, what’s next? I am trying to take it easy (honest!). I love to challenge myself but lately status quo is just fine. Good enough is really good enough. I want to take time to stop and smell the honey. I’ve got a big lavender patch outside of my door and I often sit next to it. It’s ok to take time for ourselves. The bigger stuff can wait.



I’m Going to Graceland

Sunrise in my own back yard

Beautiful sunrise in my own back yard.

I’m going to Graceland
In Memphis Tennessee
I’m going to Graceland

Paul Simon, Graceland lyrics

In my high school and college years I was a huge Bob Dylan fan. Despite his gnarly voice I loved his poetic words and hobo way of singing. About ten years ago, Bob was coming to a local amphitheatre not far from my house. Paul Simon was coming too. I wasn’t a big fan of Paul’s but I thought what the heck, I’m going.

A profile of Dylan smiling, wearing a hat, coat, and scarves

Bob Dylan’s Desire album-  one of my favorites.

Paul played first and I was blown off my feet. He was fabulous. Bob came out afterwards, probably stoned, and his voice was worse than I ever remember. Paul and Bob sang a few duos; Paul saved the whole night in my eyes. Bob really didn’t need to come. This was the first and only time I ever saw Bob in concert.

My daughter bought me a cd of Paul Simon’s greatest hits a few years after that concert. I play it in my car and sing or listen while I’m driving. My favorite song? Graceland. I was singing it one day and realized the words.

I’m going to Graceland
For reasons I cannot explain
There’s some part of me wants to see Graceland
And I may be obliged to defend
Every love, every ending
Or maybe there’s no obligations now
Maybe I’ve a reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland

(Graceland, Paul Simon)

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Graceland as we all know is Elvis Presley’s house. I’ve never been there but I’ve heard it’s very nice. When I looked up the meaning of this song as written by Paul Simon, it didn’t say anything about a deity. It mentioned the breakup of his nine year marriage and the trip he took to Graceland with his son.

But look at the words again in that paragraph above. I think of heaven when I read and hear those lyrics. Graceland = Land of Grace= Heaven. Some part of me wants to see Graceland. I do. I’m going to be the big six- oh next year and I wonder sometimes how long I can keep it up. Life is tiring, expensive, and there are some not nice people here. There are also upsetting things, trial and tribulation things. For reasons I cannot explain, some part of me wants to see Graceland. Yes, I really do. I also miss my deceased loved ones- my dad, my yiayia, friends who have passed on.

I may be obliged to defend every love, every ending or maybe there’s no obligations now. Yes, I’m guessing I will asked to give an account of my life when I get to heaven. I hope God takes it easy on me but I’ll understand if He doesn’t. That’s His job. Maybe I’ll be let off the hook for some of my bigger transgressions. That would be nice. And no obligations. Wow, even more tempting.

Maybe I’ve a reason to believe we all will be received. No matter what, I feel loved, cherished and accepted. God is smitten with me and you, I am sure of it. What He sees in me sometimes, I don’t know. But clearly I am adored and I try and remember that every day. Hopefully despite my shortcomings, I will be given entrance.

Lest you think I am going anywhere fast, relax. I have no plans to do so (but recognize this is out of my hands). I am blessed and loved; I have endless thanks to give for my life and those in it. I hope I live for a while yet because I have a bunch of other plans. 😉

I’m thinking of taking a road trip to Memphis. Anyone want to meet me there or ride with me? Let me know….

Proverbs 31: A Wife of Noble (Questionable) Character

Clothed In Beauty

Clothed With Strength

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of writing a guest post for Michelle Terry’s blog- Lipstick and Laundry. Then I got the bright idea of asking Michelle to reciprocate- ah ha! Her turn! So her beautiful post below is what she wrote for me and you.

First, let me tell you, it is a bit tongue in cheek. But I beg you, read it twice. It is truly gallant (say that with an accent on the second syllable please) and I admire Michelle’s zest and vivacious way of looking at life (and the proverbs!). Thank you Michelle!

Proverbs 31: A Wife of Noble (Questionable) Character

Give me a task, a challenge, a goal.

Show me a map, make me a list, set a reminder.

I can do it, defeat it, smash it.

31 Days to a More Organized Home: Check

From Couch to 5K: Done

Train and run for a marathon: Twice

Become a wife of noble character: Um, how about a different assignment?

If you haven’t read Proverbs 31: 10-31, here are the high points. Verses 10-31 comprise a Hebrew acrostic poem; each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. You’ll find references to the proverb on Twitter and in Pinterest because it’s an excellent self-improvement list–one for each day of the month. It seems that the Bible bloggers were obsessive list makers like me.

I imagine the Proverbs 31 wife as a woman with raven hair, a calm spirit, and laugh lines and curves in all of the right places. I named her Susie.

For three months in a row, each day, I’ve pulled out one of the 31 lines, and worked to become a faultless, noble wife. A Susie.

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?

Per my M.O., when I’m doing something hard, I embrace the assignment and start out gangbusters.

Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. Maybe I can quit telling white lies about how long I’ve had that new dress. Easy, peasy.

She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. I took him to the ER after a chainsaw incident and then removed his stitches. He also lets me shave his neck, so basically, his life is in my hands.

She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. Do you think the hubby cares if I sew? Isn’t this starting to become more about me than him?

She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar. Ugh! Once again, we have no groceries in the house. The act of putting food on the table for my family is my love language, but I fall short of that almost every day. When was the last time I cooked him dinner? One meal together people! How difficult could it be?

She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls. Ha! So, that’s how Susie did it. She got up early and hired some help.

She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings, she plants a vineyard. Vineyard = wine. Fun for everyone.

She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. Now Susie is speaking my language. But, this applies to my husband how?

She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night. Most days, my lamp burns past the witching hour, but I know hubby just wishes I’d hold a candle for him. How many times have I said, “I’m too tired”?

Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber. Children, husband, parents, friends. What a gorgeous tapestry is sitting in my hands. What if I screw it up? What happens if I thread a wrong stitch and rip the edges with my irritability, moodiness, and disengagement?

Then the verses break into more spinning, sewing, making bedspreads and dressing in fine linen and purple gowns—Susie must have been quite the crafter. Perhaps it’s the squirrel chaser in me, but each time I get to line 19, my mind starts to wander, and discipline falls to the wayside. I go back to being a self-centered wife who takes the man that I love for granted. I set the table with moodiness and serve food spiced with brooding and impatience.

Then, I jump ahead and find the line that sets me back on the path to being a wife of noble character.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. My mantra, my prayer, a reminder pinned to my Twitter page. Susie didn’t have Twitter.

My husband fills my life with laughter and cloaks me with his strength. He shows me who I want to be by his example, and his patience and wisdom set my caboose back on the tracks.

We have been married for twenty-five years, together for twenty-eight. Big numbers adding up to larger memories and bellies bursting with gratefulness. The Proverbs 31 practice shouldn’t be about making a list and checking off the tasks. It certainly shouldn’t be about perfection. Instead, it’s a metaphor and parable for trying to do the best we can, and not beating ourselves up when we don’t. Maybe that’s why we start every thirty to thirty-one days with a new calendar page—an opportunity to reset ourselves with new perspective and determination.

I’m thankful that he doesn’t expect me to be a flawless, flax-spinning, lamp-carrying beauty. I’m just grateful that he knows I’m trying and hopeful that he gives me another twenty-five until I get it right.

Michelle Terry

Michelle Terry is a purposeful wife, mama, writer, and healthcare professional – accidental photographer and tree chopper. Suffers from shiny object syndrome. Michelle has been published in The Snapdragon Journal, The Schuykill Valley Journal, The Front Porch Journal, and NASCAR Illustrated. She blogs at Lipstick and Laundry, and is working on her first book, due late 2016.

From Joanne- Happy Anniversary Michelle! May you and your husband have many more wonderful years together. Thank you so much for writing this post for us! xoxo


On Being a Strong Woman

Strong Women in my family! From top left- Sisters Cally, Mary, Daughter Michelene, Penelope's Mom Jess, Penelope, Mom, and Moi.

The Strong Women in my family, taken on Greek Easter 2016. From top left- Sisters Cally, Mary, Daughter Michelene, My son’s partner Jess, Baby Penelope, Mom, and Me.

“One by one she slew her fears, and then planted a flower garden over their graves.”
John Mark Green

In my younger days, I often noticed how older women would brazenly speak their mind. They seemed to have no filter. Saying what they wanted, not caring whether it hurt someone or not, they barrelled over others with unbridled words. I envied this at times when I wasn’t blushing with shame for them.

Fast forward to my (now) mid life wisdom days and it’s amazing the bravado I have. I’m finally in that category of saying what I want and doing (well, mostly!) what I please. I can look people in the eye and not really care if they like what I’m saying. Attempts at diplomacy work most of the time but sometimes they just go flying out the window.

A few years ago, my friend told me a story about her steak eating, beer drinking, ciggy smoking mother who horrified her one day. Her mom was sitting on a bench outside a big retail store with a couple of other large women (yes, complete strangers). As my friend came out of the store, her mom nonchalantly proclaimed, “Where did all the fat people come from?” This while sitting there like it was just a regular day. I asked if the other women bopped her mother with their purses and my friend’s answer was “no”.

Where does the midlife bravado come from? And speaking of which, why does unresolved anger have to come with it? After scaring myself a few times with my own lack of ceiling on my wrath, I confided in an older friend of mine. She said, “If you have any unresolved issues they will come out in menopause.”

This answer provided me a measure of relief. Here was an explanation that made sense. In my first book, I talk about the realization that with my deepening relationship with God, I knew I was loved to infinity. What became the challenge was not to abuse that love by engaging in mean, angry comments to others.

This is still true now. Lately, I’m using the three A’s approach- Awareness, Acceptance, and Action. To stay in awareness and acceptance but not take any action (on bad behavior) implies an egotistical, self centered way of looking at things (or plain ignorance). Of course I should look at myself. Of course I should attempt to tape my mouth shut occasionally. Of course I should rein myself in. Deep down I do not want to deliberately hurt people.

I have a lot on my plate lately. There are many beautiful relationships I’m currently engaged in with family, friends, and clients. I’m trying to use my new bravado in the way that will suit me best. It helps me be more honest. I feel more open to sharing feelings that previously I might have bottled up. Channeled properly, this bravado helps me make a point and keeps me from stuffing it down deep. Reining myself in when it will do no good (or only hurt others), I’m learning to share unhappy feelings with “safe” friends, those who will love me no matter what. Unleashing unbridled anger at others- worse yet, projecting it onto innocent people- is a big fat no no.

When I feel that quickening beat of a mouthful of wrath coming on, I pull my breath deep into my core and take a moment to center myself. I am a strong woman capable of empowerment and not prone to intimidation, negative thinking, or pity. This mantra will usually restore peace and tranquility. Small bits of these moments, savored like a good chocolate chip cookie, help me retain my sanity. This is a busy world. Let’s not forget to love ourselves in the process.

Latest Granddaughter Picture. Penelope helps me remember what's important.

Latest granddaughter picture. Penelope helps me remember what’s important.


The Deep Roots of Family

Three generations- From L to R, Grandmother Katherine, Granddaughter Michelene, Great Granddaughter Penelope Katherine

Three generations- From L to R, My mother Katherine, My daughter Michelene, My granddaughter Penelope Katherine at one month of age.

“We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.”
Anne Lamott

I am the sum total of the generations before me. My grandparents, mother, father, and relations even beyond them, reaching far into the history of Greece and Turkey are part of me. The personalities and mannerisms that I have about me, no doubt are deeply rooted. I’m sure I do things my ancestors did without even being aware of it.

When I was little, I would spend three or four summer weeks at my Yiayia’s house in Stockdale, Pennsylvania. My dad used to say that the biggest excitement in town was going down to the gas station and jumping on the bell. 🙂 That may have been true but yiayia’s house was my second home.

These roses are just like my yiayia’s.

My grandmother had a trellis of pink tea roses that grew wildly in the summer. I was so attracted to them that to this day, I am crazy about roses. Yiayia would take the rose petals and a recipe she had from her homeland of Chios, Greece and make rose jelly. I have no idea the type of rose she had or the recipe but someday I am going to figure it out.

Beautiful Gardenia

Beautiful Gardenia

My grandfather (Papou) planted a big garden, filled with lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. Put those together in a bowl, add a bit of feta cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar and you have an amazing salad. Papou had the biggest, healthiest gardenia plant I have ever seen. As he aged, he would hum to himself and clean the leaves with a Q-tip. I am deeply attracted to gardenias and wore one on my wrist for my 25th anniversary.

I married my husband partly because when he drove me up the driveway to the family homestead, there was a huge field next to the house, surrounded by woods. I’ve been a nature girl my whole life and that stuck with me. We’ve planted a garden pretty much every year we’ve been married. We grow tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini. I love my backyard and it is an endless source of calm for me. In the morning, I can walk outside in my jammies and not worry about a next door neighbor.

My daughter Michelene is an even bigger nature girl. She has planted dozens of varieties of heirloom tomatoes, dried the seeds, and used them for new plantings. Her yard is huge and she always has something going on- canning fresh applesauce, making homemade sauce, or raising her first batch of baby chicks. Beekeeping is something Michelene does with her dad; check out her first Beefuddled Farms blog post HERE.

Me and Penelope

Me and Penelope

My son John and his partner Jessica are amazing cooks. When I go and watch Penelope, there is always something creative in the fridge. This past week it was pizza and the crust was made with spaghetti squash (no kidding). It was amazing. Penelope is going to have quite a palate I am sure.

As a family we embrace traditional foods but also look for new ways to enjoy healthy choices. I love how John experiments with avocados, squashes and cauliflower and creates delicious wonders. Then of course, there’s always a square of good dark chocolate for dessert. We love that.

Last year for Mother’s Day, I made a nice dinner and invited everyone over. For a take home gift, I had little pots of fresh herbs to choose from- basil, rosemary, or parsley. Every year I grow a giant basil plant for a big Orthodox holiday in September. Michelene and John chose basil as their plant to take home. I was proud of that.


My prize basil plant

If we look deep enough, we will find clues to what makes up all those amazing parts of us. The combination of ancestry and influences are who we are inside. We can certainly change those things that no longer serve us and in the process, some really good stuff will come bubbling up. Scrap away the fluff (as Pooh would call it) and find your beauty within.

What did you like to do as a child? I’ve read this recently and have tried to go back to it. I loved to jump rope, color, be creative, and be outside. Those are the things I’m trying to embrace as often as I can. (Well, I admit I have yet to buy a jump rope!)

Happy Earth Day!

Know you are beautiful inside and out.

My book, Ordinary Is Extraordinary, is available on Barnes and Noble Nook now! Click HERE for the link. To order from Amazon, click on the book to the right of this post (on the sidebar). I have some good “book” stories to tell you about next time we chat. 🙂

Happy Easter, Kali Anastasi, to my Orthodox Christian friends! For my latest post on the Orthodox Christian Network click HERE.