Author Archives: Joanne Cain

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.

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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

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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.

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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!

Flowers Everywhere.

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.

 

 

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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

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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

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An Attitude of Gratitude

“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.

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The After-Holiday Holiday

I know the southern snow will not last. It will be gone soon and only the memory will remain. If you live in an area not normally affected by large snowfalls, what did you do? My guess is you hunkered down, put warm clothes on, and made something special to eat or drink. Maybe you made a good cup of coffee or cocoa. Maybe you lit a fire.

My blogger friend Michelle took a long walk in the woods with her lucky dog. She turned a beautiful snowfall into a good reason to get some exercise. We should all do the same thing. I was so impressed with this. If I was ten years younger I’d get my boots on. 😉

I am used to snow in January and February. Two years ago I wrote on how I tried to embrace winter and just accept it. I wanted to find joy in it instead of feeling depressed over shorter days and less light. It worked. I changed my attitude and there was a definite shift in how I feel about winter.

When I worked full time, I wished for days when I did not have to clean the snow off my car at 6 am on January mornings. The long drive into Pittsburgh wore on me as I got older. I didn’t mind it in the younger days but my mind and heart were not into it as I got older. Now, without that commute, I am free to relish snowy mornings. To look out the window at them and revel in their beauty- the sunlight on the snow, the colorful birds at my feeder, the deer in my back yard munching on the hard corn that Jim has sprinkled for them.

This is the time of year when I get some rest. After the holidays, this is my holiday. I enjoy this quiet after Christmas down time. My tree is still up, the twinkle lights and red/white ornament colors a glowing contrast to the darker days. I’ve put most of my other decor away, but the tree is the last to go. The twelve days of Christmas were just over; let me enjoy the feeling as long as I can.

Winter Beauty- My Christmas Cactus’ are still blooming!

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She Believed She Could

This beautiful image courtesy of Artsy Pumpkin- Click HERE for the link.

“I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”
Anne Lamott

Happy New Year! How was your holiday? I can’t believe it’s over already. Now it’s back to reality and real life! I couldn’t resist the above quote by Anne Lamott. She makes me laugh, cry and smile, sometimes all at the same time. Reading her books and writing can turn around my whole day.

Penny on the beach, Summer 2016

When I look back on this year, I can consider it an amazing one. I did many more events than I thought possible. My church had a centennial celebration that I was blessed to be a part of. Penelope Katherine, my newest grandchild, was born on January 24 and brought such joy to my (and the whole family’s) life. I published my first book, Ordinary is Extraordinary and sold more copies of it than I thought possible (thank you!).

On the flip side, I was sometimes overwhelmed by too much to do. As usual I think I am managing well but then a dark cloud comes over me. That is why that quote above is especially poignant. I can really relate to it. Sometimes it is other people that bother me, sometimes it is the situations I create myself.

My word of the year for 2016 was Believe. It was a great word and I have kept it in mind all year. I hoped to use it to deepen my faith and I believe I accomplished that goal. I also know I will always keep building my relationship with God. I am never done and He will never be rid of me.

In the past two months, I lost a good friend to cancer. Another friend of mine, who was to be a first time grandmother, experienced a stillborn loss that I am still struggling to believe. Both of these were deep losses that I felt (and am still feeling). This is the hard part of growing up, getting older. You lose people that you love, bad things happen and we don’t understand them.

I remember when my father died almost nineteen years ago. We didn’t really see it coming although he had been sick for quite a while. The day after his death the sun came up. Time waits for no one I thought. Despite the awful loss of my dad, the world did not stop. People came and went. Friends showed up.

Isn’t this how we get through life? We plod along and sometimes there is deep mud to walk through, rain that beats down on us, and the occasional lighting strikes. Then there are those days when the sun comes out, someone gets married, a baby is born, a new friend is made. These events are what makes life worth living.

May you go forward in 2017 with a renewed attitude, a motivation to learn something new, and an awareness of the grace that will surely come your way.

I wanted to share some highlights of my year. These moments were especially wonderful. xo

Penny’s Baptism

Meeting an old friend, Dreama after many years.

Watching my son John and his entrance into Fatherhood.

Our visit to Nantucket.

Watching Penny adore my mom.

Meeting Vivian Howard of “Chef and the Farmer”

My sisters, mom and I at the kick off party to the Centennial of my church.

Penny and me on Christmas Eve.

Siesta Key Florida March 2016.

Backpack Feeding Kickoff at FOCUS West Central PA

Last wedding of the season- Ashley and Eli, Photo by Michael Will

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Grace and Wellness

sunlight-through-the-fog-2

With the help of a good friend I am beginning a journey towards better self care. It’s not that I wasn’t good at it before but you know how it goes. Get busy, neglect sleep, eat poorly, and forget the exercise. The typical stuff of a mid life woman who tries to do too much.

I procrastinated about this wellness focus for months, waiting until my schedule finally cleared enough to give mental space (and energy) to the idea. My friend said to do this alittle at a time (thank God) and she sent me encouraging emails with her own health and wellness tips.

First up, a plant in my room. Sounds so simple but a plant provides oxygen and that can only be good. Second, I ordered a good book- Food Rules by Michael Pollan. I couldn’t resist skimming the first few chapters and wasn’t surprised. Eat more plants and don’t eat things that have more than five ingredients on the package. Right!

Of course it was a few days before Thanksgiving when I read this. I gave thought to what I was going to be eating on the holiday. Turkey, well, only one ingredient there. Baked yams and pineapple, pretty good.  Hawaiian rolls, probably not so good but delicious. Mashed potatoes made with Yukon golds, butter, and a little cream. I thought this really wasn’t so bad.

The pumpkin pie was made from a can that needed condensed milk and eggs. Mom made homemade crust with flour and crisco, a big no no I’m sure but heck, it’s the holiday right? Plus I am not going to tell mom not to make pie. 🙂

All in all, I would say I did not overeat on Thanksgiving. I felt fine afterwards. I cleaned up the kitchen and sealed up leftovers for the next day. No need to cook dinner tonight!

I think the hardest thing about health and wellness for me is putting myself first. Life is ongoing around my house. There are always things to do and some kind of agenda. Even though I no longer work full time, I have a million mundane things to do (laundry, housekeeping, dog, babysit Penny, help my mother). Prioritizing is key. The one gift of menopause has been the recognition that I can’t do it all. I don’t feel guilty saying no anymore. I’ve done the committees, the grunge work, the volunteering. It’s ok by me to say no.

Making an effort at better self care is good. Not feeling guilty about what I don’t accomplish is a challenge. Setting realistic expectations is the order of the day. The grace is in turning it over to the universe.

I hope you have a wonderful week! If you have any tips for self care, I’d love to hear them.

 

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