Author Archives: Joanne Cain

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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Sunlight through the Fog

Foggy Morning Beauty

Early Morning Beauty

When I took Jordan out early Thursday morning, there was a beautiful mist. Everything was covered in a soft white glow and the glorious super moon was still present in the sky. I was so taken by the sight of it all that I went back in the house for my phone. Snapping photos while enveloped in the mist, I was witness to the magnificent dawn.

My wedding season ended last Saturday and I’m looking forward to no commitments for the next few months. This break will give me the freedom to do whatever I want- a luxury in my mind. I am a worrier by nature (I come by it honestly!) and so it takes an effort for me to let go of thinking too far into the future, i.e. next year’s season, will there be enough events, will there be too many? (oy!)

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
– Leo F. Buscaglia

What do you worry about? (Maybe you’re not a worrier- lucky you!) For as long as I can remember, I hold too much weight on my shoulders. I’m a recovering perfectionist you know, one of God’s most needy children, and it is only through faith that I’m able to work at turning things over. When I saw the sunlight through the fog that morning, it reminded me that God can be the beacon through my worry. The worry is the fog, the sunlight is faith.

“Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.”
– Henry Ward Beecher

Faith is a deliverance from worry. It is a breath of fresh air, a dark chocolate bar, a new puppy. It reminds me that everything will work out in its time. The one thing I try to remember is that I cannot solve my problems all at once. Honestly, sometimes waiting it out proves more helpful. Rather than force solutions, I pray, turn it over, and let God provide the answers.

This week, for the first time ever, I joined my church women’s group as they made homemade nut rolls (yes, from scratch). They sell them and donate all the profits to charity. This has been going on for AGES but I was always too busy to participate. This year, I wanted to help. I showed up at the chosen time; one of the ladies was making dough, the other was mixing nuts with various ingredients for the filling.

Over the course of the next half hour, other women showed up. I was told to bring a rolling pin and I did. Soon there were several of us rolling. I can’t tell you how therapeutic this was. I rolled dough for a while then I helped spread filling. I think we made at least 30 nut rolls that morning.

When it was all over, one of the ladies made lunch. Delicious scrambled eggs with fried potatoes, Greek salad, feta cheese and pita. My favorite part? A warm from the oven nut roll, cut up in big chunks. Boy was that good.

I told an Orthodox friend later that this experience inspired me. She said ” Treasures In Heaven”. I asked her the meaning of that and she said, “What you do here on earth will bring you treasures in heaven.” To work with these ladies (I was the youngest one there I think), spend time with them, learn from them- it was something sweet. And I’ll tell you. I didn’t worry about a thing when I was rolling dough.

Rolling out the doug

Rolling out the dough

Spreading nuts

Spreading nuts

Just before baking

Just before baking

The finished product!

The finished product!

Looks wonderful, doesn’t it? If you have an opportunity to make treasures in heaven, wow, I encourage you to do so.

To you and your family – have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

For another inspiring story, check out my latest post on the Orthodox Christian Network. Click HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Practicing Spontaneity- Meeting Vivian!

Meeting Vivian- What a Joy!

Meeting Vivian- What a Joy!

“I had to leave Deep Run before I learned how special this part of the world is. I hope you will understand that long before I did.” Vivian Howard, Deep Run Roots

As a recovering perfectionist, I am not always good at spontaneity. And being a wedding and event planner further cements that. I like to plan, plan, plan for my events so things go as smoothly as possible. Better planning makes less anxiety.

So it was with a bit of hesitancy that I purchased a ticket to Vivian Howard’s “Deep Run Roots” book tour and bought my plane ticket within 24 to 48 hours of seeing her social media post. By the time the first 24 hours had lapsed, the one location I wanted to go to (with two events on two different nights) had sold out. The second closest tour site to my sister Mary was in Greensboro, North Carolina.

I bought the tour tickets first, then made the plane reservation. I figured the Greensboro location would sell out just as fast and I was not waiting. This was a big deal for me – it was as spontaneous as I ever could be.

Mary picked me up at the airport and the fun began. I won’t go into detail here; I listed my favorite places with links below. Suffice to say I had a wonderful time eating, shopping, and visiting with old friends. The weather was picture perfect and a good deal warmer than at home.

So the time to meet Vivian was coming closer and closer. Mary and I headed for Greensboro from Winston Salem around 4:30pm. The start time at Scuppernong Books was 6pm. We arrived around 5:45pm and line was already building. Vivian had started early.

meeting-vivian-first-glance

The first time I saw Vivian’s show on PBS “A Chef’s Life”, I set the DVR to tape every episode. I loved the stories, recipes and the way Vivian interacted with the locals. Asking them for their tales, stirring the pots along side of them, and thanking them for teaching her. Her gratitude, respect for her deep roots family, and ample grace comes through. She is also very human. Vivian never shies away from exposing her own frailties, frustrations, and mommy guilt.

I admit to a tear in my eye while I was waiting for her. I’m not sure why but I’m guessing it was gratitude. To my higher power, my sister, and the universe for making it happen. I hoped to be inspired by meeting Vivian- to see that maybe we all can keep the faith about what we are doing. I love writing and blogging and I bet she does too.

vivian-shes-fabulous

Her cookbook “Deep Run Roots” is heavy, large and gorgeous. There are stunning food pics and detailed explanations along with her recipes. I expected a big cookbook- and it is- but it is also a storybook. One of the first pages is the “Don’t You Dare Miss This Introduction!”. Her wit, humor, and love of food is evident throughout.

Whether you buy this book for yourself or a friend, it’s truly a treasure.

Last thought:

One morning I took a hot bath at Mary’s and opened my Pandora app. Guess what came up:

 

Here’s the links!

A Chef’s Life

The Book Tour:

Vivian’s Website

Scuppernong Books

Where I ate during my visit:

Sweet Potatoes

Crafted

6th and Vine

CinCin Burger Bar

Atelier Bakery

Ketchie Creek Bakery and Cafe

My favorite Winston Salem Shops:

Earthbound Arts

The Other Half

vivian-3

hugging-vivian

Thank you Mary for taking these pictures!

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Life’s a (Nantucket) Beach

nantucket-cover-photo

Nantucket- Land of Idyllic Beaches

I have been going to the beach ever since I was about ten years old. My family’s favorite spot for years was Ocean City, Maryland. Life is truly wonderful at the beach, isn’t it? Many a fond memory began for me in Ocean City.

Happy to explore North Carolina beaches, Siesta Key Florida, Panama City Beach, Myrtle Beach and many others over the years, I never thought of going to a beach town in the off season. Recently Jim and I spent a whole week in Nantucket, an island about 20 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Of course I’d heard of it! Who hasn’t? I’ve listened to stories about Nantucket and hoped that someday I would visit. A few months ago Jim said he had the third week in October off. Our close friends were willing to join us and had connections there. It seemed like the perfect opportunity.

We flew into Boston, drove to Hyannis and had lunch at the Black Cat Tavern. We walked up the plank onto the Hyline and enjoyed a one hour cruise to Nantucket. The only way to get there is a boat. 🙂 It’s an island, after all.

hyannis-signage

I could go on and on about what we did, things we saw, but I will reserve that for a few links at the end of this post. What I really want to tell you about is what it was like to be at the beach in an off season and truly relax.

First, it’s much quieter (of course). The weather is cooler which when you get to be my age is ok. The cost of a three bedroom house was about 1/3 of the price it would have been in peak season. There are no lines at the restaurants. The weather was in the 60’s and 70’s and absolutely beautiful. The tourist destinations are much less crowded.

port-view-nantucket

Picture perfect Nantucket

Now the relaxing part. I love that we made no plans. Literally the week unfolded one day at a time. We’d get up in the morning, drink a big pot of coffee, watch CNN for the latest news, talk about what we were doing, get dressed and head out for the day. Breakfast was big or small, depending on how we felt and if we were going to have lunch or dinner somewhere. And many times, we decided at any given moment where we were going.

Since I’m an event planner, it was a big deal to not plan anything. I always say I do details for a living so I don’t want to do them on vacation. I tried to keep from piping up about what we were doing and when, and I think I did a good job of keeping quiet. Relishing the spontaneity became a simple pleasure.

We ate lunch out some days and dinner only a couple of times. We cooked at the house on the grill and made amazing meals. We drove on the beach in a red Jeep and obeyed the signs that warn- “You will get stuck! You must take your tires down to 15 lbs!” (haha!) I saw sea lions for the first time ever. I think my mouth dropped open when I first realized the nose in the water was a seal and not a dog.

Here’s some of my favorite shots of the week. My friend Lynda’s photos are designated by “LZ”. There’s also a beautiful seal video at the end- thank you Lynda!

Art work in Hyannis

Art work in Hyannis

View from the boat

View from the boat

#6 Weymouth

#6 Weymouth

 

pretty-good

Couldn’t resist this shot

See that blip?

See that blip? Yep, a sea lion!

LZ - My favorite Lighthouse

LZ – My favorite Lighthouse

LZ- Or maybe this one?

LZ- Or maybe this one?

the-four-of-us

Thankful for good friends.

gnome-sign

Got a chuckle out of this.

yellow-windowbox

Window boxes like out of a magazine!

LZ- Pumpkin paradise

LZ- Pumpkin paradise

the-wauwinet-woodie

The Wauwinet’s Woodie

The Wauwinet

LZ- The Wauwinet Hotel. Gorgeous. We ate lunch on the patio.

LZ- Ed and Lynda

LZ- Ed and Lynda

jim-and-i-at-light-house

Jim and I

LZ- Picturesque Jetty

LZ- Picturesque Jetty

LZ- Jeep Ride

LZ- Jeep Ride

beach-fence

LZ- Yours Truly, barefoot on the last day

LZ- Yours Truly, barefoot and talking to the sea lions

It isn’t until I get away for a solid week that I realize how much I needed a vacation. Nantucket was the perfect thing. And when you go away with friends you’ve known for thirty plus years, it makes it even better.

Nantucket, hope to see you again soon.

Where we ate:

The Black Cat Tavern

Fifty Six Union

BYB- Back Yard Barbeque

Toppers at the Wauwinet

The Fog Island Cafe

Places to Visit:

The Lighthouses of Nantucket

The Whaling Museum

Petticoat Row Bakery

Bartlett’s Farm

What’s your favorite beach? Leave a quick comment and tell me about it.

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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

penny-with-apples

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