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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1015

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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1015

An Attitude of Gratitude

Source

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1015

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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1015

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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1015

I’m Going to Graceland

Sunrise in my own back yard
Beautiful sunrise in my own back yard.

I’m going to Graceland
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….

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015

In the Company of Beautiful Women

Photo by Mary Yohannan
Photo by Mary Yohannan- Life is Better Through Traveling

“She is free in her wildness, she is a wanderess, a drop of free water. She knows nothing of borders and cares nothing for rules or customs. ‘Time’ for her isn’t something to fight against. Her life flows clean, with passion, like fresh water.”
Roman Payne

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I believe there are no coincidences. A friend of mine likes to say, “Is it Odd or is it God?”. Spiritual paths and journeys can cross with others at any time. I’ve been blessed to have this happen to me many times.

One of those times was last fall when I was contacted by a friend of mine to discuss a business idea. Tracy and I met for coffee and we had a great talk. During that time I mentioned my blog and spiritual journey, and my quest for putting together a small inspirational book. “Ordinary into Extraordinary” was the working title of the project. Tracy told me she wanted to host an empowerment weekend for women in the spring of 2016. “Can you finish your book by then?” she said.

Always being up for a challenge (and a good kick in the butt), I said yes. At first I was editing my favorite blog posts for a compilation book. This was the initial idea but by month two I was bored, restless, and trying to decide what to do. Enter my fellow blogging goddess, Sunday’s Child. A long talk from west to east coast, lots of encouragement, and a brave idea emerged. Begin a new book, write like there’s no tomorrow, and finish it by the retreat.

As if that wasn’t enough God power for me, enter Karen of BetterBe Creative. I met her just a couple of years ago and she is another goddess. A graphic designer with a beautiful, comforting personality, she has agreed to take on the task of designing my first cover. And guess what? She knows a publisher who can print the book. I’m self-publishing so figuring everything out is up to me and Karen. (PS. this book will eventually be available through the web for purchase- YAY!)

A few nights ago I had the honor and pleasure of meeting the other speakers. Joy Bufalini is missing from this picture (she had to leave first) but trust me, she is as awesome as rest of us.

From L to Right: Yours truly, Mary, Kate, and Tracy.
From L to Right: Yours truly, Mary, Kate, and Tracy.

After we each introduced ourselves and told our little story, I was infused with gratitude for what God has brought together. Tracy and Mary have organized this retreat at the beautiful Antiochian Village in the quaint town of Ligonier, Pennsylvania.The dates are April 1-2. We are motivated entrepreneurs and have all been through the school of hard knocks. We will share our stories with you at the retreat and tell you how we have taken our lemon filled lives and made lemonade.

I realized at our little dinner that this will be a retreat about self love and self care. We the speakers will encourage you to lift yourself up and move beyond the blocks that may be holding you back. The friendship and love we will show you will be with you for a long time. You will be changed by this weekend I promise you.

Click HERE for the registration link to the Women’s Empowerment Weekend.

Check out the agenda!

Agenda for WER April 2 2016

I will be there Friday and Saturday. Come and join us and be transformed.

Blessings!

Joanne

 

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1015

Sunrise, Sunset

Sunrise over Sewickley, PA.
Sunrise from Sewickley Bridge, PA.

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

Lyrics from Sunrise, Sunset- Fiddler on the Roof

It’s hard to believe that next month I will be 58 years old. I kind of like that I can say I am pushing 60. Years ago, I thought I would be young forever. When I hit 30, I was excited about that landmark. When I turned 40, it was a bit different. I felt like I really began to feel my age. No wonder people buy red sports cars at that age.

Mom and her daughters- Photo by Karen Long Kern. (LtoR) My sister Mary, sister Cally, Mom, Me
Mom and her daughters- Photo by Karen Long Kern. (LtoR) My sister Mary, sister Cally, Mom, Me

My mom has set the example for me of accepting her age but staying young at heart. She stopped dyeing her hair in her mid – 50’s. She prefers to be around young people rather than join senior types of activities. She is really a trooper and her positive attitude about life continues to inspire and motivate me.

What I’ve noticed about this era is that I can’t do everything I used to do. I get tired. I have the desire to keep going but my mind and body can not always keep up. It’s been a difficult choice to slow down a bit lately. And there’s some things that this age has brought about for me that I’m truly grateful for.

Siesta Key Sunset

Don’t sweat the small stuff. I am losing friends these days to cancer and sudden death. It really puts things into perspective. What is really important? It’s not the latest handbag or hashtag. It’s all about family and friends.

Money is irrelevant. Yes you need money to pay the bills. Do I need the latest wardrobe or fancy shoes? No, I do not. And I’ve really learned that money does not buy true happiness. Who will be with you on your dying day? It won’t be Ms. Money.

It helps to have some spirituality. I don’t know where I’d be without my faith. I had hot flashes for several years that were so bad I don’t know now how I got through them. I survived and I credit my higher power.

Jim, I love you so.
One terrific partner.

A good partner is worth gold. I know I said it is not about the money but a good partner is priceless. My husband Jim is my best friend. Enough said.

Do what you love. I really love giving people unconditional love. How do I do this? I coordinate their wedding days. I send them little messages. I tell them “I love you.” I volunteer for a program that feeds the poor and homeless. I write blogs for my religion that people actually read. It’s mind blowing.

Put guilt into perspective. OK, this is a big one. I carried around way too much guilt about dumb stuff for too long. Life really is too short for guilt. The better my relationship with God, the less guilt I have. Remember that post I wrote on perfection? I will never achieve perfection; only God is perfect. I just try to do my best every day and apologize when I tick someone off.

Less clutter is better. If you don’t use something for a year, chances are you don’t need it and someone else could use it. Make three bags and go through your stuff. One bag is for keeping, one is for trash, one is to give away. Do one room or one area at a time. Drive to Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity ReStore afterwards and donate the contents of the giveaway bag. Take the trash bag to the garbage before you change your mind. Take the keep bag and actually display or use those favorite things.

Family is everything. Who will show up when you really need them? Who’s there for you when you need someone to talk to? Maybe you have close friends that are really like family. Those people count as well. Nurture those relationships and keep them going.

There you have it. All the above is where I’m at right now. Thank you God for this age and this perspective. Bring on the next year. 🙂

Sunset 2-7-15

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1015

Graceful Mistakes

Thank you to ChristianPhotoshops.com
Thank you to ChristianPhotoshops.com

“Let us always long to hear the stories of grace in others’ lives. Every conversion is the story of a blessed defeat.” C.S. Lewis

Years ago, I was in a very important meeting. The executive director was there with several key people. There were six of us sitting around a table. I had just poured myself a nice big cup of coffee with cream. You can guess the rest. Yep, I spilled that coffee all over the table.

I was mortified of course but it was over quickly. We all grabbed napkins and they helped me clean it up. I apologized; I was embarassed, but it only lasted a few minutes. I remember thinking to myself, “I am not perfect. Oh well. Get over it.” 🙂

Another time, I ticked someone off real good. I said something (in response to an incident) that started a mini landslide. It was actually pretty stressful. I apologized. She did not. I think she engaged in some behaviors unbecoming, but are someone else’s bad manners my problem? NO. I can’t help how others think or behave.

In this world today, there is no way to live without eventually rubbing someone the wrong way or making a mistake. I am only human, I am imperfect, and so I cannot say and do absolutely the “right thing” each and every time. There is a balance I try and achieve and grace has a whole lot to do with it.

If I believe that I am here on this earth for a purpose, then everything that I do (and everything that happens to me) is a learning experience. I may fall down over and over again, but if I get back up, dust myself off, and keep going, I am a survivor. God’s love teaches me that no matter what, I am important and my contributions to those around me, are valued. I must believe that just about everything I do, is a reflection of God’s plan for me.

And though no one is fond of apologies I don’t mind apologizing, especially if I did something I I truly deserve to say I’m Sorry for. When you know you are truly loved by God, you believe yourself worthy and that makes mistakes ok. Giving heartfelt apologies is a gift, a sign of character. I honestly believe most of world’s psychiatric problems would go away, if we all would admit once in a while that we are not perfect.

How spectacular it is that every day unfolds before us, a clean slate, a white page that we can color and paint and sculpt any way we want. The best thing I can do for myself is go forward, trusting that I’ll do the best I can to make good choices and affect others in a positive way. That’s how grace works. It gives me the confidence to make decisions I can live with.

One of those paint classes. I did it my way!
One of those fancy paint classes. I did it my way!

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1015

Mid Life – Schmid Life

Check out my "Racing Stripe!" Thanks to my buddy Joe Indovina for this pic.
Staying Happy in MidLife! Thanks to my buddy Joe Indovina for this pic.

“Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.”

Maya Angelou

I am 57 years old and feel like I am finally coming into accepting this beautiful, whole mid life thing I’ve been going through. I cannot believe at times, how I took my own youth for granted. I also can’t believe the things I worried about in my younger days.

They say youth is wasted on the young and ok, I get it. It would be nice to have a few things back right now, like a smaller waistline. But then I wouldn’t have all this wisdom and maturity I finally get to enjoy.

I can’t lie. It has been hard to accept certain parts of being over 50. Most of all, I can’t believe how naive I was about the changes my body would go through. I’d look at older people and make fun of the sagging skin on their arms or the fact that they couldn’t see or hear. It is pretty humbling when those same things start to happen to you.

I’ve struggled on and off with being ok about the sight and hair changes, the attention and focus issues, and the forgetfulness. Mostly I realize some of those things can happen to anyone at any age. My own 32 year old daughter couldn’t remember her banking PIN number when planning her work conference a few weeks ago. 🙂

So the thinking I’ve been coming into lately has been one of acceptance. Of loving my body and who I am no matter what. Of accepting who I am and embracing my age. (a mantra really for any age!) That’s why my opening quote is by Maya. She and my mother are really my role models for aging acceptance.

I quit coloring my hair a few years ago. It just got to be too much. Too much upkeep, too much trouble. The temptation to take it back to full on (dyed)color left me after the first year. This was one of the things I felt most strongly about- embracing the changes that were really mine, a part of my aging process. I didn’t take hormones through the change either. I had good role models who encouraged me to hang in there. I got better at deciding what I really needed to be emotionally healthy. I left a job that I loved because the drive was too dang far. For me, I have to do the mental work of healthy attitudes before any kind of physical work (like exercise or a career change) can really take root.

You know me pretty well by now to know that I’m a grace and love kind of person. I want to be the child of God who embraces unconditional love for all people. It doesn’t mean I agree with everyone’s viewpoint. It also doesn’t mean I condone unacceptable behavior when someone isn’t treating me well. It just means that I give others the right to have their viewpoint and I expect them to respect mine. And I love them pure and simple for who they are. This is the attitude I try and embrace every day. Aging and faith have taught me this.

When my silver hair grew out, it came in mostly on the sides of my head. I have darker hair down the middle and pure silver all along the edges. I call the darker part my “racing stripe.” And truly, I mean it.

Jo By Tree

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