What’s Your Plan?

Photo by Afrah on Unsplash

It’s hard to believe it is almost mid- August already. Where has the summer gone? I remember early May like it was yesterday. Easter was over, I was anticipating a summer of KDE weddings, and preparations for my own son’s wedding were building.

Fast forward almost three months later. I am trying to relish every single day of August (well, the ones where it doesn’t rain) and count my blessings. I didn’t have a single rain day on any of my outdoor weddings. What a blessing! My daughter has moved home. We now have three dogs and life is overflowing.

I wonder sometimes what life will be like in twenty years. Turning the big six-oh this year is something I’m going to celebrate. But twenty years added to me now equals eighty. Will I live in a tiny house on my daughter’s future farm? Will I be in a senior housing apartment (doubtful). Maybe I’ll still be here, on an acre of ground, trying to figure out how to keep it all mowed.

I ask people sometimes if they have plans for their senior days. Most of them look at me with a blank expression on their face. They can’t imagine it I guess. But I do think about it. When you care for an aging parent you cannot help think of it.

At times I straddle the now world with the one in the future. I preach about living in the moment but I do think that reality dictates that we make some plans.

My mom is dependent on me for anything outside her home and some things on the inside. Shopping for groceries, laundry, picking up her medications, doctor appointments, church. This does makes me think of my own elder time, which isn’t all that far away. Am I going to pay someone to help me? Try to maintain my independence?

I think that most people don’t even think about what their needs will be in the future. As I try and enjoy everyday life, deal with the sorrows and the celebrations, pay bills, and anticipate holidays, somewhere lurks the possibility of quiet retirement. I pray that my health will be good and my strength will hold out. I also am a firm believer in what you give will come back to you. I nurture my relationships with my cousins, children, and grandchildren. I hope they look out for me and I think they will. ¬†ūüôā

Taking care of my mom has taught me that you need to have thoughts of a plan. Just a tiny one. Nurture relationships with people you trust that can care and look out for you. Then go and enjoy your days, your children, your spouse, and your moments.

Photo by Lisheng Chang on Unsplash
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1015

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.

‚ÄúMotherhood 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.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē 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

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. ūüôā

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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1015

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
Happy
It’s over! Back to Mom and Dad!
Penny and her buddy Alex
Penny and her buddy Alex
Cain Family
Family
John Jess and Penny back of church
John, Jess and Penny

 

 

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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. ūüėČ

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

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.

‚ÄúOne by one she slew her fears, and then planted a flower garden over their graves.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē 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.

https://www.pinterest.com/explore/fierce-women/

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.

http://quotesgram.com/stronger-quotes-for-women/
http://quotesgram.com/stronger-quotes-for-women/

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.

 

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1015

Lipstick and Grace

Daleen's Lilacs

I have a guest blogger today! She is my friend from the West Coast, Ms. Daleen of Sunday’s Child. When I read this¬†post, I admit to crying just a bit. ūüôā Friendship can be that way. God has blessed me with amazing friends.

Here’s her sweet post. Please leave a heartfelt comment and I’ll enter your name in a drawing to win an¬†autographed copy of my book!

Admit it, we have all said it. ¬†“Geesh, I need some new friends.”

While in algebra class, it was easy to find a study friend.  During ballet practice, friends were there to help us learn. Moving with the Army, we met new friends every 4 years.

However, once you go over the 50 year mark, new friends are few and far between.

Most of us have settled down, take a class now and then, same job or work from home, same church friends, same neighbors, not many faces change.

Then when you aren’t looking, almost magically, ¬†God hears your prayer and slips a new friend into your pocket. ¬†One of those good kind of friends. ¬†The ones with a fabulous laugh & beautiful heart. ¬†The kind of friend who while talking on the phone, ¬†just as she arrives at an event, you politely say good bye and good luck, then¬†SCREAM, WAIT! ¬†Do you have on cute earrings and good lipstick? ¬†Seriously, she says, oh yes. ¬†Then tells you the kind of earrings and shade of lip stick she chose.

To be honest, you feel a tiny bit guilty that she is making others wait while she finishes the phone call.  (To the world, it looks like an important phone call. Reality check, Lipstick color IS important!) Along with that tiny bit of guilt, you feel lucky.  Lucky that she is your friend and she is choosing to answer your important lip stick question before she races off to put the fine touches on an event.

I write a blog called, Sunday’s Child full of Grace. https://sundayschildfullofgrace.wordpress.com/

Little did I know those five words would help me find a friend.  I write about the grace that swirls around me.

As you well know, life throws us for a loop now and then.  A couple years ago, I was on the ground trying to get back up onto the trampoline of life when Joanne offered me a cup of coffee and a hug.

Two people living on opposite sides of the country, God saw fit to bring us together.  It is Grace pure, sweet and simple.

joanne

I can’t tell you how many times I have written a slip of paper for my grateful jar about Joanne. (I just re-read this, it sort of sounds like I am a weird stalker of some sort. ¬†I prefer to think of it as the Joanne Fan Club!)

Joanne called!

Joanne sent me a good wish card with a picture of lilacs!

 Joanne has a new grand baby!  

Joanne shared some honey!

Joanne published her book!

 

coffee cupBelieve it or not, we have never had a cup of coffee in person. ¬†Honest truth. ¬†We text and say, I can chat in 15 minutes, pour your coffee and let’s talk. ¬†Then we get to put our feet up & drink coffee until the cup is empty or our phone batteries die. ¬†snort. ¬†Yes, we have talked over those annoying beeps. ¬†Oh you don’t know? ¬†After you chat for 3 hours on your phone it starts beeping. ¬†The beeping means,¬†Enough girls……..go live more life so you have something to talk about next time.

We talk about our grands.  We talk about food, husbands, kids, weddings, more food, bees, honey, quilts, cross stitch, blogs, lipstick, earrings, books, writing books, travel, vacations and yes plans to meet one day.

Joanne writes a blog about grace & love. She writes what she lives.  With the amazing ability to make those around her feel covered in grace and goodness, she somehow makes you feel better just by stopping by.

Yes, her writing is a respite in the glorious commotion of the day.  She gracefully & simply refills your spirit.  Her words remind you that there is good out there and there is an abundance for all of us.

One day, she asked if I would help her with her book.  Good Golly, Miss Molly!  I was beyond flattered that she would consider me.  I was rubbing my hands together with glee.  So excited and thrilled that she asked me to be part of her book writing journey.

Oh no, then it hit. ¬†How on earth was I going to look over her writing and make as I call them “gentle suggestions”? ¬†While in school and even when I home schooled, I loathed corrections made with red ink & capital letters. ¬†Urgh. ¬†Seemed so mean and awful and not very encouraging. ¬†I didn’t want to come off as a school marm with a waaaaaay too tight hair bun, slapping a ruler in my hand wearing less than cute shoes. ¬†I didn’t want to judge.

The air quickly leaked out of my (imaginary, celebratory) fancy balloon bouquet.

While I was thrilled for her book accomplishment, I didn’t want, even gentle suggestions ¬†to smudge our ¬†lovely friendship. ¬†We had to talk.

We talked and talked and wrote back and forth and talked some more.

In the end, I used green ink to make my gentle suggestions.  I asked questions.  Some suggestions she jumped on, others she gently let go. We found a way to balance on the see saw.

In the style of friendship, grace guided us through.

Oh yes, I am beyond happy for her and her accomplishment.   I am grateful we worked on part of her dream together.  It was such a huge moment her life, by her sharing, somehow our friendship sort of seems sealed in the grace of the work.

I got to chat with her on the day her book cover was decided.  The day her book was being published, again we talked.  We talked as she drove to her book launch.

joanne book cover
Click on the book to order!

As I tore open the end of that padded yellow envelope, I held my breath, the book, her book slipped gently out and onto my counter.  I was teary eyed.

I am so proud of my friend.  She is (with gorgeous lipstick, sassy earrings and a beautiful smile) standing in the middle of her goal.  Sort of dream like, only for real.

Heartfelt congratulations my friend!  I loved watching you cart wheel through the book writing process.  You inspire us, your readers.

Here is the beautiful part. ¬†The book is good. ¬†Really good. ¬†Each chapter is a nugget of gold. You feel bathed in grace with each page you turn. ¬†You almost don’t want to dog ear the corners. ¬†Ha. ¬†I already have. ¬†I have drawn hearts and underlined inspiring phrases. You feel as though you are sneaking a peek into her world. ¬†Secret gems that you might use in your own jumble of life. ¬†I know the book was written with the idea of reading a chapter here or there with a lovely cup of coffee. ¬†However, once you open the cover, you fall into the pages and are covered with goodness & love. ¬†You can’t put it down. Yes, that good.

Grace, it’s Amazing.

From Joanne: Thank you Daleen for this beautiful post! Friends, please leave Daleen a comment and you will be entered to win an autographed copy of my book! Be sure to check out Daleen’s blog!

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015

My First Book! Ordinary IS Extraordinary

My first book! The Beautiful Cover is by Karen Captline of Better Be Creative
My first book! The beautiful cover is by Karen Captline of Better Be Creative. Editing by Daleen Wilson of Sunday’s Child.

Today is a special day. I am sharing my first book with you! The excitement of this has been building over the last couple of months and I am over the moon about it. This weekend I will be speaking at the women’s empowerment conference in Ligonier, PA and sharing my story.

When I received the first early copies of my book, I gave one to the mother of my granddaughter Penelope. Jessica is my friend and the partner of my son John. She is the manager of the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Allegheny Valley, PA.

As luck would have it, Jessica, Penelope and I went on a little field trip yesterday. We visited another Restore and stopped for lunch afterwards. We talked about how to market my book and Jess offered to do a review for me. I took her up on the offer!

So here, without any further ado, are¬†Jessica’s thoughts on “Ordinary¬†IS¬†Extraordinary.”

When I read Ordinary IS Extraordinary I was nursing my infant daughter, Penelope, and read most of it out loud to her.
We cried at different parts for different reasons…
I had tears in my eyes when Joanne shared her journey of rediscovering her faith and loving herself.¬† I smiled as I pictured her as an awkward young person.¬† Looking down at Penny while we read, I couldn’t help wondering if she would face some of the same challenges in life.
I was inspired by Joanne’s¬†discoveries of growth, as the lens she saw both the world and herself through, changed as her experiences colored the glass.
When I closed the book..I found myself savoring so much of her insights, that I let out a huge breath I didn’t know I was holding…and with it a burden I didn’t realize was there.¬† As for Penelope, she always loves hearing her Nana’s adventures, even when she’s hungry.
Grab a cup of Jo, your favorite snack, and devote a morning or afternoon to walking in her footsteps.¬† I know you’ll enjoy the landscape.¬† The writing is honest and you’ll feel as though she is sitting across from you on that lounge chair, having a coffee, sharing in your delight along the way.
From Jessica Levine
John, Jess, and Penelope Katherine
John, Jess, and Penelope Katherine

Jessica, thank you so much for your beautiful words!

Click HERE to order¬†my book on Amazon. There’s a Kindle version too! You may want to order two books ;), one for you and one for a friend.

When you read Ordinary IS Extraordinary, I’d love to hear from you! Please email me at joannejamiscain@gmail.com with your thoughts. If you are a blogger that writes on spirituality, I would be happy to send you a book to review.

Thank you and God Bless!

Join me on my graceful journey.
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Looking for God

Jess, the Mom to Be
Jess, the Mom to Be

I tend to watch for signs in nature as a way of looking for God. In the past when I had problems that needed to be sorted out, I found solace many times in my own back yard. For instance, if I am troubled about something, I can usually look out my window and there will be one or more deer. Some times they come close to my house; other times they are at a distance. For me deer mean comfort, wait, or it will all work out.

What if everything and everyone we come in contact with in a given day is spiritually directed? What if God puts people and objects in our lives and in our path to comfort, strengthen, and lead us? Or maybe interaction with others is for a reason. We are there to provide assistance in some way. I believe God gives us free will to do what we please, but if we pay attention, we will be reinforced or led in good choices through spiritual direction.

When I do something I am proud of (and outside of my comfort zone), wild turkeys usually appear. Once I did a large amount of work for a non profit and nine wild turkeys made a procession through my yard the day after the fundraiser. It never fails. If I am stretching myself spiritually, I will usually see turkeys.

If I am lost or need strength I look for birds of flight. They will sometimes fly near to my car when I am driving. If they are red or blue (cardinals or blue jays), I especially pay attention. Long woodpeckers (pileated) are a rare sighting and usually cause for me to stop what I am doing and stare. I have several hawks that fly around my house. My spiritual friend Kathy witnessed this once and said, “It is a very powerful totem to have hawks around you.” I agree. I am never scared by them, I am empowered by them.

So it was that on the day of my future granddaughter’s shower, there were signs. The first one was around 9:30am in the morning when Jim and I were loading the¬†truck. A tiny bird with a black head flew into the house. I’m guessing it was a chickadee. Now in the thirty four years of living in my house, I can’t remember a single instance when a bird has flown in. Jim didn’t remember anything either.

The bird flew into the living room and straight for the large picture window. Jim opened the front door and propped open the storm door. He lifted our wooden slat blinds gently towards him, allowing the tiny bird an opportunity for escape. She took it and flew out to freedom.

Now you may have thought this was a huge inconvenience. You’re loading a truck, getting ready for a big day, and a bird flies into your house! And for a split second I thought this way. Then I laughed and said to Jim, “That is either my yiayia (grandmother) or my father.” When we went outside, there was an entire clammoring tree of birds, singing at the top of their lungs. What was this? A chorus perhaps, to set the tone for the day.

The second sign I had was when I arrived at the location for the shower. I parked the truck next to the ramp at the nature center so my daughter and I (and Stephanie our helper) could unload. I got out of the truck and looked down. There was a brand new shiny copper penny at my feet.

My future granddaughter’s name is Penelope Katherine. Penny is one of the nicknames we could call her.

I picked up that shiny penny and thought yet another beautiful sign.

As the morning went on, we managed to get everything ready in time. Guests came from near and far to bestow gifts on Jess and John for Penelope. We ate awesome cookies, cupcakes, and snacks. It was a wonderful day.

Here’s what spiritual signs do for me. They comfort me, they reinforce God’s great love for me. When I love myself, I can love others unconditionally. Spiritual signs tell me I am going in the right direction. I thank God for them.

Jess and John at the baby shower
Jess and John at the baby shower

To read more about the shower on my events blog, click HERE.

Do you have any spiritual signs that you look for? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

Dedicated to the people of Paris. Pray for Peace.

Join me on my graceful journey.
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