Kindness Rocks

The Kindness Rocks Project

I was on a girl’s weekend with a few of my friends. We happened to be at Susquehanna University, a beautiful campus with lots of quiet and flowers. I wanted to stay in the shade and decided to walk under a line of trees to keep cool.

Turning a corner, I saw the large flat stones. It stopped me right in my tracks. Here’s what it said.

How fitting that this should be on a college campus. So many people of all ages probably go to this school, work and study hard, and sit among the trees on a gorgeous day. Maybe on a tough day they need to see this. Perhaps they pick up a rock and take it back to their room. It’s possible it will make their day a little brighter.

I decided to be needy and so I took a rock. It said, “You are Worth It.” I love it. I brought it home and placed it in the soil of my growing fig tree. I hope the tree will note this message and feel free to grow tall and strong. I did briefly wonder if I should not take a rock since I didn’t have one to leave. I don’t think this is the main purpose. I think the rocks are there for the taking.

I would have loved to be in the room when these were being painted. How did the painters decide what quotes to choose? There were some rocks with only one word on them. Others had more sayings. Since then, I’ve looked up the Kindness Rocks website and wow, there are so many more wonderful rocks!

I told my friend Ms. Child about the Kindness Rocks. She thought maybe she’d start one in her area. Lo and behold she went on the website and it turns out there is one near her! She’s excited about creating some rocks of her own and visiting the project. How cool is that? To find out if there is a Kindness Rocks project in your area, click HERE.

This is bigger than you think. Check out the video.

I love this wonderful idea. A landmark birthday is looming this year and I’ve already reached out to my township to ask them for an opportunity to start a Kindness Rocks project in my local park. If you live near me, let me know if you’ll come and paint with me.

PS. The Kindness Rocks website is full of information! Many gorgeous rocks and a downloadable “how to” on the best materials to use.

Join me on my graceful journey.

Adventures in Sled Riding

My grandson Gavin and nephew Colin
My grandson Gavin and nephew Colin

When I was a young girl, I lived in a neighborhood that had lots of kids to play with. I had two younger sisters and we were always outside. In the winter my friends, sisters and I loved to sled ride. We had those beautiful old wooden sleds with the steering mechanisms in front that you moved with your feet. We would bundle up in many layers and continued to sled even when our feet and fingers were stone cold. 

Once we were at Suzi’s house and she had a steep drop off at the edge of her lawn. I was always careful but Suzi was a bit of a daredevil. One day she was flying down her hill and launched right off that edge and disappeared. It was a tense moment. I don’t remember fire engines or anything like that; I think everything was ok but whew, that was a scary moment.

Jim and I have a great hill next to our house that is a beauty for sled riding. When my kids were little they loved to grab their saucer shaped plastic riding gear and start at the top. Once, I went outside to check on them and see how it was going. They were flying down the hill as my husband and brother in law watched close by. I think my jaw dropped when I saw the sheer speed with which they flew by. I began to object and here is what Jim said: Honey, go back in the house.

Gavin in the big snow a few years ago!
Gavin in the big snow a few years ago!

So now my grandson, his cousins and my niece are the next generation of sled riders. The equipment is alittle faster and quite fabulous. Great big plastic sleds with handles on the sides, snow boards, and still those brightly colored saucers. It’s all great fun for them.

At my age, I’m into the hot chocolate. When I can tell the kids are getting tired, I will whip them up a batch of hot milk and Hershey’s syrup with mini marshmallows. I have it simmering on the stove when they walk in. There is just something special about a mug of cocoa after a cold bout of sled riding.

Any snowy sled riding memories you want to share?

Join me on my graceful journey.

Grace and a Great Greek Cookie

Delicious Finikia!
Delicious Finikia!

I am proud to say I am the grandchild of Greek immigrants. When I was growing up, and still to this day, the holidays were a splendid spread of amazing food and delectable pastries.

The Finikia Set Up Yiayia style!
The Finikia Set Up Yiayia style!

Lucky for me I have a daughter (Michelene) who has a desire to learn those old world recipes before my mom leaves this Earth. We’ve had two “cookie sessions” with my mom, fondly referred to as Yiayia by my daughter.

In these sessions, my mother completely sets up the entire event (as you can see above!), Cally snaps pictures and records video (priceless someday I’m sure), and I of course assist and sample the final delicious creations.

Yiayia decided on a soft nutty cookie called “Finikia” this time. If you have ever been to a Greek food festival, you have no doubt tried Finikia.

Getting ready....
My sister Cally on left, me on the right….Check out that bowl!

The most interesting part of this recipe was mixing  freshly squeezed orange juice into Cream of Wheat by hand. Then, this mixture was folded into the Crisco, egg, sugar, almond and flour batter and viola! a cookie of delicious-ness was born.

A separate hot syrup of sugar and water (with a splash of lemon!) was created and this is what we dipped the baked cookie in. Finally, we rolled them in ground walnuts and Yiayia sprinkled the cinnamon. Ah- they were amazing!

There is really something special about three generations of women coming together to learn a bit of their heritage. I imagine someday this will be a fond memory for my daughter who hopefully will teach her son, my grandson Gavin, how to make this wonderful cookie someday.

I think we ate at least a half dozen Finikia when they were done. Yiayia packed them all up for us so we were free to take them home to our family and friends. If you’re feeling ambitious, I’m attaching my mom’s recipe below for you to give a try. Happy Baking!

YiaYia sprinkling the Cinnamon
Yiayia sprinkling the Cinnamon
The Recipe
The Recipe
Join me on my graceful journey.

Kayaking on Raccoon Lake

All photos of Raccoon Lake by Michelene Cain

Every now and then I call a “Family Day”. I want my immediate family there: husband Jim (of course), my two adult kids, Michelene and John, John’s girlfriend Toni and my grandson, Gavin. It’s my way of keeping us connected and supportive of each other. We usually discuss ahead of time what we’re thinking of doing and it’s always something fun.

We were going to go to Cook Forest and canoe on the Clarion River but somehow it just didn’t happen. It’s a two hour drive each way and we’ve all been so busy. My brother in law Chuck mentioned recently that he kayaked at Raccoon Lake (a 10 minute ride from our house) and I was seriously interested.

My friend Mary kayaks and I used to see kayakers on the three rivers in Pittsburgh when I drove into Oakland for work. I have always been interested in kayaking but figured I was past my prime for it. Turns out this is not so. My biggest fear was what happens if the kayak tips over? (thinking my legs would be stuck inside of the kayak)…I asked my brother in law this and he said, “You just pop out. “

He also said you have to wear a life vest and upon hearing that, I was really game.

So we headed down to the lake around 6pm after a nice backyard cook-out, and after laying on the sunscreen and bug spray. The lake was positively gorgeous and well, you judge for yourself. We had a wonderful time!

Do you ever have a “Family Day”? What do you like to do when you get together with family?

Join me on my graceful journey.

Beach Wisdom

I’m taking off tomorrow morning, headed for a week in Captiva, Florida. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this, especially since I am going with my mom, Katherine, and my sisters, Mary and Cally. Yes, it’s definitely a Girls Week for us!

My mom is 83 now and I think it’s great that the four of us are banding together again for some rest, relaxation and fun. The last time we went away together was to Greece four years ago. We had a blast! In Greece, we ate the most amazing food, swam in beautiful waters, and saw some of the most beautiful sights in the world. It was an unforgettable experience.

These days, Life is so busy. If I don’t take the time to recharge my inner battery at least once or twice a year, I start to burn out. Getting away is how I reconnect with myself and reflect on all my blessings and gratitudes. Making this a priority, even with financial pressures, is important. And sometimes inexpensive getaways are to be found, with just a little asking and exploration.

Back to the BEACH. What is it about the beach that draws me in and comforts me? When I see the Gulf waters or the Atlantic Ocean, somehow I feel like I am with an old friend. She reminds me to slow down, take a moment, and rest. How can you help not relaxing when you’re sitting on a sandy beach? Growing up, my family went to Ocean City Maryland for a week in August just about every year. We knew the town like the palm of our hand. My sisters and I would battle waves, get a great tan, play boardwalk games and eat seafood galore. Maybe that’s why, to this day, I have a special fondness for the Atlantic Ocean.

Since then, I’ve explored other beach areas along the east coast and the Gulf of Mexico. I am looking forward to exploring yet another new beach town- Captiva. And I’m sure we’ll visit Sanibel Island- a place I have heard utterly enchanting things about. I am guessing the week will be beautiful, relaxing and hard to break away from!

I’ll be thinking of you. Are you taking a vacation this summer? Where is your favorite vacation spot? Where do you re-charge your inner batteries?

Join me on my graceful journey.

Laughing at Myself

You grow up the day you have the first real laugh….at yourself.

Ethel Barrymore

I have done some silly stuff lately.

One chilly morning this winter, I was outside cleaning the snow off my car. When I came into the house, my glasses fogged up immediately after hitting the warmth of my mud room. I ran into the kitchen, thinking I had left the oven on.

In an event just yesterday, my boss said to me (from another room), Do you think Jim would go to Mastermind with you? What I heard was, Do you think Jim would go to Mass with you tomorrow? (I’m not Catholic!)

Lucy watches Little Ricky's birthday party fro...
Lucille Ball- She was funny! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I get older and (hopefully) wiser, I also seem to be becoming more funny. Maybe it is just that I am funny to myself, but no, I seem to be funny to others as well.

The deterioration of my hearing especially is enabling my funnyness. I know I’m going to need to get it checked, but the reality of that is well, I am not ready to deal with the reality of that (or the expense of a hearing aid).

I don’t know why people get so upset when others laugh at them. I see it as a special grace when we can love ourselves despite what others think (or don’t think) of us. When I was a manager, my employees loved to imitate me back to myself. Sometimes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I used to think that EVERYONE needed to like/love me. I was such a people pleaser. I realize now that is the impossible dream. The older I get the more I realize that hey, not everyone is gonna like me. That is ok with me. I will tell you this- the deeper my relationship to God, the less it matters what others think. I like myself and what others think of me is really none of my business.

I know deep inside the kind of person I strive to be. Funny yes. Also- caring, loving, thoughtful, forgiving, huggy and kissy. Yes, that is what I want to be.

So laugh if you will. I’m laughing along with you!

Join me on my graceful journey.