My 60th Birthday

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
― Maya Angelou

The Jamis Girls at Poros, Pittsburgh

It has been a wonderful week. Turning 60 has been a happy experience for me in many ways. My sisters (who both live in NC) came home for the week which of course, happened to be Thanksgiving as well.

I wanted a few close family and friends on my actual birthday. No fancy stuff; just pizza and cake. It wasn’t about the food, it was about love and friendships. Penny was there of course and though she wouldn’t sit on my lap, she loved watching everyone sing. John and Jess gave me a blanket with their wedding pictures all over it. What fun!

Too many candles!

What have I learned by this age? Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve learned that I can be myself and if people like me for who I am, that’s great. If not, I’m ok with that. I have a smaller circle of friends but I kind of like it that way. I don’t have the stamina that I used to have, but I still have plenty of energy. I will make time for anyone who wants to talk to me (about anything). My ministries are important to me (my mother and FOCUS) and my love for writing and blogging has only increased.

My faith is my guiding light and it keeps me centered. I try and remember to be grateful every day for the blessings that surround me.

My sisters planned a gift for me that they thought would arrive on my birthday. It did not and though Mary was upset, I was fine with it. They took me to lunch on Wednesday to Poros, and my daughter and two cousins showed up.  I didn’t know Nini and Lisa were coming until the last minute. I love surprises. Then we decided to text my cousin Nick (who works around the corner) and he came within twenty minutes! Wow!

Wonderful time!

So the day after Thanksgiving we finally all met at a coffee shop and my gift had arrived. Imagine my surprise when it was a hardcover book of my first three years of every Katherine’s Daughter post! I cried a bit when I saw this. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was!

What a great gift!

Last night I sat down for a while and read the book. It was wonderful to read my posts from the beginning. It was very insightful and I was frankly, a little proud of myself. I couldn’t believe how much I accomplished.

My sister Mary wanted to motivate me to think about compiling my favorite posts into a book. I told her she has succeeded and this is definitely inspiring me to sit down and do the work.

Thank you to my sisters, mom, Jim, Michelene, Jessica, John, Penny and all of you who made my birthday so special. The blessings, wishes, and love from all of you have filled me with joy.

*Do you have a blog you’d like to turn into a book? My sisters used Blog2Print. They’re having a Cyber Monday sale right now so use the code SHOPCOZY for 35% off. 

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A Letter to My Grandson

A few years ago, but us none the less!

Yesterday I was going through some office papers when I stumbled across a note that Jim wrote to Gavin last year. I was supposed to post it to my blog but somehow I completely forgot. (please forgive me Jim)

While Jim and I were on vacation last year, Gavin assumed most of the care of our home, including our 13 year old dog Jordan. During a shopping experience at the Nantucket whaling museum store, Jim picked a beautiful compass for Gavin as a gift. He gave it to him when we arrived home.

Without further ado, here is the letter Jim wrote to Gavin.

Compass: A tool often used to help with direction.

Dear Gavin,

While proving yourself this past week by taking care of the house, chickens, and the dog, I was thinking of myself when I was your age. I don’t think I would have done as good a job as you did. Most likely, I would have declined direction or refused the instructions offered to me, thinking that I knew better. Most of the time in my life, when I found myself lost, it was because I declined to use the tools and direction that were so freely given to me.

My hope is that if you use this compass to know the direction you’re starting in, you will always be able to find your way home. But please remember that it works best if you know where you are starting from.

Hopefully, with some Good Orderly Direction, you will never get lost. Always know that I love you.   Jim

PS. Clean up your room, stand up straight, and listen to you mom (lol)

When I found this yesterday it melted my heart. Gavin is going to be 17 this coming April. Hard to believe. It feels like yesterday that he was just a little guy.

Thank you Jim for helping me clean out my office and for writing this beautiful letter.

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1015

The Magnificent Color of Life

Magnificent color. Photo by Aaron Burden.

From the time I was a little girl, I loved nature and I loved color. I remember there was a book that I read to my daughter when she was little. It was about loving mixed up colors best, a baby robin’s speckled breast… Oh how we read that book over and over.

As a young child, I used brightly colored crayons in pages upon pages of coloring books. Even as a grown up, I love to color. It is no wonder that I love fall.

Photo by Corey Blaz

Normally I get so tired of driving but during autumn, that’s a different story. I log about 300-400 miles a week because anything out of Clinton Pennsylvania is a drive. I drive to mom’s, to Penny’s, to the grocery store, to church, on and on. Most of my CD’s are gone although I find myself not missing them much these days. With all the quiet there’s time to think,  to pray, and relish the solitude. There was a time when I needed constant stimulation and a racket in my head. Anything to keep my mind occupied.

These days, quiet wins. I like being with myself and I love the peacefulness. There’s been so much going on lately- weddings, events, three dogs in the house- truly, it’s a welcome relief.

If you live where there is fall foliage, do you notice it? When you’re driving are you in awe of the golden yellows, oranges, and reds of the season? I look around every time I drive. I find myself taking back roads just to see the color.

Caleb Jones

I am ever amazed at the hurry people are in these days. They like to cut the next guy off, they get mad when they don’t catch the green light, and they don’t wait for those poor pedestrians to cross the street. I love to do my “three things a day that no one catches me at” and stop, wait, and let those who need to cross the road.

If we take time to slow down and look at the colors, we will be amazed every day at what we’ll see. The world will open up. The gratitude of the season will have more meaning when we see those small little things. If we only focus on what’s wrong in our life, we will not see the gorgeous beauty awaiting us every day.

Last week John and Jess brought Penny to Hozak Farms. We have been going there for YEARS. I took John and Michelene as children, Gavin when he was a little guy, and now Penny. Instead of riding the hay wagon to the  pumpkin patch, Penny headed straight to the straw hut. Nothing fancy but Penny loved it. While we ate fried pickles (and I shopped), Penny spent close to an hour throwing straw with other kids. She had so much fun.

Penny photobombed!

Hozak’s was beautiful. Yes, it ‘s a bit more crowded these days but I still love it. It’s a wonderful place to see lots of trees, life, and color. The memories of past visits fill me with nostalgia. Life goes by so fast. Take the time to look around and drink in the color.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

 

 

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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.  🙂

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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Memorial Day Gratitudes

Sewickley Pennsylvania Circa 2014

I love parades. That said, I am one of those people who cry at them. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is the blend of trumpets, drums, and clarinets together that may bring reminders of my Ambridge high school band (which I was not in – I was in chorus). Perhaps it is the emotion that the music stirs in me. I often wear dark sunglasses at parades and I tend to forget my tissues. It is a challenge to keep it together. 

The older I get the deeper my love grows for my country. I see what’s going on in the world and it’s very frightening. We live in uncertain times and still we come together as Americans to share common goals. Memorial Day is for those who died while in service to our country. I cannot remember ever losing a family member to war. I know how lucky this is.

To others who gave up their lives for our freedoms, I am eternally grateful. I often will lay my head on my pillow at night, thankful that I am safe. There are many less fortunate. It goes without saying that we have to pray for and remember those who sacrificed and those who continue to do so. I am in awe of the service men and women who step up to keep our nation safe.

While we are enjoying our hotdogs and hamburgers today, we should all take a moment to thank those who lost their lives while in service. It would be a humbling thing to do.

 

America is hope. It is compassion. It is excellence. It is valor. Paul Tsongas

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Motherhood and The Duty of Family

Three Generations- Granddaughter, Grandmother, Great Grandmother

Duty: obligatory tasks, conduct, service, or functions that arise from one’s position (as in life or in a group)-i.e. was his duty to support his family. Source

It has been four years since I left my full time job to help my mom. In that time I have been through many things and learned much about patience, acceptance, and gratitude. I have started a small business, penned a book, experienced the joy of another grandchild, and spent consistent and overflowing amounts of time with my mom.

In this time with my mom, I often reflect about the two decades devoted to the raising of my two children. They are now beautiful young adults, responsible and contributing members of society.  They are good kids with big hearts. I couldn’t ask God for more and yet He gave me two amazing grandchildren as well.

I remember back to my child rearing days and I’m grateful for a husband who loves and adores his kids. Jim has always been a good provider, often working long shifts and weekends. Many times the kids and I were on our own, attending parties and functions without Dad in tow.

Though I deeply loved my children, I remember feeling at times the need to go to the top of a mountain and sit there for a while. Maybe I’d be quiet, maybe I’d scream, maybe I’d pack a lunch and eat it all by myself without interruption. Even as the kids got older and more independent, the responsibility of them continued (and really still continues to this day). It is a juggle to nurture and encourage our young and adult children without stifling them. I like to think of it as a balance to allow them to be themselves but within the social boundaries of society.

I see my duties with my mom as much of that same responsibility. Sometimes the nurturing and encouraging is on her part, sometimes it’s on mine. I am making the same sacrifices I did thirty years ago. Living on less financially, saying No to things I don’t have time for or basically cannot afford. As an oldest child, this is how I was raised. My sense of duty and responsibility to my family is deeply rooted.

My mother told me once that when I was in elementary school I often brushed my sisters’ hair and helped get them ready for school. I remember consistently looking out for them whenever we were playing or when my parents were not around. My dad told me I was the one they would look up to and to behave accordingly. I may not have behaved in my teenage- hood but I certainly did in my later years.

It is hard for me to describe my views on the caretaking of my mother to others who are not caretakers themselves or not “the oldest child.” I can see the lack of understanding on their faces and part of my acceptance is knowing that they simply cannot understand how it truly is. If you are the oldest or only child and/or the current caretaker of an elderly or aging parent (or even grandchildren), you do understand (and I’d love to hear from you). I am blessed in that I have a couple of dear friends who truly know what it is like. They are my saving grace.

With my mom’s 88th birthday fast approaching, I want to say how much having the experience of spending time with her has meant to me. She is my biggest cheerleader, best friend, and confident. Remember to spend time with your mom this coming Mother’s Day. If that is not possible then be with someone you truly enjoy.

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”
Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm

Read more of my writing at the Orthodox Christian Network. Click HERE for the link.

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1015

Serenity at the Beach

Joanne Jamis Cain- Siesta Key Beach

“In every out thrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”
Rachel Carson

I look forward to it every year. Some way, some how I get to the beach. It’s not a matter of maybe, it is a matter of when and how.

Thankfully my mom, sisters, and I have made this happen for the past three years. We have been vacationing together for one week on beautiful Siesta Key beach. My mother’s brother Steve and his wife, my Aunt KC, made this happen. They were the ones that encouraged and suggested it. (thank you!)

Mom is coming up on her 88th birthday but she is always game. She loves to see everyone from her hometown and hang out with her three daughters. This year Jim’s Aunt Joy and her daughter Donna came down for an afternoon. Both my cousins, Nick and Steve came down too which made it extra special. I missed Kristen but I did get to see Olivia. It was Taylor’s (my cousin Steve’s daughter) 18th birthday and well, that only happens in once a lifetime.

The family gets in on Taylor’s Birthday!

What can I tell you about this amazing vacation? There were so many wonderful moments- seafood at the oyster bar, the Greek restaurant in St. Pete’s, breakfast on the lanai with the view of the ocean, sunsets to make your heart stop. Siesta Key is truly paradise. White sand, weather in the high 70’s, palm trees outside your window…even weddings on the beach.

If you think you don’t have time for a vacation think again. You must make it happen.  You have to book the week, save your dollars and pennies, and GO. (I hope we can go for two weeks next time!) If you wait, wait, wait, you will never go. Then when you are old you will say, “the heck, why didn’t we take more vacations?”

It seems as soon as I get one hour outside of home my brain begins to relax. I forget about meal planning, responsibilities, bills, you name it. I stick my toe in the sand and sit in my beach chair. There are mini sandwiches in the cooler, cold water bottles, chips, and fruit. I stuck my arm out with a small piece of sandwich in my hand and a seagull took it. No kidding!

We had a challenging stove and between Mary and me we burnt pancakes, hamburgers, and fried eggplant. Oh well! So what! It’s vacation! Many things turned out delicious. Scrambled eggs with basil and tomato. Honestly, I don’t remember much else but everything we ate was wonderful.

I’m going to share some pictures (if you haven’t seen them on Facebook already) so you can motivate yourself to book a vacation. Till next time!

Lunch at Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar.
Flowers Everywhere.
The Acropolis Taverna, St. Pete
Sun kissed and happy at Siesta Key Oyster Bar.
My Sisters Eating Oysters! Notice the money all over the walls!
Donna, Aunt Joy, Moi, and Mom.
The Jamis Girls eating Gelato.
Aqua Water So Clear!
Orange Dusk. Breathtaking.

 

 

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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

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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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.

Join me on my graceful journey.
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