Living Joyfully

Penny’s Selfie- She’s my example of living joyfully.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a writing and podcasting conference at Antiochian Village. This jewel of a lodging/conference center/spiritual retreat rests in the Laurel Highlands of Ligonier Pennsylvania. I believe I have written about this beautiful place before. I launched my book, Ordinary is Extraordinary, there last April of 2016. This was now the third time I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and enjoying Antiochian Village (AV).

Ancient Faith Ministries (AF) sponsored this conference and I was overjoyed to be there. I missed last year’s conference and so when the opportunity came up this year I blocked off my calendar. As I write more and more for the OCN, I have become interested in the possibility of writing a book for Orthodox Christians. I couldn’t wait to see what the conference had to offer.

Interestingly enough, I was quite sure I’d know not a soul there. I did have a friendship with Melinda, the marketing director of AF. She gave me my start at the OCN two years ago and is now with Ancient Faith. But that was through a virtual connection and other than her, I knew absolutely no one. Scary? Maybe. But not really. I knew these would be people living a spiritual life and because of this I had no apprehensions.

I walked in the door and Melinda was the first person I saw. We greeted each other with a warm hug and I thanked her for giving me the opportunity at OCN. Since my room was not quite ready, I wandered into the bookstore (yes, on location at AV) and introduced myself to Father Andrew Stephen Damick. We chatted, looked over the generous display of books, and he showed me two of his books. I brought one of those home and am absolutely loving it.

Throughout the two days of the conference, I was educated, motivated, inspired and spiritually captivated. None of us got much sleep as there was just too much excitement. AF provided us with great speakers, the opportunity of chapel services morning and evening, and AV gave us delicious meals, inspiring sunrises and sunsets, and comfortable rooms.

The view from my window- Antiochian Village.

If you are a writer, do you attend conferences? I admit to not being active in a writer’s world (yet!) because I have so much else going on. But this conference helped me realize that we really do need to re-charge our batteries regularly by being around like minded people. It doesn’t matter what our interests are. Gather with others who have similar passions and watch the fires light.

I met Dr. Gary Jenkins next, waiting for dinner on the first night. We struck up a conversation and it turned out we both knew Father Paul Abernathy. Gary wrote a blog when he arrived home that captured how I felt about the AF conference (#afcon). And honestly, this gift of meeting amazing people continued for the two days of the conference. My standard opening lines were Where are you from? and What motivated you to be here? I met children’s book writers, podcasters, motivational speakers, priests, and even a small baby! One of my God moments was meeting Presbytera Stacey of Eikonia. She and her two sisters sing beautiful hymns of the church that bring tears to my eyes.

So what did all this do for me? Within a day of arriving home, I began a sequel to Ordinary is Extraordinary that is about joyful living. This inspiration came while at Antiochian Village and on the beautiful ride home. And of course I pitched a book idea to Melinda over breakfast and she gave me some good direction. I am pursuing the research and contemplating my book submission to Ancient Faith for this fall of 2017.

What brings you joy? I would really like to know! The sequel I am writing will be about the moments that have brought me joy but I would like to also incorporate some of your joyful moments. Is it the birth of your children or grandchildren? Is it a walk in the woods with your dogs? How about time with sisters, brothers, or other friends? No thought is too small and I would be overjoyed to hear your joys! So please comment below or send me a private message through Facebook. Or simply email me at joannejamiscain@gmail.com. (Your comments can be anonymous if you wish.)

Many things bring me joy. I’ve chosen some of my favorite moments below.  One more amazing side note to all of this. It turns out that Melinda, who currently lives on the West Coast, is moving to Cranberry PA this summer. Cranberry is about 40 minutes from me. Wow. How’s that for grace?

Live, love, laugh joyfully. Enjoy every day and find the nuggets within.

 

 

 

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1015

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.

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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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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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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.

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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

She Believed She Could

This beautiful image courtesy of Artsy Pumpkin- Click HERE for the link.

“I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”
Anne Lamott

Happy New Year! How was your holiday? I can’t believe it’s over already. Now it’s back to reality and real life! I couldn’t resist the above quote by Anne Lamott. She makes me laugh, cry and smile, sometimes all at the same time. Reading her books and writing can turn around my whole day.

Penny on the beach, Summer 2016

When I look back on this year, I can consider it an amazing one. I did many more events than I thought possible. My church had a centennial celebration that I was blessed to be a part of. Penelope Katherine, my newest grandchild, was born on January 24 and brought such joy to my (and the whole family’s) life. I published my first book, Ordinary is Extraordinary and sold more copies of it than I thought possible (thank you!).

On the flip side, I was sometimes overwhelmed by too much to do. As usual I think I am managing well but then a dark cloud comes over me. That is why that quote above is especially poignant. I can really relate to it. Sometimes it is other people that bother me, sometimes it is the situations I create myself.

My word of the year for 2016 was Believe. It was a great word and I have kept it in mind all year. I hoped to use it to deepen my faith and I believe I accomplished that goal. I also know I will always keep building my relationship with God. I am never done and He will never be rid of me.

In the past two months, I lost a good friend to cancer. Another friend of mine, who was to be a first time grandmother, experienced a stillborn loss that I am still struggling to believe. Both of these were deep losses that I felt (and am still feeling). This is the hard part of growing up, getting older. You lose people that you love, bad things happen and we don’t understand them.

I remember when my father died almost nineteen years ago. We didn’t really see it coming although he had been sick for quite a while. The day after his death the sun came up. Time waits for no one I thought. Despite the awful loss of my dad, the world did not stop. People came and went. Friends showed up.

Isn’t this how we get through life? We plod along and sometimes there is deep mud to walk through, rain that beats down on us, and the occasional lighting strikes. Then there are those days when the sun comes out, someone gets married, a baby is born, a new friend is made. These events are what makes life worth living.

May you go forward in 2017 with a renewed attitude, a motivation to learn something new, and an awareness of the grace that will surely come your way.

I wanted to share some highlights of my year. These moments were especially wonderful. xo

Penny’s Baptism
Meeting an old friend, Dreama after many years.
Watching my son John and his entrance into Fatherhood.
Our visit to Nantucket.
Watching Penny adore my mom.
Meeting Vivian Howard of “Chef and the Farmer”
My sisters, mom and I at the kick off party to the Centennial of my church.
Penny and me on Christmas Eve.
Siesta Key Florida March 2016.
Backpack Feeding Kickoff at FOCUS West Central PA
Last wedding of the season- Ashley and Eli, Photo by Michael Will
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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. 🙂

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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