As Sweet as Honey

My daughter Michelene and granddaughter Penny, on a beautiful summer day.
My daughter Michelene and granddaughter Penny, on a beautiful summer day.

She’s an angel of the first degree
She’s as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee

Tupelo Honey, Song by Van Morrison

We are in the full throes of summer aren’t we? It’s July already and there’s lots of sunshine, beautiful flowers, and fourth of July fireworks. Perhaps you’ve already been to the beach and back? I am enjoying delicious fruit pies (peach!), the birds singing outside my window at early dawn, and honey (strawberry) moons.

I remember now what it was like to relish the longer days of summer. Instead of wishing for cool fall weather all the time (the hot flashes are finally backing off!), I am enjoying my morning coffee outside with a good book. I try to leave my cell phone in the house. Why ruin a perfect morning with technology?

I’m also spending lots of quality time with my granddaughter Penelope Katherine. She’s as sweet as tupelo honey. 😉 She just turned five months old and I can see her personality developing right before my very eyes. The little things she does, like touching my face with her sweet hands just melts my heart. God bless Penelope.

My husband Jim and daughter Michelene had their first Honey Party in June. It was a great success with thirty guests who sampled different seasons of honey, learned to be good bee ambassadors, and had ice cream sundaes topped with the honey they spun that afternoon. The future bee ambassadors, the children, are just magic. I love how they participate, ask questions, and smack their lips over the ice cream sundaes.

Love the little one with the raised hand!
Love the little one with the raised hand!

Simple pleasures are the best. Lately I am relishing those. It doesn’t take much to make me happy these days. I’ve done four events already (for my wedding/event business) and learned something at each one. My book has done well, actually it has exceeded my expectations. I started a new page on Facebook called “Recovering Perfectionists” and I’m enjoying the quest to find material to post.

Ah, what’s next? I am trying to take it easy (honest!). I love to challenge myself but lately status quo is just fine. Good enough is really good enough. I want to take time to stop and smell the honey. I’ve got a big lavender patch outside of my door and I often sit next to it. It’s ok to take time for ourselves. The bigger stuff can wait.

 

 

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1015

The Deep Roots of Family

Three generations- From L to R, Grandmother Katherine, Granddaughter Michelene, Great Granddaughter Penelope Katherine
Three generations- From L to R, My mother Katherine, My daughter Michelene, My granddaughter Penelope Katherine at one month of age.

“We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.”
Anne Lamott

I am the sum total of the generations before me. My grandparents, mother, father, and relations even beyond them, reaching far into the history of Greece and Turkey are part of me. The personalities and mannerisms that I have about me, no doubt are deeply rooted. I’m sure I do things my ancestors did without even being aware of it.

When I was little, I would spend three or four summer weeks at my Yiayia’s house in Stockdale, Pennsylvania. My dad used to say that the biggest excitement in town was going down to the gas station and jumping on the bell. 🙂 That may have been true but yiayia’s house was my second home.

These roses are just like my yiayia’s. Gardenia.net

My grandmother had a trellis of pink tea roses that grew wildly in the summer. I was so attracted to them that to this day, I am crazy about roses. Yiayia would take the rose petals and a recipe she had from her homeland of Chios, Greece and make rose jelly. I have no idea the type of rose she had or the recipe but someday I am going to figure it out.

Beautiful Gardenia
Beautiful Gardenia

My grandfather (Papou) planted a big garden, filled with lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. Put those together in a bowl, add a bit of feta cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar and you have an amazing salad. Papou had the biggest, healthiest gardenia plant I have ever seen. As he aged, he would hum to himself and clean the leaves with a Q-tip. I am deeply attracted to gardenias and wore one on my wrist for my 25th anniversary.

I married my husband partly because when he drove me up the driveway to the family homestead, there was a huge field next to the house, surrounded by woods. I’ve been a nature girl my whole life and that stuck with me. We’ve planted a garden pretty much every year we’ve been married. We grow tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini. I love my backyard and it is an endless source of calm for me. In the morning, I can walk outside in my jammies and not worry about a next door neighbor.

My daughter Michelene is an even bigger nature girl. She has planted dozens of varieties of heirloom tomatoes, dried the seeds, and used them for new plantings. Her yard is huge and she always has something going on- canning fresh applesauce, making homemade sauce, or raising her first batch of baby chicks. Beekeeping is something Michelene does with her dad; check out her first Beefuddled Farms blog post HERE.

Me and Penelope
Me and Penelope

My son John and his partner Jessica are amazing cooks. When I go and watch Penelope, there is always something creative in the fridge. This past week it was pizza and the crust was made with spaghetti squash (no kidding). It was amazing. Penelope is going to have quite a palate I am sure.

As a family we embrace traditional foods but also look for new ways to enjoy healthy choices. I love how John experiments with avocados, squashes and cauliflower and creates delicious wonders. Then of course, there’s always a square of good dark chocolate for dessert. We love that.

Last year for Mother’s Day, I made a nice dinner and invited everyone over. For a take home gift, I had little pots of fresh herbs to choose from- basil, rosemary, or parsley. Every year I grow a giant basil plant for a big Orthodox holiday in September. Michelene and John chose basil as their plant to take home. I was proud of that.

Humungous
My prize basil plant

If we look deep enough, we will find clues to what makes up all those amazing parts of us. The combination of ancestry and influences are who we are inside. We can certainly change those things that no longer serve us and in the process, some really good stuff will come bubbling up. Scrap away the fluff (as Pooh would call it) and find your beauty within.

What did you like to do as a child? I’ve read this recently and have tried to go back to it. I loved to jump rope, color, be creative, and be outside. Those are the things I’m trying to embrace as often as I can. (Well, I admit I have yet to buy a jump rope!)

Happy Earth Day!
Know you are beautiful inside and out.

My book, Ordinary Is Extraordinary, is available on Barnes and Noble Nook now! Click HERE for the link. To order from Amazon, click on the book to the right of this post (on the sidebar). I have some good “book” stories to tell you about next time we chat. 🙂

Happy Easter, Kali Anastasi, to my Orthodox Christian friends! For my latest post on the Orthodox Christian Network click HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1015

In the Company of Beautiful Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the agenda!

Agenda for WER April 2 2016

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

Blessings!

Joanne

 

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Welcome Penelope Katherine!

Penelope Katherine- Welcome to the World!
Penelope Katherine in Grandma Jean’s blanket- Welcome to the World!

Isn’t she lovely? Isn’t she wonderful? Stevie Wonder

She kept us all waiting but finally on January 24, shortly after midnight, Penelope Katherine made her entrance!

We are all so excited for Jess and John. Penelope is absolutely beautiful. In her little pink cap and wrapped in Grandma Jean’s blanket, she is the prettiest sight.

Pretty in Pink
Pretty in Pink!
She's Precious
She’s Precious

It’s been fourteen years (almost fifteen!) that my grandson Gavin was born. In that time he has grown so fast and provided us with so much joy. I am looking forward to many wonderful times ahead with both of my grandchildren. Michelene is already promising walks in the woods. I’m sure Jim will teach Penelope how to fix things. I will share some Greek recipes. It takes a village and we are all excited about spending time with Penelope.

We can’t wait until her other grandparents arrive to meet her. I’m sure Jess and John have been talking to them and sending pictures. We wish them safe travels as they come to share in our joy.

Thank you all for your well wishes and prayers. We truly appreciate them!

Dad and Baby
Dad and Baby
Mom and Baby
Mom and Baby

One more thing! As if life isn’t exciting enough, after 8am CST this morning (9am EST & Pittsburgh time), I have a guest post on a blog called Lipstick and Laundry! It’s one of my favorite posts from Katherine’s Daughter. Click HERE to check it out. 🙂

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1015

The Treasures of Christmas

Poinsettia 3
Janoski’s Poinsettias- So Beautiful

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

So here we are in the “in between” week, the week between Christmas and New Year’s that gives us a chance to catch our breath. It’s a good time for rest, relaxation, and yes, reflection. Maybe you’re with family, friends, and your children. Maybe you have time off from work and are taking a well deserved break.

I did a lot of entertaining the last few days. My cousins are here from New York, my sisters are both in, and my (soon to be born) granddaughter’s other grandma made a visit to Pittsburgh to spend Christmas with us. Talk about blessings. Jess’ mom Ann brought me this oh-so-cool gift of special M&M’s with my son and Jessica’s picture on them (no kidding). They were even in this box with little feet on them.

Holiday M&M's
Is This Adorable or What?

I am looking forward to getting to know Ann and Jessica’s family better in the coming years. A new child is so bonding and we will all have Penelope’s best interests at heart as we go forward. She is due on January 9, 2016 (my son’s 30th birthday ironically) but really, she could come at any time. We are anxiously awaiting her arrival.

What are the treasures of Christmas for me this year? It was quality time with my husband’s family on Christmas Eve. Then Christmas Day with my kids, cousins, sister and husband, Jessica and Ann, and especially another holiday with my mom. She never fails to keep up with it all, staying up late, getting up early, and always ready for whatever we want to do. I tease her about the planning we do- the food briefings for Christmas were months ago- but it’s all in jest. Really, her entertaining skills were my basis for what I do today. 🙂

The true treasure was keeping the origin of Christmas in my heart despite the rush and commercial tugs of the holiday. It was about coming back to center, recognizing and honoring what this holiday truly means. I wrote a post about the Navitiy icon for the Orthodox Christian Network and it was even an education for me. That is the great thing about writing for them. I learn in the process too.

I want to wish you a very happy New Year and thank you for all your love and support this year. I am truly blessed with such a beautiful group of family and friends. It makes my life so rich.

Christmas Morning 2015
Sunrise Christmas Morning 2015

 

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1015

Birthday Blessings

Birthday Roses from Jim
Birthday Roses from Jim

The best thing to hold onto in life is each other. Audrey Hepburn

My birthday was yesterday and boy, did I feel special. I want to tell you about so sit back with a cup of coffee and let’s chat.

First, the day was absolutely gorgeous. No rain for a change though from the sight of the clouds in the morning, I thought that may happen. The sky was a bright blue with very fluffy clouds.

Almost like Marshmallow Puffs
Almost like Marshmallow Puffs

Jim already bought me roses a couple of days before and they were blooming like there was no tomorrow. We had coffee together in the morning and then I was off to a very special church service.

Andrew was being ordained to the priesthood. I knew about this for a while and I wasn’t missing it. I assisted Andrew and his lovely wife Lena on their wedding day and I wanted to be there for this service. It was beautiful.

Andrew- AXIOS!
Andrew (in the center)- AXIOS!
It was a big holiday too. The Presentation of the Theotokos.
It was a big holiday too. The Presentation of the Theotokos.

Afterwards there was a beautiful luncheon. I bumped into my cousin Angie there so we sat together. I headed for home and took a much needed nap! Around 5pm, Jim and I headed out for a wedding reception!

Anthony and Maria
Anthony and Maria

This is the first time ever that I went to a wedding on my birthday. I loved Anthony’s boutonniere- it was a mini-transformer! Maria was so beautiful. Their card box was a Dr. Who phone booth. 🙂

The cookie table was a mile long and who’s going to miss that? What a spectacular end to my birthday!

Wedding Cookies
Wedding Cookies

I want to wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving week with many blessings to you and your family. Thank you for being my friend and supporting my writing. It means more to me than you know.

xo Joanne

 

 

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1015

Things of Beauty

A Journey Through Grief
A Journey Through Grief

“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.” ― Louisa May Alcott

A few years ago I was working in Pittsburgh. There were certain times of the year that my job became very heavy with responsibilities. I was thankful that I was occasionally able to leave on my lunch hour and have a change of scenery. At least once a week I tried to get out and meet a friend. If that didn’t work, I fell back on plan #2. I looked for things of beauty.

This was easy to do because I worked near Schenley Park. There was Flagstaff Hill, the Schenley Plaza, and Phipps Conservatory. A few times I took thirty minutes and walked through the displays of the Conservatory. Talk about rejuvenation.

Lately, I look for the beauty in every day life. It’s easy to find if you train yourself. While you are driving, glance at the sky once in a while. Look at the beautiful autumn scenery if you have it (it’s gorgeous here right now!). Are there flowers blooming near you? Is there wildlife? Are there children playing?

Don’t forget to take a break and live life. It’s really important. Here’s a few beautiful things I’ve found lately.

Cousins are beautiful
Cousins are beautiful.
Lunch bags at church are beautiful
Lunch bags at church are beautiful.
Can you see it? A turkey on my lane is beautiful.
Can you see it? A turkey on my lane is beautiful.
Seeing my old friend Nita this past summer was beautiful!
Seeing my old friend Nita this past summer was beautiful!
My mom and sister Mary are beautiful!
My mom and sister Mary are beautiful!
This amazing sunset.
Sunsets are beautiful.
This farm is beautiful. Read more about it on my other blog. Click HERE.
This farm is beautiful. Read more about it on my other blog. Click HERE.

What is beautiful in your neck of the woods?

 

 

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1015

Thoughtful Thank You’s

The Best Things are Not Things
The Best Things are Not Things

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Do you believe in the power of a thank you note? I do.

If it is anything that I love, it is a real thank you. It can be a “look you in the eye say thank you” kind of thing, but it’s much better with a pretty card and a heart felt note in your own handwriting.

In the business world, there’s much to be gained by a good thank you. No amount of text messaging or emailing can replace the real deal. A note or letter tells someone how much a working relationship means to you. It lets the recipient know you appreciate their time and effort to work together.

In personal matters, a graceful thank you will lift up and encompass someone in a hug. It sends a message of love and caring. It says you are appreciated and what you did means the world to me.

Yep, this made me feel good all these years later!
Yep, this made me feel good all these years later!

A couple of days ago I found a cache of forgotten thank you notes from a previous job. There they were, stashed in amongst a bunch of business letterhead in my closet. I took them down and sat in my recliner, ready to revisit beautiful memories. The card I have pictured above (top is the front, above is the inside) was from a mother of the bride. I helped her coordinate her daughter’s wedding. Here is what she said inside. “Dear Jo, Thanks so much for everything you did to make Stacey and Gene’s wedding so beautiful. I know all the hard work you did- you went above and beyond! You were wonderful to work with and I truly enjoyed working with you. All the best.”

Do I save these for a reason? You bet I do.

I have a box full of cards that people have sent me over the years. Cards thanking me for presents, for my time, for my energy, for ways I helped others. I read once long ago that it was a positive tool to save heartfelt cards. When you are feeling down, get out the box and go through it.

Simple Act of Gratitude
A Simple Act of Gratitude

I read a book a few years ago that really touched me. “A Simple Act of Gratitude” was written by John Kralik. He told his own story of a life filled with unhappiness. In a moment of clarity, he thought that if he became grateful for what he had instead of lamenting on what he didn’t have, it could be a game changer. He set a goal to write 365 thank you notes in one year. He achieved this milestone. Did it change his life? It sure did.

Writing thank you notes is a way to express gratitude for what we have in our life. It is a way to combat envy, greed, and ego. A humble expression of gratitude when sustained, can be the difference between a life of grumbling and complaints, or a life of infinite riches.

I hope you decide to pick up a pen and write some thank you notes. Go to your favorite stationary store, pick out some pretty cards and go for it. Or have picture cards made with your favorite photos and use those. Then get to town and write. By the way, thank you for that beautiful card you sent me. I love it!

One of my favorite cards!
One of my favorite cards! It was for Mother’s Day- still counts!
Extra Special
Extra Special
Sweet
Sweet
One of my favorites
One of my favorites
Beautiful
Beautiful
Humble
Humble
Unique
Unique
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1015

Brooklyn & Bette Midler

New York Chris and I
My cousin Christina and I at the Bette concert, “Divine Intervention”

I saw the posting months ago on a social media site. Bette Midler was doing an international tour. I clicked and clicked until the I found the website and the list of where she was going in the USA.

The closest she was coming was New York. I began to try and figure out how to get there. New York in late June, tickets, and a place to stay. I prayed and wished for it to happen. I found this out again- wishes really do come true (and sometimes more). I got to Brooklyn, to the Barclays to see Bette, and I had a grand time doing it all.

Jim came along for the ride. We decided to take the Amtrak train from Pittsburgh to New York. Ten hours of Allegheny Mountains, the Horseshoe Curve, relaxing, napping, reading and snacking. I highly recommend the train- we loved it! It was like sitting in the back seat of a car while someone else does the driving. 🙂

New York Train
The Horseshoe Curve

Luckily we have a dear friend Ed, who has been working in Brooklyn, New York on a job. So he lives there and Bette was performing there (grace). Through his generosities, I secured the concert tickets, we had a place to stay, and even had extra tickets to the show.

Gasp, the view from Ed's Balcony. Gorgeous New York.
Gasp, the view from Ed’s Balcony. Amazing!

How was the concert? Well, I will tell you. I cried through the first 45 minutes, laughed through the next 30, and cried for the last 30. I’ve been listening to Bette since her career began, thanks to my sister Mary who bought The Divine Miss M album when I was a mere teen. My sisters and I saw Bette in 1975 in Pittsburgh for her Clams on the Half Shell Revue. This Brooklyn concert was fabulous. Bette was amazing at AGE 70. Unbelievable was her spunk and voice; she was as beautiful as ever.

She sang “Do You Wanna Dance?”, “Wind Beneath My Wings”, and many others. I had only one kleenex and I soaked it. Christina bought me a t shirt when it was all over. I wore the t shirt back to Ed’s apartment and on the train ride home the next day.

Now, Brooklyn. First I have to tell you that trees really do grow in Brooklyn. They were everywhere. Big beautiful trees. We walked and walked- and enjoyed those trees- to dinner, to shopping at Brooklyn Industries where I bought the purse I have been searching for, to the market, and to breakfast at Pies and Thighs.

The chalkboard at PIes and Thighs
The chalkboard at Pies and Thighs

We walked to the dock the evening of the first night we were there. I saw the Empire State Building lit up. It was beautiful.

View from the Dock
View from the Dock

So I’m back home now and I’ve been having “pinch me” moments. I have a hard time believing I was really there but the pictures prove it. I will never forget that night, or that concert, and I want to thank Ed for helping to make it all happen.

Ed, forefront, and Jim
Ed, forefront, and Jim

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Albert Einstein

 

 

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1015

God is With Me

Cook Forest
Serenity in Cook Forest

A few months ago it was my mother’s eighty sixth birthday. Besides being a wonderful celebration of another year with her, it also marked the departure of my youngest sister to her new job and a new location. It was a time of transition for all of us. I won’t deny that it was stressful for me (and I’m sure, all of us) and I prayed that my “One Day At A Time” motto would continue to work for me. I became the (mostly) sole sibling responsible for being available to my mother.

As if God was with me, some truly amazing things began to happen and continue to unfold. It has been a sequence of events- one after another- and I’ve been humbled by them.

Selected for Cook Forest
Selected for Cook Forest- wow!

First, a national forest in Pennsylvania selected one of my photos for their profile picture on Facebook. Now this may not sound like a big deal, but it has been a thrill seeing my photo every time Cook Forest State Park posts on their Facebook page. As if this wasn’t enough for my five minutes of fame, the Orthodox Christian Network published my first post ever for them on my mother’s birthday, May 1.

So I’ve published six posts (click HERE to see my page) since then to a tune of over 10K combined likes on Facebook and other social media sites. I don’t say this with an air of ego. I say it with my mouth open, a surprised look on my face, and a few semi-sleepless nights.

God is with me. I have been walking a spiritual path where I decide daily that the things I am most afraid of- new experiences, loss, stress- are the things I must turn over to God. I trust that I am being guided to write, serve, be there, suit up and show up. I may stumble, make mistakes but I get back up again and plod steadily along. Most of the time, I don’t mind stretching my limits and embracing change. My dad loved challenges and I think (haha!) that he must have passed this along to me.

I’m helping with a new ministry in Beaver County. Many Orthodox churches are getting involved and it’s very inspiring. When I get home from the evening meetings, I am so excited that I have to wind down before bed. This ministry is keeping me busy, among other things, and when you’re occupied in happy things you don’t have time to worry or fret.

So yes, God is with me. I’m thankful for all the blessings in my life right now, including my mom, great friends, my sisters, Jim and the kids, Jess, Jordan, and these wonderful experiences bringing light into my life.

Looking Up

 

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