Rock My World

My daughter Michelene and her rock. “There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.”

You might remember that this past June I happened to be at Susquehanna University. It was there that I stumbled upon a Kindness Rocks Garden and stopped in my tracks. It captured my attention and so much so that I contacted my daughter’s childhood friend, Steph, who worked for the Recreation Department of Findlay Township.

I told Steph about the Kindness Rocks Garden and asked if there was a chance that we could make one in Clinton Park. “Sure!”, she said. And that was the beginning.

Since I am turning 60 this month, I wanted to do something to honor my friends and community. Creating this project filled the bill. On Thursday, November 9, about twenty new and old friends gathered to paint rocks and write inspirational sayings on them.

Armstrong Telephone gave us a grant and through them, we were able to buy all of the supplies. The Kindness Rocks website has a pdf form that makes it so easy to get everything you need. The oil based markers were terrific. We also had pre-painted about 25 rocks, just to get the evening started.

My deepest thanks to Steph, Findlay Township, and everyone who turned out! We will be creating the actual garden in Clinton Park this coming Spring of 2018. I promise to keep you posted here and on social media. If you live in the area and would like to make rocks for this project, feel free! We would welcome groups or individuals who love to create. Feel free to contact Findlay Recreation at 724-695-0500 extension 240.

Here’s what a fabulous evening it was.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
― Maya Angelou

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1015

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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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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1015

Sunlight through the Fog

Foggy Morning Beauty
Early Morning Beauty

When I took Jordan out early Thursday morning, there was a beautiful mist. Everything was covered in a soft white glow and the glorious super moon was still present in the sky. I was so taken by the sight of it all that I went back in the house for my phone. Snapping photos while enveloped in the mist, I was witness to the magnificent dawn.

My wedding season ended last Saturday and I’m looking forward to no commitments for the next few months. This break will give me the freedom to do whatever I want- a luxury in my mind. I am a worrier by nature (I come by it honestly!) and so it takes an effort for me to let go of thinking too far into the future, i.e. next year’s season, will there be enough events, will there be too many? (oy!)

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
– Leo F. Buscaglia

What do you worry about? (Maybe you’re not a worrier- lucky you!) For as long as I can remember, I hold too much weight on my shoulders. I’m a recovering perfectionist you know, one of God’s most needy children, and it is only through faith that I’m able to work at turning things over. When I saw the sunlight through the fog that morning, it reminded me that God can be the beacon through my worry. The worry is the fog, the sunlight is faith.

“Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.”
– Henry Ward Beecher

Faith is a deliverance from worry. It is a breath of fresh air, a dark chocolate bar, a new puppy. It reminds me that everything will work out in its time. The one thing I try to remember is that I cannot solve my problems all at once. Honestly, sometimes waiting it out proves more helpful. Rather than force solutions, I pray, turn it over, and let God provide the answers.

This week, for the first time ever, I joined my church women’s group as they made homemade nut rolls (yes, from scratch). They sell them and donate all the profits to charity. This has been going on for AGES but I was always too busy to participate. This year, I wanted to help. I showed up at the chosen time; one of the ladies was making dough, the other was mixing nuts with various ingredients for the filling.

Over the course of the next half hour, other women showed up. I was told to bring a rolling pin and I did. Soon there were several of us rolling. I can’t tell you how therapeutic this was. I rolled dough for a while then I helped spread filling. I think we made at least 30 nut rolls that morning.

When it was all over, one of the ladies made lunch. Delicious scrambled eggs with fried potatoes, Greek salad, feta cheese and pita. My favorite part? A warm from the oven nut roll, cut up in big chunks. Boy was that good.

I told an Orthodox friend later that this experience inspired me. She said ” Treasures In Heaven”. I asked her the meaning of that and she said, “What you do here on earth will bring you treasures in heaven.” To work with these ladies (I was the youngest one there I think), spend time with them, learn from them- it was something sweet. And I’ll tell you. I didn’t worry about a thing when I was rolling dough.

Rolling out the doug
Rolling out the dough
Spreading nuts
Spreading nuts
Just before baking
Just before baking
The finished product!
The finished product!

Looks wonderful, doesn’t it? If you have an opportunity to make treasures in heaven, wow, I encourage you to do so.

To you and your family – have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

For another inspiring story, check out my latest post on the Orthodox Christian Network. Click HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1015

The Next Princess

Penelope
Penelope

“Weaver” in Greek. In The Odyssey, Penelope is the wife of Odysseus who faithfully awaits his return for 20 years. (source)

My daughter Michelene was the only granddaughter on my husband’s side of the family for a long time. She is the oldest, followed by many grandsons- John, Brian, Colin, Jerra, Daniel, Josh, and Jake. (this picture is probably fifteen years old!)

Michelene the Princess Among the Boys
Michelene, the Princess Among the Boys

So we were all very excited when my nephew Jerra had a girl. Michelene declared Ms. Deanna the “Princess, Heir to the Throne.” This was a title most fitting since she would be the next in line to inherit the role of Princess Cain.

Deanna, Heir to the Throne
Deanna, Heir to the Throne

Now we are expecting a new princess. My son John and his sweetheart Jessica are expecting a baby girl! And she is due on January 9 which is John’s birthday of all coincidences. A girl! How wonderful! So now, we have another princess in line to the throne. 🙂 The name John and Jess are considering for her is PENELOPE.

I have to tell you, I was almost certain that John and Jess would be having a girl. Let me tell you why.

When my grandmother passed away years ago she left a pearl necklace. I asked my Aunt KC if I could have it and she said yes. I wore it on and off and soon the string began to stretch. More than one person encouraged me to have the pearls re-strung.

I took the necklace to the jeweler. They asked what size I wanted it. I decided to convert it from a long strand to a shorter one so it would be closer to my neckline.

When I picked up my new necklace, the jeweler offered me a small bag of the unused pearls. I took a look at those pearls and had only one thought. If someday John would give me a little girl, I would have those pearls made into a bracelet for her.

So here we are. Fast forward probably five years at least. I will have a pearl bracelet made and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Penelope's Pearls
Penelope’s Pearls

 

 

 

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1015

Harmony and David’s Wedding

The newly married Harmony and David
The Newly Married Harmony and David, and their Flower Girl.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

From Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I think it was in mid July that my friend Cathy told me her daughter Harmony and fiance David wanted to be married on August 15. I was fairly sure I would be invited but before I could be asked, I volunteered to come and help with the preparations. 🙂

Cathy and I go back about twenty years. I’ve not known Harmony quite as long but I felt a connection to her from the moment we met. She is a loving soul with a very caring manner. Her heart is big and bold and beautiful. I wanted to be a part of her wedding day.

So when I arrived on the day before the wedding (Friday), Cathy, David and Harmony had already been at work since Tuesday. The yard was ready, the arbor was decorated. The food was bought, the platters were washed and the extra fridge was stocked with drinks. They were expecting 40-60 people. I knew they were on top of it.

The wedding day dawned bright and sunny. We re-arranged lawn furniture a bit so seating would be comfortable. Harmony polished her toe nails (every bride needs pretty toes). Decisions were made on how to present and serve the food.  Along with Cathy’s friend Lisa, we put vases of fresh flowers in the bathroom and lit candles. We cooled down the house for the seniors who might need a break.

Harmony and her dad Michael
Harmony and Her Dad Michael

When the guests began showing up, it didn’t take long for everything to start rolling. Harmony walked down the green grass aisle with her father Michael. David was waiting for her in cool shorts and a summery shirt. David’s friend played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on a ukelele, in memory of David’s mother.

After the ceremony, there was the cake cutting. I heard that the minister said he watches how a newly married couple feeds each other cake. If they feed each other respectfully, they will have a happy marriage. Harmony and David were very loving as they fed each other cake. A good sign.

Getting Ready to Cut the Cake
Getting Ready to Cut the Cake. My friend Cathy is on the Far Left.

The whole atmosphere was of a wedding/summer party. Hot and sunny, flowers everywhere, people smiling and fanning themselves. Little children running around blowing super bubbles. Lots of great food to eat, red velvet cupcakes, and happiness.

The next morning, Harmony and David started packing their car early to head back home. Cathy loaded them up with lots of leftovers. As they got into their car to leave, we all started crying (me too). I’m not sure why I was crying but I felt like it was my kids leaving too.

As we waved good bye, I told Cathy how my grandmother used to stand on her sidewalk and watch our car leave when I was a little girl. Yiayia would stay there until she could no longer see us. I get that now. I really do.

Blessings to Harmony and David on their marriage! May God grant you both happiness and many years together!

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1015

Me and My Bicycle

Look for the biggest bike tire and you'll find me!
The Neighborhood Kids and their Bikes

I grew up in a big safe neighborhood with lots of kids. We could ride our bicycles around and around the block. When I think back on this time of my life, there’s one thing that was always with me- my Schwinn bike.

I can remember having at least two Schwinns in my childhood. The picture above is from a birthday (I think) when I received a new one and my friends were as excited as I was. I remember nearly everyone having a bike at this time and all of us spending endless hours in the pleasure of riding.

We would pedal up to each other’s houses to play, sometimes throwing our bikes down in the yard. Or maybe we’d be more careful and put the kickstand up. However we did it our bikes were our transportation and our wheels to adventure.

I was trying to identify the kids in the picture and here’s who I think is there. Laurie, is that you on the far left? I think so! And I’ll bet that’s Debbie E. next to Laurie with the short black hair. My youngest sister Cally is in front on the tricycle. The tall girl in the back, I am drawing a blank (my old friends, help me out here). I am next, then I believe that could be Chuck W. to my right. And on the far right is my sister Mary.

There’s some other things I remember about riding my bicycle that apply to this day. It’s good to exercise. It’s good to feel the wind through your hair. Remember that you are alive this very minute and enjoy that moment fully. Revel in your freedom because we live in a great country.

One more thing- Get a good speed going and then lift your hands up in the air!

I looked up Schwinn’s website to see what they were all about these days. I found this on their “Our Company” page:

From your first ride without training wheels to a summer cruise at the beach with your friends, the thrill of riding a bike never gets old. Many of our fondest memories are tied to experiences we’ve had on bikes, rooted in unbridled joy and carefree fun. Even if you haven’t hopped on a bike in a while, it won’t take long for the smiles and laughs to come back.

At Schwinn, we make bikes that allow riders of all ages and abilities to experience the joy of riding. From “walk ‘n’ roll” kids bikes to the Le Tour Legacy, we offer a comprehensive line of bikes that suit the needs of riders across the United States and around the world. Our bikes are built to the Schwinn Quality standard, with over 100 years of cycling heritage, passion and expertise. This standard is the foundation of our commitment to creating the best bikes available today, and we are confident that you will experience our devotion to cycling every time you ride a Schwinn.

Enjoy The Ride!

I’d say they got it right. I love the part about fondest memories, unbridled joy and carefree fun. If I inspire you today to take a walk or ride a bike, that would be great.

Have a joyous day!

 

 

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1015

Count The Moments Precious

At Opa Opa Greek Restaurant, Sarasota Florida
Me (left), Mom, Cally (far right), and Mary at Opa Opa Greek Restaurant, Sarasota Florida.

Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments. Rose Kennedy

I just returned from a beautiful week in Siesta Key, Florida at the Crescent Royale with my mom and two sisters, Mary and Cally. It was a warm, sunny week with temperatures in the high 70’s and low 80’s. After months of cold and snowy weather in the Northeast, it was a welcome relief to be in the sun. My three aunts and uncles were there also (one being my mother’s brother Steve) plus my aunt’s sister and her husband as well.

On the beach! From left, Me, Mary, Aunt KC, Cally, Joanie
On the beach! From left, Me, Mary, Aunt KC, Cally, Joanie

It was a week of magical moments. There was the moment I first walked on the beach after an almost three year hiatus. I can’t tell you what it was like to put my toes on that powdery, fine white sand. I was one happy gal.

Then, day two and I am scanning my Facebook timeline.  I see that an old friend of ours from church (and our hometown of Ambridge, PA.) John D., was playing the bouzouki at a Greek restaurant just ten minutes away.

Mom and John Demas
Mom and John with his bouzouki. Photo by Mary Jamis

We ended up crashing the wine tasting party at Opa Opa Greek restaurant just to see John. There were red carnations all over the floor, delicious food was being served and John was the consummate host and welcoming committee. The whole experience felt surreal; like we weren’t really there and it was a glorious dream that we didn’t want to wake up from. My mom was thrilled with the whole experience, listening to the music, meeting the customers of the restaurant and reminiscing with John about his family.

Another moment was at the Oyster Bar  on Siesta Key. My aunt’s sister Joanie told us they had oysters for half price from 3-6pm, so we headed over the next day for happy hour. There were TWELVE of us! My Uncle Jim said he’d have bet his Cadillac that my mom wouldn’t eat oysters. I said I should have made that bet because my mom ate a whole dozen.

Mom at the Siesta Key Oyster Bar
Mom at the Siesta Key Oyster Bar

That was a fantastic moment.

There were many other moments- times on the beach and at each other’s condos, where we drank mojitos and talked about the old days. My mother reminisced about trips to Greece and relatives long gone. It occurred to me, and not just once or twice, that these will be the moments I will long remember. These tiny bits of time, with my mom, sisters and aunts and uncles, will be re-played over and over in my mind, the delicious parts savored and lovingly shared in the years to come.

Sunset on the Beach
Sunset on the Beach

On the day we left the beach, we drove to Clearwater to see another old friend from our hometown. It had been almost thirty years since my mom laid eyes on Alicia.

Mom and Alisha. Photo by Mary Jamis
Mom and Alicia. Photo by Mary Jamis

Another beautiful moment to count along with the rest! I’ve probably got one more post in me about other aspects of this trip. But for now, I am content to just remember how truly blessed I feel after spending this glorious week with my family.

My Mom and her brother Steve. Photo by Cally Jamis Vennare
My Mom and her brother Steve. Photo by Cally Jamis Vennare
Are we beach beauties or what? Cally, Me, Mom. Photo by Mary Jamis
Are we beach beauties or what? Cally, Me, Mom. Photo by Mary Jamis
All of us!
All of us!

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1015

My Unresolutions for the New Year

Calvin is Perfect! Nothing to Change! Photo Credit Decibel Magazine

Resolutions, ME?

Yes, I have to admit that in the past I was always reluctant to set New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I still am. But today I am thinking about what may be worthwhile to change as I go into this new year.

Being an over-doer and over-thinker, I hate setting goals that feel like more pressure. I already place too many expectations on myself and the thought of more pushing can overwhelm me.

But I am thinking that I can set some “un”resolution goals. This could be a good thing for me; a “restore-myself-to-sanity” thing and guess what- my word of the year just happens to be (drum roll please) – Sanity.

So here we go. I’m officially offering up my unresolution goals in the hopes you over-doers out there will join me.

1. I resolve to unhook myself from negative thought. As soon as my mind starts on the “you’re not doing enough, blah blah blah” I resolve to kick it to the curb and look at myself realistically. Am I really doing enough? If the answer is yes, well then, Good Enough is really Good Enough.

2. I resolve to un-counch-potato myself and get the heck to the gym. Yes, I’m signing up for a swim class and not making excuses about why I don’t like to exercise. Enough already- just do it!

3. I resolve to undo my own guilt trips about food. I noticed recently how much grief I give myself about any sweet treats and honestly, I’m tired of my own berating. If I want a cookie (provided I haven’t eaten ten of them already), I’m having it without guilt. If I work on loving my body for what it is (a beautiful thing!), the chances are I will make better choices anyway. (This may not always apply at Sunday’s donut fest after church services. 😉 )

4. I resolve to uncontrol my life more and give the big issues to the Universe. Honestly God does a much better job of figuring things out vs. my struggling and struggling.

5. I resolve to unleash my mind and let it live in the moment. I want to live more freely, more spontaneously, more enjoyably. I don’t need to plan as much, just go with the flow and enjoy what comes my way.

I’m smiling just looking at this list. I think I’ll print it out and hang it somewhere.

Will you join me? If you create an unresolution list, comment below and share a couple.

Happy New Year!

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1015

The Differences Between Us

Jim and I in beautiful Nantucket, Fall of 2016

The relationship of husband and wife should be one of closest friends. B.A. Ambedkar

*This post has been so popular I updated it a bit on February 13, 2017

Jim and I will be married 36 years this coming May. The picture above is one of my new favorites, snapped in Nantucket during time away last fall. Though we’ve been married that long, my husband and I are often like night and day. Oil and vinegar. Fire and water. But somehow, it works. We work. We are still a work in progress.

This is a good example of our differences. When I am driving, I anticipate when I will need to get off at an exit. Usually I move over into the correct lane way ahead of time, probably 1-2 miles before. I don’t have to worry about crossing over large amounts of traffic or missing the exit. I like to play it safe.

Jim will be in the same situation and he will not worry about moving over until he is a half mile from the exit. He will need to cross over two lanes of traffic but so what? Even if someone won’t let him by, he will get over somehow. (and he will complain about the guy that didn’t let him over!)

This kind of stuff used to drive me crazy. But if you’ve been married a long time you know. You choose your battles and ask yourself “how important is it?”

Jim has a counter top in the kitchen where he puts all of his stuff. Papers, pencils, change, you name it. I have my stuff concealed in drawers and desks. His counter top used to drive me nuts. It doesn’t anymore. I hardly notice it.

His garage is the same way. A clutter. But he and his brothers can usually find what they are looking for. I’d love to go and organize it for them but I bet they’d have a meltdown. How would they find anything?

I can just about figure out where Jim has been and what he has done in any given day by the trail he leaves behind. Candy wrappers, hammers, pliers. I have to admit I’m guilty of the same thing myself sometimes. It’s just easier to look at someone else’s mess and point the finger. 😉

I’m a taskmaster, an administrative guru. I have file folders for bills and a place for receipts. Jim can usually not find a crucial paper unless it’s on that cluttered counter. Years ago, he would ask me where I put it. Now he asks me if I’ve seen it.

Jim is really the cream in my coffee and the dots on my i’s. Though many years have passed and we have seen our share of good and bad, we are a team. I never think that he doesn’t love me; he adores me in fact and that love is what keeps us together.

It is worth the time and energy to make a relationship work. I love weddings and the thought of forever after. It takes two to tango though and that’s the truth. Thank you Jim, for the willingness to tango.

JimandJo

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