Category Archives: Happiness

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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What’s in the Purple Bowl?

A few years ago we had a bonfire on the hill behind our house. It was a grand affair with many friends and lots of good food. When it was all said and done, there remained behind a purple plastic bowl, the kind you get in a dollar store around Halloween.

Since then, the purple bowl has had a place in our refrigerator. In it go all the leftover scraps of stale bread, ends of tomatoes, leftover peas, salad and any other type of greens or vegetable. Can you guess what we do with this bowl?

Our one dozen chickens are the lucky recipients of the treasure of the bowl!

When I come out of the back door with the bowl, they all come running. I’m guessing they don’t see that well (or are they colorblind?), but strangely enough they see well enough to recognize that purple bowl.

“The girls” as we have fondly dubbed them, peck away at the contents and sometimes fight over seeds (like from the inside of a cantaloupe) or especially something tasty like raspberries. Once I actually saw one of the chickens grab a raspberry and RUN like a bat out of the night, to keep any other girlfriend from getting her prize.

If you remember an old post of mine, I was not happy when the chickens originally came a few years ago. Since then, I have softened quite a bit and will oftentimes let them out of their coop in the evening to stretch their legs. I give our yellow lab/retriever Jordan a fresh egg because she is their watchdog. We live next to a large woodsy area and she is their sentry, watching for any signs of trouble.

I ate a few more eggs this summer than normal and was wondering if my cholesterol count at my recent physical would register the increase. Thank God it was normal, yes normal!, so my sunny side up egg ritual can continue.

I’m not sure where you live but if you have some backyard space you might want to consider getting some chickens. We don’t have a rooster; we had one and they make too much noise. But chickens are relatively easy to raise if you get a couple of good books and peck the brain of someone who already has them. Chances are you know someone who has some! Make sure you have a strong, sturdy coop, especially if you live near the woods. Chickens are a delicacy for woodland animals!

Our chickens are entertainment when we have guests over. During the summer after dinner, we’d sit on lawn chairs in the back yard, sipping iced or hot coffee and let the girls loose. They run and chase each other, dig in the dirt and peck at bugs and plants. You have to watch them if you have a garden though. They’ll eat your prize tomato if it’s just the right height. 😉

Part of a having a simple life is to get down to basics. I’ve learned to appreciate food when I can see its source; where it comes from and what went into its growth. It’s good to know that I can eat a fresh egg whenever I want, and I appreciate that.

Another chicken loving friend of mine turned me onto this great website for more information. Check out Fresh Eggs Daily and learn more.

Blessings,

Joanne

 

 

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What To Do At A Party

What to do at a party

“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.” 
― Frederick Buechner

How have you been? It’s been a busy couple of weeks but I so wanted to say hello and touch base.

I have been blessed with lots of activity. My sister Mary visited from North Carolina and my cousin Christina is here with her daughter Arial. A beautiful reception to coordinate was dropped in my lap and two more weddings to oversee have magically appeared as well. God is truly keeping his eye out for me.

One of the summer events I had the privilege to attend was a memorial picnic in honor of a young woman who passed away five years ago. Her children were there as were many others to remember and cherish the beautiful person that Mandy was. It was while I was there that I spied the creative and inspirational poster of sorts that you see above.

Take a moment and notice which activities were already checked off the “What To Do At Party” list. Read books, tell jokes and jump on trampoline were already checked off. I wish I was there for the trampoline part, but then again, maybe not. 🙂 I especially loved make tambourines- wow!

This poster reminded me of what it was like to be a kid all over again. What things did I like to do when I was a child? I loved to color and make creative paper drawings. I loved to listen to music and pretend I was in a band. My friends and I would get together and go bike riding every day. We would definitely drink root beer floats.

In this age of too much, too soon, I think we can sometimes forget the simple things that are good and uncomplicated. A family meal, not elaborate, but eaten together. Time well spent just talking and walking on a trail or on the beach. A chance to get back to ourselves and get quiet.

I’m guessing it was Talulah, Izaya and Willow that made this poster. I have to thank them when I see them next. I really love it.

Blessings to you for a joyous summer! How have you been? What were some of your favorite things to do as a child?

 

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A Match Made in Heaven

Mom and Dad!

Mom and Dad!

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu

Tonight is a special night. I have been planning an event in a beautiful town for weeks. My friends are going to be there- Jim, Joe, Jesse, Nicole (and YOU, I hope!)- and my daughter Michelene, husband Jim, my sister Cally and of course, my mom. We will miss Mary tremendously but I know she will be there in spirit!

Jim of Cuttings Flower and Garden Mart and I have imagined and thought of what you would want to see if you were planning a special event. We have wine, flowers, food, sweets, photographers, beautiful dresses, place cards and menu cards. There are very talented people involved. Local businesses that are passionate about what they do.

Though the focus is on weddings, there will be many good ideas for any type of event. We are pulling out all the stops tonight. My daughter Michelene is modeling my mom’s vintage wedding gown. My mom and dad would have been married sixty years this coming June. It is amazing how time flies. My dad passed eighteen years ago but I can see him at this moment, telling me to “Go For It!” He was always supportive of anything I ever wanted to do or try. I am lucky. My husband Jim has that same quality.

Like most of you, I believe my parents were a match made in heaven. There were good times and not so good; ups and downs. But that is characteristic of a long union. That is how it works. It stands the test of time if both parties are willing. I appreciate all the gifts and talents my parents gave me- salesmanship, hospitality, and great organization!

I feel truly blessed to be participating in “The Reception” tonight with Jim of Cuttings and so many other wonderful businesses!  If you live in the Pittsburgh or surrounding areas, click HERE for more information on this special night and JOIN US!

I hope you can be with us tonight but if you can’t, I hope you’ll think of someone special in your life, your parents or a special mentor, who has made all the difference for you.

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