Category Archives: Inspiration

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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An Attitude of Gratitude

“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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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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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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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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My First Book! Ordinary IS Extraordinary

My first book! The Beautiful Cover is by Karen Captline of Better Be Creative

My first book! The beautiful cover is by Karen Captline of Better Be Creative. Editing by Daleen Wilson of Sunday’s Child.

Today is a special day. I am sharing my first book with you! The excitement of this has been building over the last couple of months and I am over the moon about it. This weekend I will be speaking at the women’s empowerment conference in Ligonier, PA and sharing my story.

When I received the first early copies of my book, I gave one to the mother of my granddaughter Penelope. Jessica is my friend and the partner of my son John. She is the manager of the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Allegheny Valley, PA.

As luck would have it, Jessica, Penelope and I went on a little field trip yesterday. We visited another Restore and stopped for lunch afterwards. We talked about how to market my book and Jess offered to do a review for me. I took her up on the offer!

So here, without any further ado, are Jessica’s thoughts on “Ordinary IS Extraordinary.”

When I read Ordinary IS Extraordinary I was nursing my infant daughter, Penelope, and read most of it out loud to her.
We cried at different parts for different reasons…
I had tears in my eyes when Joanne shared her journey of rediscovering her faith and loving herself.  I smiled as I pictured her as an awkward young person.  Looking down at Penny while we read, I couldn’t help wondering if she would face some of the same challenges in life.
I was inspired by Joanne’s discoveries of growth, as the lens she saw both the world and herself through, changed as her experiences colored the glass.
When I closed the book..I found myself savoring so much of her insights, that I let out a huge breath I didn’t know I was holding…and with it a burden I didn’t realize was there.  As for Penelope, she always loves hearing her Nana’s adventures, even when she’s hungry.
Grab a cup of Jo, your favorite snack, and devote a morning or afternoon to walking in her footsteps.  I know you’ll enjoy the landscape.  The writing is honest and you’ll feel as though she is sitting across from you on that lounge chair, having a coffee, sharing in your delight along the way.
From Jessica Levine
John, Jess, and Penelope Katherine

John, Jess, and Penelope Katherine

Jessica, thank you so much for your beautiful words!

Click HERE to order my book on Amazon. There’s a Kindle version too! You may want to order two books ;), one for you and one for a friend.

When you read Ordinary IS Extraordinary, I’d love to hear from you! Please email me at joannejamiscain@gmail.com with your thoughts. If you are a blogger that writes on spirituality, I would be happy to send you a book to review.

Thank you and God Bless!

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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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The Quest for Perfection

More Webs

“Who are you to judge the life I live?
I know I’m not perfect
-and I don’t live to be-
but before you start pointing fingers…
make sure you hands are clean!”
Bob Marley

I have been thinking alot about perfection lately. What I have been thinking about it would probably surprise you. At this ripe age of 57, I am relieved to find that I have very little interest anymore in being a perfectionist.

Why? Perfection is usually unachievable and based on perception. What I may think is perfect, you may not. And what you may think is perfect, I may not. To the degree that we differ, what lies in that gray area? (probably a big difference of opinion)

I will tell you this. I believe that only what is created by nature and the universe is rooted in perfection. When I look at the magnificent sky every day, a honeybee on my basil plant, the face of a new born baby, I know this is perfection. The sun, moon, and stars are perfection. The dew on the morning grass is too.

So what does this awareness do for me? It releases me from the quest of having to do things over and over, ad nauseam. It also gives me the permission to apologize- which I do fairly frequently- without guilt. After all, I am not perfect.

What this isn’t is an excuse. It is not a reason to not try harder; I must be alittle more diligent about my health, attentive to my family, and nicer and kinder to wait staff at restaurants. If I am to be a spiritual being living a human life, I need to not forget that all living creatures are deserving of unconditional love and respect.

Two people passed away that I knew in the last week. Yes, it was sad. I went to the funeral of Margaret (yiayia Teta) this past Monday. There was something at the luncheon afterwards that blew me away. Yiayia had nine grandsons. Seven of them were there. Before we all ate, they stood in a line and said their favorite yiayia memories. It was unforgettable.

I couldn't help taking this picture. Gorgeous- all of them.

I couldn’t help taking this picture. Gorgeous- all of them.

These were truly kleenex moments. What I loved best was each one of them said that yiayia told him he was her favorite. I need to remember that. It is priceless.

At the funeral before the luncheon, I actually listened to the words of the priest. He did most of the service in English and I don’t remember hearing SO much of it ever before. He said basically, you can’t take it with you. Wow, you really can’t.

I was reminded (again) this week how fleeting life is. It is over in the blink of an eye. Why waste another moment on the relentless pursuit of perfection, unless it’s the God created variety? My friend Shelly gave me a little plaque once that said “Good Enough is Really Good Enough.” It was the (haha!) perfect gift. I got it out the other day and set it on my dresser. It’s a good time to be reminded of it.

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”
Michael J. Fox

 Don’t forget to check out my sharings on the Orthodox Christian Network.

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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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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.

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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