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
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 email@example.com with your thoughts. If you are a blogger that writes on spirituality, I would be happy to send you a book to review.
My granddaughter Penelope is now one month old. She no longer has that mini newborn look. Her features are becoming more pronounced and her personality is taking shape. Nursing is her favorite pastime along with snuggling. Resting in someone’s arms (especially mommy’s), nice and warm, is her favorite place to be.
It has been a wonderful experience to be a part of Penny’s first month. The excitement of the birth, the few weeks afterwards, and the love I feel towards my granddaughter reminds me of my grandson’s birth fourteen years ago. It feels good to embrace these moments all over again.
Watching my son’s newly acquired fatherhood has been a true gift. Penelope’s mom Jess told me the day after the birth that John said, “I can’t believe how beautiful she is.” I never doubted that he would look into his baby’s eyes and be in love.
When John and Jess found out they were expecting, John was a nervous father to be. I tried to talk to him on a number of occasions but I was too wordy and he, too wound up. Like an organized person on hyper drive, he saw everything that needed to be done- the nursery painted and complete, plenty of frozen meals in the fridge, lots of clean baby onesies ready for action.
It turned out Penelope was on her own schedule. She arrived two weeks after her due date, giving both Jess and John lots of extra time. I called one day to invite them to dinner and Jess told me John was cleaning out closets. By the time Penny arrived, they were both ready.
To watch my son with his daughter is simultaneously a spiritual and hilarious experience. He looks at her like she is the stars and the sky. Then he kisses her hands and nose. Penny stares at him like he is her favorite boyfriend. If she makes funny noises or faces, we all laugh. Baby, Mom, and Dad have a bond of love. If she is crying, John will pick her up and talk to her. Most of the time (unless she wants mommy’s milk) Penny stops crying.
John and Jess are a team. It is reassuring for me to see them in action. They will frequently give each other breaks, taking naps to recharge themselves. John tidies up the house nightly, prepares a nice dinner, then cleans up the kitchen. Jess will nurse Penelope, a full time job at the moment.
A few days ago I spent the afternoon with them. While I held Penny, John cooked dinner. Funky 80’s music played in the background. A great song came on and the four of us danced. It was the best.
I’m a calmer grandmother this time around. Fourteen years of grand wisdom have given me a perspective of when to worry and when to let it go. God has granted us a huge blessing. Her name is Penelope Katherine.
Thank you to my daughter Michelene who wrote this beautiful post about her rescue dog Sebastian. Enjoy this heart warming story! xo Joanne
“Life is a Series of Dogs” ~ George Carlin
We had moved into our lovely house in the country with almost twelve acres and rescued a Great Dane named Molly. She was growing up quickly and required a lot of love and attention. After much thought, planning, and financial checking we decided that we wanted to adopt another dog. Our pet needed a pet- someone to run around and do dog stuff with.
We looked for weeks and met plenty of wonderful dogs of all breeds and ages. Some rescue organizations were easier to contact than others and a few private rescue groups never returned our calls or emails. One hot summer day a darling young pup showed up on petfinder.com. He had the cutest face and a slightly tilted head that spoke to his intelligent and inquisitive nature. The rescue group said he had a great personality but he had been adopted and brought back to the shelter three times because he was simply too rambunctious for his previous owners.
Molly was more than happy to tote along on the two hour car ride to meet Sebastian. She rode most of the way with her beautiful face out the window basking in the waves and stares from the other cars. We took Molly to a park down the street to get away from the barking and frantic atmosphere of the rescue kennel and one of the staff members brought Sebastian down to meet Molly. From the moment Sebastian laid eyes on Molly standing under the pavilion in the lush green park- he was in love. Molly was having none of his affections though and gruffly told Sebastian that she was a lady and his rude behavior was not going to be tolerated. There was no aggression in either dog so we asked the rescue group if we could give it a try. They checked our references and said they would be thrilled for us to adopt Sebastian and any other dog we wanted. We were humbled and made arrangements to bring Sebastian to his new home.
I left the windows cracked the whole drive home. I wasn’t sure if Sebastian liked car rides, got car sick, or if he would have any other surprises for me. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when dealing with a new animal and I wasn’t about to let him take a flying leap out of the car on the Turnpike. To my surprise, he simply sat in the back seat and gazed at me. It wasn’t intimidating or worrying. He just seemed to be curious about me and my intentions (or maybe he was judging my driving). 🙂
Back home Sebastian fit right in. His favorite place to sleep was downstairs in the doggy kennel portion of the basement with a couch and chair. We figured he liked the quiet after the craziness of the shelter environment which is brimming with anxiety and energy. He was not into wagging his tail or getting excited over much of anything. We were careful to put him through his paces (checking for food and toy aggression) and give him plenty of exercise in our back yard with an acre of fenced in land. Sebastian loves to play fetch with balls and Frisbees and anything that bounces and scampers across the yard. I’ve shared most of my life with dogs but never had one that played fetch. I was beyond thrilled!
Sebastian did have some quirks. I don’t think he had ever seen a sweeper, Swiffer, pots, pans, and many other household items. One night he woke me up in the middle of the night barking at the giant canning pot in the kitchen. He was not sure what it was but he was sure it didn’t belong there! Obviously it was a potential threat worthy of waking me up to check out. He also had some skittish behaviors that led us to believe he’d been abused at some point. Molly loves to grab water droplets from the air when Gavin washes his hands and flicks the remaining water drops at Molly. Sebastian cowered from the water drops and any other gesture that he was not familiar with.
After about a month of having Sebastian in the house I felt comfortable enough with our trust level to try something new. We were standing in the sun soaked kitchen one beautiful afternoon and I reached down and hugged him lightly with both arms. That was the first time I saw him wag his tail. We had been giving him plenty of space and just thought he wasn’t a particularly snuggly or affectionate dog (we were fine with that). I think he was waiting for us to take him back to the shelter like his previous families had done. This guy was ours and he wasn’t going anywhere! I wish I had a picture of the first time he laid on the couch with us. At first he wasn’t sure what to think about the potentially precarious situation. After about two minutes he was comfortable and snoring so loudly I had to turn the TV volume up to hear it.
Sebastian and Molly sometimes get into trouble but they prefer hiking around the many trails and chasing wildlife through the yard. Furniture destruction is only a backup plan for when there hasn’t been enough excitement and mystery in their lives. You never know what could be inside of a couch cushion until you look, right?
Today we’re grateful that Sebastian has been in our lives for well over a year and is such a wonderful addition to our family. He plays well with people and dogs alike. He and Molly are like siblings with the appropriate amounts of love, playfulness, with a sprinkle of trouble and getting on each other’s nerves from time to time. The shelter dog who had four families took as much of a chance on us as we did on him and we all lived happily ever after.
If you are considering adding to your family, please consider a rescue.
Please post your furry family members on our Facebook link or feel free to leave a comment below about your favorite pet!
“The Simple Path
Silence is Prayer
Prayer is Faith
Faith is Love
Love is Service
The Fruit of Service is Peace”
― Mother Teresa
How are you finding holiday peace? I have to tell you- I am not finding it at big box retail stores. It’s not in the canned music on the radio station either.
Instead, I am finding peace through time with friends and family. I am also finding it through tiny bits of service.
I don’t have much extra money these days so I look for creative ways to serve others. Last week, a good friend of mine gave me a pail of dog food. She lost both her pets a few weeks ago and I said yes to the food for my dog Jordan. Here’s what happened on the way to my mom’s, less than an hour after she gave me that pail.
I was driving up a long hill and noticed a small dog running across the road. I slowed down. Then a young teenage boy appeared, running after the dog. I slowed down even more. Next thing you know, the dog runs back across the road and the boy is flailing his arms as if to stop traffic.
I remembered that dog food in the back of my car. I pulled over and flipped open my hatchback. I grabbed a handful, sat down on the ground, dropped the dog food next to me. Can you guess the rest?
I called the dog and here he comes. It takes less than one minute. The boy grabs the dog while it goes for the dog food. In between hugging his dog, the young man says at least three or four grateful thank you’s in a row. I said “thank you for helping me do a good deed today.”
At my church two weeks ago, fifteen plus volunteers assembled 240 ham sandwiches to make 120 lunches for the hungry families of FOCUS Pittsburgh, the Orthodox ministry center in the Hill District. Jim and I delivered them next morning and wow, was that a good feeling.
Small ways to serve, and BIG ways to serve. I read with interest the woman who went to Toys R Us in Bellingham, Mass and paid off $20,000 worth of layaways. (I wondered how much her personal wealth is. Maybe that was most of it?) Or 9 year old Jarrett who cashed in a $160 tablet he won in a school fundraiser, grabbed tags from the angel tree and bought gifts for 15 children. Amazing.
It’s nice to do great big things but it is also very fulfilling to do small things. I believe it doesn’t matter if you do non profit work for a living (I did for a long time). When I get paid for work, I don’t count it as service. We all have a few extra hours to do something for someone else less fortunate this holiday.
My friend Daleen recently wrote a post on keeping dollar bills handy for those Salvation Army buckets. I personally never pass one up. I give small amounts but when I think of those like me (who also give small amounts), I bet those add up to BIG amounts.
No matter your contribution, this is what I believe the season is really all about. Kindness, compassion, new birth and life. We owe it to ourselves and others to give in the most generous way we possibly can.
The weather had been blustery for a couple of days, but luckily last Wednesday it gave us a break. That’s when my mom, Aunt Joy, Michelene (my daughter) and I came together for a girl’s day out of lunch and Christmas window shopping.
We chose a local Eat’n Park as our starting point. After having lunch there, it was only a short ride to Soergel’s Orchards and Greenhouse. They’ve been around for ages and Michelene even remarked that my mother had taken her there as a small child. We were not disappointed when we decided to look in Soergel’s bakery for a sweet treat. Even with choices of baklava, chocolate or pumpkin gobs, or small lemon merigue pies, Michelene chose sugar cookies that turned out to be pillowy puffs of almost cake like goodness, with a fine sprinkle of sugar on top. With a cup of coffee, it was the perfect winter treat.
I was happy to have Michelene along as we maneuvered mom and Aunt Joy through aisles chock full of Christmas treats and treasures. Soergel’s has an amazing Christmas shop with lots of ornaments, decorations, ribbons, sleigh bells and table linens. It was a feast for holiday eyes and hearts.
After some time at Soergel’s, the ladies were still game for one more stop. We hit Sewickley Creek Greenhouses on the way back to my mom’s. We could smell the pine and candles when we walked in the door of this beautiful greenhouse and gift shop. The owners were so friendly and asked if we needed help with anything. We loved just walking around and looking at all the gifts.
Here’s what I think of on these kind of days. Every moment is precious and I will remember these days with a fondness. So if I get a bit tired or distracted along the way, I stop and remind myself to be in the moment. I have this experience with my mom, aunt and daughter that time will never erase. My friends tell me to enjoy every minute. I think that’s good advice.
Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher- Oprah
It’s been almost a year since I left my full time job. Hard to believe but here I am, Spring rapidly approaching and life completely changed.
How I can go from being employed full time only a year ago, to my now current state of underemployment (yes, that’s what I’m calling it!), yet still have a full plate of activities, boggles my mind.
I have filled my time with all the things I always wanted to do but had to squeeze in the time for before. Time with my mom, grandson and my own kids, phone and real time with friends, lunch with Jim, working on my business. I pinch myself daily and then say a gratitude prayer.
My event business is slowly gaining speed. I receive phone calls, follow up and then meet people. I have a couple of exciting things on the horizon and really, my cup runneth over. God is blessing me in many ways.
I’ve never been good with uncertainties but lately, I am learning to accept each day as it unfolds. Everything I need is being provided to me. I sometimes miss my full time income but in the next moment, I realize I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s really about what I can do for others.
Remarkably, the friends I am spending time with are lifting me higher. They so believe in me that even I wonder myself what they see. I have felt for a long time that God sees things coming. Perhaps (S)He is sending me the people who will guide me down this constantly changing path of mine. I know this- I will honor the path by keeping the faith.
Is there someone in your life who lifts you higher?
Well, I know. When I feel that restlessness, that movement deep within me that says it’s time to break out of my own comfort zone.
When I created the website for my business Katherine’s Daughter Events, I found a fabulous webmaster (thanks to my sister Mary!) who held my hand every step of the way. From the beginning of our friendship Susan encouraged me to not only create my own events website, but to move my blog where I would have more control over what I can do with it.
The time has come. We are moving this blog, Katherine’s Daughter, over to a self hosted site in the next few days where it will be easier for me to manage and hopefully, grow my readership beyond what it is right now.
What will happen to you? Absolutely nothing if you are already an email subscriber. You will not notice a thing and you should still receive all of my posts via your email. I applaud you, my faithful reader, for sticking with me and I look forward to having you along on this next phase of my blogging journey.
If you are jointly a WordPress follower and an email follower, you will have to re-subscribe if you still want to receive email updates. I will still show up in your WordPress reader. So we can still hang out together!
This is a brave new world for me and recently I heard the quote “Facing fear is the new black.” I love that. I believe in plowing ahead, stretching out of my comfort zone and taking new chances.
So here we go into the next new phase! I’ll keep you posted!
I bought myself the most beautiful bouquet of roses the other day.
It was shortly after Valentine’s Day when I happened to drop by to see my favorite florist. His shop can literally take my breath away. There is always so much to look at, beautifully displayed and seasonally inspirational. There were buckets of flowers everywhere, mainly roses, in many gorgeous colors and they were perfectly open.
Jim, the owner, is an old friend of mine. I asked him to make me a bouquet and it was a blend of white and pale pink roses. They were stunning and as soon as I got home, I searched for the perfect vase. A crystal decanter did the trick. The flowers changed my whole house and lifted it up a notch in cheeriness.
A few days later, it snowed like a blizzard and I began to wonder again, if winter would ever be over. But then the snow stopped, the sun came out and everything began to melt. The roses kept smiling at me from the table.
I can feel spring coming closer. The temperature is warming and I chuckle as I find Jordan’s hair in little clumps around the rug. She is shedding her winter coat- another sure sign of approaching spring. The heavy snow is melting in my yard and there are slippery spots. But thank goodness, it is melting.
I am feeling moments of pure joy. It is in the warmth of the sun and the smile on my husband’s face. It is in the smell of my morning coffee and the anticipation of the trip I am going on with some dear friends. It is in the emails from my west coast friend who by the way, sent me the most delicious fudge sauce I have ever tasted. I peeled a banana and spooned a little fudge on every bite. Yes, it was decadent.
I’m working on a June wedding and Cindy, my client met me today at the very same floral shop where I bought the roses. We were inspired by Jim’s ideas and his expertise was evident in the things he proposed. Afterwards, Cindy and I rode together to select linens to finish the tables. It was an amazing day!
I feel beautifully unencumbered tonight, as if the heaviness of this winter is slowly melting away, to reveal a new layer right below the surface. I can craft that layer anyway I want and as wonderful as I wish.
Years ago, my first employment right out of college was as a recreation director for a faith based nursing and assisted living ministry.
I had my own office and thought I had reached the pinnacle of employment success. My responsibilities included programming all the activities for 40 nursing wing patients and 40 residents. Meals for them were all provided, meds dispensed, oh and by the way, they were all women.
The average age was 85. It was a challenge to do activities planning with seniors of such limited physical movement. So I planned birthday parties of the month, brought in entertainment, utilized my piano playing skills (yes mom and dad, this did pay off!) and even brought in dogs through an organization that catered to the elderly.
But my absolute favorite activity was Poetry Corner. At first, I had a large turnout but gradually the numbers dwindled. Soon, it was just me and Constance. I loved Constance. She was in her mid 80’s and had alot of spunk. She also had a chaise lounge in her room that I loved. I’ve had a fondness for them ever since! One of these days, I’m going to have myself a chaise lounge.
Constance loved poetry and instilled in me an even greater love of classical poetry. She had two “Heart Throbs” books and we read from them over and over again. If you’ve never heard of them, here is what the inside foreword had to say about volume two: “Following the first announcement of “Heart Throbs” six years ago has come the most fascinating experience ever allotted to publishers. This book, containing 840 selections made from the contributions of 52,000 people, has become a classic in thousands of homes and libraries. The simple bringing together of the favorite selections of the people has far transcended the results of any mere literary or editorial compilations.”
I grew so fond of the books that when I left my employment at the home, I asked Constance if I could have them. She said YES.
Since then, life, marriage, children have all taken precedence. I’ve not looked at the books much but I do bring them out every Valentine’s Day. I happened to think of Constance recently and my heart did a leap. Her face came into perfect view and I can remember her just like it was yesterday.
In honor of Constance, here is one of my favorite poems:
How is it possible to find comfort in a winter that seems to never end?
Here in the Northeast, as in other parts of the country, we have been bombarded by snow, snow, snow and freezing temperatures. We woke up to freezing rain and snow this morning yet again, and it’s only the beginning of February!
As optimistic as I try to be, I can get down in the dumps about all this cold weather. But I do have some secret weapons that help me through a long winter. Here are some of my best strategies:
First, I use pops of color to keep me motivated. I have a set of bright beaded bracelets I bought from a sweet bunch of young girls who were selling them to raise money. I think it was the Girl Scouts. So I bought a handful of them and sport them on bleak dreary days. I also have some bright sweaters- red!- and cheery scarves just perfect for a pick me up.
Second, I made an indoor winter tree. Since I didn’t have the heart to completely dismantle my holiday tree, I adapted it. I put away the obvious Christmas ornaments and left the winter ones on. I have a small pair of mittens, a miniature ice skate, frosted cranberry branches and other red and white decorations amid golden twinkle lights. I admit to lighting this glowing tree every morning while I drink my first coffee of the day and do my spiritual readings. I love the glow and the light infuses hope into my heart and soul.
Third, I spend time with my friends. We go to lunch, hit the mall or my favorite consignment shop. I put on my warmest boots and coat and push myself to get out, as long as the roads are good. Lunch with Amy is one of my favorite things and we went to a place recently with a crackling fire. I love fires!
Fourth, I drink a lot of hot cocoa! I bought some candy cane cocoa at holiday’s end and I’ve been enjoying a mug almost daily. Yes, it is indulgent but tough times call for strategic measures! Cocoa is a must in winter weather and marshmallows make it all the better.
Finally, I try new recipes. I made a delicious navy bean soup twice in the last few weeks. Making my own chicken broth and using a leftover holiday ham bone cranked up the volume on this heart warming soup! Check out the recipe HERE if you’re a bean soup fan!
Don’t you feel warmer and cozier already? Please share your winter weather strategy measures. I’d love to hear from you and I’m sure others would as well!