Category Archives: life

Pay Attention

Jim's Wisteria- just beautiful

Jim’s Wisteria- just beautiful

I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen. Anne Lamott

Anne is so right. Have you taken a look outside lately? I have. In the morning, I open the windows to let fresh air in. The birds are chirping their beautiful songs. There’s a chill in the air and sometimes there is mist. Other mornings, the sun is bright from the moment it rises.

My yard is full of blooming things. Jim’s wisteria has been filled with fragrant purple flowers for almost a week. The lavender and peppermint plants are already wonderfully green. My irises and peonies have buds on them. Light purple phlox is in full bloom.

My lilac bushes are on their way out; they were beautiful this year. White and light purple, I picked small bunches and placed them in old milk bottles in the center of my kitchen table.

Let us remember to stop and smell. To look and see what is around us. I can get so busy, caught up in daily living and I can forget. Forget to take note of what is really going on around me and the little things that make this world so wonderful.

The birds have me suffciently intrigued enough that I may just find a bird song CD to listen to in the car. Why? I’d love to know which bird is singing what. Maybe I’ll sing along with them.

Not sure what this is! Any idea? Isn't it beautiful?

Not sure what this is! Any idea? Isn’t it beautiful?

Jim's Rhododendron- saved from a job site where it was almost thrown away.

Jim’s Rhododendron- saved from a job site where it was almost thrown away.

 

What’s blooming in your yard, in your neck of the woods? I’d love to know.

xo Joanne

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It’s My Son’s Birthday

My favorite picture of John and Me, taken about a year ago

My favorite picture of John and me

Today my son John is 29 years old. It’s hard for me to believe but yes, it’s really true.

When he was born, I wanted to give him a strong name. I absolutely love “John” and I think it fits him perfectly. I know I spoiled him (like I did Michelene); honestly, I don’t think his feet touched the ground for his first two years of life. He rarely cried or fussed. He did make a lot of noise when his friend Ryan would come over to play. 🙂

John must truly have God’s grace because he has had a few close calls. What is it about boys that test our strength? In middle school, he broke his collarbone playing basketball. In his first couple years of college, he survived a motorcycle accident (I said no more motorcycles after that) and an appendicitis attack (when Jim happened to be out of town- oy!).

John at an event for Andy Warhol

John at an event for Andy Warhol

What I love most about John is his warm and often times, very funny personality. He had the picture (above) as his cover photo on Facebook for a while. I’d laugh out loud everytime I saw it. His laugh is awesome and it comes from his whole heart.

John lived as a resident watchman in a large religious institution (in exchange for running the front desk a few nights a week) for seven+ years until he just recently left. Members of the congregation would send me emails and little notes about what a great guy he was. When I’d drop by to visit him, I would get stopped in the hall. People love to tell me about him and what a good kid he is.

John didn’t like the large university he went to years ago but he excelled at a smaller technical school. The IT degree he received is perfect for him. He loves working on software problems and diagnosing issues. He is like his dad in that sense, very patient, which is something I am not (but grateful that he is). And, it’s really wonderful to have your own IT guy at your disposal.

I love when he gets together with his friends and takes pictures. This one was from a wedding he was a part of in Punta Cana with his good friend Pat.

John (3rd from Left) in Punta Cana

John (3rd from Left) in Punta Cana

John, I am so blessed to have you as my son. You are truly a gift from above and I am proud of you! Happy Birthday!

John and his girl Jess

John and his girl Jess

 

 

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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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Cultivating Happiness

Cherry Blossoms by my daughter, Michelene

Magnolia Blossoms by my daughter, Michelene

Our happiness depends on the habit of mind we cultivate. So practice happy thinking every day. Cultivate the merry heart, develop the happiness habit, and life will become a continual feast. Norman Vincent Peale

I love this optimistic quote. I’m into happiness these days because even though we still have some snow on the ground, I am thinking, dreaming of magnolia trees!

Their beautiful pink color, guarantee of spring and summer, and magnificent beauty bring a smile to my face. I think I first laid eyes upon a magnolia tree when I visited my godfather John in Charleston, South Carolina as a little girl. I remember their huge blossoms and heady fragrance. I probably fell in love with them on the spot.

Around here in SW Pennsylvania, the magnolia trees will bloom if it gets warm and stays warm. I am keeping my fingers crossed this year for no late frosts!

Magnolia 2

Magnolias seemed a fitting entry flower for this first post on my new self hosted website because they make a bold, beautiful statement. Yes, I am wearing my big girl bloomers and hoping, praying that my email subscribers and my blogger friends are viewing this post. Can you please let me know? A quick comment below or an email to me at katherinesdaughter@gmail.com will do much for positive reinforcement!

After this long and challenging winter, I am patiently cultivating happiness. Dreamy images of digging in soft soil with a warm sun bring me closer to nature and to God. I can’t wait to make my first backyard campfire and hear the crackle from all those random branches that have been laying around my yard for months. My New York cousin made her reservation this week to come with her daughter for some quality time during April’s spring break. This makes me very happy. Lent has begun with its great promise.

How are you cultivating happiness? My daughter Michelene is an avid gardener and she shared her seed wish list with me the other day. Squash, pumpkins, sunflowers, heirloom tomatoes were all there and more, and I could see the twinkle in her eye. She is ready for her own garden, at her own place and I bet she’ll share her seed extras with Jim and I. This is cultivating happiness.

If we are not defined by our problems but by our gifts and talents, life becomes a canvas on which we can paint the world we have always dreamed of. The challenges of the past will not matter. We can move forward, confident of our God given abilities, and with appreciation for our own beauty within.

As one of my favorite artists, Mary Engelbreit would say- “Bloom Where You Are Planted”.

What is your favorite way to cultivate happiness?

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Moments of Pure Joy

DSC_0042“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

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.

White roses

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God Has Confidence in Me

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about minding my own business. It was called Keeping My Spoon in My Own Bowl. Since then, a few more things have happened that have me scratching my head in wonder.

I’m not sure if it’s this long winter and the toll it is taking on me or others, but honestly, I’m feeling like I need a long vacation. I seem to be ticking people off and not in a good way. It’s been a very trying couple of weeks.

So what do you do when your words or actions are fodder to the fire to another person? I know what I used to do. Admit to nothing, deny everything and counter accuse. I literally could do no wrong. Never looking at my own part in any conflict used to be the norm, even when I might have had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

What is the difference now? When I upset someone, even if I mean no malice or ill will, I will apologize. If I feel truly in my heart I did no wrong, I will still say “I”m sorry” if someone takes what I did as a personal attack. With this action, I pay attention to my side of the street. I keep it clean.

I do this because I know deep down, God has confidence in me. If there is a lesson to be learned, then let me learn it. Perhaps I am being used as an instrument for someone else’s lesson. Whatever the reason, my soul is restored through honesty and the willingness to look at the log in my eye instead of the splinter in everyone else’s.

The maladies I caused myself by my own past thinking, stinking thinking as I like to call it, were numerous. Sore back, restlessness, discontent, sleeping problems, irritability. It was because my slate was not clean. I carried around burdens and behaviors that I didn’t know how to get rid of. Only through deep introspection and revelation to trusted individuals were these burdens removed. And then apologies doled out, the sweet antidote to my troubled ego.

I fight this of course. Don’t think I go around apologizing and then feeling all cozy and warm. My head fights with me, I chastise myself for getting into situations and not thinking more clearly. But, who is to say that my challenges were not exactly as God planned them? Maybe they were meant that way for a reason.

DSC_0036So I keep plodding along, putting one foot in front of the other, waiting for spring, waiting for the promise of renewal. I will watch for the snow drops soon; they will begin to come up in my back yard. I embrace the sunrise and the sunset because that gets me closer to the beauty of a new season, a fresh start. I go easy on myself because deep down, I am keeping the faith.

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My “Heart Throbs” for You!

The Old Scrapbook

The Old Scrapbook

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:

The Arrow and the Song

I shot an arrow into the air

It fell to earth, I knew not where;

For, so swiftly it flew, the sight

Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,

It fell to earth, I knew not where;

For who has sight so keen and strong,

That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak

I found the arrow, still unbroke;

And the song, from beginning to end,

I found again in the heart of a friend.

Henry W. Longfellow

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Far From Perfection

Christmas Tree

So Jim tells me the emergency room (where he works) has been swamped the last couple of days with all kinds of non urgent cases. I wonder if it’s the stress of the holidays and maybe the dis-EASE born of pressure, overspending, and overeating that most of us are not even aware of. Plus it’s a full moon. Always a factor for consideration.

Used to be I could never get Christmas quite perfect enough. There would always be some small thing I was unhappy about- my own presents, not enough money for everything- you name it and there in would lay my dis-ease. Over the years, I’ve had to get over myself and my quest for perfection in everything. It’s just too much work.

When I was in the big throes of menopause a few years ago, I honestly wanted to check into the Hyatt during the days of Christmas. My responsibilities (or my perception of them) so overwhelmed me I didn’t know how I was going to get through it all. I didn’t want to take medication; I wanted to figure out how to manage without a meltdown. I did it and I have my family to thank for it.

I divided up food obligations and asked for help. We ate out a couple of times or ordered pizza when I wasn’t up to cooking. We rolled up in old blankets on the couch instead of matching sheets and comforters. I got through those hot flashes by easing myself into a humbler, less complicated existence.

Also important is my conclusion that God loves me no matter my flaws. My failed dessert, my dusty house, my occasional impatient words to my husband or kids- thank goodness I am forgiven all of it. I am not unique in the sense of my suffering and the sooner I get over that, the better off I am.

My holidays are not entirely stress free now but they are much better. Years ago I saw a close friend of mine react so calmly in the face of a hostess calamity. She had been through the death of her husband only a few years before. We were outside in her yard and a huge table filled with potluck dishes decided then and there that it wasn’t equipped to handle such a load. Down that table came, crashing to the ground and with it, all those donations of salad and dessert. I watched as my friend calmly finished what she was doing (at the other end of the yard) and allowed her friends to grab and handle the mess. What an example she set for me.

People who have been through the wringer emotionally, financially and otherwise, can sometimes achieve a level of acceptance and serenity about life that serves as an example to the rest of us. Allowing myself the opportunity to work through the great pain and dis-ease of wanting perfection but falling far from it, is the best gift I can give myself.

How are you handling the pressure this holiday season? What have you let yourself off the hook for?

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The Last Little Bits of Summer

IMG_2367

“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”
William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Here we are, the end of August and summer is winding to a close. Where has the time gone? I remember writing my late spring blog post, eagerly awaiting summer’s full glory, anticipating the slow, warm days I was so looking forward to.

As I look back, it has been an amazing summer. Beauty has abounded in my area, despite weird weather like too hot, too cool, too much rain. But somehow through it all, I managed a slight tan, many back yard campfires and lots of juicy peaches.

IMG_2510My cousin Christina came from New York with her daughter Ariel and we had two glorious weeks that included trips to the local farmer’s market and our favorite, the Fiestaware outlet. We couldn’t get enough of Chris’ guacamole and made it no less than four times while she was here! There were lots of salads, grilled vegetables and fresh tomatoes from our garden to enjoy. I’ll never forget her glorious lentils, bean soup and our endless cups of coffee in the back yard, as we caught sightings of the local mama deer and her two baby fawns at play.

I went to Chicago for a wedding, my only real getaway, and what a real pleasure that was. Riding along with my aunt and uncle (my mother’s only brother), I hung out with their teenage grandchildren and never knew how really cool they were. The Chicago cousins were so hospitable I feel like sneaking back there for a visit all my own. (Get ready Deb!)

Through all of this, I felt the faith, the presence of grace all the time. If I momentarily forgot it, I remembered it in the sight of the baby hawk flying over my house, the random phone call from a friend, and the early morning sunrise. I realized the preciousness of time, the ability to take this time to rest, rejuvenate and get ready for whatever will be ahead.

School is beginning next week for my grandson. He is going to the seventh grade (wow, where has THAT time gone?) and Labor Day is just around the corner. I’m looking forward to promoting my new business, looking for still more partners and always searching out great event ideas.

I saw a few red leaves on the ground lately and I know fall is just around the corner. Enjoy these last few summer days with a sentimental heart!

DSC_0090Thanks to Christina for all these beautiful pictures!

How was your summer? Are you looking forward to fall?

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When Less Is Really Better

DSC_0145

“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Life is moving in slow motion for me these days. For the first time in many years I have the luxury of enjoying summer, spending time with my mom, family and friends. It’s a big switch for me, multi- tasker that I am, as I am used to cramming as much as I can into my waking hours. It was nothing for me to go non stop from 7am until 10pm at night, rarely stopping long enough to catch my breath in between. My sister Mary said to me once, “Jo, you’re making us all look bad.”

These days, it is life without much of an agenda. It is freeing really to have a minimal schedule and plenty of time to work on small projects. And, the bonus to all this is I am living on a lot less money than I used to. My needs have become very simple. I tried to figure it out the other day, what was it that was really different? First, I am just not buying stuff like I used to. Second, I am content with a lot less.

DSC_0162Part of this I can attribute to grace and age. As I truly work on embracing life from the standpoint of a spiritual journey, material things have become less and less important. As I get older I feel like I am truly embracing what my mother Katherine has always set an example of- that less is really better. Bigger, fancier and complicated just means more expensive, more maintenance, more potential aggravation. Make more money and we spend more money. Easy and simple I’m finding is really the way to go. Pare things down, decide what’s really important, ease back and enjoy it.

The bonus to all this less is more attitude is more time and energy, and a bit of extra money for what I feel most passionate about. The ability to decide what’s really important bestows a true attitude of generosity in so many other ways. Ways that can really make a difference.

Thanks again to my daughter Michelene for these beautiful photos!

What’s your simplest pleasure? I’d love to know!

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