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

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015

Faith is Freedom

Photography by FitzPicz
Photography by FitzPicz

“Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.”

Rabindranath Tagore

I spent last weekend with some good friends. We braved the winter weather of snow and slush. The sun came out briefly before the rain began and gave us something to smile about. It wasn’t a much warmer place, but it was a good place none the less.

I had alot of time to think and rest. Sometimes I find the only way to get inspired is to get out of town. Truly it seems that when I am an hour or more from my own home, my brain starts to relax. It begins to think of new ideas for just about anything, and creative ways to market my business. Without my usual responsibilites for those few days, I can feel free to read, walk, nap or socialize without worrying about what’s for dinner or anything else!

FitzPics
FitzPicz– Beautiful

I’m back home now. Though it is still cold and snowing on and off, I know winter is almost over. In a few weeks I will walk to the back of my field and snow drops will be peeking up through the tiny bits of snow under the trees. I will count the days until Easter and look forward to my church services and a pascal dinner at my aunt and uncle’s. Those snow drops will be only the beginning. After that will be daffodils, tulips, and forsythia. I will know what a spring breeze feels like again. I will wait for the days to get warmer and longer.

FitzPicz
FitzPicz

Last month I wrote about having a different attitude about winter. So far it has seemed to work. I’ve never been fond of this season and the weather for the last two months has given me its best. But I’ve survived! Here’s what’s contributed to my tiny bits of gratitude and happiness, and kept me in an upbeat mood.

The birds in my backyard. They are here daily and are stunning. Red, blue, black and white. Just gorgeous. The photos I’m featuring today were taken by a friend of my cousin. John is actually from Kentucky but it feels like he is next door to me. The cardinals in flight are simply beautiful. Bird watching has given me pause for gratitude every day. Thank you John for allowing me to showcase your photos!

My friends and family. I make a point to get out at least once a week for lunch with a friend. It isn’t expensive. We do hamburgers or salads and chat it up. There is nothing that can replace a warm friendship with another woman. Nothing. Especially one that you truly love. And I’m thankful for my phone friends as well. I have those too and my God those women are awesome. And family? Well, it goes for the saying that when I am surrounded by my family, I’m in a magnificent place.

So here we are. It is almost March. Hopefully, spring will come a bit early and lighten us all. If not, so what? Faith is freedom. Faith is believing that spring will come and soon enough we’ll be sitting outside, enjoying a cool beverage and a warm breeze!

Thank you FitzPicz
Thank you FitzPicz

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015

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?

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015

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

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015

Spring and Renewal

DSC_0040

“Expect to have hope rekindled. Expect your prayers to be answered in wondrous ways. The dry seasons in life do not last. The spring rains will come again.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

Here in the Northeast USA, it is hard to tell it is Spring.

It has snowed every day this week- an amazing feat for Pittsburgh in late March. I can’t remember when it’s snowed so much, especially since the first day of spring has already passed.

I have been thinking about buds, new life and renewal. When spring arrives, we all have a chance to dust ourselves off, change up to more color and start anew. I’m feeling like a living testament to change…to spring….to new life.

DSC_0045Everything I have laid in place over the last two years is going to shift….again. My mother’s illness has been the catalyst. I am reminded of M. Scott Peck‘s ideals, documented in his famous book “The Road Less Traveled”. In it, he describes how we all have internal “maps” of where we go and what we do. Well, my “map” is about to change. I’m choosing a new path on my road of life.

Here’s the first change. I’ve put notice in at my job and am leaving in two weeks. Yes, I am trading my comfortable, secure, full time job for more time. Time I wish to spend with my mom, my family, friends and myself.

Change number two. I need some source of income so I signed up to be an independent sales consultant with a company that looks very…faithful. I am going to shamelessly self promote myself just this once. Check out www.faithco.net/joannecain to see my latest venture. (PS. That is not me at the bottom of the website!)

So whew! So much change. What inspired all this? Well, in addition to my mother’s long illness, time played a major factor in bringing me around . You have a lot of time to think when your loved one is in the hospital for an extended period. You have nothing to do but sit there, think, fill up glasses with ice water, think, watch mom sleep, think. It is life changing really; the shift that occurs in your thought process when you realize how precious, fragile and short life really is.

In all my pondering and all these precious blocks of time I’ve had lately, I’ve been wondering if God sometimes hits me over the head to get my attention. “What does it take” I imagine him saying, “to push you to your next level, to get on with it, for goodness sakes?”

Because I confess…I had been thinking for months about how to spend more time with my family and on the things I am passionate about (writing, non profit work). I had some ideas but I was holding back. I was hesitant to let go of the security within my life; a life comfortable and fulfilling, just not as deeply spiritual as I yearned it to be.

What does God have planned for me? Truly, I don’t know. My one friend likes to say, “God has a plan for us, but we are not on the planning committee.” If I am willing to turn my life over to a power greater than myself, I’m sure my purpose going forth will present itself to me.

DSC_0036Photos of “Snowdrops” by my daughter, Michelene Cain

Tell me…..Have you ever given something over completely to faith? What happened?

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015