Tag Archives: Family

The Most Memorable Christmas

Do you have a Christmas that stands out in your mind?

In all of my Christmases past, there is one that stands out the most. I want to tell you about it….

Michelene and John opening their presents!

Michelene and John opening their presents!

It was about 24 years ago or so. I don’t remember the exact year. Jim was in nursing school and I was working as a sales manager for a home party company.

December was never a big month for sales and Jim, due to his schooling, was not working. Christmas was looking pretty gloomy for our young family. Michelene was probably 5 years old, John was maybe 2.

One day, two weeks before Christmas, Jim came home from school with news. He had applied for a scholarship months before and lo and behold, he (we!) was considered the neediest of all the students.

I think the check was for around $800. It was perfect. I paid some bills, bought some presents, and we bought a Christmas tree. 

It was not a fancy Christmas but we were provided for. We had everything we needed.

Why does this Christmas stand out in my mind? Maybe because it was my own little miracle. Maybe because I had faith that everything would work out ok.

It is a lesson that even whenever things can seem their gloomiest, there is a flicker of light somewhere that is burning bright. We only need look for the light and it will be there.

In this holiest of times, I hope you remember to look for the light.

Is there a Christmas that stands out in your mind? Tell me about it!

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Summer Gratitudes

There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.  ~Celia Thaxter

Labor Day is coming up this weekend and I always feel like it is the end cap to the summer. And though the first day of fall is still weeks away, I swear I can see the leaves starting to change before my eyes. I can hardly believe the summer is almost over.

How was your summer? Here in southwest Pennsylvania it was very hot, then very rainy, and now it’s just kind of perfect. The days are shorter (yes, always a bit depressing) and there is a chill at night and first thing in the morning. I don’t mind it necessarily; it is more comfortable with less heat and it’s much easier to sleep at night. Cooler weather is also perfect for little backyard campfires and toasted marshmallows!

Abundant Tomatoes!

I appreciate quite a few things about this summer. The first was the garden. Jim (my husband) and Michelene (my daughter), did a gorgeous job with the garden. We are still reaping tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, onions, garlic and basil. I never get tired of tomatoes and will eat them sliced and salted as long as the garden will give them to me.

Ariel and Jordan!

My cousins came from New York and brought a few extra persons along. Josh, who is seven, delighted me with the way he hung on his grandpapa (Julio), kissed his cheek so adamantly and hugged him endlessly. Imani came too, a blessing from above, and it was so good to spend some time with her. I am always happy to see Christina, Julio and Ariel. God has really blessed me with a beautiful family.

There were some fun birthday parties tossed into the summer mix; Michelene’s landmark birthday and Cally’s tree house soiree. I made some new friends and embraced relatives I do not always get to see so often. This was one of the best parts of the summer.

Congratulations John!

My son John graduated with a computer science degree and I am really proud of him. I just know he is going to make some great employer very happy!

There were some challenges too and that is always the case, isn’t it? We are getting over a loss and praying for the repair of a relationship. If we know deep in our heart that God loves us unconditionally, it is Grace that will help get us through the bumpy spots. Thank goodness we are not in charge of the universe. All we can do is pray and turn it over.

Last weekend the local township held its annual fair. I didn’t make it to the park in time to join my family, but I saw the ending night fireworks from the comfort of my own front yard. I had Jordan with me and she didn’t mind the noise a bit. As we sat on the lawn, in darkness, my heart was overflowing with love for my full life and gratitude for a summer well lived.

Farewell Summer of 2012!

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Kayaking on Raccoon Lake

All photos of Raccoon Lake by Michelene Cain

Every now and then I call a “Family Day”. I want my immediate family there: husband Jim (of course), my two adult kids, Michelene and John, John’s girlfriend Toni and my grandson, Gavin. It’s my way of keeping us connected and supportive of each other. We usually discuss ahead of time what we’re thinking of doing and it’s always something fun.

We were going to go to Cook Forest and canoe on the Clarion River but somehow it just didn’t happen. It’s a two hour drive each way and we’ve all been so busy. My brother in law Chuck mentioned recently that he kayaked at Raccoon Lake (a 10 minute ride from our house) and I was seriously interested.

My friend Mary kayaks and I used to see kayakers on the three rivers in Pittsburgh when I drove into Oakland for work. I have always been interested in kayaking but figured I was past my prime for it. Turns out this is not so. My biggest fear was what happens if the kayak tips over? (thinking my legs would be stuck inside of the kayak)…I asked my brother in law this and he said, “You just pop out. “

He also said you have to wear a life vest and upon hearing that, I was really game.

So we headed down to the lake around 6pm after a nice backyard cook-out, and after laying on the sunscreen and bug spray. The lake was positively gorgeous and well, you judge for yourself. We had a wonderful time!

Do you ever have a “Family Day”? What do you like to do when you get together with family?

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5 Things My Dad Taught Me

Boy, was he handsome!

What can I say about my Dad? He was many things to me- father, role model, confidante and best friend. In my earliest recollections of him and in pictures, he was a happy go lucky guy, a huge presence with a big voice and a firm handshake. Everyone knew him as “Big Mike”. He had many friends, he loved to dance and he knew how to have a good time.

Dad was 6’4″ tall, a BIG GUY and he and my mom together raised three daughters. This, I think, must have been his worst nightmare at times, as his parents were Greek immigrants and Greeks, in my opinion, are STRICT with their daughters! He was no exception to this fanatical rule.

Here are some special things I remember about my dad. When he finally gave me permission to go to the prom in eleventh grade, there were tears in his eyes (initially he told me NO), he brought a football to the hospital when my son was born (remember, he had three daughters), he took me to car auctions where we ate hot dogs and sauerkraut (my mom hated sauerkraut and never made it!). Also, he loved chocolate covered peanuts and bushels of hard shell crabs.

Here are the 5 most important things my Dad taught me:

1. Love people for who they are. My Dad sold cars made in Japan (Nissans) when they first came to the USA. He was a top turret gunner in the Air Force during WWII but he held no prejudices.

2. Live Life to the fullest. Work hard but play hard and enjoy yourself. Dad loved to invite his buddies over for loud Greek music, shots of Ouzo and midnight dancing in the living room.

3. Have integrity. I sold cars with him for a few years. Once, I made a bottom line deal on a car and the buyers pulled out a newspaper ad for $100 off any car. I was ticked. My Dad said, “Honor it”.

4. There is no substitution for good salesmanship. Dad would look people in the eye, compliment them and always find something of common interest to talk about. To this day, my sisters and I share this character trait and I know we got it from him.

5. Do what you say. If he told you he was going to be somewhere at a certain time, he was there. He did not go back on a promise. He taught us to be on time, be responsible and STEP UP.

Dad passed away 15 years ago on Father’s Day, 1997. When I tell people this it always brings forth a sad comment. But at that time, I saw his humor in choosing that day to go. I could just picture him saying, “You’ll not forget me now!” Truly Dad, that would be impossible.

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A Hug of Grace

I grew up around my Greek grandma, my yiayia, who loved to give triple kisses. She would lean down, grab my head, turn my cheek to her lips and fire off three rocket-like kisses in a row. Then she’d mutter something sweet in her native Greek language and you knew you were really something special.

When I went to Greece, everyone there kissed you on both cheeks, whether they knew you or not. Usually they added a hug as well. No wonder the Greeks are known for their warm hospitality.

In this age of social media and detached conversations, I wonder if people are still touching, still hugging and kissing? And I mean in a friendly, I LOVE YOU, kind of way.

Last week, I read a story and saw a picture on the internet (which actually turned out to be from 1995) that almost stopped my heart. It was an image of two very small twins and one had her arm around the other. Apparently the one twin had not been doing well and a nurse fought to put the other twin in the incubator with the ailing one. When placed together, the one stronger twin swung her arm over the other more fragile one. The fragile baby stabilized and lived. I think this speaks volumes about the power of touch. Touch has the power to heal, to say I care about you, or even to say I’m with you on this.

These days, touching can be greatly misconstrued. It is a sad state of affairs sometimes when it’s done for the wrong reasons or when it gets out of hand. But I still believe in a warm embrace, a loving hug, a kiss bestowed as a valentine. I believe that we as humans crave touch, yearn for closeness and wish for connection. Hugs and kisses are an expression of our innate yearning to bond with our fellow human beings.

My husband Jim and I are cuddlers. Even now, while I’m still on the last edges of menopause, I lean against him in bed or touch my hot feet to his cool ones! Thankfully, he is a hugger and loves to snuggle.

Recently, Jim needed a small surgery on his knee. It was outpatient surgery and I hung out in the waiting room until they told me I could go sit with him. He was very groggy from the anesthesia so I didn’t say much. I sat down on the chair next to his bed and softly laid my hand on top of his. Sitting patiently, I waited for him to come around. I knew just touching his hand spoke volumes and words were not really necessary.

A touch, sometimes, is all it really takes.

Thanks to WordPress, for giving me an opportunity to show off one of my favorite posts!

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The Graces of Sisterhood

Graces

1.Greek & Roman Mythology Three sister goddesses, known in Greek mythology as Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia, who dispense charm and beauty.

2. Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people.

3.The state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God.

4. An excellence or power granted by God.

 I have been wanting to write about my two sisters for some time now. There are those ideas, as I’m sure other writers will attest to, that are just challenging to put into words. But here and now I’m going to try and describe the feelings I have for my two sisters.

L to R, Joanne, Mary, Cally

First, just bit of background. Mary is two years younger than me. When we were growing up, she and I played Batman together, rode Schwinn bikes together, fought and protected each other. Today she is an entrepreneurial, forward thinking, loving woman who makes time for anyone and any good mission or project. Cally is four years younger than me. I remember her as a child, but just barely. I am sure I protected her, watched over her, as my father often reminded me of my caretaker and role model responsibilities. Cally is soft and quiet but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t step up to the plate. She is quite the leader, eloquent writer and artistic creator.

I think the three of us are a blend of my father’s outstanding leadership qualities and our mother’s (Katherine) wisdom, strength and great Grecian- inherited event planning skills. How very lucky we are to have been so blessed!

It was not until the three of us left for college that I felt how really close we were. Though separated by distance, we would come together at holidays and on special occasions. As we got older, we shared our life experiences, our trials and tribulations of growing up. We have not agreed upon everything but we respect and support each other. I think we make a great team, bouncing ideas off each other and managing some good retail therapy when we have a chance to be together.

There is no denying that now, the relationship between us is very strong. I found a quote by Susan Ripps in which she says “There is no outsider anywhere who wouldn’t appreciate and even envy the tremendous advantage that sisters have, if properly utilized, against all odds”. How true!

At the Base of the Acropolis!

God must certainly have Grace in mind when he creates sisters.  Divine love, the state of being protected, and power to support, love and care for each other. When I found the definition of Graces in Wikipedia (in my opening), somehow it was just perfect for describing my relationship to my sisters.

Do you have a sister? Whether she is blood related or not, sisterly bonds can last forever. I can think of several people who I feel special enough about to call them sisters. Tell me in comments below what your sister(s) mean to you. I’d love to hear about it!

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Happy Birthday to “The Gavinator”!

My grandson Gavin is one of the biggest blessings in my life. As I write this, he is on the eve of his eleventh birthday, growing out of all of his clothes at record speed. He teeters on the border between being a little kid and becoming an adolescent. He wants to be a grown up but he’s just not there yet. Sometimes he’s so good at arguing his point I think he’d make a great lawyer.

The fact that he is here at all is quite a miracle. My daughter is 29 years old as of this moment. If you do the math that would make her, yep, 18 years old at the time of his birth.

It was a big trauma initially when my daughter told me she was pregnant. I am the oldest of my sisters and female cousins and I was worried about the effect this would have on the family. I said something to my cousin Angie one time about it and she said “You showed us how to handle it”. I don’t know what I was worried about. Everyone was supportive. Thank goodness for open and loving families.

Gavin has taught us many lessons. When he was two or so, he stopped calling my husband “PAP” and started calling him Jim. He still calls him Jim. (He calls me Nana) When he was three, he overheard Jim being impatient and short with me. Gavin stopped him and said, “Jim you were not talking to Nana very nice. I think you need to say you’re sorry.” So in front of Gavin, Jim came to me and said he was sorry.

Jim calls Gavin “the Gavinator” I think because he is a powerhouse. He’s all boy. He likes to ride motorbikes, zoom on a skateboard, catch a fish. Jim loves to show Gavin how to fix mechanical things, take care of the chickens, tell a good joke. The men on my husband’s side of the family have a weird sense of humor and thankfully Gavin knows how to play along.

Gavin told me one day that Jim told him how we came to be together. In a stern voice I said to Gavin, “Tell me what Jim told you.” He said (with a grin) “Nana, you were washing your face by the side of the road one day. Jim was driving by. He stopped and said Come with me and you’ll never have to wash your face in cold water again. So you went with him and he bought you an ax to chop wood.”

I said GAVIN, DO NOT LISTEN TO JIM!!

I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says: Grandchildren are God’s reward for not killing your children. I laugh when I read this but truly, Gavin is a big reward for hanging in there through some tough times. He is for us, I believe, the opportunity to try again, to do better, to be given another chance. And my daughter? Last year she received her bachelor’s degree. When God gives us a chance to swell up our heart, we should take it. Who knows what it will bring?

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On Being “Katherine’s Daughter”

In just three short months since I started blogging, life is definitely different. I love writing my blog, being part of the writing world and sharing some inspirational experiences of love, hope and faith.

WordPress.com is the host of my blog. For me it has become a mecca of sorts, where I can rub shoulders with and be inspired by some great writers. When I began the creation process for my blog, the WordPress prompts asked me what is the name of your blog? In the two minutes it took me to think of a name, I chose Katherine’s Daughter. Yes, I am the daughter of a Katherine (with a K!). She is the beautiful woman with me in the picture above. We are all someone’s daughter or son, aren’t we? Perhaps I felt my blog name implied a common bond that I could share with my audience.

That said, I have friends who do not (or did not) have memorable mothers. It doesn’t matter. I swear God sees to it that there is always someone in our life who will love, nurture and care about us. That chosen person will bring out the good parts of us and love us unconditionally, thank goodness. They will mentor us through difficult times. Think of who that person is for you. That person, for me, is Katherine.

My father passed away some fifteen years ago. Katherine is now 82 years old but gets along very well. Her vision is somewhat compromised so Cally, my youngest sister, has begun reading my blog posts to Katherine whenever she visits her.

I spoke with Katherine last night and she mentioned three of my last blog posts. Cally had apparently read all of them to her yesterday and Katherine said something to me about each one. I am truly blessed to have a mother who not only supports my writing but makes positive comments about it! Good Lord, what a blessing!

I want to thank my family and friends who have supported my blog, shared it on their Facebook pages, loved me through this process, even become one of my subscribers. In case you didn’t know, there is a place on my blog page where you can sign up to get my twice weekly blog stories. (Yes, you can have me drop- kicked to your email every week!). Best of all, it is FREE to subscribe. I just love free stuff…don’t you?

My goal is to publish a book, hopefully within a year, with stories on faith and love. A book to warm your heart and help you realize how truly loved you are. So many things have inspired me (another story!) and I just continue to follow my dreams. I hope you don’t mind if I take you with me.

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Happy Birthday Chargeman!

Bad Girls (song)

Image via Wikipedia

It was May 10, 1980. The location? A disco filled with pulsing strobe lights, dancing bodies and the sounds of Donna Summer singing “Bad Girls”. I had just arrived to meet up with some old college girlfriends. They were all getting up to dance. I said I needed a minute to relax. Next thing you know, a handsome young man in a lime green leisure suit asks me if he can sit down and talk. I told him (in a stern voice) to keep moving.

I watched him walk slowly around the room again and make his way back towards me. Feeling like a jerk, I let my guard down and told him he could have a seat. We talked for the rest of the night. I loved to play pinball so we did that together for a while. I wouldn’t let him buy me a drink without reciprocating. He walked me to my car and asked me out on a date.

What a handsome young boy!

One year later we were walking down the aisle together. It has been 30 years since then and today, Jim turns 55 years old.

It is hard to believe we have been together this long. Where have the years gone? We both have thickening middles and we move a bit slower these days. And, as anyone who has been married for a while will tell you, it ain’t always easy. But obviously I was attracted to the right guy because things have just worked out.

Jim has had various nicknames over the years but Chargeman is one of my favorites. This is a name given to him years ago by a group of women who worked with him at the hospital (he’s an RN). I don’t even remember the story much but I think it’s a Superman- like designation. And, he really is a “Chargeman”.

Here’s why. I think God has given Jim a special mission. He was born to help others. If he sees someone in distress, he steps up to the plate. He’s taught me alot about honesty and about “owning it”. Owning it means fessing up to what you are doing and taking responsibility for your own actions. He genuinely wants to live a life of service and help his fellow man.

The "Love Children"

Jim has given me the gift of two great children and subsequently, my grandson. Our kids are the highlight of our union together. We have all been through thick and thin and thankfully, by the Grace of God, we all get along and actually (really!) enjoy spending time together!

A long time ago, we finally gave away the lime green leisure suit. It hung for years in our closet. (I think neither one of us wanted to give it away!) Jim’s favorite movie when we met was “Saturday Night Fever”. We watched it together not too long ago and had a good chuckle!

If you know Jim, be sure and wish him a Happy Birthday today!

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What Water Aerobics Class is Really Like

My husband and I are taking a water aerobics class. Lest you immediately picture a group of svelte, toned swimmers doing sleek, calculated aerobic moves in an Olympic size pool, let me clue you in. This class is definitely not a group of Baywatch babes!

There are about a dozen or so participants in our class. I would say the age range is probably anywhere from 50- 70. Nobody is thin. We all complain about aches and pains, which is the main reason we are there. We are trying to get a bit more healthy.

The class is held at a local school, through our township. It is unbelievably cheap. A whole series of nine classes is $48 per person. Sometimes I can’t believe my husband (Jim) was game to take this class with me. He has had some health issues and I thought he’d laugh at the idea when I asked him if he was interested. But to my surprise, he said yes.

Here’s how a typical class goes. All of us warm up by walking around in a large circle in the shallow end of the pool. Occasionally, our instructor (Leslie) shouts “THE OTHER WAY!” which means we turn around and start walking the other way. This causes the water to swirl and creates resistance. It’s a good way to warm up.

After warm up, we usually launch into some kicks and stretches below the water level. Leslie likes to mix it up and we get to work with weights (they float!), noodles and these circular stretchy things that go around our ankles. We do some laps too as part of our hour. The class is definitely a work out. There is however, no pressure to push beyond what we individually are comfortable doing. Thank goodness or I never would have lasted long in this class.

Here’s my challenging part of class. Our instructor is younger than us and has yet to experience the drop in hearing that comes with age 50+. The pool is in a large room that echoes. To complicate matters, Leslie likes to play loud music (upbeat stuff like Flash Dance) via a CD player near the back wall of the pool. As you can well imagine, I spend most of my class time trying to read Leslie’s lips.

This past week, Leslie created “stations” all around the parameter of the shallow end of the pool. Each station had a note card (encased in plastic of course) that gave you a different exercise to do. Leslie is very creative but she is not always a good communicator. So though I tried to get a good grip on the entirety of this exercise, I never really understood exactly how it was to work.

Apparently I was not the only one confused. A bunch of us (slightly deaf ones like me) kept looking at each other and saying “what’s next”? If I asked Leslie, she always helped me figure it out but I hated asking her every time. After a couple turns of the stations, I had a light bulb moment. No one was giving me a hard time, no one really cared that I didn’t get it. Everyone kind of did their own thing. So that is what I did.

At one point I looked around and we were all participating and splashing. It was fun, healthy and ok. It didn’t matter how I did it. It just mattered that I was there, doing it.

Afterward, when we were done with the stations, we did our (ending) cool down stretches. Leslie asked what we thought of the stations. Most of us liked it. One woman said it was not enough of a work out for her. Jim and I discussed this later and decided this woman was just not really digging in. I think this was just our way of siding with Leslie. We really like her.

Did you ever do something you weren’t really good at but you plugged away at it anyway? Because when you were all done, you felt really good about the way it made you feel? And even though you knew you didn’t look all that good while doing it, who cares?  If you’ve ever had a moment like this, share it with me!

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