Tag Archives: Gratitude

What I Am Grateful For

Pine Trees Winter 2013

Pine Trees Winter 2013

Here it is- the first big snow of the season. Today is Thanksgiving in the USA and the Northeast is in the grips of some pretty cold weather. Thankfully, I am not traveling. I am the chef du jour, making most of the gratitude dinner with a little help from my friends.

My mom has been with me for a few days. I gave her a lecture a month or so ago about snow. If we are expecting any big accumulations I said, you have to come over. She didn’t argue with me when I told her Monday morning I was coming to pick her up.

So she and I have been spending some quality time together. I decided to put up my Christmas tree on Tuesday because I had a whole free day (and it snowed all day!) and those little lights just bring a lift to my heart. The nativity set went underneath right away. I have to keep in mind the reason for the season.

Region 1 DVD cover

Region 1 DVD cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We indulged in a whole recliner session of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It occurred to me how Rudolph was bullied- no playing with the others in reindeer games, all because of that red nose. I seriously shed a tear when the program was over and Santa said “Merry Christmas!” from his sky high sleigh.

So as I think about Thanksgiving, there are many things I have to be grateful for. I wanted to share my list with you and I’d love if you’d leave a comment and tell me what you’re most grateful for.

1. Family- Where would I be without them? My husband Jim, my kids Michelene and John, my grandson Gavin, Gavin’s dad Jonathan, my mom Katherine, sisters Mary and Cally and their beautiful partners Starr and Raymond. Jim’s family and both our extended families. My beautiful yellow lab Jordan. They are my greatest treasures.

2. Friends- Oh they have seen me through some troubling times. As has my family but my closest friends are privy to my thoughts, words and deeds of high and low. I owe my salvation to my recovery friends and their infinite wisdom on life and teachings on practicing these principles in all my affairs.

3. Faith- Deep as the ocean, infinite as the sky, my love for God only grows and grows each day. I realize how walking a spiritual path has changed everything. It makes me understand that I am not in control and God is.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! If you are alone, give me or a close friend of yours a call. We should all be together on Thanksgiving.

I wish you a happy Thanksgiving of great blessings! Tell me, what are you grateful for?

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Living Generously

Mom and her delicious Finikia!

Mom and her delicious Finikia!

“Give , and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

I would have to say that my mother has set the best example for me of living generously.

She does not have all that much but what she has she will share with you unselfishly. Preferring not to spend money on herself, she will lavishly offer to spring for lunch or try to give me money when I buy her something that is really a gift.

Case in point, my sister Mary is coming to town in a couple of weeks and my mom already has the itinerary pretty much finished (this is why I am an event planner!). One day’s activities involves going to our church’s mini food festival and mom has already told me she is paying for dinners- lamb, pastichio, stuffed grape leaves, etc.

Over my objections (it does no good) she has told me she will take care of the food bill that night.

I used to think my mom financially cut herself a bit too close at times but as I get older, and closer to God, I think honestly she has the right idea. Everything she needs has been provided to her. She is well taken care of and in good health now (thank you!). Happy to be with her simple things, she is content to have just enough.

I firmly believe the old wives saying of “you can’t take it with you”. I love how wealthy people are giving their money away in clever and creative ways, not leaving it all for their children but making them earn it themselves.

I found this link recently to an article about wealthy people who have decided not to leave their fortunes to their kids. Warren Buffet for instance has pledged to give away 99% of his wealth either during his life or before he dies. He has already pledged 83% of it to the Gates Foundation.

What about simple folk like me? I am still finding creative ways to be generous, despite my limited income these days. Giving of my time (without expecting payment) to good causes is my favorite generous act of late. I also like to treat to things that are only a few dollars- coffee or dessert for a friend, a nice book from the used book store. I love these forms of generosity; they keep my feet firmly planted where they need to be, in service to others.

If I am tempted to be selfish with my time or money, I remind myself how generosity will come back to me multiplied.

Blessings to you today! What is your favorite act of generosity?

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Pondering Some Sweet Things

One of my new friends! Sweet Bites Cookies

One of my new friends! Sweet Bites Cookies

I’ve met some interesting people in the last couple of weeks as I venture out and promote my wedding and event business.

There was the group of local women business owners who invited me to a networking event last week. Included in the bunch was a lovely woman who brought her magic cookies and shared them with all of us. I was so impressed with Diane that I’m adding her to my business website! (Click on the link under the cookie picture to check her out)

I also went to see a local farm- Destiny Hill– that does weddings on their real working lavender farm. And they design bridal flowers pulled from their own flower beds! I was in love with the place from the moment I drove up the driveway!

There was something interesting too that happened to me last week that I’ve been wanting to share with you. Here goes….

Can you see them?

Can you see them?

I was driving on a road just minutes away from my own home, engrossed in thinking about my business. (I’ve been doing that a lot lately!) So catching myself, I took a minute for a gratitude prayer and then asked God for assistance with my new venture. In the next minute, the car in front of me slowed down. I glanced up to see what was going on and there was the source. A gaggle of small turkeys, slowly making their way across the road, completely stopping traffic. As they reached the other side, the lead turkey decided she really didn’t want that side, she wanted the other side.

So they all turned around and went back across the road.

I pulled my car over to the berm, so excited about the turkeys that I grabbed my cell phone. Not wanting to scare them, I kept back and was able to snap a picture or two. Other cars sped on as soon as the turkeys were off the road. I stood a moment or two until they disappeared into the brush.

What does this beautiful nature sighting mean? To me it was an instant affirmation that God is with me. S(he) is watching over me and hears my prayers. All I need to do is believe and things will work out as they should, not by my plan but by a divine plan. To see my favorite creatures in such multiples, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the sight. To me, it is a sign of future abundance as long as I am willing to keep a grateful heart.

What’s your favorite creature of nature? I’d love to know!

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What Speaks of Love?

The Bonfire

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ― Mother Teresa

I was loading socks into Jim’s dresser drawer when I remembered a moment in time. It was a flashback to a conversation between Jim and our close friend John.

Jim had asked John what act of his wife’s spoke of love? John thought for a moment and said “The smell of dinner when I drive up my driveway! That spells LOVE to me!”, said John in his big, beautiful voice. I braced myself for what Jim would say. “A drawer full of socks, John. I love when I open my drawer and see it full of socks.”

Since then I have remembered what filling up that sock drawer means to Jim. It speaks of my love for him. It took me only a moment (and thirty years of marriage) to realize how much he appreciated it.

What does Jim do for me that I love? He builds great campfires. He sets up the logs in a nice, stacked fashion, utilizes newspaper strategically, and sometimes even gets creative with a few charcoal briquets just to get things going.

I once told Jim that his fires “flickered in all the right places.” He loved that and says it’s one of the nicest things I have ever said to him.

When I think about it, it’s really those little things that sometimes mean the most. I try and pay attention to what I do for the special people in my life- my kids, my mom, my grandson, my family, my friends. Thoughtful and kind acts are not necessarily about great or expensive gifts. Meaningful acts of loving kindness can be simple and sweet, inexpensive and lovely.

I like to take my mother a mason jar of flowers from my yard when I visit her. Or, I take her something special from the farmer’s market- those little zucchini, an eggplant or some fresh green beans. I know how much she likes those kinds of things.

This weekend, I hope someone does something special for you and vice versa. Have a great holiday!

Does someone you know do something especially kind for you? Or do you have a great memory of a parent or loved one from your past? Here’s your chance to share it with us and give us some good ideas!

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An Attitude of Gratitude

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If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. Meister Eckhart

I went to a wedding not so long ago and when the thank you note for the gift arrived, it was a picture of the bride and groom holding a sign that said “thank you.” It was nice but there was no personalization, no signature, just the picture. My heart sank a bit as I thought this was yet another symptom of our too busy lives. Were thank you notes becoming a thing of the past?

So it gave my heart a lift when my husband shared this story with me recently. He said, “There are days when it is terrible to be a nurse in the ER. We see some of the same people over and over again, who do nothing different for their own conditions, and yet they expect us to fix it immediately. I get tired and worn out and wonder for what purpose I am here.”

On one particular day Jim headed back to his station and there was a clasp envelope laying on his desk. When he opened it, there were three thank you notes inside. They were from the children of a woman he worked with; they had all come to Jim’s Honey Party and had participated in spinning the combs and witnessing the delicious, sticky honey that had come from that experience.

The notes expressed gratitude and warmed my husband’s heart. He told me, “It was a great moment to realize that I had made a difference in someone’s life.” I am guessing those little notes restored Jim’s faith in himself and the reason he is here on earth.

I have several boxes of pretty thank you cards and I try and remember to thank people who have given me a gift. But I also try and send a thank you for no reason other than to acknowledge someone else’s loving act of kindness. Recently, my aunt and uncle took me to Chicago for a wedding. They came to my doorstep and picked me up. We spent the entire, wonderful weekend together. Afterwards I wrote them a thank you note because not only did I have an amazing time, but I got to know their teen grandchildren a whole lot better and realized what totally beautiful kids they are.

A few years ago when I was beginning my spiritual journey, I decided to keep a gratitude journal. I wrote a few things down each night I was grateful for. It could be something that happened that day, or a quality I had come to recognize in myself or others. After pages and pages of gratitude, a shift in my thinking occurred. I realized the gift of every day life.

I save most all of the thank you notes I receive. There is a shoe box in my closet where I have amassed a collection of notes I’ve received over the years. There are hallmark cards, handwritten notes, some large and some small, but that box serves a purpose. Whenever I am feeling down, I reach for it. I pull out the cards and read them one by one. By the time I am done, my faith in myself is restored.

*The thank you note on the window sill says, “Thank you for giving my shoes back. I liked playing with Jake. A bee is flying.” (sweet!)

Have you ever received a thank you note that you just never forgot? Tell me about it!

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A Letter to Dad

Dear Dad,

I can’t believe it has been 16 years since your passing. It was Father’s Day 1997 when Mom called to relay the news that you breathed your last breath. Uncle Jim G. was so mad because he had to leave his vacation in Yellowstone Park! Ha! But I knew the aunts and uncles would never miss your funeral. Vacation or not, they would be there….

I was not upset that you passed on Father’s Day. It actually caused me to smile because I could imagine you saying from heaven, “NOW you’ll never forget me!”. But truly Dad it would be impossible to do so.

Dad and I

Dad and I

Because you, like me, were an oldest child and it was you who stepped up, was responsible and felt the pressure. You made your presence known in a big way and I learned from your example to be a person who honors their word.

Jim and I mentioned the auto auction the other day, the one you used to take me to occasionally. For a few brief moments I could smell the sauerkraut on the hotdogs that you would buy us in the cafeteria. Mom would NEVER make anything like that at home but you introduced me to sauerkraut and I have loved it ever since!

I am grateful that you and I got to work together at the car dealership for those few precious years. You trusted me enough to leave me in charge when you and mom went away on vacations. That meant much to me and taught me great leadership skills.

Someone I was with last night mentioned Kennywood Park and I was again taken back to the times when you and mom would accompany Jim and I and the kids for a day at the amusement park. You and mom would walk around, eat all the great carnival food with us (their cotton candy was fabulous!) and watch the kids ride the roller coasters. I didn’t know then but I do know now what precious times those were.

I am trying to pay attention to those things I do lately which at first glance may seem insignificant, but could become life long good memories for Michelene, John and Gavin. The day will come when they will remember this and that about me and I want those moments to be fond remembrances, like the ones I have of you.

I am more and more aware of how short life really is. I try to remember how precious each day is and to have gratitude for all my blessings.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!!

One of my favorite pictures!

One of my favorite pictures!

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The Divine Mr. Kibosh

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss


Almost twenty years ago, I began a speciality coffee business. This was when gourmet coffee was just on the cusp of becoming something really big.

From Google.com

Delicious Coffee! Via Pinterest

My little coffeehouse was called “Cappuccino City.” It quickly established itself as the hip place to be and I thoroughly enjoyed being a small business owner. I made friends during that time that I still have to this day.

One of my customers was a stand out. His name was Joe. My nickname is Jo. Catch the catch? He’d come in and say “Hi Jo!” and I’d say “Hi Joe!”. We’d chat a few minutes and then he’d be on his way.

Years later, after I sold the coffee house, I needed some financial work done and I saw his ad in a local publication. I called him and said “Joe, do you remember me?” He said, “Of course!” Turns out his business was right down the road from my house.

So we became business acquaintances, but more. Joe was my cheerleader, always encouraging me to ask for more money (!) from my jobs and making me feel so good about myself that I’d leave his office practically on Cloud Nine.

Soon, after years of driving the parkway into Pittsburgh, I grew weary. I was looking for opportunities close to home. I had my eye on Joe, just in case he would need me.

I let him know it at one of my visits. Just an “if you ever need someone, please keep me in mind” pitch. And then one day, when it seemed I couldn’t take another traffic jam, I happened to call him about something. He said his long time admin had left. I asked him if I could interview for the job.

He said to come down and meet with his lead person. She and I went to lunch and the rest is history.

So it was with a heavy heart that I left Joe last month, after barely hitting my two year mark. As you may remember, I needed to spend more time with Mom. But I consider every minute I spent with  Joe worth it. Here are some great bits of wisdom I learned from him:

1. You develop confidence when you figure things out for yourself.

2. Pizza with pepperoni that is baked a little longer tastes really good.

3. When someone puts a stop to something, it’s called a “kibosh”.

4. There is no substitute for personal attention to a client.

5. Don’t get something new until the old one breaks. 🙂

I like to think I taught Joe a few things myself. He loved the Greek word “Fuss-a-ria” which means to cause a big fuss. Once Joe learned this word, it became a part of his dictionary. (and I love the word “Kibosh!”) He loved other things Greek too. I took him to my church during our food festival and introduced him to some great Greek food. Hopefully, I taught him some other wisdom filled lessons; some he needed and some he probably didn’t want – like a crash course on menopausal women! In return, he believed in me and my capabilities. He had confidence in me when sometimes I did not have it myself.

I believe in my heart that even though my time with Joe was short, it had a divine purpose. I learned many new things that could be of great benefit someday. Sometimes even the shortest experiences have the longest impressions.

Have you ever met someone you feel had a divine purpose in your life?

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You Are Beloved

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on the earth.

Raymond Carver

There were some beloved people in my life these past couple of weeks.

I haven’t let on but my mom has been recovering from a serious infection. It has been a stressful couple of weeks as my family and I walk down the path of recovery with her.

It is amazing how people have been placed in our path. You bump into them and they assist you. Is this coincidence? I think not. I have asked many people to help and/or pray for my mom. Their prayers are working. My mom is much better.

The first week of Mom’s illness, I wrote a post called The Joy of Simple Pleasures. A favorite blogger of mine mentioned it in her blog and wrote a post about what does and does not makes sense. That week NOTHING made sense. I read Heather’s blog and cried tears of sorrow.

The fact is…I needed to cry. I did not understand what was happening to my mom. I was filled with a terrible fear…of making wrong decisions, of not having enough faith, of losing my mom. I said to my dear friend Amy, What would I do without Jim to help me? She said, You would Listen. You would Decide. You would Trust.

So even though I had Jim, I remembered Amy’s words. I decided to listen to the doctors and the nurses. My sisters and I discussed issues as they came up. Thankfully, we reasoned things out and did not argue. We decided on courses of action. We trusted that we had made the right decisions.

Two weeks later, Mom is recovering. And I know….there were people who guided us and prayed on our behalf. 

I give humble and grateful thanks to Jim, my kids, my sisters and their partners, Father E., my cousins, my dearest friends, aunts and uncles, Angel Lynda, and the doctors and nurses who continue to watch over Mom and aid her recovery. You are truly beloved.

And most of all I wish to thank God for carrying me these past couple of weeks.

My Mom, Katherine and I

My Beloved Mom Katherine and I

Please say a prayer for my mom. Thank you!

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The Joy of Simple Pleasures

Toggling for seed! Photo by Michelene Cain

Toggling for seed!
All Photos by Michelene Cain

A couple of years ago my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas. My reply was “a bird feeder”. I knew exactly where I wanted it to hang too. Right outside my dining room window.

It was there that I could sit, have my morning coffee and watch the birds come and go. And surely they did. As the birds came to toggle for a piece of sunflower seed or other niblet out of the feeder, I gazed at them. I marveled at their color, their speed and their beautiful uniqueness.

In those moments, I slowed down. I watched, enjoyed and delighted. It was my time and space to relax my mind; a meditation so to speak.

Angling for seed!

Angling for seed!

If you love to bird watch, I’m sure you know what I mean. Birds are something to behold; a wonder of nature and God’s special creatures.

I love the bright red of the male cardinal, the subdued muted pink of the female. The chickadees. The woodpecker, ready for a fashion statement with its red head and black/white striped body. Ah, watching them brings joy to my heart!

I tried to think of some other of my favorite simple pleasures. Here they are:

My first cup of coffee in the morning, steamy and hot with a good splash of cream.

The sight of the pine trees around my house, laden heavy with the winter snow.

The smell of clothes warm and fragrant from the dryer.

Chicken soup simmering in a pot on the stove, ready to be enjoyed for dinner with good crusty bread.

A road trip laden with treasure stops, such as a good antique store or better yet, a Fiesta Ware outlet!

The smell of a baby right after a bath.

Home baked cookies in the oven on a cold winter’s day.

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May you notice the simple pleasures your life today! What’s your favorite(s)?

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Grace and a Great Greek Cookie

Delicious Finikia!

Delicious Finikia!

I am proud to say I am the grandchild of Greek immigrants. When I was growing up, and still to this day, the holidays were a splendid spread of amazing food and delectable pastries.

The Finikia Set Up Yiayia style!

The Finikia Set Up Yiayia style!

Lucky for me I have a daughter (Michelene) who has a desire to learn those old world recipes before my mom leaves this Earth. We’ve had two “cookie sessions” with my mom, fondly referred to as Yiayia by my daughter.

In these sessions, my mother completely sets up the entire event (as you can see above!), Cally snaps pictures and records video (priceless someday I’m sure), and I of course assist and sample the final delicious creations.

Yiayia decided on a soft nutty cookie called “Finikia” this time. If you have ever been to a Greek food festival, you have no doubt tried Finikia.

Getting ready....

My sister Cally on left, me on the right….Check out that bowl!

The most interesting part of this recipe was mixing  freshly squeezed orange juice into Cream of Wheat by hand. Then, this mixture was folded into the Crisco, egg, sugar, almond and flour batter and viola! a cookie of delicious-ness was born.

A separate hot syrup of sugar and water (with a splash of lemon!) was created and this is what we dipped the baked cookie in. Finally, we rolled them in ground walnuts and Yiayia sprinkled the cinnamon. Ah- they were amazing!

There is really something special about three generations of women coming together to learn a bit of their heritage. I imagine someday this will be a fond memory for my daughter who hopefully will teach her son, my grandson Gavin, how to make this wonderful cookie someday.

I think we ate at least a half dozen Finikia when they were done. Yiayia packed them all up for us so we were free to take them home to our family and friends. If you’re feeling ambitious, I’m attaching my mom’s recipe below for you to give a try. Happy Baking!

YiaYia sprinkling the Cinnamon

Yiayia sprinkling the Cinnamon

The Recipe

The Recipe

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