In My Dreams

A place to nestle. Outerbanks Couch- Photo by Arhaus

When you think of your home, what space would you most like to treat to a makeover?  Recently, Jim and I made the big decision of removing our wall to wall carpet and exposing the gorgeous red oak floors below. It was a major move for us. The floors have been covered since we moved in thirty four years ago. No sanding or varnishing was necessary. The floor is absolutely beautiful.

My home doesn’t look like the picture above (I wish!). But it’s ok for a girl to dream, isn’t it? Since I’ve been taking care of my mom for the past four years, I’ve been embracing simplicity. There are limited extra funds these days but I’m ok with that. Being able to spend time with my mom is worth it. Still I know the day will come when I will pick a new look to go with those hardwood floors.

Let’s dream together, shall we?

I’d like to make my living room the kind of space that would be a welcome retreat. When I come home from a busy day with mom or Penny, I’d like to melt into a comfy sofa with lots of pillows, a throw blanket of fleece or warm cotton, and my perfect reading lamp nearby. Arhaus has a lot of great lamp options you can check out. It might be snowing outside so I’d have a delicious mug of cocoa (yes, with mini marshmallows).

Or, I’d have a warm and inviting chair I could cuddle up to, a soft ottoman to rest my feet on, and the sunshine of the day behind my shoulder. The other colors in the room would be neutral and soothing.

I checked out the Arhaus website recently and found this gorgeous chair. It would be perfect next to the oak floors. A throw pillow behind my back and I’m ready to relax. I’m a fan of white walls. They look so clean. How about a few potted plants? There are plants everywhere in my house including my bedroom. Did you know certain plants are helpful for rest and relaxation?

What would I be reading? I love fiction novels with happy endings, non fiction books that inspire, and decor dream magazines like Country Living. My books would be stacked in fair trade baskets from Serrv. I love their mission and what they stand for.

Serrv Baskets

This past weekend, out of the blue, I ended up in Wexford PA. I stopped at my favorite clothing place and behold, an Arhaus was next door! I stopped in and walked around the store not once but twice. I asked one of the nicest saleswomen ever to take my picture. She asked if this was going to be my Christmas card. I laughed and replied no. I said, “A girl can dream, right?”. She said, “Absolutely!”.

Wow, love this sofa!

I hope this post will inspire you to think of your home as a sanctuary. Clean out clutter first. Go through your things and decide what’s really important and give away what is not.  If you don’t have the energy or motivation to do this, hire someone to help you. Organizers are worth every penny. Then think about what you’d like to do. Check out Pinterest for some great ideas. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming and who knows? When we set an intention, we let the universe know what we want. And I believe the universe will conspire to bring it to us.

Blessings,

Joanne

I loved these 25 Cozy Interior Design Ideas from Lushome. Click HERE to check it out.

Have you done a makeover recently? Do you wish for one? Share your ideas here or on my Facebook page. If you want, set an intention and share it with us!

Join me on my graceful journey.
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Practicing Spontaneity- Meeting Vivian!

Meeting Vivian- What a Joy!
Meeting Vivian- What a Joy!

“I had to leave Deep Run before I learned how special this part of the world is. I hope you will understand that long before I did.” Vivian Howard, Deep Run Roots

As a recovering perfectionist, I am not always good at spontaneity. And being a wedding and event planner further cements that. I like to plan, plan, plan for my events so things go as smoothly as possible. Better planning makes less anxiety.

So it was with a bit of hesitancy that I purchased a ticket to Vivian Howard’s “Deep Run Roots” book tour and bought my plane ticket within 24 to 48 hours of seeing her social media post. By the time the first 24 hours had lapsed, the one location I wanted to go to (with two events on two different nights) had sold out. The second closest tour site to my sister Mary was in Greensboro, North Carolina.

I bought the tour tickets first, then made the plane reservation. I figured the Greensboro location would sell out just as fast and I was not waiting. This was a big deal for me – it was as spontaneous as I ever could be.

Mary picked me up at the airport and the fun began. I won’t go into detail here; I listed my favorite places with links below. Suffice to say I had a wonderful time eating, shopping, and visiting with old friends. The weather was picture perfect and a good deal warmer than at home.

So the time to meet Vivian was coming closer and closer. Mary and I headed for Greensboro from Winston Salem around 4:30pm. The start time at Scuppernong Books was 6pm. We arrived around 5:45pm and line was already building. Vivian had started early.

meeting-vivian-first-glance

The first time I saw Vivian’s show on PBS “A Chef’s Life”, I set the DVR to tape every episode. I loved the stories, recipes and the way Vivian interacted with the locals. Asking them for their tales, stirring the pots along side of them, and thanking them for teaching her. Her gratitude, respect for her deep roots family, and ample grace comes through. She is also very human. Vivian never shies away from exposing her own frailties, frustrations, and mommy guilt.

I admit to a tear in my eye while I was waiting for her. I’m not sure why but I’m guessing it was gratitude. To my higher power, my sister, and the universe for making it happen. I hoped to be inspired by meeting Vivian- to see that maybe we all can keep the faith about what we are doing. I love writing and blogging and I bet she does too.

vivian-shes-fabulous

Her cookbook “Deep Run Roots” is heavy, large and gorgeous. There are stunning food pics and detailed explanations along with her recipes. I expected a big cookbook- and it is- but it is also a storybook. One of the first pages is the “Don’t You Dare Miss This Introduction!”. Her wit, humor, and love of food is evident throughout.

Whether you buy this book for yourself or a friend, it’s truly a treasure.

Last thought:

One morning I took a hot bath at Mary’s and opened my Pandora app. Guess what came up:

 

Here’s the links!

A Chef’s Life

The Book Tour:

Vivian’s Website

Scuppernong Books

Where I ate during my visit:

Sweet Potatoes

Crafted

6th and Vine

CinCin Burger Bar

Atelier Bakery

Ketchie Creek Bakery and Cafe

My favorite Winston Salem Shops:

Earthbound Arts

The Other Half

vivian-3

hugging-vivian
Thank you Mary for taking these pictures!
Join me on my graceful journey.
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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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The Road to Happiness

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“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

When my children were young, I really had no choice. My life revolved around my family and there was little time for much else. Between working part time, the house work, meals and playtime, I was focused on being the best mom I possibly could.

As my two children grew and became more independent, it occurred to me that I was not needed as much. They started to have their own lives, friends and activities and many times I ended up being just a taxi service and meal maker. Of course I reminded them to wear clean clothes, shower and brush their teeth, but they were good kids and I didn’t need to remind them all that much.

So what to do with myself? A mild depression in my late thirties and early forties caused me to seek the advice and wisdom of a good therapist. After much soul searching and aimless wandering, it became obvious to me that the best way to live life to its fullest was to find a cause I love- and volunteer for it.

So over the years I have learned from and worked with families affected by addiction. When I mention my recovery friends occasionally I am not sure you can feel it, but there is whole hearted love and respect there from me. There is no monetary reward for doing this work, no green carrot dangling at the end of the stick. No contract with a financial reward as possible gain, just plain and simple good deeds done for people who need help.

What do I get in return for this? Nothing financial but a priceless spiritual opportunity.

It fills me up inside with a feeling I cannot describe when I work with families in need. I give them unconditional love and they in return grow and flourish. It takes so little time really, and the rewards are amazingly great.

If you are looking to get a little more meaning and happiness out of life, consider picking a cause and then volunteering your time even in small and simple ways. It doesn’t take much to help make a difference. And you will absolutely love how it makes you feel.

Thanks to my daughter Michelene for her stunning sunflower photo!

Is there a cause you support? Tell us about it!

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Letting Go…and the God Box

Winter in the Northeast
Winter in the Northeast

The holidays are over and boy, it’s chilly and cold here in the Northeast. I’m trying to get back in the game of Life by settling into a somewhat regular routine. Eating more normally (getting out of that holiday cookie habit is tough!), trying to sleep well, trying to take care of myself.

The holidays don’t take away problems but they do seem to temporarily disappear during that time, don’t they? Or maybe we’re just too busy to care much about them.

When I settled back into my routines, I don’t know if it was tiredness or a bit of winter depression, but a few issues loomed in the background. I began to focus on them, picking them apart, festering and making myself a bit miserable over them.

I tried reading inspirational books and that helped a bit, but it wasn’t really banishing my dark cloud. In a moment of radical desperation, I decided to try an idea I’ve heard from my friends in recovery and from my favorite author, Anne Lamott. I decided to try a God Box.

My God Box
My God Box

At first, I thought I’d try and make myself one. I envisioned finding a small box, making it pretty, then cutting a slot in the top. Then I remembered a heart shaped gift box that my friend, Jeannine had bought me with pretty earrings inside. I wrote a couple of problems, each on its own piece of paper, each summed up in just a few words. I said a prayer, folded up the problems and slipped them into the box.

One issue was solved within a week. I was greatly relieved and very grateful. The other issues are more challenging; God really has his work cut out for himself with those. I know he’s up to the task though and I’m striving to put them in his hands. Letting Go is really the hardest part.

Here’s a great reading I found inside of “Help Thanks Wow”, Anne Lamott’s new prayer book, that hit the nail on the head for me this week: “Even though I often remember my pastor saying that God always makes a way out of no way, periodically something awful happens, and I think that this time God has met Her match- a child dies, or a young father is paralyzed. Nothing can possibly make things okay again. People and grace surround the critically injured person or the family. Time passes. It’s beyond bad. It’s actually a nightmare. But people don’t bolt, and at some point the first shoot of grass breaks through the sidewalk”.

My friend Larry’s funeral was Thursday. I wrote about him in my last blog post. Since his passing, everything else feels insignificant. Life is short and we must remember how special and important each day is. Though we miss Larry and the situation is awful, I know one day we will be walking along and there will be a blade of grass coming up through a crack in the sidewalk. Thank you Anne, for reminding me of this.

There is no problem so big or so small that Faith cannot fix it. If we but get out of the way and Let Go, things will work out.

What are your tools for dealing with problems or issues? What works for you?

Join me on my graceful journey.
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Faith and My Old Sweater

My favorite sweater
My favorite sweater!

I have a favorite sweater I bought a few years ago.  Hanging on the sale rack at the Gap at end of season, it caught my eye with it’s beautiful knit weave and obvious coziness. It is a shade of slate grey, has a V neck and plain buttons down the front. The collar is large enough to fold over and the sleeves are just a bit too long…perfect for rolling up.

This grey sweater is my go-to favorite for a cold winter’s night, a chilly morning or underneath my coat when taking my favorite pup, Ms. Jordan, out for a stroll.

Though my sweater has seen better days, it is still warm and cozy. It doesn’t have fancy things about it and that’s what I like about it. It is simple and easy to wear. Over time, it has developed a small hole along the shoulder seam. This doesn’t bother me one bit. One day I will probably sew it shut, but for now I leave it alone. When I am at home, my sweater symbolizes my ok-ness with imperfection. It doesn’t matter what I look like on the outside; it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Here’s the correlation. Just like my grey sweater, my faith plays a warm and secure role in my life. It wraps me in comfort and loves me the way I am. It is there for me when I need it. It fills my life with JOY. And going forward into 2013, I will continue to be best buds with Faith as we walk hand in hand through this amazing life.

(Thanks to the Daily Prompt and the ever- fascinating group of folks at WordPress.com for this inspiration!)

What’s your favorite object that brings you warmth and comfort? Share it with me!

Join me on my graceful journey.
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Unwrapping Joy

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” ― Marianne Williamson

JOYI meet with a faith based group of close friends a couple of times a month. During the holidays, we share in a special event where we get together, have yummy snacks and unwrap a small gift.

Inside of every gift is a WORD. Yes, a word. This word is always something meaningful. This year, when I opened my gift, my word was JOY.

Now, I have to tell you that the night before this get together, I was not feeling Joy. As a matter of fact, I was feeling a bit of anxiety over a family issue that I was not sure about. I did not sleep well that night and said a small prayer in the morning for guidance and strength.

When I opened my gift and saw Joy, I felt immense peace. This meant to me that no matter what the conditions around me, God wants me to feel Joy this holiday season. I also took it to mean that I should rejoice and be glad in what is present in my life, because truly, I am blessed.

churchAfter that event, I started to see the word Joy everywhere. It was mentioned several times in a book I read that night. The next day when I pulled into the parking lot at work, there was “Unwrapping Joy” written on the marquee at the nearby church! Also I stopped at a retail store for a few gifts and JOY was actually an ornament on the Christmas tree. Joy was everywhere.

Though there is always something that can cause us a heavy heart, it is important we remember to breathe, live, celebrate and be joyous.

May you be joyous in these days leading up to Christmas! What is bringing you Joy in your life today?

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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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Expect a Miracle

Photo by Joe Indovina
Photo by Joe Indovina

God is such a show off….Anne Lamott

In a recent development, a close friend of mine has lost her job. I saw Phyllis at a gathering recently and couldn’t help sharing my own experience with job loss. Is it humiliating? Yes. Do you wonder if you should have done something differently? Yes. Does this mean they didn’t like you? (well, we really didn’t say that but we thought it!)

My period following a job loss several years ago actually turned out to be one of the best times of my life. Some financial compensation provided me with enough income to get by and thankfully, I received a job offer that didn’t start for a few months. It was a blessing. I took advantage of the time by doing whatever it was that I had always wanted to do but never had the time for. I went to Florida with friends on a winter vacation (cheap, because one friend of a friend had a time share), cooked great dinners (Jim loved this part), and read lots of great books. I also hung out with my very favorite friends.

I tried to be encouraging to Phyllis but I know it is still tough. It’s so scary, job loss; it touches all your survivor emotions and then some. I’ve been praying ever since for Phyllis to get a brand new job she just loves.

Meanwhile a close friend sent me a text that she knew someone who had a Christmas tree to give away. Cathy said “Do you know anyone who could use a tree?”. I sent a text to Phyllis and she graciously accepted the gift. How’s that for something sweet?

Last night I said to another friend, “I love to stand back and see what God will do”. Because God is magnificent in her execution. I hold the football and she runs forward and kicks the crap out of it. All we have to do is believe. It will be more than just a Christmas tree for Phyllis, I’m sure of it.

Anne Lamott likes to say “God is such a show off”. It’s true. If we but ask then wait for the gifts, amazing things will come about. Miracles occur every day and I’m spoiled…I’ve just come to expect them.

Is there anyone special you know who needs a miracle? Mention their name here (just a first name is fine) and we’ll all send it up to the heavens…

Join me on my graceful journey.
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A Blessing on Your Head

A blessing on your head Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov…Fiddler on the Roof

Meeting my favorite author!

Yesterday was my 55th birthday and today is Thanksgiving. This same remarkable timing occurred five years ago when I turned 50. I consider it a beautiful juxtaposition of birthday to gratitude day.

Five years ago (on my FIVE OH birthday) I took my family to Fallingwater– the stunning Frank Lloyd Wright house which sits over a rushing creek full of water. The house was much smaller than I had imagined but it was still breathtaking beautiful. We had lunch in the cafe, took the tour and walked around a bit in the nearby woods. Then we all headed back to dinner at my sister Cally’s house where her husband Raymond had prepared a beautiful dinner of lemon shrimp and orzo. We even Greek danced a little after dinner, just to connect with our deep roots.

My birthday this year was another dreamy day of inspirational happenings. A couple of months ago I noticed via Facebook that my favorite author, Anne Lamott, not only had a new book coming out but was coming close to where I live. She was going to be less than two hours away in Akron, Ohio at a public library.

I asked my sisters if we could go hear her speak. Ironically (or not so) my North Carolina sister Mary was coming home for Thanksgiving to attend her class reunion. The timing was perfect.

The view from the hotel!

We left the day before my birthday and stayed at a hotel that overlooked the Cuyahoga Falls (and the Schwebel’s bread factory!). Dinner was at a lovely little place called “Crave” in Akron, a mere block away from where Anne was speaking.

I insisted we get to the library early and we did. An hour and a half early. My sister Mary thought I was crazy. But there was a small line forming already. We decided to buy a family library membership for $20 and that got us into the auditorium early. We sat in the front row, dead center.

Have you ever been in a situation that felt surreal? That’s how I felt in that auditorium, an hour before Anne came out. When she walked across the stage to the podium, with her dreadlocks and bandanna wrapped around her head, I instantly smiled.

She spoke for over an hour then answered questions. She said many awesome things but my favorite was “we are really here to help each other get home”. I loved that.

I stood in line to meet her and get my (her) new book signed. We chatted for a few seconds and as I was walking up the ramp to exit, a group of locals began singing Happy Birthday to me. They knew it was my birthday and wow, that just made my day!

When I got home yesterday, there was a song in my head. It was A Blessing on Your Head, Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov. I’m a Christian but I love that song and I love all of Fiddler on the Roof. The song seems fitting, doesn’t it?

Have a wonderful, gratitude filled Thanksgiving day! What are you doing today?

Join me on my graceful journey.
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