Tag Archives: Love

The Last Little Bits of Summer

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“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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Realizing the Dream

Jess and Jake's wedding

Jess and Jake’s wedding

A dream is a wish your heart makes….Cinderella

The beautiful couple above really started the whole thing. Meet Jess and Jake. Their barn wedding took place on a lush farm about an hour from the city of Pittsburgh a few years ago.

I had been working for a religious institution planning and organizing programming and events, including weddings. Though it was interesting, I longed to be there for the actual unfolding, something that was not required of me in my job.

So when I heard Jess and Jake were getting married, I asked them if I could supervise their wedding. Thankfully, they said yes.

Jess and I met a few times to go over details. I went early to the farm on the day of the wedding and made sure the set up was accurate. I timed the bridesmaids walking down the lawn. I stuck around all night to insure everything was taken care of. I was in charge of paying the vendors and I also made sure all the gifts and cards were put in a safe place.

When Jess and Jake returned from their honeymoon, we went out to dinner. They gave me a present, a plaque with a poem titled “Those Who Serve.” It was absolutely beautiful.

The owner of the farm was watching me the night of the wedding. She offered me a part time summer job. The next year, I did six or so weddings at three different farm locations. The outdoor wedding bug bit me hard. I fell in love with barn weddings.

And I still love weddings, all kinds. Whether they are Orthodox, Jewish, Catholic, Methodist, indoor, outdoor- I love them. Maybe it’s because I believe in the “Happily Ever After” or maybe it’s because I just love that moment in time, when two people decide to join together and make a commitment to each other. I love all the families being there, wishing them well. I could go on and on….

So I began to think about starting my own business, planning weddings and special events. When my mom fell ill and I quit my full time job, that dream came closer and closer. I talked it over with a few people and decided to go for it. Business cards were made, a few “Partners” said YES!, and my event planning website went “LIVE” last week. (Hang on, I’m going to share the link with you at the bottom of this post!)

This leap of faith I am taking is inspired by grace. Instead of feeling fear, I feel an inspiration to give this long desired dream a chance. I pray that I will again be led in a divine direction, to go where people may need me most. The people I have met already who want to be a part of my new business are well, just heaven sent.

So tonight, raise a glass and please make a toast to my new business, Katherine’s Daughter Events. Your blessing and your prayers will mean more to me than anything else. After all, this is a joint project. You are part of my life.

Check out my new website HERE!

What’s your most unforgettable moment from your wedding, or a wedding you’ve been to recently?

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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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The Right Place, The Right Time

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There is no right time and right place for love… it can happen any time.

Shahrukh Khan

This week we had some serious storms. Rain, thunder, lightning all made their presence known here in Western Pennsylvania. For the first time ever, my family and I went down to the basement because of a tornado warning.

Thankfully, nothing happened. Just a heavy rain, so much rain in fact that it seems the grass and garden grew inches before our very eyes.

The day after the storm, our already fragile old apple tree gave way and a large branch split off. Already filled with young green apples, it was a sight of tangled twigs and green leaves. Jim and Gavin have begun the slow task of making fire logs and cleaning up the mess.

This morning as I was taking my trusty labrador Jordan out to the field, I caught sight of a baby fawn among those apple tree branches. She or he was just a few yards away from me. I hooked Jordan up to her run and walked slowly down to the felled tree.

The fawn perked its head up and looked at me. She still had her baby white spots. She was absolutely, perfectly beautiful.

I went back in the house and grabbed my coffee cup. I set up a chair in my yard and watched a deer family of four in the amazing morning light, prancing about and eating in my neighbor’s yard across the lane from our house, across from my apple tree. The baby fawn was among the family.

As I sat there sipping coffee and watching the deer family, I reflected. I thought about some key moments I had this week.

First, I spent an amazing couple of hours on the phone with a west coast blogger I have friended simply through my own blog. She is Sunday’s Child and if you click HERE, you will have a chance to read what she wrote about our phone conversation. It was so much fun! We talked about many things- writing, blogging, food, chickens- and just imagine, all through meeting in the magic of the internet. I feel like I have a new friend to add to my circle of old and dear friends, and I am blessed with her friendship beyond my own imaginable dreams.

Then, my good friend Cathy came over for a blog lesson. Yes another blogger has been born! As soon as she gets her first post up, I’ll share it with you. While she was here, I have to tell you about something awesome she shared with me.

20130708_161813When we were walking out to her car, as she was leaving, a baby hawk that has been flying around and screeching all week made its appearance just for Cathy. This baby loves to perch on a very tall pine tree behind our house. Cathy and I looked up and squinted our eyes in the afternoon sun just to catch a glimpse of baby hawk. I told her I think there are two of them, born recently and they are screeching to either mark their territory or they are calling their mama for lunch!

Cathy told me it is a very powerful spiritual sign to have hawks in your area. (Here’s what I said to this– Really??) So I looked it up on the internet and found she is right, yes, that many believe hawks to be a sign of power and vision. Check out the website I found HERE that gives more information about hawk totems.

Then, last night I was again among friends and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I can get choked up just thinking about it but suffice to say, someone needed a shoulder of caring and God put me in a bathroom at precisely the right time.

So between fawns, hawks and friends I have had an amazing week. I am truly blessed to be walking in this spiritual world and I cannot forget what a beautiful world it truly is.

Thank you to my daughter Michelene for the beautiful lily picture!

Anything amazing happen to you this week? Share please!

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The Highest Form of Wisdom

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I was working at the Jewish temple when I first saw the words. “The highest form of wisdom is kindness” was a quote from the Talmud. Later, I found those same words, artistically drawn on a plaque no less, at a common home goods store. I purchased it and it is hanging in my mudroom at this very moment.

Why does this quote mean so much to me?

Because it reminds me that though others may not be right about something, it is not always necessary for me to point this out to them.

For instance, Jim and I miscommunicated last week over a small matter. I knew I was right (of course) and he did the quick two step to try and cover up his own bad memory. On the spot, I decided it would do no good to hammer him about it or rub it in,  so instead I decided to try a little humility. I said “Wow, I guess I completely forgot I said that to you”, thereby diffusing a tense situation and practicing kindness in the act.

And Jim, ever the good example of humankind said “Well Jo, that’s probably just how I remembered it.”

Now I know you’re going to say that some things are just worth arguing about and I agree. But there are times when I ask myself truly, is it worth it? Maybe I make a great argument for a point about something and rub my ego shiny in the process. But then what do I do with that? I am the fluffed up rooster, crowing my accomplishments and I forget about what’s really important.

What’s really important is that I treat everyone as if they are a child of God.

So this means I am respectful. I am kind. I try and look at another person’s perspective and if theirs doesn’t agree with mine, that’s ok. I will love them anyway. If another person’s bad behavior affects me, I can set some decent boundaries. But I never want to not be kind about it.

My recovery friends like to say Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? It’s basically the same thing as the Talmud but I do love this more simplified version. It’s worth it sometimes to give in just a little, for a center full of happiness.

“You can either practice being right or practice being kind.”
Anne Lamott

How do you feel about kindness? Who do you practice kindness towards?

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Ah…..Summer!

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“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”  Ray Bradbury

There are flowers everywhere in my yard, and I am just loving it.

Our honeybees are pollinating the roses, larkspur, daisies, sweet peas, pansies, AND…there are green tomatoes in the garden! The tomato flowers are multiplying each day, as if by magic.

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Ah….summer…..

Yes, it is finally summer in Pennsylvania. The sun is up early, around 5:30am, making its presence known through the (supposedly) room darkening shades in my bedroom. I don’t mind one bit, being wakened by the morning light….

It’s as if summer beckons me to rise, get up, come, let Jordan out, and enjoy my morning cup of coffee in the back yard. I usually give in.

There is so much grace in summertime. Summer invites me to relax, unwind, rest and reflect. Also to make some plans for this fall (wink wink), which I am working on and will tell you about soon.

Here are some other summertime graces I’m in love with:

The birds are singing early in the morning, their chorus loud, clear and happy.

The grass is so lush and green and filled with clover.

Fifteen hours of daylight is almost sinful, decadent and oh so awesome.

DSC_0022The chickens are loving the warm weather, the freedom to move about and scratch the ground for delicious bugs.

I can hear dogs barking and kids playing while I open the windows to the evening’s cool breeze.

The lightning bugs are like tiny twinkle lights when they light up my field at night (blink blink blink).

Thank goodness it’s only June. Many more days of summertime grace to enjoy.

Thank you to my daughter Michelene for these beautiful photos!

Are you in summertime? If so, what graces are you enjoying?

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Grace at the Source

Farmer's Table 1

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.” -Brillat-Savarin

The picture above is not out of a story book- it is for real. If you look closely, you’ll see tables of people at the V of the stone wall. It is right there that my friend Cathy and I had our first Farm to Table dinner.

We were at Manchester Farms and Left Bower Farm in beautiful Avella, Pennsylvania. The farmhouse is from the early 1800’s and is a real stunner.

I read about Jacob Mains and his Farm to Table dinners recently in our local newspaper. I was immediately smitten and am actually trying to figure out a way for us to work together (more about that on another post!) given my background in events planning. After reading about the dinner, I recruited my organic loving friend Cathy to go with me to our first ever farm sourced food event.

Farmer's Table 2What unfolded was an amazing evening under a blue summer sky. Vegetables that had only been picked out of the ground earlier that day were served beautifully on a white plate, exhibiting all their natural qualities. Diced beets, roasted turnips, kale, cabbage and fresh lettuce greens were featured, as was a delicious dairy cheese. There were yummy meatballs made with beef right from the farm. And to top it all off, a dessert of vanilla creme, topped with fresh berries from the farm next door. And did I mention the cookie? A delicious butter cookie made with butter from the farm was nestled into the dessert. Yes, I broke up the cookie in little pieces and dipped it into the vanilla creme and strawberries!

Cathy and I had to pinch ourselves several times as we met some amazing people. From Jacob and his parents, to Margie and Dave the farm owners, to the talkative radio station owner we sat next to, we were just in awe of the entire evening and the karma of the whole night.

Jacob and his Grandfather

Jacob and his Grandfather

There is something magical about eating outside, among beautiful surroundings, with happy people and enjoying food that is minimally handled and served in its natural grace. When bounty is pulled from the ground and nourishes us heart and soul, there is something very fulfilling and joyful about that experience.

I hope you live in an area where you have access to a farm or farmer’s markets. Please make an effort to support CSA- Community Supported Agriculture– when available. This dinner was an amazing event, one that I hope I will experience again and again!

Thank you to Drew Nicholas for sharing these photos with me!

What’s your favorite farmer’s market or place to buy locally sourced food?

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The Honey Party

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The day started out a bit overcast but before you knew it the sun was out in full and warming the day. As Jim prepared the yard with tables and chairs, I drizzled goat cheese with reserve honey and sprinkled it with chopped walnuts. Then I set plates, silverware, cups and drinks on the counter. The salads I had prepared were ready in the fridge, the guests were pulling up the driveway….

What I didn’t realize was the true number of people we had invited to our first Honey Party. In our excitement, Jim and I each kept inviting more and more guests, not really keeping track of how many we had invited! So when 4:15pm rolled around, the cars and guests and children began to arrive. More and more but oh well! How exciting!

DSC_0051First, Jim gathered the children around and gave a lesson on bees, honeycomb and honey. Then he donned his beekeeper outfit and along with our nephew Jake, pulled six frames from our two year old hive. Then the frames were carefully loaded into the spinner and the children each lined up for a turn at the crank.

Around and around the frames went. Soon there was honey dripping from the bottom of the spinner! It was the color of light sunshine and the taste was unbelievable. Sweet and mellow, it was the end result of the spring flowers the bees had been feasting on for the last couple of months.

DSC_0065As our guests munched on grilled hotdogs and lots of fun food contributions, the spinning went on for another hour or so. Finally the reward for all that cranking. Bowls of vanilla ice cream, drizzled with fresh honey, strawberries, whipped cream and little honey bear grahams were assembled on the outside picnic table. The kids licked their spoons and pronounced honey and ice cream their new favorite.

Best of all, my mom was present for this momentous occasion. She greeted old friends and even made a few new ones. Aunt Joy made a favorite dessert of mom’s that included pistachios and whipped cream. It was indeed a blessing to have mom participate in this wonderful day of love and friendship.

As Jim and I climbed wearily into bed that night, we remarked on what a beautiful day it had been. Many more people showed up than we expected but secretly, we loved this. The real show stoppers that day though were the bees themselves. Their honey was amazing.

Thanks to my daughter Michelene for the great pictures!

Liquid Gold!

Liquid Gold!

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Love Is Like A Rock

I’ve been staying at my mom’s on and off during her recovery. Recently, we watched the movie “Hope Springs” together. Have you seen it? The movie stars Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in a marriage gone stale. It was quite the interesting story if you ask me.

Without giving too much away, Meryl Streep decides after 31 years of marriage (and separate bedrooms), she wants more. Tired of no intimacy and the same routine day in and day out, she decides to challenge the status quo and sign up for a marriage enrichment program in a town called Hope Springs. Her husband says he is not going, blah blah blah, but (much to Meryl’s delight) he shows up for the plane departure.

Husband Tommy has plenty of money but they stay at the EconoLodge. He sleeps on the pull out couch while Meryl sleeps in the bed. The poor psychologist has his work cut out for himself as Tommy flings verbal hatred at him. But I know what’s really going on. Poor ol’ Tommy is in deep seated fear. Fear of change. Fear of feeling real love.

I know there are many troubled marriages and relationships in the world. I’m sure this movie caused some people to squirm in their seats. I am one of the lucky ones. I felt no uncomfortable-ness. I “hoped” for them and the repair of their marriage.

My Favorite Picture of Jim and I! Taken by my sister, Cally Jamis Vennare

My Favorite Picture of Jim and Me! Taken by my sister, Cally Jamis Vennare

Jim and I certainly do not have the perfect relationship. We are only human and only God is perfect. We do however, have the “tools in our toolbox” to work most issues out. And we have had some big issues in the nearly 33 years of being together.

As any couple in a long term relationship will tell you, it is not about who is squeezing the toothpaste tube from the bottom or who makes the bed better. A couple who has been together for a while knows how to pick their battles. The real secret to relationship happiness, I’ve come to believe, is not to lose yourself in the process.

Though my marriage has been through many ups and downs over the years, there was a period about seven years ago when I finally became comfortable with who I was. At that point, my unreasonable expectations of Jim fell away. I was responsible for myself and he was stuck loving me the way I was. Thankfully, he loves me as I am. And I love him for who he is.

I believe this unconditional love is the secret to happiness…in anything. Point my finger, tell you how to do it better and I make you miserable. Focus on myself and what my needs are and my life becomes my responsibility. Focusing on what my husband may or may not be doing is not the answer. Loving him for who he realistically is….this is the secret to a happy marriage.

When my mom was ill in the hospital this past winter, Jim was my rock. He endured my tears, fears, tantrums and joys. He was there every step of the way. I called him My Rock on numerous occasions and I still believe this. Without him to lean on, I would have been lost.

On May 10, Jim and I were married 32 years. May you be blessed to have (or to have had) someone in your life, spouse or likewise, who means as much to you. I believe in my heart we are all worthy of unconditional love, not only from others but especially from the God of our own understanding.

Welcome Daily Prompt Readers! Is there someone in your life who is your rock? It doesn’t have to be a spouse! Who can you be yourself with but yet lean on in times of stress?

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The Beautiful People

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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My friend Amy has been through the wringer and back. She is currently recuperating from shoulder surgery and is laid up for at least six weeks.

I’ve written about Amy before. She has three grandchildren already (at age 55) and two of them are to her daughter Mandy, who passed away suddenly three years ago.

What do you do when someone close to you loses someone very dear? I’ll tell you what I used to do. Uncomfortable with my own feelings, I would go to the funeral home, make polite sympathies and leave. Then months would go by before I would say “How are you?” to the friend or family person, lacing my greeting with an apology for not being in touch sooner.

I was never comfortable around sick, dying, or ill people. Preferring the land of the living and healthy, it never occurred to me to look deeper into someone’s heart and soul. To align myself with how they might be feeling. To have EMPATHY instead of detachment.

When my mom was in the hospital, I made an effort to smile at strangers all day. I struck up conversations with people in elevators and the cafeteria line. I would glance into rooms and smile at the recovering people inside. I wanted to bring a smidgen of joy to someone’s day…including my own by connecting with others in a similar situation.

I had an idea that there should be a “Smile Wagon” at the hospital. It could be manned by a very cheery person who had a “wagon” of sorts filled with all kinds of happiness stuff. Smiley stickers, mylar balloons, whoopie cushions, etc. The cart could go around, cheering up the patients and brightening their day. Especially the patients who did not have loved ones that lived close. What do you think about this idea? (Should I write to the hospital?)

Back to Amy. When she lost her daughter, I made a conscious decision to keep in touch. I worked in town and her house was 20 minutes from my work place. When she would pop into my head, I would stop by after work, usually unannounced. I trusted that God would let me know when she might be need a sympathetic ear. Once, after she had back surgery (only within a year or two after Mandy had passed), I laid on Amy’s bed with her and we hung out for hours.

During these many times of being with Amy, I did nothing miraculous. Mostly, I just tried to listen and be there.

I was with Amy this week and I asked her about friendship and grief. She told me people fear loss as being contagious (this blew my mind) and of course, many avoided her because they just didn’t know what to say. I’ve heard of others who try and manage the life of someone with such loss, thinking that is the answer. For me, that is too much control, unless the friend really asks for such help.

My favorite author, Anne Lamott, talks about loss often in many of her faith books. I remember she has said something like All you can really do sometimes, is just show up. It is true. By just showing up, I do what hopefully God wishes of me- to just be there for those beautiful people.

Photo taken at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA. by my lovely daughter, Michelene.

How have you dealt with another’s loss or illness? Are you comfortable with lending an ear?

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