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.
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!”.
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.
Last week I had the pleasure of attending a writing and podcasting conference at Antiochian Village. This jewel of a lodging/conference center/spiritual retreat rests in the Laurel Highlands of Ligonier Pennsylvania. I believe I have written about this beautiful place before. I launched my book, Ordinary is Extraordinary, there last April of 2016. This was now the third time I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and enjoying Antiochian Village (AV).
Ancient Faith Ministries (AF) sponsored this conference and I was overjoyed to be there. I missed last year’s conference and so when the opportunity came up this year I blocked off my calendar. As I write more and more for the OCN, I have become interested in the possibility of writing a book for Orthodox Christians. I couldn’t wait to see what the conference had to offer.
Interestingly enough, I was quite sure I’d know not a soul there. I did have a friendship with Melinda, the marketing director of AF. She gave me my start at the OCN two years ago and is now with Ancient Faith. But that was through a virtual connection and other than her, I knew absolutely no one. Scary? Maybe. But not really. I knew these would be people living a spiritual life and because of this I had no apprehensions.
I walked in the door and Melinda was the first person I saw. We greeted each other with a warm hug and I thanked her for giving me the opportunity at OCN. Since my room was not quite ready, I wandered into the bookstore (yes, on location at AV) and introduced myself to Father Andrew Stephen Damick. We chatted, looked over the generous display of books, and he showed me two of his books. I brought one of those home and am absolutely loving it.
Throughout the two days of the conference, I was educated, motivated, inspired and spiritually captivated. None of us got much sleep as there was just too much excitement. AF provided us with great speakers, the opportunity of chapel services morning and evening, and AV gave us delicious meals, inspiring sunrises and sunsets, and comfortable rooms.
If you are a writer, do you attend conferences? I admit to not being active in a writer’s world (yet!) because I have so much else going on. But this conference helped me realize that we really do need to re-charge our batteries regularly by being around like minded people. It doesn’t matter what our interests are. Gather with others who have similar passions and watch the fires light.
I met Dr. Gary Jenkins next, waiting for dinner on the first night. We struck up a conversation and it turned out we both knew Father Paul Abernathy. Gary wrote a blog when he arrived home that captured how I felt about the AF conference (#afcon). And honestly, this gift of meeting amazing people continued for the two days of the conference. My standard opening lines were Where are you from? and What motivated you to be here? I met children’s book writers, podcasters, motivational speakers, priests, and even a small baby! One of my God moments was meeting Presbytera Stacey of Eikonia. She and her two sisters sing beautiful hymns of the church that bring tears to my eyes.
So what did all this do for me? Within a day of arriving home, I began a sequel to Ordinary is Extraordinary that is about joyful living. This inspiration came while at Antiochian Village and on the beautiful ride home. And of course I pitched a book idea to Melinda over breakfast and she gave me some good direction. I am pursuing the research and contemplating my book submission to Ancient Faith for this fall of 2017.
What brings you joy? I would really like to know! The sequel I am writing will be about the moments that have brought me joy but I would like to also incorporate some of your joyful moments. Is it the birth of your children or grandchildren? Is it a walk in the woods with your dogs? How about time with sisters, brothers, or other friends? No thought is too small and I would be overjoyed to hear your joys! So please comment below or send me a private message through Facebook. Or simply email me at email@example.com. (Your comments can be anonymous if you wish.)
Many things bring me joy. I’ve chosen some of my favorite moments below. One more amazing side note to all of this. It turns out that Melinda, who currently lives on the West Coast, is moving to Cranberry PA this summer. Cranberry is about 40 minutes from me. Wow. How’s that for grace?
Live, love, laugh joyfully. Enjoy every day and find the nuggets within.
“I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”
― Anne Lamott
Happy New Year! How was your holiday? I can’t believe it’s over already. Now it’s back to reality and real life! I couldn’t resist the above quote by Anne Lamott. She makes me laugh, cry and smile, sometimes all at the same time. Reading her books and writing can turn around my whole day.
When I look back on this year, I can consider it an amazing one. I did many more events than I thought possible. My church had a centennial celebration that I was blessed to be a part of. Penelope Katherine, my newest grandchild, was born on January 24 and brought such joy to my (and the whole family’s) life. I published my first book, Ordinary is Extraordinary and sold more copies of it than I thought possible (thank you!).
On the flip side, I was sometimes overwhelmed by too much to do. As usual I think I am managing well but then a dark cloud comes over me. That is why that quote above is especially poignant. I can really relate to it. Sometimes it is other people that bother me, sometimes it is the situations I create myself.
My word of the year for 2016 was Believe. It was a great word and I have kept it in mind all year. I hoped to use it to deepen my faith and I believe I accomplished that goal. I also know I will always keep building my relationship with God. I am never done and He will never be rid of me.
In the past two months, I lost a good friend to cancer. Another friend of mine, who was to be a first time grandmother, experienced a stillborn loss that I am still struggling to believe. Both of these were deep losses that I felt (and am still feeling). This is the hard part of growing up, getting older. You lose people that you love, bad things happen and we don’t understand them.
I remember when my father died almost nineteen years ago. We didn’t really see it coming although he had been sick for quite a while. The day after his death the sun came up. Time waits for no one I thought. Despite the awful loss of my dad, the world did not stop. People came and went. Friends showed up.
Isn’t this how we get through life? We plod along and sometimes there is deep mud to walk through, rain that beats down on us, and the occasional lighting strikes. Then there are those days when the sun comes out, someone gets married, a baby is born, a new friend is made. These events are what makes life worth living.
May you go forward in 2017 with a renewed attitude, a motivation to learn something new, and an awareness of the grace that will surely come your way.
I wanted to share some highlights of my year. These moments were especially wonderful. xo
“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.
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.
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.
One morning I took a hot bath at Mary’s and opened my Pandora app. Guess what came up:
“One by one she slew her fears, and then planted a flower garden over their graves.”
― John Mark Green
In my younger days, I often noticed how older women would brazenly speak their mind. They seemed to have no filter. Saying what they wanted, not caring whether it hurt someone or not, they barrelled over others with unbridled words. I envied this at times when I wasn’t blushing with shame for them.
Fast forward to my (now) mid life wisdom days and it’s amazing the bravado I have. I’m finally in that category of saying what I want and doing (well, mostly!) what I please. I can look people in the eye and not really care if they like what I’m saying. Attempts at diplomacy work most of the time but sometimes they just go flying out the window.
A few years ago, my friend told me a story about her steak eating, beer drinking, ciggy smoking mother who horrified her one day. Her mom was sitting on a bench outside a big retail store with a couple of other large women (yes, complete strangers). As my friend came out of the store, her mom nonchalantly proclaimed, “Where did all the fat people come from?” This while sitting there like it was just a regular day. I asked if the other women bopped her mother with their purses and my friend’s answer was “no”.
Where does the midlife bravado come from? And speaking of which, why does unresolved anger have to come with it? After scaring myself a few times with my own lack of ceiling on my wrath, I confided in an older friend of mine. She said, “If you have any unresolved issues they will come out in menopause.”
This answer provided me a measure of relief. Here was an explanation that made sense. In my first book, I talk about the realization that with my deepening relationship with God, I knew I was loved to infinity. What became the challenge was not to abuse that love by engaging in mean, angry comments to others.
This is still true now. Lately, I’m using the three A’s approach- Awareness, Acceptance, and Action. To stay in awareness and acceptance but not take any action (on bad behavior) implies an egotistical, self centered way of looking at things (or plain ignorance). Of course I should look at myself. Of course I should attempt to tape my mouth shut occasionally. Of course I should rein myself in. Deep down I do not want to deliberately hurt people.
I have a lot on my plate lately. There are many beautiful relationships I’m currently engaged in with family, friends, and clients. I’m trying to use my new bravado in the way that will suit me best. It helps me be more honest. I feel more open to sharing feelings that previously I might have bottled up. Channeled properly, this bravado helps me make a point and keeps me from stuffing it down deep. Reining myself in when it will do no good (or only hurt others), I’m learning to share unhappy feelings with “safe” friends, those who will love me no matter what. Unleashing unbridled anger at others- worse yet, projecting it onto innocent people- is a big fat no no.
When I feel that quickening beat of a mouthful of wrath coming on, I pull my breath deep into my core and take a moment to center myself. I am a strong woman capable of empowerment and not prone to intimidation, negative thinking, or pity. This mantra will usually restore peace and tranquility. Small bits of these moments, savored like a good chocolate chip cookie, help me retain my sanity. This is a busy world. Let’s not forget to love ourselves in the process.
I have a guest blogger today! She is my friend from the West Coast, Ms. Daleen of Sunday’s Child. When I read this post, I admit to crying just a bit. 🙂 Friendship can be that way. God has blessed me with amazing friends.
Here’s her sweet post. Please leave a heartfelt comment and I’ll enter your name in a drawing to win an autographed copy of my book!
Admit it, we have all said it. “Geesh, I need some new friends.”
While in algebra class, it was easy to find a study friend. During ballet practice, friends were there to help us learn. Moving with the Army, we met new friends every 4 years.
However, once you go over the 50 year mark, new friends are few and far between.
Most of us have settled down, take a class now and then, same job or work from home, same church friends, same neighbors, not many faces change.
Then when you aren’t looking, almost magically, God hears your prayer and slips a new friend into your pocket. One of those good kind of friends. The ones with a fabulous laugh & beautiful heart. The kind of friend who while talking on the phone, just as she arrives at an event, you politely say good bye and good luck, then SCREAM, WAIT! Do you have on cute earrings and good lipstick? Seriously, she says, oh yes. Then tells you the kind of earrings and shade of lip stick she chose.
To be honest, you feel a tiny bit guilty that she is making others wait while she finishes the phone call. (To the world, it looks like an important phone call. Reality check, Lipstick color IS important!) Along with that tiny bit of guilt, you feel lucky. Lucky that she is your friend and she is choosing to answer your important lip stick question before she races off to put the fine touches on an event.
Little did I know those five words would help me find a friend. I write about the grace that swirls around me.
As you well know, life throws us for a loop now and then. A couple years ago, I was on the ground trying to get back up onto the trampoline of life when Joanne offered me a cup of coffee and a hug.
Two people living on opposite sides of the country, God saw fit to bring us together. It is Grace pure, sweet and simple.
I can’t tell you how many times I have written a slip of paper for my grateful jar about Joanne. (I just re-read this, it sort of sounds like I am a weird stalker of some sort. I prefer to think of it as the Joanne Fan Club!)
Joanne sent me a good wish card with a picture of lilacs!
Joanne has a new grand baby!
Joanne shared some honey!
Joanne published her book!
Believe it or not, we have never had a cup of coffee in person. Honest truth. We text and say, I can chat in 15 minutes, pour your coffee and let’s talk. Then we get to put our feet up & drink coffee until the cup is empty or our phone batteries die. snort. Yes, we have talked over those annoying beeps. Oh you don’t know? After you chat for 3 hours on your phone it starts beeping. The beeping means, Enough girls……..go live more life so you have something to talk about next time.
We talk about our grands. We talk about food, husbands, kids, weddings, more food, bees, honey, quilts, cross stitch, blogs, lipstick, earrings, books, writing books, travel, vacations and yes plans to meet one day.
Joanne writes a blog about grace & love. She writes what she lives. With the amazing ability to make those around her feel covered in grace and goodness, she somehow makes you feel better just by stopping by.
Yes, her writing is a respite in the glorious commotion of the day. She gracefully & simply refills your spirit. Her words remind you that there is good out there and there is an abundance for all of us.
One day, she asked if I would help her with her book. Good Golly, Miss Molly! I was beyond flattered that she would consider me. I was rubbing my hands together with glee. So excited and thrilled that she asked me to be part of her book writing journey.
Oh no, then it hit. How on earth was I going to look over her writing and make as I call them “gentle suggestions”? While in school and even when I home schooled, I loathed corrections made with red ink & capital letters. Urgh. Seemed so mean and awful and not very encouraging. I didn’t want to come off as a school marm with a waaaaaay too tight hair bun, slapping a ruler in my hand wearing less than cute shoes. I didn’t want to judge.
The air quickly leaked out of my (imaginary, celebratory) fancy balloon bouquet.
While I was thrilled for her book accomplishment, I didn’t want, even gentle suggestions to smudge our lovely friendship. We had to talk.
We talked and talked and wrote back and forth and talked some more.
In the end, I used green ink to make my gentle suggestions. I asked questions. Some suggestions she jumped on, others she gently let go. We found a way to balance on the see saw.
In the style of friendship, grace guided us through.
Oh yes, I am beyond happy for her and her accomplishment. I am grateful we worked on part of her dream together. It was such a huge moment her life, by her sharing, somehow our friendship sort of seems sealed in the grace of the work.
I got to chat with her on the day her book cover was decided. The day her book was being published, again we talked. We talked as she drove to her book launch.
As I tore open the end of that padded yellow envelope, I held my breath, the book, her book slipped gently out and onto my counter. I was teary eyed.
I am so proud of my friend. She is (with gorgeous lipstick, sassy earrings and a beautiful smile) standing in the middle of her goal. Sort of dream like, only for real.
Heartfelt congratulations my friend! I loved watching you cart wheel through the book writing process. You inspire us, your readers.
Here is the beautiful part. The book is good. Really good. Each chapter is a nugget of gold. You feel bathed in grace with each page you turn. You almost don’t want to dog ear the corners. Ha. I already have. I have drawn hearts and underlined inspiring phrases. You feel as though you are sneaking a peek into her world. Secret gems that you might use in your own jumble of life. I know the book was written with the idea of reading a chapter here or there with a lovely cup of coffee. However, once you open the cover, you fall into the pages and are covered with goodness & love. You can’t put it down. Yes, that good.
Grace, it’s Amazing.
From Joanne: Thank you Daleen for this beautiful post! Friends, please leave Daleen a comment and you will be entered to win an autographed copy of my book! Be sure to check out Daleen’s blog!
Today is a special day. I am sharing my first book with you! The excitement of this has been building over the last couple of months and I am over the moon about it. This weekend I will be speaking at the women’s empowerment conference in Ligonier, PA and sharing my story.
When I received the first early copies of my book, I gave one to the mother of my granddaughter Penelope. Jessica is my friend and the partner of my son John. She is the manager of the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Allegheny Valley, PA.
As luck would have it, Jessica, Penelope and I went on a little field trip yesterday. We visited another Restore and stopped for lunch afterwards. We talked about how to market my book and Jess offered to do a review for me. I took her up on the offer!
So here, without any further ado, are Jessica’s thoughts on “Ordinary IS Extraordinary.”
When I read Ordinary IS Extraordinary I was nursing my infant daughter, Penelope, and read most of it out loud to her.
We cried at different parts for different reasons…
I had tears in my eyes when Joanne shared her journey of rediscovering her faith and loving herself. I smiled as I pictured her as an awkward young person. Looking down at Penny while we read, I couldn’t help wondering if she would face some of the same challenges in life.
I was inspired by Joanne’s discoveries of growth, as the lens she saw both the world and herself through, changed as her experiences colored the glass.
When I closed the book..I found myself savoring so much of her insights, that I let out a huge breath I didn’t know I was holding…and with it a burden I didn’t realize was there. As for Penelope, she always loves hearing her Nana’s adventures, even when she’s hungry.
Grab a cup of Jo, your favorite snack, and devote a morning or afternoon to walking in her footsteps. I know you’ll enjoy the landscape. The writing is honest and you’ll feel as though she is sitting across from you on that lounge chair, having a coffee, sharing in your delight along the way.
From Jessica Levine
Jessica, thank you so much for your beautiful words!
Click HERE to order my book on Amazon. There’s a Kindle version too! You may want to order two books ;), one for you and one for a friend.
When you read Ordinary IS Extraordinary, I’d love to hear from you! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts. If you are a blogger that writes on spirituality, I would be happy to send you a book to review.
How are you at setting goals? Are you consistent about them or are you content to just take every day as it comes?
I am not the best when it comes to goal setting. I’m a recovering perfectionist and goals to a perfectionist can be an over the top thing, worthy of obsession. When I was a new mom, I was a super Tupperware lady for seven years. A newspaper article that interviewed me for a story on party plans called me “vivacious” (no kidding!). My cousin Gary called me this for years. 🙂 Truly though, I shied away from goals for fear of not making them. Back then our distributor would say, “Goals are dreams with a deadline.”
Over the years, I’ve realized what’s more important- my sanity or pushing myself to insanity.
That’s why I was intrigued when my friend Tracy Eisenmanndid a Vision Board workshop last year. My friend Karen and I decided to do it together and had a grand time. We sipped wine, snipped and cut from magazines, and looked for pictures that would symbolize our forthcoming intentions.
After I created my board, I hung it up and looked at it often. Dreaming of what I might accomplish, I opened my heart to the possibilities. After a while I admit to putting the board in a closet. It left my mind and I went on to other things.
Recently, I got it out again and took a fresh look. Up in the left hand corner, there were two cars. One was black, the other was red. I am not kidding when I tell you we just bought two used cars in January and February respectively. My car is red. Jim’s car was dark grey.
I was alone in my house when I pulled the vision board back out of the closet. Out loud I said, “AND IT’S RED!”. I couldn’t believe so much of the board had come true.
Maya Angelou is in the bottom right corner as a dream weaver for my writing. I have always admired her. Remarkably, my first writing dream/goal has come true. I am going to tell you about my book “Ordinary is Extraordinary” within one week of this post. I will give you a link to order it. It will be ready for the women’s retreat atAntiochian Village on Saturday, April 2. I am going to speak about it.
This is a “pinch me” time. Sometimes I can’t sleep I’m so excited about it all. God has blessed me with a full wedding season, a new granddaughter, a book, and friendships so deep that I am amazed.
There’s a Vision Board Workshop on Friday evening of the Empowerment weekend (April 1). So I will be doing a new board and I’m so excited! I hear we will be accepting walk in’s on Saturday morning. I’m speaking at 9 am so get there early if you plan on coming at the last minute!
Thank you so much for being with me on my journey. We have so much more ground to cover. Let me know what’s exciting in your life!
For more info on the Empowerment Retreat, click HERE.
And for my worldwide blogger friends, here’s my latest Penelope picture!