Faith is Freedom

Photography by FitzPicz
Photography by FitzPicz

“Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.”

Rabindranath Tagore

I spent last weekend with some good friends. We braved the winter weather of snow and slush. The sun came out briefly before the rain began and gave us something to smile about. It wasn’t a much warmer place, but it was a good place none the less.

I had alot of time to think and rest. Sometimes I find the only way to get inspired is to get out of town. Truly it seems that when I am an hour or more from my own home, my brain starts to relax. It begins to think of new ideas for just about anything, and creative ways to market my business. Without my usual responsibilites for those few days, I can feel free to read, walk, nap or socialize without worrying about what’s for dinner or anything else!

FitzPics
FitzPicz– Beautiful

I’m back home now. Though it is still cold and snowing on and off, I know winter is almost over. In a few weeks I will walk to the back of my field and snow drops will be peeking up through the tiny bits of snow under the trees. I will count the days until Easter and look forward to my church services and a pascal dinner at my aunt and uncle’s. Those snow drops will be only the beginning. After that will be daffodils, tulips, and forsythia. I will know what a spring breeze feels like again. I will wait for the days to get warmer and longer.

FitzPicz
FitzPicz

Last month I wrote about having a different attitude about winter. So far it has seemed to work. I’ve never been fond of this season and the weather for the last two months has given me its best. But I’ve survived! Here’s what’s contributed to my tiny bits of gratitude and happiness, and kept me in an upbeat mood.

The birds in my backyard. They are here daily and are stunning. Red, blue, black and white. Just gorgeous. The photos I’m featuring today were taken by a friend of my cousin. John is actually from Kentucky but it feels like he is next door to me. The cardinals in flight are simply beautiful. Bird watching has given me pause for gratitude every day. Thank you John for allowing me to showcase your photos!

My friends and family. I make a point to get out at least once a week for lunch with a friend. It isn’t expensive. We do hamburgers or salads and chat it up. There is nothing that can replace a warm friendship with another woman. Nothing. Especially one that you truly love. And I’m thankful for my phone friends as well. I have those too and my God those women are awesome. And family? Well, it goes for the saying that when I am surrounded by my family, I’m in a magnificent place.

So here we are. It is almost March. Hopefully, spring will come a bit early and lighten us all. If not, so what? Faith is freedom. Faith is believing that spring will come and soon enough we’ll be sitting outside, enjoying a cool beverage and a warm breeze!

Thank you FitzPicz
Thank you FitzPicz

Join me on my graceful journey.
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Good Golly, Miss Molly!

Miss Molly, Photo by my daughter, Michelen
Meet Miss Molly! All photos by my daughter, Michelene

“Happiness is a warm puppy.” ― Charles M. Schulz

Who’s big, shiny black and carries a big stick? Why it’s my daughter’s new puppy, Miss Molly!

She’s a Great Dane, just a little under one year old and even in couple of months, has grown larger almost right before our eyes. You can tell by the pictures, I’m sure, that she is quite the happy girl.

I knew a Great Dane years ago, when I dated a young Italian who had one. That was long ago and though the memory is faded, I knew Danes to be loving and gentle dogs. That didn’t stop me from being a tad bit scared the first time I met Molly. But that quickly faded as I saw how sweet and sincere she is.

My daughter is Molly’s third owner in her small life. When Michelene told me that I said, “Well, you have to keep her now.” And Michelene agreed. It’s a done deal. Molly is a member of the family.

Molly loves to play fetch in the basement with balls. Intially, she would not go downstairs because her second owner kept her in a basement all the time. 🙁 Michelene was very patient and encouraging with Molly to help her overcome this. She placed dog treats on each step leading down to the basement, and gradually Molly overcame her own fears.

With my daughter’s large yard and property, Molly has plenty of room to run and play. My own pup, Miss Jordan, was initially petrified of Molly but that didn’t last long. They are bosom buddies, often romping in the back yard of Michelene’s house together.

Molly eats two pounds of dog food a day and drinks a LOT of water. She has a special dog/water food combo dish that is elevated off the ground due to her height.

She loves to look out the window at everyone and everything!

How much is that puppy in the window?
How much is that puppy in the window?

I think we know deep down that Molly is an example of how you can be moved around, not sure where you are going, but end up exactly where you are supposed to be. There will always be someone who will love us exactly the way we are. We love Molly for who she is and the potential for what she can become. She is a beautiful dog, inside and out.

Cathching a few Zzzzz!
Catching a few Zzzzz!

Here’s to many good years ahead! We are blessed and lucky to have Molly as a part of our family!

Who is a blessing in your life?

Join me on my graceful journey.
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A Day of Whimsy

Whimsy DoorIt was a beautiful fall day. The leaves on the trees were yellow gold with an occasional crimson, perfect for a ride in the country. The air was brisk, chilly and just a bit windy.

My son John and I had decided to spend the day together. He had a job to do in Harmony, Pennsylvania and I thought it was a good opportunity for some exploration. I’m hunting for a new kitchen table, since I gave my daughter ours for her new place. So my thinking was to look for a used furniture store. I ended up finding so much more.

Whimsy Road SignOn the way to the job site, I noticed a sign for antiques. Thinking of the potential for hidden treasures, I doubled back after dropping my son off. I got lost for about five minutes then turned around, unwilling to give up. Soon I was pulling into the parking lot of a quaint looking shop.

As I walked up the steps, the red entry door blew open. Now it was a windy day but the timing on that was a bit mysterious! As I entered the shop, I felt as if I stepped back in time. Beautiful furniture, jewelry and knickknacks from the past were lovingly displayed within two large rooms. For a moment I was back in my grandmother’s house among her hostess trays, serving pieces and water glasses.

Silver Set Whimsy AntiquesWhat an interesting place “Whimsy Antiques” is. Sue the owner, is a retired art teacher of thirty five years who has a special eye for unique treasures. She does shows all across the country but I was lucky enough to visit the shop while she was in town.

We chatted for a bit and then I left Sue to wander around. Soon my eye fell upon a quilt. Not just any quilt. An OLD quilt.

Quilt from WhimsyI examined the fabric. Some of the material reminded me of my grandfather’s old suits, warm and woolen. There were also beautiful dark blue corduroy and camel colored strips. The backing fabric was a soft blue, weathered with time. My thought was, back then nothing was wasted. When clothes became too tattered to wear, the best parts were saved and sewn into quilts. There were even little tufts of yarn (or wool) in a sunny color, randomly spaced. The price tag said the quilt was from the early 1900’s.

Of course I was instantly smitten and thought I am really in trouble now, because I looked at the price tag and didn’t think I could justify it. But then, November is my birthday month and it was November first. 🙂

So slowly, I began to wonder if I could acquire this wonderful quilt. Sue noticed my interest and we negotiated. Let’s just say she was very fair. In exchange for her kindness, I offered to share this story with you.

Yes, she has old KEYS too!
Yes, she has old KEYS too!

So now, when I visit Harmony, PA. I have a new friend to stop and see. I hope that if you are in the Butler County area, you will take the road less traveled to this lovely graceful place.

Oh and I showed the quilt to Jim. He absolutely LOVED it.

Did you ever find something you just had to have? Tell me about it!

Join me on my graceful journey.
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Rocky Mountain High

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I don’t know about you but sometimes I can really get a committee going in my head. The committee sometimes makes good sense or helps me through a problem in a loving and encouraging way. But sometimes the committee speaks too loudly and makes no sense.

It likes to go on and on about dumb stuff and I just follow along, wimp like, victim like while it chastises me for various things. I didn’t do this or that good enough, or wow, how could I have reacted in that situation like that. On and on it goes, just making me feel bad.

Until I got the bright idea one day that I could just change the station in my head. Just like turning the knob to another radio station, I can switch off the bad thoughts and tune into another station. I mentally try one station- soft music- and in my head suddenly I am singing an old familiar 70’s song like yep, Rocky Mountain High. I saw John Denver in person once, the year before he died, and he performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. That was the first song he walked out on stage singing and I still get chills just thinking about it.

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So now my head is filled with glorious music and a stunning mountain vista, instead of those pesky, bothersome committee members.

If the song ends in my head, I can again switch the station. This time, I switch to the spiritual station. In the background I can feel the warmth of soft candles. My Higher Power is there, s(he) is engaging me in loving thoughts and encouragement. I am again bathed in a wash of light and happiness, grateful to be alive and ready for my next destination.

This takes some practice, but I am getting pretty good at switching stations. The committee is learning that it can’t sit there and complain and give me a hard time or the door will close to its room. I’ll be off and in another direction, content to find another, more happier place in which to hang out.

Thanks to my daughter Michelene for her stunning photos!

Where do you go (in your head!) for a change of scenery?

Join me on my graceful journey.
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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?

Join me on my graceful journey.
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The Fountain of Youth

Photo- Carmine Sarazen
Photo Courtesy of Carmine Sarazen

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age. Sophia Loren

Recently, I was reading a magazine article (Think Like a Guy, Oprah Magazine, May 2013) written by Gabrielle Reece who published a new book entitled My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper. A thought provoking excerpt from that article really got me thinking about age and growing older gracefully.

Gabrielle writes “Perhaps the ultimate lesson of getting older is learning to check our egos at the door. Losing our dignity and independence is the fear beneath our anxiety about aging. It’s not so much the lines and sunspots on our faces; it’s more what the lines and sunspots sign; that life moves in only one direction. Yet every day the sun rises, and each day is our own. I’m reminded of the Emerson quote: “No one suspects the days to be gods.”

I looked up the entire Emerson quote and here is what it said: “Heaven walks among us ordinarily muffled in such triple or tenfold disguises that the wisest are deceived and no one suspects the days to be gods.”

When we are young we think we will live forever. We take daring chances more easily, we don’t break as hard, we push forward thinking we have all the time in the world. As I age, that time seems smaller and smaller, though with life expectancies what they are, who knows how long I’ll live?

I used to think retirement (kind of) meant the end. Done. Gardening, long cups of coffee in the morning, maybe a bit of travel, pans of pastichio for the church food festival. But lately I’m thinking there is more. I am starting to open my mind to think that the fountain of youth is in new challenges, new ways of growing. It’s also in “giving back”; passing along some help, friendship and wisdom to those who may need it at just the right time.

Faith can also provide the necessary ingredient to guard against age panic. I find that when I touch that grace filled spot within me, I am young all over again. Physical being can always be transcended; it is in our mind and heart where we can drink from the fountain again and again.

How do you feel about age? 

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!

Join me on my graceful journey.
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When Less Is Really Better

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“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Life is moving in slow motion for me these days. For the first time in many years I have the luxury of enjoying summer, spending time with my mom, family and friends. It’s a big switch for me, multi- tasker that I am, as I am used to cramming as much as I can into my waking hours. It was nothing for me to go non stop from 7am until 10pm at night, rarely stopping long enough to catch my breath in between. My sister Mary said to me once, “Jo, you’re making us all look bad.”

These days, it is life without much of an agenda. It is freeing really to have a minimal schedule and plenty of time to work on small projects. And, the bonus to all this is I am living on a lot less money than I used to. My needs have become very simple. I tried to figure it out the other day, what was it that was really different? First, I am just not buying stuff like I used to. Second, I am content with a lot less.

DSC_0162Part of this I can attribute to grace and age. As I truly work on embracing life from the standpoint of a spiritual journey, material things have become less and less important. As I get older I feel like I am truly embracing what my mother Katherine has always set an example of- that less is really better. Bigger, fancier and complicated just means more expensive, more maintenance, more potential aggravation. Make more money and we spend more money. Easy and simple I’m finding is really the way to go. Pare things down, decide what’s really important, ease back and enjoy it.

The bonus to all this less is more attitude is more time and energy, and a bit of extra money for what I feel most passionate about. The ability to decide what’s really important bestows a true attitude of generosity in so many other ways. Ways that can really make a difference.

Thanks again to my daughter Michelene for these beautiful photos!

What’s your simplest pleasure? I’d love to know!

Join me on my graceful journey.
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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!

Join me on my graceful journey.
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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!

Join me on my graceful journey.
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