The Deep Roots of Family

Three generations- From L to R, Grandmother Katherine, Granddaughter Michelene, Great Granddaughter Penelope Katherine

Three generations- From L to R, My mother Katherine, My daughter Michelene, My granddaughter Penelope Katherine at one month of age.

“We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.”
Anne Lamott

I am the sum total of the generations before me. My grandparents, mother, father, and relations even beyond them, reaching far into the history of Greece and Turkey are part of me. The personalities and mannerisms that I have about me, no doubt are deeply rooted. I’m sure I do things my ancestors did without even being aware of it.

When I was little, I would spend three or four summer weeks at my Yiayia’s house in Stockdale, Pennsylvania. My dad used to say that the biggest excitement in town was going down to the gas station and jumping on the bell. 🙂 That may have been true but yiayia’s house was my second home.

These roses are just like my yiayia’s.

My grandmother had a trellis of pink tea roses that grew wildly in the summer. I was so attracted to them that to this day, I am crazy about roses. Yiayia would take the rose petals and a recipe she had from her homeland of Chios, Greece and make rose jelly. I have no idea the type of rose she had or the recipe but someday I am going to figure it out.

Beautiful Gardenia

Beautiful Gardenia

My grandfather (Papou) planted a big garden, filled with lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. Put those together in a bowl, add a bit of feta cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar and you have an amazing salad. Papou had the biggest, healthiest gardenia plant I have ever seen. As he aged, he would hum to himself and clean the leaves with a Q-tip. I am deeply attracted to gardenias and wore one on my wrist for my 25th anniversary.

I married my husband partly because when he drove me up the driveway to the family homestead, there was a huge field next to the house, surrounded by woods. I’ve been a nature girl my whole life and that stuck with me. We’ve planted a garden pretty much every year we’ve been married. We grow tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini. I love my backyard and it is an endless source of calm for me. In the morning, I can walk outside in my jammies and not worry about a next door neighbor.

My daughter Michelene is an even bigger nature girl. She has planted dozens of varieties of heirloom tomatoes, dried the seeds, and used them for new plantings. Her yard is huge and she always has something going on- canning fresh applesauce, making homemade sauce, or raising her first batch of baby chicks. Beekeeping is something Michelene does with her dad; check out her first Beefuddled Farms blog post HERE.

Me and Penelope

Me and Penelope

My son John and his partner Jessica are amazing cooks. When I go and watch Penelope, there is always something creative in the fridge. This past week it was pizza and the crust was made with spaghetti squash (no kidding). It was amazing. Penelope is going to have quite a palate I am sure.

As a family we embrace traditional foods but also look for new ways to enjoy healthy choices. I love how John experiments with avocados, squashes and cauliflower and creates delicious wonders. Then of course, there’s always a square of good dark chocolate for dessert. We love that.

Last year for Mother’s Day, I made a nice dinner and invited everyone over. For a take home gift, I had little pots of fresh herbs to choose from- basil, rosemary, or parsley. Every year I grow a giant basil plant for a big Orthodox holiday in September. Michelene and John chose basil as their plant to take home. I was proud of that.


My prize basil plant

If we look deep enough, we will find clues to what makes up all those amazing parts of us. The combination of ancestry and influences are who we are inside. We can certainly change those things that no longer serve us and in the process, some really good stuff will come bubbling up. Scrap away the fluff (as Pooh would call it) and find your beauty within.

What did you like to do as a child? I’ve read this recently and have tried to go back to it. I loved to jump rope, color, be creative, and be outside. Those are the things I’m trying to embrace as often as I can. (Well, I admit I have yet to buy a jump rope!)

Happy Earth Day!

Know you are beautiful inside and out.

My book, Ordinary Is Extraordinary, is available on Barnes and Noble Nook now! Click HERE for the link. To order from Amazon, click on the book to the right of this post (on the sidebar). I have some good “book” stories to tell you about next time we chat. 🙂

Happy Easter, Kali Anastasi, to my Orthodox Christian friends! For my latest post on the Orthodox Christian Network click HERE.











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19 thoughts on “The Deep Roots of Family

  1. Cathy McElhaney

    I used to love to be outside, too. I would ride my bike and climb trees, lay in the grass and watch the clouds. Music was always a big part of mt life, too. My dad played the accordion and keyboard…my mom loved to sing and dance! As a teenager, you would often find me in my room with the radio blasting and a book in my hand.
    Thanks for sharing this! I miss that place!

  2. MamaMickTerry

    Oh Joanne,
    What I wouldn’t give to spend an afternoon with you. What an amazing and warm story of home, family, and nature.
    I can also smell the basil and roses. Makes me itch to head outside right now. Thank you for starting my Saturday with a smile.

    PS: I’m posting a little something on Monday and linked to your Amazon site. Hope that’s okay!!

  3. Kathy Brittner

    Have a blessed Easter Joanne. I always love your blogs (well it is a good part of my childhood you talk about too, I guess). Can;t wait for my book to arrive!!

  4. Marylin Warner

    I love your lovely family pictures interspersed with the flowers, Joanne, and the memories of you growing up are precious. Penelope is surrounded by a wonderful family with strong, loving women.
    I’m smiling at the Anne Lamotte quote–it’s my second favorite. My first favorite was when she was talking about a class picture when she was in elementary school. She said you could pick her out of the group and knew she would either be a serial killer or a writer. Now THAT would be an interesting child to have at the dinner table.

    1. Joanne Cain Post author

      I’m laughing at your last line Marylin! How I love Anne Lamott. Thank you for your kind words about my family. I wanted my friends to see the latest picture of Penelope. I am so enjoying my time with her. God bless you and your loving family. xo Joanne

  5. Cindy

    What an awesome and heartwarming story of family and nature and how the love of both are so intertwined in your story. Your title is just perfect for this post. I can almost smell the fragrence of that gardenia flower. My maiden name was Gardina, and my mom’s name was Rose Gardina. Amazing, she had two pretty flowers for both her names. My mom always had a gardenia plant blooming in her sun porch, & I will always remember that smell as I opened the door to come in. Thanks Joanne for the memories.

    1. Joanne Cain Post author

      I love that your mom’s name was Rose Gardina. So beautiful. I feel blessed when I can inspire my readers to think of wonderful memories such as yours Cindy. Have a blessed day!

  6. cheffieskitchen

    Beautiful post, and proof that even if we are here for generations, the Greek in us is still strong. The rose is a big thing in Greece. My mother would always sprinkle rose water on the kourabeithes before she sprinkled the powdered sugar on them. Are you familiar with loukoumi? They are a gel-like confection and one of the most popular flavors is rose. You can buy the rose jelly in a jar at the Greek store.

    I love gardenia’s as well. They were my mother’s favorite flower and mine as well. The gardenia, you might remember, was significant in my book.

    Your pictures are lovely. Enjoy your beautiful family

    Christos anesti!

    1. Joanne Cain Post author

      Alithos Anesti! My mother is still a fan of loukoumi. When we went to Greece eight years ago, she bought a box to take home. She loves them. We are soul sisters with the gardenias for sure. xoxo


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