All the Best and The Greatest Gift of All

Hi everyone.

It’s been a BUSY (past) week and weekend. The Christmas shopping is pretty much done (except for food). Now begins the food buying and prepping since we’ll be hosting a small gathering (10 or so?) on Christmas Day. (It’s all good.)

Liv room--Christmas 2014 ©2014 Joanna Aislinn

Of course, I was keeping this one shorter, and wishing all of you a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa. Here’s to feeling blessed and sharing time, joy and love with all those who matter most to you.

I’m also praying big-time for peace on earth and good will to men (and women, of course), the greatest gift of all.

Funny. I’m certain I’ve heard, read, said or sung those phrases since I’ve been old enough to talk. I was singing it the other day (along with Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, to the The Greatest Gift of All,  off their Christmas CD–one of my top-five favorites). It struck me, in this world of horror, terror-filled news, how incredible a gift it would be for people to want good for each other. For the first time, I feel as though I owned those words. I sang them with intent that was new, real and heartfelt in a way I hadn’t fully understood before. (Maybe that’s just part of growing older?)

Anyway, that is what I’m wishing all of you, during the holiday(s) you celebrate. Peace in your hearts and good will toward all those who impact your days. And if you are inclined to do so, please consider praying for those who suffer and for those who wreak evil too. At the very least, the hearts, minds and spirits of the latter are most likely in one heck of a place to do what they do.

On an up note, I’d love to read about how you’ll be spending the holidays. Feel free to list your favorite music too. I linked you too, to my favorite tracks from my top five Christmas CDs. Enjoy!

1. Steven Curtis Chapman–The Magic of Christmas (my #1 favorite song of all time is from this one)

2. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton–Once Upon a Christmas (A Christmas to Remember)

3. Donny Osmond–Christmas at Home (A Soldier’s Christmas)

4. Garth Brooks–Magic of Christmas: Songs from Call Me Claus (Baby Jesus is Born)

5. A Very Special Christmas (Red label–Baby Please Come Home–U2)

sofa--dressed up My sofa, all dressed up (to hide the cat damage, lol). © Joanna Aislinn 2014

Thanks to all of you for your support, your time, and for sharing your thoughts. You are tremendously appreciated.

Peace,

Joanna

 

 

Advertisements

Post-A-Day Inspired–Handmade Gifts

Happy Wednesday and week before Thanksgiving, reader-friends. This year, the holiday is so late, the season will be right up our heels in no time at all.

Very special thanks to my new followers–I am humbled, grateful and truly appreciative of all of you! And to those of you who have been around a while and always faithful and kind enough to leave those comments–well, you know. (Hugs.)

This post is in response to WordPress editor Ben Huberman’s Post-A-Day.

The prompt: What’s the best present you’ve ever received that was handmade by the giver, not store bought?

Coincidentally enough, this prompt originally aired on November 14, which just happens to be the EIGHTEENTH anniversary of Older Son’s birth, and ties into the homemade gift referred to here.

Long story short: At the baby shower my mom hosted when Older Son had yet to make his debut, I received a blue-and-white crocheted, zigzag pattern blanket. (Hubby, who somehow had managed to keep from me the results of my ultrasound, shared his knowledge with everyone else he knew. That, however, is beside the point.)

The blanket, given to me by Hubby’s stepmother, gave away that “secret.”

About ten (?) years later, Hubby’s stepmom asked us to pick up something from her cousin, a shut-in who lived alone less than a mile from my home, in a senior housing building.

At that time, we were busy working, caring for two young boys, keeping up with their sports schedules—you know: typical parent stuff. We didn’t mind doing Hubby’s stepmother a favor, but Hubby voiced some initial concerns about ‘getting involved’ and ‘winding up’ caregivers to this woman. Due to a horrid car (?) accident that had occurred a long while before we met, she was blind in one eye and lived with a colostomy. She also had fairly severe arthritis. Her support system consisted of a few friends and a brother she often complained about. She couldn’t drive, and her ability to walk was limited to her tiny, two-room apartment, and only with a walker for support.

Over the next few years, this lovely lady and I developed a strong friendship. She, who had every reason to be depressed, angry and/or bitter about how life had treated her and the confinement of her days, was always upbeat. Physically impaired as she was, she often cared for her health-aide’s 10-year-old daughter, with whom she shared a very strong bond. This woman offered to sit with my boys so that I could have time to myself. And when I felt down, or overwhelmed or frustrated beyond reason, I called her. She never failed to put things in perspective and remind me how “the good Lord this” or “the good Lord that.” I always hung up the phone inspired.

Among the ways she kept herself busy, she crocheted, mostly zigzag-pattern afghans of varied sizes. Gifts of love she gave to those who asked, or to whom she offered. She offered to make each of my boys one for their beds. She made a green-and-white lap-sized/crib-sized one, which I treasure.

afghan--Barb G

For some reason, I remembered the blue-and-white one I received at my baby shower. (It’s in the garage, in a container of baby things.) The connections came together in my head, and I realized she had crafted that one too, for Hubby’s stepmom to give as her gift.

That wonderful woman wound up with a severe infection that took her life about five years ago. I still miss her and wish I could call her. I’m teary-eyed as I draft this post. But I am ridiculously grateful to know that her handmade gifts will be part of us always, and that my sons have a connection to her too through those blankets. (Younger Son gets the green-and-white one someday.)

So…I now ask you Ben Huberman’s question: What’s the best present you’ve ever received that was handmade by the giver, not store bought?

Thanks to all of you for your time! Have a great day.

Joanna

Crappy Voice(?) and Angel(s)

Happy first Monday of March, people! Please tell me spring is a-comin’–I am D.O.N.E. with snow and the cold.

So how cool is this li’l cutie hubby found on Facebook? I certainly hope he’s for real! (Video is 1:34–pinky swear it will make your day!)

So last Wednesday was blog-post fodder, everyone. A little of everything: kid drama and humor; a could-be problematic incident for me with an angel (?) or heavy-duty coincidence stepping in.

Day started off okay. Managed to focus and work on a report despite much preferring to chat with coworkers.

Drama showed with one of my third graders who has next-to no impulse control when he’s with one particular classmate. Tried seeing what I’d do when he pushed my buttons. Forced me to  put on my “discipline” hat  (i.e., make an active choice to not make excuses for his behavior b/c of his special needs).  I followed through: “Third warning. Back to class and tell your teacher you lost a point.” (This is big for them in class, lol. I felt so mean too. When you’ve had kids on your roster since they were three, you start to love them much the way you love your own.)

So we were practicing “French”, as his classmate refers to cursive handwriting. (Beats the kids who want to write in “curses.” Yes, many of my guys have delays and/or difficulty with speech, especially articulation. You learn the lingo after a while.) This little cutie of Costa-Rican born parents somehow inherited a mild accent that his parents don’t have. He is not, however, lacking in command of English or connecting verbal dots.

One of the girls was having a hard time with forming the letters. I took a peek at her paper and started to comment on where she was having a problem. “Okay, Mrs. Joanna. Please don’t yell at me.”

Huh???

“Since when does Mrs. Joanna yell?” (I rarely raise my voice.)

Li’l Costa Rican accent pipes in: “Mrs. Joanna doesn’t yell. She’s just using her crappy voice.”

He. Did. Not. Say. That–Oh! Li’l Accent Boy was referring to my typical line when they’re making me nuts, “Why do I need to use my crabby voice?”

What can I say? My students get to know me too.

And the day progressed until I had to leave one school to go to another. Dragged three bags, my binder and a travel coffee mug to the car. Had to do a bit of shuffling to get to the keys, dump everything in and take off.

Got to second school with five minutes to spare before session time. Grabbed the bag I’d prepacked for the 5th graders and reached for the binder with ALL my goals, objectives and progress logs.

Binder is not there.

NOOOOO! I did not leave it on the trunk and drive off!

Yanked out cell.  Called first school. Begged secretary to leave her warm office space and go to cold parking lot to look for blue binder. (Of course, the stuff inside is legal documentation as of this month, not to mention kids’ first and last names on EVERY page. And so goes HIPPA.)

Secretary came up empty. I entered second school and immediately wailed to art teacher, who is kind enough to share his room every week. (Yep. I have no real home in ANY school I work in. ‘Nuff said ‘bout that. Among the reasons I had so much stuff getting from door to car of first school.)

“Oh man,” art teacher says. “Know what’s really funny? I was wondering how you can always be so positive.”

“I’m positive I left my binder on the trunk and drove off.”

Suffered through that session—I was a tad flustered and preoccupied—and noticed a missed call from an unfamiliar, but local, landline.

Hope kicked in and I dialed my voicemail. Yay! Secretary found my binder about three blocks away, corner down in the snow! Papers dirty and wet, but cover not blown open and NOTHING missing! (IDK how it survived a left, a right and another left before finally losing contact with the car.)

Relief set in. I am not anxious by nature but this rattled me a bit, mostly b/c of the confidentiality thing.

Took at least two hours before normal calm set in. Then I realized had the other secretary picked up my first call (when I noticed my binder missing), the one who found it would have driven by the blue book stuck in the snow and ice and never thought twice. Instead she said she drove past and then, “OMG, blue!” registered. (She lives nearby and goes home for lunch daily.)

Everyone can talk coincidence as much as they want. My angel(s) stepped it up this past Wednesday. I did not complain about having to break down almost the entire binder and cover three beds with papers for them to dry. Made sure to lay them out in alphabetical order, as they are organized usually, so that re-organizing them would take less time.

Once the book was back together, I got to write the blasted notes. I suppose I was grateful I had everything I needed to do so, and will be able to turn them in, as is expected, within the next few days.

And we’re square with HIPPA (for today, anyway).

Thanks for indulging me.

This one’s kind of open. Talk to the topic or just talk. Sorry I went a little long, but at least I got something to write about in the end. (There’s that annoying positive outlook again… ;))

Have a great week,

Joanna

Vinca Beats the Odds

Happy week of Thanksgiving, everyone. If you’re celebrating (and get to do the cooking), hope your fridge is already housing the bird and all the trimmings. Every year I swear I ain’t messin’ with the fine china, but when else will I use it? (Besides, Christmas, that is. I do really love it and–hey, there is no school and no cooking the day after the holiday, so what the heck, right?)

So maybe I’m a geek or a Pollyanna or a ridiculously positive person (RR is shaking his head yes to all three, I’m quite sure), but I am inspired by things that someone else might not even pay attention to.

Every year, I do some flower gardening. (Hubby is the veggie man.) Every year I try to add one more perennial (i.e., type of plant that comes back with little or no help from me), but there’s always room for an annual or two.  This year though, I hit Lowe’s at the end of the season and came back with a bunch of little flowering plants, but none of the impatiens or vinca I normally add.

IDK, I know annuals come from seeds, lol, but the plant is not supposed to come back, correct? Well, I started the season noticing tiny marigold seedlings mixed into the weeds I call grass on the side of the house. Found at least eleven. Transplanted every one where I normally plant them every year. Got a full spread. Every seedling made it to full growth and blooms. Cleared them out a few weekends ago.

We won’t discuss the sunflowers. Haven’t planted those annuals for at least three years now. Go figure.photo (1) That wall behind me gets crazier every year. That’s last summer’s photo. Don’t you love how I hide the hips and thighs behind the poster?

Sunflowers These are now the norm. I promise I planted a few seeds several years back.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I thought I saw a vinca sprout peeking from the edge of a little flower bed under a tree on the side of my house. Not sure if it popped up during a few very warm fall days, but uh, that thing was not supposed to grow at all (even though I did have them there last summer, 2012). Not only should that li’l fighter not have been there in the first place, it should have had full sun. (It was hidden under the crazy mums that come back every year. Found it when I cut back the mums killed by the deeper frosts.) And, the li’l bugger should NEVER have bloomed in early November, AFTER several frosts, a couple of which hit the mid-20s. (Hardy plant or inspiration that, given the right combination of circumstances, pretty much anything can get past the odds?)

vinca in Nov 2013  Crazy!

You know me. I am inspired.

Is it just me? Or have others run into similar experiences?

May you all feel gratitude, Thursday and every day–I know it keeps me peaceful!

Joanna

God, a Keurig and Working My Way Back

Hi all! So glad to be back (and having a little fun with the blog-theme, in honor of Halloween later this week)! So sorry for going off radar since July of this year. Hope all is well with all of you. Special thanks to my newest follower, the awesome PJ Reece, whose rockin-insightful writing-related posts never fail to inspire me. I am humbled. If you are so inclined, please check out his wonderful website and blog! His Story Structure to Die For is an EXCELLENT reference and a quick, fun and enlightening read, too.

Geez! One paragraph in and off-topic already. Please indulge me in the thoughts that follow.  Please note, I enjoy sharing stories of moments in life that inspire me. What you take from that is entirely up to you! 🙂

Having said that…

I do not consider myself religious, at least not anymore. I was raised in the Catholic church; my firm belief in its tenets at that time was among the reasons I managed to make choices that helped keep me out of trouble as a teen and as a young adult. By my mid-twenties, however, I began more of a spiritual journey.

Today I consider myself more spiritual than religious. I choose to name the guiding force in my life God. My faith is stronger than it has ever been, but not necessarily tied to the teachings of any particular religion. (“The closer I get to God, the further I get from religion,” Bono of U2 fame has said on more than one occasion. That statement has stuck with me since the first time I heard my birthday buddy say it, well over a decade ago. Yep, U2 and I, we’ve been around a while, lol. And Bono and I just happen to have been born the same day, same year–you know ;).)

Anyway, I had one heck of summer, friends. First one ever I didn’t mind seeing come to an end, even with the return to the school day on a weekly basis. For once, I looked forward to the routine a regular schedule would bring.

As I stated in another post, a family matter took up a slew of my time and energy. For too many days and then weeks in a row, I woke up feeling depressed, overwhelmed and wondering how to handle a situation and somehow maintain balance in my—and my family’s—day to day.

One Saturday morning in particular, I was feeling pretty blue. Hubby came up to let me know he’d had to brew a second pot of coffee; for some reason, the coffee seeped out somewhere from the bottom of the coffee maker and all over the counter. Since that’s pretty much what happened with the last one (same brand, different model), I figured it might be time to break down and get the Keurig, a move I’d been avoiding. (I’m not crazy for the single cup coffee maker, not to mention the price for one is typically in the triple digits, or at the higher end of the double digits.)

That morning’s weather happened to be perfect. I went out for my walk and met up with some friends. I shared my main concerns and put out a general request for help relative to the family situation, willing to take any suggestions and/or offers. Two ladies approached me with very viable possibilities. Another told me she was living a similar situation. She gave me her phone number, to call or text any time, “just to talk” should I feel the need.

My walk home had me feeling deeply grateful, humbled and in awe of how I believe God had shown up, proof that He was working in my life that day. My older son was calling me, too, wanting to know when I’d be home. He had a “surprise” he was convinced I was going to love.

My thoughts shifted to my boys and how blessed I feel with how they’re turning out so far. At just about 17 and 15, I can’t ask for better. (Well, maybe the younger one—sometimes—but overall he’s much improved, lol.) More proof that God was present, and that all would work out with my family situation.

Soon as I got home I was hit hard with another reminder of God’s action. Funny how, on some days, divine intervention shows a direct line.

On my counter sat a boxed Keurig coffee maker.

Huh????

My older son had just bought it a yard sale, at the low double-digit price I’d paid for the coffee maker that leaked earlier that morning.

If that ain’t divine intervention folks, I don’t know what is. (Just sayin’. )

photo (46) (Here they rest, side by side. The kid was so excited, hubby and I didn’t have the heart to tell him he wasn’t keeping a second coffee maker on the counter. At least he uses it daily–sometimes more. :))

Anything like that ever happen to you? Do you see it as coincidence, or something bigger than you or me stepping in? Take a moment and inspire me some more, please.

And just sayin’, have a great day!

Thanks for stopping in, and for your time and support.

Hugs,

Joanna

Post #300–Wow! How Did I Get Here? and THANK YOU!

Am I out of my mind? (Answers do not have to be recorded for my reading pleasure, thank you! ;))

Believe it or not–I certainly don’t–this is post #300! Had I been paying attention I probably would have gotten it up sooner.

Yes, friends, you’ve dealt with me for close to three years and 300 incidents of my musings, opinions, recipes and reflections (and surprisingly close to the three-year anniversary of my first post–so not planned). Every now and again, I’ve hopefully taught something, got you thinking, elicited a smile or chuckle or turned you on to a recipe you’ll use for years to come.

One could also hope I’ve created the desire for you to come back, despite the inconsistency of my posting at times, as well as the seemingly random subjects I’ve touched upon. I truly wish I had more time (and better focus and organizational skills) to really explore or chat about everything that interests me in some shape or form.

I THANK EACH OF YOU WITH ALL MY HEART for taking the time to visit and making me feel I am not alone here in cyberspace. (Giant hugs go out to those who comment regularly and to those of you who share my content.)

There are no words for how humbled one feels.

My sincerest gratitude,

Joanna

Make POSITIVE a Habit!

Good day, friends! Hope everyone enjoyed what, for many, was an extended weekend. I’m extra-blessed. Mine goes through Tuesday, so I’ll piggy-back off of Julie Hedlund’s post on gratitude and include being thankful for that as well! 

Always thankful for my good friend Diane Lang’s newsletters too. My inbox never lacks for positive energy when Diane’s name is attached to the email. 🙂 Today she talked about making good thoughts a habit via the conscious practice of positive affirmations, so I figured I’d share them with all of you! 

        

According to Diane:

Positive affirmations are just one step into reaching your goals. It’s also a great start in the healing process. But remember, it’s just a start.

Positive thinking/affirmations don’t work alone, you need to put action into place by setting up short and long term goals with an action plan. You need to visualize your goals/dreams/recovery. You need to release fear so you can move forward and not procrastinate. You need to learn to say “NO,” so you don’t feel overwhelmed and stressed out.

What positive affirmations will do is change your thought patterns. The new patterns will become a habit. This will change your state of mind/perspective on life. This will also make you feel more optimistic and resilient. Being positive will be spread to all around you.
So, start each morning with some positive affirmations such as:

I’m Special.

I’m important.

I love and accept myself completely.

I’m in total health and wellness.

I’m wealthy. (This one is awesome, as riches can be seen in so many ways!)

I have a great job, love what I do and work with people I really like.

Each day offers great new opportunities.

Thank you, God, for the gift of another day. (My personal favorite way to wake up!)

Make sure to add Thanks/Gratitude into your daily rituals as well: I’m grateful for _______. (A phenomenally easy way to shift negative thinking and ‘start your day over’ should you need to do so at any given time of the day! ;)) 

Start today and say the positive affirmations at least twice a day. I say them morning and night along with gratitude. It starts my day off right and ends it on a positive note.

Have a great day!

Contact Diane via her website: www.dlcounseling.com or experience her live at one of the many workshops she conducts!

Here are some upcoming ones:

Thursday, February 23rd at 6:30pm – Positive Parent  Mt. Olive Adult School, N 973-691-0900 ext 7264

Monday February 27th at 6:30pm – New Year, New You – Starting the Year Off Right Mt. Olive Adult School, NJ 973-691-0900 ext 7264

Thursday, March 1st at 7pm – Dealing with Unemployed Stress New Caanan, CT- The CATS Group

Saturday, March 3rd at 10am – What kind of Smart Are You? Academy of the Holy Angels, NJ   201-768-7822 ext 211

Monday, March 5th at 7pm – Letting Go of Anger Parsippany Adult School, NJ  973-263-7180 ext 4342

Tuesday, March 6th at 7pm – Happiness – Living an Optimistic Lifestyle Morris Hills Adult School, NJ   973-664-2295

As always, friends, I thank you for stopping in and staying a while. I love comments, so please, take a minute and share: Which affirmations might you consider practicing on a regular basis?

Tune in Thursday for a meat-free recipe–just in time for the first Friday of Lent! And next week, I’ll finally get my DISCIPLINE VS. CONTROL series underway.

Finally, for those of you inclined to click one of the many buttons available, I’d like to ask a favor. I SOOOOO appreciate all the ‘likes.’ Might I ask you to take your very kind action just one more effective step further? Would you kindly help me harness the power of the great wide web community by clicking one of the SHARE buttons instead of (or in addition to) the LIKE  button? We can’t get word out to every single reader out there by ourselves, but together, we have the power to multiply the word exponentially. And feel free to comment and/or email me privately and let me know you did. I’d love to return the favor and/or pay it forward!   

 Again I thank you!

TTFN,

Joanna