A First Christmas

The thought of a first Christmas typically brings warm feelings and a smile. The first #Christmas you had a boyfriend to exchange gifts with. Your first married Christmas. A child’s first Christmas. The first Christmas in your first home. My siblings and I have now had two first Christmases. The first Christmas after losing a parent is empty. The first Christmas after losing your second parent is just sad. We are now the oldest generation. That’s just scary (yes, comic relief there).

Our mother passed into eternity in #March. We took care of the details and are still working on closing her affairs. But it’s impossible to pack away the hype that she brought to Christmas. Mom loved to cook, and loved to buy presents. Weeks before Christmas, she was buying baking supplies; sugar, eggs, flour, jars, and jars of peanut butter for fudge. While we all offered to bring food, she insisted on cooking; chicken and dumplings, beef tenderloin, shrimp cocktail, and orange dip (it’s a family recipe). Last year she couldn’t get out to shop, but she made sure her great-granddaughters got dolls and her great-grandsons got remote control cars. Don’t be misled, there was plenty of drama along the way. But we all got through it, and we made sure that Christmas was as close as possible to what mom wanted.

Each of us is navigating this first Christmas without mom carefully and gently. There have been plenty of tears. Some at random moments, like passing the doll aisle in Target and not needing to go down it. Or other times when making a menu for our sibling Christmas gathering and my husband asked if I wanted to attempt to make mom’s Waldorf salad. “No, not yet.” Just couldn’t do it this year.

To my readers who are having the same kind of first Christmas consider this a virtual outreach and empathetic connection to say, “I understand.” Be in the moment with your family and friends. Don’t let your grief overshadow the goodness you may have right next to you. And when you need to cry, take a minute and let the tears go. Those who love you will understand. The best way I can honor my mother is to be generous and enjoy good food, and my family. That is what I intend to do.

Merry Christmas,


#Workingfromhome t-shirt fashion statement

We’ve talked about the financial advantage of #workingfromhome. Saving on gas, parking, and meals out. The other buzz I’m hearing is about not having to dress for work. Many folks proudly admit they are living in their pajamas. I get that. True confession, I’ve done video meetings fully outfitted from the waist up including hair and make-up.

We do save time and clothing not having to dress and leave our homes. While I haven’t been living in my pajamas, I recently noticed that I wasn’t wearing anything from a hanger. In other words, my daily attire comprised of a pair of shorts (btw I currently only own 3 pairs of shorts) and a graphic t-shirt. It was a healthy rotation of my college, a cute writer quote, Phantom Regiment, and a 502 shirt (our area code). Since I don’t go anywhere, it’s not uncommon for me to wear the same one more than once in a week before it goes into the laundry.

My life really isn’t as pathetic as this is sounding. Yes, I only have three pairs of shorts right now. By the time the weather was warm enough to wear shorts, we were all staying #healthyathome, no need to buy new ones (Sorry Macy’s, I miss you too). I have others (my non-zipper shorts) but they are primarily for workouts or working in the yard. It’s just with #COVID, and working from home, I’m not out and about very much. My dog and husband don’t seem to care, they love me no matter what I wear. And I bathe every day so there’s not a stink-factor.

Anyway, all of this occurred to me a couple of weeks ago when I opened my lonely closet to see about something to wear to church (our church recently regathered in person). So last week I decided to challenge myself to not wear t-shirts with logos, quotes, or mascots. Each day I thought a little more carefully about what to wear and I pressed into action shirts I hadn’t worn in months. One day, I even added a little mascara to my look.

Admittedly, refreshing my look gave me a little lift. I felt a sense of normalcy. By Sunday it didn’t feel completely odd to wear a skirt and dress shoes to church. Now if I can get rid of my #COVID pounds from the work-break strolls to the kitchen, I might be a new woman when all of this is over.

Take care,


Let’s connect!

Modern-day homesteading

Staying #healthy at home – working from home, educating from home, and coming together around the dinner table more often. If you take away the electronics, the picture is similar to a couple of generations ago when families either farmed and everyone had a role, or during the depression when families had city gardens, dads worked where they could find it, and mothers kept house and raised the kids.

Since March, we’ve taken a step back in time to find the home and the family the center of ourhttps://www.mattel.com/en-us existence. Malls, entertainment centers, and sports were shut down. Restaurants were closed or had limited capacity. No place to go, we’ve settled into our homes and gotten creative with how we entertain ourselves. At first, we #binge-watched our favorite series. After our periodic parade through the kitchen for snacks, and when the meal rotation went stale, we dug out our cookbooks and tried new recipes-some worked, others didn’t. Games played and created. Our kids have dug out their bikes, skates, and skateboards and gone outside to play. The after-dinner walk has made a comeback.

We’ve found ourselves around the table more often than usual. The conversations have changed from who needs to go where, to the adventures in the yard, neighborhood, or park. Instead of running all the time, we’ve slowed down to enjoy our family, our people.
Our homes have been elevated in importance. We’ve taken advantage of not going anywhere to sort, organize, give-away, or sell our abundance of stuff. Closets, drawers, basements, and garages are organized. That ugly pink paint in the extra bedroom has been neutralized to a “pearl white.” Our yards have been mowed every week, and some planted a vegetable garden. About now they are starting to reap the harvest and feeling the satisfaction that comes from planting, watering, and shooing the squirrels away from their Heirloom tomatoes.

Homesteading, no matter when or why is all about creating a space called home and discovering the joys and challenges of family.

Tell me your #healthyathome story.

Let’s connect!

Post #COVID-19 normal

What are you doing now that is different than before our #stayhealthyathome that you will keep doing post #COVID-19? We are in a new rhythm of life. It’s slower and less distracted by managing the schedules of work, school, and family activities. I personally like that I’m not spending so much time in traffic. Meetings? Get up, brush hair and teeth, put on presentable top and click into the meeting portal.

There’s really nothing other than home supplies to shop for. I guess there is on-line shopping (if that’s your thing), I recently saw a shopping network modeling face masks; is this the new spring fashion?

I’d like to think that we will embrace the rhythm that we feel right now. The ease of schedules, meals around the dinner table with family, sidewalk chalk artwork, game nights, playing along with JEOPARDY, and just taking each day as it comes.

Taking each day as it comes, there’s a thought. The reality is that our calendars will refill quickly. Why not commit now to be intentional to leave a few holes to just let something wonderfully unexpected happen? Before all this happened, I was almost to that point. I had quit my second job and was studying for the CAPM exam, knowing that as soon as that was successfully passed, I would have my evenings back. Now I have evenings, but I’m not sure what day it is. They all feel about the same. Yep, true confession, I’m one of those who lost their job because of COVID-19. Myself and eight of my co-workers who all served the organization well received a call earlier this month. That’s about all I’ll say about that. The real point is that beyond the five or six hours a day I spend applying and networking, I could be doing anything.

My priority is to find a job sooner rather than later. Since my husband is working and my son is doing college from home, I keep the schedule of working during the day (my job is to find a job). Take a minute now, close your eyes and picture the world opened up again. Our evenings are dinner and then [you fill in the blank]. You leave the office and go [you fill in the blank]. And what about all this talk of self-care? Will you keep self-care as a priority?

How will you intentionally leave holes for something wonderful in your schedule, post #COVID19?

All the best,


Click to tweet: What are you doing now that is different than before our #stayhealthyathome that you will keep doing post #COVID-19? 

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Things to do while we are being #healthyathome

Last weekend was sunny and seventy degrees. It was wonderful! I felt like this picture of a dog. wallowing in the grass. As we are in our fourth week of working from home, I’m beginning to get a little antsy in the evenings. I don’t have a drive home to shift from the work to family mindset. I don’t want to just downshift to eat dinner and watch TV all evening. Or just letting social media be my time-suck. So, I’ve decided to make a list of projects to do around the house. What am I saying, I don’t need to make a list, there is always a running list. We all have them. We call it our rainy-day list, or our “if I’m ever snowed in” list. Well, we have our storm. It doesn’t look like others, but it’s keeping us home. I’ve checked with some others to collaborate on a list of options to get you started. Let me know if any of these are on your list.

  • Clean the house – thoroughly wiping down doorframes, woodwork, and cabinet fronts
  • Clean out closets
  • Clean out the basement storage areas
  • Change out your wardrobe from winter to spring – perhaps trying the 3-3-3 method
  • Clean out your emails and unsubscribe from lists you no longer care about

Lots of benefits to cleaning and refreshing your home (#COVID19). Enough cleaning, here are some other more fun ideas:

  • Learn a Language – DUOLingo seems to be the app that’s trending these days; it’s free and#duolingo easy to use.
  • Take a virtual tour – The national parks and many great museums have opened their virtual doors for tours.
  • Write something – perhaps you’ve always wanted to write a book, or short story, now’s your window of opportunity. I may try my hand at poetry 😊.
  • Pull out that instrument you played in high school and see if you can still remember your old music. Or create new music. Just #Google Apps for learning to play [NAME YOUR INSTRUMENT].
  • Take a daily walk – it takes 21 days to form a habit, we may have 21 more days, get after it.
  • Learn yoga or tai chi
  • Choose something you don’t know, but always wanted to learn, and learn it.
  • Benge watch Financial Peace and learn about budgeting and personal finance. It’s free for 14 days.

Do you see a pattern with my second list? Experts are saying we could be another month in some sort of social distancing. If we really have another 30 days, consider what you could accomplish. We have at our fingertips the ability to learn and grow, and the time to do something about it. There is no confinement to our ability to reach out and have the world open to us. With our #stayhealthathome time, why not use this down time to broaden our minds?

What’s on your list?


Let’s connect!

No bad seeds

No child is a bad seed. Like the Biblical parable of the sower and the seeds, the seeds fell on different kinds of ground. Depending on the ground, their challenges for flourishing could be big or small. The sower himself (a farmer) had only so much time and resources for growing a crop that would feed his family. He wouldn’t waste his time sowing bad seeds. And so it is with the children in our lives. They come into this world as a bundle of potential. They have an innate desire to be accepted and approved of by others. It’s up to the adults in their lives to bring that potential to reality and build the appropriate confidence that they are accepted.

A small acorn becomes a giant oak tree, but only if it lands or is moved to the right environment. An acorn could fall on a rock, but perhaps someone picks it up, sees the potential and plants it. There the acorn has what it needs to grow and reach it’s potential.

Today, babies are born into a world that is pretty messed up. They are born into rocky soil. Even those who are born into the nurturing soil of solid parents and families have roots that hit hard places and struggle.

While the sowers of these seeds (parents) are the first line of nurture, there are and will be (there must be) other adults that come along who can feed and water these seedlings – guardians, foster parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and even older siblings. We are those other adults.

We are the grown-ups in this world. We have the power to water and nurture the seedlings that we encounter, or we can selfishly go about our lives not considering our power to make a difference.

Like a peace Lilly plant that wilts and then perks up with watering, there is an opportunity to revive those around us who may be on the verge of withering. Keep an eye out for them this week. Kent Pekel takes this message to a deeper relational level talking about the benefits of developmental relationships.

All the best,


Click to tweet: Once the seed has been planted, it takes nourishing in the form of meaningful and honest relationships between adults and youth.

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Listen to your child’s heart

My child has grown. He’s in college and now talking more specifically about what he wants in life — his plans for after college. Let me encourage other guardians/parents that when your young adult child brings up their thoughts, dreams and ideas about launching into adulthood, just listen. We were all young once with the same ideas. In my opinion, the worst thing we can do is squelch their dreams.

By listening and not suggesting anything, we keep the conversation open. When we start interjecting stories of our early adult lives-the mistakes we made, or how some of our dreams got squelched-we take something away from their fresh excitement. Let them dream, keep the conversation open so that when they’re navigating the reality of making their dreams come true, and they hit bumps in the road, they will feel comfortable coming to you for advice or to bounce other ideas around. That’s your opportunity to step in and guide or make suggestions. Easy though, we want to guide them to their own conclusion, not solve the problem for them.

Asking guiding questions can help the thought process of the young adult. Ask open ended questions like, what do you think about blah, blah (fill in with suggested direction). Or have you hear of blah, blah (fill in this place, organization, person who could help). An even deeper conversation could include asking what they’ve learned from the let-down/failure.

As parents there is no way for us to know which of their dreams will come to fruition. So as long as what our young adults are planning is legal, moral, ethical, and leading them toward a productive adulthood, why not let them dream and work toward it. We will celebrate their successes and be ready to encourage when things don’t go their way.

I’d rather have the optimistic young person with goals and dreams who can be guided by some well spoken words of wisdom, than a young person just floating around letting life happen him/her. Seasons of wondering can be very productive as long as they are seasons and not lifestyles.

What are your thoughts?


Click to tweet: As parents there is no way for us to know which of their dreams will come to fruition. So as long as what our young adults are planning is legal, moral, ethical, and leading them toward a productive adulthood, why not let them dream and work toward it.

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All Americans: 4 Cities 2 Towns


In the last month, I have visited four major US cities and two small towns. The four cities were San Antonio, TX, Chicago, IL, Detroit MI, and New York City.

In each of the four cities, I spent time in high-traffic tourist areas – #NavyPier, the #Riverwalk, #FordField, and #TimesSquare. I observed people who were at home there, and those who were just visiting. Of the three, Chicago (even downtown) felt the warmest. Nowhere was anyone rude to me or anything close to the stereotypical big city rushed rudeness. But something about #Chicago and the downtown felt more inviting. What I loved about #Detroit was visiting a town outside the city, West Bloomfield, where my husband went to high school. But comparing the downtown experience it felt like a big city that developers had just plumped a bunch of large builds down and moved on. New York, admittedly I spent the most time in.

I stayed downtown near #BatteryPark and #GroundZero. Before and after the two-day work conference, I took the train uptown to Herald Square and then to Times Square. One note about my train experience, https://www.nycgo.com/it was clean and air-conditioned and not difficult to figure out., It had all the kinds of people you would expect-the crazy talking to themselves type, young professionals, and tourists. My goal was to look as little like a tourist as possible. I probably failed miserably, but I felt comfortable enough even reading a magazine while I road back to the hotel.

Many of the retail options were the same as we have in Louisville (except Bloomingdales and Tiffany’s), every store was bigger, louder, and had lights and sounds coming from all angles. Not to worry, I managed to make a few purchases😊 despite noise and crowds.

I bought a hotdog from a street vendor and stopped to look at the “genuine maybe some kind of designer” purses. I walked from Times Square to Rockefeller Center, and on another journey walked Herald Square, and then the financial district. New York truly is a representation of the melting pot America has been described as. I heard many languages, saw families, couples and individuals of all shapes, sizes, and nationalities. All moving in tandem with each other. All accepting that it was crowded and loud, but no one pushing or shoving to get to the front of the pack. Amid the volume of sound and people, there was a peaceful co-existence.

The two small towns I visited were Kinsman, OH, and Stillman Valley, IL. Both very quiet towns. Both primarily farming towns. Not a lot of diversity in either one, but still many colorful people to observe and meet. Both had a limited number of restaurant choices, but the food was outstanding.

In Stillman Valley, we went to Fritz’s Wooden Nickel. The menu boasted everything from seafood to steak. I stuck with the cheeseburger. Walking into the dining room felt like we were invading someone’s family reunion. The rumble of conversation, while all in English, was warm and comfortable. In Kinsman, we had the opportunity to eat at one of their nicest establishments, The Peter Allen Inn, and one of their https://www.exploretrumbullcounty.com/things-to-do/towns/kinsman/most down-home, Times Square Restaurant where they really did know names when the locals came for breakfast. Both establishments were locally owned, and the owners were mingling among the diners. Conversations were around the amount of rain, some flooding, and the challenges farmer were having with not being able to put the corn out, or it being too wet for it to grow.

Traveling in and around both of these towns, I wondered about the people who were born, raised, and built their own families there. How many of them only knew America from the perspective of their corner? Of course, I could ask that of the New Yorkers, or Texans I encountered as well.

When you ask the citizens of these six cities what it’s like to live in America or to describe America, how different their perspectives would be. One loud and busy most hours of the day or night, the other steady, peaceful, and little changes day-in and day-out. Both have their share of challenges.

The farming families are growing food that will be shipped across the country; including the big, fast-paced cities like #Detroit, #Chicago, and #NewYork. Similarly, it’s the industries in these major cities that provide the vehicles, financial options, and raw materials that the farmers and those in small-town America count on every day.

I’m headed home now to Louisville, Kentucky. Our microcosm includes all the things these cities have. We have sports (semi-professional), the arts, many people of different languages and cultures who have come to our fair city (metro of about 1 million) to build a life, raise a family, and be a productive part of society. We have our challenges of a river that floods twice a year, homeless, a fussy government structure, and the list goes on to parallel many other places. But it’s home. It’s where I was raised and have chosen to stay. But I like to visit other places and learn something about how others live. It’s these adventures that broaden my capacity to empathize with those who are challenged by life and appreciate very different points of view.


P.S. As I write this post, I’m on my way to #Atlanta, Georgia, another great American city! We are headed to the Mersedes-Benz Stadium for the Drum Corps International Southeast Regionals (#dci). We will be cheering on #PhantomRegiment!

#getaway #IAMJOAN

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Farewell dad: July 20, 1925 – June 30, 2018

I had no idea what to expect. For once in my life, I had slowed down enough to really hear what was being said. “You need to come; sooner, rather than later.” It wasn’t convenient. I had just returned from a work trip, I didn’t want to leave again. But the words stuck, “you need to come now.” Within 48 hours of returning from Minnesota, I was on a plane headed for Florida. She had only said that he had been sleeping a lot more lately, and not eating much.

Dad was 92 years old. To be honest, over the last few years, I noticed him slowing down; the walker, the hearing loss. At the end of each of our last few visits (over a couple of years), I would wonder if it was the last visit. Truly hearing her words were a blessing, “You need to come now.” So, I went.

I had three days with him. Not knowing much about how this end of life stuff worked, I didn’t realize that these were three of his last seven days. He did sleep a lot. But when he was awake, we shared some extraordinary moments. We had conversations about spiritual matters, about my work and my son moving to college. There were times in our conversation when he, like many other times, was strong in his opinion. It was good to see the spark still come from a weakened 90-pound man. He was still in there. Months ago, his distinctive voice, that I pray never leaves my memory, diminished. His deep but friendly voice carried the spirit of what he believed in his heart.

Dad was kind-hearted and believed in helping where and when he could. He believed in getting a good education and being productive. He shared often that everyone has something to contribute. He had a big spirit, but a humble heart. I remember him telling me once, “if you have something you don’t need, but someone else does, you should give it to him. That thing isn’t doing you a bit of good but could make a difference to the next guy.” Dad was full of what he called his little “sermons.” While probably too many times in my life I didn’t listen, sometimes I did and would decide for myself if that was a belief I would adopt.

Sitting with him at his home in Florida, I saw a very big personality, active every day, taking interest in many things, fading. He had spent his years getting up every day and doing something. They would go visit friends, play golf, fish, play cards, rock hunt, yard sale, find something to do. In the course of that activity, there was always somebody to meet, or an adventure to be had. This, of course, led to dad having more stories to tell. “We met this fella…”

Dad always had a notebook of paper and a pen. He would be doodling or designing. His mind was moving, even when he was sitting. He left the writing to me, although during the years he lived in Saudi Arabia, he wrote some of the most wonderful letters.

During our recent visit, when he was quiet, I imagine his mind was still moving. He knew he wasn’t long for this world. His health had failed to the point of having hands too swollen to hold a pencil. His eyes could no longer see to peruse books or magazines. He shared that he no longer had a purpose.

Like so many other times in his life, dad didn’t realize that even in those last seven days, he had a purpose. Three of those days at least, his purpose was to slow his “middle daughter down” in order to connect one last time, to appreciate not in some naive way, her dad. For all of his imperfection, he was my dad, he brought me into this world. He loved me. Like many other parent/child relationships, we had seasons of distance. But those seasons have faded over the last 30 years, to come to the blessing of an adult relationship. One that allowed me to appreciate and love dad for who he was and what he brought to our relationship.

Sitting in his recliner that weighed twice what he did, his eyes were crystal blue. I sat close to save his voice from straining, and to ensure I could hear him. He recalled stories of years past with such detail that I didn’t even remember. Other times, he would just look straight into my eyes. We connected without words. He was my father. And he was fading from this world into the next. He was being called home. His effervescent spirit was calm, he had peace.

The morning I left, he really wanted to go to the airport. Selfishly, I didn’t think I could handle my good-bye to be at the Delta (#deltaairlines) curb. But if he wanted to, I would get over it and enjoy the ride to the airport. After getting dressed and a small breakfast, he decided to stay home. I have to wonder if he had the same thought I did about where our farewell would take place. We held hands and I looked into his eyes unable to say goodbye, I told him I would see him again. Our conversation of spiritual matters and the Bible assured me of that. The last two words dad said to me were whispered, “Love you.”

Thank you, dad, for your spirited example of living. May our lives honor that through continuing to be life-long learners, kind-hearted people, and productive citizens.



Treasures of a mother’s heart

There is a tree with gifts. Cookies have been made and there is more baking to do. Hopefully we’ve made our last trip to the grocery for the year. Not having many little ones around, our trip to the toy aisle was fun but didn’t take long enough. A few clicks on Amazon and gifts for others were ordered. So this year is a little different.

The reflection of the year hovers but doesn’t shadow our holiday. On the contrary, there is much peace in my heart and in our home. There have been extraordinary moments recently that I have treasured more than gold.

A few weeks ago our family went downtown to the Palace theater to watch a Christmas classic movie, White Christmas. It was on the big screen just as it had been made for in a theater built before the movie was made with ornate antique design.

Last weekend, we finished decorating the tree and watched A Christmas Story. Each year when we travel, we purchase a Christmas tree ornament. So as we are decorating the tree, we share memories.

The other night, I came in from work pretty tired, but my son wanted to play a game. When your teenager suggests a family game night, you do it. My tiredness melted away as we rolled the dice and enjoyed the friendly competition of Yahtzee!

There are many other treasures a mother carries in her heart. Treasures not wrapped in a holiday season. Be encouraged to pay attention to those moments so they don’t escape. Capture them and hold them close.

Merry Christmas,