Tag Archives: white space Fridays

St. Francis of Assisi

St_Francis_of_AssisiOn Thursday night, I had planned to go to bed by 11 pm. I was so tired from the exhausting week, and I was looking forward to my White Space Friday — A good night’s sleep is what I really needed. I was still wide awake at 10:45, and as I scrolled through the television channels, I came across a movie on TCM network — St. Francis of Assisi. It had me intrigued, because I had never seen it before, and St. Francis has always been one of my favorite saints — he believed in true peace and loved all animals. When our new Pope took the name of St. Francis, I was overjoyed.

So this movie was made in Italy in 1961. It was quite basic by today’s standards, I watched for a few minutes and figured I’d go to bed. But a half hour later, I was so engrossed in the movie, there would be no going to bed now. It was a very simple view of the life of Francis Bernadone. The story goes that he was born to a wealthy merchant in Assisi, Italy. He left his father to go and fight in the crusades with his friend Count Paolo of Vandria with the dream to become a great knight. While traveling with the soldiers, he was called by God to leave them and give up all his worldly goods and dedicate his life to God. Even though the movie was quite elementary, there were some really beautiful scenes. I especially loved the scene when the two cheetahs were unleashed on him in the desert on his way to see the Muslim sultan. He tamed those cheetahs and by that, gained access and respect from the sultan.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

There was another scene while on his journey with his 11 followers to Rome to see the Pope to establish a new order, when a white bird (which I assume was a dove), landed on St. Francis and was not afraid. He told it to then fly into the sky and the flock of birds led them to Rome. This reminded me of a recent picture I saw being shared on Facebook (to the left) of our new Pope, Pope Francis.

The movie goes through St. Francis’ life in how he rebuilt the church, grew the faith across Europe and taught the message of peace. I found it so relevant to today’s world — it was amazing to realize that the struggle in Jerusalem in the early 13th century were the same battles of today — Muslims against Christians, both fighting for the holy land. There is still no peace, and it has grown into even more violence as we’ve seen in recent years/days with terrorism. It makes me think that we need a man like St. Francis today — with the ability to draw others to him just by his simple faith — but realize that peace seems so unreachable with such extremists and terrorists in this world — the task would be too great for any one person. Or would it, if it was God’s will?

The movie’s basic theme was to give up all possessions and follow God by trusting in him. But, I felt that St. Francis was a very sad and lonely man in the movie. This is the only part that I think was poorly done. I would have thought that he should have been portrayed with such great joy with his amazing faith in God — to listen to his calling and leave all his worldly possessions behind. But instead, they showed him just very drab and unemotional. Not to mention, to gain followers by his simple message would require a very approachable and generous man. There was one scene that I felt he had that warmth and love — the one where the children came to him with all their animals to be blest. There had to be 40 or 50 children, carrying ducks, lambs, dogs, cows and other animals with bows tied around their necks — it was beautiful. But other times and in other scenes, like the one where his aristocrat woman friend became a nun — it was dark, and you felt the great sacrifice she was making by the solemness of the ceremony.

When my brother, Bob was ordained a priest at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh, it was a great day of celebration for us all. Bob was ordained with two other men and this was the first time I had ever been to an ordination. As Bob came down the aisle, tears streaked his face — and I’ll never forget that moment — I truly saw the love he had for God — it was pouring from him as he was filled with so much joy. And that is how I would see St. Francis — someone with much joy to share with his followers.

I think this movie also demonstrates that human nature hasn’t changed since the time of Christ. St. Francis had a lot of resistance from his friends and family on his desire to seek God — and this was a constant struggle throughout the movie. Something that we would all face if we were to take up the cross for Christ.

If you haven’t seen the movie, it worth watching. And if nothing else, it will make you more curious about the life of St. Francis.

Always  B E L I E V E !

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

One Rainy Day

Shops at Volant Mills, PA as seen from porch of the old Grist Mill.

Shops at Volant, PA as seen from porch of the old Grist Mill (Volant Mill) as I relaxed on a beautiful swing.

Well, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a White Space Friday this past Friday. It was tough keeping my calendar free — but I had already made plans with Gert and Val to go to Volant for the day — which made it easier to keep it open.

Home at Volant Mills

The homes located in Volant are from the 1800’s.

Volant, PA is located about 30 minutes from Zelienople down Rt. 19N, within minutes of the town of New Wilmington, along the Neshannock Creek. This is Amish country, and it’s not uncommon to pass a horse-drawn buggy on your way to Volant or New Wilmington. However, it was such a rainy and cold day, we only saw Amish farms on our way to New Wilmington — and an Amish farmer plowing his vegetable garden with three horses.

Volant is known for it’s little shops — handmade and gifty kinds of things. Although, I was a little disappointed, as it seemed to me like most shops didn’t offer original, handmade crafts, except for a few. I really love a couple of the shops — one called the Purple Paisley and the other, Nifty’s Gifty’s, although I purchased the most things at a shop called A Little Bit of Country (and my home is not country at all).

Purple Paisley had the most awesome fashion scarves. I could have bought a dozen of them, but I managed to pick my favorite — finished with furry pompoms. I figured I’d have to save it until next winter, but who knew it would be 38° on Saturday, and I actually got to wear it now. Her store was so cute too. Everything was purple, including the little trees outside — complete with purple lights.

Nifty Gifty’s was by far the perfect shop for me. It was full of works by various artists. I recognized a few of them, including a favorite artist of mine — Michelle Allen. They carried some really unique pieces that I haven’t seen anywhere before either. Val bought a really cool candle made in an upcycled wine bottle.

It rained the entire day. It started out around 65° and by the time I got home at 4:30, it was 46°. At one point the wind was blowing so hard on the way to the car that the rain was pouring sideways. We were soaked — my right side from my shoulder all the way to my shoes was drenched — the umbrella didn’t help much at that point. Now we were freezing too, so we decided it was time for lunch.

We drove into New Wilmington to grab a bite to eat. If you’ve never been to New Wilmington, it’s a college town where Westminster College is located. They hold an annual 4th of July fireworks at Lake Brittain, located on the campus. My Mom and Dad used to go to this every year and my brother would meet up with them. Dad loved the River City Brass Band, and they always played patriotic music during the show. One year, Tom and I went with my Mom and Bob, and we sat on chairs and blankets on the grassy hillside beside the Lake. If you’re from western PA, you know that fireworks is pretty popular in Pittsburgh — because it’s home of two of the largest fireworks providers in the nation. And we’ve worked with Pyrotecnico at MarketSpace — who I believe puts on a better show Zambelli — plus they’re still family-owned — I like that. We live in an area that’s about the same distance to the fireworks downtown Pittsburgh or here — and it’s much more enjoyable to drive into the rural area than in the rat race of the big city. I’m thinking we’ll have to make this trip this year for sure.

We left a note in the books on the tables — what a great idea!

We left a note in the books on the tables — what a great idea!

So anyways, we go into New Wilmington and someone had recommended that we eat at The Tavern on the Square. They are best known for their famous Sticky Buns. It has the feel of the same shops we just visited in Volant — a huge, victorian home converted into a restaurant. Gert, Val and I had a hard time narrowing down what we wanted, because the menu just had so many awesome options — it was fantastic. They provided these hardbound notebooks on the tables and guests could write a story or a note in there. So, of course I had to write in the book. We read through the other posts — it was such a great idea to hear what people were celebrating, who they were with or why they were there. I tried to draw pictures of three drowned rats — I was so cold during lunch that I had to put on my winter coat. We leisurely ate lunch and by the time we left, the rain had let up a bit and my sweater was finally a little drier than damp. Leaving the restaurant, we saw the beautiful Easter flowers that we missed on the way in — tons of bright yellow Daffodils and bright pink and purple Hyacinths. I could only imagine that those would all perish by Saturday morning with the frost on Friday night.

We had planned to stop a few more places before heading back to Zelienople. We stopped at the Amish Peddler and the Volant Mill Winery. Val needed to get a bottle of Gewürztraminer for her son, Matthew. But they didn’t have that, so she got something else. And then we slowly made our way back to Zelienople as we all had plans for Friday evening — the Pittsburgh Penguins were in Boston playing the Bruins — Tom had the guys coming over to hang out in Peters Pub. But we learned on the way home that with Boston still on lockdown, the Pens game was being moved until Saturday afternoon.

This was the most walking I’ve done since my surgery in December. I have no pain in my hip anymore at all — so I can walk much better — but I did rest if there was a nice bench on a covered porch. I was so sore after I sat for an hour when I got home that I could barely walk into the kitchen. My feet, ankles and calves were in pain — and I must have favored my right side, because I could barely put any weight on it at first — pathetic!!!  But, I know I need to slowly get back to full mobility and that is the only way that’s going to happen — by getting out and walking. I assumed I would have cramps in my legs all night (like I did after my Mom’s retirement party), but I didn’t. And that made me sooooo happy!

For most people, Friday was a washout. It went from a warm morning to winter temperatures in a matter of hours. But for me, Friday was a great day — despite the rain, despite the return of winter, despite the rough week of terrorism and other horrific events. It was a day for me to step away from my office, from my email, from my worries for just a day — and spend that day relaxing with best friends. To do something I enjoy and for myself. We all need a little white space in our lives. And, I hope that I can design my life with more white space, louder typography and more colorful images.

Always B E L I E V E.

Time to Tally Up

It’s Sunday evening and I’m sitting here thinking about my whirlwind of a weekend and the pending snowstorm that could start at any time. So, I guess I was pretty wrong when I said we had one last blast a few weeks ago. I guess I was merely wishing winter away, and I thought if I wrote it, it would make it so! We’re predicted to get anywhere from five to 12 inches, depending on who you listen to.

I took half a day off on Friday as part of my “white space Fridays” — still trying to find a balance. I really feel like I need it, because things are busier since I’ve gotten back — and most definitely more stressful. But I don’t think it’s so much of either of those, but more of a change in me that makes it seem so. It’s as busy as it’s always been. And, I still say “the highs are really highs and the lows are really lows.” — or maybe that’s just the things I take notice of, and I miss all the humdrum, in-between moments. I had a good cry on Thursday when I got home from work and that night I put some things in God’s hands. And you know what? All those things worked themselves out on Friday with ease. Thank you, God for always listening and guiding me.

I got home about 1:30 on Friday, and I made a pierogi casserole for a friend of mine who is laid up right now. I figured she might need a good Lenten meal (I’ll post the recipe later on my blog). She missed the last step in her basement, severely injuring her ankle and had major surgery the next morning. Her recovery is slow, she’s understandingly frustrated and climbing the walls! She does so much for others, it was the least I could do. So I ask you all to say a prayer for my friend Sandy, that she recovers quickly and finds the patience to relax and take the time she needs to make a full recovery.

The weekend was Palm Sunday at church. I made Tom leave the house 10 minutes early, because I figured all the “Creasters” would be coming out for Easter. I have to get a seat, because I can’t stand for an hour and a half mass. Creasters is the term that practicing Catholics have for those other Catholics who only attend mass on Christmas and Easter. There are so many of them that we have to get to church 45 – 60 minutes before mass starts in order to get a seat. Today, we ended up going to 11:30 am mass, which is normally crowded to start with and not our regular mass — we’re usually Saturday evening. But we still saw a lot of people we knew. And even more that we had no idea who they were. There were so many people standing, and I really felt bad for those who are regular church goers. I can only imagine what Easter Sunday will bring next week. Today we read the passion narrative according to Luke.

Before we went to mass, I was singing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today…Alleluia!” to my cats. If you know the song, it’s beautiful and you can’t just sing it — you have to belt it out. Tom jokingly corrected me that “he is not risen today.” and I said, “I know that! — but today we should be singing ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?… were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh, oh, oh, oh, sometimes it caused me to tremble… tremble… tremble… were you there when they crucified my Lord?” And he looked at me like I had three heads. I told him we sang that song at St. Rose every Palm Sunday since I could remember and that I knew every word to every verse. Of course, we didn’t sing any of the traditional Easter songs that I love at mass to day, much to my disappointment.

I can't believe my youngest niece turns 14 this week!

I can’t believe my youngest niece turns 14 this week!

From mass, we drove straight to my sister’s house for my niece, Tara’s 14th birthday party — about a 45 minute drive. It’s hard to believe she’ll be 14 on Tuesday. It was a nice party as we haven’t seen a lot of their relatives since Megan’s birthday back in October! Everyone had so much new going on in their lives — one was planning a wedding and honeymoon, another’s daughter was moving back from Connecticut and another was getting over a severe cold that was moving into Spring allergies. Tom and I got to check out Debbie’s new Lazy-Boy furniture and play with their kittens — oh, I mean “cats.” The food was great and we had a relaxing and enjoyable day. Oh — and Debbie confirmed that they indeed sang “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” at mass today. Ahhhh — sometimes I miss the good ole days.

And I certainly miss Father Bob at St. Gregory’s!!! It will never be the same. And I pray that FB gets moved to SF. God knows what that means. 

This week starts Holy Week. I’m traveling on Wednesday and Thursday, but will be home by Thursday evening. The season of Lent ends on Thursday evening and our church has all kinds of masses and special events planned for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday. I always give the staff Good Friday off.

So as we begin this Holy Week, I pray that I am able to take the time to slow down and think about what this week really means. And, I guess I need to tally up the dollars in my rice bowl. I tried really hard, I really did — but I ended up with $35 in my bowl from what I kept track of. So double that and round up (because I know there’s more that I didn’t keep track of) — I’m going to give an extra $125 to charity, while I continue to work on my language.

It would help if:

  • I never had to talk about politics again
  • Political decisions didn’t so drastically impact my small business
  • I didn’t have to deal with unpleasant situations
  • My husband didn’t say it all the time (he says he doesn’t say it all the time)
  • Benny didn’t jump on my stomach in the middle of the night; among other things
  • I didn’t get so frustrated after mass every week, because things are different
  • I had less stress at work
  • I could sleep in until 10:00 every day
  • I never used the “F” word as an adjective and term of endearment in the first place (now I do it so often out of habit)

It would help if I put all my trust in God — so that I didn’t have the stress, frustrations and weak moments, because then there would be no reason to ever use it.

Have a great week everyone!  Always B E L I E V E !

White Space Fridays

Well, I’ve been planning my “White Space Fridays” since reading an article about personal white space last year from the time-keeping software company, Function Fox. The author recommended that business owners take a day off during the week to recharge and find perspective. Well, my first week back to work, while it not a full week, I was already feeling the need for some personal time. 

But the purpose of my White Space Fridays isn’t to run away from issues that I’ve had during the week. It’s a dedicated time slot for me to take some time for myself. But what does that really mean? And would I know how to do that?

I easily worked 60+ hours a week. I’d work eight or nine hours at the office and then another two or three hours at home — sometimes into the early morning. I worked every Sunday, getting ready for Monday. Sometimes I’d work the entire weekend. I’d sit down to watch TV and flip open my computer, planning to check out Facebook and spend another two hours on email and working. Proposals, RFPs, business planning — all those things where I needed concentration and quiet — I did at home.

Saturdays were spent cleaning the house, the bathrooms, the kitchen — sometimes just cleaning the clutter in the kitchen from the week. I’d have a stack of mail, magazines and catalogs — it took me two hours to go through that stuff. Tom helped out by doing the grocery shopping in the morning — sometimes before I’d even get out of bed. Then we’d go to church on Saturday evening and to dinner, sometimes to the casino or somewhere else to unwind. More often than not, we came home after church.

By Sunday I would be exhausted. Sometimes I spent the day with uncombed hair and sweat pants, curled up on the couch, watching Lifetime movies. I’d usually make a good home-cooked dinner for Tom, since he didn’t usually get that the rest of the week. And I’d work. I’d clean up my emails or do something. It would be RARE for Tom and I to plan anything on a Sunday, unless it was Super Bingo that we volunteer for once a month at St. Gregory’s. On occasion we’d go to my Mom’s for dinner, or if it was summer, go to my sister’s pool for the day.

And then it would start all over again. I never felt like I had enough sleep, never felt like I ever got anything done, and if Tom and I had the choice to stay home or go out, we’d choose stay home every time. Because we’re both exhausted. Something had to change. And the cancer had a way of putting everything into perspective.

So how did I actually do it? The first thing I did was not rush to get back to work. I trust everyone who works for me, especially the managers. They care about MarketSpace as much as I do. So I was able to heal and think things through. And part of my new philosophy included White Space Fridays. I explained my new schedule as I came back to work part-time. I know they’re confused and probably thinking this is temporary with my part-time weeks here in February.

So yesterday, everyone thinks I had a test or a doctor’s appointment. I didn’t correct them. They’ll get used to it. I told them that I could not be part of a 4 pm RFQ call, because I was unavailable the entire day. Now, I plan to be available for important client meetings or calls.  I won’t neglect what is important and my responsibility. But once everyone gets used to my schedule, I’m hoping it’s fairly easy to take this day. I just couldn’t be part of this call this past Friday, because I had already made plans.

I got together with two of my good friends, Gert and Val and we went to Washington County (about 45 minutes or so) to have lunch with my brother, Father Bob. We had lunch at a fantastic restaurant off of the Southpointe exit on Rt. 79, called Jacksons’ Restaurant located in the Hilton Garden Inn. One of Father Bob’s parishioners managed the restaurant and we had the opportunity to meet him. After lunch we spent the afternoon at the Meadows Casino. We got back to Cranberry about 5:00 pm, and what a fantastic day with my girlfriends!!!! I have to admit that I checked my email frequently throughout the day, and I got home and immediately flipped open the laptop. But there was nothing urgent in my inbox. I did get an urgent call from a very important client around 5:30 pm. She called my home line, so I knew it was important and I, of course, took the call.

Any other Friday, I would be close to a coma, completely drained. But, I was in such a good mood — about 7:30 pm I got a huge splurge of energy and ended up getting so much done before I even went to bed. I am hoping that over time, my husband will see a change in me, my staff will see a change in me, and everyone I know will see someone who is happy and takes the time to be part of their lives. I want to be like I used to. Ask people how their weekend was and be genuinely interested in what they did. Know what my staff is doing this weekend, and know whose grandmother is sick, or who child said their first words, or what place my niece finished on her swim relay — take time to share with those around me.

So wish me luck on my new plan. I wonder what I’ll do next Friday? Hmmm… maybe paint pottery….

I pray: Dear God, help me use this time for myself to recharge, re-energize and renew my sense of life. Please let all who love me truly notice that I’m more patient, more attentive, more caring and more engaged, and less angry, self-serving and short-tempered. Help me be a better person, better leader and a better example for my staff and everyone who looks up to me. Amen.