A daily record of gratitude; from quilting to photography to a mix of technology, books, movies and the musings of life!

Welcome to my Blog of my daily gratitude and photo of the day!

Since January 1, 2012, my goal is to write a daily sentence or two (or paragraph or two) about gratitude of the day and to include one photo (at least) that I took that day (but will add others from time to time). It has definitely been a challenge most days throughout the past eight years, and welcomed the challenge again this year - 2020 - Covid and all. I hope you will continue the ride with me!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Holding On to a Meaningful Souvenir from Poland/Polska

When I was 15 years old,  I traveled to Poland with my Aunt Mary Piecuch (my father's sister). We visited our family in Ostrów Mazowiecka (in Eastern Poland) and I was fortunate to run in the Polish Olympic Games in Kraków, Poland, in July of 1977. It was still a communist country at the time, but I learned a lot of history from my extended family and cousins and it was an outstanding trip for a young girl from Cleveland, Ohio. And even though money was scarce, food and drink always seemed to be provided no matter where we traveled throughout the beautiful country of Poland/Polska.

In addition to the food and drink, my Polish relatives presented me with gifts to bring back to the States. One of my favorite gifts is this ceramic "vase" with the Kraków castle (Wawel) imprinted on it. This vase has traveled with me in every moved we've made, and most recently, I've gained an even greater appreciation for this piece because it came from my grandparents homeland. When I look at it, and use it, it reminds me of that glorious time I spent there with my Aunt and our Polish relatives.

At one point, I tried to use it as a coin collector, but then it got too heavy to lift. I then used it for rolled up posters; it kept them nice a tidy (should have hung posters on the wall, but didn't), and once it held dried flowers and peacock feathers. In the last several years, it trustfully holds my grippers in using my long-arm sewing machine. Grippers are used in a system that grips the fabric around a cylinder inside a pocket instead of pinning the quilt. (Faster to load and unload the quilts).

For far too long, I laid those grippers on the floor and stepped on a few which cracked immediately. I then decided to put the vase back to work holding the grippers and keeping them safe. Works beautifully.



Sunday, April 28, 2019

Safety "Recalls" and Wondering....

Automobile ownership is quite a privilege, but definitely costs hard-earned money to keep them running well and filled with gasoline. So when the notices start trickling in about a recall, especially an airbag recall, I figured I needed to "tune in" (no pun intended) and get the vehicle to the dealer ASAP.

After the second notice arrived, I finally tried to make an appointment. I had to leave a voicemail on the service department's answering service since they were "experiencing a high volume of calls" at the time I called in. And so I waited for the return call so "we" could make an appointment to get the airbag replaced. A few weeks went by and I/we heard absolutely nothing back. I then called once again, and this time reached the service desk and scheduled the appointment without incident.

Once I arrived at my appointed time, I explicitly indicated on the form (needed a signature) that I do not want any additional services; please only install the new airbag.

While in the reception area for just about 10 minutes (I decided to wait the couple of hours), I received a phone call from this same dealership (didn't think it had anything to do with the install). I was correct and erred on the side of not not answering the call. A message was left indicating that they wanted to purchase the vehicle that was being worked on! Huh?

Once the vehicle was done with the new airbag installation, or at least I hope it was, the technician called me over and began with a litany of items that I "must" get done soon. If I didn't know better, I probably would panic as he made it sound daunting if I kept on driving it. So was it really about the airbag? Or more business? Hmmm

Thankfully, I went straight to our mechanic afterwards and had him check on the "list" from the dealership which he deemed....hogwash... (he said more explicit words...).

The very next day I received another phone call from the dealership following up on the service, but I let that call go to voicemail as well. Later that day, an email was sent indicating how important it is to get the additional services recommended.

What I want to know is this. Are the recalls legitimate? Some must be, but it sure seems fishy with the incessant calls and emails following the free air bag installation. Could this be a way to infuse additional revenue sources by scare tactics used to everyone who wants to remain safe while driving their vehicles?

BSoleille! The bright side of driving safe cars and trucks!


Friday, April 26, 2019

Brené Brown - Choosing Courage Over Comfort

If you know of the University of Houston Professor/Researcher on Shame and Vulnerability, Brené Brown, you are well aware of her groundbreaking work in all things most folks do not want to talk about: namely, shame, courage, vulnerability and fear. But it is all these things that truly make us human, and as humans, we are survivors in life and "need" to be brave to face all that life throws at us on a daily basis. Her best-selling books (i.e. Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection, I Thought it Was Just Me, But it Isn't, and her most recent, Dare to Lead) are very interesting reads, and I am 'bravely' encouraging you to pick up one of these gems and dig in with your heart and soul. You may learn a few things, and possibly will think differently after reading some of her work(s) (I have). She is really that good and her work is amazingly compelling for all to nourish in our own life's journey.

If you don't want to read at this time, but have 20 minutes to spare, try her TED talks first. They are fabulous and will introduce you to the world of "daring greatly" with shame and vulnerability at the forefront. She is funny, witty and a great-story teller. And isn't just that? We all have stories to tell and want to share them even if that means we stand to be vulnerable in that sharing. Click here for her first TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame/transcript?language=en

Tonight, my husband and I watched her Netflix Special that came out last Friday entitled: "The Call to Courage." We were once again enthralled with her humor and empathy in discussing what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty. It's having the courage, day in and day out, to show up when you can't control the outcome. It's "The Man in the Arena" thought process here, and it is Brené Brown's favorite quote by Teddy Roosevelt that truly sums up all the shame and vulnerability she speaks of so eloquently.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." Theodore Roosevelt - April 10, 1910 from the Citizen in a Republic Speech.

BSoleille! The bright side of vulnerability, because vulnerability provides courage, and courage provides bravery...and we can all use bravery!


Let's try to soar like an eagle with our own bravery...

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Throwback Thursday to 1975

You know that feeling when you are a day late and a dollar short? Well, this throwback Thursday hits the "dress up" of a bygone Easter and "National Sibling Day" all in one fell swoop. The first photo includes our 1966 Pontiac Catalina (ragtop) that was my Dad's and everyone's favorite automobile, and the second one at a destination I cannot recall with my Mom and sisters (Dad was taking the photo on an Instamatic camera, remember those?).

Does anyone look at "old photos" any longer? With film being so "expensive" when we were kids, not as many photos could be feasibly taken, so what you took is what you got when developed...and who knows how long the film sat around before it was taken to the local drug store for that developing. Perhaps a sweet time that really was...



My Mom, Kimberly, me and Annette (most likely 1975)

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Who Really Controls the Speed Limits on Superhighways?

We can guess that posted speed limits; posted cameras and the State Highway Patrol in each state dictate how fast we all should be going on the highways and turnpikes, right? But think again, it's really the 18-wheelers rollin' down the highways that can control the traffic better than all of the above. Think: "breaker breaker 19" or "convoy" for the ultimate "control." It seems to me when there are a lot of truckers on the roads, with a few "crazies" driving too fast and weaving in and out, they put the kibosh to all those road shenanigans quickly.  At times it's warranted, but the drivers who follow the rules of the road pay for those crazy few.

Maybe it's for the best, as they probably keep us safer than if they did not do a thing to stop it.



Monday, April 22, 2019

Earth Day Week...

A visit to Kelleys Island, Ohio, during Earth Day (week) has been two fold: one, to visit with Jodie and Scot Smith, and two, to help with the Longpoint/Island-wide and shoreline clean-up. Can you guess what we found the most of besides bottles and cans? Mylar balloons! At least 15 of them that are quite detrimental to the wildlife that roam this island. We also found a lot of styrofoam; lighters; one flip flop from its pair; fishing equipment and one large tire! We actually filled up several large black garbage bags that filled the back of a small pick-up truck.

The best gift after cleaning up all day was the absolutely gorgeous sunset in all its glory along the Western shore of Lake Erie.



Photos of the clean-up and the sunsets!

Jodie on the clean up!

One of the 15 mylar balloons

Truckful of trash from the shoreline

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Happy Easter 2019!

Here's wishing a Happy Easter for all who celebrate the Risen Christ. Today, I am thankful to have spent the morning with my Mom in her nursing home in Cleveland, Ohio, in one of the nicest Easter services I've ever been to. The woman who led the service, Gina Dias, also brought along her Great Pyrenees "puppy", as well as her dog groomer's dog, Luce (short for Lucifer), a miniature Schnauzer, and they worked the "crowd" giving kisses and getting petted by the residents.

The bible readings, coupled with the song choices (Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art - my favorites) were poignant for the day, and for the roomful of elderly women struggling with their memories, including my Mom. Interestingly, once the a cappella voices chimed in, it was simply  beautiful, and the collective "memories" remembered every word of every song. It was so apparent that music is definitely deep in the recesses of our brains, including words not spoken in years...

A big shout of Thanks to my sister Kimberly and her husband Jerry and family in hosting me for a few days while I visited our Mom, and hosting an Easter luncheon.

Photos from this morning's Easter service and the Nolan side of the family!



Kimberly, Jerry, Nathan, Justin and Brandon Kocan

Dylan, Annette and Zachary Pejeau

The Three Sisters

Our Mom and daughters
Sophie, Miko and Gina

My Mom and Luci 

Gina Dias with Miko

Friday, April 19, 2019

#CelebratingOthers with Laura Murphy

Many people have opinions on everything in life, especially on politics, but not everyone does anything about it. So let me introduce you to my friend, Laura Murphy, who had an opinion and is doing something about it! I'll get to that in a minute...

Laura and I met in preseason for Cross-Country at Bowling Green State University when I was a sophomore and she a freshman in the fall of 1981. With her wild blonde hair and friendly personality, she was instantly likeable by the entire team. Our bonds as a team, and our individual friendships as well, were fostered with each mile we shared in practice, and eventually, road tripping to the meets in the MAC (Mid-American Conference). Laura's tenacity as an athlete came forefront during track season in the spring of 1982, where as a freshman, became the MAC champion in the 1500M run.

That is pretty amazing to win as a freshman, right? Well, this young lady went on to win the 1500M run the following three years and is a four-time MAC Champion! She also earned All MAC honors in 1982; 1983 and 1984. In 1983, Laura was also a member of the MAC CC Championship team and was inducted into the BGSU Athletic Hall of Fame, class of 1992, a well-deserved honor for sure.

After her amazing collegiate career, Laura reached another level as a two-time Olympic Trials qualifier in the Marathon (1996 and 2000). In fact, in 1996 she was also selected as the Michigan Runner magazine Runner of the Year. She continued running and training and represented Hanson's
Brooks at the USATF&CC Club Nationals in Greensboro, NC, where she lead her team to a fourth place finish. She enjoyed a long and winning career on the track and on the road racing circuit, and I am thrilled for all her successes she enjoyed  throughout the years post collegiately.

Laura graduated from BG with a BA in Economics in 1985 and received her Masters degree from Wayne State University in Industrial/Labor Relations in 1993. After graduation she moved to Chicago where her early jobs led her to better business opportunities culminating in working for the Mid-American Regional Bargaining Association, a job where Laura said she learned so much and had a boss who encouraged and mentored her to join professional organizations. It's there she learned to network and work her craft (construction trades; road builders, cement contractors, operating engineers and the like). The longer she worked there, the more she realized the importance of contract negotiations, union work and grievances to hopefully benefit all workers in those fields.

Interestingly, not long after Laura moved to Chicago (1986), she met her husband, Mark Neal, at a party. He was a graduate student at the time at Northwestern in Evanston, IL., and then earned his PhD. After his graduation he went to work for General Motors in Detroit, MI, moving there in the fall of 1989. Laura followed in 1990; and they were married in Rochester, MI, in July of 1991, where they still live today.

In October of 1997, Laura and Mark had twins, a boy, Casey, and a girl, Abbey! Life was busy for them, and Laura said it was best to be home with her children at those tender ages. Never one to sit around, Laura got involved in the PTA; nannied for friends, started a running club when her kids were in elementary school, and was the Rochester College Cross-Country Coach. They traveled when the kids got a little older and even went on a fantastic family trip to Nicaragua!

So what about those strong ideas? Well, we learned that this orange-loving gal who gutted it out on the track and won most of her races; then had a winning streak in her road racing/marathoning days, and that she is easy-going and very likeable, so she took a leap of "faith" in 2016 to help campaign and elect Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from the 8th District in the State of Michigan. It was her very first experience in any type of politics, or campaigns, or elections. But she was determined to makes some changes in whatever capacity she could, and no matter what side of the aisle one sits on, Laura Murphy took matters into her own hands to try and make a difference! I think that is quite admirable and I am proud to call her my friend!

Currently, Laura is the part-time Oakland County, Michigan Community Liaison and is learning the ropes of Congress through Congresswoman Slotkin on a daily basis.

This past fall, Laura was featured in a Washington Post article during Ms. Slotkin's campaign. Please check out:


In addition to her work now (along with nannying a local Rochester family), she also loves to travel, ride bikes, and kayak. In fact, Laura and I traveled to Puerto Rico last month and had a great time. She was also a part of the South Africa trip in 2015, where four BGSU friends enjoyed two weeks in that beautiful country. And last fall, she and her husband went to Hawaii (she helped Mark measure the Kona Ironman course - he is an official measurer).

Since I'm not one to enjoy the political process (I do vote, however), I am amazed at Laura's high energy in working in her county and with Congresswoman Slotkin and all that that entails. It's certainly not for the faint of heart, and Laura has "proved" in many aspects of her life, that she is one very strong woman who gets things done and keeps her eye on the prize! Bravo!

BSoleille! The bright side of #CelebratingOthers with Laura Murphy!


Photos of Laura and a couple from our recent journey to Puerto Rico and Culebra (she also helped me schlep two bags of quilts to the San Juan Children’s Hospital; pediatric cancer ward:

Rainforest in El Yunque

In the Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa; Laura, Jodie Smith, me and Helen Gruniesen

Laura and her family (twins are now 21)

Laura and Mark on their wedding day

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

PSA on External Hard Drives

How often do you backup your computer? If you are in business setting, most likely your server backs it up automatically, and that's a good thing. Once while taking an Apple class at the local mall, a business owner frantically ran into the store and up to the Genius Bar where, in big crocodile tears, he cried to the techs that his computer died and he never backed it up; hopefully wondering if those "genius techs" could make the herculean task of retrieving this man's business (he mentioned that his  entire business was on it, and now the computer failed him).

Thankfully, my computer prompts me after a week of not backing it up, and today the pop up said "it's been 20 days since your last backup." Lo and behold, I made sure to back it up pronto today.

When those prompts pop up, I can never forget that man and how distraught he was that day.  Unfortunately, I've learned through him that it really does matter to get out that external hard-drive, plug it in, and backup the computer. Easy peasy for the peace of mind it brings.

BSoleille! The bright side of a simple external hard-drive needed for even your personal computer!


So small, yet so efficient and it can hold a lot of data for sure!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Maryland's Top 100 Women with Dr. Aziza Shad

We are thankful for a night of celebrating others with The Daily Record and their selections of the Top 100 Women in Maryland, of which Dr. Aziza Shad was one of their 100 in 2019. This event was created to recognize outstanding women leaders in their respective fields, plus their community service and commitment to mentoring. It was an honor for my husband and me to celebrate this milestone with Dr. Shad, her husband, Tahir, Julie Broas, Debbie Amey and her son, Kyle, and staff of LifeBridge Health.

As we know, women have come a long way in establishing themselves in business, education, law and medicine. In addition, what we have all collectively learned through the years is that it's really the small incremental steps each woman takes to just "show up," and in effect, inspire, lead, fail (yes, fail too), and mentor others to help shape ourselves, our sons and daughters, and our communities (and while I am at it, our states and our nations) at large.

This particular program was designed to shine a spotlight in leadership roles and to help more women achieve top positions in their professional endeavors. I think the "class" of 2019 did just that, and we could not be more proud of Dr. Aziza Shad as one of the recipients of this prestigious award. BRAVO! (It should be noted that apparently over 520 women were nominated for this statewide honor, the largest number in the history of the program.)

BSoleille! The bright side of Maryland's Top 100 Women....with Aziza Shad, M.D.

First photo of Tahir and Aziza Shad

Dr. Shad in top left corner

Debbie and Kyle Amey; Julie Broas; Tahir And Aziza, me, Bill and Mary Jane

With the "rock star"

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Nature's Heart Art

Finding hearts in nature is something to celebrate, especially when not looking for them but identify them in a blink of an eye. While in Puerto Rico recently, hearts in nature seemed to be "everywhere" and obligatory photos were taken to prove the love...

BSoleille! The bright side of Heart Art...


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Will All This Fit in the Suitcase?

"The Best Daughter" was in town recently for a visit and prefers to travel "light." That means one carry-on suitcase and a bag so she can traverse through an airport and into an Uber/Lyft with ease. When she arrived to the house, she began "living out of her suitcase" and spreading a lot of her items around the suitcase, not keeping too much in it...ahem. If one took a good look at it, you could say the suitcase "vomited" its contents with no hope of going back in...ever.

However, if you guessed that everything fit right back in it when it was time to leave, you guessed correctly! Who would have thunk that? We were all amazed when she eloquently "squeezed" everything back in successfully; with no need to sit or stomp on it to zip it closed. That's some kind of packing for sure; and by gosh, all that stuff was packed for approximately a two week stint of travel in that one "little" suitcase.

BSoleille! The bright side of "packing light."


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Lingering Thoughts of Puerto Rico (Culebra!)

Isn't one of the best things about returning from a vacation the lingering thoughts? Like the feel of the sun on your face, or sand between your toes (beachy vacations for sure). And even though I am/we are back and in the saddle of our regular routines, I do find my mind drifting back to the beaches, hikes, food (love those red snappers!) and those amazing turquoise waters of the Caribbean.  I would love to go back someday...and take in more of the soft ocean breezes and the serendipity we found around the islands.

It's a gift to leave only footprints in the sand, knowing full well they would be washed away when the tide rolled in. So when Laura and I left our running shoes at the hostel-on-the-ocean in Loquillo, Puerto Rico, after hiking in the Rainforest at El Yunque, we left our mark with this small, but welcome, donation. Our host, Tyrone, exclaimed that they will be worn by someone affected by Hurricane Maria and that they would be thankful for something other than cheap sandals to wear on their feet. A win-win for all.

BSoleille! The bright side of sunny beaches, warm sand and running shoes left behind.


 Photos: view from our outdoor kitchen in the hostel; and our shoes all cleaned up!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

There is NOTHING Like the Blooming Cherry Blossoms

The Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, are really special and something to experience once in a lifetime for sure. A close second, I must admit, are the BBB's, or most commonly known as the beautiful blooming blossoms around the Crofton Parkway. This past Saturday morning was glorious sunny day to trek around the parkway, taking in the faint pink blooming trees for close to four miles. And let's face it, the photos do not do the blossoms justice, as they are so much more striking in person. I am in full cheerleader mode for full blooms in celebration of Spring and thankful for warmer days and pretty flowers in the days ahead.

BSoleille! The bright side of Blooming Spring!


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Special Love Gala 2019

After a great trip to Puerto Rico, retuning last night, first thing on the agenda was attending the Special Love Gala at the Tyson’s Corner Hilton this evening. Thankfully, it was a stellar event raising needed funds for the cancer kids and their siblings from the Washington DC metro area attending camps in the Maryland and Virginia regions. 

First up, a huge HOW HOW of congratulations to Jay Robinson, who received the 2019 Randy Schools Light of Love award for all this tireless efforts in volunteering and supporting Special Love Programs through the many years. Jay, a cancer survivor himself, has put family, faith and service to work for the greater good of mankind, albeit a lot of cancer patients and their precious families. We are all better because of Jay in our lives, even for a Special Love family weekend or week at camp as his valiant efforts of all things Special Love are deeply appreciated. 

On a personal note, Bill and Ryan both shared our families story about Ryan’s journey with  childhood cancer. I videotaped the entire speech and plan on posting it soon (I’ll post the date it will be on YouTube). I could not be more proud of their speeches, but Ryan ultimately nailed his extraordinary experience and mesmerized the crowd with his compelling thoughts on exactly what this camp really means to him, and all the kids who attend it each summer!  HOW HOW Ryan!!

If you are local, and may like to support a fantastic cause, please check out specialovecamps.org You will be amazed!



Wednesday, April 3, 2019

El Yunque Rain Forest and Beyond 

Finishing out our stay in Puerto Rico (back on the big island yesterday), we hiked the 3.6 mile  trek into the rain forest since we couldn’t hike to the peak due to construction vehicles up on the mountain. However, Laura and I felt maybe it was a wee bit more exciting to traverse through a muddy and rocky trail with flora and fauna smacking us in the face (as well as spider webs) as we climbed and descended down to the river. We were thankful to complete two good hikes while on this trip; first one going to Rasaca Beach in Culebra, and today, on the big island of PR. 

Getting back yesterday, we took the 45 minute ferry ride back to PR for $2.25 per person, and so worth it to "get in a cruise" on the Caribbean Sea! Our day ended with seeing the Bioluminescent Bay/Grande Laguna where the plankton "lights" up the water for a second. The water needs to keep moving to see the light. Super cool for sure and glad we got that adventure in (most tours were sold out!)



Photos are in the comments... it’s the only way I can post them. Thank you for checking them out. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Super Laid Back Island 

The island folk pride themselves on "sometimes we’re open, and sometimes we’re not."  No hours are listed on any viable establishment, and that includes which days of the week they’re open as well. It all works out, but truly chillax all around these parts. The good thing is that the beaches (and very beautiful at that) are always open for "business."

The past two days Laura and I checked out the beaches our buggy (Go Cart) could go to. We even hiked over a very large hill and rock scramble down to a non swimming beach to check a different part of the island this morning (only ones there) adding to the six others we visited: Melones; Tamarindo; Flamenco; Zoni; Resaca and Punta Soldado. All different, but warm waters at each. A crowd favorite was Zoni, with Flamenco a close second (soft white sandy beaches that felt like being in an infinity pool!)

Here are some photos from beach hopping and relaxing...which we are both very thankful for.