A Daily Dose of Joy

violet

Joy.

How would you define the word? When/how do you experience it? Do you find joy in your everyday life?

Joy is certainly part of the recipe for a happy, healthy life…and, yet, somehow…I’ve left it out.

Thankfully, while “attending” the virtual version of The Stowe Weekend of Hope (SWOH), I was reminded of just how important joy is. Usually held in beautiful Stowe, Vermont, SWOH went virtual this year due to the coronavirus. There were workshops via Facebook Live, YouTube, on specific websites and Zoom.

“Radical Remission” was one such workshop.

Led by Kristi Cromwell, the workshop explained the work of Dr. Kelly Turner—the researcher behind “Radical Remission”. As a certified Radical Remission instructor and coach, Kristi was able to share the 10 Healing Elements comprising “Radical Remission”. The element that resonated most with me, was Increasing Positive Emotions, specifically joy.

It triggered something within me—starting a short-lived existential crisis, even. Did I know what joy was? When was the last time that I had experienced it? I know I felt it at our wedding, but was joy part of my day-to-day?

Kristi challenged workshop participants to think about what would bring more joy to their lives. According to Cromwell, just 10-minutes of joy a day can make a difference in one’s health. She also suggested starting small and eventually building upwards in terms of time.

Starting small seemed like a wise idea to me…but what was I supposed to start with? What brought me joy?

The answer to this question came to me while participating in Happy Brain Life’s “10 Days of Calm and Creativity” program via Facebook. In this journaling program, Liz Wiegardt focused on assisting Heart Centered women. She shared ways to increase calm during these precarious times as well as express creativity. I loved every minute of it! Liz holds a Masters in Counseling Psychology as well as a Certificate in Applied Neuroscience and Brain Health. She is well-educated in these areas. And, and, she is a great public-speaker!

journal

It was one of Liz’s journal prompts that helped me find my “joy”. On Day 4 of the program, as a creativity prompt, she asked participants to “connect with music today…listen to your favorite song and dance!”.

Music? Dance? I had flashbacks of my teenage years.

Every morning, when I was getting ready for school, my CD player would be set to a ridiculously high volume. One of the bands that I played on repeat was a Christian rock band, Audio Adrenaline (audioa).

Somehow, as I grew older, I left the band behind. It wasn’t until earlier this year (pre-COVID), that I came across two of their albums at my parents’ house: Hit Parade and Worldwide. On a whim, I brought them home…and started listening again.

Audio_

While teenage Laura was addicted to drums and electric guitar riffs, adult Laura is in love with the lyrics. I spend more time in the Bible these days, and, as such, I can now identify the scripture that may or may not have influenced these songs.

The songs, altogether, mean more to me now.

They inspire faith.

And, on Day 4 of the “10 Days of Calm and Creativity”, they inspired JOY.

In response to Liz’s prompt, I listened and danced to audioa’s “Underdog”. THIS—dancing as poorly and awkwardly as I do—is my JOY.

It’s freeing and fun!

I am still finding joy in the fusion of music and dance. Currently, I am hooked on audioa’s song, “Big House”:

 

Come and go with me

To my Father’s house

Come and go with me

To my Father’s House

It’s a big, big house

With lots and lots of room

A big, big table

With lots and lots of food

A big, big yard

Where we can play football

A big, big house

It’s my Father’s House

– Audio Adrenaline, “Big House” from their 1993 album, Don’t Censor Me.

This song—which makes me smile—also encourages me to contemplate John 14:2-3, in which Jesus says:

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

            – As written in the the New International Version of the Holy Bible

How awesome are these verses?! An eternal home, prepared just for you and me.

Finding joy in music and in my poor dance skills, has helped me to identify it elsewhere.

I love writing. It is my creative project of choice. I’m approximately a quarter of the way through “converting” an old manuscript. And, yes, I do mean “converting” in the sense of changing the manuscript to Christian Fiction. Sure, it’s unpaid work. I believe, however, that writing is like planting a garden. You place the seeds in the soil, water and weed, and have faith that they will grow—that your efforts will yield a bountiful crop.

I hope, Dear Readers, that you, too, find some joy today and every day.

Thank you, once again, for your presence here. Of Pieridae and Perras would not be the same without you. I would not be where I am (alive) without you and your prayers. Stay safe! Stay healthy! I am sending light, love and prayers your way.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

Resources for the Curious:

For more information about SWOH, visit: https://www.stowehope.org/about-swoh.html.

To learn more about “Radical Remission”, watch Kristi’s workshop on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQnJzCPNQuw.

If interested, you can read about Liz Wiergardt and Happy Brain Life at: https://www.happybrainlife.com/about.

 

March

Lion and lamb
Animal crackers…yum, yum

Do you feel it? The excitement in the air? The seasons are about to change!

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens….

The sun is shining, the sky is a beautiful shade of Robins’ egg blue, and the fur babies are all about finding sun puddles to nap in.

I can’t say with any real confidence that winter is over. It is March after all; an old-fashioned Nor’easter could still be in the cards. I have decided not to dwell on the possibility that we may experience one last snowstorm. Instead, I’m looking forward to taking notes on the amount of sunshine that each section of our yard receives. I’m anxious to get my hands dirty with potting soil. Bring on a dripping water can! Bring on bug spray and weeding! I’m ready to start gardening!

…a time to plant and a time to uproot….

My gardening day-dreams started late last month, when I found these in a local store:

seeds

The price was right—and since none of these veggies need to be started indoors before transplanting them outside—I scooped them up. I’ll be acquiring more seeds in the weeks ahead (something other than carrots and lettuce). I hope to plant bright flowers to attract pollinators. The first summer we lived in our house, potted, red geraniums lured hummingbirds to our porch. I would love to see them again this summer!

…a time to weep and a time to laugh….

Laughter is something that I’ve been indulging in lately. The early mornings are now filled with a cheery (and sometimes loud) “morning chorus”. It’s a simple joy, but birdsong makes me smile.

Our cedar hedge is alive with songbirds, but their singing stops abruptly, whenever I open the back door for Luna. She charges out into her yard—eyeing the hedge—somehow knowing that while the birdsong has ceased, the feather-frocked singers have not simply disappeared.

Luna looking out
This door isn’t dirty…that’s Luna’s artwork! She paints with her nose. She’d be devastated if I just wiped it all away….

It took six times of returning indoors and subsequently adventuring back out, before Luna could reconcile herself with the fact that the birds were not going to let her sniff or chase them.

…a time to search and a time to give up….

All of these signs of the coming spring, I think, are worth celebrating. Even the little things can be sources of joy and inspiration, if we let them.

A surprising addition to my seed collection arrived early last week, when I cut open a Pink Lady apple:

apple seeds

As a surprise, I wasn’t prepared for these little guys. I needed potting soil, containers to grow them in—but never fear! I was on my way to Target anyways to buy Tim Horton’s Coffee, and well, that impulse section was calling my name.

…a time to keep and a time to throw away… – Excerpts from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, as written in the New International Version of the Holy Bible

I have grown a sapling from a sprouted apple seed before. The sapling didn’t survive for very long—only reaching about two inches in height—but it brought me such joy to simply watch it grow. It was inspiring to see how it broke through the rind of the seed, pushed through the soil, and reached toward the sunlight.

It reminds me of a hymn from my childhood:

In the bulb, there is a flower;

In the seed, an apple tree;

In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!

In the snow and cold of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

-As published in The United Methodist Hymnal: Book of United Methodist Worship, “Hymn of Promise” by Natalie Sleeth

This song is, without question, one of my favorite hymns. It’s hopeful. The tune itself is rather upbeat. It makes me believe that all of these things—flowers, apple trees, butterflies and spring—are on their way.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. I hope you are recovering from the time change (I know I’m still trying to adjust). May the sunshine lift your spirits. May it inspire you to create beautiful, spring-time and summer plans.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Autumn’s Arrival?

August dandelions

It seems, Dear Readers, that the “dog days” of summer are behind us.

Luna & Berkley outside

There are subtle hints of Autumn’s harkening everywhere. The crickets are performing grand concerts every night. I’ve even heard geese honking overhead.

And, then, there’s this:

scarlet leaf 1.0

Yep. Scarlet-colored leaves. If that doesn’t announce Autumn’s early arrival, I don’t know what does.

There’s also this:

When did this happen? These must be left over from last Autumn, right? Nope. There are, apparently, trees already shedding their leaves.

Sadly, what was once green and bountiful, is now turning yellow and withering. It probably sounds crazy, but I’m going to miss my tomato plant. This is the first (outdoor) plant to flourish while in my care!

August tomato

There have been celestial changes, too. The sun is retiring earlier every night, and rising later in the morning.

August Moon

Aside from seasonal allergies, I’m excited for Autumn. I’m hoping to go leaf-peeping and apple-picking. And, oh! I must have hot apple cider with mulling spices! Let’s not forget dipping apple slices in caramel sauce.

Change is always difficult. Even positive changes can spark anxiety. I have found, though, that identifying things that I enjoy (and am grateful for) makes transitions much easier.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for visiting today. I hope there’s something about Autumn that you can look forward to, too.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

The Neighborhood

LH
Above: One of the houses comprising a Living History Open Air Museum in Canada’s Eastern Townships (the name has been lost in the chemo fog).

The neighbors, across the road, are selling their house. I don’t know their names. I’m not sure I could even recognize them if we were in the same grocery store aisle. Regardless, I’m going to miss them.

I’m going to miss the sound of a snow plow being attached to a pick-up truck early in the morning (that was my signal that there was actually snow on the ground!).

They were/are quiet, busy living their own lives. Last summer, they had their roof replaced and the effect was beautiful. Worn, darkened shingles were ripped off, and coffee-colored ones were installed. The change brightened the house’s appearance.

To be honest, I have no idea why I’m writing about this. And, still, I feel as though I must. Could it simply be an unconscious need to express gratitude? Having lived in various apartments, surrounded by loud neighbors, I am truly grateful for these quiet ones.

I wonder, sometimes, what kind of neighbor am I?

I try to be social. If I’m outside, wearing my glasses, and recognize a car going by as belonging to one of our neighbors, I will wave to them. The neighbors to our left have a magnificent outdoor patio (it’s surrounded by lush greenery and colorful flowers). Someday, I’ll drum up the courage to ask them for gardening advice.

Fort Ti
Above: A view of the King’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga.

I did meet one neighbor, this past winter, when I hand-delivered her mail to her. An envelope, addressed to her, had been erroneously placed in our mailbox. Although it seems like such a small thing, it was terrifying to deliver a piece of mail. My immune system was still infantile! What if the person that opened the door was ill? What if this neighbor wasn’t friendly? I can’t remember her name—but I knew, immediately, that all of my worries had been a waste of precious time and energy. My neighbor was a fellow yogi! Her clothes indicated this. She also had a glow that I associate with serenity.

It’s difficult to make friends as an adult. Not because we don’t want to, but because as we age, we put walls up. We stop taking risks, stop reaching out. It’s a habit that I intend to change.

LH Church
Above: The Church at the Living History Open Air Museum.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. You are my “online neighborhood”. You bring me so much joy and courage. Please continue to send prayers, light, and love. There’s a dental appointment this week…and, well, chemotherapy and radiation do horrible things to your teeth. Also, the overhead light tends to trigger my PTSD. The good news in all of this? Once my teeth have been examined, and fixed, I should (knocking on wood rather loudly) be able to maintain a healthy mouth. Our teeth affect our overall health more than we sometimes realize. Ultimately, this appointment is just another small step toward living a healthy life.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Route Recalculation

tomatos 71419
Apparently (I hope I don’t jinx myself), I have a green thumb for outdoor container gardening!

I learned some things on the way to my most recent appointment in Boston:

One – Black-eyed Susans grow in colossal patches alongside New Hampshire’s main roadways. When the sun shines on them, they glow gold. I’ve never seen so many of these flowers growing together! It was breathtaking. If the traffic had been slower, I would have taken a picture.

Two – Traffic stopped for an hour on I-93 due to an accident. Someone involved in the collision was air-lifted out. Even amid the sirens of police cruisers, ambulances, and fire trucks, there was silence. Silence for the injured. Silence for the “what-if’s”. A silence that is not heard, but felt.

I learned some things while in Boston:

One – Although I stopped taking my anti-rejection medication in June, it’s still circulating in my body. It takes three months for it to clear out. Until then, I will continue to take an anti-viral, Acyclovir, as well as an anti-biotic, Bactrim. We did eliminate one medication from the list, though. Bye-bye Protonix!

Two – The second dose of a vaccine can be worse than the first dose. The first time I was given Shingrix, I also received seven other vaccinations. At the time, it was difficult to tell which vaccine site was hurting the most or which vaccine might have made me feel like a zombie. This time, Shingrix was the only injection that I received. And it hurt. I spent Thursday, on the couch, nauseous. The positive side of this? Shingrix is replacing the Chicken Pox vaccine in the post-transplant re-vaccination procedural. That’s one less live-vaccine that I’ll be receiving in September!

I learned some things while feeling half-dead on the couch:

One – It’s okay to rest. It’s something that I should have done more frequently after relapse in 2017, but, for various reasons, I was unable to.

Two – There are many, beautiful things in my life. We may not have New Hampshire’s Black-Eyed Susans in our ditches, but we do have these:

blue flower

It’s Biblical-sounding, but you do reap what you sow. In my particular case, it’s Johnny Jump-ups descended from the hanging baskets that my parents gave me last summer.

Johnny

Johnny, obviously, has not had an easy life. He looks a bit beat-up. He doesn’t let it get him down, though; every morning, Johnny wakes up, and soaks up the sunshine.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Thank you for all of the prayers, love and light that you send my way. This week, I will be having a Bone Density Scan (it’s a fairly common exam after cancer treatment). I’ve had one before. It doesn’t hurt. I am, however, feeling anxious about the results.

Bone Density can be affected by many factors, including cancer treatment. Since my relapse in 2017, I’ve had massive doses of Chemotherapy, Localized and Total Body radiation, Ovarian Failure (did you know that Estrogen is essential to a woman’s bone health?). I will admit to being afraid that my once-a-day, calcium supplement and my Hormone Replacement Therapy have not been enough to counteract the side-effects of all of these (ironically) life-saving toxins. Of course, we’ll see what the scan reveals, and make a plan to deal with whatever the results are. Until then, please continue sending prayers, light, and love. Thank you.

And, to leave you on a positive note, here are some pictures of our newest (and youngest) backyard visitor:

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With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Not Humpty Dumpty

LP Iris and maple

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about my oncology follow-up appointment. It was at this visit that my oncologist said, “We did terrible things to you, and now it’s time to put Laura back together again.”. This declaration still resonates with me, still gives me hope that I can live a healthy, fulfilling, well-rounded life. It makes me believe that all of my broken pieces can be reassembled.

I equated myself to Humpty Dumpty in that blog post…and I shouldn’t have. Nursery Rhymes, Fairy Tales, they all have a melancholy, darker (usually forgotten) side to them.

According to Project Gutenberg (which shares literature that is out of copyright and now considered public domain!), the nursery rhyme featuring Humpty Dumpty goes something like this:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the King’s horses

And all the King’s men

Cannot put Humpty together again.

The rhyme appears exactly as it did in childhood. The real surprise is that the rhyme is attached to a story, and appears at the end of that narrative.

In L. Frank Baum’s rendition of Mother Goose in Prose (illustrated by Maxfield Parrish), Humpty Dumpty is one of the twelve eggs laid by the cunning, Speckled Hen. To summarize/paraphrase, Mama Hen leaves the nest to grab a bite to eat, and, during her absence, her wily eggs begin to kick each other for more room. Humpty is, by far, the largest egg in the nest and he’s balancing on the edge of it. Thus, when his siblings start misbehaving, he’s pushed completely out of the nest. Fortunately, for Humpty, there’s a haystack below the nest.  He rolls down it, settling on the barn floor (in one-piece).

Humpty, on the barn floor, can see the world beyond the barn’s doors. It’s beautiful!

English Roseum New Growth

He wants to see it, so he saunters (my word, not Baum’s) across the barn floor. He meets another egg—from the Black Bantam’s nest—and they set off to explore the world together. Eventually, they arrive at a large, stone wall. They can’t climb the wall, but they find a hole to squeeze through.

garden door

On the other side of the wall, is the King’s castle, lush gardens, and a pond. The eggs want to visit the birds swimming in the pond, but they cross the road at an inopportune time. As they start walking across the road, the King and his men come riding through. Humpty is able to avoid injury, but his friend is slower, and is crushed by a horse. He sits by the roadside, mourning her death.

The princess finds Humpty and gives him a tour of the gardens and the majestic palace.

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When her father and his men return home, the princess takes Humpty to the top of the gates to watch the entourage’s arrival. Humpty, sitting in a groove in the stone wall, forgets where he is, leans forward to see more, and plummets to his death.

pink flowers

Back in the palace, the King is surrounded by his men—many of whom want to ask for the princess’s hand in marriage. The King senses that he’ll make enemies if he chooses a suitor, so he declares that the princess will only marry the man that can stump him with a riddle. Every man fails—except for the last one. The princess, when no one is paying attention, gives this young man the riddle of Humpty Dumpty. The king cannot guess who or what Humpty was, and so the princess and the young man are married. It’s a happy marriage, as the pair are already in love.

Baun’s tale concludes, “And thus did Humpty Dumpty, even in death, repay the kindness of the fair girl who had shown him such sights as an egg seldom sees.”.

pink flowers 1.0

So, Dear Readers, comparing myself to Humpty Dumpty, was a wildly, inaccurate analogy.

First, I am not a runaway egg.

Second, I did not fall off of a wall.

Third, I do not need all of the King’s horses and men to put me back together again.

I need God. Doctors. Counselors. My husband and our fur babies. Family. Friends. Healing is multifaceted, because we are complex creatures. Sure, you can extricate the cancer and stitch up the wounds—but it won’t heal the spiritual being, the emotional being.

And, that, restoring one’s soul and self-worth, might just be the hardest part of recovery.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Please continue to send prayers, light and love. I am on the upswing—which is a relief—but there is still work to be finished and goals to be accomplished. Yes, it is a new chapter, but, as any reader or writer can tell you, every chapter has its own charms, problems, and plot twists. I’m hoping for only good things.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

What is This?

shrub with white flowers

Please allow me to preface this entry by stating that it’s based entirely on the assumption, Dear Readers, that some of you are gardeners. And, if you don’t garden now, maybe you’ve done so in the past?

The short of it: we need to tidy up the shrubs and vines that are growing around our front porch. This is the point at which I need help—I don’t know what any of these plants are—except for the irises and the day lilies.

iris 2019

 

First up: the vines that may or may not be poisonous. What are they? How do I get rid of them?

As the woodcutter’s daughter, I should be able to recognize the leaves on the sapling below. Similar to any skill or piece of knowledge that goes unused, my ability to identify trees has been buried, somewhere, in my cluttered mind. So, what do we think this is? Some sort of poplar?

unknown tree

What about this tree with flowers? I believe the flowers become red, oblong berries in the Autumn/Winter.

flowering tree

These next two pictures depict saplings intertwined with other plants. Ideally, I would like to save all of the plants involved…but is that possible?

maple in shrub

This sapling in the above photo is certainly not a sugar maple (the leaves are too elongated), but it seems like it’s some sort of maple. Please correct me if I’m wrong! Is there a way to extricate the sapling from the shrub, without killing one or both of the plants?

The same question pertains to this photo:

maple and lily

This little guy/gal is growing up betwixt a cluster of day lilies. Can I safely transplant both plants to some other location on our property?

Finally, we come to the wild grape vines:

grape vine in cedar

To save the cedar, we’re going to have to harm the vine, aren’t we? Unless, maybe, one of you has a creative solution?!

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here. Please share your gardening advice! I do not have a green-thumb, so any guidance that you can offer would be greatly appreciated! Please continue to send prayers, light and love.

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura