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

If it Brings You Joy

tools of the trade
Looks like a mess, right? But, it’s not….

If you were a kid in the mid to late 1990’s, and you were lucky enough to be home from school on-time, you may have watched a cartoon entitled, “Gargoyles”. If you were anything like I was during my late-elementary school years, you would have fallen in love with this show!

I mean, what’s not to love? It was the perfect blend of science and sorcery. And, the characters! They were amazing and so memorable! I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to be fierce like Demona, flying away with a haunting screech and glowing, scarlet eyes?

For those of you who were not 90’s kids, and missed out on this cartoon, gargoyles (according to the show) were an ancient race of mythical beings that had wings, talons, tails and immense strength. The clan that the cartoon features originated in medieval Scotland. There, the clan protected a human castle. Although ferocious and nearly invincible at night, the gargoyles turned to stone during the day—a change that left them vulnerable. This was more than just an inconvenience or a commercial break; being stone during the day, when humanity was wide awake, made the gargoyles easy targets. A sledge hammer, a catapult, a mace…any of these tools/weapons could shatter a gargoyle and end its life.

Defending and protecting the castle by night would make one think that the castle’s inhabitants would return the favor and guard the gargoyles by day. Sadly, the humans were no match for a Viking raiding party and the conniving plans of a traitor among their own ranks. After the destruction and loss that they endured during the Viking raid, the remaining six gargoyles were turned into stone for 1000 years by the Magus (read: court sorcerer).

The gargoyle’s tale doesn’t end there, though.

The gargoyles—and the castle’s ruins—were airlifted to New York City by a multi-millionaire, David Xanatos. Xanatos is intrigued by gargoyle lore, and the spell that could not be broken “until the castle rises above the clouds”. When the spell is broken, thanks to Xanatos’ efforts, the gargoyles must learn how to survive in a modern, and fast-paced city.

That’s a lot of backstory, right? In the writing biz, that’s called, “backstory/information dumping”, and you should NEVER, EVER do it. So why am I doing it now? Well, Dear Readers, you know me well enough to know that when I break writing rules, it’s to make a point.

Despite the constant danger/possibility that I wasn’t going to be home from school in time to watch “Gargoyles”, my infatuation with them continued to grow. In fact, between episodes, I started making my own gargoyles out of discarded cardboard.

unsuitable
Thick cardboard, while durable, was not easy to cut…and often destroyed the gargoyles I had drawn on it.

Some of these home-made gargoyles were modeled after the cartoon’s characters, but I didn’t stop creating them after I replicated Goliath, Hudson, Bronx, Broadway, Lexington and Brooklyn. Oh, no. I created my own gargoyles—over 100 of them. And, for every gargoyle that I made for myself, I’d make an identical one for my brother.

it will do
Although the above is not the ideal cardboard for gargoyle-creation, this type of cardboard would work in a pinch.

Turning cardboard into gargoyles was so much fun!

perfect cardboard
The best cardboard for crafting gargoyles was actually empty cereal boxes! 

It is in this hobby, I think, that my roots as a writer can be found. The creative process went well beyond drawing a gargoyle on cardboard, coloring and cutting it out—it also included naming and developing a unique backstory for every single one of them.
I am sad to say, that as it often goes with the pastimes of childhood, my cardboard gargoyles are no more….

Thanks to Disney+, though, I can re-watch “Gargoyles”!

In viewing these episodes again, I have learned a bit about my memory’s capabilities and its limitations. It surprises me, still, when I can randomly recall the next scene or the entrance of a new character. My opinion of the cartoon has not changed; I find it amusing and even educational. As a child, I was oblivious to these carefully constructed lessons, as an adult viewer, however, I’m in awe of them and how seamlessly they are incorporated.

As the cartoon series begins, the gargoyles decide that NYC is their new home. As such, they must “serve and protect” the city’s residents. It is, after all, the “gargoyle way”. This philosophy conjures visions of hard-working police officers, yet, it’s also something that we each aspire to in our own lives. To help family, friends, and the communities that we live in, isn’t that important?

Now, the gargoyle’s new community—a fictionalized version of the Big Apple—is riddled with violent business take-overs and high-tech weaponry. When not out on patrol, some clan members enjoy watching TV. Unfortunately, the clan soon finds itself in direct combat with the television personalities that they have come to adore.

As spoken by Hudson: “Maybe we shouldn’t believe everything that we see on the TV”.

In the beginning, neither Broadway nor Hudson can read. They don’t think they’re missing out on anything—they do have a television set, after all. After the kerfuffle with their favorite celebrities, and chance encounters with other humans that convey how precious the written word is, both Broadway and Hudson decide to take the plunge and learn how to read.

By the second season, a new theme emerges: cultural preservation. The importance of honoring one’s traditions and culture is highlighted in Goliath’s travels to Japan. There, our hero meets Japanese gargoyles who are trying to preserve their belief system, BUSHIDO, by teaching it to their own young as well as to the humans that they protect. This belief system values honor, fairness, and like Goliath’s clan, incorporates, “to serve and protect”. Not only is it a code for gargoyle warriors, it’s a dictum by which to live.

After writing all of this, and re-watching season one and two (thank goodness there’s a season three!), I would like to tell Little Laura to hang on to those cardboard gargoyles just a bit longer. There was such joy in creating and sharing them! Sure, our culture tells us that as we age, we out-grow our former hobbies and must abandon them.

But, maybe, that’s wrong….

Age shouldn’t stop us from pursuing what brings us joy, what inspires us to share. Although I will not be recycling empty cereal boxes by making another clan of cardboard gargoyles—I do believe that utilizing the same artistic skills that created those gargoyles in the first place, should have a place in my adult life.

If you find joy, try to keep it.

Try to share it.

Let the shape of it evolve as you do.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here. May you find child-like joy in something today!

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura