The Light

The sunrise this morning was breathtaking—and divided between the front yard and the backyard, as the weather so often is. The sky glowed Jack-o-lantern orange in the back, where Luna and Berkley play. Across the road, over the frosty field that Sneaky the cat used to haunt, it was a gentle rose.

The garage’s skylight sparkled, silver.

I can’t say, with any certainty, that winter weather is on its way. Just last week, we hit 68 degrees Fahrenheit! The week before, many local schools had morning delays.

This is life, I guess. Unpredictable. Uncontrollable. And absolutely beautiful.

A dear friend, for Christmas 2019, gifted us a coffee table calendar. Each day features the picture of a dog and an inspirational quote. Sometimes, the dogs aren’t exactly “pretty” and the quotes aren’t exactly “thought-provoking”. However, I have found joy in seeing what each new day will bring. The picture of a poodle? A pug? A retriever? Will the quote be by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? Helen Keller? Ralph Waldo Emerson?

Each day has been a surprise, and, yes, as a hoarder, I have held onto the pages that have resonated with me!

Recently, a chocolate lab with its bubble-gum-pink tongue sticking out, shared the page with this timely quote by Anatole France:

The truth is that life is delicious, horrible, charming, frightful, sweet, bitter, and that is everything.

It really is “everything”. Life is a coin with two sides. As we so often hear, we don’t know love until we’ve been heartbroken. We don’t know what happiness is, until we’ve been brought low.

So many of us feel low right now.

I am delighted by the solutions that the people around me have concocted.

Melancholy? Bring on the magic of Christmas!

Need some light? String up those holiday strands, across the front porch and roofline (we never took ours down; let’s hope they still work)!

Need something corny and sweet? Try a Christmas-themed movie.

I was recently introduced to a Netflix original series entitled, Dash and Lily. I’m only one episode in, but I can’t wait to watch #2! Thus far, the series has been surprisingly cerebral and yet soaked in city lights and holiday traditions.

Caroling? It’s got that—and it’s got me singing Christmas hymns and carols whenever I wash the dishes (which seems to be a never-ending task). BTW – anyone know all the words to “Frosty the Snowman”? I’ve somehow forgotten them….

Is it just me, or does this snowman look a little worried?

AND—this might be the best part of Dash and Lily for me—much of it seems to revolve around a bookstore! There’s simply no way that I, a book worm, can walk away from a rom-com set among bookshelves.

*dreamy sigh*

It seems, in our COVID-infected world, that heralding Christmas cheer, light and generosity into our daily lives may be a salve for the sadness. A tincture for the terrible fear. A compress for the confusion.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. I can’t express how much you mean to me. Light up your world—with white lights, multi-color lights, blinking lights (if you must). Sing carols and children’s songs while scrubbing the silverware. Relax with a holiday film or show. It’s not rushing the season; it’s self-care.

With So Much Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Prose Photos

Dear Readers,

So much has happened over the past two weeks! Most of it has been downright beautiful, deserving to be photographed, but alas, this writer did not stop to snap any shots. This blog entry, then, will be an exercise in both imagination and prose. Think of it as a pictureless scrapbook.

Can you, Dear Readers, ‘see’ what I saw?

Hidden Treasure

“Come and see what we found!” My husband’s voice was full of excitement.

He had spent the morning in the garage with his best friend, organizing the first floor. Similar to most garages, ours was cluttered with tools, garden supplies and other items that simply don’t belong in the house.

Although a small space—so small, in fact, that only a compact car can fit in it—our garage holds secrets.

We inherited a woodstove, brown with rust, as well as a hip-high, once white, farmhouse-style cabinet. It’s black, wrought iron hinges and handles whisper of another life—a life spent in a warm kitchen where such charming hardware can be cared for and admired. If it weren’t for the drawers of curled, yellow newspaper and an overabundance of “chocolate sprinkles”, I would gladly rehabilitate the cabinet and give it the home it deserves. But…you know… “chocolate sprinkles”.

Crawlspaces underneath stairs tend to be spooky with cobwebs and dust motes—and ours had all of these things—but it also harbored another woodstove!

Hidden behind a metal cabinet, my husband and his friend uncovered a replica Jotul 118 woodstove.

It was love at first sight (for me, anyways).

The replica, albeit quite rusty, features a wrought iron tableau on both of its longer sides. This tableau, in carefully crafted images, is essentially my cultural heritage. There are two lumberjacks wielding a double-handled saw. Their horse waits nearby as they undergo the slow work of felling a pine tree. A small log cabin, bordered by a deciduous tree, seems to be a fox’s intended destination. Behind the lumberjacks stands a grand moose and his family. My heart, like the birds in the wrought-iron tableau, soared with appreciation for this artwork, for this glimpse into the past. My past.

I am, after all, the woodcutter’s daughter.  

The White Mountains are Ablaze

Wednesday of last week included a trip to Boston for another transplant follow-up. I drove the first leg of the journey, through Vermont and New Hampshire, with my brother riding shotgun. He did the ‘city’ driving (thank goodness!). We listened to comedy sketches, belly-laughing, until we caught sight of the White Mountains.

New Hampshire’s peaks were ablaze with scarlet, orange and gold! Set against a nearly cloudless azure-colored sky, the Autumn foliage was utterly breathtaking.

Breathe in the spectacular change of seasons, welcome the harvest and its fruits.

My harvest? After years of doing everything I have been told to do by my physicians, I am now on a “we’ll see you in a year” schedule with Boston. It’s a bittersweet victory. I’ve come to respect and love my transplant doctors, depending on them to keep me safe and healthy. It’s like graduating from high school or college—you’ve been waiting and working for this accomplishment—and, when it arrives, you’re not quite sure how to feel.

You’re going to miss the way things were. Even though traveling four-and-a-half hours there and back is tedious, those rides were often filled with singing and important conversations (like when and where to get married). Still, the excellent blood counts and the taste of freedom, is thrilling. It’s the end of a chapter, closing with a late-night ferry ride on glasslike waters and silver stars illuminating the nearly impenetrable darkness of the sky.

Rainy Days

My windshield, in need of a thorough scrub, was speckled with water droplets. Despite the heated seats and my fleece-lined stockings, I was freezing…and, stuck in the school’s parking lot. I had just finished interviewing at a local school district and was blocked in, actually, by a gathering of buttercup-yellow school buses (‘cheese boxes’, as an older cousin called them, when we were growing up).

While I waited for the buses’ departure, I spied a pair of deer across the road. They were grazing underneath an apple tree, undisturbed by their proximity to a house or to the line of buses. Maybe it was my dirty windshield, but the deer seemed framed by a thin mist, much like using a vignette in Adobe Light Room (the program I use when editing pictures).

Enchanting.

Mesmerizing.

Serene.

These were the words that filled my mind.

Frosty (And, Not the Snowman)

The sun rose slowly yesterday morning, as it does these days, revealing not a green lawn but a silver-white one. The garage roof looked as though it had an inch of snow on it! Fallen leaves glittered in the first true rays of sunshine. Luna and Berkley’s breath, visible as wispy clouds, filled the silence. Even the newly arrived winter birds were still.

This—this heavy frost—was and is a promise of the winter to come.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for taking this adventure with me. I hope you could “see” New Hampshire’s colorful mountains and our frosty lawn. Sending prayers, love and light your way.

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Bjørnen

October has arrived and, with it, morning skies that are as inky and dark as the contents of a broken pen. My raised garden bed is almost entirely devoid of the color green; save for the kale that is somehow making a comeback?

There are other garden chores to attend to. This past week I transplanted my single lavender shoot. Locating a spot in the yard that offered both full sun and well-aerated soil was not an easy task. Additionally, I dug up my Gladiolus callianthus bulbs. They’re currently drying in the garage, before I pack them away for the winter.

Away.

Away like the geese migrating overhead through gray, cloudy skies.

Away like Riley, our foster dog, returning to his rightful owner.

As revealed in a previous entry (Please see, “Fare-Thee-Well”, posted 9/7/2020), I was not 100% on board with the idea of fostering a dog. Taking care of three dogs, at once, sounded impossible.

Little did I know, I would fall head-over-heels for this foster dog.

He became part of our family.

All of our fur babies came with names. Their names “fit” just fine, but, as a writer, I needed to insert some creativity into the situation. Thus, they now each have middle names.

Alderaan Birkir (an Icelandic schnaps that I ‘discovered’ while conducting research for a piece of fiction).

Luna Petunia (because it sort of rhymes?).

Berkley Fergus (I’m not responsible for this one, but he is most definitely a ‘Fergus’).

Middle names are especially important in our bed-time ritual in which I say to each fur-baby, “Goodnight, [insert fur-baby’s name]. I love you. Have sweet puppy dreams tonight.” Or, in Alderaan’s case, “Goodnight, Alderaan Birkir. I love you. Have sweet feline dreams”. I cannot take credit for this ritual; the idea for this bed-time practice came from a Facebook post shared, a few years ago, by The Joshua Fund Dog Rescue.

Similar to how we thrive when we feel loved, our fur-babies need to be reminded of how important they are, too. We may not speak the same language, but I believe that kind words and a warm tone convey the message.

When Riley moved in, I continued our bed-time practice, but I didn’t like leaving him out. He deserved to have sweet puppy dreams, too!

The goodnight formula, though, required a middle name. Did Riley have one? I had no idea…and I didn’t ask…but he needed one…so I gave him one.

Turns out, I needed help selecting one. During a wonderful FaceTime chat with a dear friend, I sought assistance with the quest for the ‘perfect’ middle name. My friend asked me if I had learned any names while studying Norwegian. I had…but none of them seemed to fit.

Riley Marius.

Riley Jens.

Riley Einar.

Nope. Nope. And nope. None of them were good enough my foster dog.

Still, as an aficionado of Norwegian, I kept searching. Had any other names appeared during my language lessons on DuoLingo? No, but I decided to give him this one: Bjørnen. In Norwegian, Bjørnen means “the bear”. If Riley is a bear, he’s a teddy bear! His presence has been such a comfort—helping me through the loss of my grandfather.

At ten years old, Riley is a gentleman. He seems to know exactly when I need a hug; he’ll walk over to me, tail wagging and mouth open in a canine grin, and wait for me to bend down and wrap my arms around his shoulders.

Tail wagging & canine grin

He is almost always my security blanket at night (except for evenings wherein he falls asleep in his own bed).

An active senior, Riley is quite playful:

He’s the shadow at my side whenever I walk down the cement path in our backyard.

I have always wanted a dog that walked beside me, without a leash. When I was a kid, I imagined that that dog would be a German Shephard. Riley isn’t a Shephard, nor is he my dog, and it will hurt to give him back to his true owner. Yet, it’s where he belongs, and I know he has a loving and safe home there.

To paraphrase what another dear friend said about this reality: he will be taking a piece of your heart when he leaves.

It’s true. I will miss my Bjørnen.

I refuse, however, to let tears dilute the beauty of the incredible month that I have experienced with Riley. I will treasure everything that he has taught me/reminded me of: patience, kindness, caring, love…and self-care—especially regarding sleep!

I am grateful for this dog…which is why I tell him, when Luna and Berkley aren’t listening, that he has been a blessing to me.

Riley’s presence, and his imminent absence, is, to me, the embodiment of Beth and Matt Redman’s praise song, “Blessed Be Your Name”:

God you give and take away

Oh, you give and take away

[But] My heart will choose to say

Lord, blessed be Your name…

I, of course, do not have any rights to these lyrics. I can and will say, however, that this is one of the most powerful worship songs that I have ever had the opportunity to hear, sing, and apply to my own life. The upbeat melody is encouraging and invigorating.

What was I given? A senior dog to love and care for—something, Dear Readers, that 2010 me, after my first cancer experience, apparently had on her bucket list:

#17. Adopt Old Dogs.

Interesting how that item manifested, right?

There can be no doubt that I will miss my Bjørnen. It is, nevertheless, my hope that Luna and Berkley will assume some of his characteristics as they age.

May they be happy.

May they be healthy.

May they, at age 10, still drag around toys to play “fetch” and “tug of war” with.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. I hope you have the opportunity to experience the love of a senior dog and how comforting s/he can be. Sending prayers, love and light your way.

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Update: Riley and his fur-ever family were reunited yesterday, Monday October 5th, 2020. He was so happy to see them! His wagging tail and canine grin made me smile. It was a heart-warming sight. I am so grateful to have had Riley Bjørnen in my life.

Resources for the Curious:

To learn more about The Joshua Fund Dog Rescue, please visit: https://www.joshuafundrescue.org/

For more information pertaining to the song “Blessed Be Your Name” and its creators, Beth and Matt Redman, please visit: https://mattredman.com/

Re-Birthday

This entry did not come easily, Dear Readers.

I thought—because today, September 21st, 2020, is the third anniversary of my bone marrow transplant—that I could simply write something quick about survivorship and gratitude.

Turns out, I was wrong.

In general, I utilize avoidance to cope with my medical history. I tune it out. Shove it down deep within where I can’t see it, can’t feel it, until days like today draw it up out of the water, chain link by chain link. My medical history is an anchor, holding me in place, preventing forward motion, stunting my growth.

It’s also quite possible that this coping mechanism is the reason why I resented the term “re-birthday” when I first read it. Until recently, I referred to the anniversary of my transplant as my “birthday”. I had heard other recipients in my area use the expression, but, then, after joining a national bone marrow transplant group on Facebook, I realized that the term most often used was, “re-birthday”.

My dislike for the term was so intense, in fact, that it prodded me to do some digging, some self-reflection regarding my own survivorship—things I don’t do often because of the trauma they could unearth. Still, I needed to know why I was having such a reaction. Why couldn’t I swap ‘birthday’ with ‘re-birthday’? What, honestly, was the big deal?

Finally, after days of self-investigation, I realized that I had a problem with ‘re-birthday’ because it requires the acknowledgement of a ‘re-birth’.

Re-birth.

The image that comes to my mind when I hear that word is that of a golden phoenix. Not the character from X-Men or even Dumbledore’s pet phoenix in the Harry Potter series. A phoenix, as I have always understood the myth, is a bird-like creature that rises from its own ashes.

It has to die to be reborn.

On September 21st, 2017, Laura Perras died.

Her faulty immune system—and her blood—was replaced. Gone forever. What she had been, simply disappeared.

It was in this moment, when my donor’s graft took hold that I should have risen from the ashes. I should have found a way to live, daily, with positivity and gratitude. I should have had the courage to build a new, fulfilling life.

Instead, Dear Readers, I cowered.

I cowered to the immensity of it all—to the pain of transplant, to the long-term side-effects that continually pop up, to the fear of being something other than complacent.

As one of my former therapists once said to me, ‘you can’t be the only one struggling to come back’.

It feels that way, though—lonely—when I’m online and I see fellow transplant recipients at their re-birthday parties. They’re all smiles. Laughing. Seemingly happy.

In writing this entry, Dear Readers, I have been forced to confront some of my demons—the fears, the feelings, the pain that I’m really good at ignoring. The result? I don’t want to live like this anymore.

I’m tired of worrying. I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of shrinking away from what I could be.

In my quest for truth, for the definition of ‘rebirth’ even, I visited Thesaurus.com (https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/rebirth). There, I found more than synonyms; I found a roadmap to my own overdue rebirth.

Comeback – For me, this word conjures scenes from the movie, The Mighty Ducks, wherein Gordon Bombay (an attorney sentenced to do community service as a result of a DWI) rediscovers his love for hockey, for the ice, through teaching a group of kids how to play the sport.

Comeback. Come back home…to yourself.

Recovery – Upon hearing this word, I can’t help but envision the cover of a workbook that I was given during cancer experience #1. Carrots. Greens. You know, a rainbow of foods on your plate. Proper nutrition, while a significant component of healing, is not the only aspect that needs to be addressed. Mental Health. Physical Health. Emotional Health. Rest. Self-care. It is these last two building blocks that I seem to trip over on a regular basis. As such, that’s where my focus needs to be. 

Rehabilitation – There are so many kinds of rehabilitation therapies! Occupational therapy, when I was in it, was a gift. I am forever grateful for the therapist that worked with me. She restored some of my confidence. Even though my brain had been to Hell and back, she showed me that not only could I learn new information, I could retain and apply it, too.

Physical therapy, well, I’m still working on this one. I can say, though, that I am loving my new rehabilitation plan—a personal, modified yoga practice! I’m stretching and balancing in ways that the tumor of 2017 stole from me. Every session is one step closer to feeling comfortable in my body, to feeling at home, to trusting it.

Then, there’s wildlife rehabilitation. You may question, what in the world are you talking about, Laura? I ask you, Dear Readers, to imagine a phoenix with a wounded wing. The joy of flight, of sailing across the sky, has been taken from her. She must patiently wait for her wing to heal before she can regain her joie de vivre.

I am not a phoenix; yet, in my own waiting, I have lost sight of the sky. There are so many days wherein joy itself seems like a distant memory, a distant goal. Thus, when I recognize it in the photographs of fellow transplant recipients celebrating their re-birthdays, it’s foreign to me. I grow jealous. This, then, is a challenge to rise up to. I will find joy, I will feel it every day, and I will share it.

Revival – As I have shared in previous blog entries, I am undergoing a spiritual revival. I have been reading the Word of God and praying on a daily basis. Revival, though, is prompting me to go deeper. I need to connect with a faith community. To volunteer. To spend more time doing what I’ve been called to do—write Christian fiction.

Reawakening – Now, let’s say that our phoenix has put the work and time in. She’s gone through all of the rehabilitation programs that she possibly can. She’s rediscovered joy. She’s pursuing her life’s calling. What then? Does she unfold her wings, feeling the wind playfully ruffle her feathers? Does she take to the skies? What does she do with this newfound freedom?

This is a reawakening, after all.

Our phoenix remembers what it feels like to soar, to be independent, functional. As a healed and happy being, our phoenix decides to embrace the term, ‘re-birthday’. She decides to thank God for being alive, instead of falling into despair, whenever another long-term side-effect of cancer treatment and/or transplant surfaces. She reaches out to her donor, checking in to see how life is treating her. She uses the words, ‘I love you’ in nearly every encounter with friends and family. She recommits herself to the (temporarily abandoned) art of gratitude journaling.

Our phoenix chooses this new life.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. This truly was a difficult post to write…but, in the end, it has been enlightening. Choose self-care. Joy. Try to trust your wings. I am sending prayers, love and light your way.

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Where Blessings Abound

On Tuesday (7/7/2020) of this past week, I posted this on Facebook:

On this day, ten years ago, I was told (for the first time) that I had cancer. Unlike my previous cancerversaries, this one has been exceptionally emotional. I feel as though I have been on a rollercoaster ride all day – I have felt gratitude for this life, for outliving my original expiration date, but also, a tremendous amount of grief, survivor’s guilt, and fear. There’s simply too much in my head and in my heart to describe here.

10 years.

So, I will quote Desiderata, as I do every July 7th:

“Be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe.

No less than the trees and the stars;

You have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

Thank you, so much, for all of the prayers, love and light that you have given to me throughout this past decade. There are no words for just how much I appreciate all of you.

My head and my heart really were spinning. In the past, I had celebrated my cancerversaries with cake (preferably cakes with rainbow sprinkles on top of them). This one, I didn’t. I didn’t have the heart to celebrate…which I still can’t explain, even to myself.

Last Wednesday, July 8th, 2020, I was more at peace with it all. The rollercoaster ride had ended and I was settled. Grounded in the present moment. This, too, mirrored how I felt ten years ago; on 7/8/2010, I was at peace. Complete and utter peace with my diagnosis. I firmly believed that whatever happened to me, was God’s will. It was His plan.

I know now, that that’s called, “shock”.

Despite the description of how I felt as being, “shock”, I prefer to think of it as peace, as comfort, and as assurance of His presence. I’m going to be stubborn about this one; say “shock” and I’m going to say “serenity”.

My Facebook post was met with a tremendous wave of love and good wishes. It was humbling and comforting. I couldn’t ask for better family and friends. The support was exactly what I needed to recover from a day spent sobbing (on both sides of the shower curtain). I also received some lovely, invaluable advice—which I plan to utilize.

One Facebook friend described her coping mechanism as doing what she loves, as much as she can.

What do I love to do?

Write. Read. Spend time with these furry babies:

Spending time in the garden is another hobby that brings me joy.

It’s a miracle that most of everything is still alive (let’s not talk about the pepper plants that my dad gave me or the Bachelor Buttons that I tried to transplant). It has been a privilege to watch my pea plants flower and produce pods.

And, then, there’s this curiosity:

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I’ve never witnessed an onion going to seed before! There’s something beautiful about it.

Another element of life that I thoroughly enjoy is being artsy. My latest project involved capturing our fur babies’ paw prints in salt dough.

I’m not quite finished with this project; they need another coat of white paint and some detailing in either blue or black.

painting pawprints

It’s a small thing, but it is a keepsake that I am sure we will treasure for the rest of our lives.

Echoing the above sentiment, is the gift box that my mom gave me (along with the gift inside of it) for my most recent birthday. The top of the box reads, “Enjoy the little things…for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things”. I don’t know who to attribute this quote to, but I feel as though it is of the utmost importance to embrace.

This “little thing” was stretching up alongside the raised bed garden, probably sniffing at the lettuce, kale and carrots. She’s still too small to hop up into it (which, of course, is a good thing).

tiny

Although I suspect that Tiny (pictured above – can you see her white tail?) is the one responsible for the destruction of the Johnny Jumps, I can’t help but feel blessed every time I see her.

July Johnny TrioJuly Johnny

Perhaps celebration wasn’t something that I could do on July 7th, but today, I feel ready to count all of the remarkable blessings that I have been given.

En (one) – renewed faith

To (two) – my husband, our fur babies, as well as my family, both biological and married into

Tre (three) – the friends that I have made along the way

Fire (four) – the gift of continued learning (including Norwegian and the classes that I will be taking to become a professional medical coder)

Fem (five) – the gift of the five senses, so that I can see, hear, smell, taste, touch all of the God-given wonders of this life

Seks (six) – simply being alive!

Sju (seven) – my readers, who encourage me to keep writing, even when it’s difficult.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. You are a treasure to me. I am sending prayers, love and light your way.

 

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

 

Resources for the Curious

“Desiderata” is, in actuality, much longer than the segment that I shared on Facebook. It’s an inspiring poem by Max Ehrmann and is absolutely worth Googling!

Fair Weather & Fun

fog and tractor
I am always enchanted by this view.

Earlier last week—before the heat wave—we had our windows on the first floor open, creating a cross breeze. Bird song filtered in through the screens. The wind chimes, on the front porch, played a whimsical tune.

It was inspiring.

Peaceful.

Restorative.

It was the kind of morning that lends itself to sitting on the back porch and listening to the world awaken. A red-winged black bird flew overhead, singing check, as is described by Cornell University’s TheCornellLab. A petite moth, wings whispering of pale blue, flitted by the back door.

It was from this vantage point that I noticed a couple of dandelions—gone to white, feathery seed—standing alongside the dark leaves of a Burberry bush.

Burberry Wishes

I found the contrast to be magical, and, of course, fodder for fiction.

And, then, there is the lonesome call of a rather leggy mourning dove, welcoming the twilight at the end of each day. Perhaps a youngster, he sits atop the garage’s chimney, cooing.

Not everything last week was calm. Fun, in this house, tends to get a little loud.

Inspired by David Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, my husband bought thirteen different frozen pizzas. Typically, Portnoy visits pizza parlors in whichever city he is in, sampling fresh pies. His slogan, “One bite, everybody knows the rules” is now a staple in our home. Due to COVID-19, Portnoy had to transition to tasting and scoring frozen pizzas.

A decent score on Barstool Sports’ scale (1-10, never whole/even numbers), can increase sales. Recognizing this, companies began to ship frozen pizzas (and other complimentary merchandise) to Portnoy to sample. The man is THAT influential. One good word, and he can make a small company flourish and websites crash (from his fans, who do not blush at his language, rushing to place online orders).

Back to our frozen pizza. Sampling several frozen pizzas was something that we could replicate for ourselves. Thus, the hubs purchased Celeste, Newman’s Own, Red Baron, PICS, Wild Mike’s, Stouffers, Tostitos, Elios, Digiorno (deep dish and rising crust) as well as a few others.

All thirteen pizzas were baked and sliced. A friend joined us for this pizza extravaganza. We sampled, “just one bite”, of each pizza. The conversation surrounding every bite was humorous.

“The sauce tastes like ketchup.”

“It’s stuck on the back of my teeth—like melted plastic.”

“The crust is too bready.”

We were so full by the end of the taste-test! The top scoring pizza was Red Baron (my husband’s favorite and, yes, the results were probably rigged) with a 6.5. My own favorite frozen pizza—goat cheese pizza—was not represented. It’s not the easiest pizza to find, nor do I know the name of the brand that produces it, but it is lovely!

Needless to say, our refrigerator was well-stocked, over-flowing, with pizza for DAYS.

My raised garden bed is full, too—with bright green seedlings!

There’s something breathtaking about watching green shoots poke their way through the earth, reaching for the sky, for the sun.

My lettuce and kale seedlings came up first, followed quickly by a perennial flower mix.

The carrots, poppies and zinnias are now represented in the raised bed as well.

carrots

It is at this point in sowing seeds, that I ran out of room.

What does one do with extra seed packets? Container garden!

There are various flower pots scattered around our lawn. Three of them were the containers that last summer’s Crimson Maple saplings came in. Now, they’re home to Serrano peppers (someday, maybe, they’ll sprout?), my gladiola bulbs and, finally, Shasta daisies.

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In late April we pulled two Burberry bushes from the front yard (using the Ram and a heavy-duty metal chain). Now, filling one of these vacancies are sunflower sprouts!

baby sunflowers

From muted-colored marbles to sprouted seeds, my peas are coming up:

peas
The peas are actually much bigger now; they really ‘popped up’ after the heat wave.

The beans have made their presence known, too:

beans
The beans grew exponentially, after the heat wave, as well.

And, while it might be awhile before my marigolds germinate, the petunias have popped through the soil of their hanging basket!

My rows of lavender, like the marigolds, will require some time to germinate. I am, however, still fascinated by their turquoise seeds.

I am in awe, too, of all of the wildflowers growing in our yard. The Pool Hole (not only the birds’ favorite dining spot) also harbors a flowering plant that I can’t identify. The flowers on this plant close during the day, forming bell-like shapes. At dusk, they open revealing white stars.

Their image is, in some ways, reminiscent of the poetic language of Song of Songs 2:11-13:

See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.

As written in the New International Version of the Holy Bible

The other wildflower that has me spellbound is bright yellow and resembles a buttercup. I believe, however, that because the stalk has so many leaves, it’s not my Great-grandmother’s favorite bloom.

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Although not a vine—nor wild—when the wind blows in a particular direction, it carries the intoxicating scent of the neighbors’ lilac bushes. Johnny Jump-Ups, undoubtedly descended from yesteryear’s hanging baskets, display vivid color in the odd nooks and crannies of our front lawn:

Johnny May 2020

Johnny is often accompanied by a shy, wild violet that is as profuse as it is elegant.

So much beauty, so much to learn from watching a seed transform into a plant, and so much pizza! Life is good, when we focus on the positive. And, I am so very thankful to still be here, to be able to soak up every moment and every bite of it.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for checking back in this week. I hope the days ahead bring you fair weather and fun. Plant something! Watch it grow! Eat a tremendous amount of pizza! I am sending prayers, love and light your way.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

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.

 

Love, Unfailing and Unconditional

April bird

One of the first things that I do every morning, is wash the dishes. I don’t rush to wash them all by the end of the day because a) I’m tired, b) the hubs will undoubtedly cook something when he gets home from work (and who can blame him for that? A man’s gotta eat!) and, c) the view out of the kitchen window in the morning is spectacular.

Sure, the immediate view is of the pool hole that the property’s previous owners left behind, but, if you look closer, you can see nature’s beauty and all of its vivacity.

blue jays

Plump robins perching on nearby fence posts seem to hint at hatch-lings to come. A rabbit rooting around, gathering great heaps of sun-bleached straw in her mouth, and then carrying it off, tells, once again, of new life.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.

And, then, there’s the bird song. The morning chorus is magnificent, joyous, and cheerful! These sights and sounds fill my heart with gratitude, with love. They’re a gift.

Even the snow showers that we recently received could not damper my feelings, nor could it silence the birds.

Although we are now in the second half of April, the was quite enchanting.

frosty window

It was also whimsical—as if we were now living in a snow globe. Spring will come, in due time.

What else can I share with you, Dear Readers?

Perhaps, the fact that I must start and drive Suby-Lou (our Subaru) every two days or the battery will need to be jumped? Maybe I should tell you that these drives have become adventures of sorts. On the most recent drive, I got lost. Like lost, lost. I had no idea where I was, hoping that the next intersection would bring me to the Military Turnpike.

Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. ~Psalm 143: 8, as written in the New International Version of the Holy Bible

Before I had the realization that I was lost, though, I was enjoying the scenery. I have a soft spot for old farms and forgotten fields. New woods, and old forests. Leaning houses with fenced off side-yards, where draft horses lazily eat their supper.

I saw a red and white calf on the wrong side of a barbed-wire fence! I thought, Oh, how did you get there, little one?

Just a quarter mile down that same road, I saw a goat standing on the edge of someone’s driveway. No tether. No fence. No ambition to roam as it had found something palatable to chew on.

When I was younger, one of my goals was to own some goats. Pygmies make great companion animals. Saanens purportedly produce the best milk. There are other breeds, too, but honestly, who wouldn’t want a small, friendly goat? Can’t you just imagine the laughter and the endless smiles?

I have a lot of research to do before I can bring a goat home. In the meantime, I will cherish my time with these wonderful, fur babies:

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They make these “uncertain” days easier.

They give me focus.

A routine.

And, love—seemingly unconditional love.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. I do hope that each of you are doing as well as possible. I hope you are each safe, and healthy. Peace and blessings to you and yours.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

 

Bird’s Eye View (Or a Squirrel’s)

squirrel

I’m not going to write about COVID-19.

I know it’s not over.

I am aware that hiding from it is impossible. I am reminded of this every time that my husband returns home from his shift at the hospital. Despite the fact that he has changed and showered at work, I immediately sanitize everything that he touches. Because this is real…and terrifying.

I cried this morning.

Dear Readers, I need a break.

I need an opportunity to think, and write, about other subjects…so, here it is…eclectic moments from the past few weeks.

Gunpowder & Geese

It happened the last weekend in March.

I became a card-carrying member of a remote shooting range!

Do I like guns? I’m…well…still wary of them, even after my husband walked me through all of the safety precautions and procedures.

Am I a hunter? Absolutely not, and neither do I have any desire to become one.

gunpowder

Yet, in these “uncertain times”, with reports of shady characters lurking around residential areas, knowing how to handle a gun is probably not a bad skill to have.

I do hope, however, that it’s a skill that I will never have to use.

The day after we spent time at the shooting range, I could hear geese flying overhead. Flying North, flying home.

Healing & Hawks

Surprisingly, this time of forced “social distancing” and “isolation”, has gifted me with the time and the space to work on healing old wounds.

I am spending more and more time in the Bible and contemplating devotionals. I’ve been praying more. Singing more. I am in awe of this promise:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 – Isaiah 41:10, as written in the New International Version of the Holy Bible

I’ve even been taking the occasional nap—something that those who know me well, know that I never do! I’m trying to listen to my body more. Trying to give it the time and the rest that it needs when I’ve pushed myself too far and too hard.

It was after one of these naps that I looked outside, and saw these guys across the road:

hawks

At first glance, these two birds looked like plump, Bantam hens. But they’re not! If I hadn’t watched one of them circle before landing, I would have had no clue that they were hawks.

I said a quiet prayer of gratitude that Alderaan isn’t an outside cat. These two bruisers could easily carry my 11.5-pound boy away.

alds

Stories & Starlings

I stopped writing fiction nearly 8-months ago.

I was discouraged. Defeated. I had two unpublished novels just taking up space on various USB drives. I began to think that I wasn’t good enough, that my ideas were sub-par.

Then, I thought that maybe I was writing in the wrong genre…and began to research my options.

I needed a friendly nudge—permission, really—to write again.

That nudge came late last week when my Bone Marrow Donor and I were talking via a video call. Not only has this incredible woman given me a second chance at life, she’s given me the inspiration to start writing again.

This time, though, with all of the research that I’ve conducted, I will be taking the plunge into Christian Fiction. No, my chances of publication aren’t any better in the Christian market than they were in the Secular market. The Christian market has its own set of unique standards and criteria that will not be easy to meet.

Yet, I feel as though this is where I belong.

starlings

Perspective counts for so very much….

I audibly groaned when the starlings returned to our backyard in early March. I didn’t like them (not a Christian-like sentiment, right?). They’re mean birds, after all. And, their idea of singing is screeching! In some locales, starlings are considered to be an invasive species, as they reproduce in overwhelming numbers.

One day, I counted two-dozen starlings in the bare arms of our deciduous trees! Based solely on the cacophony echoing through our backyard, I’m fairly certain that there were quite a few more hiding out in the hedges.

Honestly, I didn’t like them.

There have been mornings in which I would have preferred a flock of Blue Jays’, and their piercing squawks, over the starlings’ shrill screams.

And, then, my perspective changed. I happened to see the starlings’ dark silhouettes against a twilight sky…and again against a cloudy sky…they were suddenly magical. Beautiful.

starlings 1.0

Well, Dear Readers, as you have witnessed, COVID-19 found multiple ways to sneak into this blog post. It’s okay, though. I feel better after writing all of this. I hope you feel better after reading it.

As always, thank you for your presence here. I am sending prayers, love and light YOUR way.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Kindness. Provision. Sharing. Love.

wall decor

Unlike my usual blog posts, this one wasn’t written at the kitchen table. This time, I wrote from the comfort of our couch. Berkley and Luna were sleeping beside me, their snores a symphony of sorts.

Alderaan was on the mantle; the expression on his face impossible to discern.

Alds fireplace

These moments—while the world grapples with the pandemic that is COVID-19—are the moments that are keeping me sane.

In the beginning, many of us thought and naively hoped, that the virus was a hoax. That it was something that couldn’t and wouldn’t reach us. Well…we were wrong, weren’t we?

Our world is rapidly evolving every minute, of every day. Our collective vocabulary now emphasizes words such as, “uncertainty”, “change” and “unpredictable”.

These words are the bane of anyone living with anxiety. Who are these people that are being affected by mere words?

Well, they’re people like me.

People that may or may not have lengthy, traumatic medical histories.

People that are—or, at one point were—immunocompromised.

People who have a chemical imbalance in their brains, and try every day to behave as if nothing is wrong—that they have their act together—because, you know, stigma.

I, and the countless people like me, are not crazy, but we, too, regardless of our risk factors, are terrified of the coronavirus.

Last week, several of my social media friends shared posts commenting on the selfish and greedy nature of humankind—people wiping out whole shelves of hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and, yes, toilet paper.

There were other pleas, too, for help from young parents who had not been able to buy diapers, wipes and formula before the shopping craze took place.

Hoarding, hysteria—is this how it was during the Black Death (circa 1346-1353)? During the Spanish Influenza of 1918? This can’t be our true nature. It just can’t. We can do better.

We can be kind.

Kindness, I think, comes in many different shapes and sizes. Sometimes, it’s a small thing, like calling a friend to check in on them. I am fortunate to have such a friend—someone wonderful that called me—when I couldn’t describe how I was feeling about COVID-19. While talking to her, I felt as though a weight was taken off of my shoulders. As if the panic in my chest dissolved a little. I could breathe again.

Kindness toward self is also extremely important. I’m not good at self-care, rest and/or relaxation, therefore, I find it helpful to channel my anxious energy into art, writing and reading projects. Spending some time working on Diamond Dotz? You better believe it. Reading? Yes, Ma’am and Sir. Writing? Well, I’m writing this….

We can provide.

Numerous school districts are offering free food AND delivery to students while they are “sheltering in place”. These same schools have incredible teachers who are doing their best to provide their students with material for “distance learning”. I imagine that converting classroom material into digital lessons, is not an easy task. I am inspired by such dedication.

There are those, too, who are holding online prayer and worship services—providing us with encouragement through these gray days. They stand as a reminder that God is always present, that His love is always available.

I, personally, find a great deal of comfort in both prayer and mediating on Bible verses.

We can share.

I am relieved to say that, over the past few days, I have witnessed an increase in positive posts on social media. Posts in which neighbors are helping each other (while still practicing “social distancing”). There have been numerous offers to assist those in need. We are slowly learning to share our best with each other!

I’ve noticed an uptake in humor (laughter is potent medicine) as well.

I am also in awe of the flood of free virtual tours, classes and workshops! And, FREE small libraries popping up in communities! As a book worm, this trend makes me smile.

Parents posting their homeschooling endeavors have also inspired me to “home school” my own children. Sure, my kids have four legs and are furry, but there are lessons that we can review.

Since our backyard is fenced in, Luna and Berkley are rarely ever leashed. Mommy and/or Daddy simply open the back door, and away they go! I decided it was time to brush up on our walking-on-a-leash-skills.

The results? One of our pups walks beautifully while on a leash. The other…well…the other is quite independent and wants to be the leader. I’ll let you guess which pup is which.

We can love each other.

As written in Matthew 22:35-39 (The Holy Bible, New King James Version):

Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, ‘You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second, is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

What does that look like?

Baking a loaf of pumpkin bread, and giving it to an elderly family member.

Sending an email or a text message to a friend.

Placing a telephone or online order with a small mom-and-pop shop.

In, our house, due to the coronavirus, love now looks vastly different from what it once did.

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As many of us know, most patients testing positive for COVID-19 are ultimately cared for in hospitals’ Intensive Care Units (ICU).

My husband is an ICU nurse.

Due to the fact that I have a young, and relatively untested immune system, I had to consult with my transplant team in Boston regarding how to stay healthy/safe while living with an ICU nurse. The answer? My husband and I must now practice “social distancing”, even within our own home.

I’m not going to lie; it sucks. Right when we could both use a hug, the most we can do is wave to each other from across the room. However, this, too, is a form of love.

Love is protecting each other from this virus.

Love is spending time (separately for us) with our children.

Love is cultivating gratitude for the little things in our lives, while always, ALWAYS, looking for the light.

March mobile at night

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. May you stay safe. May you stay healthy. May you find a way to be happy—even in the midst of this tremendous change.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura