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.

 

Be Imaginative. Be Whimsical. Have Fun.

Hello again, Dear Readers!

In an effort to combat high anxiety levels and the general gravity of these days, I decided to write something a little different for this week’s blog post. I wanted to do something imaginative, whimsical, and fun.

Inspired by both the characters inhabiting our yard, as well as the words of this hymn:

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small

All things wise and wonderful

The Lord God made them all.

– “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, by Cecil Frances and Martin Shaw as printed in The United Methodist Hymnal: Book of United Methodist Worship

I present to you the following short tales. It’s up to you, Dear Readers, to discern fact from fiction.

Freddy Finch’s Red Feathers

Freddy, although resembling the cedar hedges’ sparrows, is, in fact, not a sparrow. Sure, he wears a brown cap and coat—just like some of the sparrows do—but Freddy’s face and chest are a brilliant shade of red-orange.

The sparrows are acutely aware of these differences and sing unpleasant tunes both about and to Freddy. Some of these remarks are so hurtful, that Freddy’s face turns scarlet.

“Don’t listen to ‘em,” Freddy’s best friend, Henrietta, often tells him. “They’re sparrows. They’re a dime a dozen. You, Freddy, are unique.”

“I don’t want to be ‘unique’!” Freddy chirps, before flying away.

“Where are you going?!” Henrietta calls after him.

Freddy doesn’t answer.

He flies to the nearest telephone pole, clears his throat, and begins to sing. The tune is certainly a long one, but is full of loneliness.

“Hi, there.”

Freddy’s song ceases as he turns his attention to the newcomer. She is much larger than any bird that he has ever met, but also more beautiful. Her feathers are a mixture of taupe and creamy white. He counts the black spots on her wings.

“I’ve never heard a House Finch singing such a sad song,” she coos.

“I’m not a House Finch!” Freddy protests, “I’m a sparrow!”

The newcomer smiles. “Red-heads. They have such tempers!”

“Do not!”

The newcomer’s eyes darken with sadness. “Listen, my boy. We are each what we are. I am a mourning dove, which means my songs always sound as though my heart has been newly broken, as if I am calling out to some lost, loved one.”

Freddy sighed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that you were the one singing every dusk and dawn.”

The dove’s long tail feathers ruffled in the breeze. “Don’t be sorry. It’s okay. Although my song is sad, it serves a purpose. I am a reminder of this truth, ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’.”

“Yeah,” Freddy murmured. “But…what can a House Finch do? What’s my purpose?”

“You have the ability to sing louder and longer songs than many other birds—longer, even, than a sparrow can.”

Freddy Finch

Freddy felt his beak opening in a smile. She was right! This mourning dove was right! He could sing—longer and louder than all of the sparrows that regularly dined at the Pool Hole!

“Thank you!” He gushed before breaking into a happier song.

A Bunny’s Thoughts

Having built her den beneath an outcropping of dirt and tall grass (not far from the Pool Hole), Mama Bunny is now only allotted short periods of time to eat. To shorten the length of these foraging expeditions, she runs. She is a blur of fawn-brown, racing around the perimeter of the dogs’ fence.

Sometimes, though, the hounds spot her. They think that it’s a game and begin to howl and growl. They chase after her, and Mama Bunny must run to the yard next door. It’s the nearest haven—and it’s green! So deliciously green!

Mama Bunny

“Did you see the beautiful seeds that Stephen brought to me this morning?” A sparrow, perched in the arms of a Norwegian maple asked.

Mama Bunny continued to nibble on tender clover, ignoring the nearby sparrows. Besides, the dogs were still barking and sniffing around the fence-line; she had other things to think about.  She would have to wait to return to the den.

“Yeah, well, last week Samuel brought me an oak bud. It was delightful!”

Mama Bunny’s ears twitched.

“How are your hatch-lings?” a third sparrow, new to the conversation, asked.

“Stephen–”

“Samuel–”

The two sparrows giggled before finishing each other’s sentence. “He’s keeping them warm!”

Mama Bunny stopped eating. What? She thought. Sparrow-men feed their mates and keep their hatch-lings warm?

The dogs had grown quiet.

Is it safe to travel? Mama Bunny mused. She sniffed; her ears twitched.

Finally! Mama Bunny cheered. They’ve gone inside!

Taking a few short hops away from the chatty sparrows, Mama Bunny paused to reflect upon the birds’ conversation. If all of that Sparrow-talk is true, she thought, Barry Bunny should be ashamed of himself! Food delivery? Shifts baby-sitting?

Mama Bunny felt her temperature rise. The last time she had been this angry, years ago now, there had been a fox sniffing around her den. Frightened for both herself and her kit, she did what her rabbit instincts told her to do—spare her babies from the teeth of a predator and kill them quickly herself.

Mama Bunny shuddered; it was an awful memory.

She took three, deep, calming breaths, running home as fast as she could.

The babes, apparently untroubled by the hounds’ baying, were sleeping peacefully. The rhythm of their calm breathing seeped into Mama Bunny’s veins.

Maybe I don’t have a helpful mate, she thought, and maybe I’m not proud of my past, but I do have these little loves.

Robin Curmudgeon

“I’m not afraid of Robin Curmudgeon!” Gavin the Grackle boasted. His feathers were glowing blue-green in the sunshine.

Georgia and Gracie, also grackles, looked at each other.

“I’m afraid of him,” Gracie confessed, “He’s always so fowl-tempered–”

“And fearless!” Georgia added.

“Oh, please,” Gavin mocked them, flapping his great, black wings. “So he looks exasperated all the time. Big deal.”

“It’s not just his facial expression,” the ladies said. “The Grapevine has it that those white feathers on his chest, are from grappling with King Greyson.”

Gavin screeched, indignant. “No one messes with King Greyson and lives to tell the tale! You’re making Curmudgeon sound like some sort of folk-hero. A legend. He’s just a tubby robin! I’d like to see him out-fly me.”

Georgia nudged Gracie with the tip of her wing, dark beak pointing across the Pool Hole.

“He’s here?!” Gracie clucked.

Georgia’s beak opened in a wide smile, “oh, Gavin. Would you like to test your wing-speed right now?”

“I don’t need to test it,” Gavin said, “I know that I’m the fastest bird in this yard.”

“Well, maybe you should ask Robin Curmudgeon about that.” Georgia suggested. “He’s right over there—perched on top of the patio pavers.”

“I’m not afraid of him,” Gavin said, before swooping down at the old robin.

The ladies watched as Gavin nearly collided with Curmudgeon. They held their breath, as Curmudgeon took flight.

“Help!” Gavin screeched. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

If Robin Curmudgeon heard Gavin’s apology, he ignored it. The robin mercilessly pursued the young grackle into the cedar hedge and beyond.

Robin Curmudgeon

“Whoa,” Gracie marveled. “That was intense.

“It’s like my Mama always said,” Georgia added, “‘When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.’”

“Where did she learn that?”

“From the Bible.”

“She could read?!” Gracie asked, her golden eyes growing wide.

“Gosh, no!” Georgia shrieked with laughter, “she liked to hang out at a church camp and listen to the services.”

“Oh.”

Sneaky Pete’s Twilight Trek

It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is.

He doesn’t care if it’s cloudy or cold.

Nor does it matter to Sneaky Pete if the traffic is loud and busy.

He has a twilight trek to take.

The trek starts near the old barn, skirts the edge of a garden and then meanders into a neglected field.

Sneaky Pete slinks through the tall grasses of the field, sure to be quiet in case a snack appears.

He pauses in the middle of the field, admiring the sunset on cloudless days. The sky shifts from robin’s egg blue, to lavender to magenta, to gray, and, then, finally to onyx. The shadows, moving as silently as he does, soon engulf him. His dark tiger stripes become one with the night.

Stars as small as pinpricks begin to shine.

Sneaky Pete

Thank you, Dear Readers, for allowing me to share these vignettes with you. I hope they encouraged you to smile, or, even better—to laugh. Sending good thoughts, prayers, light and love your way.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

Bible verse appearing in “Freddy Finch’s Red Feathers” was Matthew 5:4. Bible verse appearing in “Robin Curmudgeon” was Proverbs 11:2. Both were from the New International Version of the Holy Bible.

They’re All About Love…

As I sit here, at the kitchen table, I find myself in a similar situation to that of one of my teenage cousins. For homework over February break, her English teacher had given the following assignment (paraphrased):

Write a short story on any topic of your choice. The story must be at least 1 and ½ pages long, but can be longer.

Choice? The freedom to choose is a good thing, right?

I recently learned that I have been dubbed, “the writer in the family”. As such, my cousin requested my help with this particular assignment. Specifically, she needed assistance with settling on a topic. Now, I’m not up-to-date with what teens are interested in these days—or what they find inspiring—so I asked her:

What was the last book that you read? What kind of books do you like to read?

Personally, I find this assignment—despite its simplicity—a little overwhelming. It’s extremely similar to the process of penning a blog entry. There is a plethora of topics that I could write about, could share…and, yet, when it comes time to write, I’ve got nothing. I thought, that if I asked myself the questions that I’d asked her, maybe I’d come up with a subject for this entry.

Love grows here sign

The truth is, I haven’t read a book from cover-to-cover in a very long time. I’m currently reading my way through three different books (a guide for writing Christian Fiction, a novel by Janet Evanovich, and a tome that leans toward cultural anthropology).

My cousin listed books that I’m unfamiliar with…yet another indication that I’m behind the times. I tried to play it cool, disguise my lack of knowledge, and asked:

What was the last TV show that you watched?

She replied, “The Vampire Diaries”.

I’M FAMILIAR WITH “THE VAMPIRE DIARIES”! In fact, I was in LOVE with that show circa 2010-2012.

She listed some other television shows, too…but I had no idea what they were/that they even existed. I think she sensed that I was clueless this time, as she quickly explained, “they’re all about love”.

Love. We were sitting beside the window in our grandfather’s hospital room. There were at least 10 other family members in that room—all there to visit Grandpa.

Grandpa is not doing well.

Nearing the end of his life on this earth, actually.

In a month. In a year. The date doesn’t really matter. Death is imminent for all of us, but closer for him.

Love. Love brought us there. Love inspires us to help one another (even with impossible English assignments). Love prompts us to share our experiences with others.

The God that I believe in, is love. He is hope. He is merciful. And, when we lose Grandpa, He is going to be right there, with all of us.

Cross

“What about a Hallmark movie?!” My cousin gasped, excited. “I could write something like a Hallmark movie!”

“Yeah,” I smiled, agreeing with her, “that’s a good idea.”

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Your prayers, love and light have (and still do!) mean so much to me. May you feel loved and appreciated today and every day.

 

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

On Laughter

I’ve been writing my memoir.

Well, the first one. Having had cancer twice, albeit biologically the same cancer, this is a two-book project.

For this first book, I am using a journal from 2012. I will need other sources to cover 2010 – 2012. Good news is, younger me liked to journal and older me is a bit of a hoarder.

journal
See that gray fur? That’s Alderaan curled up in my lap. He’s becoming a great writing companion.

In 2012, I was in Course V of my treatment: Maintenance. Maintenance was the last and longest course. As I read through this journal, I am astonished by the range of emotions that I experienced. Anger. Depression. Extreme Anxiety. And, then, back again—in no particular order. These entries are not particularly flattering. I question the readability of this tome. It’s serious material, though…and I don’t plan on editing anything other than spelling, grammar and names.

That’s right. Everyone involved in cancer #1—that appears in that journal—is getting a brand-new name (with the exception of my parents and brother).

Why would I want to share the contents of my personal journal?

1 – I feel as though I am being called to do so. I really do think that this is part of God’s plan for me. I mean, I had those awful experiences for a reason, right?

2 – It’s Exposure Therapy. I carry these memories with me every single day and relive them, every night, when Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) comes to call. Exposure Therapy asks the patient to confront the triggering event in hopes of slowly desensitizing him/her to it. Will it work? I guess I’ll find out….

3 – My experience might actually help someone else, someone traveling this same road. The societal norm of “grinning and bearing” it, needs to be debunked. Honesty might help some other young adult survivor to feel more comfortable with their emotions. As a cancer survivor, are you allowed to feel anger, sadness, anxiety? Yes. Absolutely. You do, however, need to dig your way out of those emotions, eventually, for your own well-being.

This attempt to document my own journey through cancer experience #1, has invoked panic. I know it is all in the past. I know it can’t hurt me anymore. Yet, it still feels real,
“fresh”, to some extent.

While working on this project, the need for levity has become apparent to me. As the adage goes, “laughter is the best medicine”.

So where can we find levity? Everywhere!

The easiest place for me to find it is by simply watching the dogs. Luna and Berkley, whenever they are outside, enjoy roughhousing. In this picture, a whispered conference has just concluded and they’re clearly “up to no good”:

trouble

Indoors, it’s Luna’s flatulence that evokes laughter. She has no shame. She’s also not one of those dogs that turns around, surprised, that she has farted. She knows what she’s doing.

Farts, in general, are often a source of amusement in our house. Yeah, it’s not exactly polite behavior, but it happens. And, sometimes, the necessary reaction is to let the dogs outside and open a window (talking about you Berkley with your “silent but deadly” farts).

I’ve never caught Alderaan farting, but I have captured some sassy-pants attitude:

sassy
Just look at that tongue sticking out!

Less smelly sources of levity include parody. This “Life is Good” t-shirt always brings a smile to my face:

dog t-shirt

It’s funny, mostly because it’s true. It is impossible to open a jar of peanut butter in this house without acquiring an audience.

I am finding, too, that gratitude has a positive impact on me while I work on this project. For instance, every morning, as the sun rises, I cannot help but be thankful for another new day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sometimes, it’s smaller things, like the daily calendar (featuring dogs and inspirational quotes) that a friend gave to us for Christmas. This quote, in particular, has made me reflect on life and how I live it:

“Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans.

It is lovely to be silly at the right moment.”

– Horace

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Thank you for the prayers, light and love that you have given me over the years. I hope that each of you finds a reason to smile and laugh today.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

 

Rain, Ice, Snow

backyard 1.0

All of nature knew that something was coming. The chipmunk—the one which insults the dogs on a daily basis—announced it with a long, shrill rattle. The birds, upon hearing this warning, disappeared into the evergreen depths of the cedar hedge.

When the weather reports confirmed that, yes, inclement weather was on its way, we humans set to work stocking our cupboards with non-perishable food. We bought gallon jugs of spring water. Rock salt was also a sought-after item.

My own journey to find candles (because we don’t have a generator, and if the power goes out, we’re going to need something to see by) led me to a small Christian Supply Store.

The store was bright, welcoming. Praise songs, played through hidden speakers, filled the air with cheerful music. The middle aisle, and three of the shop’s walls, were lined with various versions of the Bible, Daily Devotionals, and Christian Fiction. There was only one register and only one employee—an elderly lady with a lovely smile.

The grapevine had reported that the store sold reasonably-priced candles. There weren’t many candles available, save for some packages of Advent candles. I have always wanted my own Advent wreath! To say that I am enamored by these purple and pink candles is an understatement. They give life to childhood memories of Sunday services devoted to the coming of the Messiah. They fill my ears with Christmas carols. By their light, I am comforted.

 

lighted candle

I may have originally visited the store for candles, but I spent nearly 45-minutes browsing through the bookshelves. There were so many fascinating titles and beautiful covers. I’m a bookworm—I notice these things! And, really, can anyone expect a bookworm to pass up the opportunity to buy a book for $2? I came home with two books, two packages of Advent candles, and two (very) large white candles that are probably meant for the alter.

The eve of the icing event was spent filling every deep pot and bucket that we own with water.

water

The natural gas fireplace was turned on. All of the dishes were cleaned and the laundry hamper was emptied. No loose ends. Nothing left to do that required electricity. I went to bed with a flashlight on my bedside table. Berkley and Alderaan kept me warm while Luna, once again, claimed the spare bed as her own.

Fortunately, we made it through the night without losing power. We woke up to a world glistening with ice.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The lead-line of Luna’s puppy-hood was encased with ice, completely unusable.

backyard

Our backyard, thankfully, is fenced in so that Luna and Berkley can run free. They didn’t do much running, as the icy lawn crunched, cracked and creaked underneath them.

There is beauty in ice-laden branches—but also great danger. I experienced my first Icestorm when I was in 5th grade. At first, it was magical. School was canceled on my birthday! But, then, the reality of life without electricity settled in. I discovered, rather quickly, that I liked light, daily showers, and toilets that flush. My day-dreams of living during the time of the “Little House on the Prairie” books, were quickly shattered—just like so many of the trees in my parents’ backyard.

As I write this—high noon on Sunday—we still have electricity. Should any additional ice or snow weigh down the power lines, we have water. We have candles. We have food.

We have each other.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Your prayers, light and love mean so much to me. I hope, that those of you experiencing this weather phenomenon, are safe, warm, and well-fed.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Creating Snow Flurries of Their Own

blue skies and birds
Winter birds perched on snowy boughs

I love watching snow fall—it’s magical, making everything new and bright. Autumn’s leaves that you never got around to raking? Can’t see them now! Withered perennials? Taking a much-deserved nap underneath a heavy, white blanket. Summer’s bunnies? Not gone! Easily found by following their tracks into the cedar hedge.

Although falling snow often takes my breath away with its beauty, I had forgotten how wonderful it is to play in! Thanks to Luna and Berkley, though, the exhilaration of snow days (and playing in the snow) has resurfaced.

Berkley, a southern gentleman from Texas, was not impressed with the snow:

In fact, he refused to leave the shelter of the porch. It took Luna several attempts to convince him that the snow is “really great”.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once on the ground, and with Luna leading the way, Berkley became a snow aficionado. The pair race each other, making snow flurries of their own. They’re swift and undeterred by the cold. Every once in a while, they slow down and regroup—usually in a joint effort to sniff out the resident chipmunk.

L&B on porch

All of the excitement that the snowy backyard offers, makes shepherding the pair back indoors difficult. When they do finally come inside, they’re exhausted, and quick to cuddle in whatever patch of sunshine that they can find.

nap in the sun

Alderaan may not play in the snow like his canine siblings, but he seemingly enjoys watching it fall from his warm perch beside the office window.

Aldie looking out window

Aldie concentrates on the snow flakes, as if trying to discern where they came from and how long they’ll stay. That is, when he’s not napping in my computer chair:

Alds in chair

I was not ready for winter to arrive so soon, Dear Readers, but I will make the best of it.

Christmas music playing? Check.

Lighting our natural gas fireplace? Check.

Snuggling on the couch with my pups while watching a Christmas movie? Yeah, we’ve done that—and we’ll keep doing that, until we run out of movies to watch!

As always, Dear Readers, thank you for your presence here today. Thank you for all of the prayers, love and light that you send my way. I hope you have a Luna, or a Berkley, in your life—to remind you of just how much fun the snow can be.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Friendship

besties

It’s odd, how sometimes, memories that we haven’t entertained in decades, suddenly flare, with vivacity, in our minds. For instance, this Girl Scout song has been playing (on repeat) in my head:

Make new friends, but keep the old:

One is silver, and the other gold.

A circle is round, it has no end.

That’s how long I want to be your friend.

I was in elementary school when I learned this song! I was a Brownie! Still, many years later, the song rings true.

As an introvert, making new friends is a bit of a challenge. I have found that friendship is not something that can be forced; it’s found. The seeds of friendship are planted in the most unlikely of places. During a college internship in Canada. In a cancer clinic. At a boyfriend’s friend’s wedding. Behind a store counter.

Then, of course, there are the old friends—the ones that have been with you since elementary school. The friendships that were created in the chaos of a Middle/High School cafeteria. And, then, when you felt lost and alone, there was the tribe that adopted you in college.

I am grateful for all of these marvelous, wonderful people. Even if we don’t speak on a regular basis, even if years fly by before we get to see each other again, these are my friends—and they are worth so much more than silver and gold.

besties 1.2

Unrelated to the Girl Scouts, is an adage that states, “friends come and go”. This is true as well. We change. We are not stagnant water. Our personalities and preferences evolve. The goals we may have wanted to achieve last year, might not even be on our to-do list today. AND THAT’S OKAY.

Some of our friends will be able to grow with us; others, sadly, won’t. AND THAT’S OKAY, TOO. It hurts, of course, but we will always have the memories, warm in our hearts.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for visiting today. I hope you each have a tribe of your own to turn to for comfort, encouragement, and laughter. We all need light in our lives.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Past, Present, Future

It was exceedingly difficult to settle on just one idea for this blog post. So, I combined all three of them! I will try to make it a smooth read; it may get bumpy, so hang on to your seats! Or, is it ‘hang on to your hats’? Anyways, hang on to something.

The Past

My father and my brother made me bookshelves. They installed them in my home office two weekends ago. They also brought my filing cabinets. I’ve spent the last week sorting through boxes of books and old files. The cabinets have proven to be a treasure trove of surprises. I’ve discovered ideas for short stories and novels that I’d completely forgotten about. I’ve also found old diaries. This entry brought me to tears:

In the time that it took me to return home, she has grown deaf. She cannot hear my arrival nor my calls to her. And, still, she is happy. Her tail wags. Her brown eyes glow, meet mine, and flicker back to the path ahead. The wind rustles last autumn’s fallen leaves. The earth is ripe with the scent of spring. At least, in this, I have made an old dog glad.

This passage was about my Nissa:

Nissa 1.1

Even though our puppy, Luna, is nothing like Nissa, I sometimes call her by that name. At first it bothered me that I was mixing up their names. After all, besides being dogs, the only thing that Luna and Nissa have in common is their love and ability to run quite fast. Otherwise, Nissa was generally calm, but wary of men with glasses. She rarely barked (Luna has a whole language of her own). Nissa would put my hand in her mouth and gently lead me to where she wanted me to go. I was a pup to her.

From the moment that she climbed up our deck stairs (with porcupine quills in her jowls), until the day that she died, she was my guardian, my best friend. I will miss her forever.

The Present

Even when I’m practicing mindfulness, the present moment always seems to be fleeting. Time passes so quickly.

In this present moment—the moment in which I am writing—Luna and Berkley are sleeping on the couch. I’m sitting a few cushions away from them, watching the cursor on my screen flash.

doggie nap

The air conditioner is on. The dryer is rumbling in the background. Sunlight is streaming through every window that doesn’t have curtains.

There’s dog and cat hair on the coffee table. I’d much rather have a home with animal hair floating around it, than a spotless one. I read, once, that pet hair (at least on your clothes) is a sign that you are loved. If that’s true, this house is full of it.

The Future

As a cancer survivor, I have difficulty trusting the word, “future”, or the fact that I’m apparently going to have one. What do you do in the face of distrust?

You believe, in spite of your misgivings.

You believe that the best days are coming.

You believe that happiness and health are right around the corner.

We’re walking in the direction of our dreams—to a “new normal”—that is, of course, influenced by the old one.

Prior to my relapse, Seth had started brewing his own beer. My personal favorite was his pumpkin ale (it was delicious!). That hobby, however, was put on the back burner when life came crashing down around us in 2017. He stopped brewing.

There’s light now, stretching over the horizon, and Seth will be brewing again soon. A return to former interests is certainly a sign that life is moving in a positive direction.

What does my future look like? In October, I will be receiving the last of my pediatric shots. I’ve been querying literary agents for my most recent novel. Hopefully one of these queries will be met with an offer of representation and eventually a book deal. I’ve been learning Norwegian (for free) via Duolingo, mostly for fun—and to keep my brain active.

Finally, I’ve been scrolling through Indeed and Monster in search of the perfect job. I don’t know how many hours a week I’ll be able to work; my stamina is yet to be tested. With that written, Dear-Readers-who-happen-to-be-locals, if you know of any businesses in need of an office assistant or writer (for about 10 hours a week, with the possibility of increasing hours as I grow stronger), feel free to share their information with me!

Thank you, Dear Readers, both near and far, for your presence here. I hope, very much, that you remain a constant in my future.

 

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