A New Kind of Thanksgiving

Last weekend, my husband, a dear friend and myself went to my cousin’s farm to pick out a steer to fill our freezer. No worries, Dear Vegan & Vegetarian friends—I won’t go into greater detail than this. To be honest, I’m not even sure that I actually saw the bovine that my husband and friend picked; I was too busy trying to make friends with my cousin’s horse and German Shepherds!

So, yes, I was distracted by the dogs beside me as well as a treasured memory of a fellow elementary/middle/high school student’s German Shepherds. We rode the same school bus home, and when she was dropped off at the end of her driveway, two, rather large German Shepherds would weave through the evergreens in her front yard—just to reach her, their girl. It’s quite possible that I’ve shared this memory in a previous blog post, but my favorite recollection of these canines comes from a wintery afternoon, in which their dark coats were illuminated by falling snowflakes.

Such beauty.

Such devotion.

Such a blessing to observe.

My cousin’s shepherds aren’t nearly as big as the dogs occupying my memories, but they each had a doggie grin and a wagging tail. I asked my cousin where he had gotten his dogs from. The answer? From individuals that couldn’t care for them any longer. Although they hadn’t come from shelters, they were rescues—like our Berkley!

Berkley, as I write this entry, is lying at my feet. Luna is nearby as well. Thanksgiving, for our pups, wasn’t this placid. It was, shall I say, ‘competitive’?

Before we left my cousin’s farm, he gave us four cow bones. We, in turn, gave both Luna and Berkley a bone that day. My husband and I set aside the two remaining bones for a special occasion. Thanksgiving Day seemed like the perfect, special occasion.

Before I reveal how this treat was received, I should perhaps inform you that Berkley LOVED the first bone that he was given. In fact, he was quite protective of it, even burying it outside when he had had enough of it!

I don’t support digging holes in the backyard, but it was the cutest thing watching Berkley stash his beloved bone in the hole underneath the grill and covering it up with loose soil. When he was finished his ‘dirty’ work, Berkley’s black-and-white marbled paws were covered with a patina of cocoa-colored soil.

On Thanksgiving Day, however, the pup’s roles changed. Luna became the guardian of the bones, retrieving Berkley’s buried bone and bringing it inside. She went straight to the kennel with it, dropping the dirt-covered bone with a loud bang (most likely to announce her find). Berkley was a bit shocked by this, but recovered quickly when we removed the ‘special-occasion” bones from the freezer.

His brown eyes glowed, his white-tipped tail wagged. Berkley was so enamored with his new bone that he didn’t even walk his daddy to the back gate (an everyday ritual that both dogs keep whenever their father goes to work). Alas! His new bone needed to be gnawed on and watched.

Luna, content with her “found” bone, scurried out of the kennel and underneath the stairs to chew on it. We placed a fresh bone at the opening of her hidey-hole, so she wouldn’t feel left out. Gotta keep it fair!

Luna and the ‘found’, dirt-covered bone….

Unfortunately, Dear Readers, Berkley lowered his guard later in the afternoon.

While I separated pumpkin seeds from stringy, pumpkin innards in the kitchen, Berkley lost his bone underneath the recliner. Luna, still hiding under the stairs, was working on the old bone, but growled at Berkley whenever he came too close to her new one. It was this—her growl, that drew me into the living room. Berkley was circling the recliner, head down, dark eyes worried.

I wasn’t sure, at first, what he wanted. Luna is usually the one that loses toys and treats underneath the recliner (and she does it on purpose, too, as a game). It didn’t make sense to me that Berkley would have stuffed his bone under the chair, but the sad look on his face prompted me to lean the recliner forward anyways.

Unaccustomed to moving furniture, Berkley hesitated to retrieve his bone. Luna, a cunning and quick coonhound mix, swooped in and stole it.

I should preface this next part by saying that I love my girl, but goodness she’s talented at taunting her brother! Not only did she steal his new bone, when the pair went outside, she brought it out with her. It seemed to disappear….

Then, the next time that they ventured outdoors, Luna carried another bone out with her. This one seemed to disappear as well….

There was only one bone left in the house and our shrewd girl spirited it off to her hidey-hole.

This—observing our pups with their ‘special-occasion’ bones—was my Thanksgiving.

It was certainly not the holiday I was used to! I was physically alone—no family, no friends (thanks COVID restrictions), but I was so busy roasting pumpkin seeds and trying to establish puppy peace, that I didn’t have a chance to feel lonely.

Text messages from friends, and a phone call from my mother-in-law, kept me smiling.

Plus, whenever my heart started to yearn for company, I called my mom. At least four times! I kept her as busy as Luna was keeping me (mother like daughter?). In any case, the ability to pick up the phone and talk to my mom, was a blessing.

The dogs, despite their lack of sharing, were a blessing.

Alderaan, purring loudly beside me while I studied Norwegian, was a blessing, too.

So, yes, I was physically without my family and my husband on Thanksgiving Day, but I wasn’t really alone. Love and gratitude are everywhere—we simply have to keep an open heart and mind, and they become easier to recognize.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here, today. I hope you had a wonderful holiday filled with laughter and love! Sending prayers and light your way.

With 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/

Summer Snapshots

Johnny in August

Luna and Berkley are snoring—a comforting melody for this writer. Why? Because I’m not sure how this entry is going to work out. There have been so many moments this summer that have been absolute treasures…but to share them all in one blog post…is going to require faith, patience, and self-compassion. Writing THIS will be a challenge.

Fasten your seat-belts. This might get bumpy.

It’s probably best to start indoors—in the office, actually, where Alderaan spends the afternoons sleeping in my desk chair. There’s a towel covering that seat now; he has sharp claws capable of puncturing faux-leather and he sheds like it’s going out of style. Despite the punctures and the hair, this little guy holds my heart in his paw.

Earlier in the season, he went to the veterinarian’s office for an annual check-up and his distemper shot. I had suspected that Aldie might be experiencing dental issues. He was leaving pieces of hard food, outside of his dish. They were half-chewed, half-moons. As my writing companion, he had no problem weaving around my laptop, but he did so with atrocious-smelling breath (no offense buddy).

My suspicions were confirmed after his check-up, when the vet said that Alderaan was in great health, except for having “severe” dental decay. As someone that had to have a dental evaluation prior to bone marrow transplant (because bad teeth can be a gateway for infection), I knew that I had to schedule this procedure for my beloved Aldie.

The result? He’s a kitten again!

He’s been playing with his toys, dragging them around. Alderaan has been more vocal—especially when he thinks dinner should be served. He is a gray streak racing alongside the second floor’s banisters.

He even raised a paw at Luna when she got in his face one morning (something he has never done before).

Although he has transformed into a spitfire, Alderaan still makes time for his more sedentary, favorite activities, like sitting in the kitchen window while I wash the dishes.

Alds at Attention
He spotted something interesting….

Luna and Berkley, too, are experiencing a renaissance of sorts.

Perhaps their new-found energy has its roots in their puppy play dates with Finnegan (read “Berkley Turns Three”, dated 7/27/2020, to meet our friend, Finnegan), but this 2 and 3-year-old are experiencing the zoomies again! Every night, around 5pm, they start racing around the house, playing rough and showing off their rather impressive canine teeth.

Berkley in August
The zoomies are exhausting!

It’s all fun and games to them; to me, witnessing this vivacity is inspiring, and hopeful—maybe, someday, I’ll get some of my pre-transplant energy back?

I find inspiration in other places as well—specifically the great outdoors.

Prior to this year’s garden, I had the thumb of impending plant death. It has been both a surprise and a gift to actually grow vegetables and flowers!

As a child, I picked flowers. As an adult, I like to take pictures of them. I hope I never set this joy aside.

The Outdoor Art Club also gives me joy. Earlier in August, we visited St. Patrick’s Oratory and Mother Cabrini’s Shrine in Peru, NY.

oratory & shrine

I got lost on the way there, of course, but getting lost is half the adventure!

The oratory’s grounds were verdant—offering everything from fruit trees to yes, more flowers:

It wasn’t just the flowers that caught my attention. There was a walking trail through the woods, encouraging contemplation via a variety of spiritual icons:

The shrine, open to the outdoor air, was the perfect blend of nature and sanctuary.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To the left of Mother Cabrini’s shrine was a small, well-maintained field with the stations of the cross.

To the right of Mother Cabrini’s shrine, and sprawling behind the oratory, was a cemetery. Little known fact (or maybe it’s known) about me, is that I LOVE cemeteries. Funerary art is fascinating! The gravity and sanctity of a cemetery plot reminds me of just how fleeting life is and how very important it is to love and to live while we’re here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Love, it seems, is the key to everything. How we act. How we speak. How we spend our time. Alderaan wasn’t in the kitchen window when I observed a robin feeding a youngster. I thought this scene was a bit odd, since this ‘youngster’ had functional wings, two legs and a beak that could clearly open. Its feathers were still marked with white spots, though, and this—this vulnerability reminded me of a passage I recently read in Deuteronomy 32:10-11.

In a desert land he found him,

in a barren and howling waste.

He shielded him and cared for him;

he guarded him as the apple of his eye,

like an eagle that stirs up its nest

and hovers over its young,

that spreads its wings to catch them

And carries them aloft.

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

This is God’s great love…and, yet, I can see it reflected in that mother robin’s dark eyes, too.

 

The summer seems to be passing us by. Crickets are chirping all day and all night now. There are red leaves on the lawn and in the little trees surrounding our porch.

first red leaf

There is a sadness in this. I try to remind myself that, as the garden starts to wilt, “everything has its season”. This is natural. This is life.

I deadhead my flowers, now, and tuck them away in the office to air-dry.

future flowers

Later, when September arrives, I will savor a mug of hot apple cider and plan next summer’s garden.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. I hope the transition of seasons gives you time to reflect, smile with joy, and build future plans. Sending prayers, love and light your way.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Berkley Turns Three!

B Happy

A mostly quiet love-bug (except for when there’s a bunny in the backyard or when his daddy comes home from work), Berkley turned three-years-old this past week! This handsome gentleman from Texas never ceases to amaze us; he is super-fast, happy, and loves to eat. We have been so blessed by Berkley’s presence and are eternally grateful that a dear friend saw his description online and shared it with us. In fact, Berkley’s Got-cha Day is today (July 27th)!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Berkley’s calm demeanor balances Luna’s high-energy and has even helped to dial it down by several degrees.

Golden girl

Thanks to Berk, she has also embraced couch cuddling—but only if it’s her idea. Luna is an independent thinker, a feline-like quality that she may have picked up from her big-little brother, Alderaan.

Smug_

As the cat of the house—and king of the upstairs—Alderaan had the choice as to whether or not he would participate in Berkley’s birthday celebrations. The celebration, in actuality, began a day early when Berkley and Luna’s new friend, Finnigan, came to visit.

Finnigan’s mom, an awesome nurse and friend, was helping strip the old shingles off of our roof and asked if I could watch her 5-month-old Labradoodle while she was up there. I said yes! I mean, who could say ‘no’ to this guy:

Finnigan in the kitchen

He’s so cute and soft! And, although he is as tall as Luna, he’s convinced that he’s a lap dog.

Selfie with Finn

Worried that Finn’s affinity for cuddling would interfere with my ability to complete my husband’s birthday presents (Hubby and Berk share the same birthday), I moved my operation to the kitchen, where I set up shop on top of the keezer. Finnigan happily joined me there, settling on my feet as extra motivation to keep painting.

Art Buddy

With Finn’s help, I finally finished these:

Completed Paw Prints

With the salt-dough paw prints and my husband’s birthday card completed, I was ready for the double birthday. I could go to sleep without a nagging voice telling me that I had more to do to make the next day a good day.

Yes, I was ready for the double birthday—Berkley, however, was not:

Birthday Boy Surprise

I think Berk’s reaction to being told that he was a year older, is one that we can all recognize/sympathize with. Although growing older is a privilege, how many of us actually do so with acceptance and grace? I know I haven’t.

Berkley’s shock wore off later in the afternoon when Finn’s mom brought over a delicious raspberry, buttercream-frosted cake. Neither of our pups sampled the cake, but they were excited by the smell of it.

July Birthday cake

Berkley spent the day receiving extra pets and hugs. For dinner, he was even given a larger spoonful of soft food atop his kibble! By the day’s end, he seemed content be a three-year-old.

B Content

Thank you, Dear Readers, for joining me here today. I hope you are finding reasons to celebrate (safely). If you have a pup or a cat of your own, give them some extra cuddles today. It’s beneficial for both of you. Sending prayers, love and light your way.

 

With Gratitude,

Laura

 

Resources for the Curious

We adopted Berkley from this wonderful organization: https://greatdivideanimalrescue.org/

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

A Celebration of Love, Learning and Life

pink roses and lilies 1.0

Fear, unfortunately, seems to be the most prevalent emotion these days. It’s contagious—even more so than COVID-19 (it’s precursor). It has poisoned so many of us and, as a result, it can be especially difficult to find reasons to celebrate, to be joyful, to be grateful.

The month of June, however, has given me multiple reasons to laugh, smile, and be appreciative of this life.

My husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary!

It’s a bit shocking that a whole year has passed since we said, “I do”. I’m not really certain where the time went….

Another significant milestone—one of my god-daughters turned seven! Thanks to social media and her creative parents, we were able to celebrate her special day despite social distancing restrictions. Again…I don’t know where the time went…. I feel like she was an infant just yesterday!

If there is a lesson in this, it’s that every, single moment is both fleeting and precious.

I have discovered yet another enriching way to spend my time. As many of you know, I love to learn. In addition to studying Norwegian via Duolingo (side-note: I just learned how to say “ain’t”. It made me laugh), I finally became a student member of the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)! I am currently enrolled in Anatomy and Physiology. I have two months to complete this online course…and, then, it’s on to CPC training…and, eventually, certification. So much to do, but so much to look forward to!

As of late, another source of joy for me has been all of the babies in our yard.

We have at least three babies in this nest:

baby birds

At the time that this photograph was taken, the babies only had the suggestion of feathers and blended in well with the construction materials that their parents chose to build their nest with. Camouflage didn’t exist, however, when they were hungry. They’d stick their tiny necks out, beaks open, waiting for mommy and/or daddy to feed them.

Today, the three babies are fluffy-looking and approximately the size of their parents!

My absolute favorite baby, though, is Baby Bunny. How can you not fall instantly in love with her?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Baby Bunny resides in the Pool Hole and enjoys hurdling over discarded pool noodles. She’s clearly a natural gymnast.

Although I have never had a rabbit for a pet, I have loved bunnies my entire life. When I was a child, my father built me a playhouse in our backyard. It had a shingled roof and flower boxes under the front windows. The porch became home to a kit of wild bunnies. We could watch their antics from the back door, not at all unlike today, at my house, where I can watch Teen Bunny’s bold moves.

Teen Bunny has no fear of the fenced-in backyard—or of Luna and Berkley who are frequently in it.

Partners

Luna (she’s the spotter) will bay when she spots Teen Bunny.

Luna in June

Berkley, a known bunny-grabber, will begin the chase.

Snuggly Berkley
Even Bunny-grabbers need to nap sometimes…. And isn’t he just adorable curled up in the blankets?

Teen Bunny’s only escape is to dive under the gate. Unfortunately, Teen Bunny doesn’t seem to learn from his close encounters with Berkley’s teeth. He will repeat this daredevilry multiple times a day.

teen bunny
Teen Bunny in the driveway…most likely contemplating his next high-stakes feat.

Indoors, I have my amazing Alderaan to be grateful for:

Alds and sunshine
I wish he’d let us brush him…imagine how dapper he’d be if he was properly groomed….

Another simple joy that I am so very appreciate of is the wildflowers in our yard. This one runs deep, too. Just ask my mom or dad—I have loved flowers since I was a tot. In fact, I was so in love with them that NO ONE was allowed to mow the lawn until I had combed through every square inch of it in order to pick the flowers.

This love for wildflowers, admittedly, does make mowing our yard difficult. I feel bad when I butcher red clover; I have purposely avoided mowing over the wild violets.

violet 1.2

The wildflowers framing the Pool Hole, however, are quite safe. There’s no way to physically (and safely) bring the mower to their location. There is, however, enough room to walk among them. I was able to take this picture while doing so:

stars and bells 1.1

A quiet moment among these flowers, gave me so much peace. So much awe for God’s creation. So much gratitude for the five senses.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. I hope that you, too, find ways to leave fear behind and embrace joy and gratitude. Celebrate life—the big things and the little—whenever you can. Sending prayers, love and light to you!

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

**It should be noted that, although I love the baby birds and bunnies a great deal, they truly tested my cardiac health this past weekend. My adrenaline levels peaked as a baby robin (from a couple nests down) decided to hang out on the back porch. Considering that the back porch is how Luna and Berkley go outside, this was the absolute, worst place to linger. Meanwhile, Baby Bunny decided to take a stroll down the back sidewalk. What was she thinking? Despite all of this unruliness, I’m still so very appreciative to have them in my life.

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.

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

 

 

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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