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:

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They make these “uncertain” days easier.

They give me focus.

A routine.

And, love—seemingly unconditional love.

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

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

 

Bird’s Eye View (Or a Squirrel’s)

squirrel

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

I know it’s not over.

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

I cried this morning.

Dear Readers, I need a break.

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

Gunpowder & Geese

It happened the last weekend in March.

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

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

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

gunpowder

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

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

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

Healing & Hawks

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

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

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

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

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

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

hawks

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

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

alds

Stories & Starlings

I stopped writing fiction nearly 8-months ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

starlings

Perspective counts for so very much….

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

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

Honestly, I didn’t like them.

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

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

starlings 1.0

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

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

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Kindness. Provision. Sharing. Love.

wall decor

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

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

Alds fireplace

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

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

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

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

Well, they’re people like me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can be kind.

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

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

We can provide.

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

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

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

We can share.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can love each other.

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

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

What does that look like?

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

Sending an email or a text message to a friend.

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

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

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

My husband is an ICU nurse.

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

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

Love is protecting each other from this virus.

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

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

March mobile at night

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

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

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.

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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.

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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

It’s Staying Up Until Epiphany!

christmas tree aglow 2.0

Dear Readers,

Where did Christmas 2019 go? One minute we were decorating our tree (with our signature blend of home-made ornaments and Star Wars collectibles), and the next moment we were carrying discarded wrapping paper and boxes out to the recycling bin.

SW and homemade

I was so excited for Christmas, and it certainly lived up to my expectations. My big present from the hubby this year was a new washing machine. I know, that may not sound overly exciting to some people, but I was thrilled to be given a machine that wasn’t going to constantly screech errors at me!

Christmas for me, and many others, though, isn’t solely about the gifts.

It’s about family—sitting at my parents’ dining room table—as my father said “Grace” over the delicious meal that my mother had prepared.

It’s about attending Christmas Eve service—listening to the readings, singing along to both new and old Christmas hymns, while the candles in the sanctuary flicker, painting the walls gold and making the windows gleam.

Christmas is about embracing church family and thanking God that, yes, I can hug these wonderful, inspiring people again! I couldn’t do that a year ago. I definitely couldn’t do it two years ago when my immune system was infantile.

Yet, here I am, with only a few days left of 2019, and I’m grateful to still be here.

There was never a guarantee that I would survive Cancer #1 or Cancer #2. Neither of those experiences were easy—this last one took a lot out of me. I’m still recovering. In fact, it’ll probably take all of 2020 to feel halfway human.

According to my oncologist, the most common complaint among allogenic transplant recipients is fatigue. It’s not the kind of fatigue that you can sleep off. Neither caffeine nor sugar will help. You simply have to endure this fatigue; sometimes miserably, and sometimes proactively with appropriate amounts of physical and mental activity.

With all of that said, I am sure that you, Dear Readers, have an inkling as to what my goals for 2020 will be.

Before I was diagnosed with Relapsed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2017, I maintained a daily, rigorous yoga practice. It was borderline Power Yoga.

yoga on the deck

As the tumor in my lumbar spine grew, I eventually lost all of the strength and flexibility that I had gained through yoga.

I’ve been taking baby-steps toward my former level of athleticism—utilizing chair yoga, restorative yoga and trauma yoga. I will continue doing these forms of yoga until I am ready for Power Yoga. By June, I intend to be doing The Wheel again!

Wally and Wheel

Also, in 2020, I will keep my mind busy with a self-created reading list (comprised mostly of books that I already own but haven’t had a chance to actually read). I’ll continue learning new languages via Duo Lingo. Currently, I’m studying Norwegian. Jeg elsker det (I love it)! Additionally, I will retrain my sometimes chemo-foggy brain through dusting off my GRE practice book and revisiting vocabulary, analogy and complex mathematical lessons. Each lesson is similar to a puzzle piece—revealing parts of the old me that existed pre-cancer.

Finally, I intend to keep the Christmas spirit alive throughout the new year. The first step in this multi-faceted plan, is to leave our Christmas decorations (except, maybe, for the tree, which is already losing a superfluous number of needles) up until Epiphany. According to the Christian calendar, Epiphany is traditionally celebrated on January 6th and marks the moment when the Wisemen (aka Magi) find Jesus.

wisemen

I mean, come on! It’s only December 30th! The Wisemen haven’t even made it to Bethlehem yet! The Christmas lights will glow in this house until that manger is discovered!

Of course, keeping the Christmas spirit alive involves a lot more than leaving decorations up. It requires us to practice kindness, generosity and gratitude on a daily basis. It might also take the form of small, but thoughtful, acts of friendship, such as writing letters and sending them off via snail mail. For me, part of it will consist of visiting cafes with friends—all to drink a cup of coffee and to talk awhile.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Thank you for your prayers, love and light. I do hope that 2020 is kind to each of you!

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

Dear Santa – Our Star Wars Stockings are Up…

SW Stockings

I’m so excited about this Christmas season! I hope you are feeling the magic of the holidays, too, Dear Readers.

Our decorations are dispersed throughout the house, so that nearly every room has something “merry and bright” in it. I enjoy decorating—even if it accentuates the fact that our house is quite dusty. I guess that happens when you have three fur-babies running around….

The babes and I are easily infatuated by Christmas lights and cute, corny Christmas movies.

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Oh! And Christmas carols! Berkley, is by far, the most appreciative of my singing. He’ll stop what he’s doing, and look up at me like this:

love at Christmas time

This year, Christmas is extra special, as my husband and I will be going to Christmas Eve service with my parents and my brother. There is nothing quite as beautiful as singing “Silent Night”, while the entire congregation holds flickering candles.

I have missed Advent, again—which means I have missed poignant readings from the Bible, inspiring sermons, and some of my favorite seasonal songs such as, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. I have, however, been reading the Gospel of Luke each morning. I started this practice on December 1st.

There are 24 chapters in Luke and, as you know, Christmas Eve is the 24th day of December. I can’t take credit for this idea; a Facebook friend shared it. I loved the idea so much, that I knew that I had to do it! It’s been a great reminder of what—exactly—we’re celebrating each Christmas.

cross & manger

Reading through Luke, day by day, reminds me of  Jars of Clay’s Christmas song, “Bethlehem Town”. At one point, the song says, “and did the stars shine much brighter that night, you gave birth to the death that would bring us to life”. It’s such a thought-provoking and powerful statement. We need to remember—always—that although Christmas arrives and passes quickly, the gift that we were given in Jesus, so long ago, is always available. Every moment, of every single day.

To that end, I do hope that each of you are enjoying the holiday season. Be wary of the rush. Try to stay grounded in the moment. Spend time with friends and family. Laugh. Frost some cookies. Watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and sing “Frosty the Snowman” at the top of your lungs! Enjoy this season while it’s here.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Thank you for all of your prayers, love and light. You have carried me through so much! You are, Dear Readers, a gift to me.

Merry Christmas!

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura