A Daily Dose of Joy

violet

Joy.

How would you define the word? When/how do you experience it? Do you find joy in your everyday life?

Joy is certainly part of the recipe for a happy, healthy life…and, yet, somehow…I’ve left it out.

Thankfully, while “attending” the virtual version of The Stowe Weekend of Hope (SWOH), I was reminded of just how important joy is. Usually held in beautiful Stowe, Vermont, SWOH went virtual this year due to the coronavirus. There were workshops via Facebook Live, YouTube, on specific websites and Zoom.

“Radical Remission” was one such workshop.

Led by Kristi Cromwell, the workshop explained the work of Dr. Kelly Turner—the researcher behind “Radical Remission”. As a certified Radical Remission instructor and coach, Kristi was able to share the 10 Healing Elements comprising “Radical Remission”. The element that resonated most with me, was Increasing Positive Emotions, specifically joy.

It triggered something within me—starting a short-lived existential crisis, even. Did I know what joy was? When was the last time that I had experienced it? I know I felt it at our wedding, but was joy part of my day-to-day?

Kristi challenged workshop participants to think about what would bring more joy to their lives. According to Cromwell, just 10-minutes of joy a day can make a difference in one’s health. She also suggested starting small and eventually building upwards in terms of time.

Starting small seemed like a wise idea to me…but what was I supposed to start with? What brought me joy?

The answer to this question came to me while participating in Happy Brain Life’s “10 Days of Calm and Creativity” program via Facebook. In this journaling program, Liz Wiegardt focused on assisting Heart Centered women. She shared ways to increase calm during these precarious times as well as express creativity. I loved every minute of it! Liz holds a Masters in Counseling Psychology as well as a Certificate in Applied Neuroscience and Brain Health. She is well-educated in these areas. And, and, she is a great public-speaker!

journal

It was one of Liz’s journal prompts that helped me find my “joy”. On Day 4 of the program, as a creativity prompt, she asked participants to “connect with music today…listen to your favorite song and dance!”.

Music? Dance? I had flashbacks of my teenage years.

Every morning, when I was getting ready for school, my CD player would be set to a ridiculously high volume. One of the bands that I played on repeat was a Christian rock band, Audio Adrenaline (audioa).

Somehow, as I grew older, I left the band behind. It wasn’t until earlier this year (pre-COVID), that I came across two of their albums at my parents’ house: Hit Parade and Worldwide. On a whim, I brought them home…and started listening again.

Audio_

While teenage Laura was addicted to drums and electric guitar riffs, adult Laura is in love with the lyrics. I spend more time in the Bible these days, and, as such, I can now identify the scripture that may or may not have influenced these songs.

The songs, altogether, mean more to me now.

They inspire faith.

And, on Day 4 of the “10 Days of Calm and Creativity”, they inspired JOY.

In response to Liz’s prompt, I listened and danced to audioa’s “Underdog”. THIS—dancing as poorly and awkwardly as I do—is my JOY.

It’s freeing and fun!

I am still finding joy in the fusion of music and dance. Currently, I am hooked on audioa’s song, “Big House”:

 

Come and go with me

To my Father’s house

Come and go with me

To my Father’s House

It’s a big, big house

With lots and lots of room

A big, big table

With lots and lots of food

A big, big yard

Where we can play football

A big, big house

It’s my Father’s House

– Audio Adrenaline, “Big House” from their 1993 album, Don’t Censor Me.

This song—which makes me smile—also encourages me to contemplate John 14:2-3, in which Jesus says:

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

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

How awesome are these verses?! An eternal home, prepared just for you and me.

Finding joy in music and in my poor dance skills, has helped me to identify it elsewhere.

I love writing. It is my creative project of choice. I’m approximately a quarter of the way through “converting” an old manuscript. And, yes, I do mean “converting” in the sense of changing the manuscript to Christian Fiction. Sure, it’s unpaid work. I believe, however, that writing is like planting a garden. You place the seeds in the soil, water and weed, and have faith that they will grow—that your efforts will yield a bountiful crop.

I hope, Dear Readers, that you, too, find some joy today and every day.

Thank you, once again, for your presence here. Of Pieridae and Perras would not be the same without you. I would not be where I am (alive) without you and your prayers. Stay safe! Stay healthy! I am sending light, love and prayers your way.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

Resources for the Curious:

For more information about SWOH, visit: https://www.stowehope.org/about-swoh.html.

To learn more about “Radical Remission”, watch Kristi’s workshop on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQnJzCPNQuw.

If interested, you can read about Liz Wiergardt and Happy Brain Life at: https://www.happybrainlife.com/about.

 

Be Imaginative. Be Whimsical. Have Fun.

Hello again, Dear Readers!

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

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

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small

All things wise and wonderful

The Lord God made them all.

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

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

Freddy Finch’s Red Feathers

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

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

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

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

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

Freddy doesn’t answer.

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

“Hi, there.”

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

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

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

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

“Do not!”

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

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

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

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

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

Freddy Finch

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

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

A Bunny’s Thoughts

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

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

Mama Bunny

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

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

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

Mama Bunny’s ears twitched.

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

“Stephen–”

“Samuel–”

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

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

The dogs had grown quiet.

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

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

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

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

Mama Bunny shuddered; it was an awful memory.

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

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

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

Robin Curmudgeon

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

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

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

“And fearless!” Georgia added.

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

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

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

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

“He’s here?!” Gracie clucked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robin Curmudgeon

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

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

“Where did she learn that?”

“From the Bible.”

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

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

“Oh.”

Sneaky Pete’s Twilight Trek

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

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

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

He has a twilight trek to take.

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

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

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

Stars as small as pinpricks begin to shine.

Sneaky Pete

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

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

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

This Isn’t Good-bye

 

POA 2016

Dear Readers,

After much deliberation, I have decided to change my posting schedule. Instead of sharing a new entry every Monday, I will now be sharing one every other Monday. For instance, my next blog post will appear on Monday, September 23rd.

I am not abandoning Of Pieridae & Perras. In fact, I think this new schedule will make the blog stronger, and more interesting. It will give me the time, and the freedom, to cultivate fresh ideas. I look forward to sharing these future posts with you!

pine

Thank you, Dear Readers, for the years of support and prayers that you’ve given to me. Your love, light, and positive thoughts have carried me through some of the toughest moments of my life. I treasure your commentary and your presence here.

I will see you, again, on the twenty-third. Until then, I hope that life treats you kindly.

 

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Gone Adventuring

Castle gardens

My husband and I spent the Fourth of July in the Thousand Islands—which are as beautiful as they are fabled to be. We spent the actual holiday on the St. Lawrence river, on a friend’s boat. We witnessed Boldt Castle’s fireworks from the water.

fireworks BC

On July 5th—after having brunch with a beloved friend and his significant other (both of whom I had not seen in ten years!)—my husband I played tourist. We took a one-hour boat tour of the St. Lawrence; our tour guide directing our attention to various multi-million-dollar homes built along the river. Our tour guide, with rather bad jokes, recited historical facts and the names of the present-day property owners. The boat deposited us on Heart Island, where we walked through the stunning Boldt Castle.

Boldt Castle

Instead of describing our trip in great detail, Dear Readers, I have decided to share some of the lessons that I learned during our adventure:

  1. If you’re not 100% certain of what someone’s name is, combine their name with a similar-sounding one (i.e. Laura-Lauren). As a new friend informed me, “even if I’m wrong, I’m still right”.
  2. When you least expect it, someone who knows your story and has been waiting to talk to you about their own, might appear. Listen to these people. Learn what they’re trying to teach you. Honor their story the best that you can.
  3. I’ve never noticed this before, but after the brilliance of the fireworks dissipate, the sky wears dark smudges. Both the vibrant colors, and the smudges, tell significant stories. It might even be the same story, from different perspectives.
  4. It’s okay to leave the camera and/or cellphone at home. Being in the moment, actually living it, might just be more important than digitally capturing it. And, if it turns out that you need a picture for a blog post, just steal one of your husband’s.
  5. Bad jokes, like our tour guide’s jokes, are often the best jokes.
  6. Enjoy the white lights and birch branches decorating the restaurant you visit for dinner. Appreciate these little, artistic touches.
  7. And, sometimes, when a literary agent gives you a “no” on your latest fiction manuscript, view it as a new traffic pattern—directing you to where you are needed the most—instead of as a defeat.

This coming week, Dear Readers, is a busy one—including a trip to Boston. I am hoping that my transplant doctors will remove more medications from my list. Please continue to send prayers, light, and love. They do have a positive impact.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Space to Redecorate

My last post was about telling the truth—my truth—how I really feel, how recovery from transplant is progressing, how the timeline is not what I expected it to be.

The adage, “the truth will set you free”, is, well, true.

Once I had committed my truth to paper, once I had shared it—I felt a tremendous sense of relief, like I could breathe again. The weight on my shoulders was a bit lighter.

It—how I felt—wasn’t a secret anymore.

I didn’t have to pretend that everything was wonderful or even okay.

Perhaps the most surprising change is that telling the truth created space in my heart. The space isn’t a hole. My heart isn’t empty or missing something. There’s just more room in it for feelings other than fear and defeat. It’s only been a week, but I’ve decided to redecorate that space with beautiful moments and images.

Among those images, is the view from our front door.

Our house is surrounded, on two sides, by thick cedar hedges. A few deciduous trees have tried to grow amidst the cedar, stretching taller and taller to reach the sun’s warm rays. Wild grape vines cling to the cedars for support.

morning hedges

The only clear view we have is out the front door and windows, which face the road and an unmown field beyond it. To me, there’s something magical about fields. I could probably attribute this affinity to the French-Canadian habitant in my bones and in my ancestry. The field’s grass is tall now, shining golden at mid-day (this photo doesn’t do it justice). Milkweed is interspersed, attracting butterflies of all colors and varieties. I smile whenever I see a winged pair fluttering between the wildflowers.

Bambi, and his friends, would say that they’re “twitterpated”.

morning field

This attempt to redecorate my heart with beautiful moments reminds me of a song that I used to listen to when I was younger. In fact, after my last chemotherapy infusion (the first time that I had cancer), I blasted the song on my brother’s stereo. Even back then, my brother, a talented musician, had plenty of speakers; I put them to good use that afternoon.

The song that this view, that this moment in my life, evokes is entitled, “Beauty from Pain”. It’s by the Christian rock band, Superchick. Some of the lyrics are as thus:

                        After all this has passed

                        I still will remain.

                        After I’ve cried my last,

                        There’ll be beauty from pain.

                        Though it won’t be today

                        Someday I’ll hope again.

                        And there’ll be beauty from pain.

                        You will bring beauty from my pain.

Although the song makes me tear up, I also find it to be empowering. Hopeful. In many ways, it’s a reminder that I can keep going…that God will use this experience for good, and that my current health situation will not be my situation forever. My transformation as a person isn’t complete yet.

As the proverb on my home page reads, “just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly”. I’m still in the process of becoming a butterfly.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your continued prayers, love, and light. They are so very appreciated. We’re Boston-bound later this week for a transplant check-up and a breathing test (it’s standard procedure; I am not worried about my lungs, nor are my doctors). Please continue to send positive thoughts, though; as some of you know, Massachusetts’ traffic can be daunting. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love,

Laura

Chomping on the Bit

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Dear Readers,

I have been an inpatient on the cancer floor for over 3 weeks now.

I’m not sure where the time has gone…or, really, how I’ve spent it. I’m at a loss for what I’ve been doing or how I’ve been surviving this. Time seems to move both slowly and quickly here, measured not so much by the date on the calendar but by blood counts and chemotherapy drugs. It’s measured in new hardware—a chest power port and the Ommaya Reservoir in my head—and the fact that I can now strap on my own leg brace without assistance. It’s marked by meals that are starting to taste like metal. It’s spent coloring and reading three pages at a time (because the Ommaya still gives me bouts of motion sickness).

I look out the window a lot.

There’s an office across the courtyard and at this time of day, when the security lights are on but before the sun rises, I can see inside of it. There’s artwork on the wall and a vase of giant red flowers. I think I can make out the corner of a well-stocked bookshelf. It’s the sort of place that’s perfect for writing, for quiet contemplation.

Contemplation is something that I have been avoiding recently. True, being ill might be the perfect time to take stock of one’s life, reassess goals, make bright and happy plans for the future—but those hopeful thoughts have shadows.

What if the treatment stops working?

What if I never get to go home?

What if this is what the rest of my life looks like—tubes hanging out of my chest, 6 am blood draws, massive doses of steroids?

I want to live. I want to see what life is like on the other side of this…but, if I am being honest, I still don’t have the strength to endure this treatment. There are days when I think that I might have the resolve to do it—that there’s some steel left in my soul—but then there are mornings like this morning, and I know I am drained. There’s barely enough fight left in me to take a sponge bath or choke down a carton of milk. I know I still need you, Dear Readers, spoon-feeding me encouragement and strength. Prayers work. Good vibes mean something here; they permeate the hospital walls, they chase gloomy thoughts to the far corners of the room, they make the minutes pass a bit more gently. And I wouldn’t be here without them.

Without you, I wouldn’t be making progress.

The week ahead may look different for me. There’s chemo involved, of course—and heaping helpings of steroids still—but there is a small chance, Dear Readers, that the next step in the process has arrived. I may be discharged from the hospital as early as this afternoon (if treatment goes smoothly and if we can be exceptionally persuasive).

Am I excited? I am so very excited at this small measure of freedom! I will be free to leave the confines of the hospital, returning to the outpatient cancer clinic at least three times a week for both the heavy-hitting chemotherapies and injections into my Ommaya Reservoir (because, although the tumor is shrinking, it’s still there, circulating cancer blasts in my central nervous system). I will reside at the wonderful Hope Lodge—a move that will allow me to share the same room with my significant other, to have some comfort even though I am far, far away from our apartment, from Wallace the Wonderful, and from Alderaan.

Please pray that this change happens, Dear Readers. I will miss my inpatient care team, but in many ways, since this possibility was first mentioned, I feel as though I have become more and more horse-like, chomping on my bit. It’s as if the windows that don’t open now have drafts and I can smell the promise of spring. I need more of it. Please continue to send well-wishes. Please keep us in your thoughts.

You are carrying us through this process—one step at a time.

 

With Love, Laura