Where Blessings Abound

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

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

10 years.

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

“Be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe.

No less than the trees and the stars;

You have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do I love to do?

Write. Read. Spend time with these furry babies:

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

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

And, then, there’s this curiosity:

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

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

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

painting pawprints

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

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

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

tiny

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

July Johnny TrioJuly Johnny

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

En (one) – renewed faith

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

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

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

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

Seks (six) – simply being alive!

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

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

 

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

 

Resources for the Curious

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

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?

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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.

Fair Weather & Fun

fog and tractor
I am always enchanted by this view.

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

It was inspiring.

Peaceful.

Restorative.

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

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

Burberry Wishes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The sauce tastes like ketchup.”

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

“The crust is too bready.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

carrots

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

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

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

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

baby sunflowers

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

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

The beans have made their presence known, too:

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

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

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

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

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

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

As written in the New International Version of the Holy Bible

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

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

Johnny May 2020

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

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

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

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

A Daily Dose of Joy

violet

Joy.

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

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

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

“Radical Remission” was one such workshop.

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

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

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

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

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

journal

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

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

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

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

Audio_

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

The songs, altogether, mean more to me now.

They inspire faith.

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

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

It’s freeing and fun!

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

 

Come and go with me

To my Father’s house

Come and go with me

To my Father’s House

It’s a big, big house

With lots and lots of room

A big, big table

With lots and lots of food

A big, big yard

Where we can play football

A big, big house

It’s my Father’s House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

Resources for the Curious:

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

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

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

 

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.

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

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