Coronavirus, Creativity, dreams, Faith, featured, Kathy Joy, Listening, op-ed, opposites, patterns, Pennsylvania author, poetic, ritualistic firsts, Sequestered at home, singing, Speak Wonder, spring season, Will You Hold My Story?

A Chorus of Peeps

“Good morning – “

“You’re up early!”

“Well, I wanted to catch you on your morning walk. I woke up wondering whether the chorus of spring peepers was singing around the lake yet.”

“It’s not quite warm enough. It’s only supposed to be 63 degrees in Erie today. Maybe next week.”

“Really?  We’re supposed to have another blizzard this weekend.”

“Well, that’s a Rocky Mountain springtime for ya. Once we hear them, we will have three more freezes – then, it’s truly spring!”

“The coming of the peepers foretells three more freezes?”

“Oh yes. There’s the onion leek melt, the sweet pea melt, and one more – I’m having a memory melt right now.”

“Ah, ‘Singing Spring’ comes in notes and melts, like your book.”

“None too soon.”  I’m huffing and need to hang up on this conversation in order to accomplish this morning’s walk.

Spring Peeper

“Hey, I woke up in one of those post-dream phases, the phase where you’re not asleep but not quite awake, either.”  But, my friend also has to go. We say our ‘goodbyes,’ and my thoughts turn inward, dredging up memories, I mean, really distant memories – from lifetimes ago. Mostly good ones. These memories came from this morning’s dream.

A recent National Geographic study polled people around the world—including more than 600 featured in just one study—who say they experienced a new phenomenon: coronavirus pandemic dreams.

Science has long suggested that dream content and emotions are connected to well-being while we’re awake. Bizarre dreams laden with symbolism allow some dreamers to overcome intense memories or everyday psychological stressors within the safety of their subconscious.

The study concludes,

The virus is invisible, and I think that’s why it’s transformed into so many different things.”—Deirdre Barrett, Harvard University

I agree with Deirdre. The virus is invisible, and I think that’s why it’s transformed into affecting our dream state.

I keep hearing about the virus. I have lost friends to it. But, we never really see it, do we? Most of us are prevented from seeing the worst of it, even with our loved ones.

This next season of social isolation comes with a promise of a new vaccine. It’s a trade-up.

So as I was saying, I was dreaming of my childhood lunchtime trade-ups. I was in one of those post-dream phases where you’re not asleep but not quite awake, either: the best time to rein in the edges of your dream and frame it before it is erased by cornflakes and coffee and morning light.

I remained as still as possible to capture the details.

We were all back in elementary school. As dreams rarely make sense, my classmates included pint-sized versions of people I have known throughout my lifetime, even my grandmother.

No matter that she was in grade school a full 60+ years before I was; dreams are like that.

So as dreams go – 

We were out on the playground. It was recess and lunchtime and a cluster of us were sitting cross-legged in a circle near the swing set. I remember there was a teeter-totter there, too.

We were trading lunches.

  • Two Twinkies for a homemade cookie.
  • Bologna for a PBJ.
  • An apple for a Hershey Bar … (is that a fair trade, really?)

A kid named Robert was in the circle, and he had a liverwurst sandwich. This detail rang true – there really was a kid named Robert in the first grade whose mom packed a liverwurst sandwich nearly every day. Maybe his mom had told him how the iron in it would make him grow up to be a muscle man, but Robert seemed to like it and rarely traded it out. He probably wouldn’t have very many takers, anyway.

I mean, liverwurst.

It was only a dream, but it had real slices of reality sandwiched in.

Maybe you, too, shared lunchtime negotiations back in the day.

You got rid of those vegetables and Mom was none the wiser.

We are almost always alert to something better out there. Trading.

Those murky-dream-drenched lunch swaps – snippets of real memories rising to greet me during the Great Sequester of 2020 and continuing through the springtime of 2021 with the promise of a trade-up. Is there a better vaccine to conquer our isolating fear of the real thing?

Trading lunch is metaphor-speak for what many of us are actually doing these days.

Opening our lunch pail, assessing the situation, and looking up to see what tastes better on that day. Negotiating a trade, pooling our resources, helping each other survive the “liverwurst” of life.

What if?

What if we traded sorrows for singing with a chorus of peeps?

Worry for watching the patterns. What is God doing?

Anxiety for trust in the available flavors and coming flowers.

News grazing for cloud gazing.

Swollen ankles for walking the dog.

Despair for Curiosity.

Trading trauma for a sweet pet whose fur accepts our tears.

These are good swaps, life-giving, even.

Switching out the bologna for iron-rich blood, if not liverwurst, then ribeye; trading the mundane for the moment you will savor and return to for a tasty reminder during a day of scarcity.

There’s a song lyric from a favorite musical that goes like this:

The clouded sun shall brightly rise,

And songs be heard instead of sighs.”

What a glorious swap!

A chorus of songs rising up to conquer the gloom – a goofy, ravaged, joyful mix of imperfect voices rise in natural praises every day.

Gathering momentum, drowning out the cries and making sense of the sighs.

I know the swampy spring peepers will lay bitsy eggs, attaching them to vegetation in shallow waters.  They may hatch in four short days. Their dream state will end in an energetic wetland chorus.

I rouse myself from my sleepy knowledge-memories to walk amongst the happy spring peepers, now camouflaged, who are not beleaguered by any virus. Their chorus will come melodiously and noisy overnight, regardless.

Crisp late-winter Lake Erie air has done its job. My lungs are woke. My stomach rumbles.

Do you know that 24 hours before the Spring Peepers are singing under the tell-tale ‘X’ marking on their backs, they are wee black tadpoles swimming underwater? Full metamorphosis takes an uncanny 24 hours!

Oh, Get ready!

We will wake from this dreamlike state one day, looking to each other for guidance into the light of a New Normal. We will add our voices to the chorus frogs.

Pass me the Corn Flakes, I can hardly wait.

Kathy Joy
is the author of Singing Spring, one book in the Breath of Joy seasonal coffee-table series. This month, her children’s picture book released to the public, Will You Hold My Story? This Shell Silverstein-esque story features the adult idea of listening to a child’s tales in a Mister Rogers-esque neighborhood.

Click through to Amazon’s Learn More page here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RLV59WH/
Will You Hold My Story? Book Launch Activities Here: https://www.facebook.com/events/749089085979643
Find Singing Spring Gift Book A Breath of Joy here
Artistic development of a children's book, breath of joy, grief, Guides, Listening, nurturing life, second grade, short stories, Speak Wonder

Listening is Love

By Kathy Joy, author of Will You Hold My Story? a Picture Book

Listening is a verb. I looked it up. If you need a quick reminder, a verb is “a word expressing action,” according to Webster’s.

Hmmmm. “Action” suggests movement, flow, shifting, adjusting. If anything, listening seems passive, fixed, static.

We moms know a little about the action of listening. I am a mom, but I still need my mom to listen over the dining room table.

When you really think about it, listening takes a certain skill set. It involves intentionally hitting the “Pause Button” of your day and entering into another person’s story. And their story matters. Your choice to listen to it is an action of love toward them.

There’s a cute story I heard once, about a little boy who wanted desperately for his Mommy to know everything about his day. The lad burst into the kitchen where she was prepping the evening meal. As he told his fabulous story, she continued dicing, slicing and sauteing. I’m sure she heard every word; we moms are professional multi-taskers.

Still, that wasn’t enough for the boy. He became exasperated. “Mom!” he cried out. “You’re not listening!

“Oh, yes, honey. I’m listening,” she replied.

“No! I need you to listen with your eyes.”

Wow.  The kid has a point. Listening, if it’s truly an action word, involves putting down the spatula and locking eyes with the storyteller.

Listening is something we think we are doing, when in fact we are pushing the storyteller to the margins; hearing him on the periphery. We think we’ve heard the story, but oh! How much we miss.

I am guilty as charged. Countless times, I have “listened” to the ones I love while checking my phone, scanning the menu, watching the weather channel and searching for my car keys. Is this listening? Really?! No, actually, not.

I’m practicing hitting the “Pause Button”

I’m practicing hitting the “pause button” but I’m not as successful as I’d like to be.

This happened recently when my daughter tried to convey something to me in the car.

Distracted listening is not intentionally loving. It’s minimizing. The storyteller can’t be sure your mind, much less, your heart was open to retaining the information. We are telling that precious soul we are taking in words, but not absorbing the weight and importance of the words.

How likely will this lovely daughter, this marvelous human being, come back to me with new stories to tell? The odds are getting slimmer.

I need to hit the Pause Button, silence the phone, pull the car to the curb, and just listen.

Now, before you think you are already well-versed in the art of listening, I have a simple challenge: try listening with no agenda. Go ahead. Try. It’s really hard. Honestly — I sat with a friend recently. As she shared her story, pouring out her heart, I could hardly wait to find an opening and tell my own story.

This is really not okay. Because, in that place where my brain was buzzing with the answers, the opinions, the questions and my own stories, I was missing her words. And they weren’t just words; they were pieces of her heart, laid out there on the table — bare and trembling and aching to be heard.

To march in with my pat answers is a lot like pushing her stuff to the edges because my stuff is far more interesting.
That’s kind of rude.

Listening is love

Listening is love. It’s an act of the will, an intentional nod in another person’s direction. When you love the storyteller, you need to be willing to listen without formulating your answers. That person really doesn’t need your opinion; she needs your humility and grace. She needs your ear and your uncluttered mind. She needs you to lock eyes with her, so she knows without a doubt you care.

This is exhausting. No wonder listening is a verb — the action of truly listening is a workout. Your listening-muscles will ache later, but keep at it. You just never know when a storyteller needs you to be ready.

Listening is love. Just ask my mom – she’s really good at it. I’m quite sure that’s why I carry all my most precious stories to her kitchen table. She pours tea. She sits across from me and gives me the gift of her undivided attention.

Thanks, Mom! Thanks for listening with your eyes.

Kathy Joy is the author of the children’s book, Will You Hold My Story? When her husband died suddenly, she had no one to listen to her grief and so she hired a counselor. Sally, the grief counselor, wisely advised Kathy to find someone else to hold her story alongside her.  But sometimes people can be so distracted by their activities and their own families, that God decided to create pets. Dogs are especially suited for cuddling, and walking beside you, and listening to your story. Listening moms and friends are absolute treasures.

 

 

Ages 4-8 Will You Hold My Story?

Meggi Beth and old man in Will You Hold My Story? by Kathy Joy

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better together, Bridges, children's literature, Currency Exchange, featured, improvisation, ingenuity, Kathy Joy

Intricate Bridges of Strength and Beauty

It seems, in this murky year of unknowns, that we have all become bridge builders. By this, I mean we are learning to construct organic passageways between problems and solutions; we are building new platforms to help each other succeed.

A co-worker said it this way: “We are discovering new ways to do old things.”

She’s not wrong. If the word “innovative” carries any weight on a resume, then we need to add that to our portfolios.

Influencers are bridges between ideas and implementation. Let the intangible beget the tangible.

  • Friends are bridges between opportunity and reality.
  • Co-workers are bridges between dull days and brighter ones.
  • Connections are bridges between prayers and answers.

Old man walks away with his heavy stories from “Will You Hold My Story” by Kathy Joy

Recently, I was a recipient of one of these bridges between opportunity and reality and between prayers and answers. My publisher announced a connection to make my children’s book sing. “Will You Hold My Story?” is the recipient of some 32 illustrations of Brianna Osaseri, an winning artist who has agreed to produce poignant and imaginative works for the 32- page picture book.

I happened to be going through a particularly difficult time, and I can’t tell you how seeing these fascinating images elevated my sense of wonder about the story and added even more purpose.

When there’s a problem, there is a wonderful collaboration available to each of us with just an earnest request. Unseen reinforcements rush in like healthy blood to a wound. Bridges are built for walking into the future.

Virtual meetings, emails, phone calls, whatever it takes – the work is getting done and readers, or our customers, or clients are being helped.

More than a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done attitude, it’s a large-scale scaffolding that materializes right under our feet, wherever we need reinforcements. Some people call this scaffolding “answers to prayer.”  Others call it “favor,” “blessing,” “feeling the love.”  No matter what you call it, we each know when we are in desperate need of it. And, we each know when we receive it.

  • It’s a coming-together of talent, experience, and care.
  • It’s the filling of a cup.
  • It’s the measures taken to keep us safe.

These are the bridges to each other’s stories, and to hope.

I, for one, am looking more closely at life for any random blessings that can provide walkways to better days for me and maybe for you:

  • an encouraging message on your voice mail, “Don’t think that for one moment, you are forgotten, Deary!”
  • that cup of coffee on a cold morning, and reading the review someone left on your last book.
  • a holiday card, whether it’s full of giggles or full of pathos,
  • help from a co-worker on a difficult issue
  • passing along someone’s story explaining a surprising twist of events when their own need was answered, miraculously
  • savoring the unique texture of a loved-one’s voice;

all of these, and more, are carrying us and moving us forward.

One of my favorite ways to help someone else along is to congratulate them with words or cards for an accomplishment.

It would be so easy for me to ignore their big win and to think, “Why isn’t it my day to reach the summit?”

My guess is, we will emerge from this wilderness seasoned hikers.

Do you recall doing something like this? As a child, I’d grin showing an adult my palms up, the inside of my cathedral made of my interwoven fingers, and I’d sing, “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open it up and here’s all the people!” Then, hiding all my fingers, I’d ask the patient adult, “Where are all the people?”

We adults still need other patient adults to make us some two-way bridges, don’t we? I need to show up for you on the bridge.  You need to show up for yourself and also for someone else on your bridge. Let’s look for one new way to receive a good step forward.  Let’s offer a bridge to someone else today in kindness or compassion.

At the summit, we will look down to see we have built networks, catwalks and swinging bridges we’d never before imagined. Intricate networks.

When you’ve built a bridge, you’ve constructed a cathedral of strength and beauty.

Even if it is intangible.

Kathy Joy, authorKathy Joy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Messiah College (Grantham, Pennsylvania) having majored in Journalism and Communication. Her career focused on radio journalism and later on government social work for family members with children in the Pennsylvania system of health and welfare. She is the author of four previous books, the series called Breath of Joy.
Her personal philosophy is that “by telling our stories, we give others permission to unload their own weights and worries.”

Most recently, Kathy Joy’s children’s book is scheduled to be published early in 2021, entitled, “Will You Hold My Story?” It features a stray little pooch and a stray, tired Meggi Beth (depicted by artist, Brianna Osaseri).

Kathy is an enthusiastic supporter of therapy dogs and dogs-in-general – they are loyal friends and excellent listeners.
As the author of four seasonal books, a social media influencer and inspirational speaker, Kathy Joy has found her voice in the world of children’s literature.
Kathy holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communication and says her favorite semester at Messiah College included the study of children’s books.

What is Your Next Must-Read?

Listen to a Creative podcast for creatives: https://pencilsandlipstick.libsyn.com/seeking-a-truce

 

Artistic development of a children's book, National Children's Grief Awareness Day, op-ed, Will You Hold My Story?

A Picture Book to be Aware of a Child’s Grief

traipsing home from school
Artist’s Sketch Meggi Beth in different perspectives

Busy woman in title Will You Hold My Story
Choosing the color scheme for the busy woman in Will You Hold My Story? picture book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The late Mister Rogers is quoted as saying, “It’s ok to not be ok.”

November includes the National Children’s Grief Awareness Day, a day to honor kids who are grieving – in any season – and particularly as we journey into the holidays.

Children need to feel safe inside the space of their sorrow.

They need to tell about their story and tell about it to someone who is safe and available to hear it.

For Meggi Beth, it’s been hard lately to carry the weight of her story, which you may sense is a story of grief. In the picture book, “Will You Hold My Story?”, (artistry by Brianna Osaseri), this lovable little girl is patiently waiting for someone else to ease her burden. An endearing children’s book is one that carries meaning for both children and grownups.

Meggi Beth discovers two things along the way: a secret and a story-bearer who becomes a treasured friend. Settle in and get acquainted with the delightful characters who stop by to comfort Meggi Beth.

You may even recognize yourself in the story.

Scene from Will You Hold My Story
Artist’s Sketch Old Man Passing By Meggi Beth

Meggi Beth and old man in Will You Hold My Story? by Kathy Joy

Will You Hold My Story
Artist’s sketch Old Man Pats Meggi Beth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sketch Will You Hold My Story
Artist’s Sketch Old Man’s Face Closeup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Will You Hold My Story?” by Kathy Joy, to be released in February 2021.

ah autumn, breath of joy, children's literature, compassion, Currency Exchange, featured, ingenuity, Kathy Joy, op-ed

The Currency of Caring

So many of life’s decisions are money-driven: which college is most affordable for my graduate? … will the family be okay if something happens to me? … should I retire now, or wait a few years? … are those investments growing or will they be in the tank soon? Curbside, or in-store shopping?

It’s a luxury, really, to be able to ask these questions. Many of the families we affect through our writings are wondering how to heat the house, never mind investments or 401-K’s.

They are scrambling to keep the kids in school and deciding which creditors can be paid this month. Sure, some regrettable choices have landed them in a world of hurt, but aren’t we all one emotion shy of making the wrong choice?

Our resilient hearts are possibly the most valuable currency we have. One thing we can all bank on, for sure: we have the currency of caring.

ah autumn places your gps cannot locate
intersection of Hurt and Healing, the crossroads of Anger & Release, and the junction of Loss & Joy.

These intangibles — these treasures of survival —  are the currency that can never be stolen, lost or wrongly invested.

Let’s take a look at our impressive portfolio:

We have …

  • The bankroll of unexpected blessings.
  • The treasury of compassion.
  • The cache of childlike wonder.
  • The treasure chest of non-judgment.
  • The abundance of laughter.
  • The nest egg of Resilience.
  • The wealth of watchfulness; of caring for ourselves and each other.
  • The riches of simple joys, shared.

We have the coinage of humility; something we all should carry like extra quarters in our pockets if only to feed the meter of kindness.

Tending to life.

A brief little phrase that packs a wallop.

Can we all just take a moment for:

  • An elbow-bump, maybe even an air hug?
  • How about making soup for a shut in neighbor?
  • Taking a few minutes to shovel the sidewalk for someone else?

polished beach glass rough and tumbleIt just feels like Hope x 1,000 when I look around and see us tending to life.

As we continue being tossed and jostled by the turbulent waters of Covid-19 and a contentious election year, may we emerge smoothed and beautiful – like polished beach glass.

Kathy Joy is the author of the Breath of Joy Series and Will You Hold My Story, a child’s picture book, to be released in early 2021.
Kathy Joy, author

Book cover draft Will You Hold My Story

 

ISBN: 9780997162561 Our best-selling memoir by Golden Writers Joseph Byk and Lynn Byk. Funny, life-giving and wise.

Old man pats girl in title, Will You Hold My Story? by Kathy Joy

Old man walks away with his heavy stories from “Will You Hold My Story” by Kathy Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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