Here’s one gift David’s cancer has given me.
I’ve become obsessed with enjoying the little joys both doled out happily and received gratefully.
It’s these little sparks of pleasure that enable me to push away the constant worries and what-ifs that always threaten to crash my mental party.
I’m finding that small joys are the perfect antidote to big stressors and unlimited uncertainty — and so I’m all in.
So that means when I saw that the advent calendars were back at one of my favorite stores, Trader Joe’s, I was excited.
Last year I bought ten before they sold out, and so I had to cross a couple people off my list. And that included me; every time my kids opened up their calendar, I kicked myself that I hadn’t bought myself one, too. I wasn’t making that mistake again.
I bought twenty seven!
Why do we adults think we need to age out of certain child-like joys? We need them more than ever!
I wrapped these calendars up in vintage wrapping paper because I wanted the recipients to know that this wasn’t just a fly-by thing; I really wanted them to embrace this small thing because I’ve seen over the years how much delight they can bring.
Instead of writing out cards for each, I let this simple quote on joy explain what I was trying to convey.
So I wrote out these little tags
packaged them all up,
and walked around my neighborhood dropping merriment on doorstops everywhere.
I got such a kick from all the texts of smiling faces, and more than one mom told me she’d never bought herself one and was so happy to have one of her very own.
So there’s been those deliveries.
I’ve also been making potpies like crazy and three families besides my own have been the beneficiary of some cast-iron love.
I looked around my community and picked a couple people that could use a little TLC (trust me, they look even better after cooking when they are golden and bubbly).
And I’ve been making soup, too — both for personal consumption and for sharing.
This chicken soup was a favorite this week.
The soup started with a golden-hued homemade chicken stock, couscous bulked it up, chicken added protein and asparagus, shaved broccoli, radicchio, parsley and cilantro added color and nutrients.
Wouldn’t you love to find this on your doorstep?
And with the weather cooling, these Chewy Ginger cookies have been in constant rotation, too (sometimes large, topped with crunchy sugar and other times smaller, served iced).
Have you tried these cookies yet?
Here’s the recipe for one of my all time favorites cookies, and I’ve recently been experimenting with different icings, my preferred one being the lemony confectioner’s sugar one (later versions had the zest, too).
Speaking of joys, this week had us back at Providence Cancer Center for an immunotherapy appointment.
Unfortunately David’s kidney functions numbers were a little worrisome so we weren’t able to get the Keytruda (and were sent off to EKG and ultrasound instead which thankfully showed no further issues), but we were able to scatter treats and smiles everywhere we went.
This week I gave out almost 70 pieces of candy (in infusion room, in waiting rooms, at nurse’s stations and even in elevators) and a couple dozen of those ginger cookies — including a freshly baked box to our oncologist who last time requested something homemade.
I made sure to include a thank you note with it; we are so fortunate to have such a brilliant, compassionate doctor fighting for us.
One of the most poignant interactions I had was with an elderly couple who sat together in the waiting room, holding hands. We talked for a minute, and they asked why I brought treats. I told them it was my way to neutralize a very intimidating and worrisome place and inject cheer to those who might need it. It was my way to flip the script on cancer– I was turning this sad place into Trick or Treat Central every time.
I asked them what brought them there today.
“We both have cancer”, said the woman worriedly. He told me of her sickness. She filled me in on his. “For forty-six years we’ve done everything together, and so it sort of makes sense we’re doing this together, too.” They were diagnosed within one week of each other with different cancers.
So, yes, cheer is in short supply in places like this. But I can’t tell you how much happiness I get when I see people’s faces light up when I open up the Love Box in front of them and I invite them to take as many as they want — and urge them to stick some in their bags for later (several people took a big handful!).
Over the last four months, so many nurses have pulled me aside and thanked me. I walked in this week and one of my favorites yelled out “Yay! It’s the Love Box Lady!” (I’ve been called worse.)
So small joys doled out, and like a wonderful benefit, other joys keep pouring in.
I’ve had so many wonderful lunches out.
Breakfast with a friend.
And we’ve been enjoying treats dropped off on our porch.
I’d never had Gooey Butter Cake before but a friend’s Mom made it for me (to thank me for a pot pie) and it was delicious!
And last but not least, whenever I need a quick infusion of flat out pleasure, I stroll one of our farmers’ market and I feast on all the visual beauty.
I love all kinds of lettuces and there were some spectacular ones out there.
The flower arrangements were lovely, too.
And I loved seeing such artfully composed wreaths as well.
We are so fortunate to have such outstanding markets here — and this PSU one downtown is now year-round.
So joy. Give as much as you can– no kindness is too small!–and allow yourself to receive any and all joys that cross your path.
Look at this quote I pulled recently from a 1950’s scrapbook.
One last word on joy.
Don’t forget to indulge often
and don’t forget your four-legged friends.
Whenever I take Pork Chop in the car with me, I always look for a little something for him, too.
It might be a gratin potato sample from Trader Joe’s
or that very beloved last bite from a food cart topped off with a little something extra.
Be well, friends.