Hope In Spite of Everything, #WQWWC

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The year 2020 has been difficult for a lot of people, all over the world, affecting different individuals in different ways. The pandemic brought some difficulties to me, although some trials were already in place apart from it.

Thankfully, the virus itself did not hurt me or my loved ones very directly. I do live in the New York City area, one of the areas hardest hit early on in the spring of 2020, and I remember continuously reading of a new victim of the virus in my Facebook feed. Only one of my brothers may have had the virus, but he was never sick enough, thankfully, to be hospitalized.

My animal care business came to almost a standstill, partly because nobody could travel and, partly because working people, who sometimes needed care for their animals while they were away from home, were now working at home. A few years earlier, I’d already lost my job as a newspaper reporter, a job I enjoyed and held for 10 years.

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

My job loss from the paper coincided almost exactly with my mother developing some health issues: breast cancer, which, scary as it sounds, was not as great an issue for her in the long run as something more crippling, a severe spinal issue that left her chair-bound and in agonizing pain whenever she tried to move. Strangely, these two health issues for mom, as different as they are, developed simultaneously. Mom had to have some scans done for her cancer, and the nurses were shocked to see how excruciating it was for her to get her body in position for the scans. It was, perhaps, a blessing to my parents that I was home and able to be my mother’s caretaker, but it also made things complicated for me personally. I now had a “job” that was consuming most of my time and energy but wasn’t paying me and was making it challenging for me to do something that would pay me.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Then, in August, I had another setback when my father and I were both attacked by a dog I was caring for. For my father, the injury was serious enough to require two surgeries. (The function of his hand is fine. One surgery closed the wound, and another was a skin graft.) This made me wary for a long time of taking in unknown animals.

I had all sorts of hopes for myself as a writer and book author and built this website shortly after my newspaper job ended, but it seemed I had countless distractions and obstacles to even giving my site the attention it deserved and needed. To frustrate things further, I experienced a computer failure, and for a very long period had no access to any of my book works in progress. Anyone who is a writer can feel the pain of this scene below from Little Women, though unlike Jo, in spite of very frustrating circumstances, my document losses were not permanent.

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

In spite of all of this, in recent times, I am feeling more hopeful than ever, downright cheerful even. I am a strong believer and have always had hope in God even through my problems, but there were times when I thought His ideas for my life must be very different from mine. That is probably still somewhat true, but I also feel that He just might indulge some of the hopes I have for myself.

There has just been a snowball effect of hopeful changes in my life. My mom’s pain has greatly improved for mysterious reasons. Spinal surgery seemed to fix things temporarily, but this was followed by a serious and lasting regression. Now, for unknown reasons, she is better, not perfect, but better. Both of my aging parents require more of my help than at an earlier time, but mom is also more independent than she was at her painful worst, which frees my time up considerably.

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

I am beginning to get more and more animal care jobs and new clients, and, in between things, amazingly, I am finding time to write. Writing and creative expression seem so key to my happiness.

Just a short while ago, I took a walk with a little doggy and prayed that God would help me be creative. I’ve already explained that I’m a strong believer. I talk to God often, and I like to be creative. I don’t know how often I pray to be creative. Seconds later, I looked at a tree I was walking past, described it in my head, then later reworked it into a haiku and posted it to the blog with a photo of the tree. That little haiku became my most popular post.

I thought to myself that haiku are short and simpler to write than a novel or a long article that requires research. If I have an audience for haiku, I ought to write more of them. One thing led to another in a way I’m not sure I can even explain, but I became aware of blogging poetry challenges and poetry communities on WordPress. I began writing more poetry and just about quadrupled my blog views and engagement, at least on some days. I felt I was connecting with people and not just putting out words into the stratosphere that went who knows where. I still want to write novels and articles and all sorts of things, but I think I will continue to write poetry also.

I did not plan, at first, to make this post so personal, but I suppose, what is applicable here to you as the reader, is that, no matter how dismal things may look at a certain time, you can never tell how future events may unfold in a positive way.

Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

I know not all of my followers share my exact beliefs, but bear with me. I’d like to share a song on hope that comes from a Christian faith point of view. Somewhat recently, I watched a video on CCM music put out by an unbelieving (or at least neutral) YouTuber, who shared that it was his least favorite musical genre. In many ways, I agree with him, which might surprise you after what I just told you. I feel much of today’s CCM music is lacking in creativity (and sometimes has some other issues.) The YouTuber made an interesting comment as an outsider, sharing that he feels that music of faith should have a lot of passion, feeling and conviction. This is a Southern gospel song, and I don’t think you will find any lack of feeling or conviction here. It has some poetic lyrics.

The hope that is within us, erupting from the sand

Is pure and clear refreshment in a dry and weary land,

No scorching circumstances can stop that eager flow

of hope that springs eternal. It’s hope that floods my soul.

This was written for Marsha Ingrao’s Writer’s Quotes Wednesday Writing Challenge. Marsha assured me that I had a week to get in my participating post. I see I’m getting mine in just in the nick of time.

10 Ways to Reduce Stress and Lift a Low Mood


I know a number of people going through stressful situations right now, and I also have some stress. It’s important to take a little self-care to reduce stress and its effects.

Below is a list of 10 ways to reduce stress and lift a low mood. Most of them involve distracting yourself from the cause of stress. When you have some problems and issues, you may have to schedule some time to think out creative solutions. Often though, our thoughts on our problems are not constructive and are just worries. Learn to recognize when your thoughts are constructive or worries. Worry is not helpful, and often we worry over things over which we have no control.

  1. Pray
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

You may or may not be a person of faith, but it is very stress relieving to turn over situations you can’t control to Someone who can.

2. Exercise

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Exercise is healthy both mentally and physically. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Runners sometimes talk about a “runners’ high.” I like dance exercise which has a number of benefits. It is good exercise for your brain, since it involves learning choreography. Some studies seem to show it can help prevent Alzheimer’s. There may be social benefits if you go to a class, which may also help your mood. If you dance or do other exercise to music, you will also be ticking off two items on this list at once.

3. Do something creative. 

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Doing creative things is a fun outlet for self-expression and emotion and helps to relax you. Both visual art and writing can have therapeutic benefits. Both visual art and writing have been scientifically proven to help people with trauma and negative emotions. You could sketch, scrapbook, journal, do creative writing or participate in any number of artistic hobbies. You could even combine writing and visual art in an art journal. Adult coloring books have been trendy for a while, and some doctors are recommending them to their patients for their therapeutic benefits. Even if you don’t feel you’re Michelangelo, you can play with colors and enjoy an adult coloring book.

4. Read a good book.

Photo by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash

Reading for fun in a quiet atmosphere is also relaxing and an escape from stress. The same may not apply to reading a computer manual or a textbook. When a friend read my novel, Action Men with Silly Putty, he wrote to me saying, “I laughed so hard that I may not have depression or anxiety anymore.” It was nice to hear, and I considered it quite a compliment. If you’re in a low mood, be selective with your reading. This may not be the time to break out Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, (as much as I like that book, play and movie.)

5. Listen to music.


Music can also play a part in emotional well-being. Speaking from experience, I believe the right music can aid sleep and be therapeutic for migraine pain relief. As with books, be selective with your listening. I remember reading how some teenagers committed suicide after listening to songs that seemed to encourage it. Some people are also very sensitive to songs in a minor key that have a sad sound. Listen to songs that are uplifting or encourage a cheerful or peaceful mood.

6. Talk to someone.

Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash

Sometimes, it just helps to talk to someone about your troubles. If you have such a someone in your life, you have found a treasure. Some may try to help you solve your troubles. Others may just listen and sympathize. It may just be helpful to know you have an ally who understands your feelings.

7. Make an effort to think on positive things.

Photo by Krista Margulson on Unsplash

Yes, looking at cute animals like the ones above is good for your health. Cuddling one, if you have a pet at home, is even better. It isn’t just cute animals that put positive thoughts in your brain. Sometimes, when I am stressed, I look at my Pinterest collections of inspirational quotes, uplifting Scripture verses and photography of nature scenes, flowers and animals. It’s good to remind yourself of hope and beauty in the world.

8. Read up on uplifting news and acts of philanthropy.

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

Headline news is full of tragedy, crime and controversy, but there are other stories. Focusing on negativity in the world can be depressing. As a reporter, I was often informed of churches and other organizations and their philanthropic efforts. They help the hungry, the homeless, orphans, abused children and animals and victims of natural disasters. They advocate for and raise funds for disease research. For every issue you can imagine, there are people helping to make things better. It’s better to focus on this aspect of things.

9. Watch and/or listen to comedy.

Photo by David Yanotuma on Unsplash

Laughter isn’t just frivolous. It’s actually good for you. Laughter relieves your stress response, soothes tension, improves your immune system, relieves pain and improves your mood. Watch or listen to some comedy in your down time to help relieve some tension. Sirius radio has a comedy station or two that you can listen to during your commute.

10. Do something kind for someone else.

Photo by Evan Kirby on Unsplash

Doing a kind act for someone else can feel very satisfying. It helps to get your mind off of yourself and your own difficulties. Going through some difficulty can also encourage your sympathetic feelings for someone else also going through a hard time. You can tick two items off this list by creating a handmade card of encouragement for someone you know.