Thank you for joining us this November month of 2023 as we celebrated caregivers during National Family Caregivers Month and our Hope Grows 8th Annual Celebrating YOU! event, our 7th Annual Bob Evans Turkey Meal Deliveries, and Gladness, our Focus of the Month!

This month, we talked about the importance of “taking a break” and shared ways to do this in “just 10 minutes.” I was able to be a witness of a common theme of “gladness” in the air at our events, as everyone began to experience “rest” and “connection” with each other.

How suitable that the famous quote “there are only four kinds of people in the world: those that have been caregivers, those that are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers,” is being widely circulated this month.

If you follow any movement of advocacy for caregivers, you are familiar with Rosalyn Carter, God rest her soul. The former first lady, founder of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers died on November 19. She established the institute in 1987, to promote the health, strength, and resilience of America’s 53 million family caregivers. I think we can all be glad and express thanks and appreciation for her work.

“Being thankful is the quickest path to joy,” said Jefferson Bethke, a best-selling author of Take Back Your Family and Jesus, Religion and It’s Not What You Think. Thankfulness and joyfulness is at the root of gladness. The dictionary tells us that gladness is a type of happiness, an emotion one experiences when in a state of well-being.

So, why are we not in this state of well-being all of the time? Easy! Stress! It is a fluent part of our daily lives and impacts our emotions; it just isn’t possible to maintain a constant state of happiness. Is that okay? I think so. This is why healthy coping mechanisms are crucial and cultivating a balance in life is an important practice.

For those that know me, I am the grandmother to 8 beautiful human beings. Watching their growth from a perspective of a seasoned mother and a mental health therapist has truly become a constant state of behavioral observation. Of the 8 children, two of them are girls, and I am and have been a witness to my 6- and 13-year-old granddaughters, both in very different development and emotional states. Nonetheless, they both live with a constant ebb and flow between happiness (gladness) and a state of, what I call “childhood hysteria.” This frenzy is normal and what I see them doing is coping appropriately. Their parents have given them the tools to bounce back into a state of gladness (happiness, if you will) when stress or something doesn’t go, in their mind, correctly.

Gladness, or the feeling of happiness and joy, can have significant positive psychological effects on stress. When you experience gladness, it often counteracts the impact of stress in several ways. Reduction in stress hormones, improved resilience, and a positive mindset are just a few.

Healthy coping mechanisms are a form of mindfulness, exercise, social support, and problem-solving skills. I truly believe though, for my two granddaughters, part of the success is they just don’t stay in an unpleasant emotion for too long. As most children, they can bounce from the stressful unpleasant moment quickly, if given the right environment.

Stress is a natural part of life, and the key to managing it effectively is by finding a balance between the stress and gladness. Our Hope Grows Care Model includes ways to find that balance and, in that moment, I believe is a place of equilibrium where we find a more empowered, fulfilled, and resilient person, which then reinforces the reason to be in this state of well-being.

Our state of mind is so full of emotions, why wouldn’t we want to feel more than just gladness all of the time? After all, an unpleasant emotion often can lead to change. If I didn’t experience sadness, Hope Grows may not exist. The mission grew from sadness and grief; good things can happen when we experience unpleasant emotions. The important part is knowing how to cope: “take a break” daily and don’t linger in the unpleasant for too long.

So, go into the last month of the 2023 with the thought of cultivating gladness, as it can create a ripple effect of positivity. Some suggestions are to laugh and smile (even when it’s hard to), seek learning and growth, positive self-talk, acts of kindness, engage in activities you enjoy, and implement a gratitude practice. Practicing gratitude and almsgiving changes our brain chemistry. More on that later, but what a great month to give of yourself and let the world know how glad you are to express YOU through giving. The return is worth it…A Glad and Joyful Heart.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Written by Lisa Story, MSCP, LPC, CT
Hope Grows Founder & Clinical Director

Notes from the Garden: Coffee & Connection

October Plant of the Month: Coffea arabica

doTERRA Essential Oil of the Month: Douglas Fir

On the global level of plant consumption and connection, coffee is an international mogul. It’s one of the top ten most traded commodities in the world, and it serves to connect. There are estimates of 125 million people employed by the coffee industry, either in growing, roasting, exporting, or retail. Chances are, the labor of many different hands, from many different lands, have gone into the next cup of coffee you enjoy.

We drink 2.6 billion cups of coffee worldwide every day. The rise of coffeehouse culture has put one on nearly every corner in major American metropolises and beyond, bringing in folks from the community not only to enjoy a hot cup of coffee made their way, but also to socialize, connect, and exchange information. It seems the coffee bean is bringing us all together.

The coffee bean is actually the seed of the coffee plant. It has sweet-smelling flowers and grows in a tropical weather band around the equator, called the “bean belt,” that spans 70 countries! The seed is found in the fruit, or red “coffee cherry.” When it’s picked, and before they’re roasted, the seeds are green and have a vegetable taste. After the cherries are harvested, the seeds are extracted through a pulping and fermentation process, then dried in the sun. This prepares them for roasting, a complex, alchemical drying process where the nuances of each coffee’s flavor profile are coaxed out at temps of 400 degrees.

Here, the seed is transformed into the bean we know and love. You don’t want just anyone roasting your coffee. This process is so crucial that seconds can make the difference between a perfectly roasted batch of coffee and one that’s considered ruined. Flavor palates like fruity, floral, robust, or chocolaty are all enhanced by roasting. You know that transporting scent of freshly ground coffee? Thank the roaster.

Coffee builds community, one cup at a time. You can always find it at Hope Grows, for every meeting, gathering, and support group. As humans, we are hardwired to connect, both with each other and the natural world. This is something never to be taken for granted, especially in any healing process.

One of the greatest lessons that Hope Grows has taught me is the value of human connection, and to never underestimate its power. In fact, one of Hope Grows’ signature essential oils is called “Abundantly Connected,” and for good reason. Connection moves people, while working to support and unify one another. So many connections run deeper than we can imagine, as there is so much the eye can’t see.

As you enjoy your next cup of coffee, ponder this: data scientist Riccardo Sabatini printed out the entire human genome and wheeled it onstage for his 2016 TED talk. All told, it takes up 262,000 densely printed pages. Of those 262,000 pages, only 500 of them, a mere .19%, comprise the number of pages of genetic code that contains what makes us different from one another. The other 261,500 pages, or 99.81%, of our genetic code is shared by all humans on the planet. Sometimes, connecting over a good cup of coffee may just help us find what’s been there all along.

Gives new meaning to the question: wanna get a cup of coffee?

Written by Jessica Giannotta, Hope Grows Horticulturist

Reflections from the Iris Respite House Healing Gardens September 2023

“The earth laughs in flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Laughter knows no bounds. Like the natural world, it serves to connect. Truth and innocence often carry it. It can serve to link us together when we least expect it, even in the scariest of moments, and the best ones are simply unforgettable. We need good laughs, like we need each other. It’s part of what connects us as humans. And, in today’s market of stress-relieving products, it can ease suffering without costing a cent.

The therapeutic effects of laughter on the mind and body are well documented. It’s a powerful healer. The next time you laugh so hard you pee your pants, think about this: a hearty laugh ripples through the motor cortex, which is involved in muscle control (including the bladder!), the frontal lobe (which helps one understand context), and the limbic system (which modulates positive emotions). It creates social bonds, builds resiliency, facilitates intimacy, increases immune cells and antibodies, relieves tension and stress, and can lower levels of anxiety and depression. As someone who has battled high levels of anxiety, I can vouch for how much genuine laughter can temper it. Even better: you can never overdose!

Like bouquets of flowers, good laughs always leave you wanting more. I discovered that the physiological benefits of laughter actually parallel the ones experienced by people who are enjoying a bouquet of flowers, even more so if they spend any amount of time arranging them. They both can trigger the release of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, the “feel better hormones,” as well as reduce levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone.” They both serve to create social bonds, facilitate an appreciation for life, can lower anxiety, and help lift depression. Looks like Emerson had it right!

This fall, as you enjoy the earth’s autumnal laughter of flowers, see if you can spot some autumn crocuses. They have a chalice shaped flower, like that of the spring blooming crocus, but autumn crocus flowers are a bit larger. My favorite part of this plant is the unique quality of blooming long after the foliage has died back, like resurrection lilies. That’s how autumn crocuses got the common name “naked ladies,” since it’s only the flower that comes up in the fall. To anyone who didn’t know the plant, with such a long stretch of time in between foliage dye back and the “naked” flowers, it could be one of the earth’s more unexpected autumn laughs.

Genuine laughter, like great music, can’t be forced. It has to move through you from the inside out. That’s why, when it’s real, it’s such a gift. And it almost always has a great story behind it. I leave you with this: I’ve been writing this month’s blog from a cabin in the woods where my extended family has gathered for the week to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday. After a day of hiking, I had the door shut, my laptop open, and was researching the health benefits of laughter when my cousin came in the room. After chatting calmly with me for a few moments, her facial expression changed drastically when she felt what she was sure was a tick bite her on her rearend. Mind you, she was completely covered from the mid-neck down. I don’t know how any insect would have even gotten beyond her outer layer of clothing. Nevertheless, without wasting a moment, she dropped her pants in a panic right in front of me and had to make sure there were no ticks attached to her in any way. Turns out it had been a piece of plastic that had gotten lodged in her underwear! We both laughed so hard it hurt. When I finally caught my breath, before my oxytocin levels had come down, I marveled at the moment. Innocence and truth had us riding the waves of laughter once again. And my anxiety? Nowhere in sight.

Written by Jessica Giannotta, Hope Grows Horticulturist


E.E. Cummings said, “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” What a great focus for September, along with a fabulous topic for discussion. September for me is all about the change of seasons, students and teachers returning to school, and the beginning of harvest time. My hope is that not only for myself, but for everyone to find the integration of laughter in their daily lives this month.

Laughter is a universal human behavior that involves the rhythmic contraction of muscles, typically resulting in sound and sometimes tears. It plays a significant role in social interactions, communication, and emotional expression. Moreover, laughter has been linked to various health benefits, both physical and psychological. Some ways in which laughter can help with our health:

· Stress reduction

· Pain management

· Immune system boost

· Cardiovascular benefits

· Muscle relaxation

· Social bonding

· Coping mechanisms

· Mood enhancement

· Cognitive benefits

· Enhanced quality of life

Wow! With that many health benefits, who wouldn’t want to laugh?! It’s worth noting that not all laughter is the same. Genuine laughter, often referred to as “real” or “spontaneous” laughter, is more likely to produce these positive effects compared to forced or fake laughter. Additionally, humor is subjective, and what may be funny to one person might not be amusing to another.

While laughter has numerous health benefits, it’s important to remember that it’s not a substitute for professional medical treatment when needed. However, integrating humor and laughter into your daily routine can contribute to a more positive and resilient mindset, which can have a positive impact on your overall health and well-being.

Caregivers often have demanding and challenging roles, and they may find it difficult to prioritize self-care, including laughter. However, we can incorporate a message from Dr. Seuss: “From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.” Incorporating laughter into our lives can have positive effects with the quality of care we provide. Some helpful tips to find moments of joy and laughter include:

· Acknowledge the importance of laughter

· Create opportunities for laughter

· Share laughter

· Connect with others

· Practice mindfulness

· Use humor as a coping strategy

· Stay open to playfulness

· Incorporate laughter into routine

· Practice gratitude

· Lead by example

· Seek support

Remember that laughter doesn’t have to be forced or contrived; however, trying integrative therapies for laughter can be valuable. As a therapeutic tool, laughter as therapy can promote physical, emotional and psychological well-being. These therapies aim to harness the benefits of laughter in a structured and intentional way. Some examples include:

· Laughter yoga

· Humor therapy

· Comedy and improv workshops

· Laughter meditation

· Laughter clubs

· Laughter wellness

· Humor in therapy

· Laughter retreats

· Online laughter sessions

It’s important to note that integrative therapies involving laughter are not a replacement for medical treatment when necessary. These therapies are meant to complement traditional healthcare approaches and promote holistic well-being. Before participating in any integrative therapy, individuals should consult their healthcare providers, especially if they have underlying medical conditions or concerns.

In researching the topic of laughter, I was glad to see so many interesting ways in which laughter can be used and the impact it can have. I will leave you with once last thought: with the concept of nature, “laughing” is often used metaphorically to describe the beauty, vitality, and joyful aspects of the natural world. It is a poetic way to express the idea that nature can evoke feelings of happiness, awe, and wonder. I will save the ways in which the metaphorical “laughter of nature” can be understood for our upcoming Celebrating You! caregiver event being held on November 8, 2023.

Until then, laugh, laugh, and laugh!


The focus for the month of August is Temptation. The focus was chosen due to the apple trees bearing fruit at this time of year, with harvest soon to follow. Autumn season is fast approaching at the Iris Respite House & Healing Gardens, as the squirrels begin to gnaw at the hickory nuts in the tree next to the Hope Grows administrative offices on the property.

What do apples have to do with temptation? Well, for starters, the Victorian era of representation tells us that the apple tree symbolizes temptation. From some religious accounts and beliefs, temptation is heavily rooted in the Old Testament story of Adam and Eve, whereby the devil enticed Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.

According to the story of the golden apples in the Garden of Hesperides, the unnamed fruit became the apple. From then on, it became a symbol for knowledge, immortality, temptation, and the fall of man and sin.

Is it not, though, that temptation refers to the desire or inclination to do something that is often seen as wrong, forbidden, or detrimental? It’s a psychological and emotional state where individuals are drawn to actions that might provide immediate pleasure or gratification but can have negative consequences in the long run. Temptation can be linked to various aspects of human behavior, such as personal ethics, self-control, and decision-making.

How does this interconnect with caregiving? We all know that individuals providing care to others contributes to the breakdown of our overall health. There is proven research with this, and the many caregivers for whom Hope Grows provides support share with us that they are struggling with overall wellness. The role of a caregiver is emotionally, physically, and mentally demanding, which, in turn, can lead some to various forms of temptation that can impact their overall health.

The suggestions below have been introduced as things to be mindful about. I am hoping you will consider these as encouragement to pay attention and not ignore, as taking heed can avoid temptations.

Stress and Coping: Caregiving can be stressful due to the constant responsibilities, long hours, and the emotional toll of witnessing a loved one’s or patient’s suffering. In times of high stress, caregivers might be tempted to engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating, smoking, or excessive alcohol consumption, which can negatively affect their health.

Self-Care Neglect: Caregivers often prioritize the needs of those they care for, neglecting their own well-being in the process. This temptation to put others first and neglect self-care can lead to burnout, fatigue, and declining physical health.

Lack of Time: Caregivers may struggle to find time for their own needs and activities. This lack of time might lead to temptation for unhealthy habits, like skipping meals, not getting enough exercise, or not getting enough sleep, all of which can adversely impact their health.

Emotional Strain: Witnessing the suffering or gradual decline of a loved one can be emotionally challenging. Caregivers might be tempted to suppress their emotions or avoid seeking support, leading to mental health issues like depression or anxiety.

Financial Stress: Caregiving can also lead to financial strain, especially if it affects the caregiver’s ability to work or requires additional expenses for medical care. Financial pressures can lead to temptation for risky financial decisions or unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Social Isolation: Caregivers may become socially isolated as their caregiving duties consume most of their time and energy. This isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and further temptations for unhealthy behaviors as they lack support and social interactions.

Guilt: Caregivers may feel guilty about taking time for themselves or seeking help from others. This guilt can create temptation to avoid self-care and focus solely on the care receiver, which can have detrimental effects on their health.

It is essential for caregivers to recognize the challenges they face and prioritize their own well-being. Seeking support from friends, family, or support groups can help alleviate some of the emotional burden. Establishing a routine that includes time for self-care, exercise, and relaxation is crucial for maintaining good health. Additionally, seeking professional help, such as counseling or therapy, can be beneficial in managing stress and emotions.

Overall, being aware of the temptations and challenges, and taking proactive steps to address them, is vital for maintaining caregiver health. Consider Hope Grows for your caregiver support. Call us at 412-369-HOPE (4673) extension 101, email, or fill out the Caregiver Sign-Up Form here on our website.


When I think of liberty and all that comes with that word, I think of July 4th, fireworks, and our freedoms in the United States. I also think about the brave men and women who died to give us that right. Our focus for the month of July is liberty. We spent the month talking about ways in which caregivers can have liberty to implement care for self.

By definition, liberty refers to “the freedom to make choices and pursue activities that align with one’s values, goals, and preferences.” When there is no freedom to live our lives according to our own desires, it contributes negatively to our emotional well-being. Having the ability to make choices and have autonomy fosters a sense of control, self-determination, and fulfillment.

George Washington once said, “Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.” I can see why George Washington said this; the United States is an example of rapid growth of liberty and freedoms since the founding of our country. Humanity and society were able to foster positive emotional well-being; be all you can be was the result.

Who doesn’t want that kind of liberty and freedom? It is pretty clear the reason so many people are migrating here: to partake in the positive emotional benefits of being able to make choices and have autonomy.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” I recently saw a news channel segment of a New York neighborhood with 100,000 immigrants living in a hotel with overflow onto the streets. How is this liberty? Was the country they came from so awful that living on the street is better? I think about a quote from Abraham Lincoln, “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” I question who is responsible for denying these immigrants the choice to pursue the liberties in their native country and should it not be the financial responsibility of their native country? To help this situation that is now a responsibility to the communities within our country?

We can argue immigration policies to death, regardless of the political side, but the point remains; the amount of people immigrating here are becoming the responsibility of communities, leaving many members of society without a sense of control.

I digress this month with a tirade of libertarian thoughts and it comes with no apologies as I am merely questioning the responsibility of the recent immigration surge. None the less, liberty and all that it means is relatable to caregiving and care receiving. Communities bearing the responsibility are now being the caregivers of the immigrants receiving support.

By embracing our freedom to engage with nature and recognizing our reciprocal connection, we can experience a greater sense of liberty, find solace and rejuvenation in nature, and contribute to the well-being of the environment and ourselves.

Moving forward with the importance of liberty, managing the caregiver stress in those communities and fostering emotional connections is most likely needed. Hopefully, someone is helping those communities with self-care so they can contribute to improved emotional well-being, because, after all, “liberty is the breath of life to nations.” ~ George Bernard Shaw