It’s Staying Up Until Epiphany!

christmas tree aglow 2.0

Dear Readers,

Where did Christmas 2019 go? One minute we were decorating our tree (with our signature blend of home-made ornaments and Star Wars collectibles), and the next moment we were carrying discarded wrapping paper and boxes out to the recycling bin.

SW and homemade

I was so excited for Christmas, and it certainly lived up to my expectations. My big present from the hubby this year was a new washing machine. I know, that may not sound overly exciting to some people, but I was thrilled to be given a machine that wasn’t going to constantly screech errors at me!

Christmas for me, and many others, though, isn’t solely about the gifts.

It’s about family—sitting at my parents’ dining room table—as my father said “Grace” over the delicious meal that my mother had prepared.

It’s about attending Christmas Eve service—listening to the readings, singing along to both new and old Christmas hymns, while the candles in the sanctuary flicker, painting the walls gold and making the windows gleam.

Christmas is about embracing church family and thanking God that, yes, I can hug these wonderful, inspiring people again! I couldn’t do that a year ago. I definitely couldn’t do it two years ago when my immune system was infantile.

Yet, here I am, with only a few days left of 2019, and I’m grateful to still be here.

There was never a guarantee that I would survive Cancer #1 or Cancer #2. Neither of those experiences were easy—this last one took a lot out of me. I’m still recovering. In fact, it’ll probably take all of 2020 to feel halfway human.

According to my oncologist, the most common complaint among allogenic transplant recipients is fatigue. It’s not the kind of fatigue that you can sleep off. Neither caffeine nor sugar will help. You simply have to endure this fatigue; sometimes miserably, and sometimes proactively with appropriate amounts of physical and mental activity.

With all of that said, I am sure that you, Dear Readers, have an inkling as to what my goals for 2020 will be.

Before I was diagnosed with Relapsed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2017, I maintained a daily, rigorous yoga practice. It was borderline Power Yoga.

yoga on the deck

As the tumor in my lumbar spine grew, I eventually lost all of the strength and flexibility that I had gained through yoga.

I’ve been taking baby-steps toward my former level of athleticism—utilizing chair yoga, restorative yoga and trauma yoga. I will continue doing these forms of yoga until I am ready for Power Yoga. By June, I intend to be doing The Wheel again!

Wally and Wheel

Also, in 2020, I will keep my mind busy with a self-created reading list (comprised mostly of books that I already own but haven’t had a chance to actually read). I’ll continue learning new languages via Duo Lingo. Currently, I’m studying Norwegian. Jeg elsker det (I love it)! Additionally, I will retrain my sometimes chemo-foggy brain through dusting off my GRE practice book and revisiting vocabulary, analogy and complex mathematical lessons. Each lesson is similar to a puzzle piece—revealing parts of the old me that existed pre-cancer.

Finally, I intend to keep the Christmas spirit alive throughout the new year. The first step in this multi-faceted plan, is to leave our Christmas decorations (except, maybe, for the tree, which is already losing a superfluous number of needles) up until Epiphany. According to the Christian calendar, Epiphany is traditionally celebrated on January 6th and marks the moment when the Wisemen (aka Magi) find Jesus.

wisemen

I mean, come on! It’s only December 30th! The Wisemen haven’t even made it to Bethlehem yet! The Christmas lights will glow in this house until that manger is discovered!

Of course, keeping the Christmas spirit alive involves a lot more than leaving decorations up. It requires us to practice kindness, generosity and gratitude on a daily basis. It might also take the form of small, but thoughtful, acts of friendship, such as writing letters and sending them off via snail mail. For me, part of it will consist of visiting cafes with friends—all to drink a cup of coffee and to talk awhile.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Thank you for your prayers, love and light. I do hope that 2020 is kind to each of you!

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

Mindful Moments

Dear Readers,

It’s been two weeks since I last posted. And, again, so much has happened, is happening, and will happen. It’s in these moments of change and chaos, that I try to practice mindfulness. Being present in the moment, however, requires a firm intention. Will-power. And, usually, some form of healthy distraction involving at least one of the five senses.

This, Dear Readers, is what I would like to share today: a series of mindful moments.

Sight

I’m writing this paragraph on Thursday, October 3rd. It’s barely after 6 p.m. and the sun has already slipped away. Shadows have claimed the lawn; they can’t, however, dim the golden glow of the fallen leaves decorating the driveway. The leaves are still bright—collecting streetlight, porch-light.

fallen leaves in drive

Sound

While making this observation, I’m listening to Jamie Dupuis play the harp guitar on YouTube. Dupuis takes classic rock songs—and other iconic tunes (i.e. Greensleeves, Canon in D)—and plays them on his harp guitar. It’s beautiful. Inspiring. Calming.

Touch

Berkley, a Mamma’s boy for the moment, is snuggled up next to me. His fur is coarse, wiry, and yet comforting. Luna is nearby, too—in the recliner, silky fur glowing copper in the lamplight.

cuddles with Berkley

Smell

Not everything enfolding in any given moment is pleasant. The gold leaves, the music, the dogs’ presence—these things help me to center, to find peace after a stressful day. As I am writing this, though, Luna jumps down from the recliner with a fart. Yes. A fart. To put it mildly, some smells are not soothing. It was funny, though…and laughter is an effective medicine.

Taste

This paragraph comes from the chilly (and rainy) morning of October 4th. This morning’s coffee was a dark roast—a bit bitter—but great for keeping the cold at bay. I can see, through the kitchen window, that the wind is stronger today than it was yesterday. It’s stripping leaves from the trees and ruffling more than just a few feathers:

the flock

If you’re wondering why I’m focusing on mindfulness, self-care and self-soothing, it’s because I have been experiencing an uptake in anxiety. I still haven’t found a happy balance between my home and my work life. I’m waiting for the sense of newness to dissipate and become routine…but that takes time…which is difficult for an impatient person to deal with. Also, my PTSD has been worse, as it always is, whenever a doctor appointment draws near.

Burlington.

Boston.

Two days in a row of being poked, prodded, and hoping for good results. Do I expect bad news from either of these visits? No.

Yet, for me, as a cancer survivor, there is always this sense that nothing is safe or permanent.

Please, Dear Readers, send prayers, light and good thoughts. In Boston, I will be receiving two, live virus, vaccines. These are the first live virus vaccinations I will have had post-transplant. All of the previous pediatric immunizations have been deactivated viruses (which, with the exception of Shingrix, my immune system has handled well). I’m anxious about my system’s reaction to live viruses…which is probably normal…but, still, exhausting.

So, what will I do, to calm down? I’ll be mindful. Pray. Listen to more harp guitar. Thank God for those moments when I am able to sit, and snuggle, with my fur babies.

aldie & berk

Sight. Sound. Touch. Smell. Taste. Living mindfully, moment by moment.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. It means the world to me.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

What Cup are You Drinking From?

We all have our own eccentricities. We have habits that we can’t remember when, or why, they started. In fact, our quirks may be so embedded in our day-to-day lives that we can’t even recognize them anymore.

One of my quirks (which I am aware of only because it involves conscious decision-making) is to pick my coffee cup each morning, not by how much coffee it will hold, but by what it says. For instance, I pick this coffee cup when I need to feel stability, positive energy, and/or need to smile.

LLLmug

“Live. Laugh. Love.” It’s the recipe for happiness. And, who doesn’t want to have a happy day?

morning coffee

You may remember this coffee mug from a previous post. Yes, I drink from this cup when I’m writing—and particularly when characters have some bad karma coming their way. I invest a lot of time and energy into crafting my fictional characters; it hurts to injure and/or kill them. Sometimes, though, the plot requires suffering. As a writer, I do what I have to do.

Similar to some of my characters, and the unfortunate events that befall them, I, too, need healing. It is at this moment, that I reach for this handmade coffee cup:

htp mug 2.0

Made by Healing Touch Pottery, the stone embedded in this cup’s handle is believed to encourage healing. My body, mind, and soul need a lot of that.

And, let’s not forget the mugs that make me giggle:

potter mug

As some of you know, I became a Harry Potter fan later than the rest of my cohort. I was in my late twenties when I finally sat down to read the second book of the series. From there, I couldn’t stop reading. For a time, I read non-stop, until there was nothing left to read. Fortunately, it’s a series that is easy to revisit.

unicorn mug

You may not know this about me, but I have very little confidence. My self-esteem has flat-lined over the past few years. I don’t feel strong or brave, so, having a coffee mug that tells me, “I’m Fucking Magical”, gives me a much-needed boost. It makes me believe that I might accomplish good—or maybe even great things—during my day. It buoys my spirits, energizes me, and makes me feel special.

Of course, there are some mornings, wherein I just need love:

love you mug

This mug helps me on the mornings when I feel as though my tank is empty, as though there’s nothing left of me to give or share. I take a sip of coffee from this cup, and, somehow, I feel loved and capable of sharing love with others.

I believe, Dear Readers, that love—to be cared for deeply by someone or something (i.e. a pet)—is as essential as food and water. So, too, is being kind and caring toward others.

As always, thank you so much for your prayers, love, and light. You have carried me through so much and I am so, so grateful for your presence here.

 

Love & Gratitude,

Laura