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

 

Past, Present, Future

It was exceedingly difficult to settle on just one idea for this blog post. So, I combined all three of them! I will try to make it a smooth read; it may get bumpy, so hang on to your seats! Or, is it ‘hang on to your hats’? Anyways, hang on to something.

The Past

My father and my brother made me bookshelves. They installed them in my home office two weekends ago. They also brought my filing cabinets. I’ve spent the last week sorting through boxes of books and old files. The cabinets have proven to be a treasure trove of surprises. I’ve discovered ideas for short stories and novels that I’d completely forgotten about. I’ve also found old diaries. This entry brought me to tears:

In the time that it took me to return home, she has grown deaf. She cannot hear my arrival nor my calls to her. And, still, she is happy. Her tail wags. Her brown eyes glow, meet mine, and flicker back to the path ahead. The wind rustles last autumn’s fallen leaves. The earth is ripe with the scent of spring. At least, in this, I have made an old dog glad.

This passage was about my Nissa:

Nissa 1.1

Even though our puppy, Luna, is nothing like Nissa, I sometimes call her by that name. At first it bothered me that I was mixing up their names. After all, besides being dogs, the only thing that Luna and Nissa have in common is their love and ability to run quite fast. Otherwise, Nissa was generally calm, but wary of men with glasses. She rarely barked (Luna has a whole language of her own). Nissa would put my hand in her mouth and gently lead me to where she wanted me to go. I was a pup to her.

From the moment that she climbed up our deck stairs (with porcupine quills in her jowls), until the day that she died, she was my guardian, my best friend. I will miss her forever.

The Present

Even when I’m practicing mindfulness, the present moment always seems to be fleeting. Time passes so quickly.

In this present moment—the moment in which I am writing—Luna and Berkley are sleeping on the couch. I’m sitting a few cushions away from them, watching the cursor on my screen flash.

doggie nap

The air conditioner is on. The dryer is rumbling in the background. Sunlight is streaming through every window that doesn’t have curtains.

There’s dog and cat hair on the coffee table. I’d much rather have a home with animal hair floating around it, than a spotless one. I read, once, that pet hair (at least on your clothes) is a sign that you are loved. If that’s true, this house is full of it.

The Future

As a cancer survivor, I have difficulty trusting the word, “future”, or the fact that I’m apparently going to have one. What do you do in the face of distrust?

You believe, in spite of your misgivings.

You believe that the best days are coming.

You believe that happiness and health are right around the corner.

We’re walking in the direction of our dreams—to a “new normal”—that is, of course, influenced by the old one.

Prior to my relapse, Seth had started brewing his own beer. My personal favorite was his pumpkin ale (it was delicious!). That hobby, however, was put on the back burner when life came crashing down around us in 2017. He stopped brewing.

There’s light now, stretching over the horizon, and Seth will be brewing again soon. A return to former interests is certainly a sign that life is moving in a positive direction.

What does my future look like? In October, I will be receiving the last of my pediatric shots. I’ve been querying literary agents for my most recent novel. Hopefully one of these queries will be met with an offer of representation and eventually a book deal. I’ve been learning Norwegian (for free) via Duolingo, mostly for fun—and to keep my brain active.

Finally, I’ve been scrolling through Indeed and Monster in search of the perfect job. I don’t know how many hours a week I’ll be able to work; my stamina is yet to be tested. With that written, Dear-Readers-who-happen-to-be-locals, if you know of any businesses in need of an office assistant or writer (for about 10 hours a week, with the possibility of increasing hours as I grow stronger), feel free to share their information with me!

Thank you, Dear Readers, both near and far, for your presence here. I hope, very much, that you remain a constant in my future.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Sometimes, I Dream in French

Moon

In my waking life, I am not fluent in any language other than English.

I studied Spanish throughout Middle School and High School. Occasionally, a Spanish word will come to my mind. For instance, during one of my follow-up appointments in Boston, my fiancé and I had dinner at a quiet restaurant. It was so quiet, in fact, that we could hear the conversation unfolding two tables away from us.

Seated at this particular table, were two men discussing culture shock—and how, even though they had grown up in the U.S.—traveling abroad, for an extended period of time, made their home country feel foreign to them. At one point in their conversation, one of the men said that he had never learned the Spanish word for “you’re welcome”.

Somehow, despite the dust of decades and chemo-fog, a light turned on in my brain. De nada. De nada is how you say “you’re welcome” in Spanish.

Lesson here, Dear Readers: be careful what you talk about when in the presence of a writer.

These “light-bulb” moments also occur with French (which I studied in college for a short time). For instance, there have been many days this spring in which I have lamented the loss of my umbrella. There are times, though, that I don’t use/think the word ‘umbrella’; I think, mon parapluie.

Textbook and poems

When Luna refuses to listen to me, I can sometimes capture her attention by speaking in French: Allons mon petit chien! Does she know that this short sentence means, “let’s go my little dog”? No. Absolutely not. Luna’s not bilingual. She does, however, notice the change in my speech, and this prompts her to focus on me, for approximately one second. Luna is sixty-one pounds of stubborn independence, so I count that one second as a victory.

Alderaan, our cat, might understand French. I often tell him: Je t’aime mon petit chat. This phrase is usually greeted with a purr and a head bump.  Realistically, his reaction might not demonstrate an understanding of the language. Maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe it’s just the fact that declarations of love have a particular tone.

I think, Dear Readers, that by using these short phrases on a daily basis, it sets my brain up for dreaming in French. I think that while I’m sleeping, my mind is trying to dig up the words that I wanted to find—and use—during the day. Although, only ever half-understood and half-remembered, my French dreams are usually my best dreams.

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Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Please continue to send prayers, love and light. I have made leaps and bounds these past few months, but I still have a long way to go before I am back to “normal”. Whatever “normal” is….

 

With Love and Gratitude,

Laura