Rain, Ice, Snow

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All of nature knew that something was coming. The chipmunk—the one which insults the dogs on a daily basis—announced it with a long, shrill rattle. The birds, upon hearing this warning, disappeared into the evergreen depths of the cedar hedge.

When the weather reports confirmed that, yes, inclement weather was on its way, we humans set to work stocking our cupboards with non-perishable food. We bought gallon jugs of spring water. Rock salt was also a sought-after item.

My own journey to find candles (because we don’t have a generator, and if the power goes out, we’re going to need something to see by) led me to a small Christian Supply Store.

The store was bright, welcoming. Praise songs, played through hidden speakers, filled the air with cheerful music. The middle aisle, and three of the shop’s walls, were lined with various versions of the Bible, Daily Devotionals, and Christian Fiction. There was only one register and only one employee—an elderly lady with a lovely smile.

The grapevine had reported that the store sold reasonably-priced candles. There weren’t many candles available, save for some packages of Advent candles. I have always wanted my own Advent wreath! To say that I am enamored by these purple and pink candles is an understatement. They give life to childhood memories of Sunday services devoted to the coming of the Messiah. They fill my ears with Christmas carols. By their light, I am comforted.

 

lighted candle

I may have originally visited the store for candles, but I spent nearly 45-minutes browsing through the bookshelves. There were so many fascinating titles and beautiful covers. I’m a bookworm—I notice these things! And, really, can anyone expect a bookworm to pass up the opportunity to buy a book for $2? I came home with two books, two packages of Advent candles, and two (very) large white candles that are probably meant for the alter.

The eve of the icing event was spent filling every deep pot and bucket that we own with water.

water

The natural gas fireplace was turned on. All of the dishes were cleaned and the laundry hamper was emptied. No loose ends. Nothing left to do that required electricity. I went to bed with a flashlight on my bedside table. Berkley and Alderaan kept me warm while Luna, once again, claimed the spare bed as her own.

Fortunately, we made it through the night without losing power. We woke up to a world glistening with ice.

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The lead-line of Luna’s puppy-hood was encased with ice, completely unusable.

backyard

Our backyard, thankfully, is fenced in so that Luna and Berkley can run free. They didn’t do much running, as the icy lawn crunched, cracked and creaked underneath them.

There is beauty in ice-laden branches—but also great danger. I experienced my first Icestorm when I was in 5th grade. At first, it was magical. School was canceled on my birthday! But, then, the reality of life without electricity settled in. I discovered, rather quickly, that I liked light, daily showers, and toilets that flush. My day-dreams of living during the time of the “Little House on the Prairie” books, were quickly shattered—just like so many of the trees in my parents’ backyard.

As I write this—high noon on Sunday—we still have electricity. Should any additional ice or snow weigh down the power lines, we have water. We have candles. We have food.

We have each other.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Your prayers, light and love mean so much to me. I hope, that those of you experiencing this weather phenomenon, are safe, warm, and well-fed.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

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

 

Dear Santa – Our Star Wars Stockings are Up…

SW Stockings

I’m so excited about this Christmas season! I hope you are feeling the magic of the holidays, too, Dear Readers.

Our decorations are dispersed throughout the house, so that nearly every room has something “merry and bright” in it. I enjoy decorating—even if it accentuates the fact that our house is quite dusty. I guess that happens when you have three fur-babies running around….

The babes and I are easily infatuated by Christmas lights and cute, corny Christmas movies.

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Oh! And Christmas carols! Berkley, is by far, the most appreciative of my singing. He’ll stop what he’s doing, and look up at me like this:

love at Christmas time

This year, Christmas is extra special, as my husband and I will be going to Christmas Eve service with my parents and my brother. There is nothing quite as beautiful as singing “Silent Night”, while the entire congregation holds flickering candles.

I have missed Advent, again—which means I have missed poignant readings from the Bible, inspiring sermons, and some of my favorite seasonal songs such as, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. I have, however, been reading the Gospel of Luke each morning. I started this practice on December 1st.

There are 24 chapters in Luke and, as you know, Christmas Eve is the 24th day of December. I can’t take credit for this idea; a Facebook friend shared it. I loved the idea so much, that I knew that I had to do it! It’s been a great reminder of what—exactly—we’re celebrating each Christmas.

cross & manger

Reading through Luke, day by day, reminds me of  Jars of Clay’s Christmas song, “Bethlehem Town”. At one point, the song says, “and did the stars shine much brighter that night, you gave birth to the death that would bring us to life”. It’s such a thought-provoking and powerful statement. We need to remember—always—that although Christmas arrives and passes quickly, the gift that we were given in Jesus, so long ago, is always available. Every moment, of every single day.

To that end, I do hope that each of you are enjoying the holiday season. Be wary of the rush. Try to stay grounded in the moment. Spend time with friends and family. Laugh. Frost some cookies. Watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and sing “Frosty the Snowman” at the top of your lungs! Enjoy this season while it’s here.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Thank you for all of your prayers, love and light. You have carried me through so much! You are, Dear Readers, a gift to me.

Merry Christmas!

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Creating Snow Flurries of Their Own

blue skies and birds
Winter birds perched on snowy boughs

I love watching snow fall—it’s magical, making everything new and bright. Autumn’s leaves that you never got around to raking? Can’t see them now! Withered perennials? Taking a much-deserved nap underneath a heavy, white blanket. Summer’s bunnies? Not gone! Easily found by following their tracks into the cedar hedge.

Although falling snow often takes my breath away with its beauty, I had forgotten how wonderful it is to play in! Thanks to Luna and Berkley, though, the exhilaration of snow days (and playing in the snow) has resurfaced.

Berkley, a southern gentleman from Texas, was not impressed with the snow:

In fact, he refused to leave the shelter of the porch. It took Luna several attempts to convince him that the snow is “really great”.

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Once on the ground, and with Luna leading the way, Berkley became a snow aficionado. The pair race each other, making snow flurries of their own. They’re swift and undeterred by the cold. Every once in a while, they slow down and regroup—usually in a joint effort to sniff out the resident chipmunk.

L&B on porch

All of the excitement that the snowy backyard offers, makes shepherding the pair back indoors difficult. When they do finally come inside, they’re exhausted, and quick to cuddle in whatever patch of sunshine that they can find.

nap in the sun

Alderaan may not play in the snow like his canine siblings, but he seemingly enjoys watching it fall from his warm perch beside the office window.

Aldie looking out window

Aldie concentrates on the snow flakes, as if trying to discern where they came from and how long they’ll stay. That is, when he’s not napping in my computer chair:

Alds in chair

I was not ready for winter to arrive so soon, Dear Readers, but I will make the best of it.

Christmas music playing? Check.

Lighting our natural gas fireplace? Check.

Snuggling on the couch with my pups while watching a Christmas movie? Yeah, we’ve done that—and we’ll keep doing that, until we run out of movies to watch!

As always, Dear Readers, thank you for your presence here today. Thank you for all of the prayers, love and light that you send my way. I hope you have a Luna, or a Berkley, in your life—to remind you of just how much fun the snow can be.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

“Hocus Pocus” Made Me Cry

the stars

I’ve watched the Halloween movie, “Hocus Pocus” multiple times. It is a classic, after all. Never before, though, has it made me tear up.

If you’re familiar with the film, you’re probably wondering what, exactly, triggered my tears. Most of the movie is rather comedic—but the end, oh the end.

The characters, Thackery Binx (a young man who was transformed into a cat because he tried to rescue his sister from the witchy Sanderson Sisters) and Dani (a young girl who the witches are currently after), are to blame for this outpouring of emotion.

Dani knows Thackery as the black cat named, Binx. She adores him! He’s her best friend for a short time.

But, then, Thackery is released from the witches’ curse. No longer is he Dani’s furry bestie, his soul takes the image of his once human form. The audience can interpret this as a joyous occasion. Thackery has been imprisoned in the form of a cat for 300 years! He’s free!

Perhaps sensing his eminent departure, Dani starts to cry. Thackery, a thoughtful teenager, doesn’t leave the little girl in tears. He promises to always watch over her.

HOW CAN YOU NOT CRY ABOUT THAT?!?!?

Okay, so I have a soft spot for pets. And, while I realize that Binx wasn’t truly a pet, I can imagine just how much it hurt to let him go.

Two of my fur babies, Luna and Berkley, were sitting on the couch with me when I started crying over the movie’s ending.

watching tv 2.0

I’m fairly certain that they thought I was crazy for crying over a movie—and a cat, no less.

It makes sense, though, to feel emotional on Halloween; it is followed by All Saints Day and, then, All Souls Day. Both of these days prompt us to think about those that have passed. Those that we miss. Those, like Binx, who may be watching over us, and guiding us.

I can’t say that Luna and Berkley are watching out for me. In fact, I think they’re trying to stop me from leaving the house. I mean, look at this blockade:

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I am grateful for them, all the same. They make me laugh. They provide comfort when I’m feeling anxious. Even when they’re behaving poorly, they make my heart happy.

We have entered the month of gratitude—a practice that I’ve neglected for far too long. Sure, I can make excuses for it. My gratitude journal is no longer in a convenient spot (Berkley likes to chew, so it had to be moved). It is a choice, though, not to record my blessings. It is also a choice, to resume that habit. Thus, as November progresses, I will choose to record my many blessings once again.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Please continue to send love and light as I have a procedure on Friday that I am not looking forward to. I will spare you the details, just know that prayers and good vibes are welcomed. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

It Started With Wind

candy jar pumpkin

Currently, Dear Readers, the solar mobile that I love (and you’ve seen in multiple blog posts), is hanging from our mantle. We brought it inside, just before last Thursday’s fierce wind and rain. What a storm!

As the wind shook the cedars, I couldn’t help but think, “these are the winds of change”. The few deciduous trees that we have on our property are now bare-limbed. There are citrine-colored leaves blanketing the backyard.

What has changed?

A lot, actually.

First, on October 8th, I had an appointment in Burlington. This appointment focused primarily on the fact that I am post-menopausal.

Not pre-menopausal.

Not menopausal.

Post-menopausal.

There are, of course, consequences for being simultaneously my age and post-menopausal. The most significant is bone density loss. While hormone replacement therapy can help, I have to be an active participant in maintaining my bone health. Weight-bearing exercises are crucial to supporting our bones, and, as such, the specialist that I saw recommended that I try walking, running and/or dancing.

Well, walking is a bit impossible when you live on a busy road that doesn’t have sidewalks or much in the way of shoulders. Running? Ha! I haven’t been able to run since Cancer Number One in 2010. Dancing? Although I would love to return to the English Country Dancing club, I’m still quite wary of being so close to strangers. Germs, you know?

I’m not, however, interested in experiencing bone density loss—so I found a virtually free solution—I became a mall walker!

The mall unlocks its main entrances at approximately 6am. I remember, from my days as an assistant manager, seeing a steady stream of mall walkers pass by the store’s gated door in the mornings. I never thought that I would become one, but this past Friday, at about 7:50am, I did! I put my leg braces on and drove over to the mall. I walked its entire floor plan twice, varying my speed in order to challenge my cardiovascular system. I know two laps around the mall doesn’t sound like much—but everyone has to start somewhere.

leg braces

Now, for Boston. I’m fully vaccinated! It went something like this: 15 vials of blood drawn, a great appointment with a member of my transplant team, followed by my two-year old shots. These were live virus vaccines—the first that I had had post-transplant.

We returned home after 11pm. I took my hoodie off and discovered that my left arm was swollen. It was so swollen, in fact, that it looked like it belonged to someone else. I spent the next day nauseous and in pain. I would rate that nausea as being on par with nausea caused by chemotherapy.

It took three days for my arm to “deflate”.

When I recovered, I celebrated by decorating for Autumn/Halloween:

I’m not short, per se, but there are things that I can’t reach from the floor. This, Dear Readers, is the exact moment that having a tall husband comes in handy.

Halloween garland

The fur babies had varied reactions to the change in décor. Every once in a while, you can catch Luna looking up at this guy, confused:

hanging pumpkin

It happens to me, too. I’m not accustomed to seeing a “pop of color” in my kitchen. Nor am I accustomed to seeing these “just because” beauties:

Every time I see these flowers, it’s like discovering a new and wonderful surprise. It makes me smile, from ear-to-ear.

So, what do you do after “the winds of change” have stopped shaking the cedars? Do you rake up the fallen leaves? Mourn the trees’ bare limbs? Or, do you dig through the “junk” drawer for a new battery, put it in the mobile, and ask your tall husband to hang it back up on the porch—all so it can illuminate the night as it once did?

mobile at night

I think you know which option I have chosen.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Thank you for your prayers, warm wishes, and light. I’m two-years-old and fully vaccinated now—and that wouldn’t have happened without your kindness, your positive energy, and all of the times that you bent God’s ear, talking about me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Of Dahl and Dragonflies

dragonflies

While sifting through my filling cabinets, I found this quote scribbled on a scrap of paper:

And above all, watch with glistening eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. – Roald Dahl

I found this quote at the same time that I started seeing “magic” around me.

It started with the appearance of a flight of dragonflies. The flight arrived, around dusk, while I was chaperoning Luna and Berkley outside. They swirled around us like snowflakes in a snow squall. There were so many of them—and they were so fast—that I unfortunately wasn’t able to capture the entire flight on camera! I was, however, able to photograph these beauties:

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I have never seen so many dragonflies in my life! Their blue bodies gleamed in the fading light; their wings cut through the air like helicopter blades. They were entrancing, magical.

dragonfly

Sometimes, though, “magic” is subtle—like morning sunshine on Queen Anne’s Lace:

Or, like droplets of water hanging, crystalline, on the dog run:

crystals on line

Do I believe that all of these wonderful sightings are “magic”? No, not really, but I do use the word, “magical”, to describe the majesty of the natural world. The beauty of God’s creation, honestly, has been a source of strength and comfort for me—especially during these last few years.

For instance, this cedar was dying, haggard. Now, a flowering vine (possibly English Ivy, among other vines) is giving the conifer a new look:

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Re-made, renewed, rebirth.

Always, always, look for the light.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. I hope you find “magic” and wonder in your everyday surroundings.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura