Friendship

besties

It’s odd, how sometimes, memories that we haven’t entertained in decades, suddenly flare, with vivacity, in our minds. For instance, this Girl Scout song has been playing (on repeat) in my head:

Make new friends, but keep the old:

One is silver, and the other gold.

A circle is round, it has no end.

That’s how long I want to be your friend.

I was in elementary school when I learned this song! I was a Brownie! Still, many years later, the song rings true.

As an introvert, making new friends is a bit of a challenge. I have found that friendship is not something that can be forced; it’s found. The seeds of friendship are planted in the most unlikely of places. During a college internship in Canada. In a cancer clinic. At a boyfriend’s friend’s wedding. Behind a store counter.

Then, of course, there are the old friends—the ones that have been with you since elementary school. The friendships that were created in the chaos of a Middle/High School cafeteria. And, then, when you felt lost and alone, there was the tribe that adopted you in college.

I am grateful for all of these marvelous, wonderful people. Even if we don’t speak on a regular basis, even if years fly by before we get to see each other again, these are my friends—and they are worth so much more than silver and gold.

besties 1.2

Unrelated to the Girl Scouts, is an adage that states, “friends come and go”. This is true as well. We change. We are not stagnant water. Our personalities and preferences evolve. The goals we may have wanted to achieve last year, might not even be on our to-do list today. AND THAT’S OKAY.

Some of our friends will be able to grow with us; others, sadly, won’t. AND THAT’S OKAY, TOO. It hurts, of course, but we will always have the memories, warm in our hearts.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for visiting today. I hope you each have a tribe of your own to turn to for comfort, encouragement, and laughter. We all need light in our lives.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

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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

The Neighborhood

LH
Above: One of the houses comprising a Living History Open Air Museum in Canada’s Eastern Townships (the name has been lost in the chemo fog).

The neighbors, across the road, are selling their house. I don’t know their names. I’m not sure I could even recognize them if we were in the same grocery store aisle. Regardless, I’m going to miss them.

I’m going to miss the sound of a snow plow being attached to a pick-up truck early in the morning (that was my signal that there was actually snow on the ground!).

They were/are quiet, busy living their own lives. Last summer, they had their roof replaced and the effect was beautiful. Worn, darkened shingles were ripped off, and coffee-colored ones were installed. The change brightened the house’s appearance.

To be honest, I have no idea why I’m writing about this. And, still, I feel as though I must. Could it simply be an unconscious need to express gratitude? Having lived in various apartments, surrounded by loud neighbors, I am truly grateful for these quiet ones.

I wonder, sometimes, what kind of neighbor am I?

I try to be social. If I’m outside, wearing my glasses, and recognize a car going by as belonging to one of our neighbors, I will wave to them. The neighbors to our left have a magnificent outdoor patio (it’s surrounded by lush greenery and colorful flowers). Someday, I’ll drum up the courage to ask them for gardening advice.

Fort Ti
Above: A view of the King’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga.

I did meet one neighbor, this past winter, when I hand-delivered her mail to her. An envelope, addressed to her, had been erroneously placed in our mailbox. Although it seems like such a small thing, it was terrifying to deliver a piece of mail. My immune system was still infantile! What if the person that opened the door was ill? What if this neighbor wasn’t friendly? I can’t remember her name—but I knew, immediately, that all of my worries had been a waste of precious time and energy. My neighbor was a fellow yogi! Her clothes indicated this. She also had a glow that I associate with serenity.

It’s difficult to make friends as an adult. Not because we don’t want to, but because as we age, we put walls up. We stop taking risks, stop reaching out. It’s a habit that I intend to change.

LH Church
Above: The Church at the Living History Open Air Museum.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. You are my “online neighborhood”. You bring me so much joy and courage. Please continue to send prayers, light, and love. There’s a dental appointment this week…and, well, chemotherapy and radiation do horrible things to your teeth. Also, the overhead light tends to trigger my PTSD. The good news in all of this? Once my teeth have been examined, and fixed, I should (knocking on wood rather loudly) be able to maintain a healthy mouth. Our teeth affect our overall health more than we sometimes realize. Ultimately, this appointment is just another small step toward living a healthy life.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Gone Adventuring

Castle gardens

My husband and I spent the Fourth of July in the Thousand Islands—which are as beautiful as they are fabled to be. We spent the actual holiday on the St. Lawrence river, on a friend’s boat. We witnessed Boldt Castle’s fireworks from the water.

fireworks BC

On July 5th—after having brunch with a beloved friend and his significant other (both of whom I had not seen in ten years!)—my husband I played tourist. We took a one-hour boat tour of the St. Lawrence; our tour guide directing our attention to various multi-million-dollar homes built along the river. Our tour guide, with rather bad jokes, recited historical facts and the names of the present-day property owners. The boat deposited us on Heart Island, where we walked through the stunning Boldt Castle.

Boldt Castle

Instead of describing our trip in great detail, Dear Readers, I have decided to share some of the lessons that I learned during our adventure:

  1. If you’re not 100% certain of what someone’s name is, combine their name with a similar-sounding one (i.e. Laura-Lauren). As a new friend informed me, “even if I’m wrong, I’m still right”.
  2. When you least expect it, someone who knows your story and has been waiting to talk to you about their own, might appear. Listen to these people. Learn what they’re trying to teach you. Honor their story the best that you can.
  3. I’ve never noticed this before, but after the brilliance of the fireworks dissipate, the sky wears dark smudges. Both the vibrant colors, and the smudges, tell significant stories. It might even be the same story, from different perspectives.
  4. It’s okay to leave the camera and/or cellphone at home. Being in the moment, actually living it, might just be more important than digitally capturing it. And, if it turns out that you need a picture for a blog post, just steal one of your husband’s.
  5. Bad jokes, like our tour guide’s jokes, are often the best jokes.
  6. Enjoy the white lights and birch branches decorating the restaurant you visit for dinner. Appreciate these little, artistic touches.
  7. And, sometimes, when a literary agent gives you a “no” on your latest fiction manuscript, view it as a new traffic pattern—directing you to where you are needed the most—instead of as a defeat.

This coming week, Dear Readers, is a busy one—including a trip to Boston. I am hoping that my transplant doctors will remove more medications from my list. Please continue to send prayers, light, and love. They do have a positive impact.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

The Little Things

What can you write about after sharing a moment as joyous and as monumental as your wedding day? I can’t match that. I’m not even going to try. I was, however, recently reminded that the” little things” in life are as significant as the “big things”.

The small things often teach us important lessons.

I heard—or read—at some point in my life, that if you talk to your houseplants, it will help them grow. I’m not good with plants; my thumb is not green. Curious, though, I decided to talk to the potted tomato plant on our porch.

Would it work? Would whispering words of encouragement to my little plant help it grow?

Whenever I water it, I tell my tomato plant that it can grow tall. I tell it that it can sink it’s roots deep.

tomato plant

Thus far, my tomato plant has lived well-beyond the average lifespan of most of the plants that have been left in my care. Not only is it taller, it now sports several yellow flowers!

On a darker note, I don’t like ants.

I squish them, and then flush them down the toilet.

Why do I go to such extremes to get rid of them? Because, like talking to plants, at some point in my life, I heard that ants will come back for their deceased. I had my doubts about this as well, but, then, I observed this:

ants

Yes. This blurry picture is of a rather large, black ant—trying to carry the crumpled body of another ant home. These insects, which I abhor, have a code. A code of honor. They come back for their fallen.

These little things—plants demonstrating the power of words, ants exhibiting determination to care for each other—albeit it for only a second, it takes my breath away.

Words matter.

Tone matters.

Caring for each other matters.

We have the power to do such good in this world! And, if we follow Mother Nature’s cues, we might just become better people.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Please continue to send prayers, love, and light. We’ve only started trying to put Humpty-Dumpty (that’s me) back together again.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Paper Poppies

Well, Dear Readers, it appears that I’m finally going to post an entry about a holiday on the actual holiday. This is rare. Maybe even ground-breaking (for my blog).

I have, over the years, found that most blog posts originate from questions. Today’s first question is a rather common one: what is the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?

Veterans Day – a day to remember those men and women who have served in the armed services. We, in the U.S.A., observe Veterans Day on November 11th.

Memorial Day – a day to remember all those who have died in battle, while serving in the armed services.

I spent some time reading up on Memorial Day—mostly because it triggered pleasant memories from my childhood. Every Memorial Day weekend, while at church, an elderly couple (whom I was quite fond of) would distribute red, paper poppies to everyone in the congregation. We were supposed to wear these poppies, in remembrance of the fallen.

paper poppy 1.2

My next question (which I consulted the interwebs about) was: how do we honor our war-dead?

According to my findings, we can raise the American Flag (some sources say to raise it only to half-mast).

One source suggested attending a parade—preferably one in which current military personnel are involved.

My internet research also directed me to a poem written by John McCrae, a Canadian soldier and surgeon. Written in the early 1900’s, McCrae’s poem is entitled, In Flanders Fields. I’m not sure why I wasn’t introduced to this poem earlier in life…but I do recommend it. It is beautiful, heartbreaking, and so powerful that it is deafening. It is life and death. Loss and victory. It is, essentially, why Memorial Day exists.

I don’t have paper poppies to wear today.

I might not need them, though, as the research I did for this post has been both a lesson and a reminder that will stay with me. We can’t forget our fallen heroes. We can’t let this day pass without thinking about them and their sacrifices.

They deserve to be remembered.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Boots and Camera, Please

spring

As you know, Dear Readers, I had my power port removed last week.

I promised, on Facebook, to write a blog post about it. I wanted to use that post to encourage others to research Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, the more time I put into writing that entry, the more triggered I became.

For me, PTSD has its roots in medical trauma. So, even a “small procedure” such as a port removal, is a big deal. It summons nightmarish memories from both of my cancer experiences and my transplant. While writing about it, I realized that I was walking the fine line between Mental Health Advocacy and Desiderata’s poetic advice, “Be gentle with yourself”.

I chose Desiderata.

I needed a break from the anxiety of it all—some solace—so I put on my boots, grabbed my Nikon, and went outside in search of spring. It wasn’t difficult to find.

We only have a few deciduous trees in our backyard. Currently, they are all heavy with buds and the promise of green leaves.

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Our English Roseum (otherwise known as Rhododendron) is starting to wake up, too.

English Roseum

The shrubs, framing the front porch, are wearing the signs of new growth:

 

new growth

I am not sure if these are Day Lilies or Irises, but they’re certainly trying to reach for the sunlight.

iris or lily

And, then, of course, there are the birds:

robin in the horse shoe pit

Although this photograph—of a cardinal amid the tree buds—was pure luck, his presence was a comfort after such a long week.

cardinal amid the tree buds

Thank you, Dear Readers, for all of your prayers, light, and love. Please continue to send them; I have another follow-up appointment in Boston this week. It is imperative that my white blood cell lines are within normal limits this time.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

On the Ice

icicle 01.25

Both of our sidewalks—and our driveway—are currently miniature ice rinks.

They’re slick, slippery, and challenging to walk on. I’ve nearly wiped out on four separate occasions. Due to this, I’ve decided to be a bit more cautious and use a ski pole to help me get to where I need to go. It’s slow-going, but to quote a popular adage, “it’s better to be safe, then sorry”.

I imagine, that those of you who live near us, are experiencing similar conditions.

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When I look outside at this ice—especially the large patch next to the garage door—it summons memories of winters past.

ice next to garage
Underneath that dusting of snow, is ice

There were several winters in which my father made a shallow ice rink in the side-yard. My brother and I were still in grade school at the time—and huge fans of “The Mighty Ducks”.

The goal—the reason for creating an ice rink—was to teach us how to skate.

Our parents bought us hockey skates, because they have better ankle support. They were black with white laces. The blades glimmered, new. Our father used to play hockey in high school, and later, in a men’s league, so we’d don his old helmets. He’d skate with us, keeping an eye on us as we pushed chairs across the ice.

little icicle

I will admit to not being good at it. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that I can’t skate.

Why? How could such a thing happen when I had the best skating coach that a little girl could possibly ask for?

I was afraid of falling. Because of this fear, my body would tense up, rigid. I seem to recall that my knees should have been slightly bent, a bit relaxed, even. I couldn’t do that. Relaxing, to me, meant giving up control.

Control is believed to be power; but, it’s a complete myth. We’re never 100% in control of our lives. Sure, we can have a direct impact on how our lives unfold via the choices we make (to pursue an education, to apply for a particular job, to eat healthy foods and exercise). We can control what lens we use to view the world. Viewing the world through a positive lens can make life feel and look better; conversely, viewing it through a negative lens, can make it quite awful.

I, obviously, didn’t know any of this when I was a little girl on that ice rink. I remained tense, hoping to keep every ounce of control that I thought I had. There are consequences for not relaxing. In the adult world, it’s called, “burn-out”. As a little girl in skates, it was a missed opportunity.

Learning how to relax—giving my mind and my body a break from stress—is now at the top of my priority list. It encourages healing (which I have plenty to still do). I don’t need to control everything about my life; “burn-out” and “missed opportunities” are too steep a price to pay. As another adage reminds me, it’s important to, “stop and smell the roses”. Relax, slow down enough to notice the little things in life—which, more often than not, are the most beautiful things.

more icicles

Will I ever wear a pair of skates again? I don’t know. Maybe. We’ll see.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for the prayers, light, and love that you send my way. This past week was full of appointments—and your good wishes carried me through. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

The Beauty in Broken Things

snowflake on coat
Not broken, but beautiful

We’re only fourteen days into 2019, and, already, the new year has taught me some significant lessons.

While undecorating the Christmas tree, an angel ornament broke.

The dryer is screeching…not a little bit, but a lot.

I broke a tooth.

How can I be “okay” with any of these happenings? The answer is quite simple: most broken things can be fixed. With, perhaps, the exception of these ink-stained pajama pants:

ink stain

There’s no saving these, but that, too, is okay. I only ever wear them to bed. And, if you look closer, what do those ink stains look like? Hearts. They look like hearts.

I was not happy about the angel ornament breaking. This ornament was actually a party favor from a friend’s wedding (forever ago). The angel has shown me, that although broken, she is still quite beautiful. Just a dab of hot glue, and she will be whole again. She will be ready to shine on 2019’s Christmas tree.

seashell angel 1.0

The dryer, of course, is another matter entirely. It’s teaching me patience (the lesson that I am given again and again. Someday, I’ll actually be patient). My fiancé has ordered replacement parts to fix the problem, but in the meantime, I have to hang our clean, but wet, laundry on a wooden clothes rack to dry. The drying process is longer, and the product is rather scratchy, but it works.

dryer

Let me tell you, when I can use that dryer again, I might just buy some sparkling juice to celebrate!

Finally, my broken tooth. This, was unfortunately, fated to happen. I can’t remember if I ever wrote about the dental evaluation that I had to have, prior to my bone marrow transplant in 2017. The short version: this evaluation resulted in having one tooth pulled and a few others marked as likely to cause future issues.

Well, here we are in the “future”, and a suspect tooth did as was predicted—it broke.

The break didn’t hurt, but unhealthy teeth are gateways for infection. So, Dear Readers, I will be visiting the dentist this morning for an exam. I’m not sure if any work will be done, but I will need to take an antibiotic anyways. PowerPorts—I still have mine—are susceptible to infection from dental work, especially if any plaque is disturbed and makes its way down the port line.

Similar to most people, I do not like having dental work done. The drill, the Novocaine shot…ugh. For me, though, it’s the overhead light that is most bothersome. It is a PTSD trigger. Sometimes, when I am sitting underneath that light, I think I can see other masked faces staring down at me—faces that performed my ICU surgery in 2010. These images bring me back to a time, and a place, wherein I was on Death’s doorstep.

That’s not an exaggeration. I nearly died, and no matter how much time passes, it is something that continues to haunt me.

How do you face a fear like that? I plan to silently recite a verse from the New International Version of the Holy Bible, specifically, Psalm 91:11a. I’ve written about this verse before. I find a great deal of comfort in these words, so I thought that I’d share them once again: “For He will command His angels concerning you…”.

So, 2019, I see this challenge, and I will view it as Exposure Therapy—which, in the end, will only make me stronger.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for continuing to send love, light and prayers. You give me hope and strength to see the positive in so many situations. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

Change (And Not the Kind Jingling in the Bottom of My Purse)

With the arrival of 2019, my thoughts have gravitated to—and fixated on—the concept of change. The more I have pondered it, the more I realize that there is so much more for me to learn.

For instance, there are different rates of change: sudden and gradual.

Change can occur in the blink of an eye—like an unwanted health diagnosis.

Or, change can happen so gradually, that you never even notice it—until the transformation is complete—like the undercarriage of a car rusting out.

Change, itself, varies. There are different types:

Change of mind

Change of pace

Change of heart.

Most of the monumental changes in my life, have occurred at a super-sonic speed. If given a choice, though, I would prefer the kind of change that requires elbow grease, time, and commitment. The reward for tenacity? Positive developments.

At some point during my cancer relapse in 2017, I developed foot drop. Foot drop affects dorsiflexion—which means it affects the act of walking. The hospital’s in-patient physical therapy department loaned me a plastic Ankle-foot orthosis (also known as an AFO), until I could be fitted for my own leg brace. Before discharge, I was outfitted with one, plastic brace for my weaker, left leg.

 

treatment with OR and brace
Loaner – plastic AFO

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but this plastic brace was incredibly uncomfortable. Wearing a brace on only one leg made me feel like my hips were uneven—as if I was wearing a sneaker on one foot and a kitten-heel on the other.

I push through things, though—like a bulldozer. I stopped wearing the brace too early. I stopped using my cane too early.

cane

I didn’t want to admit that I needed assistance…but, eventually, I was able to reconcile with the fact that I did, indeed, need help.

Since April 2018, I have been working with an incredible physical therapist. When I first met her, I couldn’t get up off of the floor without holding onto something and pulling myself up with my arms. Week after week—sometimes two times a week—we met to strengthen my legs and recoup a sense of balance (the tumor in my spinal cord had stolen that, too). In June of 2018, I was fitted for two new braces. Carbon fiber, light-weight, and best of all—one for each foot!

leg braces

While I can walk without my braces, I usually spend at least half the day wearing them. They support my ankles and make me pick up my feet (which tends to be a problem when you have foot drop).

All of this “elbow grease”, time, and commitment—has led to positive changes. According to my physical therapist, as of January 15, 2019 (my last scheduled appointment), I will be ready to discontinue attending physical therapy sessions.

I will, however, continue doing the at-home exercises on a daily basis. These exercises have contributed so much to my well-being. They’ve given me leg strength, confidence, and restored a sense of balance.

It is this kind of change—the type that requires work—that I prefer.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for joining me here, at Of Perras & Pieridae, in 2019. Please continue to send prayers, light, and love as I taper off of my anti-rejection medication. Your support means the world to me.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura