Kindness. Provision. Sharing. Love.

wall decor

Unlike my usual blog posts, this one wasn’t written at the kitchen table. This time, I wrote from the comfort of our couch. Berkley and Luna were sleeping beside me, their snores a symphony of sorts.

Alderaan was on the mantle; the expression on his face impossible to discern.

Alds fireplace

These moments—while the world grapples with the pandemic that is COVID-19—are the moments that are keeping me sane.

In the beginning, many of us thought and naively hoped, that the virus was a hoax. That it was something that couldn’t and wouldn’t reach us. Well…we were wrong, weren’t we?

Our world is rapidly evolving every minute, of every day. Our collective vocabulary now emphasizes words such as, “uncertainty”, “change” and “unpredictable”.

These words are the bane of anyone living with anxiety. Who are these people that are being affected by mere words?

Well, they’re people like me.

People that may or may not have lengthy, traumatic medical histories.

People that are—or, at one point were—immunocompromised.

People who have a chemical imbalance in their brains, and try every day to behave as if nothing is wrong—that they have their act together—because, you know, stigma.

I, and the countless people like me, are not crazy, but we, too, regardless of our risk factors, are terrified of the coronavirus.

Last week, several of my social media friends shared posts commenting on the selfish and greedy nature of humankind—people wiping out whole shelves of hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and, yes, toilet paper.

There were other pleas, too, for help from young parents who had not been able to buy diapers, wipes and formula before the shopping craze took place.

Hoarding, hysteria—is this how it was during the Black Death (circa 1346-1353)? During the Spanish Influenza of 1918? This can’t be our true nature. It just can’t. We can do better.

We can be kind.

Kindness, I think, comes in many different shapes and sizes. Sometimes, it’s a small thing, like calling a friend to check in on them. I am fortunate to have such a friend—someone wonderful that called me—when I couldn’t describe how I was feeling about COVID-19. While talking to her, I felt as though a weight was taken off of my shoulders. As if the panic in my chest dissolved a little. I could breathe again.

Kindness toward self is also extremely important. I’m not good at self-care, rest and/or relaxation, therefore, I find it helpful to channel my anxious energy into art, writing and reading projects. Spending some time working on Diamond Dotz? You better believe it. Reading? Yes, Ma’am and Sir. Writing? Well, I’m writing this….

We can provide.

Numerous school districts are offering free food AND delivery to students while they are “sheltering in place”. These same schools have incredible teachers who are doing their best to provide their students with material for “distance learning”. I imagine that converting classroom material into digital lessons, is not an easy task. I am inspired by such dedication.

There are those, too, who are holding online prayer and worship services—providing us with encouragement through these gray days. They stand as a reminder that God is always present, that His love is always available.

I, personally, find a great deal of comfort in both prayer and mediating on Bible verses.

We can share.

I am relieved to say that, over the past few days, I have witnessed an increase in positive posts on social media. Posts in which neighbors are helping each other (while still practicing “social distancing”). There have been numerous offers to assist those in need. We are slowly learning to share our best with each other!

I’ve noticed an uptake in humor (laughter is potent medicine) as well.

I am also in awe of the flood of free virtual tours, classes and workshops! And, FREE small libraries popping up in communities! As a book worm, this trend makes me smile.

Parents posting their homeschooling endeavors have also inspired me to “home school” my own children. Sure, my kids have four legs and are furry, but there are lessons that we can review.

Since our backyard is fenced in, Luna and Berkley are rarely ever leashed. Mommy and/or Daddy simply open the back door, and away they go! I decided it was time to brush up on our walking-on-a-leash-skills.

The results? One of our pups walks beautifully while on a leash. The other…well…the other is quite independent and wants to be the leader. I’ll let you guess which pup is which.

We can love each other.

As written in Matthew 22:35-39 (The Holy Bible, New King James Version):

Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, ‘You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second, is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

What does that look like?

Baking a loaf of pumpkin bread, and giving it to an elderly family member.

Sending an email or a text message to a friend.

Placing a telephone or online order with a small mom-and-pop shop.

In, our house, due to the coronavirus, love now looks vastly different from what it once did.

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As many of us know, most patients testing positive for COVID-19 are ultimately cared for in hospitals’ Intensive Care Units (ICU).

My husband is an ICU nurse.

Due to the fact that I have a young, and relatively untested immune system, I had to consult with my transplant team in Boston regarding how to stay healthy/safe while living with an ICU nurse. The answer? My husband and I must now practice “social distancing”, even within our own home.

I’m not going to lie; it sucks. Right when we could both use a hug, the most we can do is wave to each other from across the room. However, this, too, is a form of love.

Love is protecting each other from this virus.

Love is spending time (separately for us) with our children.

Love is cultivating gratitude for the little things in our lives, while always, ALWAYS, looking for the light.

March mobile at night

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. May you stay safe. May you stay healthy. May you find a way to be happy—even in the midst of this tremendous change.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

On Laughter

I’ve been writing my memoir.

Well, the first one. Having had cancer twice, albeit biologically the same cancer, this is a two-book project.

For this first book, I am using a journal from 2012. I will need other sources to cover 2010 – 2012. Good news is, younger me liked to journal and older me is a bit of a hoarder.

journal
See that gray fur? That’s Alderaan curled up in my lap. He’s becoming a great writing companion.

In 2012, I was in Course V of my treatment: Maintenance. Maintenance was the last and longest course. As I read through this journal, I am astonished by the range of emotions that I experienced. Anger. Depression. Extreme Anxiety. And, then, back again—in no particular order. These entries are not particularly flattering. I question the readability of this tome. It’s serious material, though…and I don’t plan on editing anything other than spelling, grammar and names.

That’s right. Everyone involved in cancer #1—that appears in that journal—is getting a brand-new name (with the exception of my parents and brother).

Why would I want to share the contents of my personal journal?

1 – I feel as though I am being called to do so. I really do think that this is part of God’s plan for me. I mean, I had those awful experiences for a reason, right?

2 – It’s Exposure Therapy. I carry these memories with me every single day and relive them, every night, when Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) comes to call. Exposure Therapy asks the patient to confront the triggering event in hopes of slowly desensitizing him/her to it. Will it work? I guess I’ll find out….

3 – My experience might actually help someone else, someone traveling this same road. The societal norm of “grinning and bearing” it, needs to be debunked. Honesty might help some other young adult survivor to feel more comfortable with their emotions. As a cancer survivor, are you allowed to feel anger, sadness, anxiety? Yes. Absolutely. You do, however, need to dig your way out of those emotions, eventually, for your own well-being.

This attempt to document my own journey through cancer experience #1, has invoked panic. I know it is all in the past. I know it can’t hurt me anymore. Yet, it still feels real,
“fresh”, to some extent.

While working on this project, the need for levity has become apparent to me. As the adage goes, “laughter is the best medicine”.

So where can we find levity? Everywhere!

The easiest place for me to find it is by simply watching the dogs. Luna and Berkley, whenever they are outside, enjoy roughhousing. In this picture, a whispered conference has just concluded and they’re clearly “up to no good”:

trouble

Indoors, it’s Luna’s flatulence that evokes laughter. She has no shame. She’s also not one of those dogs that turns around, surprised, that she has farted. She knows what she’s doing.

Farts, in general, are often a source of amusement in our house. Yeah, it’s not exactly polite behavior, but it happens. And, sometimes, the necessary reaction is to let the dogs outside and open a window (talking about you Berkley with your “silent but deadly” farts).

I’ve never caught Alderaan farting, but I have captured some sassy-pants attitude:

sassy
Just look at that tongue sticking out!

Less smelly sources of levity include parody. This “Life is Good” t-shirt always brings a smile to my face:

dog t-shirt

It’s funny, mostly because it’s true. It is impossible to open a jar of peanut butter in this house without acquiring an audience.

I am finding, too, that gratitude has a positive impact on me while I work on this project. For instance, every morning, as the sun rises, I cannot help but be thankful for another new day.

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Sometimes, it’s smaller things, like the daily calendar (featuring dogs and inspirational quotes) that a friend gave to us for Christmas. This quote, in particular, has made me reflect on life and how I live it:

“Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans.

It is lovely to be silly at the right moment.”

– Horace

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Thank you for the prayers, light and love that you have given me over the years. I hope that each of you finds a reason to smile and laugh today.

 

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

 

Schedules & Seasons

Scarlet shrub

Dear Readers:

Since enacting the new posting schedule for Of Pieridae & Perras, I’ve been feeling quite a bit of pressure to create something truly amazing for you when it is time to post. I know that this pressure is self-created, but you can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge! So, please allow me a moment to reflect upon what’s going on:

  • First, I feel as though this post needs to be perfect, interesting, etc. (I’ve never denied the unhealthy fact that I’m a perfectionist.)
  • Second, the change in posting has also allowed for more blog fodder to accrue. So, where do I start?

Let’s begin with how cold it was this last Wednesday morning (which is the morning that I wrote the rough draft of this post)! My favorite black-and-white sweater is just not warm enough anymore. I could see the dogs’ breath, like white clouds floating upwards, when I took them outside!

“There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens….”

– Ecclesiastes 3:1 (taken from the New International Version of the Holy Bible)

Everything has its season—and that includes our individual lives. I have just entered a new “season” of healing. My donated immune system just turned two years-old! It astounds me that so much time has passed since my bone marrow transplant. I think I might be even more surprised that I’m still here, still alive, still trying to create a happy and healthy life.

“Life,” as one of my favorite infusion nurses told me in 2010, “is not a straight road. There are curves and detours.”

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Cancer—and transplant—were certainly detours. The beautiful thing about detours, though, is that they redirect you to a place that you may not have gone to on your own. Due to transplant, I met a team of wonderful physicians, a Bostonian family that generously allowed my husband to stay with them while I was an in-patient, and an incredible donor that has made all of this possible.

Without her, I wouldn’t be alive.

I wouldn’t be married.

I wouldn’t have three, lovely (sometimes crazy) fur babies.

I also wouldn’t have been able to go back to work.

Dear Readers, I have a job! It’s super, super part-time (8-10 hours a week), and that’s perfect for me. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but as one of my best friends often tells me, “you do you”.  This job is the ideal training ground for me to regain some stamina as well as some confidence in my own abilities.

Goldenrod
Not sure if this is Goldenrod or Ragweed, but it’s growing through the space between our front steps. It’s tall, determined, and in a certain light, beautiful.

Since I last shared a blog post with you, Dear Readers, I have experienced some terrible growing pains (PTSD and high anxiety levels), but I’ve also found so much to be grateful for. And, today, I get to say how grateful I am for you, for your presence here, and for all of your prayers and good energy. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

The View from the Mantel

sighting

As you know, Dear Readers, our fur family has grown. Everyone in the house is excited about Berkley’s arrival—everyone, that is, except for Alderaan. He has some reservations about this new “brother”.

Alderaan was in the middle of a cat-nap when Berkley moved in. He was slow to wake up, and when he did, it took him a couple of hours to realize that there were two canines in his house. When he did make this discovery, this was the look that we all received:

observation 2.1
Not sure if this look is of utter despair or scorn.

Berkley, as described in his online bio, is afraid of cats. That fear extends even to Alderaan—who is petite, weighing in at about 11-lbs. Berkley doesn’t bark or growl at Aldie, but neither does he get closer than a yard to him.

If, for instance, Berkley is standing on the back porch waiting to come inside, and he catches a glimpse of Alderaan through the sliding, glass door, his desire to come indoors dissipates. He won’t budge. There is nothing that can entice him to come inside—not treats, not even the promise of receiving all of the tummy rubs in the world.

the view

What Berkley doesn’t know, though, is that Alderaan has no desire to fraternize with a dog. He’s lived with Luna for over a year; he’s grown weary of being sniffed. He’d much rather sit on the mantel, where no doggo can reach him.

Prior to Berkley’s arrival, Alderaan would cuddle with me at night. Even though I’d wake up congested and itchy (cat allergy), it was completely worth it. Alderaan would sleep on my stomach, or my legs—which helped me stay put (despite the fact that PTSD wanted me to move).

Berkley tries to help me with my PTSD, too. After waking up gasping one night, Berkley licked my cheek as if trying to calm me.

So, what can I do about my two boys? They both want to cuddle. They both help me—but it seems as though they don’t want to share the same air.

Berkley has been oscillating between Team Mommy and Team Daddy (because, yes, it is a competition). On the days that he’s a mama’s boy, he’ll race upstairs as soon as I change into my pajamas. Berkley is faster than I am; if he reaches the bedroom before I do, he steals my pillows. Once he’s sleeping on those pillows, it’s over. He’s like a rock and can’t be persuaded to move.

stealing pillows

A couple of nights ago, when Seth was working overnight and Berkley had stolen my pillows, I slept on my husband’s side of the bed. I was almost asleep when a little, gray face popped up beside mine. Alderaan had his hind legs on the floor and was stretching upwards, no doubt trying to surmise what the new dog was doing.

Berkley was asleep.

I encouraged Aldie to come up, but he wouldn’t. While whispering to Alderaan, Berkley awoke. He looked at me, at Alderaan, and then he ran out of the room. He came back twice, and ran away twice. After observing this, Aldie had had enough of the drama. He left the room, too.

As a double-agent, Berkley has taken to wandering at night—especially if Daddy is home. Alderaan does not trust that the dog’s absence is permanent and will not come into the bedroom (unless he wants to hide under the bed and/or demand an early breakfast).

Alderaan is still my writing companion, though, and whenever I am at the kitchen table tapping away on my keyboard, he jumps up into my lap. In fact, he watched me write this blog entry. He was purring…so I think he approves of it.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. It truly lights up my world. Please continue sending prayers, love and light.

 

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

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