I didn’t realize that I was missing, absent, until last week.
It’s been two years since I put make-up on…and, when I did…the reflection I saw in the mirror was not the pale, tired, transplant recipient that I’ve been. Nor was she the fear-ridden cancer patient.
She was me.
Over the years, I have had various opinions regarding cosmetics. At times, I felt that they were toxic, illness-causing. I have felt that they were just another way in which women (and men) are forced to adhere to society’s unrealistic beauty standards.
I have also felt the exact opposite—that make-up can be used to accentuate features, to highlight natural beauty. I have also viewed make-up as an art form; a creative way of expressing one’s individuality.
For the past two years, I have been buried under doctors’ appointments, surgical procedures, fresh scars, and Steri-Strips. I’m still trying to crawl out from underneath that wreckage…and, somehow, sable eyeliner makes me feel fierce, capable.
With the right blend of eyeshadows, I can see flecks of green in my eyes. I see trees. Nature. Magic.
Applying make-up might not be a natural process, like metamorphosis, but it reminds me of the proverb: “Just when the caterpillar thought that the world was over, it became a butterfly”.
Metamorphosis takes time.
And, sometimes, it requires unexpected tools:
Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here. Thank you for allowing me to share my feelings and thoughts. Please continue to send prayers, light, and love.
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.
Our English Roseum (otherwise known as Rhododendron) is starting to wake up, too.
The shrubs, framing the front porch, are wearing the signs of new growth:
I am not sure if these are Day Lilies or Irises, but they’re certainly trying to reach for the sunlight.
And, then, of course, there are the birds:
Although this photograph—of a cardinal amid the tree buds—was pure luck, his presence was a comfort after such a long week.
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.
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.
“Live. Laugh. Love.” It’s the recipe for happiness. And, who doesn’t want to have a happy day?
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
The month of March always seems to surprise us with at least one, mega snow storm. This year might just be the exception to that trend. It was predicted that we would receive an accumulation of 18+ inches of snow on Friday, March 22. At our house, we saw approximately two to three inches.
The snow started falling here, at 7am, covering all traces of spring.
Two days before, the cedars had been alive with the music of returning, spring-time birds. As the rain changed to sleet and then snow, I became worried for them; they had flown home too soon!
My fears were silenced, though, when I stepped outside with Luna, our puppy. The birds were still singing. The large snowflakes weren’t worrying them in the least bit. They continued to trill and whistle promises of warmer temperatures, growing flowers, and new beginnings.
This was, clearly, a life lesson.
I don’t sing very often anymore. I used to be a descant (high) soprano…but my vocal cords have changed. I can probably blame chemotherapy and total body radiation for that, but there’s no point in placing blame on past, unchangeable events. Instead, I need to be more like the birds. I need to sing—even if it’s snowing, even if I’m wildly off-key, and even if my voice cracks.
I’m not sure how Seth will feel about this confession, but the best part of our five-hour commute to Boston for transplant check-ups is turning on Pandora, and singing together. It’s so much fun! It does wonders for dispelling pre-appointment jitters. Of course, we have our favorite songs: Tenacious D’s “Tribute”; The Strumbellas’ “Spirits”; and the DREAMERS’, “Sweet Disaster”. These are just a few of the songs that we try to harmonize on. We’re also partial to Broadway musicals and anything featuring Neil Patrick Harris.
It’s a long trip though, and at night, when we’re tired of driving, we shift gears and listen to angrier-sounding music. Need to stay awake somehow, you know?
Shifting gears in this blog post, there is one soul in this house that is quite happy to see snow falling. No joke, our baby girl turns 1 on April 1st.
I’m sure Luna would love snow for her birthday, but she may have to settle for canine-friendly cake. Peanut-butter flavored, of course.
Thank you, Dear Readers, for visiting Of Pieridae & Perras today. Your encouragement means the world to me. Please continue to send prayers, love and light. Stay well, keep singing—spring is coming (eventually)!
I try to write my blog posts well in advance of Monday morning…but, sometimes, I don’t have any creative and/or meaningful subjects to write about. The product of such a dry spell is something like this post:
I’m writing this entry on the afternoon of Friday, February 8th, 2019. I usually don’t write this late in the day; in fact, it feels a bit strange to be doing so. I am at the kitchen table, in my usual spot, facing the window. It’s one of those rare winter days in which the sun is actually shining…but it’s also lightly snowing.
Yes, small-talk about the weather. Feel free, Dear Readers, to send me ideas and/or requests.
Starting from where I left off yesterday, it’s now a brand-new morning—with no sign of snow. The sun has begun its ascent, and the dark sky is turning cotton-candy pink. There are already birds diving into the cedars. It was windy yesterday, but today the wind is fierce, cold. I imagine, as the house creaks in resistance, that this is the wolf of the fairy tales (see The Three Little Pigs). The windchimes, hanging on the front porch are singing. It’s not their usual melody; today’s song is unnerving in its pace.
Luna is at the point in her puppyhood wherein she doesn’t like the wind anymore. She’ll snore on the couch, the wind will blow, and she’ll get up to howl at the back door. These are the moments when her mother’s bloodline—coonhound—shows. I look at her, when she uses this grown-up voice, and I can’t help but wonder where our puppy went.
I don’t know what Alderaan’s thoughts are regarding the wind. He divides his time between his bed and the mantle. When he stretches out atop the mantle, it is clear that he believes he’s the king of this house. I’m not going to tell him otherwise.
But I will tell YOU this—
My fledgling immune system kicked viral %*&.
I bounced back from the viral cold faster than my fiancé did. Apparently, my new immune system is light-years ahead of my old one. In the past, prior to my bone marrow transplant, my fiancé would have a cold for two days; I would have the samecold for two weeks. Although I still have a few lingering symptoms, I am pleased with my immune system’s performance. It gives me hope; if Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia ever tries to develop again, my new immune system will certainly recognize it as a threat. It will destroy the malfunctioning cells, before they have a chance to become a problem.
With all of that said, my new immune system is still growing—I will be receiving additional pediatric vaccinations in the near future—but, already, it’s proving itself to be dependable, capable.
I’m certain that my transplant team will be happy to hear this.
I will be sharing this news with the team later this week. Please pray for safe travels and good news. Thank you, Dear Readers, for all of the prayers, love, and light that you regularly send my way. I am so, so grateful for each of you.
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.
When I look outside at this ice—especially the large patch next to the garage door—it summons memories of winters past.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
I am going to keep this entry short, as Christmas Eve day is often busy with cooking, cleaning, packing, and/or wrapping the last of the presents. Amid all of the items on your “to-do” list, please remember to breathe.
Remember to stop and listen to your favorite Christmas song.
Maybe keep the Christmas tree lights on for a bit longer, and really see them. Note the colors, the way the ornaments reflect the light. Try to remember the story behind each ornament. Soak it all in.
I know I will, with a giant cup of coffee in my hand.
Merry Christmas to all of you! I am wishing that each and every one of you has a wonderful holiday.
As I write this, we are experiencing our first real snow storm in the house that we purchased in May. The natural gas fireplace is doing a lovely job of keeping us warm. The evergreen-scented candle in the kitchen is helping to usher in wintertime cheer.
We live on a well-traveled road, which, we both assumed would be one of the first roads plowed when it snowed. Turns out, that’s not what happens in this corner of the world.
This does, however, allow for observation (a writer’s favorite hobby; we have to get material somehow!). There appears to be two kinds of drivers traveling this morning: the fearless, who drive at break-neck speeds, and the responsible, who drive according to the road conditions.
It’s now 6:39am, and conditions have just improved—a snow plow has rumbled down the road.
Snow plows make my heart fill with excitement. I think it’s a lingering response from my childhood. Snow plows often meant school cancellations. I appreciated days off from school like every other child. As an elementary student, a snow day meant playing outside with my brother. As a middle school student, I’d use the time to write (yes, I was writing stories even back then). I would also draw my characters in my sketch book. It was a great tool for remembering what each character looked like.
Adults usually don’t have snow days, but I have decided to make today my own personal snow day. I won’t be building snowmen because a) we have a dog and I’m not interested in discovering any “treasure” that she may have left behind, and b) I can’t walk correctly in my snow boots.
It is the perfect day, however, for painting.
I’ve been chipping away at a Christmas-themed art project, but something has been missing. I played Christmas music while painting…and still the spirit wasn’t there. I think I needed the magic of the snow to inspire me.
I moved my artistic operation downstairs, to the kitchen table, where I could paint and watch the snow accumulating in our backyard. The snowflakes, as they fell, were mesmerizing. It was calming. Peaceful.
I still haven’t finished the art project…but maybe the goal of a snow day shouldn’t be, “let’s see how much we can get accomplished”. That was the motto I had in middle school and high school; I guess I’ve never been able to properly relax. Thankfully, this self-declared “snow day” proved that I can sit and admire the falling snow. It also proved that sitting down to catch my breath, is not the end of the world. In fact, it is a beginning—a lesson that this winter, even during lengthy winter storms, I can use my time to restore both my body and my soul.
Thank you, Dear Readers, for your continued love, light and prayers. Your encouragement keeps me going. I am almost completely off of steroids! It may not seem like a big deal, but, for me, it’s a huge step in the right direction.
Last week I wrote about promises, including a promise that I made to Alderaan to play laser pointer with him every morning. As I stated previously, this promise is also a promise to me—to slow down and cherish the little moments of this life.
One reader (thank you, Victoria!) reminded me that God also calls us to, “be still”. This sounded familiar to me…but not familiar enough that I could recite the book of the Bible that it’s located in, the chapter number and/or the verse number. Curious, I asked her to point me in the right direction.
The Biblical passage that she had in mind was, Psalm 46:10.
In the New International Version of the Holy Bible, Psalm 46:10 reads as thus:
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
As someone with multiple anxiety disorders, being still is not my forte. I am a restless person with perfectionist tendencies. It’s not a fun mix. Even when I am over-tired, I will force myself to check the next thing off of my “to-do” list (i.e. wash the dishes, fold the laundry).
This weekend, though, I had some help with the call to “Be Still”. My left ankle and foot were mysteriously swollen. In an effort to reverse that trend, I had to sit down with my foot elevated. It was torture! I had too much to do! Christmas is coming—I have ornaments to make (guess my family knows what they’re all getting now!). Lounging on the couch, with a bag of frozen peppers on my foot, had not been a part of my plan.
I started rehashing all of the plans that I had had. That’s when I began to wonder: does “be still” apply only to physical activity? Or does it include our thought processes as well?
My mind is never still, never quiet. I am always worrying about something. Always plotting the next chapter. Maybe slowing my body down isn’t enough…maybe learning how to silence all of the worries and the negative thoughts that clutter my mind is just as important.
At first, this next bit is probably going to seem like a tangent. Bear with me, please.
In 2008, P!NK released an album entitled, Funhouse. Included in that album was a song, “Ave Mary-A”, which also alludes to the idea of being still. Now, because I am a worrier, I will repeat the usual statement regarding sharing music: I do not own these lyrics nor do I have any rights to them.
BUT they are so important!
An excerpt from P!nk’s song is as follows:
Help me to let go
Of the chaos around me
The devil that hounds me
I need you to tell me
Child be still.
From the moment that I first heard this song, I knew that it was powerful. It quickly became one of my favorite P!nk songs. It remains so to this day.
I listened to “Ave Mary-A”, on repeat, this past weekend as the snow fell. Be still. Peaceful.
Thank you, Dear Readers, for your continued prayers, love, and light. If my ankle and foot are still swollen after this entry is posted, I will have to contact my transplant team in Boston. They will be sending me for an ultrasound (at a local facility, thank goodness!) to rule out the possibility of a blood clot. Please send good thoughts. They are appreciated!