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

Greetings & Gratitude

Dear Readers,

I am writing this post on the very last day of November! How did we get here? I feel as though I might have whiplash from how fast this month has flown by. The past thirty days have been a blur—save for the beautiful moments that I was blessed with experiencing.

We spent Thanksgiving with my husband’s family. It was a relaxed (and may I say tasty?) holiday. It was raining when we arrived on Wednesday the 27th and the wind picked up at night. The wind was so harsh, in fact, that it reminded me of the ocean’s waves scouring the shoreline.

Luna and Berkley came with us. We discovered that Berkley is really great with kids—even allowing our youngest niece to lay her head on him for a prolonged length of time. The pair cuddled happily on the couch while Luna appropriated her grandmother’s recliner:

Thanksgiving Luna

Of course, all of this did not go unnoticed by their magnificent uncle, Sherlock:

Sherlock

Sherlock is a large, gorgeous boy, and he keeps an eye on everything—especially his canine relatives.

In addition to the great company and delicious food on Thanksgiving Day, I was introduced to “Diamond Dotz”. I’ve been searching for a relaxing, creative outlet—and, thanks to my mother-in-law, I now have one!

diamond art

“Diamond Dotz” is similar to paint-by-number crafts, but instead of paint, the artist uses tiny dots included in a kit. The dots stick to an adhesive fabric design with the use of specialized tools and wax. The craft requires patience and forethought, but the results are stunning!

I also enjoyed coloring with our youngest niece. I’ve never colored with gel pens before, but I think we both enjoyed creating bright (and glittery) art. Later in the afternoon, I played UNO (for the first time…I think it was the first time anyways) with that same niece and her brother. Let me tell you, they were stiff competition!

Finally, what is Thanksgiving without a football game? As Buffalo Bills fans, this year’s game was rather uplifting. It’s nice to see the underdog take home a win.

If this month—or, more accurately, the moments I remember of it—has taught me anything, it’s to live fully in the present moment. Cherish the time spent with the people you love. For instance, earlier in November, I had an opportunity to visit my mom at a craft sale where she was selling her beautiful, deco-mesh wreaths. Our time together means so much to me.

Cherishing every moment, to me, also means capturing quiet, but dazzling scenes like this one:

 

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Remember these experiences—as well as the look on your feline’s face as you write a blog entry—instead of cuddling with him.

Aldie on desk

Once again, Dear Readers, thank you for your presence here today. Thank you for all of the prayers, love and light that you send my way. It leaves me speechless. I hope that you each experience many wonderful moments as the holiday season enfolds!

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

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

Autumn’s Arrival?

August dandelions

It seems, Dear Readers, that the “dog days” of summer are behind us.

Luna & Berkley outside

There are subtle hints of Autumn’s harkening everywhere. The crickets are performing grand concerts every night. I’ve even heard geese honking overhead.

And, then, there’s this:

scarlet leaf 1.0

Yep. Scarlet-colored leaves. If that doesn’t announce Autumn’s early arrival, I don’t know what does.

There’s also this:

When did this happen? These must be left over from last Autumn, right? Nope. There are, apparently, trees already shedding their leaves.

Sadly, what was once green and bountiful, is now turning yellow and withering. It probably sounds crazy, but I’m going to miss my tomato plant. This is the first (outdoor) plant to flourish while in my care!

August tomato

There have been celestial changes, too. The sun is retiring earlier every night, and rising later in the morning.

August Moon

Aside from seasonal allergies, I’m excited for Autumn. I’m hoping to go leaf-peeping and apple-picking. And, oh! I must have hot apple cider with mulling spices! Let’s not forget dipping apple slices in caramel sauce.

Change is always difficult. Even positive changes can spark anxiety. I have found, though, that identifying things that I enjoy (and am grateful for) makes transitions much easier.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for visiting today. I hope there’s something about Autumn that you can look forward to, too.

 

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

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

 

Welcome Home, Berkley!

Berkley 1.0

A couple of weeks ago, a dear friend found Berkley’s bio online. She shared it with us; everything we read about this young pup matched up with what we needed to complement our fur family. Berkley was reportedly a snuggle-bug. Calm. Sweet-natured. We knew, immediately, that he was the perfect fur baby for us. There was no choice. We needed to bring him home.

Luna and Berk

Berkley was originally in Texas, fostered by individuals volunteering for the Great Divide Animal Rescue (an incredible non-profit organization). We submitted an application—to adopt him—and we were approved!

Thus, on Saturday, July 27th, we drove 4.5-hours to Connecticut to pick up our newest fur baby. It was worth every minute and mile. How did Berkley find his way north? In the back of a tractor trailer, operated by another wonderful non-profit organization, Rescue Road Trips.

Rescue Road Trips 1.0

The tractor trailer arrived shortly after we did; we watched, standing beside other fur parents-to-be, as rescue dog after rescue dog was unloaded. It was magical and inspiring knowing that so many lives had been saved from imminent euthanization. The dogs celebrated as they stepped out of the trailer. There were happy barks. Wagging tails. Small dogs, big dogs. So many personalities!

Rescue Road Trips

Although I had seen Berkley’s profile picture online, I will admit to being afraid that I wouldn’t recognize him. It didn’t really matter, though, because he recognized us. One of the rescue’s volunteers led him over to us, and he immediately started kissing on us and wagging his tail.

Berkley is a Labrador Retriever and German Shorthair Pointer mix. His coat is ebony, but if the sunlight hits his fur just right, you can see red highlights. He has dappled paws as well as a dappled tummy (he loves tummy rubs!). The tip of his tail is white. He’s adorable and behaves exactly as his online profile described.

paws
Someone will be getting his nails clipped soon….

He’s also a mama’s boy. For this surprise, I am so, so grateful. I haven’t been anyone’s person since our family dog, Nissa and, then, later, my cat Wallace, passed away. Much of my heart will always belong to them, but Berkley’s presence will undoubtedly help stitch the wound up.

Berkley

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here. I appreciate all of your prayers, love and light. Your good energy does have an impact! Do you remember that dental exam I was feeling anxious about? The results: No new cavities. No root canal needed. Inflammation of the gums due to radiation, yes, but overall, my dentist was pleased at how well I had taken care of my mouth. Prior to transplant in 2017, I had to have a dental exam in which three teeth were marked as eventually requiring crowns. One of those teeth broke in January, and was subsequently crowned. Now, it’s time to take care of one of the others.

Progress. Slow, and steady, progress.

 

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

Route Recalculation

tomatos 71419
Apparently (I hope I don’t jinx myself), I have a green thumb for outdoor container gardening!

I learned some things on the way to my most recent appointment in Boston:

One – Black-eyed Susans grow in colossal patches alongside New Hampshire’s main roadways. When the sun shines on them, they glow gold. I’ve never seen so many of these flowers growing together! It was breathtaking. If the traffic had been slower, I would have taken a picture.

Two – Traffic stopped for an hour on I-93 due to an accident. Someone involved in the collision was air-lifted out. Even amid the sirens of police cruisers, ambulances, and fire trucks, there was silence. Silence for the injured. Silence for the “what-if’s”. A silence that is not heard, but felt.

I learned some things while in Boston:

One – Although I stopped taking my anti-rejection medication in June, it’s still circulating in my body. It takes three months for it to clear out. Until then, I will continue to take an anti-viral, Acyclovir, as well as an anti-biotic, Bactrim. We did eliminate one medication from the list, though. Bye-bye Protonix!

Two – The second dose of a vaccine can be worse than the first dose. The first time I was given Shingrix, I also received seven other vaccinations. At the time, it was difficult to tell which vaccine site was hurting the most or which vaccine might have made me feel like a zombie. This time, Shingrix was the only injection that I received. And it hurt. I spent Thursday, on the couch, nauseous. The positive side of this? Shingrix is replacing the Chicken Pox vaccine in the post-transplant re-vaccination procedural. That’s one less live-vaccine that I’ll be receiving in September!

I learned some things while feeling half-dead on the couch:

One – It’s okay to rest. It’s something that I should have done more frequently after relapse in 2017, but, for various reasons, I was unable to.

Two – There are many, beautiful things in my life. We may not have New Hampshire’s Black-Eyed Susans in our ditches, but we do have these:

blue flower

It’s Biblical-sounding, but you do reap what you sow. In my particular case, it’s Johnny Jump-ups descended from the hanging baskets that my parents gave me last summer.

Johnny

Johnny, obviously, has not had an easy life. He looks a bit beat-up. He doesn’t let it get him down, though; every morning, Johnny wakes up, and soaks up the sunshine.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Thank you for all of the prayers, love and light that you send my way. This week, I will be having a Bone Density Scan (it’s a fairly common exam after cancer treatment). I’ve had one before. It doesn’t hurt. I am, however, feeling anxious about the results.

Bone Density can be affected by many factors, including cancer treatment. Since my relapse in 2017, I’ve had massive doses of Chemotherapy, Localized and Total Body radiation, Ovarian Failure (did you know that Estrogen is essential to a woman’s bone health?). I will admit to being afraid that my once-a-day, calcium supplement and my Hormone Replacement Therapy have not been enough to counteract the side-effects of all of these (ironically) life-saving toxins. Of course, we’ll see what the scan reveals, and make a plan to deal with whatever the results are. Until then, please continue sending prayers, light, and love. Thank you.

And, to leave you on a positive note, here are some pictures of our newest (and youngest) backyard visitor:

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With Love & Gratitude,

Laura