It’s Staying Up Until Epiphany!

christmas tree aglow 2.0

Dear Readers,

Where did Christmas 2019 go? One minute we were decorating our tree (with our signature blend of home-made ornaments and Star Wars collectibles), and the next moment we were carrying discarded wrapping paper and boxes out to the recycling bin.

SW and homemade

I was so excited for Christmas, and it certainly lived up to my expectations. My big present from the hubby this year was a new washing machine. I know, that may not sound overly exciting to some people, but I was thrilled to be given a machine that wasn’t going to constantly screech errors at me!

Christmas for me, and many others, though, isn’t solely about the gifts.

It’s about family—sitting at my parents’ dining room table—as my father said “Grace” over the delicious meal that my mother had prepared.

It’s about attending Christmas Eve service—listening to the readings, singing along to both new and old Christmas hymns, while the candles in the sanctuary flicker, painting the walls gold and making the windows gleam.

Christmas is about embracing church family and thanking God that, yes, I can hug these wonderful, inspiring people again! I couldn’t do that a year ago. I definitely couldn’t do it two years ago when my immune system was infantile.

Yet, here I am, with only a few days left of 2019, and I’m grateful to still be here.

There was never a guarantee that I would survive Cancer #1 or Cancer #2. Neither of those experiences were easy—this last one took a lot out of me. I’m still recovering. In fact, it’ll probably take all of 2020 to feel halfway human.

According to my oncologist, the most common complaint among allogenic transplant recipients is fatigue. It’s not the kind of fatigue that you can sleep off. Neither caffeine nor sugar will help. You simply have to endure this fatigue; sometimes miserably, and sometimes proactively with appropriate amounts of physical and mental activity.

With all of that said, I am sure that you, Dear Readers, have an inkling as to what my goals for 2020 will be.

Before I was diagnosed with Relapsed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2017, I maintained a daily, rigorous yoga practice. It was borderline Power Yoga.

yoga on the deck

As the tumor in my lumbar spine grew, I eventually lost all of the strength and flexibility that I had gained through yoga.

I’ve been taking baby-steps toward my former level of athleticism—utilizing chair yoga, restorative yoga and trauma yoga. I will continue doing these forms of yoga until I am ready for Power Yoga. By June, I intend to be doing The Wheel again!

Wally and Wheel

Also, in 2020, I will keep my mind busy with a self-created reading list (comprised mostly of books that I already own but haven’t had a chance to actually read). I’ll continue learning new languages via Duo Lingo. Currently, I’m studying Norwegian. Jeg elsker det (I love it)! Additionally, I will retrain my sometimes chemo-foggy brain through dusting off my GRE practice book and revisiting vocabulary, analogy and complex mathematical lessons. Each lesson is similar to a puzzle piece—revealing parts of the old me that existed pre-cancer.

Finally, I intend to keep the Christmas spirit alive throughout the new year. The first step in this multi-faceted plan, is to leave our Christmas decorations (except, maybe, for the tree, which is already losing a superfluous number of needles) up until Epiphany. According to the Christian calendar, Epiphany is traditionally celebrated on January 6th and marks the moment when the Wisemen (aka Magi) find Jesus.

wisemen

I mean, come on! It’s only December 30th! The Wisemen haven’t even made it to Bethlehem yet! The Christmas lights will glow in this house until that manger is discovered!

Of course, keeping the Christmas spirit alive involves a lot more than leaving decorations up. It requires us to practice kindness, generosity and gratitude on a daily basis. It might also take the form of small, but thoughtful, acts of friendship, such as writing letters and sending them off via snail mail. For me, part of it will consist of visiting cafes with friends—all to drink a cup of coffee and to talk awhile.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Thank you for your prayers, love and light. I do hope that 2020 is kind to each of you!

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

Dear Santa – Our Star Wars Stockings are Up…

SW Stockings

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

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

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

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

love at Christmas time

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

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

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

cross & manger

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

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

 

“Hocus Pocus” Made Me Cry

the stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

watching tv 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

With Love & Gratitude,

Laura

 

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

 

This Isn’t Good-bye

 

POA 2016

Dear Readers,

After much deliberation, I have decided to change my posting schedule. Instead of sharing a new entry every Monday, I will now be sharing one every other Monday. For instance, my next blog post will appear on Monday, September 23rd.

I am not abandoning Of Pieridae & Perras. In fact, I think this new schedule will make the blog stronger, and more interesting. It will give me the time, and the freedom, to cultivate fresh ideas. I look forward to sharing these future posts with you!

pine

Thank you, Dear Readers, for the years of support and prayers that you’ve given to me. Your love, light, and positive thoughts have carried me through some of the toughest moments of my life. I treasure your commentary and your presence here.

I will see you, again, on the twenty-third. Until then, I hope that life treats you kindly.

 

 

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

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

 

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