Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Merry Christmas Story

When the stress of the holidays gets intense and it seems like everyone is just wrapped up in the consumerism of it all, remember this story and don't get discouraged. The human spirit is astounding and what I love the most about this time of year is that it gets a platform to shine its brightest.

Craig, Sammy Dog and I have experienced what is true Christmas magic this year. We've experienced the meaning of selfless giving and humbled receiving among human kind. It came in the form of surprise "elves" who visited our porch steps devotedly for 12 straight nights – the 12 days of Christmas.

It started with a little pear tree and two pears completed with a rhyming note that spoke of the trees that had fallen in the freak October snow storm that blanketed our town and the ensuing magic that would be brought to us: "Diamonds, you have no idea what you're in for." And, we didn't. We thought it was cute. Craig devoured the pears and we sat the wrapped pear tree on the bongo drum next to our Christmas tree.

To our surprise and delight, every evening brought a unique, thoughtful gift or basket of treats and a creative note to go with it, following the theme of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." These elves would stealthily reach our doorstep each night somehow undetected by the perky ears of Sammy dog and our usual keen observation of any action on our street as we live on a dead and and the sound of cars always brings excitement. 

Most nights we wouldn't notice anything until the doorbell rang, Sammy went crazy and we dashed to the window. But we never saw more than a fleeing set of arms and legs sprinting away and could never tell who it was. The elves would come at different times each night, making it difficult to stake out their arrival through our picture window. They would roll up the street with the headlights off on their cars so we had no chance of being alerted. Our living room and dining room are full of windows and the wrap-around porch was aglow with white Christmas lights, but somehow these elves made all of their deliveries without revealing their identities. 

We would get so excited each night counting down the hours until their arrival and trying to guess what the next gift might be. Each one was always thoughtful, funny, and so tailored to everything we love – Tazo Tea? Stella beer? Cheesy quiche? Homebaked dog treats? Crazy mismatched socks? A Clean Food cookbook? It must have been someone that we knew, but when we accused all of our neighbors and friends, no one had a clue. We thought at the time that they just had a really good poker face. 

The anticipation and excitement of it all was utterly thrilling and so magical. I had some particularly difficult times filled with pain and frustration over those 12 days, but no matter what, when we heard the thud of a present on our porch, I couldn't hold back the smile and Craig would go running out to retrieve it. We'd open each one together carefully reading through each note of adorable poetry and sifting through the goodies. One night I was away for an emergency overnight at Sloan-Kettering hospital in NYC with my parents, but Craig sent me a photo of that evening's gift so that I wouldn't miss out. 

Many of our friends, family, and neighbors knew about and would wonder in anticipation with us what this whole ordeal was all about. And even Craig's fifth grade class got into it as they would guess as to what the 8th, 9th, 10th, night would bring based on the classic song and Craig would report to them in the morning what arrived for us. One student even drew a picture of "Mr. Diamond" opening the door to greet the elves and find the next treasure. The whole concept brought everyone around us so much joy and childhood wonder.  Again, it was nothing short of magic and it couldn't have come at a better time for magic in our lives having taken a few very hard blows this month. 

Turns out, these elves aren't a set of close friends. They weren't colleagues or close neighbors. These elves were three families from our town, Simsbury, who are complete strangers to us. The letter enclosed in the 12th night gift revealed that each year the families work together to choose a recipient of their elfing escapades in the hopes to bring some extra cheer to those in the community who may need it one year. We were the fortunate and humbled recipients of these families' incredible, selfless act of pure giving and love. 

I cried and Craig even teared some as we read the letter revealing their stories about these random acts of kindness they've been performing for the past six years. I was in awe and so deeply touched by the thought and care, grace and support, joy and peace that these perfect strangers brought into the lives of two young people and a crazy dog that they've never even met. As moving, was the college entrance essay the elves enclosed, which was written by the oldest elf-child, now a college freshman. It talks all about the life lessons she learned while performing her elfin deeds each year during the holidays – lessons so many of us can gain from. 

In their note, the elves (who we still only know as "Ezra, Blanche, Torchy & Their Families") mentioned that they read my blog. If you are reading this now, please know how much you have touched our lives. You infused such a spirit of joy in us and we are eager to spread that cheer to everyone around us and to be able to pay this beautiful gift forward one day. We are so sorry that we weren't home on the 12th night and hope that you received our note. We desperately want to meet you so that we can know the identities of these magical elves on Earth! We want to hear more about the antics and the background involved in this wonderful and wacky project and are so honored to have been a part of it. We want to meet you and hug you and thank you ten million times over. Maybe we could schedule a date with you, elves? Please e-mail me at 

There really is magic all around us. Thank you for helping us see that even through some of the darkest times. Love, peace and joy to you, elves, and to all who may be reading this. Hold your loved ones tight and breathe in these special moments of sharing, giving, and just being together. I wish nothing but unadulterated joy for all of you in the year to come. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Not As Easy As It Looks

I haven't been able to write. I still don't know if I am able to write, but I'm going to give it a try. I'm not certain why it's been so difficult. I think it's a combination of not wanting to dole out difficult news to those that read this and of the memories that flood in every time I open this blog page. But this is my outlet and this is my honesty. I haven't been feeling "inspirational" or "heroic" or "positive." For really the first time, everything has caught up with me.

I have been living with focused blinders on and now am suddenly feeling all the punches from nearly three years all at once. I've gone at this with sheer determination and I know that what I am writing here will come as a surprise to many, but I am asking for your understanding and support. I know that this is not what always appears on the outside. But I believe that it is important for everyone dealing with their own medical issues and for those watching a loved one go through it to understand that we can't be smiling all the time and that it gets very tiring to hold it all together. I think that that's okay. But I don't think that it's easy to admit.

Life has been very difficult over the past month. Things have been more difficult for me to handle than they have ever been. I've been dealing with a lot of anger, frustration, and feelings of defeat and helplessness. I'm uncertain and uncomfortable. I'm unfocused and unstable. I get very sad and very mad and very frustrated. I'm finding it much harder to pull out of the low places. I'm finding many less places of elation. I resent other people and get wildly jealous of their happiness and wish desperately to find my own again. I feel like I cry all the time, but at the wrong times.

I hate being on treatment again. I hate that I have no idea if it's working. I hate the feelings that the Hodgkin's disease is flaring up. I hate the fear of GvHD. The Revlimid has been primarily well tolerated except for tremendous fatigue; I am so tired all of the time but so anxiety ridden that I can't sleep in the way I need to be sleeping. My eyelashes have thinned again, nearly all of them that I worked so hard to re-grow after transplant have been showing up on cotton balls and on my pillow. I again have the eyes of a cancer patient and it's incredibly unnerving.