There’s no way to stop a ticking clock

Clock is ticking with sand timer

Remember when I used to joke about whether this was my last Hanukkah, or Passover, or Rosh Hashanah? I’ve stopped joking.

When Dr. Blood Lite told me I had one year to live, I forbid myself from becoming preoccupied with the clock ticking down my days. A few months have now passed since I received this news, and I’ve been trying to live in the moment rather than focusing on what’s down the road. I’m a realist, though, remember?

I realize no one knows exactly how long I will live. The doctor has given me his best estimate because that’s all he can do. Only time will tell. Maybe it won’t be 365 days, but 364 or 366, or 300 or 400. When I was first diagnosed with polycythemia, I thought I’d be dead within 10 years, and here I am 18 years later. My diagnosis with CML, although scary at the time, turned out to be a minor blip in the story of my health. I know I should be focussing on all the living I’ve done since I’ve been sick and all the living I have left to do, rather than the fact that my life may end sooner than I had hoped.

Then Passover came, followed closely by Easter. This year is supposed to be about creating memories, but last weekend all I could think about was whether I was celebrating these holidays for the last time. All my efforts at living in the moment failed miserably.

I gave myself permission to be sad, which I have to do sometimes. Sad that next year’s Seder would go on without me there to participate. Sad that I’d never again be able to hunt for Easter eggs like all the other preschoolers. I’ve heard of dying people celebrating Christmas early; I guess I could do the same for my favourite holidays as well, but I wouldn’t be fooled.

The thing about being told I have one year to live is that every milestone that passes in that year is potentially my last. Holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, even seasons–any of them could be my last. If my doctor’s prediction of my life span is accurate, I’ll probably live through my 55th birthday next October, but my 56th is unlikely. I should be around for our 6th anniversary this June, but likely not our 7th the following year.

Let’s return to the Seder. Although I was not the designated afikomen seeker–that’s assigned to the youngest person present–I bullied the rightful one into allowing me to conduct the search, figuring it would likely be my last chance to do so. Thankfully, others who were more observant than me guided me to the hidden stash using the red-light/green-light method. This method is effective with toddlers and spacey people like me. Even with this help, the young’un had to rescue me in the end, since, despite all her expert guidance, I still came up dry as a piece of matzah. It may have been my last chance to find the afikomen and I failed miserably.

I will try to create only happy memories in my final year, but some days, I’ll be mourning what’s potentially my last kick at whatever can I’m facing. I thank you in advance for being patient with me.

Advertisements

Partaking of the forbidden fruit

Whole grapefruit and cut into parts

Were I a more diligent Jew, I’d be depriving myself of leavened bread through the 8 days of Passover, along with my fellow tribe members. But I haven’t been diligent. Apologies, Almighty, I have failed you in so many ways. Bread is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Yesterday, J. and I dropped by the specialty grocer and were inundated with generous samples. Cubes of roasted maple ham, bacon and avocado panini bites, need I say more? Then we enjoyed a delicious Easter dinner with friends. The menu? Pancetta-wrapped pork roast. I could have refused it all, but I didn’t. Leavened bread aside, I’ve also broken the no-pork-over-Passover rule. I am a sinner, not a saint.

This is not the subject of my post, however. I wanted to write about the real forbidden fruit. I’m speaking of grapefruit. For 5-1/2 long years, I have been on CML-busting medication that interacts with a compound found in grapefruit. For those 5-1/2 years, I have been grapefruit free, barring the occasional grapefruit Jelly Belly or wine gum. I lapsed once, relishing one piece of J.’s freshly peeled grapefruit, but otherwise, I have heeded orders of complete abstention.

Through the many recent changes to my medications, I wondered whether I had eliminated all the drugs that made grapefruit my forbidden fruit. I stopped by the pharmacy to inquire, and my trusty pharmacist reassured me that I could again safely consume grapefruit. Hallelujah! Grapefruit, here I come.

Do you know what happens when I’m told there’s something I cannot eat? I want it more. I crave it desperately. I can’t imagine my life without it. Until, eventually, my preoccupation wanes and I move on. I understand a smoker can feel this way years after quitting, as can an alcoholic who has long stopped boozing.

When the pharmacist confirmed that grapefruit was off my no-eat list, I headed directly to the produce section of the supermarket and assessed every single grapefruit until I found the best one there. Unfortunately, prime grapefruit season has passed, so the pickings were slim. Most of the remaining fruit were shrivelled and old, but there was one perfect specimen with a nice thin shiny skin. So I bought myself this gift of grapefruit, brought it home, and snarfed it down.

This first grapefruit was almost perfect. It was delicious and sweet, but sadly it was overripe and mushy. Grapefruit needs a bit of texture, don’t you think? If I’d wanted juice, I could have bought juice. I tried to focus on the taste rather than the texture, but I admit it was a letdown. Truth is, my prohibition has lifted as grapefruit season is ending, and that grapefruit is probably the best I’m going to find over the next several months.

And so I must ask you a small favour: next time you’re at the grocery store, would you look for the freshest, shiniest, tastiest grapefruit you can find? If you love me, you’ll buy it and drop it off at my house. I’ll be forever grateful.

As far as I know, there are no prohibitions against eating grapefruit over Passover. So eat it I will, with no fear of reprisal. Who knows? Maybe it will curb my craving for pork.

Even a realist believes in miracles

Israelites leaving Egypt through parting of Red Sea

Tonight Jews the world over will be eating matzah, bitter herbs, and greens dipped in salt water and retelling the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. How did that Red Sea magically part? And how is it that in 54 years, I’ve never noticed the hiding the afikomen, that special piece of matzah, for the kids to find?

While we Jews celebrate our freedom, Christians will be celebrating the miracle of the abundance of chocolate eggs. (That is what Easter is all about, isn’t it? The annual chocolate egg hunt?) The kids will be wondering whether the Easter bunny stole the eggs from an unknowing chicken (rabbits lay bunnies, not eggs), how they too were hidden without anybody noticing, and, this year in Calgary, whether they’ll be able to locate them underneath several inches of fresh snow. Dress well for the hunt, wee ones, it’s cold out there.

I will admit I am somewhat distracted from the holiday festivities this year. Rather than focussing on the miracles of the season, I am focussed on the miracle that I am alive and feeling fairly well. I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge, a loving partner, a dog who adores me when I feed her, and friends surrounding me. I couldn’t ask for more.

But I am also a realist. I don’t believe a miracle will alter what happens to me over the next year. No magic potions, no oddball interventions, no flying down to Mexico for the unvalidated treatment that preys on those who are betting on life. I also don’t believe a doctor will discover a cure for my condition just in time for me. If that were going to happen, it would have already.

I have not consulted a naturopath or a witch doctor or an airy fairy shamanic healer. I don’t think chiropractic care or reiki can halt the progress of my illness in its tracks. Others may pursue those alternative interventions, and more power to them for so doing. I’m solidly a Western medicine girl. My Western-trained doctors have kept me alive this long, and I’m going to trust them to do whatever they can for as long as they can to keep me well.

Please don’t be offended if I politely decline the miracle intervention you suggest. You want me to try those magic mushrooms (not the psychedelic kind) that saved that guy with advanced cancer? They sound amazing, but I’ll pass. I don’t believe they’d help me.

Don’t cry for me, Argentina. I’m oddly at peace with what’s going to happen to me. Knowing I have no control over my impending death is freeing, and easier than hoping for a miracle cure. In the meantime, I plan to treat my body with respect, barring the list of unhealthy foods I plan to eat before I die (Big Mac anyone?), to move my body as much as I can, and to spend time doing things I enjoy with people I love. My goal is more happy than sad days. If I can keep Saddy on side, I’ll be fine.

Happy Holidays! May you all have many personal miracles to celebrate.

Yet another Jewish delicacy: hamantaschen

Triangular baked goods with two fillings called hamantaschen

You may not be aware that this week, Jews celebrated Purim, the happiest holiday in the Jewish calendar. I too might have forgotten without diligent prompting from the better Jews around me. You haven’t heard of Purim? The story, in short, is of good conquering evil. No wonder we celebrate.

Haman is the evil one. He happens to wear a three-cornered hat, which prompted a special-for-Purim baked good called hamantaschen, traditionally filled with jam or dried fruits or poppy seeds or nuts. These days, some adventurous bakers catering to their grandchildren and middle-aged nieces fill theirs with with speculoos spread or sour gummy bears.

One of the Purim traditions is not only to bake these delicious treats but to deliver them to loved ones. The special delivery is known as shalach manos.

Imagine my surprise when I received an unexpected package from my dear doting aunt on Wednesday. I wondered why she would be sending me something since I would see her  in Toronto the following week when J. and I visited. I ripped open the envelope to discover it was filled with freshly baked hamentaschen, which she orchestrated to arrive on Purim.

These hamantaschen came in handy yesterday as I was sitting for almost 3 hours receiving my last iron infusion. What does one do while wedded to an IV for hours except to eat? I had had trouble dragging myself out of bed that morning, so J. had made me a lunch with a salad and a variety of treats so I would not starve. Thank goodness she remembered to pack me a special speculoos-filled hamantasch.

But wait, it doesn’t end there. Thanks to the multicultural curriculum at a local preschool, a friend’s daughter learned all about Purim this week. Armed with this knowledge, her mother, Ms. Artisan Baker, baked a special batch of date-orange hamantaschen for her Jewish friend (that would be me).

I’m not sure if Ms. Baker was aware of shalach manos, but she participated in the tradition nonetheless. Imagine my surprise when J. came back from walking the dog yesterday holding a container of hamantaschen still warm from the oven, procured from Ms. Baker while she was on her special delivery.

I was amazed by Ms. Baker’s wares, especially since they were her first attempt. She must have weeded through the various heated debates amongst Jewish bakers about the recipe for the perfect hamantasch. There are doughs that are shortbread like and those that are softer and more pliable. Then there are no end of fillings. There are strong opinions about how to fold the dough so the filling does not leak out during the baking. Somehow Ms. Baker reviewed all this hamentasch lore and came up with a recipe rivalling that of my experienced aunt. And Ms. Baker is not even Jewish!

Within two days, I was the recipient of two batches of special treats baked and delivered with love. How lucky I am to have two people (three if I count the excellent lunch J. packed me) gracing me with shalach manos. Consider this one of the many benefits of being Jewish. I highly recommend my religion. The baked goods are simply a bonus.

Dying person attends a funeral

Did I happen to mention that J.’s dad died? Probably not. The past three months have been so completely about me that, when she hasn’t been taking care of me,  J. has been dealing with a lot on her own.

Her dad’s death was not unexpected. He was 94 and had been in hospital for weeks. He had long expressed a wish to die because living had become such a struggle for him. He was suffering and eventually his body gave in.

Sometimes there is relief with death–that the person does not have to suffer any longer, that the person is finally at peace. Even in these cases, any death is still sad.

J. was planning to attend the funeral on her own because I was so unwell in the week prior. Of course I wanted to be there to support her, but I wasn’t sure I could manage the exhaustion of the long drive. There was no point in being there if J. would be distracted caring for me.

Then I received my magic red blood cells and so, on Friday, J. booked a hotel room, and we made the trek together. I was glad to be able to attend. The graveside ceremony was touching and thoughtful, and I got to know J.’s dad a bit better after his death. Following the ceremony, the extended family congregated to visit and reminisce. A few hours later, J. and I started our 4-hour drive home.

I must say that going to a funeral was not easy, given what my future holds. Still, my capacity to dissociate from emotion is tremendous when I am overwhelmed. I was largely stoic and focussed almost solely on supporting others that day.

Except when the casket was lowered into the ground. That was hard. I’ll admit I was not thinking about J.’s dad at that moment; I was thinking about myself and my own funeral. I always cry at funerals, but at that moment I was teary knowing that all too soon I’d be the one going six feet under.

I too will be buried rather than cremated because cremation is not the Jewish way. I too will be laid in a casket and lowered into the ground. I have never taken fondly to the whole burial notion though. As it is, I am always cold. I envision myself shivering in perpetuity, and especially if J. forgets to provide my long underwear. Then I remember that once I am dead, I won’t feel anything anymore. No hunger, no anxiety, and certainly no cold. That helps.

As we drove home, J. started asking questions about Jewish funerals and shivas because her knowledge is limited. Our bi-cultural marriage makes this discussion all the more critical. I should have told her that I was spent, and that this would have to be a topic for another day, but instead I became short with her. We’ll have to address Jewish funerals, and many more tough subjects, in the coming months, but I had exceeded my death threshold for the weekend. Next time, I’ll explain my reluctance, and I’m sure she’ll understand. There is a time for everything.

Two Jewish graves, one with stones on top

This is Annie reporting from my new headquarters

Thank goodness Christmas is over. I’m exhausted. J. tells me she couldn’t distinguish my snoring from Jelly’s last night, and Jelly is quite the snorer. I must have been loud.

I am writing to you from my new office. Since I donated my basement desk to the woman cave a while back, I have not had a place to park myself. I have been writing at the dining room table or on the couch. For months I’ve been talking about adding a small desk to my yoga room so I could reclaim a office space of my own. Every writer needs a place to write, doesn’t she?

I’ve been looking for a small desk that would fit in the room while still leaving space for a downward dog, and a live dog, or two. I had found the perfect one and planned to secure it after Christmas. It would be my holiday present to myself.

But let’s go back a few weeks, when I dared to visit our basement, only to see a threatening sign on the guest bedroom door:

Sign on door: STOP, NO ENTRY ALLOWED, Santa's workshop is closed, This means YOU!!!, Yeah you!! Any violations will result in ALL gifts being returned to point of purchase. So there, Bah humbugI may be Jewish, but isn’t Santa’s workshop in the North Pole? Now he has branch offices? Out of fear for my life, I heeded the threat and I did not enter. I assume the threat was intended for me; it sounded more like something J. would say than Santa, with good reason. I am not trustworthy in situations like these.

On Christmas Eve day, J. went downstairs with her computer to work. I knew she had a few upcoming weddings but, two hours later, I was questioning what was taking her so long. She came upstairs for scissors at one point. Did I need to introduce her to the cut-and-paste functions in her word-processing program? Then I heard what sounded like hammering, piquing my curiosity.

On Christmas morning, I woke up and showered, and then we opened our modest gifts to one another. The gifts were carefully chosen and perfect. Oddly enough, I unwrapped nothing that required assembly.

J. often thinks I’m so spacey that I don’t notice things–so what if a full 24 hours had passed before I spied the outdoor Christmas decorations she’d hung this year?–but I do notice. Why was Santa’s workshop off limits? Where was Santa’s handiwork? It wasn’t adding up.

In fact, when I exited the shower that morning, I spied the work of Santa’s labour in my office-to-be. I decided to pretend not to see the gift until much later that day. On closer inspection, she’d bought the exact desk I’d wanted, although I’d never shown her a picture. She is psychic. It fits perfectly. I’ll still have room for my yoga mat and even a dog bed, if Jelly chooses to grace me with her presence.

Later in the day, I was forced to enter this room to grab something, and I feigned surprise at my discovery. (It turns out I had heard drilling, not hammering.) Unable to delay acknowledgement of my subterfuge, I immediately confessed that I’d found the desk hours earlier. So J., despite what you may think, I do notice lots of things. But I thought a little torturous delay might be fun. Indeed it was.

Shot of office desk with chair, dog mat with dog on it, and yoga mat

Sorry you didn’t get my Christmas card

Picture of Ebenezer Scrooge

I think I’ve been a great Jewish sport this Christmas season. I’ve taken in the Christmas lights. I’ve welcomed the tree in our living room, which J. insists on decorating herself. I’ve wrapped J.’s gifts in Christmas paper, and placed them under the tree. Not once did I complain about the Christmas music everywhere. That is a Christmas miracle.

Last night I even participated in the most festive of Christmas events: I attended A Christmas Carol, an annual sold-out play in town. Thanks to the kindness of our dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. Generous, J. and I enjoyed the live production for the first time.

Thankfully J. explained the story to me before we left. As a child, she had watched the movie on television every Christmas Eve. She didn’t believe me when I told her I had no idea who this Scrooge character was, or how he’d gotten so humbuggy.

I’d have been lost without J.’s excellent synopsis. I was captivated by the music and the dancing, and, in this one evening, my Christmas spirit grew three sizes. I was so inspired that next year, I may attend the Calgary Philharmonic’s annual sing-along Messiah. Hallelujah!

There is one Christmas task I have utterly failed this year, however. Early in December, J. began writing out our Christmas cards. Antiprocrastinator that she is, she set a clear deadline for me to contribute my good wishes before sending them off. Otherwise, she’d mail them without my contribution.

If I’m honest with you, I dread the Christmas card ritual every year. As a Jew, I haven’t had a lot of practice with this task. Completing the cards was last on my list this December. That fateful weekend, I had Christmas baking to do and you know, from a recent post, how much mental energy that involves. We were celebrating Hanukah, and that involved latkes and menorahs and gifts. I was busy with other things that mattered to me, and the cards slipped my mind.

The day after the deadline, I remembered and asked J. for the cards. Of course, she’d already sent them. That’s fair. (Parenting 101: Set an expectation only if you plan to follow through.) Frankly I was relieved. I’ve decided my Christmas gift to myself is never writing another Christmas card.

I’ve done a lot of soul searching since that fateful day (not really, but I am trying to sound remorseful here). Am I a bad person? Do I not nurture my friendships enough? Of course I care about all of you, but a Christmas card is not my preferred way of communicating this. I never know what to say, so I write the same trite thing on every card.

As it is, three or so times per week all year, I burden you with the endless minutiae of my life. You are kind enough to follow along. You must know I’m grateful for your friendship now and always, but whatever I write in a Christmas card won’t convey that adequately. Trust your value to me.

And so, because this is the best I can do, I wish you a Merry Christmas x 3, and a Happy New Year. Be healthy, be happy, and find joy in the every day. I plan to.

On the first night of Hanukah, my true love gave to me….

Tray of unbaked chocolate chip cookies with cookie scoop alongside

So far this year, except for burning my baked latkes, Hanukah has been fantastic. Not only am I receiving daily gifts from J. but two friends have hopped on the Hanukah-gifting bandwagon. When I think about what I’ve received thus far, a thoughtful and inspiring cornucopia of gifts, I realize I must be completely one dimensional. At least others view me that way.

Almost every single gift has been related to food or eating in some way. There are chocolates, including real gelt imprinted with a menorah, and other edible treats, and there are kitchen implements and other things I don’t know how I lived without. J. has included a number of garden-relevant gifts. Keep in mind I had no interest in gardening until I realized I could grow food. Every single gift comes back to food.

I’m sure it’s my fault, though. For example, I’d put in a special request for baking scoops.  I figured that, with baking scoops, instead of obsessively weighing each cookie to ensure the batch would bake evenly, I could scoop out the same amount of dough for each. Think of the time I might save!

On the first night of Hanukah, J. gifted me two scoops of different sizes which I’ll use diligently in my baking. Imagine a whole batch of cookies that look the same size and shape without the help of a kitchen scale. I’ve even considered the scoops’ potential uses for cooking as well. Falafel anyone (of course they’ll be baked, not fried), or how about spaghetti and perfectly round meatballs? These new tools will not sit idle at the back of the utensil drawer.

New scoops notwithstanding, we all know my baking speed will improve only negligibly. The scooping may save a few minutes, but it will still take me hours to bake simple chocolate chip cookies. That’s because I funnel all of my obsessive tendencies into my baking. No hand-washing (if only) or lock-checking rituals for me. Place a recipe in front of me and I’ll be at it for hours, overthinking every step and conducting endless internet research along the way. I don’t consider this a disabling problem unless your need for my baked cookies is urgent.

While I bake, I’ll still be online checking the number of grams in a cup of sugar, or flour, or butter. I’ll wonder how the temperature of the butter will affect the texture. I’ll question why my light and fluffy butter-sugar mixture curdles when I add my eggs. I’ll query what kind of cookie sheet to use (light or dark, rimless or rimmed), whether the dough can be frozen, or if I should bake the cookies and then freeze them instead. Of course I’ll have no idea where to place the oven rack for even baking. By the time I’m done, the cookies may taste excellent (assuming my attention doesn’t lapse, causing them to burn), but I’ll need a nap from all the mental exertion.

Despite my obsessiveness, I do love baking. J. loves eating what I bake, but the long process drives her crazy. No wonder she bought me those scoops. Oh, the hopes she had for those scoops. Sadly, I may let her down.

Alarmed woman looking at burnt cookies out of oven

A Hanukah Miracle

Two reindeer visiting with people on sidewalk

This time of year, everyone focuses on the Christmas miracle. So what if a baby was born of a virgin? There are many other miracles happening all around us. Take the miracle of Hanukah: the Maccabees lit the smidgen of oil found in the desecrated Temple and it lasted for 8 days! If that’s not a miracle, what is? Who’s the wondrous one who thought of making coins out of chocolate? Yet another Hanukah miracle.

Then there are the many local miracles that happen this time of year. Imagine being a visitor at our local children’s hospital this week, only to look out a window and spy four local real live reindeer walking by. Nifty.

J. has been a busy little elf this past while performing Christmas miracles in support of the children at the hospital. She helped Santa dole out gifts to the inpatients, and sold gifts at a gala in support of the hospital. If she asked you, after purchasing your $250 ticket to attend this gala, “Would you like to buy a $40 gift for a child who will be hospitalized over Christmas?” Only a scrooge would say no.

Last Sunday she co-opted our special friend to volunteer with her at the Teddy Bear Toss, an annual Calgary Hitmen hockey game. Each year, attendees throw teddy bears onto the ice following the first Calgary Hitmen goal. The bears (or other stuffies, including two dreidels that J. saw) then need to be sorted into bags to be distributed to the children at 60 recipient agencies, including the hospital.

Our special friend is always dressed to the nines whenever she goes out, so let’s call her Ms. Glam. After hours of sorting stuffies, Ms. Glam realized she had lost the precious watch she had worn to complement her outfit that day. The watch was a beloved Christmas gift from her adoring husband last year. By the time she realized her wrist was bare, the watch could have been anywhere, including the garbage or amongst the bags of 24,605 stuffies. She figured it was lost forever. She accepted that perhaps she hadn’t made the best choice of accessories that day. She was not happy.

J. emailed her volunteer coordinator, described the lost watch as best she could, and figured that would probably be the end of it. J. firmly believes that, however unlikely the outcome, she always has to ask. Had the watch been found and J. had not alerted her coordinator to the loss, how could it ever make its way back to Ms. Glam?

Miracle of miracles, J. received notice last night. “I think we’ve found the missing watch.” An employee at one of the stuffie-recipient agencies found the watch when she unpacked a bag, and let someone know who let someone know who…you know how this story ends.

Ms. Glam couldn’t believe her luck. She’d thought it so unlikely that the watch would be returned that she had already replaced it. This afternoon, Ms. Glam is returning her purchase since it turns out she doesn’t need a new watch after all.

So be sure to ask, even if the outcome is unlikely, and then don’t give up hope. And don’t forget that people are basically good at heart. You already knew that, but the occasional reminder won’t hurt. Oh, and leave your special watch at home if you’ll be sorting stuffies.

It takes an introvert to know an introvert, or does it?

Guy lying on floor says:

During our PALS visits at the university last week, Jelly became quite tired early on, as she often does. Despite the chaos all around her–other dogs, exam-fearing students–she lay down and fell asleep. I apologized to the student petting her at the time, telling her that Jelly often finds the visits exhausting. The student responded, “Maybe she’s an introvert.” Kids these days. They’re so smart.

I’d never really thought of Jelly as an introvert before, which is odd because I am one myself. Introverts like their alone time. They may also enjoy being with others, but they can find social interaction draining. Extraverts, on the other hand, are energized by spending time with others. They leave the party wound up rather than needing a nap. Most of us are ambiverts, falling somewhere in the middle.

Sometimes I compare myself to my extraverted friend, Ms. Bubbly (it’s Dr. Bubbly to you, but Ms. has a nicer ring to it), who is at the other end of the spectrum from me. She’s constantly running from one social event to another. I don’t know how she does it.

Ms. B always invites me to the frequent large social gatherings she holds at her home. She understands when I politely decline each and every time. She knows I’ve always found such get togethers overwhelming.

Later this month, Ms. B will be hosting her annual Hanukah party, which I have already declined. I need to save my limited social energy for two engagements we’d previously scheduled for the nights following. This means I will not get to eat any of the 12 dozen latkes she has ordered for the occasion. (You read that right: 12 dozen. She has a lot of friends.) The authentic latkes alone spur my motivation to go, but my introversion still won out. That and the potential for bruising from having to battle the crowds to get to the latkes.

Ms. B and I often go for coffee after Sunday yoga, a sign that introverts do not avoid all social interaction. They may prefer more intimate gatherings, and they enjoy solo time to regroup occasionally. When we go out, Ms. B and I have lovely visits during which we catch up on each other’s lives. I relish this one-on-one time.

I can manage small groups, so long as I don’t overdo it. Two major social engagements last weekend necessitated a day on the couch. My introversion long predated my leukemia, so I can’t blame my health. If I hang out with you, whether alone or with others, and my eyes start glossing over after a time, please trust it’s not you, it’s me.

Now that I think about it, I realize that Jelly hasn’t fallen far from this introverted tree. She prefers small groups of dogs, cowering in the bushes when larger packs approach. She, like me, assesses any situation fully before jumping in with four paws. And just as I enjoy my alone time, she is fine to amble the off-leash park on her own, stopping to greet only the most fragrant of dogs. When she is overwhelmed by a group, she does exactly what I do: she avoids the situation altogether, or she lies down and takes a nap. Like mother, like daughter.