A New Home

We closed on our house!

It doesn’t quite feel like home yet, but, given some time, it will. We will fill these rooms with laughter and happy memories. We’ll add new colors. We’ll play music and celebrate the holidays with family and friends.

Owning a home, for me, is so much more than signing a stack of papers. It’s more than a financial commitment spanning a handful of decades. I realized, while watching the wild bunny in our backyard, that buying a house is an immense leap toward rebuilding my life.

backyard bunny 3.0
(Sorry that the quality of this picture isn’t better.)

Buying a home is another step toward recovery.

It’s an act of hope—hope that I will not relapse again, that the bone marrow transplant will be 100% successful, and, ultimately, hope that I will live long enough to leave my mark on this house.

I know. It sounds a bit pessimistic, but this is how you think after surviving cancer. You are constantly looking over your shoulder to see if the disease is following you. Amidst this worry, you learn how to breathe again. You learn how to live. Or, at least, you try to.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for all of your support and encouragement. Please continue to send light and love. Alderaan is back at the vet’s office. Poor little guy had a urinary tract blockage. We’re hoping that he’ll be discharged today.

 

With Love,

Laura

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Nightingales and Chickadees

 

There is a crocus blooming beneath our apartment’s front window. Every time I see it, I find myself hoping that it is spring’s herald.

crocus

My scars, and my bones, need some warmth to chase away the ache of old wounds.

My spirits could use some sunshine to lift them up.

I’ve been relying on little things to elevate my mood. In recent days, I’ve found myself laughing as tiny bubbles float upwards from our kitchen sink, filled with dish soap. It reminds me of Disney’s cartoon version of Cinderella—when she was scrubbing her stepmother’s floor. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched the movie, but I believe it was at this point in the film that Cinderella started singing a song about the nightingale.

little things desk

Unlike Cinderella, it is the chickadees in the nearby cedar hedges that make me smile. Even though the sky is often cast in gray, and it’s cold out there, the chickadees welcome every morning with a cheerful tune. It gives me the courage to pack yet another box in preparation of our move.

Handling change—even positive change—productively and with ease, is not my forte.

We’re still hoping to close on the house by April 30th. I’m not sure if that will happen, but that’s the goal. I didn’t understand how involved (and stressful) the home-buying process was until we began it. I guess, maybe, most things in life are like that. We don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into until we’re in the thick of it.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for sticking with me. I appreciate your presence here as well as your commentary. Please continue to send love and light.

 

With Love,

Laura

Cleaning Out the Clutter

At least once a week, I will see a meme or an article abstract on my Facebook newsfeed saying something to the effect of, “a cluttered home is indicative of a cluttered mind”. My mind, although scarred from cranial edema and a bit slower than it used to be, is constantly on the go. If I’m not mentally writing the next scene in my fiction manuscript, I’m composing an extensive “to-do” list. Or, I’m obsessing over something. So, yes, you could say that my mind is cluttered (or, at the very least, quite busy).

I didn’t realize how cluttered our apartment was, however, until we started packing our belongings up.

wall of boxes

I wasn’t going to write about our new house, Dear Readers, until everything was finalized; I was afraid of jinxing us. In any case, we’ve started packing as we hope to close the sale by the end of this month. Exciting? Absolutely. A lot of work? Oh my God, yes. So much work!

The two of us have somehow accumulated a lot of stuff. Most of my stuff isn’t even here at the apartment to pack up—it’s at my parents’ house.

My library? At my parents’ house.

My collectibles? At my parents’ house.

My favorite pieces of art? At my parents’ house.

Moving, I think, is ultimately an exercise in letting go. I’ve sorted through most of my clothes already (I still have one more plastic tub to go). Those clothing items that no longer fit—either my body or my personality—have been donated. Even if I love a particular dress or sweater, if I don’t feel comfortable wearing it in this present moment, it has to go.

Transitioning from this living space to the next one will be a process. I will keep you up-to-date, Dear Readers, on how closing (and then the actual moving) unfolds.

Please continue to send light and love. This week brings an oncology check-up in Burlington, VT. I usually get tremendously anxious about these appointments…and maybe that’s why my PTSD flashbacks have been on the rise lately…but it’ll be good to see the faces that took care of me during both my first and second cancer treatments. Gratitude, for your doctors and nurses, helps diminish the fear.

 

With Love,

Laura

Learn, Then Overcome.

Easter 4 2018

Did you know that a cat with a urinary tract infection (UTI) will associate the pain of the infection with his/her litter box, thus leading to undesirable behaviors (i.e. urinating outside of the box)? Treatment with certain steroids will also lead to urinating in inappropriate places.

Alderaan is currently doing this.

I think, though, that we all do it on some level—associate our personal pain with things/places/people/specific dates. Either consciously or subconsciously, we alter our behavior to avoid what we think will cause more pain. Which, in light of my life experiences, sounds a lot like anxiety. Someone once told me to imagine anxiety as living in a box. The more you try to avoid the things/people/places that make you feel anxious, the smaller your box becomes.

This year of post-transplant isolation has stuck me in a very small box (fortunately, there’s just enough room in here for a laptop and I’ve been writing my heart out).

When this year of saying “no” to visiting friends and family comes to an end, I’m going to be in a situation not at all unlike Aldie’s:

Aldie will have to relearn how to use the litter box (which is why Mommy and Daddy bought him a new one with special litter that apparently smells irresistible to cats), while I am going to have to learn how to trust my puny immune system.

I will have to overcome the social awkwardness that this year of isolation has impressed upon me. Similarly, we are doing everything we can to help Alderaan overcome his fears and return to health and appropriate behaviors.

September, after all, is coming.

crocus

Please, Dear Readers, continue to send light and love. For those of you who knew about my struggle with unexpected weight loss (a big no-no in transplant land), I can assure you that I put some pounds back on and am now at an acceptable and healthy weight. My doctors are pleased with my progress and we will be starting my pediatric shots in May!!! I know; it’s an odd thing to be excited about. But I am excited.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sticking with me through this.

 

With Love,

Laura

Springing Ahead

gerbera

With the time change this past weekend, I began to think about the future. Usually, when I think about it, my mind becomes fear-filled. I’m not quite sure what happened, but this time, I started day-dreaming about the possibility of happier times. I thought I’d share some of the day-dreams that made me smile:

  • For those of you who don’t know, we’ve been house-hunting! Eventually, we will find the perfect house to turn into our own home. So, step one, find and get the house. Step two, hit day 365 post-transplant, obtain Boston’s approval, and bring Alderaan to his new home. Step three, once Aldie has adjusted to the change, we will adopt a (rather large, cuddly) canine that is feline-friendly.
  • Get Boston’s approval to play in the dirt because, although I do not have a green thumb (it’s more like the thumb-of-impending-plant-doom-and-death), I would like to garden. I want to plant giant sunflowers and hollyhocks. I want to raise string beans and snow peas. I am curious about growing Hops.
  • I am excited for the dietary changes that September will bring. I can’t wait to add honey to my tea! I miss honey—just like I miss Goat and Feta Cheeses. Some caramel popcorn would be nice, too.

I am well-aware that you cannot live in the future. We must live in the present. And, yet, in this present moment, I am tired of living in fear of another relapse and/or developing some secondary cancer. This isn’t my first rodeo with cancer, so I know that these fears will never entirely go away. I can, however, choose to ignore these dismal thoughts (unless it becomes apparent that there actually is something wrong with me). Instead, I can summon courage and stubbornness, boldly filling my mind with springtime sunshine, daisies, and the chirp of robins.

We were supposed to go to Boston this coming Wednesday for a check-up, but as many of you probably already know, we’ll be getting a Nor’easter instead. So, we’ll be playing it safe and staying home. I know I don’t really get a say in this, but I refuse to die in a car crash on my way to a cancer/transplant appointment. I mean, how ironic would that be?  So, no. No Boston this week, but I will call later today and reschedule the appointment. Please send light and love.

 

With Love,

Laura

Why Pieridae?

moth bw

Dear Readers,

I didn’t have an appointment in Boston this week, so I don’t have any cancer/post-transplant news to share with you. Other than spilling my Magnesium Oxide all over the floor (thank God it wasn’t my anti-rejection drug), my week has been quiet. It’s given me the opportunity to diversify my daily routine. For instance, in an effort to build some stamina, I’ve started taking walks outdoors. It’s cold and wonderful and I can do it mask-free—like a normal person! As long as I don’t encounter construction or someone doing yardwork, I’m golden. Safe.

This week, then, is the perfect occasion to share the post that I had planned to write immediately after launching my blog. As most of you know, my life took a detour and the post was never written, never shared.

In the not-so distant past, I received several inquiries about the title, “Of Pieridae & Perras”. I chose Pieridae for a couple of reasons:

a) I adore alliteration. I use it in all of my writings—articles, fiction, my blog. It’s magic to me.

b) Pieridae refers to a family of (think scientific ordering of species) butterflies. What better word to accompany the opening proverb, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”?

c) I’m not a caterpillar or a butterfly, of course, but I can relate to feeling lost in the darkness of a cocoon. I can relate to biding my time, waiting for a transformation to occur. It is, for these reasons, that the cake celebrating the end of my cancer treatment (the first time) was embellished with the above quote.

cake with quote

We all go through dark, difficult periods in life. I have found that when these times finally come to an end we have a choice: we can regroup, recreate and fly, or we can remain immobile in the remnants of our cocoons. Flying is not an easy skill to master. I’m still trying to figure out just how to do it. Writing blogposts every week has helped. It’s helped me to connect with others. It’s been an outlet. It’s nudged me toward more positive-thinking.

When my days have been particularly rough, it’s given me a purpose.

We head back to Boston next week for another check-up. Please continue to send light and love. Your encouragement has kept us going. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

With Love,
Laura

Wallace the Wonderful Becomes a Big Brother

alderaan-1-1523

As I write this, Wallace the Wonderful is sitting on the back of the couch, nose pressed to the window. The sun is slowly peaking up and over the rooflines along the street. A murder of crows, roosting somewhere nearby, are cawing up a storm. Wallace’s striped tail twitches; all of this is clearly of interest to him—but so isn’t the small feline sitting at the opposite end of the couch.

Yes, Dear Readers, you read that correctly.

We adopted another fur baby!!!!!

Eh-hem. Sorry. I got a little excited there. Back to the story.

For the last five months, my significant other and I had been discussing the possibility of adding to our fur family. Wallace seemed to be increasingly bored, which meant he was increasingly mischievous. I imagine his thought process looked a little like this:

“Hey, Mom, I see those papers. Are you working on something? Here, let me help with that. Those are some pretty fine bite marks, right? I feel like it really adds to the story.”

And,

“Hey, Dad, you disappeared into the kitchen and left your sandwich on the coffee table. Why are you leaving it? It must not taste good. Here, let me add some seasoning. Voilà, I give you floor sandwich. Do you like it?”

Although Wallace’s hijinks were amusing, we couldn’t help but feel that he was trying to tell us something—that maybe, just maybe, he might need someone to play with. And, so, the discussion began. Should we get a kitten? Should we adopt an older cat? The decision wasn’t an easy one and we became really good at making excuses to delay it. There were autumn weddings that required us to travel, and, while Wallace the Wonderful was more than happy to go to Grandma’s house, would such a move be too disruptive for a new fur baby? Then, of course, there were the holidays to consider. How would the new cat cope with a dinner party? Or interact with a miniature Christmas tree?

Despite all of the activity, and despite all of the indecisiveness on our part, we still found ourselves trolling Petfinder. We made the occasional inquiry; was this cat available? No. What about that one? Still no.

It was then—just when we had given up on the idea of adopting another fur baby—that one of the local shelters listed a rather promising kitten. She was cute. She was spunky. So, as not to waste a moment more, we climbed into the truck and drove to the shelter.

Sometimes, Dear Readers, the best of intentions do not come to fruition. Sometimes, the Universe has a surprise up its cosmic sleeve.

The kitten we were interested in? She wasn’t in the cat colony that afternoon. The little miss was in recovery (she’d just been spayed) and wasn’t seeing any visitors.

We were disappointed, but, at the shelter staff’s suggestion, we went into the cat colony anyways. There was another, slightly older feline that they thought we should meet—a cat named Alderaan.

When we walked into the cat colony that afternoon, Alderaan roused himself from a nap. He looked up at us with big, blue-green eyes, and, as soon as my partner touched him, the little guy began to purr.

We returned to the shelter the next day—when the kitten we had been interested in was set to appear in the colony—but it was Alderaan that stole our hearts. While speaking with the shelter staff about the kitten, Alderaan reached a paw out to my partner. He let it linger on his coat sleeve, as if saying, “Hey, I’m right here. It’s me. I’m your new fur baby.”

So we brought him home.

At three years old, Alderaan is small, weighing only 7 pounds compared to Wallace’s twenty. He wears a slightly bedraggled expression, but every ounce of him is pure love bug. He loves to cuddle. He loves to purr. He loves to sit in one of the living room windows, looking out at the world, while his big brother occupies the other.

And, how has Wallace the Wonderful adapted to the duties of big brotherhood?

Well, like any first child, he’s had some issues sharing his toys (but thoroughly enjoys playing with Alderaan’s toys). He’s hissed a bit. But, by Alderaan’s second morning with us, Wallace and his baby brother were playing together, racing through the kitchen, into the bathroom, and back again. We haven’t caught the pair snuggling just yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

Second Post, Draft #5

These are the things you should know:

  • As I write this, Sunday afternoon is winding down. The sky is a little darker, a little cloudier. There is a breeze and it speaks of rain.
  • Wallace is curled up in my lap, purring loudly with encouragement. I am only half-joking when I say he is my therapy cat.
  • I’ve rewritten this blog post at least four times…and I still don’t know what I am going to say.

Last week, I began this adventure knowing that my blog wasn’t perfect. Hitting that “update & publish” button was terrifying. It was the kind of rush that pushes your heart up into your throat and makes the sounds and sights all around you a little bit clearer. When my heart finally dropped back down into my chest, it was swollen, grateful, with all the messages and “likes” that you each shared with me. Your encouragement and love carried me through the week. There are not enough words to thank you for that.

This week’s post, though, is a different beast entirely. Whenever I tried to write this post, the words refused to come to me. The ideas were stuck, just out of reach, and entirely unwilling to commit themselves to paper. The writers among you will recognize these symptoms as belonging to a condition called “Writer’s Block”. It’s an acute illness that temporarily paralyzes the writer’s ability—you guessed it—to write. It is characterized by the presence of the dreaded blank page, not knowing what your next step in a story is, or just being plain out of ideas.

But I am not suffering from Writer’s Block. What, then, am I experiencing? Doubt. Terrible, nauseating, doubt. I am:

  • Having doubts that I can write this post.
  • Having doubts that I can write at all.
  • Having doubts that I can write this post without crying and hitting the “backspace” button until the page is clean again.

I am not sure that “doubt” classifies as an emotion or as a thought-process. My gut tells me that it hugs the border between the two with only one main goal: to prevent forward motion. To prevent us from saying, from doing, from feeling, from being. Sure, doubt can be useful too, asking us to reconsider situations which might otherwise be damaging to self or others, but this isn’t one of those situations. This is a situation where doubt can only harm and hinder growth. This is a situation—an adventure—wherein doubt is utterly and completely useless.

What would be useful on an adventure like this one? An unrolled yoga mat to find center amidst fear. A cup of tea to give comfort. The voice of a loved one telling me to stay the course, to keep pushing forward no matter what Doubt whispers in my ear.

Adventures like this one aren’t easy. Putting yourself out there—for the entire world to see and read about—is not easy.

Growth isn’t easy. It hurts to face our fears, our doubts.

But it can be done. One step at a time. One draft at a time.

So, in closing this fifth (and thankfully final) draft, these are the things I hope you know:

  • As I finished writing this post, Sunday afternoon transitioned into Sunday evening. There was still a cool breeze, but it never rained until 3 a.m.
  • Halfway through the writing of this post, Wallace left my lap.
  • I finally figured out what I wanted to say.widget-085816

If Your Best Friend Tells You to Jump…

I feel as though I have written this blog post a thousand times—in my dreams, during my commute to work, on scraps of paper that Wallace the Wonderful is now using as a cat-bed. I never get very far in any of these drafts. I mean, how do you start something like this? What do you say? Do I even have anything to say?

It’s a fairly obvious observation, but bloggers offer something to their readers. Maybe it’s a skill, an experience or a perspective. Maybe it’s a passion. Maybe you’re documenting a new journey—as a first-time mother of twins or as a globetrotter on an overseas trip. Whatever it is, bloggers have a vision, a plan, a sense of direction.

The scary truth? I can envision exactly what I want this blog to be, but I’m afraid to embrace it. I’m afraid of making mistakes. I’m afraid of being less than perfect.

Perfectionism has been my constant companion for the last 29 years. I was the kid that made it a life goal to never get my name on the chalkboard for detention and then cried like a baby—in front of all of my classmates—when it did happen. I also wanted to be the perfect student and if that meant spending my summer vacation curled up with a math textbook so I could answer every question correctly in the fall, then so be it. Later, I wanted the perfect body, which meant my frame needed to melt from 169 to 120 pounds. I am sure you can extrapolate what that particular quest for perfection looked like.

In those early days, I thought of perfectionism as a virtue, an attribute that would propel me closer and closer to my dreams. And, in some sense, it did. I never had detention again. My grades were, although less than ideal to me, very good. My goal weight was achieved and maintained for many years. But at what price? As I wrap up this decade of my life, I’ve begun to view perfectionism not as an admirable characteristic but as a hindrance, a roadblock.

Because I am a perfectionist, I’ve missed out on opportunities to learn new skills. Why? Simply put, I might fail. I might *gasp* be less than perfect.

I’ve missed out on some really delectable, once-in-a-lifetime meals because I was afraid of gaining an ounce or two.

I’ve missed out on making memories with incredible people because I was afraid that I wouldn’t fit in perfectly.

Perfectionism has cost me my peace of mind. It has cost me creativity and spontaneity. It has ultimately limited the breadth and depth of my experiences. It has made writing this first blog post a form of torture.

But, knowing any of this, does it make a difference? Can you change a mode of thinking, a way of life? Can “perfect” evolve into the more forgiving and freeing motto of, “I am going to do my best and that will be good enough”?

“Just,” one of my dearest friends instructed, “begin.”

It’s a simple thing to say—only two little words—but that’s what we do, isn’t it? We just begin our days. We just begin diets and books and classes. We begin projects and gardens and new jobs. Each moment, really, we’re beginning something. Even in finishing tasks, we’re on to the next one, starting something new in the subsequent second. Sometimes those beginnings are seamless like finishing the last refrain of “Happy Birthday” and cutting into the cake. Sometimes they’re a bit messier, like the first day of house-training a puppy. But they’re beginnings. They’re imperfect and perfect, important and insignificant, fleeting and yet ever-present.

So, today, I am going to take my friend’s advice. I am going to begin, knowing that this blog isn’t perfect, that I’m not perfect. And that’s okay. Because I am doing my best. And it’s a beginning.

I am beginning.

Now.

As soon as I hit the “update & publish” button.