The Eve of 2019

moon

When I was younger, I imagined that “New Year’s Eve” consisted of bright lights and glittery decorations.

It also included getting dolled up:

Luna in her Christmas collar 1.0
Luna, wearing her red, Christmas collar.

And, of course, you have to make resolutions.

To make resolutions or not? That is the question I’m considering on this last day of 2018.

Are there aspects of my life that I would like to improve upon? Absolutely! Becoming 100% healthy would be wonderful. Building enough leg strength to walk in high heels once again would also be great.

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These goals, however, are easily influenced by outside forces beyond my control. One virus, one bacterial infection, could very easily sabotage my plans to become healthy. One ankle sprain could further weaken my already unstable ankles.

While I can still pursue these goals, they can’t be my only resolutions. The margin for failure is too high. I, for one, become exceedingly melancholy when I can’t fulfill my resolutions. To be successful, I need more than just a statement of “I’m going to do this” or “I’m going to make this happen”.

I need a statement, and then, a plan.

For example, I would like to read more. If this resolution is to be successful, there must be benchmarks. There must be preparation.

Step 1 – Select thin books from my personal collection (this step is based on the premise that shorter books can be read faster. The premise is only true if the books are well-written and focus on an interesting topic).

Step 2 – Aim to read a certain number of books each month (I would start with one—just to avoid failure).

Step 3 – Record progress in a journal or agenda (Accountability is, unfortunately, a necessary evil).

While reading more would be phenomenal exercise for my chemo-scarred brain—and I will give this goal a try—I have larger objectives to pursue. I’m going back to school!

I will be enrolling in two, online courses offered by the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (also known as BOCES). These two courses will form the foundation of my next goal: obtaining a certification in Medical Coding through the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). It appears (knocking very loudly on wood) that I am going to live. And, if I live long enough, I’d like to be able to retire.

This new pursuit doesn’t mean that I will be walking away from writing.

Writing is how I decompress, and process my own feelings. I will continue to post on this blog and to work on pieces of fiction.

So, after writing all of this…I guess I do have resolutions for the coming year!

lift off
2019 – moving up, and forward, with the Princess and R2D2 in a hot air balloon. Because, why not? 

Thank you, Dear Readers, for sticking with me throughout 2018. Your light, love, and prayers have made an incredible, and positive, impact on my health and my life. I am wishing each of you a wonderful and healthy New Year. Here’s to a fresh start in 2019!

 

With Gratitude and Love,

Laura

 

 

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Snow Day

garage roof

As I write this, we are experiencing our first real snow storm in the house that we purchased in May. The natural gas fireplace is doing a lovely job of keeping us warm. The evergreen-scented candle in the kitchen is helping to usher in wintertime cheer.

We live on a well-traveled road, which, we both assumed would be one of the first roads plowed when it snowed. Turns out, that’s not what happens in this corner of the world.

This does, however, allow for observation (a writer’s favorite hobby; we have to get material somehow!). There appears to be two kinds of drivers traveling this morning: the fearless, who drive at break-neck speeds, and the responsible, who drive according to the road conditions.

It’s now 6:39am, and conditions have just improved—a snow plow has rumbled down the road.

shrub with red berries

Snow plows make my heart fill with excitement. I think it’s a lingering response from my childhood. Snow plows often meant school cancellations. I appreciated days off from school like every other child. As an elementary student, a snow day meant playing outside with my brother. As a middle school student, I’d use the time to write (yes, I was writing stories even back then). I would also draw my characters in my sketch book. It was a great tool for remembering what each character looked like.

Adults usually don’t have snow days, but I have decided to make today my own personal snow day. I won’t be building snowmen because a) we have a dog and I’m not interested in discovering any “treasure” that she may have left behind, and b) I can’t walk correctly in my snow boots.

paw prints_

It is the perfect day, however, for painting.

I’ve been chipping away at a Christmas-themed art project, but something has been missing. I played Christmas music while painting…and still the spirit wasn’t there. I think I needed the magic of the snow to inspire me.

I moved my artistic operation downstairs, to the kitchen table, where I could paint and watch the snow accumulating in our backyard. The snowflakes, as they fell, were mesmerizing. It was calming. Peaceful.

icicles

I still haven’t finished the art project…but maybe the goal of a snow day shouldn’t be, “let’s see how much we can get accomplished”. That was the motto I had in middle school and high school; I guess I’ve never been able to properly relax. Thankfully, this self-declared “snow day” proved that I can sit and admire the falling snow. It also proved that sitting down to catch my breath, is not the end of the world. In fact, it is a beginning—a lesson that this winter, even during lengthy winter storms, I can use my time to restore both my body and my soul.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your continued love, light and prayers. Your encouragement keeps me going. I am almost completely off of steroids! It may not seem like a big deal, but, for me, it’s a huge step in the right direction.

 

With Gratitude & Love,

Laura

No Accidents

On August 21st, 2018, I had MRI’s of my lumbar spine and head. Imaging was followed by an appointment with my neuro-oncologist. She is a wonderful doctor and, in addition to making sure that my brain is disease-free, she monitors me for seizure activity.

It, apparently, has been six months since my last seizure.

The medication that my doctor placed me on has worked thus far. And, as long as I continue to take that medication as prescribed, and remain seizure-free, I am allowed to drive.

Yes, they’re letting me behind the wheel again!

steering wheel

But, whoa, girl! You can’t just get in a car and go….

In many ways, I feel as though it’s been a lifetime since I’ve driven anywhere. It’s like I’m 15 years old again, driving my father’s Chevy S-10 around our yard, narrowly avoiding trees. Driving did not come naturally to me and, now, I have a lot to relearn.

I stopped driving shortly before I was officially diagnosed with relapsed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The tumor in my spinal cord (which no one knew was there until February 2017) made manipulating the brake and gas pedals extremely painful. I was too slow braking and I knew I was putting my life—and others’ lives—in jeopardy. To me, it was an unacceptable risk. So, I stopped driving.

That was in my Civic Coupe—the car from my single lady days, if you will. My fiancé and I traded our respective vehicles in when we realized a bone marrow transplant in Boston was inevitable. We needed a vehicle that a six-foot-five-inch tall male could comfortably sit in (the Civic was too small). We needed something that was fuel efficient (his truck, although loved, was not). We ended up with a sedan. Boxer engine. Slate blue. Great MPG.

wheel

Now that I am allowed to drive again, it’s my turn to get comfortable with this trade-in. For someone with spatial awareness issues, though, adjusting to a change in vehicle size is a challenge. To be on the safe side of things, I prefer to drive with a co-pilot. I like to stick to quiet roads. No rush hour for me, please.

Sitting behind the wheel again, though, has surprisingly stirred up some memories from my high school Driver’s Education class. I can picture the manual that we were assigned to read. I can remember driving through one of the small towns near our high school. I can remember struggling with parallel parking. On one of these voyages—in the Driver’s Ed car packed with four students (one driving and three in the backseat)—the instructor asked a rather serious question.

I can’t remember the exact wording of the question but the answer was, “There is no such thing as an accident. There are only collisions.”

Only collisions.

It’s an odd thing to remember, I suppose—but I do believe that nothing is entirely accidental. As I wrote in my last post, there is a plan. We simply don’t know all of the details. It becomes a bit clearer, I think, when circumstances begin to collide.

Please, Dear Readers, continue to send prayers, light and love. Your positive thoughts give me strength; you fuel and fan the little spark of hope in my heart. It glows brighter because of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love,

Laura

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

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.