Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Livey

Right after bringing Livey home.
Nearly five years I covered a murder on the east side of Springfield, Illinois. While shooting video of the home at the center of the incident, I noticed a tortoiseshell cat in the fenced-in backyard.  Moments later that cat jumped the fence and was at my feet, in the middle of Livingston Street, talking to me with a raspy meow.  She was emaciated, her meow weak. I was told she belonged to the murder victim, who clearly had not cared for her, and that earlier in the year she gave birth to a litter of kittens, all of them died.

It was a sad story, she was a sweet and persistent cat, and after she welcomed my cradling her (I was testing to see how she would respond to my affection), I was sold. I set the flea-infested cat on the passenger seat of my station vehicle, held her in place with one hand, and drove north to the Animal Protect League.  Once there, I told them to fix her up (spay, shots, all that fun stuff) and I would be back to welcome 'Rawr Rawr' (her initial name based on her raspy meows) into my home.

Livey's first night in my home was spent on my screened-in back porch.
A few days later, after realizing her name wasn't practical and was very hard to say, I changed her name to Livey, as in Livingston, the street where we met.

That was the beginning of the next four and a half years.  Livey, the third cat my home, moved from Springfield to my mom's old house in the Chicago burbs, to an apt in Chicago, and finally here to Indianapolis with me.

The cute duo.
My potbellied kitty, who for years ate until the point of throwing up, who was known to attack our other female cat, had her flaws, but was such a gift.  She's was the type of cat who would rub her nose against you if you make a smooching sound, who would take her petite paws and set them on your face whenever given a chance, who the veterinary staff all knew as a super sweet cat, one who defied the typical temperament of tortie cats.  She eventually made up half of what Spencer and I referred to as the 'cute duo'.  She and Harriette were always idling together in the house, Harry munching on her ears, Livey calmly standing by.

Two years ago Livey started showing signs of sickness, primarily diarrhea.  The vet recommended steroids, which then caused diabetes, and which this past week got to the point that we felt it was necessary to put her down.  On top of using our home as her personal bathroom, Livey had lost 50% of her weight, her back legs were starting to give out due to diabetic neuropathy.  The decision to let her go wasn't easy and was coupled with a lot of tears and uncertainty.

At the vet we cried, we cuddled, and took lots of photos.  Spencer, wanting to give Livey a final treat, even bit a dog treat in half so it was small enough for her to tackle.  Her final moments were calm, and it was surprisingly peaceful how the initial sedative hit her and she slowly lay her head down.  They put her in a cardboard coffin, taped fresh flowers from their garden to the top of it (which they told me they don't normally do), and puffy faced and worn out, we went on our way.

That was last night.  Today, upon their suggestion, we buried Livey in our neighbors' yard.  It made sense as we rent and have a tiny green space whereas they have a big, beautiful fenced-in yard where two of their cats are already buried.
Right now there's a part of me that mourns her, a part of that says 'it's just a cat', and a part of me actually celebrating the freedom Spencer and I now have (no more cleaning up her endless messes, or taking her with us on every trip out of town because she would destroy our home if left alone for days).

That's all.  Just wanted to make note of her and what she has meant to not just me, but Spencer, the last few years.  Little Livey. We'll miss her.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A Very DIY Christmas

Haven't blogged in a while.  I blame wedding planning and Christmas.  That said, before the holiday gets away from us any further, I need to share the DIY madness which was our family Christmas this year.  First though, the family photos...

Kelly Family Christmas in Champaign, Dec. 28
Forman Family Christmas in Wood Dale, Dec. 25
Now to the craftiness of everyone I know and love (including myself). What's so great about it: everyone created something different.  

From top left to bottom right below:  
  • A jar of the handmade cashew butter Spencer's sister, Ashley, created.  Super delicious.  I've been eating it by the spoonful.   
  • One of the chalkboard signs Spencer and I created for family.  We bought the wood at a craft store, along with some chalkboard paint, chalk pens, and twine.  Suprisingly looks just like it did on Pinterest:)
  • A small purse I made for Allison.  I made a similar one for Ashley.  The most impressive piece to this, they're lined and I did both of them in one afternoon (albeit an afternoon of much swearing, but it didn't take nearly as long as I expected.)
  • One of my gifts from Spencer.  A dishtowel with Harriette's mug ironed on the front.  We've since learned this can not be used as a hot pad....the Christmas tree image on the other side of this is already pretty melted.

  • The stocking I made Spencer (he chose the cat fabric) so he'd have one that matches the hand-sewn stockings Allison made for our family years ago.
  • Amy's new business venture turned Christmas gift: Rosemary foaming soap and two flavors of chap stick (mint and mango), all of which I've been using daily.

  • Allison showing Amy two of the three shirts she designed for her with paint and contact paper, the blue design specifically made because it reminds her of a shirt our mom bought for Amy years ago.  
  • Spencer modeling the potholder and oven mitt Allison created for us.  Hand sewn.  Really nice quality. Adorable.  Looks great in our kitchen. 

  • The creative and thoughtful Christmas cards Spencer made with construction paper the morning of Christmas Eve. The first for his mother, who uses multiple emojis in every email; the second for his friend Randy who loves Dr. Who; and the third for me, his snowboarding fiance.   

  • And I'm really proud of this one: Spencer's first sewing project.  We forgot to actually take a photo of it, but here's a picture of his mom putting it to use.  It's a cloth bookmark (with interface) that has a piece of elastic sewn into it (and he reinforced it!) so you can wrap it around the book and securely keep your place.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Costa Rica

I recently read a piece about how much people hate hearing about other's vacations.  It suggests doing so pushes people away.  So.  Friends.  Get ready.  I'm about to talk about our vacation.  (dum, dum, dum) Read with caution.

Boat ride from the village of Tortuguero back to our lodge.
It's been nearly three weeks since Spencer and I returned from Costa Rica. It was a great trip, largely because Spencer and I actually got to spend time together for days on end (a rarity due to my early morning hours.) It also didn't hurt that we read a ton of horror stories about being mugged or having your bags stolen, and none of it actually happened to us, making for a pleasant surprise. 
View from our room at Hotel Fleur de Lys in San Jose.

Up, down, and around the corner.  Our day of driving east.
Our day in Limon, celebrating Carnival.

Our trip was broken down into a few stops. We flew into San Jose, spent an afternoon exploring the downtown (even stopped into a casino for kicks), then the next day took a rental car east toward the Caribbean, which in itself was an adventure. For hours on end we drove along windy roads, up and down, over and over. At times the GPS would warn of an upcoming 'windy road' which made us giggle since we hadn't had a straight path since we left San Jose. So our second day was spent driving, with one stop for a short hike along Irazu Volcano, where we fed little scavenging raccoon-like creatures called coatimundi (a big highlight for me).

For several days we stayed just south of the port city of Limon, in a little hotel along the ocean.  We spent a day waiting around for, and eventually witnessing, the Carnival parade in Limon; another day hiking and snorkeling in Cahuita National Park.

On Day 4 we ditched the rental car, joined up with a vacation-tour group and were driven north to a sandy dock where we were picked up by boat, and taken into Tortuguero National Park. The remainder of our trip (aside from a ziplining excursion on the ride back to San Jose) was pretty much there.

We spent our nights at Tortuga Lodge, in a room surrounded by screened windows, eating ridiculous amounts of food offered during our meals there. In the morning we woke up to the sound of Howler monkeys in the distance. During the day we hiked behind the lodge, we toured the rivers that weave through the park on boat, we kayaked, we swam in Tortuga's pool, we spotted sloths in trees, took a boat across the way to the ocean to search for baby turtles, and once we took a break to nap in hammocks. On one night we also ventured out into the darkness, along with a tour guide and other guests, to watch a sea turtle crawl out of the ocean, dig a hole, and lay her eggs in the sand.
The food.  Oh, the food.  Those little blocks of fried cheese goodness were Spencer's favorite.

Tortuguero National Park and the beautiful Tortuga Lodge where we stayed.  Also, notice all those waving people in the top left.   That is lodge staff which comes out to wave as your arrive and then lines up to see you off as you head out.  It made us giggle but we loved it.
Ziplining through the rainforest canopy in Braulio National Park.
We took about 1400 pictures on the trip.  Many of monkeys, dogs, and lizards. 
DSLR heaven.  Had so much fun taking photos like this on the trip.
Day 7 was spent driving, actually getting a ride with the tour agency, back to San Jose and ziplining. Day 8 we were home.

I have so much to tell that I'm having trouble recapping this trip, which I'm largely doing for personal reasons.  I just don't want to forget what a great time we had. 
  • I want to remember the nights Spencer and I spent playing Gin Rummy and drinking pre-mixed cans of Rum and Cola.
  • The hours we trying to figure out when Carnival started and then spent sitting on a curb in Limon, waiting for the parade to begin.  It started two hours later then schedule.
  • The excitement we had every time we spotted a new animal or turned a corner to a different view on our drive...and how Spencer constantly reacted with, 'Take a picture!'
  • How in awe we were when we first arrived at Tortuga Lodge and heard about what was in store for the next few days and all the amenities available to us.
  • There were the cold towels the staff at Tortuga gave us before every meal so we could cool off.  The 'frosty drinks' we looked forward to when we returned from an excursion with the lodge.  They would meet you on the dock ready to give them to you!
  • Oh yes, there was the morning at Tortuga we woke up with a bat in our room and Spencer insisted we get rabies shots. (We didn't)
  • How much we laughed as we kayaked, and at times raced, along the river, through Tortuguero Park.
  • And all the dogs!  Every town we visited, along every road, we saw them, and we usually took a photo.  We were especially thrilled when we visited the village of Tortuguero, nestled within the park.  It's an isolated town so all the dogs there are related.  We discovered a plethora of small ones which all looked the same, trotting around and welcoming guests.
It was just a really. great. vacation.  It reminded me how much I love exploring, that I need to find time and money for travel more often.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Wedding Planning Begins

Sitting on the couch right now thinking
a) I wish HuluPlus would work so I can continue watching American Horror Story
b) I need to research affordable caterers in the Champaign area and
c) shit, so much has happened in my life lately and I haven't record any of it in my blog.

So first things first, all that 'stuff' that's happened.

The big one:  Spencer and I are engaged!

He popped the question on October 12, his birthday.  Of course the question then, how did he do it?

Future husband
In short, I had gone to bed on the 12th around 6pm.  Early to bed, since I'm early to rise for work.  A bit later Spencer woke me up, wearing a suit, boxed ring in hand.  He said some amazing lovey things and asked me to marry him.  And then followed up the next day with flowers, and the day after that, a hand-written poem.

So it wasn't the over-the-top proposal I had secretly been hoping for. But, and a big but here, Spencer is amazing.  He tells me everyday how much he loves me.  He truly makes me feel loved.  Up until my work schedule changed in August, I could rely on the sound of him grinding coffee beans downstairs at 10pm as I got up for my overnight shift.  The weekend he proposed, he dedicated his entire Saturday to supporting me: cleaning disgusting kitten cages at a Mega Pet Adoption event I wanted to help with; and then standing by, taking photos, and keeping me company as I emceed an event.  And while it's just minor, I still smile at how be brought me breakfast as I reported in a snow-storm, which led to him being off work, last winter.  He is always there for me.

So.  He didn't do amazing with the proposal, but I'm over it.  I can. not. wait for the rest of our lives together.  Also a cute side note: apparently Spencer's dad also proposed to his mother, yes, in bed.  So we have that going for us.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

13.1 Miles

I did it.  We did it.  Spencer and I attempting our first half marathon over the weekend.  We completed it, made it past the finish line, but barely.

Running 13.1 miles had been a goal of mine for some time.  I signed up for the Chicago Half Marathon in June as I had been running a lot and felt confident I would be ready.  Things happen, life gets in the way.  August came, my work scheduled changed, and long story short, I didn't run the entire month leading up to the half marathon on Sunday.  Not once.  But when you pay $90 to take part in a race, heck, not being ready isn't an excuse to skip out.

Taking the Blue Line at 5 am 

That said, there were plenty of reasons for us to skip this race.  Aside from not being ready, it was in Chicago meaning we had to set aside our whole weekend to run it.  We had to get up at 4 am just to take a train and then a cab to Jackson Park on the city's south side.   It was really inconvenient.  In the future, signing up for races that start a few blocks from my home (they exist).

So anyway, super inconvenient race.  We weren't prepared.  And it's why I'm proud that we both went head first into this, put a smile on our faces, and ran anyway.

The first 8 and a half miles were do-able.  I tuned out with music.  Spencer, in his pepperoni pizza shirt (Christmas gift from Allison), ran beside me.  But then I hit a wall.  My legs stopped working.  Cramped up.  I walked for a few, then ran, then walked, then ran, and that was the final five miles for us.  Looking forward to water stations, limping along, running when we could, being passed by runners of equal level who moments later we were running past as they took a break to walk.  There were a lot of us in the back, just trying to finish.  

It was hard.  I definitely wasn't ready, and as you can see by our final race times (below), I could have done far better.  The moments that made it worth it though:  
  • Hitting that 8 and a half mile mark, the farthest I have ever run at once.  
  • Seeing the smile on Spencer's face as runners and spectators cheered him on, yelling "Pizza!!"
  • And the feeling of just pure love I had for Spencer as, even though he was able to keep running, he slowed down with me every time and stayed by my side. 
So still glad we did it.  I want to do another one.  Because seriously, look at my time (which is basically our time) we can only go up from here:)


Monday, September 01, 2014

Laser Beams

In June my eyes decided to stop welcoming contacts.  After wearing them daily for 15 years it was as though my body decided it had had enough.  I tried prescription meds,  stopped wearing them regularly, but every time I put them in, redness and pain ensued: a frustration for a TV reporter forced for the first time in my career to regularly wear glasses on air.   So that coupled with the fact that optometrists have told me for years, 'Your eyes aren't getting enough oxygen, veins are growing further and further over your eyes, this will eventually be an issue" led me to the decision to go underneath the laser and have PRK eye surgery about 12 days ago now.

For the last two months, I researched.  My first doctor visit was a bummer.  The laser center telling me I wasn't a candidate.  Would never be one.  Not for Lasik or the less invasive, PRK because my corneas are 'abnormally thin.'   Second doctor said yes to Lasik.  Third and fourth told me PRK, wiping away a thin layer of cornea rather than creating a flap of skin, was my only option.  And so based on their recommendations (2/4 doctors agree!) I opted for PRK.  

As far as pricing.  There was quite a range.  One clinic offered it at $2800 for both eyes.  But that didn't include enhancements or touchups if my eyes change down the road.  Another clinic quoted me at $4400, which included future surgeries if needed.  A third, LasikPlus, put me at $3500, partially because my insurance company had a partnership with them.  Future surgery included in that price, they have locations across the country I can go to.  It won my business.
Waiting for my ride to LasicPlus
The day of the surgery I took an Uber car to the doctor.  Like when I skydived ten years ago now, I tried not to think too much about what was about to happen.  The clinics are pretty cavalier about it because so many people come in and out of their offices.  In fact, if you go in for a consultation, they'll offer to do the surgery that week.   Its as though they prey on your excitement, want to convince you do to the surgery before you have second thoughts.

At most of the chain clinics, like LasikPlus, doctors actually travel to different locations throughout the week.  Louisville one day, Indianapolis the next.  It means on days doctors are doing laser surgery, lots of people are lined up to get it.   So when I went in, I was by no means alone.   The waiting run was full of people being run through the process: Watch this video.  Sign these papers.  Take this Valium.  Finally actually meet the ophthalmologist operating on you (I researched Dr. Greenberg ahead of time).  And then go directly under the laser.  It's a pretty fast-moving process.  The entire time you are witnessing other people under the laser as the operating room is surrounded by clear walls and they have a television screen facing the waiting room that shows an extreme close-up of the actual eye they are operating on at the time.
The video you're asked to watch right before the surgery.
Answering all my top questions to the tune of "I can see clearly now,"
Here we go.  Taking valium about 20 minutes before PRK.
The actual PRK procedure was painless.  They had numbed my eyes.  All I had to do was lie on my back and stare straight ahead as Dr. Greenberg, who one at a time had wedged open each eye with some device, basically doused my eyeballs with liquid, wiped at them, and then fired off the laser before placing a temporary clear contact lens over my eye. The actual laser part took seconds.  As warned, it was accompanied by the smell of burning skin.  Again, no pain.  That said, you can't help but think the entire time, 'Man you are really poking at my eye. This is definitely going to hurt later."

I was right.  Spencer was there to drive me home right after the procedure.  He hadn't driven me because the surgery fell right in the middle of his work-day and they tell you to set aside a couple hours for it.  By the time we got home, so about 30 minutes later, I was feeling the burn.  I went right to sleep.  And remained asleep, waking sporadically to eat and take meds, for the next three days.

In fact, the only time I left the home over the next five days was for my 24 hour check-up back at LasikPlus.  Spencer drove me as I sat in the passenger seat, wearing my clothes from the day before, sleep mask on, shielding me from any sunlight.  At the clinic all the folks who I saw the day before were awaiting their check-up.  Those who had received Lasik, rather than PRK, had driven themselves in.  Were seemingly fine.  I envied them so much as I sat wiping away the ongoing tears my eyes kept creating.

Swollen and squinting the day after PRK.
Awaiting my 24 check-up.  Miserable.
So the next few days:  Pain, Vicodin, endless eye drops, sleeping, sleeping, and sleeping.  Seriously, I slept day in and day out.  Spencer bought ice cream.  It gave me motivation to get up every now and then.  He pre-made some PB & J's for me so I could easily eat (necessary before taking Vicodin) while he was at work.  Egg sandwiches were another speciality I learned to expect from him each morning.
Spencer's pre-made PB&J for me.
I was miserable and it wasn't so much because my eyes hurt but because I was so extremely sensitive to light.  Any light.  Our home was dark for days. 
The animals loved my immobility./Eating in an eyemask./Day four.
Harriette modeling the eyemask you're asked to wear for several days following the procedure.

The morning of day five I had a turnaround.  I woke up in minor pain as usual but within a couple hours was actually able to walk around the house, turn the lights on, do some chores.  It was a big break-through.  Granted, my vision was still very blurry.  I couldn't watch TV, read, or sit at my computer, but the fact that I could actually prepare my own food and stay awake for longer than 10 minutes was a hug step.

Day 6 was even better.  Vision improved.  I went back to LasicPlus, had the recovery contacts over my eyes removed, was told my vision with both eyes was at 20/40 which is completely normal for several weeks after the surgery.  Also, I cleaned out the medicine cabinet.
So long, saline.  The glasses, contacts, cases, and solution I no longer need.
Day 7 had me back at work.  I couldn't wear eye makeup quite yet as they don't want you rubbing your eyes for a full week following the procedure.  So I looked a little bare as noted below, but no biggie.

Which brings me to today---12 days later and I'm still squinting a bit.  I'm told it will be this way for a few weeks as my eyes continue to heal.  I put eyedrops, some of which are prescription, in about a dozen times a day and will need to for a couple weeks still.  So a few minor inconveniences, but overall I am so incredibly happy.   On a daily basis, I find myself thinking I need to take my contacts out before I go to bed only to squeal that no, I'm seeing clearly without them.  It's such a huge change as I've been tied down by specs since second grade.  I realize reading glasses will be need in ten years time or so, but for now I celebrate.  I can finally see on my own!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Phish Show 15 Years in the Making

Fifteen years ago, when I was 14 and my sister, Allison, was 18, both of us were in love with Phish.  Actually, correction: she was in love with Phish, I had one or two of their albums, but wasn't quite at her level.  Regardless, when she asked if I wanted to road trip with her six hours to Noblesville, Indiana, to see them play, the answer was yes.  I have this memory of not really caring if I went or not but of feeling honored that my big-sister had even asked me to join her.  

It was a last-minute invite (as in late the night before). Allison had just seen the band play in the Chicago-area and called home with news that the friend she traveling with was sick.  Essentially she wanted to go to another show, had no one to join her, and wanted to bring me a replacement.  And to quote my journal which I dug up just for this post, "Of course, I said yes!"                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I remember the morning we were leaving the uneasy feeling my parents had about us going.  It was storming at the time, so early it was still dark outside and they worried the roads would be bad.  Nonetheless, we were allowed to go and we hit the road in the family's Chevy Cavalier, with the goal of catching Phish that night.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     To make a long story short, we never actually saw Phish.  We had headed to Deer Creek without tickets.  Allison made a sign that read something along the line of it being my first Phish show, that we needed tickets.  We stood near the venue, holding the sign, trying our luck, but had such a small amount of money on us we never would have been able to afford two, or even one, ticket.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               My big memories?  Despite what my journal says, "There were a lot of hot guys everywhere.  People were doing drugs, smoking, and drinking.  I bet Al and I were the only sober people."  They are actually all related to spending time with a big sister who had just hit the age where she started to enjoy my company, rather than despise it.  Allison lent me clothes to wear on our trip (she didn't want me to look like a teeny-bopper in a Sugar shirt), she inspected food we bought off street vendors (trying to protect me from scary drugs that could be hidden inside), made me promise I wouldn't tell mom if she did anything rebellious (at the time I was so innocent that I had no idea she was likely referring to smoking pot), and insisted that even if we could only afford one ticket to the show we needed to buy it, so I could go inside and experience Phish.
Allison trying to get us tickets.
My other memories involve my being a cranky 14-year-old with little tolerance for discomfort.  I was hungry, so sick of eating the Chex mix and plain bagels Allison brought.  During the show, as we sat outside listening, I was cold, tired, still hungry.  Really, I was so miserable at times.  Seriously, look at my face the morning after the show right before we headed back home:

Since that show I've seen Phish twice, in 2003 and 2004.  In both cases, I was with friends, not with my sister.  Which brings me to this past weekend.  They played at Northerly Island in Chicago.  Allison, her husband and eight-month-old daughter, my boyfriend, and two of my good friends (who I actually saw Phish with ten years ago) all together to jam out.  As Allison said as we drove to the venue, the five of us (minus Maddie and Ryan) squeezed into her Scion, this really was a "Phish show 15 years in the making." 
Allison, Walker, Johanna, Ryan, Maddie, me, and Spencer.
Lawn seats. 

The newest Phish Phan in our family.