TheProtagonist5

So, um...yea...Living in Chicago

Ze Frank Is Back With A Show
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5
Interestingly, I'm not the only person who has missed the daily fun, of watching his web show since 2006. 

Check it out and support him because:

1. He is funny 
2. He likes pushing the evolution of social media 
3. He seems like a pretty smart guy

I imagine that creating videos daily or weekly must be a nerve racking experience, so I can't blame him for taking some time off. I do hope that this new "A Show" helps bring him even more opportunities because I thought after how awesome his show was in 2006 he would obviously be everywhere, but I haven't heard much about him until recently.

Anway, just watch "A Show" and be supportive. He insipred me a lot when I was in a job that didn't allow me to use any of my creativity or ideas for the web. I'm much happier now, but he is still inspiring because he gets up in front of a camera every day and makes me laugh.


Funny In translation
Vespa Summer
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cannoliProject Manager asks Proofreader/Editor about proofing some videos in other languages today.

She asks what/how she would be proofing this? She speaks French in addition to English yet none of the videos are in French.

He states that it is just to verify that the tags/description are in there like requested. It was created by the company so they have verified the information to begin with.

He also says that he may have more videos in Italian by the end of the day. You don't speak italian?

She says, fettuccini alfredo...

And the writer sitting at the next desk Chimes in Yea, Canolli.

Project manager says, yea great because this is specifically an alfredo and cannoli video. (sarcasm)

Some of the many hurdles we face with humor here doing international work.

I work with some of the funniest most talented people I have ever met. I couldn't do my job without their collaboration.

Snowflakes
Vespa Summer
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Snowflakes by ChicagoPhotoShop
Snowflakes, a photo by ChicagoPhotoShop on Flickr.

We woke up to snow this morning. Pretty when it isn't enough snow to stop traffic.


Peaceful Fall
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5
Untitled by celialee
Untitled, a photo by celialee on Flickr.

Time to enjoy the sights via Flickr. I didn't spend much time outdoors this year.


City
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5
Manahattan by ecstaticist
Manahattan, a photo by ecstaticist on Flickr.

Sometimes I miss the city and all the hectic business that happens there.

But I never miss the 2 hour train ride.


How Will We Sustain a More Populated Planet?
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

That is a very good question. Some ideas:

Smaller homes, use less energy, work remotely, commute less, exercise more, improve local agriculture, community relationships/organizations/sharing, educate everyone & never stop learning.


Beautiful day to be sitting on top of the world.
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

A lot of people have moved on from Flickr to Twitter and Instigram and Facebook.

I always liked how discovering photos from around the world made me want to go out and do/see new things.

Now my blog is mostly about health trials and tribulations, maybe because health is the focus of my work...Maybe because I'm married and that means little time for travel and recreation with a husband an home that needs work.

Maybe it is time to look for some new inspration.


Sonic Death Cold of 2011
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5
It isn't often that I get a garden variety cold. I've been pretty successful at avoiding them since I started getting more sleep and taking vitamins.

That is until last week.

Yes, the sonic death cold virus has evolved and attacked again. And after missing literally a week of work due to a fever that would not break I am finally feeling better.

Some tips from my experience for when the next evil cold virus strikes:

1. Find the nearest pharmacy and get some allergy medicine with a D (decongestant). Yes, you have to show your ID and all that, but it is more powerful than the OTC cold remedies. Also if you are really old school, Benadryl apparently is what we used to get in a lot of cold medicines. You can still buy it and the generic name is Diphenhydramine. Boy do I miss the old Contac. Not even the Benadryl worked as well as that did. Some of the 24 hr Allergy D meds may keep you awake at night, so the 12 hour is best. Benadryl is for 4-6 hours. Asking the pharmacist is always a good idea if you don't already have a favorite in mind.

2. Buy Kleenex with the lotion in it, I went through about 3 boxes of Kleenex and my nose would have preferred the lotion.

3. If you are "chasing a fever", meaning it comes back when the Tylenol/Advil/Aspirin/Aleve wears off for more than a few (2-3) days, go see your doctor. (Or a walk in clinic at least) And if it is over 102 call them that day. With kids you may want to be more cautious. My situation initially looked like just a garden variety virus but after 8 days of fever my doctor decided it might be more than one thing going on and antibiotics were prescribed. I have read a lot lately about how important it is to find a good Family Doctor and actually make a point to go see them. In the long term it ends up making your access to health care a lot easier because you have someplace to go. At least in theory, without the whole insurance debate.

4. Find a way to sleep. Without sleep for 3 days I was really out of it. Even watching TV at that point took too much energy. I was one crabby beyatchski. This does require not taking the 24 hour Decongestant that usually comes with a stimulant of some kind. 

5. And the typical drink lots of fluids recommendation is important since you're mostly blowing it right out your nose. I seriously dislike orange and apple juice because of drinking mostly those two as a kid. I think water is ok but when you are sick getting actual nutrients in juice is more important since you probably don't feel like eating. Good old Campbell’s chicken noodle soup still doesn't disappoint.  

6. The idea of a humidifier is an interesting one, but more applicable if you are actually able to clear your nose and breathe. If you can't breathe through your nose, it may not make a difference. A humidifier on the heating system will work, but your windows may fog up. This is also helpful if like me you have a sore scratchy throat.

7. I have also had it recommended that a warm salt water gargle is helpful with a sore throat. I can't really resolve how that is possible because it sounds both completely gross and potentially like rubbing salt in an open wound, which is what my throat felt like.

8. Avoid going out if you can. I found that I could force myself to go to work, get things done and seem all cheerful to those around me but then when I got home I felt 2x worse. Plus it isn't really fair to get the people you work with sick too.

Any other suggestions I missed? Leave a comment:

Fog Lapse (Movie) Photography SF
Vespa Summer
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This is a great time lapse photography project animated in quicktime to look like a video. The fog rolling in across San Francisco bay with the lights underneath is really beautiful. What a surprise to find this in my Flickr feed today.


Marilyn Monroe Sculpture Chicago
Vespa Summer
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Marilyn Monroe Sculpture by chollsjr
Marilyn Monroe Sculpture, a photo by chollsjr on Flickr.

This has quickly become the most photographed tourist landmark in Chicago. Passing the Sears (Willis) Tower, John Hancock Tower and the Lakefront views of the skyline. I don't know if it is innapropriate or just odd and playful. People really have been flocking to see it on Michigan Avenue at the River.


My feet in the sand
Vespa Summer
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My feet by Yateski
My feet, a photo by Yateski on Flickr.

From July 4th on the beach.


Bluebells in the Forest
Vespa Summer
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Dawn - Redux by DeeMac
Dawn - Redux, a photo by DeeMac on Flickr.

An amazing picture of how beautiful Spring can be. I don't have bluebells or a forest, but I'm a lot happier with spring now than I was a few weeks ago.


Zeus cat eats lettuce
Vespa Summer
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Zeus cat eats lettuce a video by Yateski on Flickr.

This is my cat Zeus eating lettuce. He loves to much on it as a snack, although today he seems concerned that someone may see him eating it.


Crocuses for Spring
Vespa Summer
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Crocuses by Yateski
Crocuses, a photo by Yateski on Flickr.

The first thing to bloom in the garden, although some heleobores are blooming now too. I may have mis-judged the amount of work needed for the garden when we bought the house. It is a lot of space.


Rest in Peace Missy
Vespa Summer
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missy my beloved longhaired jumping cat

I didn't think that I would be blogging about something like this again so soon but today we had to go take my cat Missy to the emergency vet and she had heart failure and had to be put to sleep because there was nothing we could do to save her. She was 18.5 years old. (July 1992 to March 6, 2011) 

Missy was my cat even though she did not live with me. She lived with my parents after I moved out of the house in 2002 rather than coming with me. Somehow her staying there with Muffin helped my parents cope with both their kids moving out within a year. At least they still had the cats there to care for.

Missy had an interesting life. She was born a ferrel cat in a fern patch on the side of my Grandfather's house in Berwyn. Her mother ( a cat named Amy) found my Aunt Kay and Uncle Roger in Berwyn who always fed the local strays. They knew she was pregnant and one day she showed up after giving birth and started carrying the kittens across East Avenue by the scruff of their neck, one by one to nest by my Uncle and Aunts house and they ended up nesting in the garage. My Aunt Kay had Breast Cancer at the time so they were going through a rough time with treatment and in the end her hospice and care. Before she passed away she named the kittens. Fred (grey tabby), Taffy (buff tabby), Sylvester (black and white longhair) and Missy White and tabby longhair).

After my Aunt passed away my Uncle realized that he had to find homes for the kittens which were now 5 months old and not used to humans at all since they were never really handled while my Aunt was in the hospital. They did their best to feed the cats and clean the litterbox but the kittens were not socialized. I didn't know the difference at the time and was just thrilled to be able to get a second cat. Of the four cats Missy was the most beautiful. She had a magnificent longhaired coat with a white nose, chest, belly and legs. Her back, head and tail were a black grey tabby pattern. We saw her sitting up on top of one of the cabinets in the garage licking her feet and she was the most elegant little ferrel garage cat we had ever seen.

Catching her was another story. Since these cats were ferrel they didn't come out from the boxes/antiques/tools/cabinets of the large garage when you wanted them to. They probably were unaware at that point that they had names. He said at one point he pulled out a drawer looking for something and had all 5 cats jump out in every direction because they had been sleeping in it. On this particular day we tried to feed them to bring them out and missy decided not to come out. So my uncle had to go try and catch her. When he did find her her four paws of claw fury and teeth bit right through the thick work gloves he had on. He yelped a bit trying to get her over to the cat carrier. It was a bit like trapping an animal in the wild. Then her mother was crying by the cat carrier because she knew Missy was being taken away. They had a unique kind of trill call they would do across the garage and they were doing that back and forth before we left. I'm not sure what happened to Sylvester and Fred, my uncle kept Amy and Taffy for a number of years but I do not think they lived very long.

When we got Missy home we had other problems. Muffin took one look at the cat carrier with this white ball of fluff and hissed. Muffin was also a Berwyn Alley Cat and was not cool with another female on her turf. She would spend the better part of the next year bullying Missy but eventually they made a truce, Missy would be top cat but Muffin could still do whatever she wanted. We did have other things to overcome also. Like Missy's cunning ability to get into places that she did not belong. My parents were trying to seperate the cats at night so they would not fight and missy was in the basement the first few nights. It is a finished, heated basement but Missy being freaked out found a door to an unfinished area, opened the door and crawled up into the dropped ceiling of the basement twice. Once she ended up over the bar and the second time under the bathtub. Both times she had to be pulled out and was pretty freaked out.

We did find that eventually she calmed down and liked certain things. She liked sleeping in my bed, whether I was there or not. She liked sitting in laps after she figured out she could trust us. She loved catnip and she loved jumping straight up to catch toys in the air. She was a magnificent jumper. She would still feel safe up high and would find ways to leapfrog from the furniture up to the highest point in the room, on top of the china cabinet, book cases or display cabinets to sleep. She also liked to climb the christmas tree, chase (and eat) ribbon and really liked to climb trees in the backyard, even though she was front paw declawed.

She really had a strong instinct to hunt and we would see her chattering at the birds and squirrels in the yard all the time. One time my dad opened the screen door just enough to let her out and she gave the squirrel a run for its money chasing it across the yard and then leaping half way up the trunk of the tree and sticking there just with her front paws and back claws. She also caught many voles in the yard and was delighted by the squeak they made when she pounced on them through the grass. Missy was an indoor cat but we let her out for a hour or so under supervision to have a little fun.

She was also very funny. She was smart enough to open doors and get into things whether you wanted her there or not. She would sit on the air conditioning vent in the summer and let the cool air blow upwards on her blowing her long white bib fur upwards, and we called her quantum leap kitty. But most of all she was a loving cat that wanted to spend time with you whether you were on the internet or doing housework. Missy also did cute quirky things like always love to drink water dripping from the faucet in the bathroom and she was a great tree climber, almost too good, we had to be careful to pull her down from the tree before she got too high and got stuck.  

She mellowed out after Muffin passed away and was even a bit bored by herself, so my parents adopted a cute orange tabby named Benny. Missy was about as pleased as Muffin was about a new housemate though. There is something tricky about introducing a new cat to a household. We kept Benny and Missy seperated for about 6 months and she still did the neck take-down tackle on him whenever he did anything to annoy her. She was a streetfighter and he was a shelter cat, and Benny was no match for her even when he grew to double her size. She taught him how to fight and never really hurt him. She would just hold him there to make her point.

In the last few years Missy wasn't doing very well. She started peeing around the house from urinary infections and kidney failure. They medicated her for that but then other things went wrong. She had a heart murmur and bladder issues. She was also mostly deaf by this year. She couldn't groom her luxurious long coat anymore so she was matted quite a bit and we had to take her to the vet several times to get the mats trimmed off.

We knew that she was not doing well but we didn't want to make a call on when the end was until we knew that things were for sure at the end, so she spent her nights in the basemnet peeing on things and her days upstairs sleeping on one of the chairs in the kitchen. She would still come jump in your lap when you watch TV and wanted to be close to someone every day.

Even as she was weaker in the last few months she still made it up the stairs in the morning because she wanted to be with my mom and dad. We knew that time was running out and when I got the call this weekend that she wasn't doing well I knew that this would be it. Unfortunately when I got there she was in pretty bad shape (breathing by mouth, which is a sign of respratory distress for cats) and I had to think of her being in pain rather than my own feeling of loss. We took her to Arboretum view vets in DG and they confirmed that she was in very serious condition and that she had one lung full of fluid and the other running on about 30%. They sedated her to take and x-ray and gave her oxygen. We saw all the fluid around the heart and in her lungs on the x-rays and knew that draining it would not be a solution since her kidneys were failing also and would continue to create problems so we said our goodbyes and that was it. She was so weak at this point that she went really quickly, not at all like Pogo although we were still very upset.

I will always remember Missy and her amazing life. She brought so much joy and happiness to our lives over the years as an energetic funny little cat. (never more than 8 lbs)  Her loving personality made my high school, college and 20's years more calm and collected when I had my little furball purring in my lap, or when I was carrying her around with me. I know we did the best we could for her, now and providing the best life we could all 18 years, and I know she loved us for it. She showed us how much she loved us every day and we will never forget her.

missy


The Stig approves of suzuki @ Chicago Auto Show
Vespa Summer
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The Stig approves
Originally uploaded by MingH Photography
I missed this because it was too crowded at the show and we didn't even get back to where the Suzuki display was at. This was the one Top Gear reference at the Chicago Auto Show when we think Top Gear would have a field day at the show with tons of promotional opportunities. If they modified some cars as a part of an episode and then displayed them there next year that would be pretty cool and be a very targeted ad to their core demographic on the history channel. BBC America are you listening?

Chevy Camaro Chicago Auto Show 2011
Vespa Summer
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Chevy Camaro Halo Headlight
Originally uploaded by Yateski
This is one of the many photos I took during the Chicago Auto Show in 2011. I have the entire set online at Flickr here http://www.flickr.com/photos/strzelecki1/sets/72157625971977811/ There are plenty of supercars, camaros, Cadillacs, Mustangs, A Lincoln, A Buick, A porsche, some Nissan Zs and a GTR in the set as well as other assorted car photos. All in all, a good Chicago Auto Show, but very crowded this year.

NASA Satellite Captures Snow Across Chicago
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5
Just in case we forget the blizzard of 2011 NASA has shown us that so much snow accumulated that it was visible from Space. We got about 2 feet of snow in 12 hours on February 2, 2011. A great picture of the entire midwest.


snow across the world on February 2, 2011 blizzards everywhere picture from satelite in space

Orange Garden Rose on Black Photo (Marmalade Skies)
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5
One of the most beautifully lit photographs of a rose I've seen in a long time. Its still winter and long way off from seeing any roses in our garden, although the 2 feet of snow we got a few weeks ago (blizzardgeddon of 2011) has mostly melted away.

Happy World Nutella Day
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

Delicious vice...
Originally uploaded by penniepicker
Tomorrow February 5th. Chocolate on everything!!

Fall Japanese Maple Leaves
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New England Parking Lot
Originally uploaded by 24gotham
It is nearing Thanksgiving and all the leaves have fallen here in Chicago. The Christmas decorations are starting to show up in places, its time to move on from fall. I like this photo because all the leaves are from Japanese Maple trees which have a more delicate finger like leaf and very bright colors in the fall.

oak park house
Vespa Summer
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oak park house
Originally uploaded by Yateski
Remembering a few years ago living in Oak Park.

Someone faved this photo of mine from a few years back. It was one I took while walking to the train for work. My commute was only 45 min - 1 hr then and my life was so much simpler. No house to work on, just work, blog, take care of my cat, some cooking, second city and of course my family.

Now my life is a blur of constant weekend projects and trying to catch up at work as more changes around me. I got more sleep then, but now I'm doing all the things that I was supposed to grow up and do. Its like completing chapters yet somehow not really fully enjoying them. Its not negative just too condensed and nothing has time to absorb.

I look back at this photo and remember how much simpler things were and why that was good although I didn't believe it at the time.

Great Lakes, No Clouds
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5
Our Great Lakes, Lake Michigan and the midwest from Nasa.

I am amazed at how green it is. We think its all colonized because we live in Chicago, but the trees in the midwest must have a large impact on the planet like the amazon rain forests because its just as green. Maybe we should plant some more trees?

Phytoplankton Bloom in the Barents Sea [Detail]
Vespa Summer
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A really interesting photo from Nasa's satellites. It is interesting that the satellites were sent up there to do military work originally and now are able to take photos that are like artwork you could frame and feature in your home. A huge print of some of these would make really interesting artwork for an office too. Always interesting what they're doing over there at Nasa.

The busy weekend
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5
We have had too much going on in our lives. This weekend was just the latest example of how we end up being more tired from our weekends than the weeks.

Before the weekend even started we spent time in the evenings hanging the dozen or so pictures on the walls that have been sitting around forever, assembling the book case that was sitting in pieces in the basement and organizing all the disheveled cardboard boxes in the storage room in the office into categorized clear plastic storage containers. Its very hard to get Steve to do this stuff because he doesn't have the anxiety level that I do about the house that seems to motivate me at 10 pm when we get done with dinner.

On Friday I had to go from the train to pick up my brother's cats and their stuff and bring them to our house for a week of cat-sitting while he is on vacation. I drove an hour each way out to his house and back and he did also. He stayed with the cats for a while and then thinking they were ok, he left to go to his GF's house where they would leave from at like 3 am for an early flight to San Diego. At the same time for some reason my husband had a lot of work to do and worked till 9:30 and brought home flowers some mystery person sent to us at his work, after calling me a bunch of times because we weren't home for them to deliver them. I was also fielding calls from my mom and Janice who was to visit on Sunday. I think we ate dinner at around 10 when Scott left and I realized we still had a ton of work to do on the house before having people over on Sunday. We also had to move furniture that was in the room with Scott's cats so they wouldn't scratch it with their claws. Just what we love doing at midnight.

On Saturday we got a somewhat late start at about noon doing those projects around the house that should have been done months ago. We cleaned out the basement and assembled Steve's workbench (things are a mess on top of it rather than on the floor now). Steve cut the lawn, I went to Meijer to get the food we had to serve the next day and ran the errands that nobody wants to run to return things that have been sitting on the island for months with the reciepts. I hacked the plants back in the front of the house that desperately needed trimming and cleaned the bathroom. Then after Steve gave up and went to sleep I stayed up and made blueberry sauce for the next day's desert and built a flower arch thing from 3 magnolias to the hallway mirror so that you couldn't see the hooks it hangs from. (design flaw of vintage stuff). And wrapped the belated birthday gifts for the kids. It was also my last chance to remove other sneaky clutter from places in the kitchen/familyroom/diningroom/living room. I never finshed the clutter in the office. I also spent time with Scott's cats in the bedroom where they are staying every few hours because they seemed to think that by morning Scott wasn't coming back and they went from very social cats to very scared cats.

The next morning we had to run to my grandfather's Berwyn because my Uncle said we had to be there to get anything we wanted from the estate before they had the estate sale, and this day and time was our only option. So, we went and ended up spending 4 hours there of course. The house is immense and filled to the gills with stuff. I also wanted to take pictures so that took a long time too. While we appreciate being able to keep a few family heirlooms it was not great timing, Janice and her kids were supposed to arrive at 4pm and we got back at 3:50. Steve's parents had dropped off a large bag of toys they had in their attic for Janice's kids to play with and left them in the garage while we were out.  Steve had visited with the cats in the morning, my dad did while he was visiting in the evening and I spent time with them late before going to bed. They seemed less scared, but the noise of the visitors was unsettling for them.

We had none of the food prepped when we got home and I knew we would not get much done with the kids running around. So luckilly Janice was running late and we made the fastest pasta salad ever and made the salad and veg that are pretty quick anyway. Steve handled the burgers after doing some speed vacuuming. Janice got there about 5 and luckilly the kids liked the gifts and the borrowed toys so we were able to talk with Janice for a bit and she could actually see the house. (having an 18 month old and a 6 year old is a challenge when visiting). She told us that she would never take a connecting flight with 2 kids and 2 large suitcases again without her husband to help. I don't blame her.

My parents also came by to see the kids since Janice and I have been friends forever and they know her kids pretty well too. I ended up helping Janice chase the kids most of the evening and Steve stepped up and did a lot of the stuff in the kitchen, getting things served and put away which was pretty amazing. We did have a great time and enjoyed seeing everyone but we are not used to this much happening all the time and the cooking stuff complicates it a bit more than just running from event to event, because we're not that good at the cooking yet.

I'd like to get better at this entertaining thing because I do like seeing people and I feel like its what you do when you have a house. You have people over rather than go out all the time. Its gratifying yet at the same time exhausting. Maybe next weekend we will catch up on our sleep after we are done cat-sitting Simon and Sebastian. Sigh.  



Too many deaths in the family
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

Not long ago when I thought I would be blogging about my one year anniversary being married to Steve, I found I was writing about the loss of our beloved cat Pogo due to cancer. Now now long after I'm writing about the loss of my grandparents. It's just too many deaths.

My grandmother actually passed away in March of 2010 at 85. My grandfather lived untl this morning August 17, 2010 and the age of 95. To think of someone's perspective being born in 1914 and seeing what has happened today in 2010 is pretty amazing. My grandmother was ailing from a number of things and in the end she died of a blood clot in her intestines. She had been ill for a while, was very frail, beat cancer in one eye and wasn't very mobile in the last few years of her life. She had the aid of a very nice live in nurse for the last two years (Ruth) who was from Lithuania and was very loving and patient with both my grandparents.

I can't really sum up my grandmother's life in a post, she was one of those extremely loving and giving women who did it all to take care of family and we heard more about her amazing life at the memorial service they had in July. Not only did she take care of me (alternating days with my aunt phyllis for 3 months) when I was 2 and my mom was having a difficult pregnancy. She also did the same kind of thing lending a hand with so many people's children and working as a nurse. Her mother died when she was 14 and her sister Adeline and her both took care of her and subsequently went into nursing. the amazing thing about how much she cared for everyone was that my grandmother Claire was a grandmother by marriage since my biological (maternal) grandmother passed away in 1969, way before I was born. Claire loved everyone as if they were her children and she didn't let the amount of time she spent at work make choices for her about how she cared for family. I will always remember he making blueberry sauce for ice cream and sitting on the swing in front of their house with my grandpa. They were so happy there.

My grandfather didn't have the money to pay Ruth to stay at the house ($120 per day) so she left to take another job a few days after my grandmother passed away. My grandfather Ray (Roman) was a spitfire kind of guy and he was determined that he would live in his house alone, because he always lived there. My uncle Roger ended up spending the time taking daily trips to check on him, making him dinner and changing the bladder bag he had because his bladder was worn out and didn't collapse back in anymore because of a prostate cancer issue that led it to be distended for too long. Thiswas trying on my uncle's nerves, but it didn't last long because in July, a few days before my Grandmother's memorial service, my grandfather was bored and he went out in the garden, fell, and broke his hip. He said he was taking a faucet off a sink, nobody knows what sink or where this was. Its just too weird, but yet typical for my grandpa.

This landed him in the hospital for surgery. They mended the hip, but his spirit was broken. They discovered that his esophagus wasn't able to swallow, and was sealing shut. We don't know why, and they fed him intravenously, I assume because they couldn't open it up. Then he got pnemonia, but after a lot of antibiotics, he seemed to bounce back and was up in bed reading the newspaper, which made him happy for a few days. The hip didn't mend though and they never got him up to walk again. And something happened and he kept slipping back into sleep a lot and not doing well. I'm not sure why things went down hill but my Uncle convinced him that it was time and he agreed that his tubes would be disconnected and they sent him to a hospice. He lived there for about a week until this morning when he passed away. They kept talking to him about being reunited with his first wife Emily in heaven, but I'm not sure any of that is possible, while it must be somewhat comforting to think about. 

I think its also conflicting to think about my grandfather's legacy and the family. Being one of 8 kids growing up durring the depression, there was always a deep seeded competition and at many times hatred between siblings. Disownment between family members was common and there were decades between the times that certain members talked. My grandfather also dis-owned his son Dan at some point when Dan went off to college because he was in too many disagreements with him and he was marrying a girl/family my grandfather didn't like. (My  uncle Dan ended up very happy with my Aunt Joyce and they're still married today) We were estranged from him also for a period of about 7 years and things were so tense before that point that we worried about having both grandfathers at the house visiting at the same time because they didn't get along either. (management guy vs union guy dislike) he also kicked Roger out of the house when he was 16 after Emily died, in order to move on in his life and marry Claire as well as avoid more clashing which seemed to happen with all his kids as teenagers. It seemed like someone was always feuding in the family, and even though it never got to a violent point, the intensity of the words said was always very harsh.

So in retrospect its a mixed memory. My grandfather Ray also did great things, and this is where it gets confusing to me, because I could never be open and social with people who I knew didn't really like me or my family even years after the issue had passed. I always felt that if they did or said something really hurtful/rude/un-called-for, that it would happen again and there was this underlying dislike there, so why get involved? I guess I never learned to forgive and forget, but I still can't really. In contrast to the family issues Ray worked nights as a pipe fitter (plumber for cooling systems) at Taylor Forge. I don't know more than that except that he liked working nights because he didn't have to deal with people and there was a bonus for working at night. He also was always active doing projects on his house in Berwyn. He took a bungalow house and made it into a raised roof two story in the 1950's. Yes to today's standards it is still a bit 50's but in its day he doubled the square footage of the house, added a breezeway with a waterfall to the garage (don't ask that is because I can't really explain it) and generally did all the maintenance on it himself. He plastered the walls with the thickest coat of plaster, ever, re-roofed it and kept it up and running until a few years ago. He had been on the roof in his 90's, which wasn't adviseable. When the building/expanding was happening my mom says he would buy things as they had money for them, and do things like the driveway in sections slowly filling in more sections as the months went on. He would get glass panels and materials from salvage places and repurpose them into huge windows and other places in the house.

You've never seen a house built like this yet with little whimsical touches, like the little colored lights behind a gingerbread molding around the edge of a dome in the ceiling of the kitchen. Or the waterfall in the breezeway with the koi fish in the pond in the bottom. He also had a 2 tiered waterfall basin where the fish lived outside in the summer (in the 80's) but he had to stop that because the neighborhood kids would steal and kill the fish. He also built in these display coves in the walls of the living room and dining room and built storage into the sofet/walls above the china cabinets in the dining room. It was lime green, but he had cateracts at the time so he thought it was a lot lighter. There was a theme/color to each room and it was whimsical. He retrofitted a modern TV into an old TV cabinet from the 70's because he liked it that way. He made everything from the car-port to the fence out of corigated green fiberglass. He named the house Rosebud Ranch, after my grandmother's middle name. he loved Ginko trees and had one with the smelly seeds, and planted them all over the lawn in later years (some seeded themselves). He also grew a pear tree and fought the squirrels to actually get some of the pears. My cat Missy was born at that house, in the fern patch and then carried across busy east avenue by her mother to my Uncle's house (at that time, was across the street) where my uncle and aunt were feeding the mother cat. There are so many memories of the house and the way it transcends time and people. Now it has to be sold and needs a ton of work from the neglect in the last few years and the general out-datedness that would mean only someone who was from retrorenovations.com would want to buy it.

I guess I don't know how to summarize things about my Grandparents. They didn't know what I did for a living and haven't understood much about my life in a long long time, and I didn't understand theirs either. They weren't particularly close to me as a result and we didn't really have much of a relationship after the disownment of 1984. Yet I still liked knowing there was a family there. The history was still there and potentially could be researched and talked about if neccissary. Now its gone. I also still feel that the biggest issue I have with death is the unfairness of taking a life away once it has been given. Yes I know this is how nature works and we all live on through genetics and the process of nature's renewal. Yet for someone to get the gift of life and then have to give it up, either knowingly or unknowingly is the cruelest thing ever. Whether there is an afterlife or not. I'm not spiritual so I guess I have a harder time with this just having my logic and experiences to go on, but its seems ultimately just too sad.
In happier times with my parents and uncles and rye bread at the Czech plaza restaurant

Scott discovering the mysteries kept in large coffee cans in the basement

detail of the workshop ceiling plaster in the berwyn bungalow house made with his tools


Rest in Peace, Pogo our beloved Cat
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5
We had Pogo put to sleep at our home today because he had cancer. We think it was a serious form of cancer that invaded his lymph nodes and lungs from what the vets could see on the x-rays. He was living with the cancer for a while, maybe even years, but he recently stopped eating and drinking and without a way to feed him we couldn't watch him starve to death.  It has been a horrible last few weeks since we found all this out and today has been the worst day watching him be put to sleep, but I wanted to write out how everything happened to make other people aware of how cancer is a silent killer of many beloved cats.

First it is important to remember what an amazing cat Pogo was. I have been lucky to have several great cats in my life and with no disespect to the others before him, he really was the best cat ever. My husband Steve adopted Pogo and his sister Cinnamon in November 1997. They were 2 of about 9 kittens that a co-worker of his mom brought to IMSA where she worked. Steve adopted Cinnamon because she was so playful and adorable and Pogo because he fell asleep in Steve's arms while all the other the kittens were playing. This started the beginning of a 13 year relationship between a man and his loyal cat and friend. I only met Pogo for the first time in November 2007 when I first met Steve and we had a date that ended up at his house. Pogo was very welcoming, not afraid of strangers and never had any aggressiveness, hissing or biting that some cats do. I thought then he was a skinny cat that looked older than his years but we wouldn't know why until much later.

Over our dating time, engagement, moving in together, getting married and now moving into a larger home together Pogo was a consistent loving presence in our lives. He slept on top of Steve most nights (before the illness got more serious) and would find interesting ways of waking Steve up to feed him in the morning. Mostly by walking across his back or chest, walking around his head on his pillow (Steve is very allergic to cats so this usually got him  sneezing) or pawing at Steve's face until he got up.

Pogo had so many other great cat personality traits that we will never forget. He would accompany anyone into the bathroom and weave back and forth against your legs either thinking he was helping or just happy that you were sitting and could give him extra attention. He hated closed doors and would paw at them to get them open, only to want back in again within minutes. He would chase himself around the house running like a cheetah (he had very long legs and a long body and tail for a tuxedo orange tabby with white feet) and say "meh" when he ran into a room and then would turn and run out again back and forth across the house at around midnight. Steve used to chase him and Pogo loved it. Pogo also tried this game with his sister cinnamon, she wasn't as much a fan.

Pogo was also a great lap cat. He was always with Steve watching TV when Steve was single living alone for 10 years. Pogo was also an amazing jumper, he would jump on high counters and eat any food left out, so Steve had to be very careful what he had around in the kitchen and when he ate dinner. Pogo's favorite people-food treats were tuna, ranch dressing, beef, chicken and cheese. He also liked chips because they were salty. In the end he survived the last week on tuna water, tuna, kitten food with water added and a special smelly chicken cat food from the vet.

We would joke that Pogo really wanted a hamster to chase for Christmas and when we weren't home he was trading stocks on the internet because he was so smart. He was a skilled hunter, killing bugs in the house an hunt playing with his toys and carrying them around the house with him or leaving them at the bed for Steve as a gift. Pogo would trot or canter around the house with such a light bouncy step, his name might have also appropriately been Tigger. He didn't like being dressed up (a bears jersey for dogs didn't work out well) but we did take a picture of him with a bow tie collar for the wedding, he was Steve's best buddy and honorary best man. Pogo was also known to run across the house when he heard the printer start up, he loved printers, the noise they made and that paper came out that needed to be played with. Pogo also was known for intruding on personal moments rubbing against us at any time he thought there was love or cudling going on, just wanting to join in on the cuddling part.

I could go on for a long time about how good natured and loving a cat Pogo was because he was so extrordinary but he wasn't unlike many wonderful cats that die of cancer each year. We knew he was too thin and even made several trips to the vet over the last 3 years asking what could be causing this and how we can better care for him. The standard senior cat blood tests came back negative twice and the vet couldn't find anything. What angered me later was that they didn't investigate further than that. So they thought it might be that he wasn't eating because Zeus was introduced to the household when I moved into the house in Feb 09 or maybe that we moved in March 2010 and there were social dynamic issues with territory. All logical but not the case.

I was at my grandmother's memorial service on July 18th 2010 talking to my aunt about her dog and she mentioned that the dog just had a full senior checkup that included x-rays and scans and the dog checked out fine at 10 years old and I remmebered that Pogo had been sleeping in the office most of the time and not with us at home in the last few months. Steve attributed it to "old age" but at 13 this wasn't "old" for a cat. When I was working from home on the Friday before this I saw how much of struggle it was for Pogo to lay down and get up in addition to the fact that we haven't been able to pick him up in a month or so because he would groan if we did because something was hurting him in his chest. So we made an appointment for Monday morning to see the vet an our whole world began to unravel.

We initially went to the vet with the thought that he may have kidney failure from the weight loss but we were not aware of anything at first except for a lot of serious constipation. The vet was concerned about that and agreed to keep him for a few hours and do an enima. Not fun for him but we were concerned with the blockage so we said ok. She also decided to do an x-ray during that time to follow up on the chest pain problem. I went home Steve went to work and I got a call about 2 hours later with news that he had a huge mass in his chest that was likley cancer and likley inoperable.

We went to the vet (and brought Cinnamon to x-ray her also for the same tumor, she did not have one) and saw the x-ray and were told that we needed a feline cardiologist to do an ultrasound because the cancer was near his heart and it might have been in the heart. Steve took Cinnamon home and I took Pogo in the car to the only Feline Cardiologist our Warrenville vet could find in Chicago, at the Buffalo Grove Vetrinary Specialty Center. Pogo was not doing well from the enima, he was even more dehydrated than he was when we brought him in and the bumpy 294 roads and my car's tight suspension were not easy on him. I had to stop once because he was throwing up and he was drooling heavily still from the reaction to the enima several hours earlier. I felt horrible doing this to him but we couldn't help him on our own, we needed these other vets to help, and it was an hour away.

When I got to the vet in Buffalo Grove Pogo was really out of it and drooling even more liquid out of his dehydrated system. The vet cardiologist looked at him with the ultrasound and confirmed the mass in his chest was 6 cm long and was not good. They said that cancer like this would either be the type that had to be surgically removed or the type that had to be treated with radiation. Neither were curable, sometimes these invasive methods (radiation takes a lot of doses under anesthesia) were only able to buy you a few months. They could do a biopsy and know in a few days which kind it was. I was more concerned at hos dehydrated he was and that he wasn't responding to me at all. He would stare blankly into space like I wasn't petting him or talking to him at all. I knew I couldn't stop the reaction he was having to the enima and I couldn't get him home without more serious damage or possibly even him dying.

They agreed to keep him overnight and give him fluids and nutrients to get him stable enough to come home and we would see how long he had left there. We didn't want his last memories to be of a cold scary vet after a horrible car ride and an enima. We called about 4 times that night from home and checked on him. The care at the VSC is expensive but its 24 hour care and they would get the tech on the phone that was checking on him hourly and she would tell us how he was doing. By morning he was eating on his own and was grooming a bit. Which he had not really done much of in the weeks before this vet trip happened.

Steve and I took more time off from work and drove out to Buffalo Grove on Tuesday to pick him up and he looked much more alert and happy when they brought him back to us and handed him to me. We were overjoyed to see him happy but we knew his time was limited.  We got the directions to feed him 10-20 ccs of liquid or food every 6 hours and we drove him home. I held up the carrier so it wouldn't feel the bumps on 294 while Steve drove. It was still somewhat bumpy but it was a lot less than on the way there.

We brought him home thinking we had a day or two with him left so we took the rest of the week off work. I also had painters scheduled to repair and paint the family room but luckily Steve's mom handled the Painters and I took care pf Pogo and some work from home. He was initially better for the first few days, eating the food the vets gave us and loving the opportunity to have Tuna water with each meal (tuna water is the water in a can of tuna drained off for the cat to drink, they love that and its a way to get cats to drink when they don't feel well). He would not drink any regular water but he did eat fancy feast food with water, kitten dry food moistened with water, tuna fish in water and the smelly chicken from the vet. They said the smellier the better when cats are sick and don't want to eat.

We thought we may only have a few more nights together so I slept on the floor in our bedroom so Pogo could have his cat bed in the bed with Steve as he always slept with him. Pogo even felt better enough to walk on Steve in the morning a few times and sit on him briefly like old times. Pogo also got a few more naps in the Sunbeams that came in the windows at about 7 am. He genuinely enjoyed all the extra time with us and would purr a lot when we would pet him and tell him what a good cat he was and how much we loved him. He had not purred much in the last few years. He even made a point to struggle to get up from his cat bed and jump down via the steps we made at the end of the bed with an ottoman and a box to get to his litterbox. After all this he still wanted to be good and go in the box. Unfortunately he didn't poop at all in the week and a half we had him back home, he was backed up again and the cancer somehow was causing that too. He eventually wouldn't be able to eat more if he was backed up (constipated) because cat systems are very short and can't make more room to eat with if things don't move. The cycle from eat to poop is about 24-48 hours in a cat normally.

After a few days of us tip-toeing around him Pogo decided he felt good enough to leave the bedroom and he wanted to explore. First the upstairs and later he made the difficult flight of stairs down to the first floor. You could see that it was difficult for him but he was happier to make the rounds of the house as he once did, making sure everything was where he wanted it and he could see everything. Pogo was enjoying sniffing the outdoor air this morning where I had the patio door open and he took a few naps on the desk in the office where he has been sleeping since we moved here. Pogo was even there to greet me when I got out of the shower this morning like he always did although he could not jump up on he vanity like he used to as I would be brushing my teeth. It is these little moments you cherish with them that are unique to each cat you have and your relationship with them.

Zeus was good, he respected Pogo as the top cat till the end. Jumping off the bed if Pogo was on it and jumping out of the way when Pogo was walking through a narrow space between the wall and Zeus. I'm proud that my cat knew Pogo, it calmed Zeus down a lot because Pogo was never aggressive toward Zeus even though Zeus was jumpy and reacted deffensively quickly. It made Zeus a better man and taught him a lot of patience. Cinnamon has been pretty oblivious through all this. She is deaf so she didn't  have much of relationship with Pogo in the last few years and she seemed not to notice much that he was ailing. She was even in the room later when he was put down, which was very odd.

The biopsy test results came back on Friday July 23rd and all I heard on the message was that yes it was cancer, it was a carcinoma, call if we had questions. I thought that was a confirmation of the diagnosis we already got and didn't question it until I went in to work on Monday the 26th for one day to finish some things. I couldn't find anything on carcinomas in cats on the internet so I called the Vet Cardiologist and she said that the biopsy showed lung cancer not any other kind. This is where it gets confusing for us. She said that lung cancer can be removed much easier than this lymphoma kind they originally though he had. She said that if he had been eating more he may be able to survive a surgery. We would need to take him to have a CT scan at Aurora VCA to find out. I called Steve and told him the news but he wasn't really buying it and called his mom who said that a CT scan is $3,500 and not worth the trouble or cost in this case when you can't save the cat.

It was very hard for Steve to change direction on this and in the end when we found out that the cost was $1,000 for the scan and he would need to be put under anesthesia to do the scan we opted not to go further because we didn't know whether he could survive the anesthesia or the car trips back and forth. Steve basically made the decisison after we debated for about 3 days that Pogo wouldn't survive the surgery and even if he did Steve thought it was too much pain to put him through and the recovery would be too rough on him from a very painful invasive chest surgery. So, I feel horrible that at this point we had to give up the fight. It was Steve's cat and his decision and even though I disagreed I had to respect the decision.  

In the end we knew our 2 weeks of vacation was ending and Pogo was not eating much anymore or drinking either. All the tricks to get him to eat/drink were not quite working anymore. We scheduled the time for the Warrenville vet to come to the house Friday afternoon, 11 days after this all began. We were very sad all morning and we watched in amazement as Pogo came down the stairs twice this morning to see the house and be with us downstairs even though it was difficult for him. He looked nauseous when he sniffed food though so he had not eaten much of anything in the last day and if we let this go on he would starve and dehydrate to death with us gone at work next week. We knew we didn't have a choice.

The vet came to the house and tried very hard to be sensitive to the situation and do this in the least painful way possible. Pogo was upstairs, I brought him down and paused at the bottom of the steps and told him how sorry I was that we were doing this to him after all he has done for us, and how much I loved him. The Vet first gave him a shot of a relaxing drug in his leg to put him to sleep but then for some reason he tried to grab the scruff of Pogo's neck and Pogo screeched and tried to run away. I had to try and hang on to him and carry him to the couch where I wasn't holding him in a way he wasn't un-comfortable. And the vet had to give him the rest of the shot in his leg rather than the back of his neck. Then we waited a while for Pogo to fall asleep and he really didn't go to sleep quickly as we were petting him. Then the vet gave him the second shot in his chest to avoid the vein in the leg and the turniqit needed to do that because it was uncomfortable. Pogo then slowed down further and his heart stopped. He gasped for breath a few times because he was a fighter and then he was gone. It was the most terrifying thing I've ever seen. And nothing we wanted him to go through. And not exactly painless. Afterward the vet let us have a few moments with him before he took the body and I said an our father and a hail mary prayers for him, told him we loved him and would never forget him and we left the room so the vet could take the body. 

I can't tell you how sad and upset I am at how this all turned out. I feel like we failed Pogo as owners because we didn't demand better care and follow up on why he was losing so much weight and I feel like the vets failed him also. I am also dissapointed that Steve decided not to fight harder for investigating what we could do both earlier when Pogo was losing weight and when we found out he might have a chance on Monday. But I can't do much of anything about this except tell people to get their cats/dogs x-rayed if they lose weight after being somewhat healty for a long time. Look for chest tumors, lung tumors, brain tumors and be vigilant with questioning your vet. Go to a second opinion and get the direct answers you need to make the educated decisions the best that you can, just as you would with your own health. If you get wishy washy answers or vauge we can't save them answers without biopsies and test results, look into it elsewhere with another vet. It's true that surgery may have cost us $4-$5000. But at this point, feeling as horrible as I do having lost the best cat ever and putting him through a painful euthinasia process I would have easily investigated and possibly paid for the surgery if we could have gotten a straight answer about his prognosis and the success rates of the surgeries in the stage of cancer he had. Sure we may have gotten answers that confirmed what we were told already but then I wouldn't have to live with the doubt and pain now not knowing if we could have saved him.

I would do anything to have Pogo back in our lives but I know he is gone and we have to take better care of his sister Cinnamon and my cat Zeus with what we have learned from the most loyal, elegant and smart cat we have ever known. Sir Pogo Yates.

We will miss you always Pogo, and we will always love you and remember how special you were.



Autumn Colors at Portland Japanese Garden 3
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5
This is why I need a Japanese Maple in my yard at some point.

Cool Dance Video from a person I wouldn't have expected it from.
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

HouSe Update
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5
I haven't blogged in months because we've been crazy busy. Its a challenge to balance work which wants to demand all my time with the house which could easily suck all my time up also.

Some things we have accomplished: 

Painted the dining room cream and later on, the living room the same color. Added drapes, a coffee table from craigslist, 2 upholstered benches from home-goods and we're waiting on the sofa.

Steve and his dad installed the whirlpool cabrio huge washer and dryer which required a retrofit of the exhaust vent pipe to make enough room for the door to the garage to pass in front of them.

We patched and painted the pantry light green and my dad put up white wire shelving.

We got a lawn mower, pulled  a lot of weeds, chopped 3 ginormous forsythia bushes down a lot, and trimmed 6 large burning bushes also. 

We fertilized the rose bushes a bit late and now I'm battling leaf hopper insects that want to eat them, yet we have buds on all 4 plants.

We also got a dining room set donated to us by one of Steve's co-workers. Its a 1975 traditional set, not what I would have chosen, but very nice and in good shape.

Ordered a king headboard, a 7 drawer chest and a grey velvet sofa from Thomasville furniture on Rt 95. Should be delivered in 2 months.

Steve and his dad fixed the sump-pump which has taken about 5 tries.

We're currently trying to figure out why the 2nd floor is always 10 degrees warmer and configure the vents differently. We may have an insulation problem. The windows are nearly new.

I planted 4 pots on the deck and I'm trying to remember to water them daily. The realtor gave us a house warming gift of a potted plant for the front step.

We put linoleum down in the basement on the carpet just in time, zeus pooped on the carpet 4 times and later there was pee there also. Argh.

We've also done a few trips to the Warrenville house to pack things up but we have more to go there.

We still need to paint the family room, buy 2 cabinets for the TVs (the old ones are falling apart) and start the bathroom/kitchen remodel process. And but a runner rug for the staircase. And figure out this cooking thing.

Steve's parents have been instrumental in helping us do a lot like painting and hauling endless things in their mini van.

The Geotaggers' World Atlas #11: Chicago
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5
This is a cool data visualization of photos taken in and around Chicago. Its interesting that the city is more active in photography than the suburbs. It may also be that city people are more into posting their photos online. Its probably not that suburbanites take fewer photos, we know they are taking tons of family shots all the time but probably not sharing them. These may be the touristy photos of those touristy locations and people with iPhones that document everything. It also may be misleading if they are looking for the tag Chicago on anything outside city limits.

Happy Spring Tulips
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

I Burn For You
Originally uploaded by etravus
Hope you are having a good spring. We're still getting settled in revamping the new house and getting the townhouse sold. I wanted to share these tulips since they looked so sunny and cheerful even though my life is so crazy and busy at work. Its a point to remember that there are some sunny days to come and the crazyness will eventually pass.

Part 2 of moving in
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

So things just keep getting added to the todo list. More cleaning and unpacking to come after the generosity of Simon Scott and both sets of parents on moving us in.

The house is nice but already there are plusses and minuses.

Plusses:
The fireplace, the mantle matches a large wood frame mirror I have perfectly.

The fact that the basement is finished already although it needs some paint.

The size of the bedrooms. Not huge, but nice. Comfortable but not insane to pay for heating with.

The yard, I think it is a good size although it will take some work to maintain.

The 3rd car garage. Doesn't fit a full size car but good for storage.

The overall look of the houses exterior is nice. The windows are recent and really nice.

Negatives;

The age and quality of the kitchen cabinets is bad, I'm not sure we can reface these they're really worn.

The fact that every room is painted such a dark mocha and the wood is dark too. So much to paint.

The bathrooms are ditto like the kitchen. Cabinets and sinks suck. What's with all the mirrors everywhere?

The laundry room is small and the cabrio washer dryer we bought doesn't fit. I'm not sure if we can return it? Or maybe just put it in the garage?

The work we will have to do in order to get the buffet in the kitchen instread of the desk. We have a huge office, not likley we need a desk in the kitchen too. The buffet may cost $1000 to refinish plus the cost of finding some shaker cabs to mount above and add lighting.

It's just hard to keep up with all that needs to be done. It seems endless. Everything electrical seems to blow a fuse or be wired wrong and need to be redone. The telephone line doesn't run anywhere in the house but the cable, which we did not order. Does. So much for dsl.

Anyone who wants a house that they can move into, I suggest getting one recently redone like our townhome. Otherwise it's like 6-9 months before your settled. At least that is what Amy tells me.

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House
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

I tried to post from my phone the other day and when I got a call on the phone it lost everything. I'm going to try again.

It was a hectic weekend moving in and looking back we probably tried to tackle too much at once. It's just frustrating that we only get 2 days a week to work on this and the rest of the week we get home at 9 pm.

We tried to move things with a uhaul truck (that I rented but did not drive) and ended filling it 3 times with stuff. Part of the reason we had to do that was that too many people had ideas about how/when/where to do things and the debate had to stop. We were never going to get anything done if we debate forever. I wanted stuff in the house to end the debate and get it done. It was required by Steves mom that we shampoo all the carpeting and do a second rinse with vinegar. Although the carpets were very clean we did it anyway. She did most of it although my dad helped and I did too when we could.

I understand Steves moms pursuit of perfection but I can't keep up with it. She also keeps saying we have to keep the cats upstairs until we wash and sanitize the floors. The previous owners had a purebred cat that was indoors only and I doubt there would be any parasites to pick up.

We can't do that until I get through the boxes in the living room, of which I thought we had a few weeks to go through. I guess not. I was up till 1am emptying them last night and assembling furniture in the office. To be fair though she has cleaned the carpets in the townhouse for us and saved our arses when the water heater sprung a leak on Wednesday.

I'm just not sure I can ever live up to her expectations when I'm not nearly the perfectionist.

Anyway the cats have not taken to the house that well and I think it's because they think it's a vacation and that they don't have to live there. Zeus has been fine despite wailing like a baby the whole ride there. Pogo was quiet the whole way there and then peed on a plastic bag the next day in the room we have them in. Cinnamon has managed to wail all the way there and pee in a catbed this morning. I'm sick of cat pee.

I think I should finish in a new post so that I don't loose this one the second time around.

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Moved into new house
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

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Closing
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

We close on the house tomorrow at noon. We have the walk through at 11. We have to pay a huge sales tax to Naperville at 10. We get to start shampooing carpets at 2. It's going to be a long day.

In contrast to most people being giddy about buying a house I am still a bit nervous. I think the financing will be ok and closing should not be an issue since it looks like the sellers took off a while ago and won't be present at closing.

I guess the recession has changed the way I view things. I'm worried about things down the line with our jobs and this ginormous mortgage. It is actually far below what we could have financed a few years ago but still about 10% more than we wanted to pay.

I'm also worried about my ability to cook and clean and decorate this place to live up to home standards when I work a lot and get home at 9 pm. Decorating on a budget is always tricky but when you owe so much over the next 30 years it's scary to eat up reserve funds on furniture not knowing what will happen with jobs and such.

My company is having a rough month after having a good december/January so of course were thinking layoffs can't be far behind. My husband has to decide on some big things with his company this spring too like whether or not to get a smaller space to lease and whether or not he sees things going up or down in the next year and if he can still afford things there.

I guess I'm very jaded about certain things and since I can't get a promotion to save my life I'm not sure about the future finances and that spills over to the house.

It's also weird to try and make decisions about decorating with 2 people involved plus our moms. It's a lot of discussing and emailing. Somehow this was much less complicated when I had almost nothing and bought a condo.

Although I am looking forward to one thing. Not sharing walls with anyone elses home. This is the first time I've ever been able to afford a free standig house without the noise of music/tv/neighbors. And we get our very own yard ( which will be a lot of work and doesn't get enough sun to garden much)

I hope the new neighbors are nice. I bet they hope the same of us. We're quiet, they probably won't notice we're there.

And moving the cats will be a challenge. Zeus has moved a lot but pogo and Cindy never have in 13 years. This is going to be a shock to them to get carted off and never go back home again. We plan on building some new cat trees for them, maybe they will adjust to the new home in a few weeks? Or a few months?

And all my stuff is still in my inlaws basement. I have the hope that I will be reunited with my furniture soon and that the buffet can be built into the kitchen/ family room like the vintage ones used to.

We also have to reface cabinets in many places and figure out how to mount a runner on the wood stairs.

I can't believe I am buying a 2 story cape cod house. I have lived in a ranch all my life and then a single floor condo for 7 years. This is going to be difficult on the old knees but it wasn't really an option to get a ranch either. Few are available and those needed even more work than this one.

So we will start our lives as over property taxed napervillians tomorrow and hopefully things will work out as well for us there as they do for most people who move there for good schools and a comfortable community. We will soon find out.

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Closing
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

We close on the house tomorrow at noon. We have the walk through at 11. We have to pay a huge sales tax to Naperville at 10. We get to start shampooing carpets at 2. It's going to be a long day.

In contrast to most people being giddy about buying a house I am still a bit nervous. I think the financing will be ok and closing should not be an issue since it looks like the sellers took off a while ago and won't be present at closing.

I guess the recession has changed the way I view things. I'm worried about things down the line with our jobs and this ginormous mortgage. It is actually far below what we could have financed a few years ago but still about 10% more than we wanted to pay.

I'm also worried about my ability to cook and clean and decorate this place to live up to home standards when I work a lot and get home at 9 pm. Decorating on a budget is always tricky but when you owe so much over the next 30 years it's scary to eat up reserve funds on furniture not knowing what will happen with jobs and such.

My company is having a rough month after having a good december/January so of course were thinking layoffs can't be far behind. My husband has to decide on some big things with his company this spring too like whether or not to get a smaller space to lease and whether or not he sees things going up or down in the next year and if he can still afford things there.

I guess I'm very jaded about certain things and since I can't get a promotion to save my life I'm not sure about the future finances and that spills over to the house.

It's also weird to try and make decisions about decorating with 2 people involved plus our moms. It's a lot of discussing and emailing. Somehow this was much less complicated when I had almost nothing and bought a condo.

Although I am looking forward to one thing. Not sharing walls with anyone elses home. This is the first time I've ever been able to afford a free standig house without the noise of music/tv/neighbors. And we get our very own yard ( which will be a lot of work and doesn't get enough sun to garden much)

I hope the new neighbors are nice. I bet they hope the same of us. We're quiet, they probably won't notice we're there.

And moving the cats will be a challenge. Zeus has moved a lot but pogo and Cindy never have in 13 years. This is going to be a shock to them to get carted off and never go back home again. We plan on building some new cat trees for them, maybe they will adjust to the new home in a few weeks? Or a few months?

And all my stuff is still in my inlaws basement. I have the hope that I will be reunited with my furniture soon and that the buffet can be built into the kitchen/ family room like the vintage ones used to.

We also have to reface cabinets in many places and figure out how to mount a runner on the wood stairs.

I can't believe I am buying a 2 story cape cod house. I have lived in a ranch all my life and then a single floor condo for 7 years. This is going to be difficult on the old knees but it wasn't really an option to get a ranch either. Few are available and those needed even more work than this one.

So we will start our lives as over property taxed napervillians tomorrow and hopefully things will work out as well for us there as they do for most people who move there for good schools and a comfortable community. We will soon find out.

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House buying update
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

We were suprised to find out that our loan was approved on Friday and we also got a $500 credit from the sellers of the house, because they didn't want to fix anything. The appraisal also came back exactly on the amount we got as the highly argued over selling price. How is that for amazing? I can't believe they thought they would get 60k more than the market price. I sold under what I wanted to with the condo and I'm sure steve will also with the townhouse. Thanks to M and E for the notes and advice. Things are looking up a bit now.

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Housing purchase update
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

So, this house thing isn't going so well. I'm not sure we will end up at the finish line on this deal.

The owners accepted the offer begrudgingly but aparently have been snippy with our realtor and lawyer ever since.

We got through the inspection without many issues being found, considering that they crawled all over the house for 3 hours.

Steve went OCD over the report which had mostly minor things that are really more maintenance than things broken and took 3 days to give them the list of things we needed fixed.

The owner is being a jerk and said no to all of them. One being a sumpump backup that does not work, one was rotting wood in a door frame, one was a toilet and faucet leaking in a bathroom and another being carbon monoxide detectors not near bedrooms.

So after being severely offended we have countered with please reconsider fixing the items or give us $500 to fix things.

I am pretty sure they will decline both offers and we will eat it.

All the while our financing was declined by one broker and will be declined by another soon because of Steves business. He claims profit and loss on his taxes and in 2008 there was a loss, in 2009 the loss was bigger yet. They think he is a risk and I agree. I wouldn't approve us either.

This boils down to me being the only person on the loan. Which is bizzarely approvable yet still a bummer since steve isists on seeing the second broker decline things before doing it that way. We can both be on the house title but I'm not sure I want that risk of the business being linked to it financially by his taxes and loans. It may have to be in my name.

This isn't great for a lot of reasons but we've just about finished the townhouse and planned on selling it soon, so all this weird work around stuff may just be how it happens.

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Housing Update
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5


I haven't had any time to update but because we may go under contract on a house today I figured now would be a good time to put off work for a few minutes and post.

We have had the most frustrating 6 months looking for houses in Naperville Wheaton and Lisle. We started in August and found that even with the price drops we could not afford what we would really like to buy. So we stopped looking.

Then we thought my company might lay off more people so we didn't start looking again until November when it became aparent that I would have clients to work with for 2010.

Then we found we could still not find a house in decent shape in our price range. We did want a 4 br house with a yard and we didn't want to have to remodel it from top to bottom or have it be almost as small as a 2br townhome. (you would be suprised what they call 4 br if its an older home).

So we waited again and watched the listings. We would go see a few houses every few weeks and not like what we saw. We saw a lot of old wood paneling glued to walls, a lot of really ugly colors of brick fireplaces and a lot of really old kitchens.

Then we found out that Steve's business is qualified as self employment even though he employs 2 other people because the profits and losses are on his taxes. And the last 2 years have been big loss years. (that is a story for another time) So, almost all the loan qualifying would be on me. How F-d up is that?

So we couldn't even qualify for much even with the down payment of $ from the sale of my condo and some of Steve's investments. (also we had the existing mortgage payments working against us since we knew we could not sell it while living in it and they only approve a 45% debt to income ratio total using your pretax income) 

Then Steve's parents realized that the business would make this impossible so they gave us a huge gift of inheritance at the end of 09 and beginning of 2010 (max gifts per year without tax penalty made it impossible to do this in 1 yr and I think they still paid some penalty).

So with our new bigger down payment we did get requalified for a larger loan and figure a smaller monthly payment at the same time and might be closer to affording a pretty average Naperville 4 br house. Then the challenge was to find one that had a decent layout. With the recession nobody was selling that did not have to so most of the good houses were not for sale.

The housing surplus inventory had been cherry picked this past summer and only the really weird ones and ones that needed significant work were left. We were annoyed.

Finally after being ready to make an offer on a 2 story brick front georgian we had it scooped out from under us because the owner took it off the market after 1 yr. We contacted them and after all that they did not want to sell. WTF?

Steve's brother looked on redfin (our prefered real estate search site and iPhone app) and found a Cape Cod style house available just down the street from the Georgian house for sale. We liked it but it was 50K more. Yikes.

We saw it anyway and compared to the no-yard houses and the old moldy smelling houses with really bad jagged rock fireplaces from the 70's that needed to come down for safety reasons and thought this may be the only one we would really like.

The house has a 3 car garage which we never really were looking for but the space above the garage is genius, it is a long 20 ft room that is used as an office for 2 people. Wow.

It also has a normal layout with living room in front on the left, dining room in back on the left and the kitchen in the back middle of the house. The kitchen is attached to the family room on the right side of the back of the house and off the family room even more to the right is a small 3 season room that we probably won't use because it is behind the fireplace and not heated.

The family room has a vauted celing but it is the only one we have to waste heat on. We also have to get this kitchen refaced like the Warrenville townhome because it has really cheaply made 80's oak cabinets.

Upstairs it has 4 brs, one being the office and 2 really out dated 80's bathrooms, one with mirrors on all the walls. WTF? One also has a skylight that leaks. It also has dark wood trim instead of white, but its a cherry/maple syrup color so I will likley not paint it.

The dining room has an oak floor with a dark inlay in it as a border which looks cool. There is a small finished basement with wood paneling painted pink but at least its finished.

So, we offered 15% below the asking price on Sunday and went through the slowest bidding war ever as they tried to be totally rude and preserve as much capital as possible. 

Only on the 6th bid when we said we were done, coming up to about 10% off the asking price did they drop 14K off the price and get serious despite us prioviding ample recent sales data for the neighborhood citing the prices we should be getting.

Today (Thursday) we have to make up a 3K difference and turn down their ugly blue velour 70's sectional couch they offered in the deal.  We may close March 5th if we make a deal.

This has been the most frustrating time to buy a house and the most frustrating process sapping my energy from work, from our relationship and from my health. I just want it to be over, I have no respect for people who were taking the price down a couple thousand at a time in a recession with no other bidders even qualified for this size loan and no data to support their outlandish price.

I hope we will be ok for the 3-6 months it will take to sell Steve's place. We will be cash negative during that time but I will be advertising it like crazy as per usual. Luckilly the last updates of new windows and painting are nearly done. We will wait to do any renovations on the new house until the old one sells. We also don't have to show the old one with litter boxes and 3 cats in it.

Buying a house is not easy nor ever at a good time. We also found that there are FAR more FUGLY houses out there than we ever imagined! So many look cute outside and are horrible inside in SO many ways.

We saw showers and hot tubs in family rooms, closets not even in master bedrooms, master baths without a tub or shower, addtions that were sinking without foundations, walls that should not be there, lots of popcorn celings, bad oak woodwork, bad carpet, yellow and olive green toilets/sinks/tubs, gaudy red tile and basements full of spiders.

We also found that every house in DuPage County and likley Illinois has Radon. I was initially scared of the houses with the radon abatement systems (sucks the air out of basement and vents over the roof of house) but EVERY house in Naperville we looked at had one. And the map of Illinois is ALL medium-high levels of radioactive material in the soil so we get this heavy Radon gas evaporating out of it and getting into basements.

If you have a basement, get it tested, sealed and vented to avoid lung cancer. If you do that you're fine, otherwise you cant taste or smell or see anything that would be alarming.

So that is a synopsis of the process we've been though. Now we just have to sell one more place and refinish a lot of stuff in this new one and we can get back to a somewhat normal social life again. Oh yea, its 10 min from the Naperville train, so maybe my commute will be shorter too.

Warrenville Kitchen Before and After 2009-2010
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5


2010 Goals and Beyond
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

So 2009 was a whirlwind of changes and activity for me and Steve. getting married is fun but somehow a lot less fun than you think when you're a kid. The amount of detail and the stress to make the "right" decision about things to please everyone (and filll every need/social rule even the ones you have never heard of so people don't think you're rude or clueless) was more stressful than I would have liked and in the end we were just relieved to have it all over. We did get the photos and things we wanted so it looks all perfect but it wasn't that way behind the scenes!

Other highlights of the year included sleuthing out a thyroid "nodule" that ended up dissapearing (after being biopsied 3 times) and moving in together and selling my little 800 sq foot condo in Oak Park of which in the beginning I hated and by the end I really loved.

On to 2010.

Some thing that would be nice to accomplish this year: 

1. Find a friggin house! Every house we decide we want (admittedly we wait too long because we're busy and then don't move that quickly) goes off market or is sold. It's been about 6 months now and we look on and off depending on what is happening with my job or Steve's but it's very frustrating that all the great houses available in the beginning of the downturn are gone now and the only ones left are the ones that require serious work. And nobody is listing their house now because they don't want to loose money on it. So its slim pickins. We saw one this weekend with a full wood sauna in the basement (who wants to remove that?), one with a water tower in its backyard, a bunch of corner houses with no yard privacy, backed up against a noisy street, and one with a shower built into the sunroom right next to the hot tub. (who puts that in a sunroom??) 

2.  I'd like to find a way to sell Steve's place in the process of moving to a new home. We're not sure how easy this will be since the remodeling but my hope is it won't take too long.

3. I'd like to loose the weight I gained right back after the wedding. I never got past the 12 lbs or so I lost initially when we got engaged because I lost momentum over the holidays last year and then closer to the wedding stress eating played my coping strategy. Then the wedding was complete and I went into work stress mode, and then 2 analysts quit and the other 4 of us had to absorb all their work for 3 months and even more stress eating ensued. So basically I'm the same weight I was when we started like I never lost anything at all. Finding out I have high cholesterol has led to meat avoidance and the purchase of a lot of oatmeal but not any weight loss yet. I really need to avoid carbs/sweets those are my downfall, I couldn't care less about meat and know its not the source of my cholesterol problem.

4. There are more things I'd like to write but I will have to finish later as I am due to a meeting soon.



Some say... the stig...
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

Some say...
Originally uploaded by bitrot
I saw this and had to laugh. TG was ok last night, nothing particularly over the top funny or suprising but they did give out the golden cock award to the Stig. I have yet to see the S.American episode because of the issues I have had with house renovating. Maybe this weekend.

Warrenville Kitchen Before and After 2009-2010
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5
Kitchen is done. It took a week of work from a very good local company to reface the cabinets and a lot of packing and unpacking and cleaning along the way. This is how I spent my christmas vacation, so it was a lot of work. Although a nice change from the every day office life. And I'm glad its complete. Now we just need the windows replaced and we can list the townhouse for sale.

White House Christmas Tree 2009
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

P121609CK-0191
Originally uploaded by The White House
Merry Christmas from my house to yours. Right now our kitchen is being ripped apart by remodelers, I better go see what they're up to. have a very happy holiday season!

Living room Christmas tree
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

Living room Christmas tree
Originally uploaded by Yateski
We didn't do a christmas tree at my house so here is a happy holiday photo of my parents house and their tree that I helped decorate. Happy Christmas season to all.

Snow Castle
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

Snow Castle
Originally uploaded by Will Burrard-Lucas
Happy Holidays from my home to yours.

I am running to finish some things before the end of the year at work and then on to home projects.

I thought this was a fun picture of some snow castle replicas of big ben and the buildings surrounding them. Not christmas like but still winter wonderland in spirit.

The Swell Season 3
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

The Swell Season 3
Originally uploaded by Yateski
There is a new set of pictures from the SwellSeason Concert we went to at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago on 12/3/09. We weren't super close but my camera managed to get some interesting shots. Check out the whole set at http://www.flickr.com/photos/strzelecki1/sets/72157622872944839/detail/

Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5
Video of the Swell Season concert in Chicago at the Auditorium Theater last night. Click through to Flickr for more details. An amazing concert all around. They are stellar singers, musicians, writers and performers. And they seem like cool people too.

"Objectified" - Jonathan Ive talks about Mac design & Unibody MacBook manufacture
Vespa Summer
theprotagonist5

Interesting clip from an industrial design documentary where they talk to Apple about their designs.

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