Friday, June 26, 2009

Back to "Normal"

I got back to LA Sunday night, then crashed before work on Monday.  I've been pretty tired all week, and may still be on Chicago time.  :p  Got a horrible migraine on Wednesday, at it was around 1:30am by the time the meds killed it.  Also, seems like everyone is getting sick.  A ton of people at work, as well as poor Craig, who has had migraines all week.  Actually, he was sick all day, and the toast I made him (with peach preserve from Chicago) is the only he's kept down today. 

Bootsy, first day

And good news of the day- Bootsy has a permanent home!  A lovely coworker of mine had some lovely friends looking for a kitten.  The couple came over tonight to meet Bootsy.  I got really nervous when they stepped out to talk about it, especially since Bootsy was more interested in foil balls than people this evening.  But they decided to take him home!  Bootsy is such a great mix of social adventurer and love bug, that I'm sure they'll love him.  They're also renaming him Peanut, which will suit him well.  I'm thrilled he has a good, loving, permanent home, but I think I'm going through kitten withdrawal.  Curie is snoozing and purring on the couch next to me, so I think it will all be ok. 

We get to see Craig parents this weekend.  Then it's off to meet our friend's semi-new baby!  I love kids that I'm not responsible for.  I can play with them, then hand them off when they get cranky or smelly.

I talked to Dad, and he's ok.  He's out of 'danger' - thank goodness!  I think this means his immune system is not at deadly low levels, though it will still be a while before he's back to 'normal.'  God, I'm not even sure what that would mean after everything.  However, things are still sucky.  He had to get a line put in his arm, and they hit a nerve.  He's been vomiting so much that he hasn't eaten all day.  (What's up with everything throwing up today?!?) Hopefully, that will settle.  Mom's picking him up a Jamba Juice- and they were a necessity during his interferon treatment a few years ago.

Happy Hour 1492

Now that I have a bit of time, I can post about some of the great places I got to experience while in Chicago.
I love vacationing during the week.  It means I'm free to enjoy the wonderful world of happy hour!  Today we bring you, gentle readers, the 1492 Tapas Bar.  $3 tapas 
and half off selected bottles of wine during their happy hour.  Mmmmmm... 
I love tapas, appetizers, prix fix menus, and anything else that lets me sample a ton of food.  (And Craig wonders why I always have to try some of his food when we go out.)

The waiter suggested a wonderful wine.  Not on th
e half off menu, but only $20 for the bottle.  It was amazing.  Light and sweet and so, so
 very drinkable.  We polished off half the bottle (ok, Mom had a glass, and I took care of the rest), and then took the rest of the bottle home (which made for wonderful late-night, post-hospital drinking).

We ordered six tapas, and by far my favorite was the lightly fried artichokes.  Chicken croquettes were also delish.
And the dessert- so simple, and yet so wonderful.  Vanilla ice cream wrapped in a thin crepe and covered in strawberry sauce.  I was almost licking the plate by the end of it.
Mom's probably wondering how much dessert to eat.

Outside 1492, there was a psychic doing $10 palm reading deals.  Well, we couldn't beat that, so Mom and I got our palms read.  Seems she gave us the same fortune- you'll help people, you're a strong person...  Though she saw me with 2 kids (couldn't say if they were biological or not- I asked!) and that my fiance would be very successful.  Oh good.  Later that night I talked to Craig.  He was stressing about finding work, and I told him to relax, since the psychic said he's be very successful.  
His response?  "She must not know me very well."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nom Nom Nom

Shown to me by a friend.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  Or at least eat your veggies.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Correction: Normal white blood cell count is between 10,000 and 12,000.  Good news, my dad is up to 4,200.

Mom and I made a Father's Day brunch that we took to the hospital this morning.  The three of us snacked on her tasty cheese-egg-avocado omelets, grapefruit, and chicken sausage.  It was a nice little celebration.
I leave in a few hours to get back to LA (let's just hope it works this time!).  Just hanging out in the hospital till then, and Mom is catching up on some things at the hotel (hopefully, but not likely, including a nap).  Dad's trying to sleep with some wet washcloths on his head to help break another fever.

As Mom puts it, "This isn't a vacation and it isn't reality."  It been really hard emotionally and physically to be here this week.  I so greatly admire both of my parents who have been here so much longer.  On the bright side, it was good to see them, and I ate some amazing food and did some fun shopping.  More posts to come later about the other restaurants we went to, as well at the aquarium and the museum.

I have mixed feelings about going home.  I'm looking forward to my bed, my cats, my friends, my fiance... well, my life, really.  Selfishly, I'm excited about days that end around 6pm.  However, it's a struggle to lead a 'normal' life, knowing this stuff is still going on here.  It's sometime a fight to enjoy my life and take care of normal activities (going to work, going to school, cleaning the house, seeing friends) while I know there could be a health crisis with my dad at any moment.  Still, can't put my life on hold, especially considering this has been going on for most of the last decade.  It's a balancing act.  And I will also miss the indulgences.  Eating out is a much rarer treat back in LA.  But overall, I am looking forward to going home.  

If this was a Lifetime movie, he'd be all better by now.  If this was an episode of House, he'd be better now.  It's not.  But we're all taking it one day at a time.  My gratitude and thanks to all my wonderful friends and family who have been so supportive during this difficult time.
Live Long and Prosper!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I Fail

Good News:  Craig got Franklin adopted.  A nice family with a few other cats got their 13 year old daughter a kitten for her birthday.  After careful kitten inspection at the adoption fair today, she chose Franklin.  Yay!  We wanted Franklin and Bootsy to go to a home together, but a home is better than no home.  And 'the orange kitten' was so popular before, I'm pretty sure we'll get Bootsy a home soon.

More Good News:  Dad's white blood cell count is two thousand!  You need 500 to fight any infection and 1,200 is normal-ish.

Bad News: He's still spiking fevers on and off.  But they say that's normal.  Sucks, but is normal.
This was supposed to be a goodbye photo

Bad News: I can't read a calendar.  I was supposed to fly back to LA today.  After some issues with the self-check in at the airport this afternoon, I went to an attendant.  She let me know that the ticket was for 6.27 - next Saturday.  Oh shit!  I booked the ticket for a week in advance.  Damn.  Ironically, I also sent my itinerary to Dad, Mom, and Craig, and not one of us caught that.  Guess I should buy tickets when stressed out with finals.  American Airlines told me it would cost a thousand dollars to re-book this weekend.  I nearly died.  

4 hours later, my parents got me a ticket back to LA tomorrow on Jet Blue- for far less than a thousand too!  Thanks Mom, Dad, and Jet Blue.  AA- you failed me.  A taxi ride back to downtown Chicago.  I've had better days. 
Better News:  I got to have dinner at Karen's, a favorite vegan restaurant of my mom's out here.  I had an amazing polenta, and an pomegranate soda martini with natural vodka.  Most tasty!  My mom got 'ribs'- which tasted like good hotdogs with amazing bbq sauce.  The cornbread and carrot cake were ok (bit dry, not sweet enough for me), and the mead wasn't as sweet as I like it.  But overall, super fantastic food.  And not even 'fantastic for vegan,' but really tasty.

Even Better News: Now I get to spend Father's Day with my dad.  I tell him I arranged all this to spend father's day with him.  Ok, it's a lie that he knows isn't true, but it's a good lie.

It's 11:45 pm just got back from the hospital.  Kinda tired.  Miss kittens.  But Mom and I picked up brunch stuff Father's Day brunch tomorrow.  Yay.  Ok, nap time.

95 Floors Up

We've been to the John Hancock Center twice this week.  First time- winner.  Second time- looser.  

Mom and I went their for lunch during the week and it was great.  After riding up the 95 floors in the elevator,  we got to their Signature Room.  We decided to do their lunch buffet.  For $18 it was all you could eat of chicken, lamb, soups, veggies, and fish.  Pair that with a fruity martini and a spectacular view, which I did, and it makes for a wonderful lunch experience.

Even the bathroom has a to-die-for view!  
Bathroom View- no joke.
I wonder if I could rent out a stall...

While the view was amazing, we thought it would be even better at night.  My favorite thing about flying as a kid was to go over cities at night and see the lights.  It would be just like that, only with a chocolate martini.

So Mom and I fought the rain to get over to JHC one night around 9:30pm.  We were all excited for a great view, some appetizers, and I was looking forward to a chocolate martini.  Sadly, the martini was the only part that was up to par.  The view that we were so looking forward to was nonexistent.  

No view tonight.

The chicken tenders were cold.  And they were so heavily fried... it wasn't any better than fast food.  Probably worse, since it was cold.  I asked for ketchup and mustard for the sliders.  And that never showed.  I had to hunt people down to get it.  My mom asked for tea, and they said they just had black tea.  From our lunch there, I know they had other teas. 
 Service was pretty lame, though our waitress did take the chicken tenders off the check, since we had to send them back.

Slowest condiments, ever.

Back at the hotel, things got much better.  Nice hot shower to warm up.  Nice warm strawberry and rhubarb cobbler from the farmer's market.  Nice warm pjs and a little Steven Colbert to round out the night.  Ok, still couldn't fall asleep, but had a nice evening.

Sad night 95 floors up.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Dad's white blood cell count is now 0.3!  Yay!  What does that mean?  I don't know, but it used to be 0.1, and 0.3 is much better.  This is a very good thing.  

I also made it to the aquarium today, videos of leafy sea dragons to come.

And my sister did well on the GRE. 

Good news all around.  Now does anyone want a kitten?  (Seriously.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Update: It's almost ten, and my dad's fever spiked.  

Mom staying at the hospital to see what the doctor says.  

I offered to stay instead or stay with her, but they said to just go home.  

And now I'm back at the hotel debating whether to wait up or go to sleep.  
Hate feeling so helpless, but can't do much - 
except wash my hands a lot, take care of myself, and wait and see.

Hospital TV

There's a TV in the hospital room, and apparently there is a 'zen out' channel.  Probably really great if you're on lots of drugs, but not too bad when you're just sober and tired.  It just plays non-confrontational shots of nature.  It's nine at night, and I'm almost dozing in a chair while watching this channel and listening to Barenaked Ladies on my computer.  It's a really comfy chair.  The kind where you can kick up your legs.

Barenaked Ladies not on hospital TV.

I think I've just watched various angles of waterfalls and bird of paradise flowers for the last five minutes.  It's a nice channel.  Whenever I'm really stressed, I can usually decompress with some sort of wildlife channel.  This channel has all the wildlife, but no carnage.  No circle of life, just life.  Waterfall
Waterfall Thailand
Trees.  A hummingbird.  
Some flamingos.
Three Flamingoes  A flower.  Another flower. 
Bird of Paradise flower (Strelitzia) close-up
Oceans.  A beach.  A sunset.  Clouds.  
USA, New York, East Hampton beach
Another waterfall.  

A lot like this.

I have no idea if there is sound, since my dad doesn't play it with sound.  But I imagine Enya would probably be singing something soothing.  Probably about a boat or the rain, or boating in the rain.

Enya is not on hospital TV, but maybe she should be.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's Not A Vacation

Maybe I'm still on California time, maybe I have too much on my mind, or maybe I just miss my cat, but I just can't get to sleep anymore.  Took an ambien, and waiting for blissful unconsciousness.

Before I left for Chicago, a lot of people acted like I was going on a great vacation.  It was difficult to respond, because, well, this isn't a vacation.  As my mom so eloquently put it, "This is a medical trip interspersed with good restaurants, but it isn't a vacations."  It helped to think about it like that.  I've been feeling guilty and frustrated that the only 'vacation' I've had in a while involves spending most of the day in the hospital.  Yes, the food here is great and it's fun to do some shopping, but the majority of the time is spent in the hospital.  I never know when any plans we have will be canceled because things have gone poorly for Dad that day.  It is stressful.  It is the uncertainly that kills me.  I would love a trip to Chicago without the hospital junk.  But seeing this as a family emergency instead of a fun vacation makes this trip so much easier.

Should Ambien make you see in double?

Ok, must stop typing.  Ambien is killing any of my typing skills.  Good night and good luck.

An elephant, sushi, and a circus walk into a bar...

Another day of tasty eating.  I met my mom at the hospital, and we went over to the Elephant & Castle Pub and Restaurant for lunch.  It was most yummy.  They had fantastic calamari, wrapped in paper made to look like newspaper.  Mom and I also split a chicken bruschetta sandwich, which had a great pesto mayo.  And if you ever find yourself there, I highly recommend their Bailey's Cheesecake.  Imagine... well, Bailey's and cheesecake.  You get the idea.

After an afternoon of hospital fun-times, Mom and I took a break to see Cirque Shanghai at the Navy Pier.  It was 70 minutes of acrobats in sparkly unitards doing amazing things- like putting their feet behind their ears while doing a handstand on someone's back.  Or juggling plates.  Or hats.  Or people.  I think the lighting would have made it even better to see it at night, but it was still a great diversion at 4pm.
I want to join the circus!

Once the show was over, there was a great sushi place called Nui that was on the way back to the hospital.  They did flights of sake, so we tasted three different types.  'Dream Cloud' was the winner.  We had the 'Energy' roll- a crunchy roll with eel and 'Mellow Yellow'- which had salmon and mango.  While I didn't try any cocktails, they looked really tasty and quite creative.  Something to look forward to for next time.  One thing to note, they had one of the most 'Zen' bathrooms I have ever seen.  If I was ever going to meditate in a bathroom, this one would be it.

We were going to try a tapas bar later in the evening, but it was a bad chemo day, and Dad was too sick to be left alone later.  Take the good with the bad.  I stayed at the hospital till around 10pm, and then headed back to the hotel.  I took advantage of the Saloon Steakhouse and order the lobster bisque to 
go.  Taking my fancy soup back to the room.  I enjoyed it with its brandy cream and shrimp toast while in my pajamas and watching terrible reality TV about bridzillas and women with 18 children. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What's Wrong With My Genes?

Friday night I took a red-eye to Chicago.  It was too cramped and too cold to sleep much, but I made the effort.  I get to the hotel around 6am and my awesome mom makes me awesome egg on toast.  Finally, I get to nap for a few hours.

Around 1ish we got to the Saloon Steakhouse, which is right next to the hotel, for lunch.  It is incredible.  For $13 I get filet mignon covered in blue cheese with mashed potatos and green beans.  It is bliss on a plate.  Knowing the hospital is the next stop, I also pair it with their house Cabernet Sauvignon, which was pretty good.  It is the lunch of kings.  Or at least Brandies.
Sometimes I feel like just a number.
Ok, fun part done, time to get my butt to the hospital.  Dad's up on the 15th floor, and in serious get-no-freaking-germs-in-here condition.  There are 2 sets of automatic doors, with a sink in the middle.  Enter one set of doors, wash your hands, exit the second set of doors.  Only one set can be open at a time.  I felt like I was living in "Andromeda Strain" and almost expected infected crazy monkeys to run by.

See any crazy monkeys?

After the doors, we went to the end of the hall, where we got disinfectant goo to rub on our hands before entering my dad's room.

I was a bit shocked, ok more than a bit, to see him laying on the bed.  He was weak, half conscious with his head shaved.  Lots of the usual tubes and wires of any serious medial stay.

Mom and I wear face masks for the first part of the visit, though they aren't really needed later.  Despite her saying we could draw happy faces on them, seems no one remember to bring a Sharpie.  Maybe next time.

I just sat for a while.  Stunned with the situation and still pretty tired from my trip.  I felt a little lightheaded.  Somehow, the whether or not I'm going to have kids came up.

Let me preface- I have no intention of having kids now, near now, or possibly at all.  Craig doesn't really want kids and I can't imagine trying to be responsible for a small person right now.  So, we may not have kids, and if we do, it will be quite a ways away.  If (and it's a big IF) we have kids, we have discussed adoption.  Craig and I both feel that there are enough unwanted children in the world, that if we ever have a home for kids, we might as well give it to them.  Or as Craig puts it, "Puppies, kittens and children- if we get them, we're getting them from the pound."  Ok, the sentiment if there, even if Craig lacks subtlety or tack.

So, somehow the topic of me having kids came up at the hospital, and I casually mentioned that I wasn't sure if I was having kids, and if I was, they would probably be adopted.  My dad's eyes got really big and he very seriously demanded, "What's wrong with my genes?  Why don't you want to have your own kids?"

I couldn't believe we were even arguing this.  This, coming from the man who kept telling me not to rush things and make sure I did my own thing free from the responsibility of others.  I'm trying to get through grad school and my dad is freaking out because someday I might adopt- MAYBE?  My dad, who is trying to get me to shop for a husband and gets 'nervous' when I even tell him the date of our wedding (2 years mind you), and now he's getting upset that we might not have biological children?  Seriously?!

I try to remain calm, and see the absurdity of the situation.  Remember, he's on a lot of drugs.  I try to calmly explain that there are no plans for kids in the near future (or even the not-so-near future), but if we decide to have kids, I will let him know.

He still really wanted to argue the point, even compromise with 'you know, you could have one of each.'  And I tried to politely tell him, that really, he had no say in how I decide to reproduce (or not).  I can't believe I'm even having this conversation.  I can't believe he is seriously concerned about this.  I can't believe he's trying to tell me how to have kids.  And I really can't believe that he's asking what's wrong with our family's genes as we sit in the isolation floor of the hospital because he's going through chemo for auto-immune problems, which run in the family.  It's pretty much too ridiculous to get upset about.

I also didn't mention to him that I have a hard work ethic and Craig had a penchant for mischief.  If we have a kid- he/she might inherit both of those traits.  And a mischief maker who works hard at it... well, evil world domination is clearly the next step.

Monday, June 15, 2009

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Kittens

On the bright side, I really like the hotel.  I'm staying with my mom at the Seneca hotel.  She's been here for 3 months.  With my dad in the hospital, I get the second bed.  Yay for not having to sleep on the couch.  Two years ago my dad was really sick and my parents stayed at the W Hotel near UCLA Medical Center.  While that place is a chic/trendy
place for a drink, it was a little weird (ok, a lot weird) for people trying to deal with serious illness.  The hotel here is much cozier.  And oh-my-god the water is so soft! I could shower for hours in its soft, warm caress.  Being used to water hard enough to bruise in Los Angeles, this is heaven.  I may never shower again.  (Just kidding Craig... mostly...)

Shower Bliss

I have to admit that I miss my cats.  Ok, I miss my fiance Craig and my friends, but at night, I really miss my cats- especially my grumpy little Scottish Fold Kelvin.  While Craig and I do live together, we have separate rooms.  (Actually works really well- I have room for my shoes and he has room for his multiple fish tanks.)  Since Craig has a back issue, he likes to sleep on the floor (I kid you not).  Plus, he's a night owl and I live in the world of sunshine, so between the weird hours and the fact I enjoy sleeping in a bed, generally the man in my bed at night is my kitty Kelvin.   

Some people have accused me of becoming a crazy cat lady, and well, they're probably right.  If I had the room, money, and time, I'd love to adopt more cats.  As it is, we're a big happy family with 3 cats and 2 more fosters.  Craig also likes to name our cats after scientists.

Our kitties:
My big love bug.  We adopted her (with a buddy, Edison, who sadly didn't make it) from the local shelter when she was 4 months old.  She's a total attention slut kitty, and getting fat.  When I feel guilty, I let her sleep in my room.  But then she'll wake me up at 4 in the morning by deciding to sleep on my head.  I then decide to use her as a pillow.

Like a burnt marshmallow, he's grumpy on the outside and sweet on the inside.  (Some would say the same thing about Craig.)  I've loved Scottish Folds since my mom read me the memoirs of the famous Scottish Fold Norman in "The Who Went to Paris," and have read a lot about them.  They are quiet, sweet, and loyal.  So I was thrilled to find a Craigslist posting for a 9 month old Scottish Fold. However, Kelvin is the loudest (meow- feed me I'm dying- meow- I haven't eaten wet food since last night- meow- I'm lonely...), grumpiest kitty I've ever had.  He hates our roommate's dog (who just wants to be his friend), and barely tolerates the other cats.  Yet, all this changes come bedtime.  Then, he's all snuggles and purrs as he flops onto his back in a fat Buddha way to demand Pounce cat treats and belly rubs.

And the rescue kittens! 

My roommate found 3 5-week old kittens on the street, and Craig and I are taking care of them.  We're keeping one, but looking for homes for the other 2 cuties.  (Anyone looking for 2 adorable kittens in the LA area?)

The little girl.  She's more shy than the boys, but a total sweetie once she warms up.  Craig felt she's too shy to be on her own, so she's the one we're keeping.  (Plus, she has Craig wrapped around her little finger... errr... tail.)  She looks like a mini-Tesla, and is even acting like her.

Franklin (I adore the yawn/moon the camera/nap video)
He was originally called Gimpy.  When we first got him he was the tiniest, scrawniest kitten and one eye was sealed shut.  Happily, he's just as big as his brother now, and his eye is fine.  Totally playful, and with strong attention loving qualities (he purrs when you pick him up).

The only kitty we didn't name, he is the most adventurous of the trio.  He will even take on P-Funk, our roommate's dog.  Ok, it's a small dog, but still bigger than the kittens.  Bootsy is ready for action!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Need sleep, not to husband shop

Sleep comes so easy to kitties, why not to me?!

So it's 1am and I am desperately tired, yet I can't settle my mind.  Seems the times that all I want (all I need) is to sleep, are the hardest times to do so.  I took half an ambien, so I imagine sleep will find me soon.  And if you read fffffffffffffffffffff, it means I feel asleep on the keyboard.

I'm also looking at the book my dad bought me, and I understand why it's not always a good idea to shop Amazon on painkillers.  The book in question is "How to Shop for a Husband," and keeps referring to guys as though they were items of clothes.  This book has chapters that describe how to speed date and whether or not matchmakers are right for you.  This would only be a little weird, except that I have been engaged for almost half a year to my boyfriend of almost 3 years.  Oh sigh.  While Craig, my fiance, does not fit my dad's idea of my future husband (ie he is not a lawyer, banker, hedge fund manager), I still do not plan on 'shopping' for a husband.  Ok, enough for tonight.  While it isn't good to shop on vicodin, neither is it good to type on ambien.  Good night gentle readers.

My First

I am a 24 year old grad student working on my MBA part-time at UCLA while working full-time at the front office of a TV production company.  I have aspirations of completing my masters and taking over the world.  Or at least starting my own company.  Between work and school, there has not been much down time.  Yet, finals are over and I have a week off of work.  Seems like a good time to start a blog.

This week off finds me visiting Chicago, which would be all fun and awesomeness if it wasn't for the fact that the main reason I'm out here is to see my dad going through the worst part of the chemo related to his stem cell transplant.  See, my dad has been sick for the better part of the last decade.  It's hard to describe exactly what he has, because it is so complicated and so rare.  Basically, he has auto-immune problems.  After years of different treatments, he's finally going through with a stem cell transplant.  People I've told about this say 'how cool' it is to have this cutting-edge procedure.  Cool?  Well, I hope desperately that it works.  Of course, cool is not the first thing that comes to mind as a I sit in a hospital room with a father who is half conscious and pumped up on painkillers.  Cool is not having to wash my hands (twice!) every time I come to the 15th floor of the hospital to my dad's room, because he has about two white blood cells in his whole body.  Cool is not watching my dad dry heave.  When I first got to his room, I felt afraid to even breath.  

Dad and I - pre stem cell transplant

So here I sit at the hospital half freaked out with what is going on and half wondering was tasty restaurant will be a good choice for dinner.  Dad is on enough drugs that he's telling us about the dead people he saw (maybe in a dream?).  His grandfather, his best friend, our old greyhound, and the kitten I had who got sick and died.  They're all hanging out with him on the beach.  Just chilling.  Seems like everyone is having a good time.

Fortunately, every restaurant here in Chicago seems to be tasty, so that takes care of dinner.  Too bad the hospital part isn't so easy to fix.  And that's the crux of living with someone seriously and chronically ill.  How does one live their life, and enjoy it, while someone they love is so sick?  I refuse to not enjoy myself for the days/months/years he is sick, but it's difficult to find the balance.  Whether it's leaving the hospital for dinner or just getting up everyday to go to work knowing he went to the ER last night.  It's something I've wrestled with for years.