5 Pictures, 5 Stories | Part 3 (Animals!)

Hello, friends. I’ve encountered many types of animals in my life, in both positive atmospheres, and negative. I’ve had experiences with cats, dogs, hamsters, birds, horses, pigs, chickens… you name it. I’ve lived in the city, and fed feral cats. I’ve lived in the country, and helped board horses on my ex’s family farm. I’ve owned cats. Today, I want to share with you 5 stories about some of the animals that have graced me with their magnificent presence. I will only be sharing positive stories today (well, some a bit sad). I hope you enjoy a look at some of my old, fuzzy friends in 5 Pictures, 5 Stories | Part 3 (Animals!).

1. Snoop
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Snoop was the first dog I ever owned, though he wasn’t technically mine. Snoop was a purebred, English dalmatian (he even had royalty papers!), and he was my mom’s boyfriend’s. When my mom and her boyfriend started dating, I was just a little kid, maybe 5 or 6 years old. It was so long ago, I don’t even remember. We moved in with her boyfriend and his son, who was the same age as me, shortly after they started dating. I had only had cats as pets up to that point in my short life, though my mom’s old roommate’s kids had a turtle and some hamsters, who met… not-so-great ends, and I was really excited to have a dog. Snoop was a big dog, but I wasn’t afraid of him. He was a lovable lump, and wasn’t very active.

When we moved in, Snoop was 4 years old, just a year or so younger than I was. I loved him immediately. I have so many fond memories of trying to take Snoop for walks down the country roads we lived on, with him dragging me along like an inconvenient weight behind him. My mom’s boyfriend and his son didn’t play much with Snoop, or take him for walks, but I did. I loved him. I was even the one who helped my mom remove his ticks, and helped take care of him when he got mange one year. Snoop loved me more than anyone else, and would always try to climb into my lap while I was on the couch, despite his large size.

I wish I had taken more pictures of him while he was alive. I had 11 years with Snoop. In 2006, when I was 16 years old, my mom was backing out of the driveway in her Jeep, when she accidentally ran him over. Everything slowed down, and chaos ensued. That was the first time I ever saw my mom’s boyfriend cry. Snoop was rushed to the vet, where they checked him out extensively, but deemed him to be “fine“. Three days later, Snoop died in his sleep. My mom woke us up in the middle of the night, tears in her eyes, and told us. I didn’t go to school the next day. I cried for weeks. Even as I type this, I am crying. This was the last picture I ever took of Snoop, taken a few months before his death. He is buried in my backyard back home, tombstone and all, and my mom has a memorial shrine with his picture and collar set up in our living room. He will always have a special place in my heart.

2. Napkin
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Napkin (who my mom later renamed “Hunter”), was my pet from 2005-2008, until I left Maine, though he lived until 2013 with my mom. Before Napkin, the only cats I had owned were from my toddlerhood, and I did not remember them at all, so I consider him to be my first cat. We rescued Napkin from a household that had a pet hoarding problem, after many of his brothers and sisters had run away, or had died. My mom brought him home to me late at night, and he was so terrified, that he jumped from her arms, and hid behind our computer desk in the living room for almost 24 hours. He eventually come out, with a little persuading using a can of tuna, and became my best little buddy. He received his silly moniker after I asked my best friend at the time to help me pick a name. I told him the first thing he came up with, I’d keep. He said Napkin, and I loved it. He was the cutest little fluff ball, and he would sit on my desk all day. Snoop, who was still alive at the time, had never been around cats, and we were afraid how he would react to such a tiny creature, but he loved him. He covered him with slobbery kisses, and tolerated his rough, kitten play. When Snoop passed away later that year, Napkin was noticeably distressed.

Napkin was an indoor/outdoor cat, and often brought us home “presents”. He brought a dead, baby mole into the living room once, and I cried for the whole night. I buried the baby mole in the backyard the next day, underneath my tree house. I left Maine in 2008, after graduation, and that was the last time I saw Napkin. In 2013, my mom emailed me to tell me that Napkin had been missing for a week, and she was worried, because he always came home. Two days later, she found his body on the side of the road. I was heartbroken.

This is the last picture I ever took with him, in the summer of 2008 (yes, I know this technically makes 6 pictures in this post, sue me):

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He did love me, I swear!

3. Link299274_2076525152223_1240033652_n

You all know about my baby girl, Jade, who I unfortunately had to re-home after 6 years of companionship… but I don’t know if I’ve ever talked much about this little guy. This is Link. In 2011, I was living in a sketchy neighborhood by East St. Louis, where feral cats roamed free, and everyone and their mother from the apartment complexes fed them. I fell in love with a sweet little tiger cat, who had been coming to my door for months. I eventually noticed her large belly, when she was just under a year old (I know her age, because I fed her mother as well, and remember her giving birth), and watched her closely throughout her pregnancy. One day, I came home to find the small cat waiting by my door, no longer pregnant, and meowing loudly. I followed her to the other end of our deck, where she disappeared beneath my neighbor’s grill cover. When I lifted the cover, I found the tiniest kitten I had ever seen, completely white, except for three small, black dots on his head. I left the kitten alone, but kept an eye out. When mama cat did not come back for two days, fearing for the kitten’s safety, I took him in. Mama cat eventually came back, and still came to my door for food, but never seemed bothered by her lone, missing kitten.

I bottle fed this kitten every few hours with special kitten formula, and reached out to a vet about his flea infestation. She advised I give him a bath in Dawn dish soap, which did the trick. It was scary, raising such a tiny creature, but I was between jobs at the time, and had all the time in the world to care for him. Once I knew that we were out of the woods, I decided to name my new friend. I decided to name him Link, because the three dots on his head reminded me of the Triforce from Legend of Zelda. Everyone loved the name.

Despite terrorizing my grumpy, older cat, Jade, the two eventually became friends, and spent a lot of time cuddling and playing. In 2012, we moved 4 hours north, to my ex’s family farm, where we almost lost Link, after my ex’s brother shut his leg in a door, breaking the bone on the growth plate. Link was still growing, and the surgery and medication would have cost us over $1200 to fix him. We were devastated. Luckily, family helped us with the finances, and we were able to get him his surgery. He spent 6 weeks confined to a large cage, unable to run or jump, which was very hard for him, as he was born feral, and had loads of energy. He also had to wear a cone, which he hated. In the middle of his recovery, we were kicked out of our house by my ex’s family, who hated me, and were forced to move to a new town with our injured cat. He made it through just fine, however, and recovered very well. He was back to his usual self a few months later. Unfortunately, when my ex and I broke up in 2013, he kept Link, and I kept Jade. I don’t know what ever became of him after I left.

4. Zelda329342_2104142522640_434875432_o

As I mentioned before, I lived on a farm with my ex for a little while, watching his family’s farm while his older brother ran off to Texas to chase a girl. A week or so after we moved in, my ex’s sister showed up with a tiny kitten. She said someone had left him in in a taped up cardboard box front of the restaurant that she worked at. We already had a handful of outdoor barn cats, as well as Link and Jade, plus my ex’s mother’s elderly dog, and two horses… but we decided to take him in. I named him Zelda, despite later finding out that it was a boy. He was skin and bones, and had a loud, wailing meow. He ate non-stop for the first few days, before he began to mellow down and socialize. He was an absolute sweetheart, and I was fairly certain that he was older than he looked, despite his stunted growth. He got along fantastically with both of our other cats, and was the only cat that wasn’t afraid of the elderly Cocker spaniel in our care. Our biggest issue with this little baby was his refusal to use the litter box, no matter how clean it was. He would poop and pee right outside it, meaning I had several messes a day to clean up. He was also very food aggressive, and would bully the other cats, who were double and triple his size, when it came to feeding. He would growl and make bizarre noises, acting as though he was starving at each meal. It was strange. He was still too little, and it was far too cold, for him to live in the barn with the other cats, so we kept him inside for the remainder of our stay there.

After we left the farm and moved into our new apartment, that behavior continued, and worsened. Despite being a cuddly, sweet, love bug, he would attack you viciously to get your food, and began getting violent when the other cats would try to eat. We also now lived in a carpeted apartment, versus the hardwood covered farm house, and he began peeing and pooping on the carpets, and even our furniture. He eventually started spraying once he became of age, and our apartment was starting to stink. Nothing we did remedied the behavior, and I debated re-homing him, or bringing him back to the farm to live with the other feral cats. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to. One night, after picking me up from work, my ex pulled over and said to me carefully, “Don’t get upset.” I immediately knew what was coming. He then told me that he had taken the cat back to the farm, and had put him down. I was devastated. Link and Zelda were best buddies, and I knew he would be upset about his sudden disappearance as well. Despite his bad behaviors, I loved that kitten, and he was absolutely enamored with me. It broke my heart, and I was both devastated, and furious. I wasn’t all that surprised, because that’s just how he, and his family of cowboys were. If an animal was sick or broken, it got put down. Period. Luckily, those people are no longer in my life.

5. Chelsea10399152_1093156928632_3894545_n

One of my favorite past times has always been visiting various pet stores, and spending hours among the animals. I especially love smaller pet shops, verses large, corporate stores, because they have more unique animals, many of them loose in the store, which I find so cool. Shortly after moving to central Illinois, I stumbled across a family owned, exotic pet store, which specialized in rescued animals, and I visited it frequently. They had snakes, birds, a giant tortoise, and tons of lizards and fish… and Chelsea. Chelsea was a cockatoo, and was one of three birds that was allowed to be free in the store. Chelsea said a handful of phrases, and was very friendly. I had never held a bird before, let alone a large bird like Chelsea, so when the owner told me she was affectionate, and asked me if I wanted to hold her, I was hesitant. Luckily, I got over my fears, and held the beautiful, white bird. She nuzzled my face and hair, and repeated, “I love you” and “Hi Chelsea” over and over. She also had a loud, happy shriek. It was amazing. I never thought of birds as being affectionate, but Chelsea showed me just how wrong I was.

I love animals. I’ve always had animals around me for as long as I can remember. Ever since my son was born, we’ve been without a pet (due to our lease), and we hope to get more animals when we get our own home. I hope you enjoyed reading this and learning a little bit about the fur babies from my past.

Thanks for reading, friends.

Jan

And as a bonus… here are some old pictures of my fur babies, Jade, Link, and Zelda, when I had them all together. I get emotional looking at the picture of the three of them.

Mommy/Daddy Birth Interview Assignment

Hello, friends! Recently, my good friend, Lindsey, asked to interview Kyle and I on our pregnancy/birth/baby experiences as part of a school assignment, and I was more than happy to do it! I thought it would be fun to share with you our answers, so you get a chance to hear a bit from the daddy part of our parenting duo. I had so much fun doing this interview, and it made me miss being pregnant! The baby fever is REAL, guys! Here was our interview:

Mother: Janise
1. How did you find out that you going to become a parent?
We weren’t trying to have a baby, per se, but we weren’t preventing it. We both wanted a baby, and after a while, I had my suspicions that it finally happened. I went to the store and bought two of those 88 cent pregnancy tests, the ones with the silly droppers, and sure enough, they came out positive!

2. How did you react when you heard the news?
I was excited. Really excited.

3. What was pregnancy like?
A breeze, honestly. They say something like 2/3 of women experience morning sickness, which can last for months, or the entire pregnancy, but I never had any at all. I never had any symptoms at all until the last few weeks when my feet swelled, which was awful!

4. What was the birth process like?
I wish I had been more informed of my options, and what could go wrong during labor and delivery. Despite a healthy pregnancy, I developed preeclampsia during labor, and had to be put on a Magnesium drip to keep my blood pressure down, but then it dropped really low, which made me incredibly sick. I had an epidural as well, and Pitocin to help my labor, so I didn’t feel anything at all. I was exhausted though, and slept a lot. I labored for about 14 hours, and pushed for an hour and a half. The pushing was the worst. My epidural had started to wear off, and I was starting to feel again. It was weird though, because I didn’t feel pain, just a LOT of pressure. My partner had to leave the room, and after pushing on my back for an hour, they had me switch to the supine position (on all fours), which was awful, and a lot harder. I felt like I didn’t have a lot of control or say in what happened, and when they would tell me to push, I felt like it wasn’t the right time. Yet when I knew it was time to push, they told me not to. It was really stressful, and I felt very alone, despite being in a room full of people.

5. What do you remember the most?
The moment they handed my son to me. I was still on my knees and elbows, and they handed him to me through my legs. I felt completely numb, and overwhelmingly happy, seeing his face for the first time. That made all the pain, the sickness, and the 4-day hospital stay totally worth it!

6. What do you remember about the first month after the baby was born?
Pain. A lot of pain. You hear a lot about the pain of birth, but no one ever talks about what your body goes through afterwards. I bled for six weeks, and because I suffered a 4th degree perineal tear during delivery, I had a hard time doing much of anything. Housework went completely undone, because my partner had to go back to work early, and I was alone all day, every day, with this newborn. It was a little overwhelming.

7. Is it what you expected?
Honestly, some things were easier, and some things were harder. Not to toot my own horn, but I discovered that I was kind of a natural at the whole motherhood thing. I knew exactly what my son wanted based on his crying, and that made things so easy. He was such a good baby, too! Slept great, didn’t have any colic, and ate like a tiny linebacker. The hardest, most disappointing thing for me, personally, was not being able to breastfeed. I had all these hopes that I was going to exclusively breastfeed, but it never happened for us. He just wouldn’t latch, and I found it impossible to pump enough. I still feel guilty about it.

8. At what point did you feel “comfortable” with a new baby and taking care of him/her?
Within weeks, if not earlier. The first few nights were a bit of a shock, and really confusing. I didn’t have any family or friends to help me, or answer questions, so I relied a lot on the internet to get me through it. I read a lot, and it paid off. He was only a few weeks old and I felt like a pro. It relieved a lot of stress and worry.

9. Did having a baby change your outlook on your partner?
Honestly, yeah, a little bit. Getting him to change a diaper, even 13 months later, is a fight. He used to get frustrated so easily when the baby cried, and he didn’t know why. It is frustrating, feeling like you are doing 99% of the work in raising your child, especially when the other parent is actually there, but he helps out when he is able, which I appreciate.

10. Did having a baby change your sex life?
Completely. I feel really bad about it, really, because we had a great sex life before, even when I was 7 or 8 months pregnant. But thanks to my traumatic delivery, it has been difficult. My body took a very long time to heal, and it is still uncomfortable for me to have sex now, but there isn’t much I can do about it.

11. What is your least favorite thing about being a parent?
The judgment. Parenting itself came easily to me, but the judgment that I’ve received from family, friends, and even complete strangers, is disheartening. Every little thing that I post online, someone always has to say something. Everything from not being able to breastfeed, to co-sleeping (which we stopped doing when my son turned 6 months old), to letting him use a pacifier. Someone always thinks you’re doing something wrong. It took me a long time to adjust to that, and to realize that my son is happy, healthy, and crazy far ahead in his development, so they can go find someone else to judge!

12. What is the best thing about being a parent?
Lately, it has been being able to actually PLAY with my son. He is finally walking and running around, and it makes life so much more fun. Before, when he was just a tiny thing, we could only play on one spot, on the floor, which was great… but this is so much better. Seeing him grow and develop, and learn new things, it is so amazing.
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Father: Kyle

1. How did you find out that you going to become a parent?
We kind of knew for a while that it was going to happen. She bought a few pregnancy tests, and I was outside the bathroom door, and then we knew she was pregnant.

2. How did you react when you heard the news?
I was a little scared, but I was happy, too.

3. What was pregnancy like?
Not very different really. She didn’t have any cravings, or mood swings, or anything like that. Her stomach just grew.

4. What was the birth process like?
Scary. I wasn’t able to be in the room, I just couldn’t handle it. I was still there, on the other side of the curtain, but it was still scary. I was expecting her to scream, like they always show on shows and in the movies, but she didn’t scream at all.

5. What do you remember the most?
I remember when Janise threw up on me, because she had to take Magnesium, and it made her really sick. She wasn’t even completely awake when it happened. They didn’t let her eat anything, but then they gave her an apple, because she was so weak, but it didn’t stay down. That, and cutting the umbilical cord, which I did do!

6. What do you remember about the first month after the baby was born?
A lot of crying. I got really sick right after he was born, and we found out it was because of my blood pressure, and probably stress. So I remember a lot of crying, and being sick all the time.

7. Is it what you expected?
No, it was actually a lot easier. I thought it was going to be like death, or the end of everything normal, but it has been really easy. He is really good.

8. At what point did you feel “comfortable” with a new baby and taking care of him/her?
Umm, I think after he turned 5 or 6 months old, and he wasn’t so tiny anymore. It was less scary. I was always afraid to do anything when he was really small.

9. Did having a baby change your outlook on your partner?
Not really. It has been really cool to see her as a mom though.

10. Did having a baby change your sex life?
YES. It did! Drastically.

11. What is your least favorite thing about being a parent?
I can’t really think of anything. I didn’t have a life or friends previously, so not much has changed about my social life, except now there are three of us here. She’s made it pretty easy for me. I don’t have to change any of the bad diapers.

12. What is the best thing about being a parent?
Seeing how goofy my son is. He’s just like me. The weird faces he makes, and just how silly and funny he is, it just makes my day. He is a funny kid.
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Thanks for reading, friends! Thanks again to Lindsey for choosing to interview us. I hope you enjoyed our answers!

Was your pregnancy/birth experience similar to ours?

Jan (and Kyle!)

5 Pictures, 5 Stories

Immediately, I volunteered Kyle and I to help him out. We got to work, lighting 300 tea lights, balancing them on the railings, around the benches, and spelling out “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” on the dock.

Hello, friends! I know I’ve been missing a bit lately, and haven’t been able to post my daily prompts and whatnot, but I have a good excuse, I swear. Well, kind of. To be honest, the last few daily prompts have been hard for me. I honestly haven’t been able to write anything on them. I couldn’t even think up a silly haiku in place of a blog post. I did manage to write out a couple of dream journal posts, but not much else. My son has also been going through a very clingy phase as of late, and I’ve barely been able to sit at my computer. I even spend most of his naps napping, because I’ve been exhausted lately. Ugh.

Anyway, I wanted to do something fun, and share a few random pictures with you guys, as well as some stories associated with them. I dug through my Facebook albums, and found some good ones to share, so here we go! 5 Pictures, 5 Stories!

1. The Ring
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On February 28, 2014, after a delicious dinner, Kyle and I went for a late-night walk around our favorite lake. It had been snowing for the last week, and there was thick, frozen snow on the ground, making it impossible to really walk. Kyle kept leading me towards this tiny fishing dock, where he and I would sometimes sit when the weather was warm. In the distance, we could see a young man already on the dock, lighting what appeared to be candles. Kyle and I walked over, and asked him what he was doing out on the lake, in the dark, wearing a suit, and lighting candles. He informed us that it was his girlfriend’s birthday, and that her mother was out driving her around, because he was planning to propose to her… but he needed to light 300 tea lights, and was having a hard time with the wind.

Immediately, I volunteered Kyle and I to help him out. We got to work, lighting 300 tea lights, balancing them on the railings, around the benches, and spelling out “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” on the dock. Kyle even had to make a run to the store to buy another lighter, once the one the guy had stopped working. The end result was beautiful (I took pictures), and we got to stick around to watch the proposal. After it was done, we talked a little bit, before parting ways. As soon as we got in the car, Kyle informed me that he had brought me there to propose to me, and that he was disappointed now, because it was ruined. I laughed, because I had already figured that out. Determined to still propose, we drove to another park in town, where he awkwardly dragged me to the gazebo, and attempted to propose. I couldn’t stop laughing. He gave up on the speech, and we kissed, and he put the ring on my finger. Sappy speeches are not his thing, and it was a perfect proposal anyway. That was two years ago today, and we are now friends with that other couple! Happy birthday, Kelsey! 😉

2. Boys and Girls Club
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One of my favorite things about working at Target was how often we had the change to volunteer. Over the course of just one year, I volunteered at a homeless shelter making meals, at a daycare center reading books, and my favorite, volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club of Peoria. This was an amazing experience. The Boys and Girls Club that we went to was one of two in the area, as the cities are divided by east and west, and was located in a low income neighborhood, across from a school. We brought in new games for their game room, cleaned out the old games, painted walls, weeded and cleaned up their garden, and did crafts with the children once they got out of school.

I really wanted to do this because we did not have a Boys and Girls Club in my hometown, but we did have an after school program called Kids Out, which was for lower income kids, or kids who didn’t have anywhere to go after school. I went to this program for 3 years, and the counselors and volunteers were great. I was thankful to be able to volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club, and was so proud to be a part of something great, even if just for one day.

3. Hiking With Friends
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In June 2014, my good friend Corey came to visit Kyle and I. It was my first time meeting him in person, but we had been friends via World of Warcraft, my podcast, Twitter, and Facebook, for a long time, and he was one of my closest friends (still is, don’t worry!). We decided to all go to Starved Rock State Park and go hiking, despite the fact that NONE of us were dressed for hiking, or for the heat. I was wearing jeans and sandals for crying out loud! It was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to take my son there when it gets warmer. Corey took this amazing picture of me taking a picture of a mama deer. You can see one of her two babies off to the left. It was such a fun day! He also took a picture of Kyle and I by the waterfall, which is one of my favorite pictures of us. I was also pregnant with a tiny Liam during this time!

4. The Ginger Kittens
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In 2009, a little while after my ex and I started dating, I decided that I wanted to adopt a cat. I had had always had cats throughout my entire life, and it felt odd not having one now that I was an adult, living on my own. We went to an adoption event at a PetSmart, and fell in love with two, ginger kittens. I decided immediately that I wanted them both, if possible. We had enough to cover the fees for both kittens, and sat down with one of the employees, and began the paperwork process. We finished all of the paperwork, handed it over for them to look at, and went over to play with the little babies. A few minutes later, the woman came back, and informed us that we needed to be 21 or older to adopt. I was crushed. I had the female kitten in my arms, and had already fallen in love with her. As we put them back into the cage, and walked away, they climbed up their cage door and meowed loudly. I cried in the car on the way home.

A few months later, I bought my tuxedo baby girl, Jade, from a pet store (yes, this was before I knew better than to buy from a pet store). I had Jade until November 2014, when I was forced to re-home her with a friend, after struggling to find an apartment where we could all live. I cried for weeks, but I had no other choice. We have no animals now, as they are not allowed in our building, but I hope that we can bring another furbaby into our home in the future.

5. Out of the Darkness1383626_10200935288763954_1702612861_n

In October 2013, Kyle and I walked in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Walk for Suicide Prevention. The previous year, a classmate of his had committed suicide, and we made Team Dallas t-shirts, and walked in his memory, as well as the memories of others in our lives who had been touched by the tragedies of suicide. Myself included. I’ve written a bit about it in the past here, but I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts, as well as self-harm, since middle school. I tried to take my own life twice, and was, thankfully, unsuccessful both times. At the time this picture was taken, it had been 6 months and 2 days since the last time that I self-harmed, and I am proud to say that I never self-harmed again after that. It was an amazing experience, and I met so many wonderful people, who were all there to celebrate the lives of the loved ones that they had lost. I was unable to participate in 2014 or 2015, but I hope to participate again this year, with the people that I love, who have kept me grounded, and saved my life.

Thank you for reading, friends. I’ll post another one of these in the future if people enjoyed reading it.

Jan