Happy New Year

We spent the day hanging out at the house, mostly watching The Gilmore Girls.  We went to bed at 10:00 and ended up staying awake talking until after midnight.  We were there, in the dark, whispering so as not to wake the baby, and saying… woo hoo! as we heard the fireworks go off somewhere in town.  It was nice.  Us, together, quietly ringing in the new year together.  No better way to do it actually.

We also happened to be awake the next morning at 8:00 am Lancaster time, which was midnight back home in Scappoose/Portland.  We were able to say another quiet woo hoo, still together.  Nice.  Two celebrations in an 8 hour period, pretty good.

As for resolutions…  personally I told Karen I want to be kinder.  Just kinder in general.  I know I’m pretty kind as it is, but I told Karen there’s always room for improvement in the kindness department and definitely always room for more kindness in the world.

Merry Sickmas!!

Yes, it’s true… we have a house full o’ sick people here.  Thankfully Karen and I have so far successfully avoided it, but Sebastian, followed by Mary and Martin, have been sick.  Sebastian (who started with it) seems to have broken his fever, but Mary and Martin are both running some decent temps.  We opened presents this morning and then I was sequestered to the guest room  (our room while we are here) by Karen.  Karen has been running around taking care of the little gent and Mary and Martin have been trying to sleep, taking tylenol, and battling the temps.

Here’s hoping everyone feels better by tomorrow who has been sick, and those of us who haven’t caught it still haven’t…

Here’s also hoping that all of our family and friends have a holly jolly one filled with love, laughter, joy, and more love.  We wish we could give each and every one of you a Christmas hug today….

Two Weeks In England

Since I’ve been super remiss about posting here on the blog about our adventures in England, I thought I’d do a bit o’ recap of the highlights from the last couple of weeks….

Arrived, fussed over the little boy, dealt with the whole shot thing by ending up going to Manchester by train to meet with Dr. Yin and get the first shot (Karen and I then made our way from the clinic by taxi back to the train station in Stockport and then by train from Stockport to Manchester where we did some shopping and finally from Manchester back to Lancaster), many trips walking into town for shopping, have had an occasional pasty, a nice visit with Ashley who came in on the train from Edinburgh, more playing with and fussing over the boy, a drive to the Trafford Center mall near Manchester for more Christmas shopping, more walks into town (we do it at least once daily), more fussing over the boy, wrapped purchased Christmas presents, petting Wicket and Ziggy, and still more fussing over the boy.  He’s the cutest every, I’m just saying…

That’s pretty much been it.  I’ve taken some photos, though not tons.  Mostly of the boy.  We are gearing up for a lot of picture taking on Christmas eve and Christmas day.  Watch for those.

We’ve been here two weeks tomorrow.  The time has flown by really.  There’s tons of darkness here.  It doesn’t get really light out, like fully light, until about 10:00 in the morning and conversely it starts getting dark about 3:30 or even a tad sooner.  The sunrises and sunsets seem to take a long long time.  I think we only get about 6 hours of good daylight every day.  Strange.  At least we’ve had a lot of blue sky so far when it is light.  We like that.  We were expecting way more gray skies and rain.  Lucky.

A Peaceful Moment

This is something I wrote on the plane ride over to the U.K. a couple of weeks ago.  Tried to post it when we landed and couldn’t, then with all the business of getting here and such I forgot about it, until today.  I re-read it, liked it a lot, and so am posting it now.  It’s relevent, anytime really….

December 10, 1:20 AM, Pacific time

Sun coming up over the Atlantic.  Traveling in this plane, just having woken up from a nap laying across two seats and Karen (a miracle in and of itself).  Taking pictues with my phone out the window and listening to the Hip (80) playlist on the ipod on my phone. Bose quiet canceling headphones on.  The world is a beautiful place.

I’m having one of those moments… So filled with gratitude and wonder and love.  So much love I feel like this smaller body of mine might not be able to hold it all in.  Overflowing out of me as teardrops falling down my face.  It’s so quiet in here right now. All these people sleeping, watching the movie or listening to their own music.  All these people going somewhere…. To see someone they love, like we are, or to see somewhere new, or just making the journey home.  And here we all are together, on this plane winging our way across the Atlantic as the sun comes up. I’m listening to Good Life right now, and it really is a good good life.  Thank you thank you thank you thank you….

Maintaining

Getting the maintenance phase of this all worked out is… happening.  Had to go in again today (had the CBC yesterday) for another blood test (one of my liver function tests were high from last week and my doc, who is the hospital doc this week, didn’t get it ordered before we went in yesterday).  No biggie.  Just another slip sliding adventure coming back up our driveway.  Have to go in again today to get my shot.  The results of all of this tweaking of my maintenance (my doc lowered my shot dose to half last week as well as my pills from two to one after getting my blood work back last week and finding my white count wasn’t quite as high as he’d hoped)… I will, from now on, be on the half dose amount of both shot and pills.  They will not be raised back up.  The protocol calls for starting at the high dose and if the counts don’t go too low, staying at that dose, but if the counts don’t maintain well enough at the high dose it should be lowered to the half dose amount, which is what seems to work in my case.  My liver test from today also improved with the lower doses so the doc and all feel this is the dose for me.  We will see next week.  We’re hoping to get all this stable in the next couple of weeks… before we fly to England to see the kids and our grand boy, Sebastian.  I can’t wait to meet him!

To clear all this up…  I am now on half the shot amount and one pill a day.  Then, every three months, I take another 15 days of ATRA along with the continued weekly shot and daily pill.  The only thing left to finish working out is getting it squared away  with an oncology department in England to give me my shot every week while we are there.  Four shots in total.  Karen called and talked to them to start the process and got the contact info for my doc to call them.  Kaiser is going to package my shot meds so that Karen and I can carry them to England.  Karen talked to the TSA to make sure we had what we needed from the doc, paperwork wise, etc., to get through security.  So after my doc talks to the doc there we should, hopefully, be good to go.  Yay!!!

I’m not looking forward to the long hours of travel… we fly to Chicago from Portland then from Chicago to Manchester, England.  O’Hare is a bummer of an airport.  Busy, no good services (internet, etc.), and weather effected this time of year.  But hey, we’ve flown through there many a time so we are familiar with it and know how to deal with it well.  We are definitely seasoned travelers.  We make ourselves laugh we are so efficient….  Get to the airport, check bags, go toward security, stop to take off watches, put cell phones in the backpack, get to security and take out computers and take off shoes in line, go through the line… get some food for the plane, get on the plane, get out Bose headphones and laptop for movies if movies on plane aren’t any good and also iPod in case music is the thing, eat our previously purchased food, get to O’Hare, find some floor space in a terminal hallway near an outlet (they don’t have areas with plugins for computers, etc…. part of it being a bummer), plug in and put in a movie or two depending on amount of time, get on the plane to Manchester, repeat all plane activities mentioned before, get off the plane, bags, customs, train to Lancaster, stay up to what is a reasonable evening hour in Lancaster to combat the jet lag, and then crash for like 13 hours.  And that, ladies and gents, is how it’s done. It’s going to be a tiring long day, but it’s so worth it… and always kind of exciting.  I might say it’s tiring, but it’s also sort of fun while it’s all happening.

For now we have tiny bits of snow coming down and we leave in another hour and half to go back in to the clinic.  Tomorrow…  Thanksgiving and really taking time to be joyful and thankful.  As I said in an email to some of my family the other day… to quote myself…

I am thankful every day for the day itself, for my beautiful family loving me and me loving them back, for my friends who also love me greatly and who I love as well, and for the wonder and joy I feel just looking at the world around me.  It’s a glorious beautiful thing, this life.  So thank you both for the Thanksgiving dedication… I think Thanksgiving has, this year and moving forward, become my favorite holiday.  What better reason to have a day of celebration… to stop, pause, and be thankful and grateful in a very conscious way.

Happy early Thanksgiving everyone…

 

Day 15

It’s been a few days since I posted anything.  Not much happening around here, for me anyway.  Just laying on the couch being sort of tired as my numbers are down.  Blood draw tomorrow.  Here’s hoping the neupogen has done it’s job (had to get three more shots, for a total of 11… the last of which I gave myself today) and the white blood count and neutrophil count are up.  Tomorrow is technically my nadir (the low point) so even if the neupogen hasn’t given me raised numbers they should start coming up on their own.  I’m hoping for a more rapid increase because of the neupogen, but we shall see.  As to my tiredness… my red counts were down on Monday…. and according to reports  from Mom and Kev I’m looking pretty pale, which I always do when my counts are low.  The neupogen doesn’t do anything for the red counts, so we just have to wait for those to come up on their own.  They usually take a bit longer normally  Again… interesting to see what they will be tomorrow.

The good news is that I haven’t gotten a fever so far… knocking on wood now… and so haven’t had to go to the hospital this time around.  I’m hoping that holds and I don’t get one, and don’t have to go.  I guess if I do I do, but it would be nice not to.

The best news is that Karen comes home from England tomorrow.  I know she is having a hard time leaving Mary, Martin, and Sebastian, and I totally sympathize with all of them.  This long long distance thing is so hard.  I am glad though that she’s coming home to me.  I have been so well taken care of by Mom and have loved having her here, but I’m sure she’s ready to go home as well.  Mom says she’s loved spending this time with her kids… after all, when does a Mom get a chance to spend a month with her grown kids like this.  Pretty nice, even if the circumstances haven’t been ideal, it’s been wonderful.  I have missed Karen terribly though and am so glad she is going to be on her way to me in just under two hours.  It’s a long journey for her… she will be traveling for 18 hours… and she will be exhausted.  But, she will be home…  It’s been our longest time of separation and I can’t wait to see her face.

Back In

Well folks…. I’m back in. Spiked a fever and had to come in for antibiotics. My counts are very low… So the plan… I have to be here until my counts reach a certain level. Until then I’m here, on antibiotics every six hours…. And constant saline. We are hoping not too long, but it’s all number dependent… So we’re rolling with it. Mom’s been fantastic!

My sweetie made it safe and sound to Lancaster…. No real travel hiccups. I’m so glad. I love that woman!

Winging Her Way to England

Mom got here yesterday and then took Karen to the airport this morning.

I didn’t blog yesterday… I haven’t been feeling that well.  Probably a combo of things… I’m stressed about Karen leaving, and I have been running a low grade fever on and off since yesterday.  We contacted the powers that be at oncology and heard that unless my fever gets to 101 we shouldn’t panic.  I don’t really have any other symptoms.  I feel tired, a bit worn down, but then again I didn’t sleep great last night… checking my temp every time I got up to go to the bathroom.  It made it up to 100.5 at one point, but then went down from there.  If it does hit 101 I will probably have to go back into the hospital for antibiotics and other tests to make sure I’m OK.  We are hoping that doesn’t happen.  The nice thing is that my oncology office called today to check on me.  Asked Karen a bunch of questions about me.  Like I said… no real other symptoms… other than tiredness.   I feel like I’m getting great care from them.  It’s awesome.  It will be interesting to see what my blood work looks like tomorrow.  Mom and I will probably go in in the morning, just to get in there and get it done so we can know earlier about what’s what.  I’m hoping my RBCs and platelets are fairly stable and that my WBCs and neutrophils, if not up, are at least stable.  Hoping for them to rise in the next week or so.   Wouldn’t it be great to not be neutropenic for a week or more before I have to go back into the hospital for the next round?  Yes… yes it would.

So, I have avoided talking about Karen leaving… which I mentioned earlier.  I am really glad she is going to be with Mary, Martin, and the baby.  It will be wonderful for her to be there for the birth of our first grandchild and to help Mary… and Martin… through it.  It’s a good thing.  I just miss her already.  We have not been separated for more than a week since we’ve met.  This is going to be strange.  Good thing I have my momma here with me.  She will take good care of me (which makes Karen feel better… and me), and be great company in the absence of my honey.  Karen and I plan on skyping every day and talking on the phone as well.  It will work out.  It will be OK.  And before you know it we will have a new bouncing grand baby and Karen will be winging her way back to me.  :-)  It will go fast.

The Eye

The Eye, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Thought I’d randomly post a photo I took in London in May. The London Eye is a photographers dream. Interesting structure, loads of different perspectives, and it’s situated in a fantastic spot.

We’ve been home now for almost a month. I’m missing traveling this morning. Feeling nostalgic about our time in the United Kingdom. Maybe it’s time to crack open the scotch and get a little U.K. flavor running through my veins. Before work, or after? (yeah, yeah… I’ll wait, even if I don’t want to)

What’s In Your Wallet

I was cleaning out my wallet today and sharing what I’d cleaned out with my work com padres. I recently “moved” into a smaller wallet so as to avoid the Castanza wallet syndrome. You know the Castanza wallet syndrome… an enormously huge and fatty wallet that is so big, holding all cards and receipts you’ve somehow collected over the past 12 years without ever having cleaned it out, you can’t hardly fit it into a pocket, or even use a small dolly to carry it. That wallet. I had one of those. Sort of. I had a wallet, receipts built up in the wallet, it became a big fatty of a wallet, and it was a pain in the butt. Literally, if I had to carry my wallet in my pants pocket for any reason. So I changed. Before we flew off to England I decided I needed a sleeker, smaller, easier to carry wallet. I needed to down size. I did. Now I have a small, petite, fits all the cards I need and some occasional folding cash, in small amounts, and it never gets big wallet. There is one place in my new wallet, however, I tend to slip “stuff” into. You know stuff… receipts, stubs, train tickets. That stuff. That’s the stuff I cleaned out today.

I was recounting, to my work posse, what I’d removed and Chris said to me… what does what you had in your wallet say about you. Stacia then said… sounds like a blog entry to me. So, here it is… the list of what was in my wallet, besides the usual cards and ID. I will leave it to you to say what it means about me. And here we go… One ticket stub for Pink Martini at the Schnitzer; one ticket stub from seeing Romeo and Juliet at the Globe in London; train tickets from England; and REI receipt; an All About Pets store receipt; a business card from Held (vegan belt makers who make belts from old treadmill track and who sell their stuff at Saturday Market); receipts from several vendors at Saturday Market where we bought art, funky pottery, hats, and a jumper; receipt from the Whiskey Shop in Edinburgh where we purchased one fantastic bottle of single malt scotch and two authentic whiskey drinking glasses; London Underground ticket; a five pound Bank of Scotland note; and lastly, a coffee receipt.

That’s what was in my wallet… what’s in yours?

How to Travel in Style

Here’s the deal… when a person travels even occasionally, enough to have done it a few times and get a routine down, you… well… get a routine down.

Ours goes something like this… paperwork readily available, backpack stocked with headphones, movies, laptop, ipods, and reading material, stop just before security but after you check your bags to take off watches, belt, rings and put any change and wallet into the backpack before entering security area, take off shoes and take out laptop(s) while in security line, have all paperwork ready, and go through, unscathed (which usually works like a well oiled machine… unless, like today, Karen gets picked at random to be searched in London before getting on the plane… oh well, best laid plans and all).

Travel necessities… head phones, ipod, laptop, good book(s), snacks. If you go first class, which we are experiencing this time, for the first time (thank you saved up Alaska air miles!), you really only need the headphones, and not even those if you don’t mind using non-noise canceling headphones because they give you some on the plane to use. We prefer our Bose headphones. Totally worth it if you travel on planes even a couple times a year, but if not, get some sort of headphones.

This time I brought along a book called Go Go Girls of the Apocalypse. I love this book. Great flight reading. Never heard of this writer. I like to buy a book, at the airport, when I fly. Don’t know why, but I do. I don’t always do it. And in fact, I mostly don’t do it, but this time I did. Picked up this particular book at Powell’s at PDX before our flight. Great book. I have only read about half of it (hey… there are free movies on long flights, and I watched two flying earlier today… and in my defense, I also read the newspaper, the Daily Mail out of London to be exact. It’s a big fatty of a paper. This all took time away from novel reading. That and my playing with the make your own playlist option on my personal console. That probably took up a whole hour just by itself… more time away from my novel). But, I digress… a lot. This book is great. If you’re into pulp fiction, this is a book for you. If you’re not into post apocalyptic novels involving cannibals, armageddon dollars, go go dancers, a cowboy, and an uzi wielding former insurance salesman you can skip this one. I wouldn’t.

Now, luckily, while we’re sitting here, still traveling, and about three hours from taking off on our second flight of the day, I’m enjoying the lounge. Free wi-fi, free snacks, free booze (though we aren’t drinking… and no, I don’t know why… we just aren’t), comfortable chairs, and showers, I think (if we want them… we don’t). It’s not bad. I mean, if a person has to be in an airport for over five hours, this isn’t a terrible way to have to spend your time.

The only problem… my damn ears are totally plugged. I can’t hear a damn thing. OK, slight lie… I can hear muffled sounds. I sound, to myself when I talk, like I’m under water. Everyone around me sounds like they are under water. This happens to me a lot. I think my ear canals are small or something. I don’t know. I could be making that up. The whole ear canal thing. Sounds like a reasonable explanation for why this happens to me almost every time I fly. Usually it’s only my left ear. Today… lucky me… both. I’m hoping they clear before we take off. Three hours to go.

This post, as you can probably tell by now, is turning into somewhat of a ramble. If I had an editor they would certainly break out the red pen, or perhaps the shredder… get rid of the whole lot of this post. Fortunately… no editor. Just me… rambling. This is what happens when a person has been up and traveling for 17+ hours. The silliness is starting to come over me. The slap happy giddiness that is staying up too long in unfamiliar places surrounded by travel food and travel personnel… of all sorts.

At this juncture I feel the need to recount our progress thus far… here goes…  Up at 6:45 AM, Lancaster, England. Get ready, which took us like 15 minutes as we were already packed and just had to dress, brush teeth and hair, and throw a little water on our faces (my face actually… Karen uses lotion), walk to the train station (a 10 minute walk) pulling our big bags and carrying the backpack, messenger bag, and camera bag, get on the train (which ended up being 10 or 15 minutes late due to switching problems) and ride for two and a half hours to the London Euston station (central London) where we got off the train and then went underground.   The London Underground to be more precise.  We hopped the Victoria line South, went about four stops, got off that line and changed to the Piccadilly line West for like 14 stops to Heathrow.  Two hours at Heathrow before our flight (they like you to be there two hours prior for international flights) where we checked in and headed for the first class lounge.  Laughed our butts off as we entered the secret domain of the first class lounge.  That was an awesome lounge.  Three levels.  We only experienced one… the one with the good atmosphere, free food, free booze (again, or actually first), free drinks.  The free stuff there was awesome.  The snacks… great.  We boarded our plane on time and then flew for over eight hours, landing here in Minneapolis a couple of hours ago.  Get off the plane, go through immigration, get bag, go through customs, recheck bag, go through security, find first class lounge, hang out snacking and drinking hot cocoa until we can board our plane… two hours from now.   We will, hopefully, be able to board on time (so far so good with the time of the flight), and then a mere almost four hours later, be in Portland.  Finally.  Where, after collecting our baggage, we will be picked up and whisked, at last, to our humble abode where our pups and our own bed await.  Sleep… perchance to dream.   Though… not yet.

Guess it’s time to sign off this bad boy of a post and head to the free food line. They just brought out cookies. Maybe I’ll pour down a stiff hot chocolate to go with. Maybe I’ll just skip the cookie and go straight to that hard core beverage of all beverage choices… the cup of coffee. It will be my fifth of this looong day. Yum!

Looking Over Lancaster

Looking Over Lancaster, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

I’m going to sign off now from the United Kingdom. This, the final view I’m leaving you with from our time here, was taken from up by the Ashton Memorial looking out over Lancaster. You can see the River Lune, the Lancaster Castle, and Morecambe Bay in this photo. It’s been a great trip. We look forward to returning.

Lancaster Canal

Lancaster Canal, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

The canal runs through the town and for miles beyond. It’s a significant waterway and is used by a large population of people who live on their boats. The walk along the canal is lovely and the boats that pass are way cool.

Ashton Memorial

Ashton Memorial, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

We walked from the Castle and Priory on one hill through downtown to the Ashton Memorial and butterfly house on another. There’s a fantastic view of the city, Morecambe Bay, and the surrounding countryside from up there. We went into the butterfly house, the small beast house, the small mammal house, and wandered the grounds a bit. It was a gorgeous day. We passed a nice cricket game, all gents dressed in white.

Walking in Lancaster

Walking in Lancaster, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

We took a walk around Lancaster a couple of days ago. This was taken in the downtown part of the city as we left the castle priory behind us on the hill and walked through town.

Lancaster Priory

Lancaster Priory, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Here we are on the eve of our return to the states. I’ve just finished uploading all of our photos from our two week sojourn in the United Kingdom. We took nearly 2000 photos. Insane, I know. These last few I’m posting today were taken in and around Lancaster. It’s been good to us. We took our daily morning walk to Cafe Nero for our usual extra hot skinny chai and latte this morning and the girl behind the counter knew our drinks. We were impressed and told her, sadly, this was our last morning here. We did say we’d return, and she said she would try to remember. She’ll probably have to have a long memory, but cheers to her for even suggesting that effort.

Rocky of Heysham

Rocky of Heysham, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Karen took this photo of me a couple of days ago. We got back to Lancaster on Saturday after a fantastic road trip up into and around Scotland. After getting back we hung out for a day and then Monday evening went to Heysham to look at the sunset. Heysham, pronounced hesham by the locals, is only a few minutes from Mary and Martin’s place. It’s a hidden gem of a place with a ruined church, long beach with cool rocks, a great view across the bay, and lovely sunsets.

NOTE:  I’m in this particular pose because we had been walking along the beach, I was wearing flip flops, and then we had to climb the side of the cliff… in flip flops.  It was a bit of a struggle, but as you can see, I made it.  I was like Rocky at the top of the stairs celebrating my victory.  Very funny and Karen captured it.