10 Word Review – Life After Life (book)

15790842Strange. Time. Choices. Writing. Chances. Snow. Relive. Characters. History. Yes.

10 Word Review – Happy Valley (TV Mini-Series)

MV5BMTQzODQ3OTA3OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzUyNzI0MjE@._V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_AL_Intense. Gripping. Gritty. Performances. Brutal. Cinematography. Stellar. Lancashire. BBC. YES.

Phone Booths


Walking in London this is something you see a lot. Here in the states, not so much. So of course, seeing these beauties when we were in London, I had to get the shot.

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Jug of Tea

Hello Sebastian!

Dear Sebastian,

This is the first post in your new blog.  You probably don’t know you have a blog now, but some day, when you’re older, you’ll know.  Right now blog is probably just a funny word you don’t understand.  That’s OK.

Your Grandmas decided you needed your own space.  Or, I guess more accurately, we needed a space where we could write you “letters” and post photos of all the things we do together.  That way, when you are older, you will be able to look back on everything we’ve done together and the things that have happened in your life.  Pretty cool.  Or at least we hope you think it’s cool.

Of course, we didn’t think of this until just recently, so we are starting a little late.  You are now almost 14 months old.  It’s actually October 25, 2011.  Since your Grandmas are lame in starting late we thought we would use our sketchy memories and powers for recent time travel and actually “start” this blog just before your first birthday, when we arrived in Illinois after our move from Oregon.  We also thought it might be cool to throw in a few things that happened before you were born and right after you were born.  Sort of catch you up to where we are now.

So… here goes…

You were born in Lancaster, England on September 7, 2010.  Your Grandma Karen was there with you.  She’d flown all that way, from Oregon to England, just to be there when you arrived.  That’s pretty far.  Grandma Tam wanted to be there with you too, but she was sick in the hospital and couldn’t make the trip.  When your Mommy went into labor your Grandma Karen drove her and your Daddy to the hospital.  This freaked out your Grandma a little because they drive funny in England and Grandma didn’t know how to drive there.  Luckily it wasn’t far and she managed to get you, your Mommy, and your Daddy all there safely.  After a while at the hospital you were born. Everyone was so happy to see you.

Grandma Karen called Grandma Tam right away to tell her you were here.  Grandma Karen also sent a picture of you.  Grandma Tam was so happy she cried.

It was such a great thing, you coming into the world.  We’d been waiting for you for a long time, since we heard your Mommy was going to have you.  We loved you right from the beginning.

Your Grandma Karen got to stay with you for about three weeks after you were born. She loved every minute she had with you and would call me a whole lot telling me stories about how you were already growing and changing.  You were an amazing guy even then.

After those three weeks were up your Grandma had to fly back to her house in Oregon and to Grandma Tam.  She missed you right away.  So did I, even though I hadn’t met you yet.  Being apart was really hard.  Grandma talked with you and sang to you over the computer every day.  She would sing the same songs over and over to you, Patty Cake and If You’re happy and You Know It and Itsy Bitsy Spider.  She sang them so much to you you knew them when you finally got to be with her and me again at Christmastime.

At Christmastime, when you were just three months old your Grandmas came to see you in England.  Grandma Tam was really excited because I hadn’t met you yet and got to meet you for the first time.  We got to spend five whole weeks with you over Christmas and New Years.  It was your first Christmas so it was a pretty big deal.  You, your Mommy, and your Daddy, got really sick over Christmas.  We thought it was the swine flu.  You had a temperature and so did your parents.  It sort of sucked, but luckily it only lasted for a few days.  The rest of the time we were there we went shopping with you, played with you, held you, sang to you, danced with you, watched you in your Bumbo, and just hung out with you at home.  It was so much fun.

The next time we saw you was in March when you and your Mommy and Daddy flew to Oregon to spend some time at our house.  It was your first plane ride and your first time in the U.S.  You got to meet our dogs, Weston and Riley, your Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Don, your Grandma Julie, and also your Great Grandparents.  They were all so happy to meet you.  Your Great Grandparents drove all the way up from California just to see you.  And your Uncle Don and Aunt Carolyn flew all the way from Florida.  You’re a pretty popular fellow, everyone always wanting to travel just to see you.  We had a lot of fun during that visit.  You jumped in your jumper, slept in a playpen in our office, went to the park, and used a tiny high chair that strapped onto a kitchen chair.  It was a blast.

When you left our house in April, after you were done visiting, we knew we weren’t going to see you for a few months.  This made us sad, but Grandma Karen talked to you, sang to you, and played games with you every day on the computer until then. Grandma Tam peeked in every once in awhile to say hello too.

In June your Grandmas traveled to Illinois to buy a house.  At that time we knew you were going to live in Illinois so we decided, because we loved you so much, that we should live in Illinois too so we could be close to you and see you all the time.  Moving was a big deal for your Grandmas because we loved our house in Oregon and we had a lot of family there, but you are such an important guy in our lives we knew we didn’t want to live far away from you any more.

When you moved to Illinois from England in July Grandma Karen flew to Illinois from Oregon to meet you and your parents and get the keys to our house.  You and your parents lived in our house for the first month you lived in Illinois.  You didn’t have much when you lived here in the way of furniture, but you had a warm place to stay until your Mommy and Daddy bought a house.

When we moved to Illinois from Oregon in August we packed up all of our stuff into a big truck and drove it out here.

When we got to Illinois in August you were already here.  Yay!!  We were so excited to see you!  And so excited to be living near you.

In the last two and and a half months since we moved here your Grandmas have had a lot of fun with you.  We’ve been to the Sweet Corn Festival, the Arcola Cheese Festival, the Children’s Museum in Decatur, to parks, on walks, to the library, to your first swimming lesson, your first music lesson, celebrated your first birthday with you, watched you ride your Wonder Horse, and have played a lot with you. Your Mommy and Daddy even let Grandmas babysit you for a whole weekend when they went to Aunt Ashley’s wedding.  We played and played while they were gone.

And in fact, you were just here today.  We played at our house.. singing to you, playing with your friends (Tiger, Jack, and Triceratops), playing outside in your fort, and we gave you a little monkey that we hid in the cupboard until you found it.  Your Mommy brings you by almost every Tuesday after you go to the little gym.  We haven’t been to the little gym with you yet, but we hope to do that soon.  We love getting to see you a lot now.  It’s why moving here was such a good idea.  You and your Grandmas get to hang out all the time. Which we happen to think is pretty cool.

So this is the start of your blog.  We hope you like it.  Actually, we hope you love it.  By trying to keep up with this, writing to you here pretty often, we hope to keep a record of our time with you so you know all the fun stuff we’ve done and will do together.  We hope you get a kick out of it.  And… by putting all this here we hope to create a place, a space, where we will always be with you.  If you are away at college and need a laugh or to smile, hopefully you will think to look here where there will be smiles and hugs and lots of love waiting for you.

Love, Grandmas

Illinois? You Ask

The Virginia Theatre in Downtown Champaign.
Image via Wikipedia

Karen and I have been looking at houses in Champaign/Urbana online.  For those of you who’ve been asking, and maybe for some of you who don’t know as of yet that this is going on… we are moving to Illinois.  Why?  Well, it’s pretty simple.  Mary and Martin, and our grandson Sebastian, are moving to Illinois, and we want to be closer to them.  Martin, our son in law, has accepted a teaching position with the University of Illinois.   It’s a great opportunity for him and for their family.

We are excited about living near them.  Karen and Mary realized recently they haven’t even lived in the same state, let alone same country, for ten years.  First Mary went off to University in St. Louis, then she stayed there after graduating to work as a research assistant for a couple of years, and finally she met Martin and moved to England with him.  Ten years is a long long time for two people who are so close to each other.  It will be great for them to be able to see each other.  And all of that doesn’t even cover how much we want to live close to our grandson, be a part of his life, watch him change and grow.  We want to hang out with him, be a family with him, get to love him up close, and have him know us.  It’s very important to us.

So we’ve decided to move… decided to make the huge decision to change our lives, leave the state I’ve always lived in, leave our friends, and my family.  It’s big, and we aren’t doing it lightly.  We’ve thought about this, a lot.  We think it’s the right thing for us right now.  There’s nothing more important than the people in our lives.  We will miss everyone here, tremendously, but we are embracing this new adventure and moving forward full steam ahead to be with another part of our family.

Illinois… cold winters, humid summers, the midwest.  It’s different.  Not somewhere we thought we’d go, but we are excited about it. Being somewhere new to us (well, Karen lived in Illinois when she was a kid for a couple of years so it’s not totally new to her, but she was pretty young, so this will seem new), experiencing what that part of the country has to offer, using that also as a jumping off point to so many other places on that side of the U.S.  We’ve already checked out the driving distance between Champaign/Urbana and many points over there.  It’s cool to think how many great spots are within an 8 hour drive.  Plus, we will be only a couple of hours from Chicago, which we fell in love with when we were there for the kid’s wedding.  There are trains every day to and from Chicago.  It’s going to be good.

We plan on coming back to Oregon every summer for a month or so, probably during the most humid month or even months in Illinois.  We have an advantage in that Karen can work from anywhere, which makes this possible in the first place.  That means we can come back for a month or two in the summer, staying with different people here, and she can work, not have to take vacation.  Plus, I know people will come see us.  Even if they don’t want to visit Champaign/Urbana, they will come to see Chicago, and we can meet them there.

It’s stressful… loads to coordinate, but so very good.  And for those wondering about my treatment, etc… we have talked to my oncologist.  He says people move all the time.  The only thing we have to make sure of is to give them enough time to get all my records together to send to the new doc and clinic.  Karen has talked to her HR about the change in insurance and we have a list of hematologists who work at a cancer center in Champaign/Urbana.  We are going to try and get a consultation appointment with one or more of them when we go to visit in June.  We will get all of it worked out.  My maintenance protocol is very common.

Visiting in June…. Karen, Mom, and I are flying there in June to check out the area, look at homes (hopefully buy one…), and meet one or two doctors.  We have a few days.  We’re flying into Chicago and then driving.  We’re excited about that as well.  Never been there, new place.  We love new places.  We love exploring.

So there you have it… the big news.  The big change.  The big… big.

Getting Ready for England

Just got a call from my doc’s office with the numbers from the blood draw yesterday.  All were really good, except my white count was 3.2.  That number isn’t bad at all in and of itself, but it puts it in the range where my maintenance dose is reduced to half.  This has happened a couple of times before, which is why my blood is monitored every week… if my white count falls into a certain range it’s an automatic reduction.  Anyway…. my doc has decided to leave me at the half dose during the time I’m in England, since this reduction in white count has happened before.  This makes it easier for us while we are there so we don’t have to worry about whether the counts are over that reduction edge.  The protocol calls for reduction to half anyway if this happens a few times.  My guess though is that when we return he will probably increase me to the full dose again.  I’ll also be on another 15 day round of ATRA starting the day after we get back.  But that’s then… for now we are getting it all ready.  We will go in today so I can get the shot and also will be picking up all the meds (the shot meds for the month, enough pills for the month, and then refills of other meds for me to take in case I need them… ambien, etc.).

I’m starting to get excited….. we are actually going to be able to go.  I’m actually going to be able to go!!!  Woo Hoo!!!  I’m crying right now… life is so beautiful!!


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.


London Eye, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.


Lindisfarne, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Another random post from our trip to the United Kingdom in May. This is Lindisfarne… on the Holy Island.

Holy Island

Holy Island, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Just another random post. I took this photograph on the Holy Island, Lindisfarne, when we were in England. Loved it. And the island… very cool. Highly recommend a visit there.

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)

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.

City Hall

City Hall, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Lancaster, Lancashire, England.


Ashton, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Ashton Memorial, Lancaster, England.

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.

Lancaster Priory

Lancaster Priory, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Taken two days ago with the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT.

Heysham Sunset

Heysham Sunset, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Sunset in England. Not bad.


Ruins, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

The ruins of St. Patrick’s Chapel with the sunset at Heysham.

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.

Cross at Lindisfarne

Cross at Lindisfarne, originally uploaded by Tokenhippygirl.

Great history on the Holy Island.