Thursday, September 10, 2015

The eyes have it

Okay, bad pun!  Amid everything else that's happening, the saga of my eyes keeps trucking right along.  So, here's the latest news.

To recap, I've had surgery on both of my eyes this year.  Due to diabetes, my eyes have hemorrhages that formed scar tissue and caused the retinas to detach.  They went in, cleaned out the blood and scar tissue, used lasers to reattach the retinas, and inserted a temporary gas bubble to hold it all in place. For each one I had to lay on my side for two weeks after to keep it all together.

The right eye is doing okay,  It still has some swelling, for which I have to get regular injections. In the eye. Not a great deal of fun, but you learn to tolerate it. I wear an eye patch after those and my sweet BB calls me Director Fury on those days.  I'll take that :-)  Anyhow, my glasses prescription will have changed when this is all said and done, so I don't see entirely clearly on that side, but it could be worse.

It could be a problem child like the left eye.

My left eye has regrown the scar tissue and detached the retina again.  From that eye, I've lost some peripheral vision and the world looks like a Salvador Dali painting.  Everything is distorted and fuzzy.  I will have to have surgery on that eye again, in December.  No gas bubble this time. Because that failed, now I'll have an oil bubble.  Still have to lay on the side, which completely sucks.

Why December, though?  I'm glad you asked, dear Diary! One side effect of this surgery is that the eye forms cataracts.  Which they have done.  Both.  So, I need to have cataract surgery before the "big" surgery. Now, that's supposedly not a big deal, and I'll be back blowing and going the next day.  We can do this.

I also have to work around two bits of travel.  I'm due in Charleston to lead a conference in October.  And I've decided to return to England in November.  Time to be disconnected from devices again and run around that lovely Yorkshire countryside with my dear BB.

One of the results of the eye wonkiness is messed up depth perception. I'm rather entertaining to my companions, usually.  I reach for things and miss.  I clip door frames.  I take steps up or down when no step exists.  Fortunately, I haven't tripped on anything yet, so I'm careful with that.  BB will have to be my seeing eye BB, so I don't have a disaster in the UK.

December will a year since I first saw the blood dripping in my eye.  What a year it's been.  I'm more than ready to have this over and done.  I hope it will be over and done, so I can see what my normal vision is going to be from now on. I just really need to see.

Don't take that for granted, folks.  Vision is golden.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The New Normal

It's been nearly three weeks since my dad passed.  It still feels wholly impossible.  Among all the messages of condolence what we've received, one common thread emerged: "He was a good man."

People remember his presence s being kind and strong.  I remember that, too, and miss him desperately.  The family visitors have all gone home now, leaving my mom, Son, and me, to find our new normal.

My dad's death has hit Son very hard, so he hit something else very hard.  A tree.  With his fist.  And broke his hand in four places.  It seems to have settled him down a little, though.  He invited my mom to play video games with him. He plays new music for her. He's considerate about letting her know when he'll be home and when he won't.  My fingers are crossed that it holds.

The day after Dad's funeral, I had to hit the road with a friend (I can't drive) and Daughter, to take my little girl to Salt Lake City and her new adventure. She reported for duty as a missionary the next day.  Eighteen months without seeing her and rarely talking to her.  Of course, she's excited to be devoting this time to a life of service, and I try not to be selfish in my attitude, but that's a lot of loss and change in my life at once.

I'm spending more time with Mom, helping her to adjust to being alone and handling life on her own two feet.  It's a huge adjustment.  They were together 52 years, since the age of 15.  She's never been without him.  I'm so sad for her.  She's strong, but you can sustain that for only so long, then the cracks appear and the tears come.  Our hearts are so broken.

My sister hasn't made it easier.  She makes shit up.  When Dad was on his deathbed and past the point of forming more than a few words to say, she claimed to have had an elaborate conversation with him, while no one else was around.  After he was gone, she claimed to have been visited by him during the night, while staying with my mom in their room.

Thi is all salt in the wounds for my mother.  It leaves her asking, "Why not me?" when to me it seems obvious my sister is concocting the whole thing.  You know my beliefs, dear Diary, and I don't doubt such things DO happen, but these are obvious fabrications.  It's not nice.

My oldest nephew has been an ass. He told his mother (my sister) that grandpa died because we didn't have enough faith that he'd be healed. He was cold and cruel to his mother.  Then, his fiance comes to the funeral dressed in a strapless romper.  Really?  Where is the respect?

Most people have been kind to Mom about this devastating loss.  Some people just don't know what not to say, though.  Like, "I never would have done chemo..." or "I know just how you feel, when my husband was deployed...."  No, not the thing to say.

One bit of weirdness happened to me.  A card arrived at my home, addressed to me by the name I use with my family only, from someone I don't know. She said she was sorry to read about my loss and had enclosed something she thought would help. I could call her if I wanted.  What was enclosed? Jehovah's Witness pamphlets.

It's in very poor taste to use my dad's death as a foot in the door, but how did she know the name that only my family uses?  There are no Jehovah's Witnesses in my family.  And how did she get my home address?  I felt very invaded.  I'm not sure what I'll do about it.  It creeps me out, though, and I don't want to hear from them again.

The grief is still quite raw.  I cry often, when I'm alone.  The quiet in my house is large.  I"m wondering when the new normal comes.  I don't know what it will be yet.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Bittersweet Trip

In preparation for her mission, Daughter needed to attend the temple before her report date.  I cannot attend with her, as I'm not a member in good standing anymore.  That left my mother to go with her.

My dad had wanted to go, too, but he's no longer strong enough to do so.  He actually can hardly make it from one room to another now.  So, it was decided that Mom would to Salt Lake City with us for one night.

She was nervous about being away from him. We went through all kinds of scenarios of people who could help him while she was gone.  Finally, Son asked, "Why can't I do it?"

We were a little stunned.  We didn't know he was so inclined. I mean, this isn't easy stuff, to care for someone in such a state of decline.  But Son really wanted to do it, to be helpful to the man who has been his father figure for most of his life.

So, to Salt Lake we went.

While Daughter and Mom went to the temple, I wandered Temple Square and admired the buildings and gardens in the bright Utah sun.  See?

Assembly Hall
Assembly Hall grounds

Flower Bed in Temple Square

Salt Lake City Temple

SLC Temple up close

Lion House with gardens
Temple Square has a very strong spiritual feeling for me.  My ancestors helped build that temple. When I'm there, I'm walking in their footsteps.

But my relationship with God is challenged lately.  I have many questions for him about why he does the things he does to me, and why he's doing what he's doing to my dad.  My dad has always been the most faithful man. My mother wonders and questions, but he never does.  He is steadfast and strong. The power of the Spirit just emanates from him.

To see him suffering like this, slowly being robbed of bits of himself....that's hard to take.

When Mom and Daughter were finished, we had lunch and then went to the LDS bookstore nearby.  They also sell temple clothing there, which is all white and meets a certain dress code.

Mom bought Dad's burial clothes.  That was hard to take, too.

She returned home, to find that Son had done an excellent job of caring for his grandpa.  I'm proud of him for that.  I know it's not easy, to do or to deal with mentally. The decline is really drastic.

Daughter and I remained in Salt Lake for a couple of days longer, spending time with one another and visiting our favorite sites.  We spent quite a lot of time at the Visitor Centers at Temple Square. She particularly wanted to see this:

The Christus
This statue is simply breathtaking. It's a spiritual place, I tell ya.  And for my spiritual daughter, it's a magical place, as well.  We sat quietly in the presence of this statue and let the moment soak in.

I'm sure her thoughts differed from mine.  She feels the love and comfort of her Heavenly Father and her "big brother," Jesus Christ.  I turn to them with my questions....

"Why do you forsake me?"
"Why do you want me to be so alone?"
"Why do you take and take and take from me?"
"Why do you not love me?"
"Why do you hurt the people I love?"
"Why can't I catch a break from all the crap?"

I want so much to believe that I have the love of my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, but I'm not feeling it.  I feel abandoned.  I feel battered.  I ache so deeply.  My heart is so broken.

I keep it to myself, though.  My family certainly doesn't want to hear ir, and I'm so proud of the path my daughter walks.  I wouldn't want to undermine that for her.  Her faith sees her through so much.  I would never say or do anything that might take that from her.

The next time I'm in Salt Lake, I'll be delivering her to report for her mission.  She's so excited about it, and I smile and hug and love and support her.  But I don't know how I'll make it thorough the next year and a half.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Update on "Six Months"

My dad saw his local oncologist yesterday.  He has deteriorated rapidly and is now so weak that he can barely get around.  The doctor said he thinks the six months estimate is wrong. He thinks Dad has three to four weeks.

They did get their hands on an experimental drug, and it's the last chance to shrink the tumor.  This isn't  cure, but might buy him a little time and relieve some pain.  That starts this week, so we'll see how it goes.

At this point, after being through so many disappointments, it's hard to be hopeful.

He is a shadow of the man he used to be, of the man who raised me.  He was always a large presence, an imposing figure.  Now, he is thin, frail, worn out.  A couple of weeks ago, he was able to do a few things in the yard, putter around the house.  Now, he can barely walk.

It's all happening so fast.  He's being taken a piece at a time, and it's so hard to watch. He deserved better than this.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Six Months

That's what they said.  Six months.

My dad has six months left on this earth. With us.

I'm still shocked.  I know they've done all they can. The experimental drugs won't help him. Surgery is not possible. Chemo didn't work. Radiation will keep things at bay for a little while.

But the tumor is large and getting larger. It's so aggressive and so rare, they just have no weapons in the arsenal.

He's in so much pain. They can't control that, either, without it messing with him, mentally. For a moment yesterday, he didn't know who my mom was.

He's lost an entire human being's worth of wright, and we're right at a year since his diagnosis.

I ache so much.  I have pain in places I didn't know my heart had.

That's all I can manage for now.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Where is the accountability?

It's quickly becoming a pet peeve: people who blame others for their own mistakes or wrongdoing.

I've mentioned that about Jacob before, how he seems to think his betrayal of me is somehow my fault.  Something similar brought this tendency back to my attention at work recently.

During the summer, my boss gives us a "work at home" day each week.  I can work in my pajamas once a week.  My coworker (the one my friend called The Oxygen Thief, or TOT) opted instead to alter her daily work schedule.  She asked to work 7:30am to 3:30 pm.

That's fine.  That adds up to 40 hours a week, which is what we are paid to work.

Unless you take a full lunch on top of that schedule. Then it's 35 hours a week.

Which is what she did.

Now, this is not complicated math. I figured it out in a matter of seconds, when she started taking a (generous) lunch each day AND leaving at 3:30. She didn't even keep it to one hour, most days. But policing my coworkers is not part of my job. I don't know what arrangements she made with our boss to do that schedule. Not my business.

Fast forward a few weeks. TOT and the boss get into a big argument about vacation time. Boss informs her that this altered schedule is not working for her because TOT is only working 35 hours a week.

TOT informs the boss that the discrepancy is her fault because she (the boss) didn't explicitly tell her that lunch was not included.


Taking it a step further, TOT complains about this to me.  I said, "But that's a 35 hour work week, and we're paid for 40 hours."

TOT: "I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU THINK THAT, TOO!" And informs me that it's now also my fault because I didn't tell her that she could work just 35 hours a week.

"Do the math," I said. "We're paid for 40 hours. You can't just decide to work 35 hours instead. It's not my job to police you.  You can do the math yourself."

As though I'd said nothing, she repeated that I should have told her.

How is this my fault?  Or the boss's?  TOT is (chronologically) an adult. Be responsible. Be accountable for your own damn self.

Honestly, I have to ask where the work ethic has gone, too.  When the boss isn't here, TOT comes in late, leaves early, and spends the time in between doing personal searches and full-color printouts of pictures she likes.  We have  new person starting next week, and she's new to an office environment. I don't want her to think that's normal work behavior.

But I suppose the lack of work ethic is my fault. Because, you know, I didn't tell her specifically that we do actual work here.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Waiting...

...does anyone out there remember that song?  "The Waiting is the hardest part..." Tom Petty.  It keeps repeating in my head.

I'm waiting on that company to get back to me.  I didn't hear from them for many days, and I recently found out why.  The HR person I was talking to actually managed to screw it up for me.  She told them I wasn't interested in a position until later in the fall.  Nope! Not what I said!  She seems to have forgotten everything she said to me.  So, now she says her managers are reviewing her notes to see what to do next.  That doesn't sound at all hopeful.

My parents have traveled again, to see doctors and specialists.  We thought he'd start radiation this week, but instead there's more waiting.  More lost time.  More time for the tumor to grow.

They are waiting for news on another clinical trial.  So, other treatments are on hold until they know if that came through.  It would mean more travel and expense, just to see if it will work at all.  The doctors decided that surgery is not possible.  It's too dangerous to do.  So, he has to rely on something else giving him some relief.

Today is a bad day, Mom said earlier.  His pain is bad, so they changed his pain management routine. He's acting disoriented and drugged today.

They were driving, and he asked, "Where are the girls?"

He also asked when Son would be seeing the temple president.  If you're a Mormon, that will make sense.  What doesn't make sense is that Son hasn't been an active Mormon for a few years.

Dad has lost touch with time and place and people now.

It makes me sad to my core.  The lump in my throat is almost painful now, all the time.  I'm helpless. We're losing him, in the most painful, gut-wrenching way to see happen to a man of his stature and intellect.

I have so many questions for God, should he ever want to see me.  I don't know if he will because I don't seem to be one of his favorite creations.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

No more teenagers!

Another milestone has gone by.  Daughter has turned 20!  I am no longer the mother of teenagers.

This picture is my lovely daughter, in a flower crown.  She decided her 20th birthday was the perfect occasion to wear a flower crown.  How can you argue with that?

My sister was in town with her kids, to visit with my parents. Particularly my dad.  On Daughter's birthday, they all wanted to go to a nearby mountain town for the day, as a group.  Daughter decided to level with my mother and said she just wanted to spend the day with her mom.

I could about cry with how sweet that is!  This is the last birthday we'll celebrate together until 2017, since she is leaving on her mission soon.  She'll be gone a year and a half, with email as our only contact (except a phone call on Mother's Day and Christmas).  That she wanted to spend that day with just me means so much!  She's very special to me, and our bond is something I cherish.

So, we spent the day getting some mission supplies for her (such as good shoes and makeup that will be appropriate), having lunch out, and going to the movies.  It was a glorious day of grownup mommy-daughter time.  I am soaking up all the memories I possibly can.  I'm going to miss her so intensely!

We spent the evening with the entire family.  My dad is struggling lately.  The pain is hard to control, and he's lost a lot of time while the experts decide what treatments he can have and which way to go. The tumor is aggressive and is growing significantly while this time just passes.  I am always so scared for him.  Always.
Daughter's birthday gave us a chance to have a celebration, have cake, open presents.  And remember.  Even Son got into it, shopping for her while they were away during the day trip.

It was the end of the day, when I was turning out the light, when it occurred to me that my years with teens were over.  My kids are taking flight on their own, for better or worse.  They pursuing their wants and dreams.  I just have to hope that I've given them what they need to find their own success and happiness.

And she still wears a flower crown.  You just have to love that!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Amid my decision-making and debating, things keep happening that seem to push me in different directions.

My boss sent us an email that she would be taking off half of yesterday, all of today, and Monday, to celebrate her daughter's 25th birthday.  Oh yay, I thought.  That means I can take my daughter's 20th birthday off next week!  So, I submitted the leave request for that day.  One day.  ONE.

The request was approved, but hot on its heels was an email to us from my boss.  She informed us that outside of the time off we already have approved, we are not allowed to request any more leave days for the duration of the summer.

It's not even July 1st.

She said that we are just too busy to be allowed time off.  I'm sorry, but can't we decide that for ourselves?  Are we not responsible for our own workload, like real adults?

My coworker has younger kids who are out of school for the summer.  This means she can't spend any time with them on a normal summer vacation.

It just seems hardly fair, right?

I work hard.  I meet my deadlines.  I do high quality work.  But I can't have ANY time off until after August 24th.

She had previously said no extended time off until after November 13th.  That's why I'm leaving for England on November 14th.

This means that if I have to go to interview in Utah, I'll have to lie.  I'll have to be "sick" or "need" another injection in my eye (which is happening every few weeks, anyhow).  I hate having to do that, but I'm not sure what choice I have.

Of course, there's the ongoing question of my future here.  I have the same title as the new people, with nothing to distinguish that I've been here for nearly a decade.  The only advancement for me would be to have my boss's job, which I don't really want.  It's way too political for me, and it would remove me from what I like doing.  In short, I would not be happy.

So, I move on to the next step in the interview process with all of this in mind, and the sting of having my vacation time squelched.

It's time I earned, but am not allowed to use.  Again, seems hardly fair.  I work hard and am proud of what I accomplish.  I don't need to be babysat and told when I can and cannot take time off, when I've earned it.

Would it be better in the corporate world?  It's hard to say.  I'm accustomed to academia, for better or worse.  What would the private sector be like?

Do I take these things as a sign, pushing me in another direction?  Or do I grin and bear it?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The First Hurdle

The first of many, I suspect, related to that opportunity in Utah.  I had a phone interview with one of their HR reps yesterday.  It was a good conversation, with a lot of good information.

Many of the questions were standard preliminary interview questions, such as "Why do you think your skills and background fit this position?"  I learned that the time frame for starting there would be somewhat flexible.  We could be looking at weeks or months, but before the end of the year.

It figures that I've already booked my flights to England for November!

The woman had a point that moving in the winter kinda sucks, especially when you're dealing with mountains.  But let the chips fall where they may.  If that's what happens, I'll cope with it.

She also said that their higher education division is "very interested" in my background.  You have to like that!  The company offers free health and dental insurance, 401(k), stock options, free gym, lots of perks.  There was just one sticking point.

The salary.  It's exactly what I'm making now.  When you make a move, you like it to be at an increase.  Sure, not paying for health insurance amounts to an increase, but that's not quite the same, it it?

So, I'm debating if that's something I'm willing to negotiate on.  What if I put forth another number, and they turn it down?  Would I refuse the job?

It's an excellent company with an excellent work atmosphere.  Very encouraging of the creative side of people.  They recognize the need for fun in the workplace.

While I was talking to her, I kept hearing a "thump" sound in the background.  She finally said something about it.

"I'm sorry for the noise.  I'm in a room with glass walls, and those sounds are Nerf guns being shot at me."

I can do Nerf guns. <grin>

Maybe I'll check out what houses go for in Salt Lake.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Is it time to go?

My previous changes in my professional life have had a common thread.  When I told my then-boss that I had a new opportunity and would be leaving, each said, "But we had plans for you!"

Each one had a grand plan to which I was not privy, with a place for me in it.  A chance for advancement to which I was oblivious, so I made my own path elsewhere.  I don't know how those opportunities would have played out, of course, but the path I've carved out has been a steady climb upwards.

It's not been an easy path, full of unexpected turns and twists.  Life is that way, though, isn't it?

Lately, I've been wondering if it's time to move on from where I am.  I've been in the same position for eight years now.  A little over two years ago, my employer finally got serious about my area.  They got rid of the albatross who was "leading" us into oblivion and hired a really high-powered woman who has been a positive force of nature here.  She's changed a lot of the culture, which ended to happen, and has more she'd like to change.

I've been her right hand the whole time.  The other team members have moved and changed, but we've stayed as the core.  I know she won't be here forever, but I also know that I don't want her job.  It's highly political, and I don't enjoy that kind of maneuvering and game-playing.  I'm no strategist, in those arenas.  I would be miserable doing that.

So, I'm left to wonder, what's for me here?

I love what I do, but I don't want to stay in the same job forever.  There are some things that I don't like about it, and I need some advancement.  I'm ready for more responsibility.  A need to be distinguished from the newbies here.  We all have the same title.  Nothing indicates that I've been at this since 2003.  Or that I'm the leader of a national organization in my field.

I would be foolish to not consider other opportunities, right?

Because there is one.

It would be a major move for me.  Literally and figuratively.  I would have to move to a new and much larger city.  I don't know anyone there.  I'd be quite alone...but is that so different from here?  I have no close friends here.  I have no confidante.  My support system is leaning on me lately, but that will likely change soon.  My dad's treatment options now have the real possibility of requiring them to move, as well.

I would also have to leave academia, for the most part.  I've not worked in the corporate world for many years.  It's a whole different ballgame.  Not nearly as protected, in some ways.  Companies go out of business; universities do not.  But it also carries more opportunity, if you're good at what you do.  So far, I've been good at what I do.

This is a really scary thing for me.  The idea of packing up and moving and starting over is daunting.  The idea of leaving what I know and risking my future is frightening.

But the idea of moving forward and upward, that's thrilling.  And it's a good company with a Google-like philosophy.  One of their job descriptions talks about attending monthly scooter jousting tournaments.  Not many would make mention of such a thing, much less actually have such a thing!

But good Lord, I hate moving.

What is a Blogget to do?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Bloody Fucking Hell"

That's what my friend had to say about today, for me.

It started last night, actually.  When something in my mouth felt weird (don't laugh!) (okay, laugh), and I discovered that part of my tooth was gone.  One of the inward-facing sides is missing, exposing the inside of the tooth.

So, first call today was to the dentist.

Second call was to my mom because she would have to drive me.  I can't see well enough to drive yet.

"Okay, that's good," she said.  "I have have a call in to the doctor for your dad.  He's really in a lot of pain."

I knew he'd been hurting a lot lately, but I didn't know they'd doubled his morphine dose yesterday. And that it wasn't helping.

Suddenly, the tooth didn't seem so important.

They've been in a holding pattern for the decision on the specialists.  They went to Salt Lake and say a specialist there, a surgeon who is supposed to be very talented.  He said he thought the tumor was operable, but had to pass it by their board of surgeons.  So, my folks are waiting for word on that.

In the meantime, the pain intensifies.

Soon, I got a text from Mom.  "They're admitting him to the hospital."

I called and changed the dentist appointment.

"I'm really scared," she said.

It's heartbreaking to see him like this, in such pain.  He's a good man.  A faithful man.  A strong man. He's always been a presence.  John Wayne-like in stature. And one of the smartest men I've ever known.

He's so much more fragile now.  The medication damages his thinking, and he's not so lucid.

Yes, heartbreaking.

I don't know what the next few days will bring.  But it's scaring me to the core.  I shouldn't think out it too much because I can really run the "What ifs" in circles.  I feel I need to be prepared, but I don't know quite what for.

I have so many things I need to deal with right now, but this trumps it all.  The other stuff can go sit in a corner while I hope my dad makes it to this Father's Day.

Heart. Breaking.

Monday, June 15, 2015

They're all around, and they know

I think the veil was especially thin over the weekend.

Saturday afternoon, I got a shaky call from my mother.

"I just saw a spirit," she said.  My dad was resting in their bedroom, while she was doing dishes in the kitchen.  She turned around to go check on him.  That's when she saw a white figure near the little hallway to their room.  It rushed around the corner, into the bedroom.

She told Dad.  "Are they coming for me?" he joked.

She was still having chills when she called me.  We each had the same knee-jerk impression.  Could it have been his mother, hovering near her ailing child?  He had a particularly rough week.

They've always had odd activity in the house, since the young man who used to live there passed away suddenly (not in the house).  But this was different.  This was an actual figure in broad daylight, not just sounds in the night.

The dead felt close to me yesterday, as well.  Sunday marked three years since my dear friend passed from cancer.  I miss him so much and still, all this time later, cannot believe he's gone.

What I wouldn't give to laugh with him again!  I never got to say goodbye.  I wasn't sure how, and I just expected to have more time.  Then, he was gone.

His younger brother friended me on Facebook yesterday, then looked at all of the photos I have posted of him from way-back-when. he'd been with my friend when he passed.  I sent messages to him and their mother, letting them know I was thinking of them.

 I talk to his mother frequently and saw her and his stepfather when I was in Texas last year.  Afterwards, she posted that they'd had dinner with his "best friend from high school and forever." It made me cry.  I miss him so much.

Sometimes, I dream of him.  We are hanging out together and having a good time again.  We smile, laugh, hug, and hold hands.

I like to think we really are.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Latest Crazymaker

For the first several years that I was here, my department had a challenge being taken seriously.  We seemed to have roadblocks to getting anything of substance accomplished, and I didn't understand why.  My Old Boss would tell me it was because of the political climate, that our VP was against us.  I didn't know better.

Then came the shake-up, which led to the hiring of my new Boss.  That's when the depth of the harm he was doing was revealed, along with a few things about how he handled me.  For instance, I apparently should have had a title change years ago, but he was against it.

Long story short, we've spent the last couple of years rebuilding the department's reputation.  We've put forth a more professional front with our new leadership, and we've become part of the campus conversations on the quality of education.  We're known for doing good and being good to work with.

But it's new and fragile and easily smudged, if we're not careful.  Too many people in higher ed just want to best you and complain and argue.  We battle that all the time.  People try to bait us.  I often go to Boss for advice on how to respond to a potentially sticky question.  She's very good at maneuvering those situations.

Blogget might not be the most politically-savvy person, but I know how to be professional!

When Boss started, the staff consisted of me and one other person.  We started a search for a third staffer.  In the middle of that search, the other person quit.  That left just me on staff.  We hired two people.  Finally!  A full staff for what we needed!  Let the work commence, we said!

Then one of those people got fired.  That was a good and bad day.  Bad that we were now understaffed again.  Good because even with that person, we were in essence understaffed.

We have just finished a search for another new person.  If she takes the job, I worry about the influence this other staffer will have on the newbie. I mean, her work is okay, but she makes noise about wishing she was part time.  Essentially, she is, with the way she does her job.

I'm worried about a person like this, with a serious lack of professionalism and dreadful work ethic, and the impact she can have on this reputation we've scratched out over the last couple of years.  Some examples....

She doodles in meetings, then asks questions that make it obvious she wasn't paying attention.  And when I say doodles, I don't mean little inconspicuous sketching in the margins that no one will notice.  I mean broad scribbling across the page, arms waving, and holding up her handiwork to survey and admire.

And doing so while sitting beside that VP previously mentioned.

Then there was Monday.  I came in Monday to find that she was already in the office.  Good, because Boss was out of town, and she usually takes advantage of that situation by coming in late, taking generous lunches, and leaving early.  Except...

...she was filing her toenails.

...and then painting them.

...and then she announced she hadn't gotten enough sleep and went home for a nap.

...and came back later to do her nails.

Keep in mind that our offices are not isolated.  We're in a building with two other departments, and our offices get lots of foot traffic past them.  We are visible.  And Boss had just warned us that when she'[s not here, others in the building take it upon themselves to watch us.  The walls have eyes, indeed.

This coworker said to me, "Why should I care about that?"

I would have thought that answer was obvious.  Not only do they report to your boss what they see, chickadee, but they formulate opinions about your professionalism based on what they see.  That impacts our reputation, as a group.  Which impacts our effectiveness across the campus.

Have some damn common sense, why don't you?

Besides our reputation, I just find it personally irksome that I'm busting my ass, while she goes home to take a nap.  We have several projects going on and needed to report on some of them in a department meeting.  I had two pages - TWO feckin' pages - of notes for one project, while she had just printed a page of a web site.

I didn't let her talk, that meeting.  She opened her mouth, and my brain went "Hell no!" and launched into my notes.  And my ideas.  When I was done, Boss tuned to her.  She said, "Blogget covered all of the ideas I had."


Filing her toenails.  I mean, come ON!

You are not taking down me and all of our hard work because you want to give yourself a pedicure in the office.  I need to have a conversation about this with Boss, but choosing the right time and tone is essential.  Otherwise, I'm just running to tell Mommy, instead of pressing genuine concern for our department, work, and reputation.

I'll be a good Blogget, and I'll be careful.  But it will be said.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Very Special Specialists

When my dad went to Texas, he was being treated by the foremost expert in his kind of cancer, in the world.  Still, he had his issues with him and some less than stellar communication styles.

Coming home to continue his maintenance chemo has put him in the hands of other doctors who might not be the best in the world, but who have their fingers on the pulse of what's happening in this kind of cancer treatment.

Hearing from them at the same time that he gets the news that the tumor is growing is driving him to try some of these other recommendations.  So, he went to Denver recently to see some of these other specialists.

One can offer him an experimental option, a new chemo that will be aggressive.  And it might just make him sicker.  It's hard to think of that when you see a man who has already lost over 100 pounds and is visibly weakened.

But that doctor knew of another doctor, a specialist in new radiation options.  So, they went to see him, as well.  That doctor told them straight out that he's the best in the world at this kind of treatment.  And that he was sure he could reduce the tumor...with some risks.

Because the tumor is involved with the blood vessels, they do risk rupturing a critical blood vessel.  If that happens, he'd bleed out in 25 seconds, right there.  That's when this doctor told them two things.

First, if he had cancer, he'd take the 25 seconds over the alternative of living through the decline.

Second, he actually died once, and he can tell them that what's on the other side is so much better than here.

These things are tough to hear.  Especially since I think my dad was hoping someone would say, "Yes, I can cure this for you."  No one is saying that.  No one is going to say that.  In fact, they say they're buying him more time.  They cannot offer a cure,

So that's the decision he has.  Risk his quality of life or risk those 25 seconds.  If I'm scared, I know he has to petrified.  How must it be to hear that the end of your life in imminent?

He said to my mom, "I guess I need to get things in order."

Just when I think my heart can't break anymore, for him and for us, it manages to find a new kind of ache.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Should I care?

Some background story on this one:  Jacob's oldest daughter has a crazy grandma. She orchestrated the child's return to Colorado, into Jacob's care, while she planned her own move here.  Once here, she manipulated the child and the situation to lure her away from Jacob.  She claims Jacob broke their relationship, but she is really the one who did.  She masterminded the whole crazy thing, and it was hard to watch - especially as someone with a conniving ex-husband who tried to pull something similar with my son.  And who apparently still lies about me to my kids, but that's another story.

The crazy woman had tried to pull me into the fray, when this happened a few years ago.  I made sure that both Daughter and I stayed out of it.  I wasn't about to have either of us be a pawn in her game.  After that, things went silent.  We've not heard from her.

Until now.

Guess who found me on Facebook?  Yup, crazy grandma.  She sent me a message and told me their latest news - and there was lots of it.  Many significant life events have happened for her and Jacob's daughter.

Then, she asked me some questions.  The nature of a couple of them made me pause.  Was she digging for information on Jacob?  For legal reasons, possibly?

She did mention a situation in which the information could be used.  That and more about him, maybe.  Should I be cautious about what I say?

I don't know what's happening in Jacob's life, so I don't know what I'm stepping on.  I don't know if there's already a legal issue brewing that I'm unknowingly being put in the middle of.  The only way to know would be to ask him.

Do I want to open that door?  And would it be misinterpreted?  There's so much about me and things I did that he twisted before.  I don't want this to be twisted to be something it's not.

Then, I have to ask, why do I care?  And should I?

I don't shut it off so easily, like he seems to.  Why do I let it matter?  But I do.  I wonder if something dreadful is going on and if I'll make it worse by talking to this woman.  Or will the information I give start trouble?  I don't want to feed the beast, as it were.

But I also don't want to deliberately start trouble for him.  I do have lots I could say to her, if I wanted to be vindictive.  The world is changing, but those wheels move slowly.  I don't really want to be vindictive, though.

So, what do I do?  I could let it fly and let the fallout happen.  Or I could ask Jacob if there's anything to tread carefully about, and risk having that twisted and thrown in my face.

I don't want to be cold and not speak to the woman at all.  She's had a lot of pain in her life lately, and there's no reason to be mean.

See what I did there?  That's what I'm talking about.  Why do I care?  But it seems I do.

Friday, May 29, 2015

My exciting life

I swear, I'm a thrill a minute.

I got a bonus at work for having an excellent performance review.  After the taxman takes his 1/3 of it, I think I have enough left for...


...a washer and dryer.

Oooooh!  Ahhhhh!

I know.  I live on the edge.

My little house is adorable, but it is lacking laundry facilities.  I've been going to my folks' house for the last year and a half to do my laundry once a week.  It takes forever and a day, and it's a big production.  It would be nice to just step out the kitchen door and throw something in the wash.

So, I just took a step back and looked at myself.  I can't believe I'm blogging about laundry.

When I was in England, I didn't see anything like a laundromat, like we have here.  I was lucky that the hotel was nice enough to run a load of clothes for me, or I'd have been up stinky creek.  I'm thinking about going back lately, so that's something to plan for.  Mental note.

Speaking of going back to England, I'm looking at doing so in September.  Daughter leaves for her missing at the end of August.  Planning a trip might help me not be so upset about being without her. Something to look forward to, instead of dreading her departure so very much.  I really am dreading it, too, but I can't say that to her.  How will I manage a year and a half of not texting and talking to her all the time?  Not having her here for Christmas, birthdays, Mother's Day....

It breaks my heart.  But I raised her to go out into the world and explore life.  She's doing exactly what I taught her to do, and helping others in the process.  I can't begrudge her that.  It's just that, as her mom, I don't know how to be without her for so long.

In short, it hurts.  I need a distraction.  A return to Yorkshire and time with my sweetheart might just do that.  He'll be finished with school by then, so it might be a good time to visit.  September would be nice there, as well.  I know we'd end up spending some time in Nottingham, where his mother lives.

Yup, I'd be meeting the mother.  That makes me nervous.  Because...she's actually slightly younger than me.

Okay, there.  I've admitted it pseudo-out-loud.  She did have him when she was quite young, so there's that.  And to be fair, I fell for him because of our interactions, well before I know he was younger than me.  By that time, it didn't matter so much.

Does she know that?  She's found me on Facebook, so we've chatted a bit, and she's said she's supportive as long as her son is happy.  But does she know the numbers?  The real numbers?  I just don't want to have a problem with her over this.

His dad is another story,  He is much older than his mother.  They had a significant age gap when they were together (they are not anymore).  That might be one reason why she doesn't have a problem with our relationship.

I hope.

So, will I go in September?  I sincerely hope so.  I just need to get the numbers to align now.  Travel is so stinking expensive.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Last Time?

Two of my dad's siblings have come to visit this week.  I love them dearly, but haven't seen them in a very long time.  The unspoken subtext of the visit is...they need to see him before he's gone.

So, will this be the last time they ever get to see their big brother?  Does this mean that the ones who didn't come will never see him on this earth again?

They have a strong faith of a life together in the hereafter, so there's that thought.  See you on the other side!  But it's the finality of this side that I'm struggling with lately.  I don't want it to be that way for them, to never see each other again.  I happens to everyone.  The circle of life.  Yada, yada.  But...

...I don't want to be without him.

Memorial Day weekend reminded me of the days when a warm-weather holiday meant Dad would cook out for us.  Ribs, chicken...all slathered in barbecue sauce.  I look at him now, so thin and weakened.  And again, I wonder, have we done that for the last time already?  Most likely so. It's a memory now.

I'm having a hard time.  I don't talk to anyone about it because there is no one to talk to.  I'd only make it harder for those people around me who are also hurting because of this.  But I'm finding it all sad and infuriating and unfair and unbearable.

And I'm not at all ready to deal with my sister and how she takes over a death.  She wraps her arms around it and makes it "hers."  No one has ever been entitled to grief like my sister.  And that's to the exclusion of others.  She wants you to be aware that your grief is so much smaller and less significant than hers.  She disallows yours.  She takes it away.  It's maddening, and I won't be able to tolerate it this time, I'm afraid.

So, I will cry on your shoulder, Dear Diary.

My shoulder is given to the others in my life who are having struggles with this phase of our family's life.  No one is saying, "He's dying," but it hangs in the air.  He's gotten so thin and tired.  He's lost over 100 pounds now.  He wears out easily, but he's trying all he can.  He's at a baseball game right now, with Son.  They need to have some time together, doing something fun.  He won't make it all the way through, but that's not what counts.  Being together is what counts.

Bear with me, Dear Diary.  I'm having a struggle, and you are where I must turn to work it out.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Back in the Saddle!

For the most part!  Surgery went well.  My retinas are both now where they're supposed to be!  I would have been back sooner, but I did have to have the gas bubble and restricted movement for a couple of weeks.  The bubble has finally dissipated, and I'm back at the computer.  I am taking advantage of the accessibility features of my Mac to zoom in on things, but that will get better as the weeks pass.  My vision is a little blurry and depth perception is damn comical, but it'll all get better as the healing happens!

BB is beside himself that he's not able to be here to help me out during my recovery.  With my restricted movement, he wanted to be here to cuddle up, bring me tea, and watch movies all day.  Sounds like a good recovery time to me!

I'm back at work now, for my first full-time week since the surgery.  It's good to be back!  I've had several people email me and say they're glad I'm back, so I'm not sure what was happening when I was gone, but it's awfully nice to be welcomed and appreciated.  I'm back just in time, too!

We just had our last round of interviews for the jinxed position, the one we seem to never be able to fill.  We're all hoping it works out this time, for the long term.  We could sure use the help, but from someone who has an appreciation for the work we actually do and isn't trying to take over or reinvent the wheel.  It has been a frustrating road, to say the least.

My parents are now home.  My dad will see his doctor in Houston every few months, and he will guide the treatment via the local doctors.  They've heard of an experimental program and surgeons who think they can help, but what do you risk to see if it's true?  He doesn't want to go into surgery thinking the tumor will be removed and wake up to find his leg is also gone.  What quality of life do you preserve?  So many questions.  So many unknowns.  It's really a rough bunch of decisions to make.  All the while, they're also being referred to palliative care, which is really difficult to accept and discuss.

Daughter is about to embark on an adventure.  She will serve a church mission for 18 months, starting in August.  She will be in an area that encompasses parts of Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana.  How will I make it 18 months without her?  I really don't know.  As you know, dear Diary, the loneliness is intense.  I don't know how to fill so many quiet hours.  And I don't know how to fill the gap left by her laughter and beautiful spirit.

But I raised her to fly, and she is certainly doing that.  I'll hope each day that she'll be blessed and protected, happy and safe.

Monday, April 20, 2015

It's about that time again...

...I'll be quiet for a few days.  My other eye surgery is happening this week, to remove the damaged tissue and blood from my left eye, as re-attach the retina.

I'm hoping for a quicker recovery this time because I have one "good" eye for this go-around.  I have a 50-50 chance that they'll need to insert a gas bubble this time.  The recovery is better if they don't, so I'm really hoping for that.  So is my boss.  I need to be back at work quickly on this one.

If they do have to do the gas bubble, it's two weeks of being restricted to laying on one side all the time.  That's maddening, I can tell you!  Not looking forward to that part, should it come to pass.

I'm very much looking for=ward to seeing clearly again.  The black cobwebs in my left eye are getting quite old.  They disrupt my field of vision and mess with my depth perception.  In the end, I'll need new glasses because my sight won't be exactly what it was. cobwebs.  I'll take that.

To help avoid the problem what caused the bleeding in the first place, I've now become Bionic Blogget.  I have an insulin pump that acts as an electronic pancreas, instead of my non-functioning real one.  I have a wireless sensor that takes my blood sugar every five minutes and transmits the numbers to the pump, alerting me if it's too high or too low.

It works...most of the time.  I've had some challenges figuring out how to best calibrate it and get everything playing nicely together.  I am nervous about one thing with it.  Will BB find it off-putting?  I mean, it's not the sexiest feature for a woman, is it?

I have some time before I have to test that idea, so I'll just worry about it for the next  long while.

As you do.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

With a heavy heart and fractured faith....

...I have to report that my dad is not doing well.  We received bad news this week.

While his chemo is keeping the tumor from growing, it's not reducing it.  The only way to remove it is surgery.  The surgical team met and determined that, to get the tumor out, they would need to remove his leg and his pelvis.  But the tumor would in all likelihood be back again.  Such a reduction in his quality of life, and it would do no good in the long run.

So, he's looking at indefinite chemotherapy.  Until it stops working.  That could be months or it could be years.  There's no predicting.

I've prayed so hard.  My whole family has.  My community has.  So many, many people, with so many, many prayers.  And this is the answer.  He's been the most faithful servant of the Lord.  And this is the answer.

I ache in my soul.

Mom says that he just sits and stares now, and looks oh so sad.  "This is the best I'll ever feel," he says, as the chemo debilitates him.

My heart is so broken.  For him, for us, for everyone.

They are waiting a few days to find out if any experimental treatments are open to him.  He'll do another round of chemo there.  Then, it can be done here, at a cancer center closer to home.  We're not sure which one yet, but there are a few options.  Until it doesn't work anymore.  Then things will get horrible for a long, long time.

My eyes burn with tears.  My brain aches with these thoughts.  My heart is shattered.  My soul is...well, my very being wants to curl up and hide.

BB offers me his arms, even if it has to be virtually for now.  I crave the solace of him.  His peace and his passion.

I don't know how to navigate a world without my dad.

Choo Choo! ...and other "indulgences"

Okay, so our passenger trains don't make that noise anymore, but I can dream!  I'm taking the train this weekend to Salt Lake City, to meet my daughter for her drive back from school.  Flying was #200 and the train was $48.  No brainer.  Well, except one drawback.  Flying takes an hour and the train takes (gulp) seven.  But for the money difference, I'll take it!

It will be a little adventure for me.  I've experienced trains in England, where they are faster than driving, so it's a much different experience here.  Everyone I've talk to about it loves traveling that way, though, so I'm excited about it!

And I'll be so glad to have my daughter home for awhile.  I need to soak up every minute with her because she's decided to go on a church mission.  We don't know where or exactly when yet, but it will come too soon no mater what. Then, it'll be a year and a half before I see her again.  She will not have a  cell phone or a computer.  She will be able to call me on Mother's Day and Christmas.  She can write home the old fashioned way all she wants.  The lost art of letter writing is about to be found!

In a couple of weeks, I'll have my second eye surgery.  I'm anxious for all of this to be done and healed.  The eye that's already had surgery is doing well.  My vision is a little bit less focused, so I'll need new glasses when the other one is all healed.  I can handle that.  It'll be a good time choosing new nerdy frames!

All of this has put a crimp in the plans to return to England.  I wanted to be there in May for the next Avengers movie, but that won't happen.  I won't be allowed to travel for a few weeks after surgery, and then there's the medical bills....  Maybe June.  Or July.  Or September.  I'm a regular Pollyanna about this.  He is still planning to be here in November, and possibly through December.  Or maybe longer, he said.  How kickass would that be?  Seeing the new Star Wars movie with him in the seat beside me?  The thought makes my little geeky heart go pitter pat!

We were discussing a whole spectrum of interests the other night.  Lego, a new series he likes, and the pickled onions I had ordered from a British food site to try.

The conversation took a turn towards supporting one another's interests and tastes.  We have many in common, but also have some divergent fandoms and food preferences, so to speak.  I thought it a particularly interesting exchange, given my recent comments here about how my interests have not been supported by those in my recent past.

Then, he said it.  He used this wording:

"Anything for you, to indulge your tastes, my dear!"

The caught in my mind.  "Indulge."  I'd used that exact word in my post the other day, saying no one could expect Jacob to indulge anything for anyone else.  Now, BB doesn't read this Diary, so that was
quite a lovely coincidence.

He went on to say, "As you know, I'm of the mindset that a relationship is not necessarily about compromise; it's about acceptance."

Wise words.  Relationship-wise, I know he is of little experience, but he has an outlook that I find amazing and comforting, all at once.

"I am so thankful and appreciative and humbled and honoured that you support my silly little things!"

I assured him that I didn't consider any of it silly, and enjoyed his enthusiasm about so many things.  I had to keep the tears of happiness at bay, as his words touched me so.  No one has ever been that thankful for me before, for how I am in a relationship, for how I love.

And I'm humbled in return that he indulges all of my "silly little things," as well.  He never rejects.  He listens to understand.  It doesn't matter if he's into it, as well.  If it catches my eye, then it also has his attention, for my sake alone.

He gives so much and notices so much, and loves so completely in return.  With abandon, and I can hardly express how entirely lovely that is.  It feels like the sun has come out and is finally shining upon me.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Oh...that's right....

...I nearly forgot what this was like.  The universe has an uncanny way of reminding me.

While I was recovering from surgery, and right after I'd been told I was legally blind until I recovered, I received a message on Tumblr in the middle of the night.  It was from a username I didn't know, and it went something like this (Tumblr deletes the original message, so I don't have the exact words):

"Sorry to bother you, but I was checking to see if everything was all right with, for, and about you.  I understand if you don't want to respond and will disappear again."

I checked the user's page to see who this was.


I set aside my phone and magnifying glass (which was how I was reading the phone at the time) and laid in the dark, pondering my answer.  Did he really want to know all of this?  He asked "with, for, and about" me.  That's a lot of question in a few little words.  And why was he asking?  Did he actually care?

By morning, I'd gotten over the initial reaction in my gut of he never really cares without motivation. I thought, he's asking out of the blue so maybe he's turned a corner.  I have to admit that a part of me wanted to believe he cared, and that admission makes me feel pathetic, to be honest.

I told him my news.  Eye surgery, temporary blindness, Dad's cancer, new relationship, kids, work.  I abbreviated the vast majority of it.  If he really cared, he'd ask for the details, I figured.

His reply went something like:

"Yeah, heard about your dad and was concerned. Sorry about the rest. Hope you mend well. Was just checking."

That's pretty much it.

And there it was - my reminder.  He almost cares, Blogget.  He comes so close, but then he just doesn't dig that deep.  Why did he even ask?

Perhaps I'd said too much?  But what I'd said was just the reality of the hand I'd been dealt, at that moment. I was enduring a lot, and doing it mostly alone.

That day, I noticed the post at the top of his page said something about "Sometimes you sign up for the drama...."  It struck me as a dig at me and all I had going on.  It felt very below the belt. A suckerpunch.

It smarted.  "Drama" is not what happens to you; drama is self-created. It is the wall of unnecessary bullshit you throw up for others and yourself to climb.  THAT is the part you "sign up" for, not the things the universe puts in your path.  That's just life.

Being accused of "drama" hurt.  I shouldn't have let it, but I did.  And I noted a bit of pot-calling-the-kettle-black in that accusation.  Jacob is the very definition of drama queen.

The only way to not experience drama with Jacob is to completely give yourself over to him.  You mold yourself into what he wants you to be.  You mirror his likes and dislikes, and you do not have any divergent interests of your own that you expect to share.  He will not indulge them for you.  You will have no drama as long as he is the one being indulged.

I can hear you now, dear Diary, asking, "But isn't he a submissive, Blogget?"  He is, but in only one aspect of his life. The rest of the time, he is quite dominant, and you must submit or suffer his moods until you do.  Moodiness is his particular method of manipulating a situation that is not going his way.

And it is all your fault, of course, and you come to believe you deserve it.  I've come a long way towards realizing that it wasn't, and I don't.

So, yes, I got the reminder - and the message - in his dismissive response.  Once, I almost had a friend.

I still wonder what motivated him to ask.  What did he want?  He said he was concerned, but then he didn't follow through.  It puzzles me.  Was he trying to be a friend, then decided not to be?  Maybe he doesn't really know how to be.  Maybe things just don't mean that much to him.

I'm sure I'll never know, but those questions bother me. He's not the kind to answer them or try to prove me wrong, so I deal with it on my own, still.

Friday, March 27, 2015

My London Town

(Fair warning: This will be a long post with oodles of pictures!

When you think of going to London, what comes to mind?  Westminster?  The palace?  Big Ben?  This is true for most people.

As you know if you've been around here long, I'm not most people.

I had one day in London, with BB.  Did I see any of those normal touristy things?  Nope.  I did, however, ride a double-decker red bus.  And I stayed near King's Cross and visited the Harry Potter store at Platform 9 3/4.  So, where did I go?

Why, it's elementary, dear Diary.

When you exit the underground station at Baker Street, you see this:

Welcome to the lore of Baker Street's most famous resident...who never actually lived here.  Sherlock Holmes.

It's not a far walk from the station before you find yourself in front of 221B Baker Street.  The entrance is guarded by a bobby, who has a collection of hats you can wear to pose with him in front of the famous address.  Inside, you can your the apartments of Holmes and trusty Watson, as they would have looked during his time at Baker Street.  The museum shop is next door.

The building even boasts one of those blue plaques, denoting the years when Holmes would have lived there.

It might be important to note that this is not a "real" blue plaque...because Sherlock Holmes never really lived here...because he's not really real.  Except, of course, in the hearts of the devoted readers an followers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. People like me who will bypass common tourist traps to visit the home of someone who only lived in the pages of a book.

And I collected some of his business cards, while I was at it.  You know, just in case.

We made our way through the streets and fascinating architecture of London.  I looked down each side street, captivated by places like this, that sat behind the shops and hustle and bustle of London's busy main streets and sidewalks.

Keep in mind that for Brits, there is no holiday like Thanksgiving between November 5th and December 25th.  So, the Christmas decorations were out in force!  And soon, we found ourselves in front of this magnificent display of holiday cheer:

It's actually snowing "outside" that window.  We'd arrived at Playland.  Otherwise known as Hamley's, the world's oldest toy shop.
And might I add, HUGE toy shop.  Six stories of toy lover mecca.  They even had ice cream and candy counters in the store.  It was amazing!  Something for kids of all ages, including high end collectibles.  We explored it ALL.
Who can resist a Lego floor featuring life-size sculptures made from the little blocks?  Check it out:

The crown jewels

The Queen, with Corgi

Prince Charles

Prince Harry, and Kate and Prince William

All this royalty reminded me of a question I wanted to ask BB.  "In the US," I said.  "We get a lot of speculation about whether or not Charles will ever really be king.  Is that talked about here?"

He thought for a moment.  "We don't really get a lot of discussion," he said.  "But we do notice that the Queen and William ride in the bulletproof carriage, while Charles and Harry are out in the open."

And there you have it.

Hamley's also has an impressive section of collectibles.  Fans of about every franchise can get their nerd on here!  I was particularly drawn to the finely crafted wooden wands for each Harry Potter character, kept behind glass cabinets:

We found some friends in the massive stuffed animal section of the store:

My cuddly BB, cuddling a little tiger

Do you know this Teddy?  If you're a fan of Mr. Bean (like me!), you know him and are making the little voice right now!

For the umpteen millionth time during this trip, the song "Happy" came on while we were in the toy store.  It seemed a most appropriate place to groove to it.  So, we did.  Because we truly were so "Happyyyyyyyy!"  

(I know...cheesy.  But oh so true!)

After rounding up our purchases in Playland, we made our way to another London landmark, Piccadilly Circus:

The famous fountain at Piccadilly

And we soon came across another monument to impeccable British literature - the statue honoring Agatha Christie

 This was an accidental find, but one that I found thrilling!  Her books and mysteries enthralled me as much as Holmes did.  Her real life was just as intriguing as her fiction, too.  This was a good find, on our way to the big destination of the day.

Covent Garden and the London Film Museum's "Bond in Motion" exhibit.  You got it!  We were on the hunt for...

Bond. James Bond.

Or rather...his vehicles. The largest assembly of them in the world.  

We were aquiver with antici.....pation.  Here we would find the relics of Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Pierce Brosnan, to name just a few.  The excitement was palpable!

We wandered the displays, BB photographing them in order of appearance in the films.  Is he a fan?  I do believe so!  He does a lovely Sean Connery voice, I must say!

Here we were as Bond was, with the lovely creations of Q....

The Jaguar XKR from "Die Another Day" 2002

The Aston Martin V12 Vanquish from "Die Another Day" 2002

Mercury Cougar XR7 from "In Her Majesty's Secret Service"1969

Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II from "A View To A Kill" 1985

Rolls Royce Phantom III from "Goldfinger" 1964

Screen used model from "Tomorrow Never Dies"

Alligator Submarine from "Octopussy"

3D Printed Model Aston Martin DB5 (AND the real one!) from "Skyfall"

Ford Mustang Mach 1 from "Diamonds Are Forever" 1971

That last one, the Ford Mustang, had the most impressive display.  Each vehicle had a clip playing on the wall above it of the actual screen time in its movie.  This Mustang is known for the scene in Las Vegas where it goes between buildings on two wheels.  So, it was posed in the museum for that scene, with the illusion of the lights of Vegas panning across it.  Like this:

When we left Bond in Motion, it was dark outside.  The plaza of Covent Garden was decked our in Christmas finery, including a giant reindeer of lights.  We made one more stop before dinner that evening, to a large Forbidden Planet nearby, where I purchased a Wonder Woman passport cover for my trip back home.  Then it was time for my last dinner in England.  My last evening with BB...for now. 

Saying goodbye at King's Cross the next day was excruciating.  I loved England, my time there...and BB.  He held me tight before I boarded the Piccadilly line for Heathrow.  Tears were in my eyes, and I didn't care who saw them.  My love for this man had deepened, and the thought of parting was horrendous.

We have made plans for more visits, both for me to go there again and for him to come here.  He wants to experience the American West with me.  We have many adventures ahead, dear Diary.  I pray each day that these dreams will be realized, and not dashed like so many before.

For now, we talk every day.  Thank goodness for Skype!  We share and we love.  What dreams may come!  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Feeling Thirsky?

If you're a fan of Downton Abbey, you've heard Thirsk mentioned often.  The setting for the show is near Thirsk and York...but the actual castle where they film is near London (much further south).  I love hearing them mention the Yorkshire names, now that I'm familiar with the actual places.

Thirsk has been near and dear to my heart for decades now.  When I was a teenager, I fell in love with Yorkshire and the fictional Darrowby through the books of James Herriot.  Later, the BBC series "All Creatures Great and Small" brought it all to life.  I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian...until I took high school Biology and figured out that wasn't exactly my cup of tea.

Leave it to me again to not do the typical tourist traps.  I go to England and tops on my list is the James Herriot Museum, in real-life Thirsk, where it all really happened.  Yes, Herriot was a real vet named Alf Wight, who lived and worked in a real town (Thirsk), with real colleagues and farmers and animals and real adventures.

Thirsk is a little town.  Here's a contrast.  First, one of the many train platforms at York:

And now, one of two platforms at Thirsk:

The train trip was wonderful, passing such picturesque Yorkshire farms along the way.  The fields were green and long.  As a Herriot reader, you could imagine all the stories taking place there, just as he described them.

Once we left the train depot, we had a long walk into town.  We passed fields where people were playing with their dogs.  We passed the race track, which you could tell was a big event on race day.  And we also passed this sight:

Sheep.  Amid the rows of houses, sheep in a field.  I found it so lovely and peaceful, and completely fitting for what I imagined from the stories.  Certainly, the town had changed vastly since the stories I'd heard (which began in pre-WWII Yorkshire), but here was this little holdout.

As we moved deeper into the center of town, the buildings got older and the street got narrower:

Many of the sidewalks were still made of cobblestones. As we followed the signs, I couldn't help but think, "This is where it all happened.  These are the streets he traveled, where he met those people we all came to love."  Then, we rounded a corner, and I saw the red door.


In the books, it was known as Skeldale House.  Where James arrived to begin work with Siegried Farnon.  Where he lived in the top floor apartment with his new bride, Helen.  Where his name was ceremoniously added to the front door, to show he had arrived as a partner in the little country practice.  

In real life, it was Alf Wight who came to work for Donald Sinclair.  And their names are still in place, at the front door.

You can also see the distinctive blue plaque now, given by the British government to denote a place of historical value.

(You can also see where I most unfortunately but off the picture!  The sign doesn't really say, "Please Leave."  It actually says, "Please Leave Clear."  Whoops!  I probably laughed harder than I should at that!)

And here are pictures of them both, from the hallway of the house:

Donald Sinclair
Alf Wight

I cannot begin to describe how excited I was to be there.  To actually be THERE.  To be in his footsteps, among the stories, where it really happened.  After so many years of looking at pictures and imagining and dream, I was standing in the doorway of that red door.

"Are you a fan of the books?" said the little old woman who took our tickets.  I nodded enthusiastically.  BB explained that he hadn't read them, but that I was very much a fan of the books and the series.  She directed us where to start our tour, and I walked into the heart of it all.

The living room of the house.  The window looks out on a lovely garden, but my eye went immediately to the tankard on the mantel.  This was their informal till.  The place where monies were received and stashed, and petty cash was funded.  Much to the consternation of bookkeepers!

So much life happened here.  So much that would delight generations to come.

The tour continued....

The dispensary

The kitchen

 Mind you, these are only a few pictures from the home.  We went through several rooms and even a re-creation of a WWII bomb shelter in the basement.  They also had several displays related to the writing of the books and the production of the television show (which was not actually filmed here).

Including this treasure:

Alf Wight's typewriter, on which all the glorious stories were written.

To delight the television fans, they did have one artifact.  The car that was used in the series, and driven by the major characters (including Peter Davison, who went on to fame as the 5th Doctor in Doctor Who):

Once we had thoroughly explored the museum, we wandered the street to the center square of the town:

My head was in the clouds.  I was in "Darrowby."  I had seen the James Herriot Museum.  I hardly wanted to leave, but the time was coming for the train.  We needed to find our way back.  I expressed to BB how much I loved the little town and would like to get to know it better.

"Maybe someday," he said. "We could have a little summer home here."

I kissed him, and we held hands as we walked.  I couldn't have smiled more if I tried.