Sunday, January 25, 2009

One year!

I didn't realize it, but my one year anniversary of blogging has come and past. I didn't think I'd be able to keep this going for a year, but here I am. And, I've added two more blogs to my profile. That alone is pretty funny.

It's been a while

This past week has been pretty hectic for me. Work was busy, Ron had a couple of appointments, Shaun left for deployment, and Jenny had some problems coping. The very first day he was gone she went into panic mode. I do understand because when I moved here in 1984, Shaun was five and Amy was 2. I had no family here (except one brother and his wife, but they were absolutely no help at all; they NEVER kept my kids or volunteered to assist me in any way). It is very difficult to try to function in a strange area when you're on your own with a small child - and being pregnant on top of that is really tough.

I did convince her to come here for a visit so I'll be flying to WA next Friday and then we'll fly back on Sunday. I put the tickets on a credit card, which I hate doing but had no choice. Someone is going to pay me back, but I'm not sure at this point who it will be. Shaun found out that he may not be able to reenlist on this deployment because he's not within 90 days of his commitment. So, him having an extra $650 anytime soon probably won't happen.

I only bought one-way tickets since we didn't know how long she would be staying so I hope she's got the money later to fly back to WA. We'll see...

Ron's visit with Dr. Heady went well. His foot is healing and only has about the size of a quarter left open. That is amazing and we are very thankful. He is going for blood work every Monday morning now because "someone" messed up his Friday appointments. I wouldn't know who that could possibly be but Mondays work out so much better that I think she did it on purpose. LOL - must have been my subconscious mind working.

Isaiah was the Star Student last week at school. He was so proud of himself for doing his "job" and so were we. He's had a great month. The school is doing a "learn-a-thon" to help raise money for the school for supplies, field trips, and extras that the school budget just doesn't cover. Each student will take a test worth 100 points and the idea is to pledge an amount x a percentage. If someone pledges $0.10 then if the student gets 80% correct, they'd owe $8.00. Isaiah's class is doing spelling words and he's having a very hard time with spelling. Everyone Amy and I got pledges from just gave a flat amount. He'll raise nearly $300 no matter how many words he gets correct. I hope he does a great job on the words, too but I think his teacher will be pleased with the pledge amount.

I had a really big project at work that was promised to be completed by February 4. I completed it on Thursday, nearly two weeks early. The powers-that-be were all pleasantly surprised. Honestly, I didn't think it was that big of a project at all - not hard and really not that time consuming. So, I just concentrated on getting it done so someone else could double-check to make sure I didn't leave anything out. It's very easy to overlook something that you've done, plus there were a lot of headings that were difficult to pick out of the text. Having another set of eyes was wonderful.

I do wish that things were a bit less stressful sometimes. I honestly like everyone that I work with and I like the two people who are the leads for my department. But, there is a little bit of gray area there that makes it difficult for me to determine how much thinking to do on my own and when to include the boss. For instance, in the fall I was doing my own work and asking others if they needed help on their projects. We also have another project that is a "when time permits" sort of thing. While I was waiting on an answer from someone else, I did a small portion of this other project and posted my results to the group.

I got an email back from my direct lead that basically said that the other stuff was my first concern and if I had free time then I was to be volunteering to help my peers. I was terribly insulted. Instead of asking a question, I felt like she was assuming that I was twiddling my thumbs or something. It took me all day to compose something that I thought was appropriate and explanatory without sounding defensive. She did end up apologizing to me for making assumptions when she should have asked. I started including her on every email I sent to others asking if they needed help or if I could do something for them, where I really am more comfortable working behind the scenes.

I've also gone out of my way to volunteer for everything I possibly can so it's obvious that I'm trying to look out for the interests of the team and our overall success. I know that it's appreciated because she's told me so on more than one occasion and I appreciate that fact. It was finally decided that she was getting overwhelmed with emails and was having a hard time keeping up with all the extra stuff she was getting and separating it from the stuff she needed to stay on top of. So, I quit CC-ing her on everything and continued about the business of the day.

One person was behind on some projects so I asked if there was something I could do for him. He said he'd forgotten about those two items so if I could take care of them, he'd appreciate it. In the process of finding out what he needed, I was composing a note to the lead. In the meantime, she sent me a note and asked if I was taking care of his chapters. I said I hadn't been but I was now. To make a long story short, she said I needed to come to her first before I took on someone else's work. She needed to know who was behind and things like that and he should have come to her and said he needed help. I understand all of that but I was in the process of saying something, she's not always at her desk, and she doesn't always respond to emails as quickly as we might need (not because she's ignoring us but because she truly is that busy). Plus, the two things I took on were absolutely not difficult and took about 30-45 minutes of my time. By the time we finished our discussion, I was done with the project.

I tried to explain where I was coming from and how it felt that I had this narrow margin of error - was I taking enough initiative, was I taking enough responsibility, if I did this would it be OK or should I have done that instead. I "get" that she's got to report up the line - totally. I also get that the work has got to go out when it's due and if someone is behind for one reason or another and I don't help, then it makes the whole team look bad. Get the work out now and deal with why the person was behind later.

I don't think I got anywhere. So now, I'm back to thinking I need to CC her on every email and ask before I do something. I hate thinking I need to ask permission to do things. I'm sure she doesn't mean it that way and I'm not taking it personally, but it is frustrating sometimes. I don't envy her position and at my age, I don't know that I'd want the responsibility or stress. Let the younger group deal with it; I've already done my time in management and it's basically a thankless job. I greatly appreciate my management team as I think they go to bat for the group a lot. But, I also want to be able to work without wondering if I'm taking too much upon myself or if I'm not taking enough initiative.

It's a road I'll just have to negotiate carefully.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Facial Hair

I have always sympathized with women who have excess facial hair. Although I've never been in this predicament, I have had friends in the past who suffered terribly from the stigma and the procedures used to rid oneself of facial hair.

The bane of my existence has been my thin hair on my head. I used to kid around that when I was a spirit being, before I was born, that I told God I wanted full lips and hair and thin hips. My theory was that I must have stuttered or God has a sense of humor because I got thin lips and hair, and full hips. I've been years trying to make sure my hair was laying "just right" so no scalp would show. Perms were my friend until my resident fashion police decided I'd had the same hair style for too long (only since the beginning of time) and it was beginning to make me look old. I let her talk me into a short haircut. I must admit that it caused more than a few heads to turn and for some to say they didn't recognize me until they looked again. (That was nice.) Although I like the short haircut, I am more than ever worried about scalp appearance.

You'd think that with the shortage of hair on top, that there would be a shortage of hair everywhere else. Not so... I have started checking the face, jaw line, and neck for rogue, random hairs. This absolutely amazes me. I can go from one morning to the next and wham! there's a hair. I'm talking a HAIR - not "oh this might grow so I better pluck it" but a HAIR. Sometimes those suckers are an inch or two in length. If they don't sprout overnight like the beanstalk in the fairy tale, then how in the world do I miss them as they're growing in a normal fashion?

Since I had my hair cut short in back, I also had to have my neck razored so there would be no surprise appearances. That's no fun either. I don't know if hair on the back of the neck grows like hair on the front of the neck grows after being shaved. I can just imagine growing a beard down my back.

I guess that's one way to get long hair.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Grand Torino

I am not a fan of Clint Eastwood. In fact, I can honestly say I've never really cared for any of his movies, at least not enough to willingly pay money to sit in a theater to watch them. I'll sit at home while one is on or even consent to renting a DVD, but not spend a small fortune for the privilege of sitting with about 50 of my closest friends (hahaha) to watch one.

I do have to say that I would take that back if all of them were of the same quality as Grand Torino. The language is awful, the slurs fly thick and heavy, it's funny, sad, and very touching.

Clint Eastwood plays a snarky old man who has nothing nice to say about anyone except his deceased wife. Even his own children (two boys) don't like him and his grandchildren are totally disrespectful. As much as I'd like to think that families wouldn't treat their elders with so much obvious contempt, I'm afraid that it is probably more common than anyone would like to admit.

The other main characters of the show are all Asian and the story unfolds around Walt's (Clint Eastwood) relationship with his neighbors. I won't spoil the storyline, but be prepared to be entertained and saddened. Even though it's a bit predictable, the ending is sad and bittersweet at the same time.

I highly recommend this movie for adults. I would not allow anyone under the age of 17 to watch it. Movies have a rating code for a reason and this one deserves it's adult content rating. Although there is no nudity, there is plenty of bad language and racial slurs. Taken with a grain of salt, and the realization that this is real life for some people, it's worth at least renting and watching on DVD when it comes out.

I have to rent it to watch again because I lost some of the conversation with the laughter going on around me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A bit irritated

First of all, let me say that I'm in no way mad at a person or persons in particular, just a situation in general. I also believe in the validity of rules and they're usually in place for a good reason - and not just so someone can try to break them. Even though this has to do with our church, I would still recommend our church to people and I still love and respect the members of the ministry team.

Ron plays bass guitar for our church Praise and Worship team. He's played for over 10 years and the only time he's not gone to church has been when he was sick. Too sick to sit up for any length of time or in the hospital - or something like that. Not because he had a headache, or a sore throat, or a little bit of a cough. He's missed a lot of church in the past year. You can imagine that with six hospitalizations and being "house-bound" for many months that he'd actually look forward to going to church so he can get out. That has been the case most of the time. But when he's sick, he's really sick. There are days he doesn't even get out of bed. There have been Sundays where he's come home from church and gone to bed until time for me to take him back in the evening. There are Wednesdays where he's stayed in bed until time for me to take him to practice, and then come right back and gone to bed. It's not just his foot that is a problem but his entire body has issues. He can't get up and walk around if he's uncomfortable and he can't sit for two hours on his scooter without something in his body hurting.

If the weather is terribly rainy I've not wanted to take him out. He only has a bandage on the right foot and no shoe. If he puts his foot down on wet ground, then the bandage is ruined. When he had the wound VAC, that was a $120 bandage (give or take a few bucks). Plus, if it's raining I have to stand out in the rain to load the scooter, cover it with a tarp, and tie it all down. Before I'm finished the scooter and I are both soaked.

Since the weather has been very cold and snowy here lately, I've also resisted taking him out. He has no feeling in the foot so he could get frostbite very easily, and not even know it. I haven't spent the last 13 months of my life taking care of this wound so he can lose the foot for another reason. He decided Wednesday that he didn't feel good enough to go to church and he didn't think there was practice since they are having practice tomorrow morning. The wind chill was below zero so I was just as glad.

He got a phone call last night from the director of the Praise Team. She was very nice and while we understand her concern, I am a bit perturbed that they've decided to implement the attendance rule. If you can't make it to at least two services and practice on a weekly basis, then you can't play on the Praise Team. If Ron was healthy and driving, that would be absolutely OK. It's not like he can just come into the living room and announce that he's going to church or practice. It's a 15 minute loading job to drive to the church, 10 minutes to unload (in the dark), and then repeat when it's time to leave. I don't mind the loading or the drive but it's difficult in the dark and near impossible to accomplish in the bone-chilling cold. The only reprieve I have is loading or unloading at home because that is in the garage.

Ron was very nice in his conversation and said that he didn't think it was fair to ask me to subject myself to the weather to load and unload his scooter. There was one man who would come out and help get the scooter off the ramp every Sunday morning but no one offers to help at night. They're all in a hurry to get home, and I can't blame them. But, I'm trying to do this in the dark, by myself. I never ask for help to get him in or out of the car. If the weather is bad then Ron doesn't want me to have to do it.

Ron said that he was surprised that they weren't taking his health into consideration with this rule. He said that he'd think about it and see if he might just step down from the Praise Team. I want it to be his decision and not because he feels pressured to do one thing or another. If he does step down, I see him retreating more into his pain and illness and not getting out at all. I see him quitting church completely because he'll really have no reason to go. Playing the bass keeps him connected and gives him something to get out of bed for.

That will all change.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Blog awards, Blog counters, and Blog-hopping readers

OK - how do you get them? I want them.

Seriously, I didn't realize how big this blogging thing was. I started out just using this as a method of venting. Then I realized it was a good way to update out-of-town family and friends on Ron's progress. It's slowly morphed into a life of its own since then.

I know people read the blog but I don't know how to make it seem more appealing and attract people to read and leave comments. Some people don't want to leave comments because they don't want to be tracked back to their own blog. I don't know about others. Maybe they don't want to leave comments because they don't know me/us. That's OK. I leave comments on blogs of people I don't know. I only leave a comment if I can say something nice (you know - just like mom taught - if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all).

I would like to know how many people actually look at the blog and where they're from. I need to figure out where to get those neat little do-dads that dress up other blogs.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

True Beauty

I’ve been watching a new television show on ABC. It’s called True Beauty and the concept is to see who is America’s most beautiful person, both inside and out. The producers found ten people so full of themselves that it’s pathetically hysterical. Yes, these people are attractive, but to class any one of them as the most beautiful person in America is really stretching it. The winner will receive $100,000 and be featured in People magazine’s Most Beautiful People issue.

The contestants think they’re being judged on their exterior beauty, and they are – but they are also being judged on their inner beauty. The judges set up competitions to see how they act in a given situation and the two lowest scoring individuals are sent to the “Hall of Beauty” for final judging, where one of them is removed from the game. I’ve watched it both weeks and the people they sent home really deserved to go, but so did several other people. Many of them lied, ignored the planted actor(s) pleas for assistance, snooped where they should not have, and generally exhibited a total lack of regard for others.

As the two contestants are about to enter the judging building (they are sent in separately), they are presented with one final act to see if they exhibit any compassion for those around them who may be less fortunate. The first episode had an actor who was struggling with several cups of hot coffee and trying to get into the building. One contestant not only held the door open for him, but also let him go in first – after she had asked if she could help him. The other contestant literally ignored him and let the door shut in his face. Last night’s episode featured an actor who had a bicycle crash at the building’s sidewalk. Again, one contestant went out of the way to help the person and make sure he was OK. The other contestant watched him “struggle” to his feet, get his bicycle up and moving, and ride off. Both of the two who showed compassion were judged to be worthy of staying in the game.

Each of the two “beauties” who have been sent home showed their true lack of inner beauty in their final act and their final comments. Each of them blamed the circumstances for why they were judged to be lacking, instead of their own actions. Sadly, that is the mentality of a lot of people in this world, not only the US. Unfortunately, it is people like this who help to give the US a bad image. I shudder to think that someone from a foreign country might be watching this show and think it is an indicator of how the majority of the US population acts.

Even though I think the show is very funny (in an odd sort of way), I think this show is a very inaccurate representation of the general US populace. Sure, people want to be beautiful and there are a lot of very vain people here. But, I know many beautiful people who also exhibit inner beauty, which makes their outer beauty shine all the more so. I also know many, many people who would not be classified as “beautiful” by industry standards but their inner beauty more than makes up for the “lack” of outer beauty. Many of the individuals who fall into the latter category probably would not classify themselves as beautiful but their actions and attitudes put them into that category.

I can’t wait to see who makes a fool of himself/herself next week.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Kidney news

Ron had his latest appointment with the kidney specialist today. Dr. Wolfe was very pleased with his prognosis and the fact that he seems to have stabilized. His creatinin and his potassium are holding steady at the mid-to-high range of normal, but she's happy with that. He is "only" spilling a small amount (compared to the GRAMS) of protein in his urine, and she's thrilled with that amount.

The Lasix is doing its job and he's not retaining any fluid. In fact, she'd like to see his skin a bit less dried out. She recommended I call the wound care team and ask what I should use to help moisturize his foot so the skin doesn't crack. She doesn't want bacteria to find a way back into his bloodstream. That's all he'd need... I greased his foot up with petroleum jelly this afternoon and put a sock over the toes. Maybe that will help some. I do use lotion several times a week when I change his bandage but it's obviously not enough.

His blood pressure is doing well, in spite of the fact that he's not been on any blood pressure medication for several months. She is concerned about his sugar being out of control. It was over 400 the last time they checked it and it's been running in the high 200 to 300 range. He doesn't overeat - he just likes the wrong things and his body doesn't process it as well. She says his biggest problem is that he's immobile and can't do any exercise. We had physical therapy come out for several weeks to show him things but he hasn't really followed through with them. I know it's hard to do when you're in a lot of pain and you don't really have anyone with you to encourage you. Since I'm gone during the day he mostly sleeps.

He needs another sleep study done. It's been several years since he's had one so Dr. Wolfe is going to recommend it. His machine is old and is probably in need of repair or replacement. Dr. Alvarado's office now has the capability to do sleep study so they'll set up the appointment and let me know when to have him there. Dr. Wolfe also wants Ron to see a new endocrinologist. She said he's a great doctor, has a great bedside manner, and interned under her during his residency program. That's just what Ron needs - someone who will take the time to listen to him and offer constructive suggestions instead of just saying "don't" or all of the other many things that don't take into consideration his overall health and capabilities.

Yesterday was his 61st birthday and we are truly blessed and grateful that he is here and able to celebrate it with us. We went to dinner at Outback Steak House (thank you, Amy!) and enjoyed the company of Amy, Isaiah, Keith, Rex, Aaron, and Karen. Shaun and Jenny called him yesterday to wish him happy birthday and I think that Stacey did also.

Wound VAC Hell - updated

I freely admit that we don’t meet the national guidelines for the poverty level. I freely admit that we make enough money to live on. That is not my problem or my issue with this company. Our out-of-pocket expenses with them are 20%, which doesn’t sound like a whole lot until you figure that Ron had the wound VAC for nearly 10 months.

$139 per day, plus $118 (roughly; not entirely sure but that's close) for each dressing change (at 3 per week minimum), the total bill is quite high. Take off the insurance “adjustment” and then the insurance payment, and we’re still left with a large outstanding balance.

I’ve been paying $100 each month for months and we still owe thousands of dollars. One of the KCI representatives told me on one hospital visit that we could probably get our co-pay amount reduced. I dutifully filled out the paperwork and was promptly turned down. {sigh} I figured it was because they were using Ron’s salary as a basis (even though he hadn’t worked in months but I had to supply our 2007 W-2s).

After he had been officially retired, and all of the other invoices started pouring in, I asked about filling out the paperwork again. They sent it to me but there was no consideration in this paperwork for our cost of living expenses, other medical bills from his home care, current medical expenses, or prescription expenses. I submitted a letter detailing what we made (and how much I missed each week due to FML absences), how our money was spent (housing, utilities, medical, food, gasoline, insurance, etc.), and anything else I thought they might use.

We got another turn-down. I was shocked, to say the least. No consideration at all for anything. Not only that, they don’t want to accept “only” $100 per month from me. They want the entire balance paid off in 12 months (preferable) or absolutely no more than 18 months. The only way I could do that is if I didn’t pay something else for that time frame. I wonder what I could do without. Food, gasoline, utilities? I don’t know where else I could cut. At their figures, I’d need to pay about $500 per month for 12 months. Or, if they decided to be “nice” I could pay about $333 for 18 months.

I can only afford $150 right now. I’ve seen other blogs where people have put PayPal links soliciting donations for medical bills. I’ve thought that a bit cheesy until now. I can see where some could feel they’re being backed into a medical corner with no way out (I can certainly feel that pressure sometimes). I’m not going to put up a link, but I sometimes think I’d welcome donations. I’m just not going to go soliciting for them so there’s no way people could find where to donate to anyway.

KCI says our balance is $5033 and we can set up a payment plan with "only" $200 per month. I asked if that meant they'd refuse my current payment of $100 per month if I couldn't cover $200.
KCI: No, they would apply it but if any of the older balances didn't get paid quick enough, they'd get turned over to collections.
ME: I find that very hard to comprehend. I'm making payments, you're taking my payments, but you'd still turn us to collections?
KCI: Well, if you're not paying according to our standards, then yes you'd be turned over to collections.
ME: How would that be fair if I'm making payments in good-faith? That doesn't take into consideration any other bills we might have, such as other medical, housing, food, etc...
KCI: Any company would do the same if you weren't paying according to their standards.
ME: But your standards are not applied fairly if people cannot pay that much.
KCI: We don't want someone to take years to pay their bill.
ME: Trust me, I don't want to be paying you for years either. (Then I told her I had one other medical bill that had about 4 months left at $100 per month and afterwards I could add that $100 to the current $100 to get to the $200 per month mark. She had to go talk to her superviser.)
KCI: I spoke with my supervisor and we've agreed that we'll take "only" $130 per month for the next four months and then we'll re-visit the payment plan and you can up your payments to at least the $200 mark. If you could pay in full today, we would deduct 20% off the total. (According to my calculations, that would make the total a measley $4026 and some change. As if...)
ME: If I had the full amount to send you, I wouldn't be trying to get my payment amount reduced. I'd just pay it.

Some people...

Static Cling and Toilets

Now that I have your attention, let me give you a brief synopsis of my day yesterday.

Static Cling is not your friend:

January 8, 2009 started out as a normal day. It was Ron’s birthday, so I wished him Happy Birthday and went about my business of getting ready for work. Once I was dressed, I checked my image in the mirror – making sure everything was covered, no “lines” where I didn’t want them, and that the outfit looked appropriate.

I walked around the house a bit, talked some more to Ron, chatted with Amy and got her approval on my choice of clothing (she is the fashion police at my house; she nixed my first choice of shoes – that’s a whole different subject of it’s own), got my coat on, and left for work.

I’m one of those people who can’t stand to be bundled up, I don’t like my clothing (or coats) bunching up, and if I feel like I’m being constricted in any way I can have a panic attack. I’m working hard on working through these things that I *know* won’t hurt me but still bother me. My goal is to make myself get accustomed to things that are not my ideal state of being so when I’m forced into an uncomfortable situation then I will be able to adjust and adapt easier.

As I was driving in I felt like my jacket was bunched up under my rear. Since I was driving, I couldn’t very well stop or move in a safe manner to fix the problem. I decided it was one of those occasions where I needed to just live with it until I got to work. Once I got out of my car and started walking in, I realized the “bunch” was still there, only it was moving down the back of my leg.

Since there were people behind me, I was trying very hard to not lose whatever it was in my pant leg, but also to not be obvious that I had one hand on my thigh. Luckily, there’s a ladies room on the lower level where I enter the building so I headed there to check out the situation. Once I was safely out of sight, I stuck my hand down the back of my jeans and pulled out a “spare” article of clothing. I was sooooo thankful it hadn’t exited the leg of my pants on its own.

A tale of toilets and telephones:

I’m not in the habit of taking my cell phone to the rest room with me but yesterday was an exception. I was expecting a call and although I wouldn’t answer it if I was indisposed, I would be able to see if it was the call I needed and send it directly to voice mail.

I’ve often wondered if the pocket of my jeans was deep enough to contain my phone. I found the answer yesterday afternoon. It was not.

Luckily, I had flushed and the only thing in the toilet was fresh water that had come in from the rim. As I’m adjusting my jeans, out pops the phone and down the drain it goes. The first words out of my mouth were not nice ones, but they started with “Oh” and ended with “*&it”. My phone didn’t actually fit in the hole, which was good, but it did get wedged in the hole. I had to stick my arm (up to my elbow) in the toilet bowl to retrieve it.

The phone did turn itself off and then tried to turn back on. I may have fixed that by deciding to wash the phone. Even if it killed it, I would rather have a dead phone (which has insurance) than a phone with toilet germs on it. Once I returned to my desk, I further sanitized it by spraying Lysol on it.

I took the phone battery off, dried the components, and hoped for the best. I think it’s dead. Lucky for me, I’m eligible to replace my phone tomorrow with the “new customer” pricing. I've picked out the BlackBerry Curve 8330 in pink.

BTW, I scrubbed my arm really well.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Final CA thoughts…

I don’t know where to begin as there is so much I have left out in previous postings. I’ve already touched on Christmas Day and dinner, the trip to Universal Studios on the 26th, and how wonderfully generous Jenny’s parents were. Maybe I need to fill in some more of the blanks and then finish up the week. I wish I could remember the names of the many wonderful restaurants they treated me to, but I cannot.

Tuesday (12/23): Shaun and Jenny picked me up at the airport and took me to her parents’ house. I visited a bit with Tina and then we left for lunch. When we returned from lunch, Shaun, Jenny, Wesley, Cindy, and I went to Disney California Adventures. We were all pretty cold so Jenny, Cindy, and I bought jackets. We met the rest of the crew at the restaurant around 7:30. After we returned to the house, Thomas and Tina went to the store to get the items I mentioned earlier.

Wednesday (12/24): Thomas and Tina kept Alexander while we went to the Bowers Museum and to the Science Museum (kind of like Exploration Place in Wichita). The gift shop in the Bowers Museum was really fascinating. That’s where Wesley and Cindy bought the wallet and coin purse they gave me for Christmas. There were a lot of things there that I would have loved to take home for Ron. There were several items that I knew Amy, Keith, and I would also be interested in but I refrained. Christmas Eve dinner was at May’s Garden and was excellent, excellent food.

Thursday (12/25): Christmas morning we lazed around the house and opened presents. It was a very nice and relaxing morning. After lunch, we went to the Chinese Bakery and Chinese Market. Amazing things! I bought a few items but I sure wish I’d bought more, especially of the chocolate cookies and biscotti. Thursday night we drove around a ritzy part of town and admired the Christmas light displays. One house had the Keebler Elves “decorating” their house and yard. It was adorable. We had Jack in the Box burgers and fries for dinner. No one was really very hungry so that worked out well.

Friday (12/26): Universal Studios. When we left Irvine and headed for Universal, the weather seemed very nice. I took both of my jackets but really didn’t figure I’d need the heavier one. Boy was I ever wrong. It was cold but the wind made it feel even colder. We took the back lot tour first and it probably lasted at least 30 minutes (maybe even closer to 45 minutes). We experienced some wind, some rain, and some fire – all special effects that are used in the films and TV series. It was very interesting. We visited the “Who” village and witnessed the Grinch trying to steal Christmas. Wisteria Lane (Desperate Housewives) was very beautiful. The foliage and flowers were just perfect – just like good “fake” stuff should be! The Bates Motel was “open” for business but we witnessed Norman Bates trying to cover-up an earlier murder so we got out of there fast. Many of the places were props and towns that have been used in many films. One town square was the setting for a scene in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I took a picture of what used to be the town square in the Back to the Future movie series (it was destroyed in the Universal Studios fire in 2007), and I took a picture of the hilltop range where the helicopters flew in the Mash series.
Shows/Movies filmed there –
Old Mexico set: Big Fat Liar, The Mexican, and The Three Amigos
The War of the Worlds
Bruce Almighty
Meet the Fockers
Spider-Man 2
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Back to the Future
The Sting
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Jurassic Park
Apollo 13
The Color Purple
Cast Away
To Kill a Mockingbird
When Harry Met Sally
A Beautiful Mind
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Beverly Hills 90210
The Italian Job
Desperate Housewives
The Fast and the Furious: Extreme Close-Up
The Blues Brothers
Austin Powers
The Ghost Whisperer
Crossing Jordan
CSI (the original)
King Kong

I experienced what an 8.5 magnitude earthquake would feel like. It was not quite what I expected.

Saturday (12/27): Disneyland. What can you say about Disneyland at Christmastime? It was beautiful, cold, and very crowded. The lines to ride anything were terribly long so we only managed to ride a couple of things. We did dinner at the Grand Californian hotel, which is spectacular. While it was good, dinner was overrated and overpriced. I feel bad that it was such an expensive trip for Thomas and Tina.

Sunday (12/28): Tiramisu cake, lunch at fish grill, and flight home. Egg custards – yummy! Tina had gone to the Chinese bakery and picked up a dozen of the egg custards for me to bring home. I ate one in the Denver airport between flights. It was so good. (I have one left as of today.) The flight home was uneventful although I managed to lose the dragon’s fruit somewhere in the Denver airport or on the plane. Jenny had her mom mail some more to me. LOL, I’m the only one who likes them. I’ve offered them to Ron, Amy, Rex, Stacey, Charles, and the girls. No one wanted to eat any. I will offer the rest of them to Keith and see what he says. He’s more “Asian” than the rest of us in his tastes (he loves Chinese dumplings and knew exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned them).

All in all, it was a terrific trip and I’m very glad I was given the opportunity to go. Jenny’s parents and siblings are wonderful people and it was a privilege to be able to spend time with them and their friend, Kim. I hope the family is able to come here to visit in April (or whenever they can) so I can attempt to show them some of the same considerations.

David Bowman Prints

I wanted to share these beautiful pictures and what the artist has to say about each one of them! David Bowman: has had a passion for art ever since he could pick up a pencil. He loves creating images of the Savior that inspire and uplift. Along with his Christian fine art, David has also written and illustrated a series of scripture storybooks for children titled "Who's Your Hero". Check out his website at to see more of his precious art. I hope you enjoy his artwork as much as I do. I can't wait to get one or more of these fabulous prints.


The Savior tells us we need to become as little children to inherit the kingdom of God. I've often wondered what it is about little children Jesus loves most, and I think its their innocence. They are clean slates, seeing the world and others through untarnished eyes. Their hearts are pure, without the baggage of cynicism and self-doubt. In this piece, I've tried to imagine how a child would act upon meeting the Master for the first time. Without reservation or inhibition, I think he would simply want to play with Him. He would be at complete ease, allowing his pure little heart to soak in the love and laughter of His pure, infinite heart. Its no wonder Christ delights in these little ones and sets them up to be our examples.


One of the greatest human needs is a sense of security. In all aspects of life, we naturally gravitate towards anything that makes us feel safe. In this piece, I wanted to convey a sense of complete peace and calm like only the Savior can provide. It's a security that allows us to rest assured, without fear or worry, when we put ourselves trustingly in His arms. Little children have that inherent kind of trust in their parents, so it's fitting that the man and girl who modeled for "Security" are actually father and daughter. They generated the exact feel I was looking for.

"My Child"

This piece conveys an intimate, up-close-and-personal feeling of the Savior's love. Notice how all the lines draw your attention and point towards Jesus' face in the center. I chose the name "My Child" because the only thing that could compare (even remotely) to Christ's compassion for us is the love of a parent for his/her child. This image is also intended to put things in perspective. Above all, we are God's children first. He allows us the privilege of experiencing parenthood for ourselves and we are entrusted to be the mothers and fathers of His children here on earth.