It has been entirely too long…

Friends, as I was poking around my blog, I realized that the last real update to my Leukemia Journey was April of 2016. Wow, it’s already the 10th of January in 2017. I should be ashamed. So many wonderful people have been keeping up on me, yet are only getting little updates on Facebook. It’s time for an update.

2016, medically wasn’t so bad. I really did not have any setbacks until the end of the year. The week before Christmas my liver and bilirubin levels began to climb. Eventually, they peaked too high, and my Nurse Practitioner at UCLA contacted me and informed me that I would need to come down for an admittance. So¬†the evening before Christmas Eve I packed up and headed southbound. Early in the morning on Christmas Eve, I rolled into UCLA and was in a bed up on my old floor, 6 East, at about dinner.

I ended up being there for a week. Released on New Year’s Eve, I was able to head back to Camarillo and crash at my parents’ place for an extra night.

With some additional personal life issues, it ended up being an odd blessing that I was distracted from what could have been a more depressing time for me. The loss of my dear Aunt Jan, which I have already blogged about a few posts back, and the changes to my immediate family situation really could have been a worse time for me. Yet the Lord in all His sovereignty and wisdom saw fit to comfort me and show me how to rejoice in His glory at the time we celebrate His birth, His coming into our world…Emmanuel, God with us.

For that, I am quite grateful. Thank you Lord.

The medical jargon is basically that my continued struggle with Graft Versus Host Disease (aka GVHD) had flared it’s ugly head, and sent me back into the hospital, so they could pump me up with more meds, and get it under control. While my steroid induced diabetes had almost abated entirely, and I was on the cusp of going off steroids entirely, I’m back on high dose prednisone again, ravaging like Hulk Smash inside, with a devouring appetite again. So I’m back to constant diabetic maintenance and injections and watching my diet more closely. If that’s the worst of it, I’m still doing just fine.

Today I feel real good, physically and medically. I was able to remain active in the hospital, and I’m keeping my activity level up now that I’m back home on the Central Coast. Every few days, I sleep a bit extra, to help replenish. I’m back to walking shorter walks, but it’s not as hard to keep motivated as it was during the year last year. I will admit, one of my struggles during 2016 was maintaining the motivation to get up off my butt and get healthy again. In fact, that very well may be the single worst issue I did not deal with well, during that whole year.

To bring this to a close, I feel great! I’m excited about what 2017 has to offer, and look forward to what the Lord has in store for me and mine.

Love to y’all!

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 2: WE ARE WHAT WE EAT

As a 2.5 year old bone marrow transplant recipient, there is something cathartic about making my own bone broth for use as a base in homemade Pho soup. I roasted this before crock potting it into a tasty bone broth. You are what you eat. ūüôā

Helping a friend…

***If you don’t want to learn about using a Google Docs, and a few of their free tools to make a Google Slides presentation, skip this post***

OK, a photography friend in Texas has asked for some help. Sometimes the tools at hand the the easiest. Feel free to use this slapped together tutorial for your won purposes, hopefully not for a last minute memorial service like this one is designed to help.

Forgive any bad grammar or insufficient screenshots. I did my best, and I pray that I have provided a service to help honor someone’s recently passed on loved one.

First you’ll need a free Google account

Gmail, Google Docs, whatever. Most have one, if you don’t, get one anyway, best online email, etc..(Unless you’re John Podesta, and you keep your password: “password”. Then you don’t deserve to use technology…ever.)

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Next, search for Google Drive.

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Go there.

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Create a new folder.

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Give it a title, I’ve chosen “Funeral”. (Don’t think I’m morbid, I just woke, and I’m trying to be efficient.)

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Now just drag and drop your images from anywhere off the desktop, a disk, folder, wherever they are currently. Don’t worry, you’ll have a chance to organize and even edit them.

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They’ll auto load. You have a few options on organizing them here. But no drag and drop to order them yet.

From here we look at editing the photos, if they need it. Cropping, and all sorts of easy options are available with the two different apps. I took a screen shot of the more advanced editor Pixlr Editor and the easier Pixlr Express. The second one has almost every tool the regular Joe might need.

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Here’s the more complex one, Pixlr Editor.

And here’s a shot of the easier, Pixlr Express.

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Notice the “Save and Replace” and “Close”, at the top right. Once you make your changes, and Apply them, choose those options and return to your Google Drive folder to see the changes.

Now we head over to Google Slides, to make the presentation.

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Upper left hand corder, once Slides opens, Click on the Orange Logo

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It’ll change to this…

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Choose Photo Album.

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And we’re off with their suggested template.

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Just start customizing. Depending on your experience with PowerPoint or other presentation software, you’re left with your experience. If you don’t know what you’re doing, let’s just take what they give us and start making it out own. I changed the name of the Presentation to “Jan’s Funeral”. I deleted two of their three initial images.

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I resized the last photo’s box in the template.

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then right clicked to choose to “Replace Image”.

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Here you can change over to your Google Drive, and find the image folder you already made with your own images.

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Here you’ll see one of my “own” images inserted in place of their sample image.

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I continued on with this, slide by slide, keeping some template slides, and right clicking to delete others. Once you’ve inserted/imported all your images, you’re basically done. Fine tuning becomes your own prerogative.

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At this point, you have a few options. Most of the time the end result is a desired presentation file, like a PowerPoint or to even just run the slide presentation from within Google Slides. That can be done either way. You can simply export your Google Slides presentation to a PowerPoint file, or choose to play it by clicking on “Present” button in the upper right corner, which will start playing it.

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Or you could even “Publish” it to the web. There’s a few choices, but the Facebook option may end up being the most common one. Most of these choices will also give you the slide time duration and even the option to loop it during playback.

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No matter what choice you make, I think we’ve solved our problem. You have a last minute need to make a photo slideshow, with free online tools. Please ask questions, and I’ll be happy to investigate further, or include better details.

Since today’s problem includes helping in a time of sadness, I’ll add my condolences to the family of the recently passed. May God bless their memory.

 

Take your camera!

Attention Photographer friends, your smartphone is good, but not great! I love taking photographs with my iPhone and processing them for fun. It’s a great exercise, and I generally love the outcome. With the skills I’ve acquired through the years, post processing my photos with decent software, I’ve grown to learn how to use not just fun filters and presets with apps on my phone, but even use a few apps that give me really great control over the final image.

I’ll write another post about some of those tools soon enough. But this article is to encourage you to actually take your camera with you everywhere!

I know it can be tedious. You don’t need all your lenses and gadgets all the time. Toss a good prime lens onto your camera and just keep it with you. You don’t need your bag and all the other gear. Just get used to having the camera ready. Leave the settings on your most common settings, and all you need t to do is grab and go.

My only dSLR, aka decent camera that matters, is a FujiFilm XT-1. I keep my 35mm f/1.4 lens on it, without a flash or speed light. I keep it on Aperture priority mode, set to the widest aperture, slowest shutter speed and smallest ISO, 200.

Now that you’re convinced, you should think about keeping it safe. For me, there was a time that I had a dSLR and a CCW with me at all times. (See my job history to better understand that.) So, I wrestled with having two high dollar items, one of which HAD to be concealed at all times. Through this highly practical few years of double “carrying”, I learned a few things I can pass along.

First off, I often carried my weapon “off body”. It’s an option that many women face when concerned with carrying a concealed firearm. I made this decision, and it didn’t take me too long to decide, I hated not having my gun on me. So, the method I had chosen, albeit at very good one, ended up not being my best solution.

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I basically carried a man purse. A Maxpedition Versipack. In a sweet deal, I contacted LowePro, and they sold me the guts to a camera bag, with interchangeable hook and loop (aka Velcro) slots inside. It fit perfectly into the non-padded Versipack. I had a quasi-secret camera bag that was truly designed for carrying a concealed firearm. It was my man purse.

The biggest thing we can take away from that experience is that you can get creative in how you transport and store your camera, in light of my challenge to you to always have your real camera with you.

I found a few articles that address what we’re talking about, and I think you’ll enjoy them. The first one is clearly geared towards women, but I think we all can benefit from the discussion.

The next two articles will contribute a little more.

I think the biggest ideas to take away from all three articles is the notion that you’re hiding your gear in plain sight. Now, I NEVER hide my gun in plain sight. If it’s not secured in a holster on my person, it’s secured in a locked safe, loaded or unloaded.

But obviously, with a camera we’re able and willing to take a greater risk. No one is going to steal our camera¬†permanently harm someone else or themselves. After all, a camera is just a thing we could easily live without.

I have a couple of single camera LowePro cases, that are clearly camera cases. They are great. One is standard black, and the other is a nice blue. But, they don’t really encourage, DON’T STEAL MY CAMERA, from the front seat of my truck. And let’s be honest, what I’m saying is keep your camera with you at all teams, I’m saying have it ready all the time. Does that mean take it into work? Probably not. Many cannot even do that. During my career, we weren’t even allowed to have our personal cell phones, let alone a smartphone at work. (That’s a separate issue we chat about another time. Yes, I have policies that are basically named after me.)

So let’s look at what my over all point. Having your camera available all the time really does mean having it as ready as possible during the normal throws of life. When I’m on a road trip, the camera is within reach at all times. If I see something, having the camera packed away is just another excuse to NOT stop and use it. Once thing I’ve always appreciated about my loved ones is that they’ve never made me feel bad for wanting to stop and create a photograph. And I’ve tried to remain just as available for my teenage daughter, who also loves to create beautiful photographs.

So now I’m considering alternate methods of storage and transportation. Just like I might consider a center console lockbox for my firearm to be readily accessible to me as I drive, I might consider some sort of hide in plain sight for my camera.

I think I’m going to start with something low target, like a simple reinforced cardboard box, with your typical camera bag foam padding inside. Clearly LowePro offers these inserts. And as you’ll see in one of the other articles I linked to, so does a company called MountainSmith. There are others, but I’ve used MountainSmith backpacks from my earliest days of backpacking, and I will not attest to any higher quality product that takes a massive beating, and the company that backs it.

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This setup will allow me to have my camera hiding in plain site, and make it less attractive for those wanting to smash and grab stuff from my unattended truck. I’m used to having a high situational awareness as it is, just carrying the valuable items I already carry on a regular basis, so this will not increase my nervousness at all. I’m already there. But now I’ll also have my favorite tool for creating great photographs with me more often.

She is with our Lord in glory…

This past week has been somewhat of a roller coaster for the greater Carpenter family. 

My father’s younger and only sister went home to be with our Lord, on Christmas Eve. 

Her health had been sketchy for a bit, recently diagnosed with CHF, after a lifetime battling diabetes. Earlier in the week, she had some kidney and liver issues, and was admitted to the hospital. Ultimately she succumbed to these increasingly devastating ailments. 

Let me tell you about my Aunt Jan. She was one of the most loving, respectful, and a truly classy woman. She had a forgiving heart, and was known for her positive spin on many things. Most who knew her saw her as a sweet and kind woman. 

In recent years she and I had our simultaneous medical struggles, albeit quite different. She was a comfort to me, as I dealt with my issues, as I pray I was for her. 

She and I also share some life experiences that even in such a large family, few of us have had to deal with. Many times over the last year she was of great counsel and comfort to me as I’ve waded through my own life change. Having walked that road, and emerged the other side, she was a constant companion to me. I will forever cherish her wisdom and guidance she has offered me in the recent months. 

Of course we mourn our loss. My children will always remember their Aunt Jan. As a Mamaw, she’ll be remembered as well. Yet I am sad for those of our family’s future who will never know their Mamaw. I pray that her legacy will still be cherished so that her spirit will be passed on. 

Know this, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I can testify firsthand that Jan Bogner was a redeemed and saved woman who is right now in a perfefected body, free from pain. As she slipped from our world, she fell into the healing and loving arms of our Savior, welcomed home. 

These words are such a small token of my great love for my Aunt Jan. Yet, we will meet again. 

Merry Christmas UCLA!

Just last week I was contemplating a fresh update to my Leukemia Journey. But now it seems, I ought to do so. 

To be brief, I had some lab work done today, at home. When the results came back my bilirubin and liver levels were too high. So, my wonderful NP called me, while I was out eating the greatest soup I’ve ever had, Pho, and said I must come down in the morning to be admitted. 

So, it looks like I’ll be celebrating Christmas back on 6 East, at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Yippy!

More to come as I learn more. Oh, and I was lucky enough to grab a couple room decorations at 30% off at Target!

God will be glorified

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At Christmas time, we spend much time discussing Christ, his birth, the purpose for his birth, etc. And then there are all the peripheral stories surrounding the arrival of the prophesied Messiah. Mary and Joseph, the virgin birth, Bethlehem, a manger birth, etc.

One that I’ve been thinking about a bit, this season, is the story of the Magi, who came with gifts for the King of the Jews, from the east. They’re often referred to as the three kings, even in the Middle Ages, names were given to them;¬†Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar. Often one of them is pictured as an African, most likely an Ethiopian.

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I’m not hear to peal away the myths and legends, from what the Bible does say about these men. I simply want to look at the larger plot line, that to me is a clear example of God taking something bad and bringing glory to himself afterwards.

Quite some time back, Israel was conquered, and the bulk of the Hebrews were deported to Babylon. It was here that we get stories of¬†Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We also can learn about Daniel the prophet and his interactions with the King and other leaders of the empire. There were a higher class of men who were seriously in to astrology, astronomy, and prophecy. These men were called Magi. It’s where we get our words magic and magician. Without delving too deep into their history and involvement with the Babylonians and Persians, there were simply a highly respected class of educated men.

It is also known that Daniel had interactions with them, and more than likely taught them the Holy Scriptures, and possibly even left copies with them, to endure through the ages.

Fast forward to the birth of the prophesied Messiah, and a band of Magi, who had studied the works of many religions throughout the Middle East, knew of the upcoming arrival of the King of the Jews, and wanted to at least come pay their respects. And so they did.

Here’s the overarching story. The children of God sinned, and experienced generations of consequences for their treachery. Much of that was being cast from their home, Israel. In being foreigners in a foreign land, they had ups and downs, but were mostly persecuted. Being cast from your home is painful and has lasting effects. Yet, God would be glorified!

Generations later, God brought these Magi to come worship His Son, the King of the Jews, and of the whole world.

Thank you Lord for always following through on your promises.

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Celebration of Life – 2016


Yesterday was the annual Celebration of Life, for the Hematology Oncology peeps, at UCLA. The medical and support staff, patients, survivors, and families are all invited. 

This was my 3rd year in attendance. 

I was honored to sit next to a gentleman who had his bone marrow transplant around the time I was born!

As is the general program, a variety of speakers step up and share their story. Most are survivors, some are family of those who have passed, and a few are from the staff. I was honored to speak the first time I attended this event.

Afterward, we have a small reception where we get to mingle with everyone. THIS is my favorite part. I get to visit with a few former neighbors from my time at UCLA, whether they were fellow patients or family of patients. And I also get to see many of the staff who cared for me during my several stays up on “6 East”. I love to see them again!

Yesterday was a particularly, most impactful day for me. In the midst of much life change, I was encouraged and uplifted by so many of my former nurses and administrators. Several brought me to tears and even touched my heart with their words and affection. 

Today, after having slept on it and reflecting this morning, I was unbelievably renewed by yesterday’s event. What a day to rejoice! God is good, and seeks for my wellbeing!

He “wrote the book” on blood cancer.

Urban Carry deep concealment holster review

I plan to write this review over the course of several weeks.

The folks over at Urban Carry were kind enough to loan me a black leather holster, perfect for my Smith and Wesson M&P Shield 9mm. First up I’d like to simply link to their video that describes the holster better than I could. And what follows will be my experiences with the holster.

Now you should have a good idea of what we’re talking about. Up until now, my primary concealed carry holster has been an IWB, Alien Gear holster. It conceals nicely, is quite flat, and perfect for 3¬†o’clock to 4 o’clock positioning. As a hefty guy, we tend to prefer various hip carry positions. Like in the video above, with a gun that sticks up a little bit above the waist line, anywhere in front of 3 o’clock, it’s digging into me. I have a Smart Carry holster that I’ve used in specific situations that allows me to get my concealed firearm in a very inconspicuous location. With a belt buckle, it won’t set off sensors, etc.

On to the Urban Carry. Up until today, I’ve worn it out twice. I kept it on into the evening, both times, after returning home. Right off the bat, this IS a holster I can appendix carry, comfortably, and I’m not worried about shooting myself. That’s primarily because the weapon is so low, that it folds with the contents of my front pocket. As a hefty guy, I’m super excited about this option opening up.

After the second day and evening of carrying it, I unloaded the Shield and did several test draws in my bedroom. I can tell two things. I need more practice drawing it, and breaking in the leather will help tremendously.

Appendix Carry

I’ve never been a fan of appendix carry. As a husky guy, I won’t deny that it’s always been uncomfortable, since all other CCW options have at least a portion of the weapon under the belt or above. That always results in poking and jabbing of the gun into my belly. Even the Smart Carry doesn’t carry low enough. With a good belt buckle, it’s good enough to help me carry where it’s frowned upon, even through metal detectors. But I’m still faced with the dilemma of comfort.

Yesterday, I carried my Shield in the Urban Carry all day. Traveled in a car. Sat around a campfire. Did a lot of sitting and getting up. Because this holster positions the entire gun on top of your thigh, below the belt, it just folds up at the standard crease of the jeans. No pinching or discomfort!

The holster has an M&P Shield in it. You can see the black leather top portion, that looks like a phone pouch. Also, a quiet poor photo. Sorry.

This holster is quickly becoming one of favorites! I do not believe that there is a one-holster-for-all-situations. As any CCW carrier will tell you, there are different needs for different situations. And sometimes you may even choose to have different handguns for different situations. I’m hoping for a family heirloom S&W 38 revolver someday, that I’d rotate into my CCW choices.

But one promising feature with the Urban Carry is that I foresee wearing it with shorts more comfortably than any of my other holsters. And with our warm summer coming pretty soon, I look forward to the results.

I’ve asked two LEOs to pat me down, with zero warning about the two pocket knives or the weapon in the holster, a bit closer to my junk than the photo above. One of them found it, the other didn’t. I will admit, the deputy who did a rotation in the jail with my cohorts and myself, is the one who found it. Generally, jail staff do significantly better pat downs.

Today, I’m wearing the Urban Carry on my 3+ hour Amtrak ride. Mostly sitting and going to the bathroom. Those bathrooms are just a tiny bit more roomy than an airliner’s restroom. So that was a good test to see how I could navigate the space. I had more trouble just standing up and keeping good aim, than I did with the holster. It’s attached to my belt, so didn’t see the need to unholster and find a place to safely set it, while I took care of business.

Urban Carry…+1 more
CCW hassles with safe gun storage…0

Not too flattering of a photo, but it shows how much the Urban Carry doesn't
Not too flattering of a photo, but it shows how much the Urban Carry doesn’t.

Today I wore it to church. Sitting wasn’t a problem. Before the service started, I stood up and mentally pictured me drawing. I see zero issues, after some muscle memory building, with drawing from this holster. Kneeling, with the leg that has the firearm, also a non-issue.
The next time I wore it was to see how it does while I’m riding my city bike around the block.

That ended well. Didn’t hinder me at all. I ride a Electra Loft 7i. It’s sorta a city bike cruiser. I could easily see being quick enough to position my carrying leg for a nice straight up draw. I wanted to take photos, but couldn’t really do it with enough light, and NOT front myself off in view of the public.

However I think with the amount that I’ve worn this really great holster, I’ve found two issues that stand out.

The first issue I have is that I cannot comfortably draw while in any seat of a car, with the seatbelt on. Taking off the seatbelt only marginally helps. There solutions I may use with my own setup, but I’m tasked with an honest review of this Urban Carry. That may be as a result of my belly hanging over, but it’s an issue either way.

The second issue is really just a great need for this design to be applied to a single and double magazine holder, for the other side. I love to carry a second mag at least, since I’m behind enemy lines, in California, with mag limits, even for retired LEOs.

It’s time to roll this up, and publish it. My overall opinion is that I will continue to highly recommend Urban Carry deep concealment holsters. As I’ve worn in the leather, it HAS gotten much easier to use.