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.


I set out to create this exact shot this week. Then, caught without my camera I happened upon the coolest classic and muscle car show/parade in downtown Santa Maria. Lesson learned, TAKE YOUR CAMERA WITH YOU EVERYWHERE!

The only classic car I’ve ever wanted for myself is a 1967 Mercury Cougar XR7. I see many others, and am not particular to any of the various manufactures. I can enjoy a Camaro as much as a Mustang. I DO like mid-to-late 60’s Mini Coopers, but would always prefer the 67 Cougar.

This is a pair of 67 Cougar Hot Wheels cars. I hope you enjoy the photograph.
2016 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 21: B&W – AUTOMOBILES//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js


This week’s challenge actually was a difficult one. I always love being pushed a little though. As a Californian, I don’t have much truly old architecture to capture. So I spent much of the week mulling over what is and has been the most steadfast thing in my life. I couldn’t help but eventually realize that the only thing that has ever been the true definition of the word steadfast has been Christ my redeemer. He speaks to me through His Word, the Bible. So here it is…

[FujiFilm XT-1, 35mm, f/2.0, 0.8 sec, ISO 200]

Psalm 86:5  2016 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 17: B&W – STEADFAST//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js


[iPhone 6s Plus, 4.15mm, f2.2, 1/15, ISO 40. Processed with Noiseless CK and FX Studio CK]

This capture is of Pastor Mike, leading our Redemption Group. Today was our last meeting, after 9 weeks. Out of respect for all the participants, I simply captured Mike while teaching, and the back of his wife’s head.

Uncle Ron

“By his secret watering the Spirit makes us fruitful to bring forth the buds of righteousness.”

-John Calvin

Yesterday afternoon my dad’s cousin, Ron Carpenter, passed away after a battle with COPD. It came a little quick however. A few of our Camarillo family were able to arrive in time to care for him. His daughter was able to arrive within minutes.

I know that my parents were able to minister to him, in his final hours. For that I’m grateful. I attempted to record a short selfie video, wishing him my love and a bit of the Gospel. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it. So I will make it my prayer for him now that he has passed.

Ronnie had a lengthy and adventurous career path. He was one of us, a man of public service and law enforcement. Many years before my own dad became a police officer and then deputy sheriff, Ron was a deputy sheriff with the Ventura County Sheriff, then a detective.

At some point he attended law school, and eventually became a deputy District Attorney with the Ventura County DA’s office. Mixed in there he relocated to Arkansas, and made an attempt at farming. His boys took to it, and are now pig farmers there. He returned to the VCDA’s office shortly there after, and had a lengthy career in law enforcement, even working alongside my dad in a few special types of investigations.

Traveling back and forth to visit family in Arkansas, he brought along my dad once for his first and only gator hunt, photos to follow!

Us Carpenter’s are sad to lose him, yet hold onto hope that the Lord saved him for future glory.

First Leukemia Update of 2016

It’s been quite some time since I’ve updated everyone. Sorry.

Right up front I want to help clarify. I am cancer free. I have been since my bone marrow transplant, back on July 4th, 2014. Several folks have asked, being unsure of my status. Since then, my setbacks and even the rehospitalization were all a part of my recovery, but no new cancer. The post transplant recovery is simply longer than most realize.

My physical recovery has been progressing, albeit slowly. I’m more active than I used to be. Just a few days ago, I got hankering to make a couple hiking sticks. So after dropping Deanna and the boys off at school, I shot up to Tepusquet Canyon looking for a downed pine tree. Found one with skidmarks leading to it. Bummer, hope they’re ok. Some locals had already harvested the logs, but they had left all the branches. I set out to select a few good branches. Both were much longer than I, in fact the really good one was about the length of my Honda van. I drove them home with almost 6 feet of it sticking out the front passenger window.

Anyway, that’s just an example of me trying to get out and do more by starting small projects. I’ll get some photos when I start chopping them down.

I’ve organized a short trip with Tom and Eli, and a friend from Camarillo to head up to the lower Kern River for some fly fishing, in early April. We’ll be dry camping with his travel trailer. Not bad! I’m hoping to have at least one walking stick done by then, to help me navigate the sides of he river.

I had to take an honest look at my ability to get back out on my road bike, and concluded that it’s going to be too long before I’m comfortable again. So I’m selling my road bike to get an Electra city bike.

Overall, I’m slowly getting stronger. Deanna and I did a 4 week semi-prescribed diabetic friendly diet. It helped us learn more about portion control and how much refined sugars and carbs we don’t need. I tried to cheat the other day with a donut, and about a third into it I was repulsed and starting to feel ill. (I think there will always be love for an original Krispy Kreme and a tigertail from Donut Man.)

Emotionally and spiritually it’s a different story.

We recently started attending what’s called a Redemption Group. It’s really been a great process that I can see the Lord using to continue to sanctify me. He’s already been revealing new and hard things for me to work and contemplate upon. It’s weird, my private time with God is much richer now…now that He’s wrecking me afresh. He and I have much work to do. I used to hate journaling. Not anymore. That’s been a good thing for me. It’s hard and difficult, but that’s why I like it.

In a couple of days I take the train down to Camarillo and mom and I will hit the clinic for a regular check up.

That’s pretty much it. You’re caught up.