Thursday, 31 January 2008

"A Certain Smile" - Johnny Mathis, 1958

Here's a little visual present for my John this afternoon...

Hope that made you smile. I love you, you know!


Wednesday, 30 January 2008

"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" - Hollies, 1969

My officemate Gavin is seeking sponsorship for his participation in an Oxford fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, and I thought I'd advertise it here in case any of my friends and readers would like to donate. It's a really great which is very close to Gavin's heart, as you'll read if you check out his Justgiving page.

Thanks from me for any help you can give!

You can click on the graphic on the left for a full-sized version of the poster, so that you can read the details of the event.

Gavin, I think it's very cool that you're doing this! Hope you don't get too scared in the castle...!


Sunday, 27 January 2008

"If No News Is Good News" - Bob Wills, 1965

John had his neck x-rayed on Thursday afternoon, and we've heard nothing at all from the consultant since then. Given how thorough he (the consultant) is, we're assuming that no news is good news and that the x-ray looks fine.

John had a period of some significant pain yesterday afternoon. But we're wondering if he was at a weird angle while watching TV, maybe. But otherwise, he's only been uncomfortable rather than in severe pain. And I'm proud of him for being upbeat most of the weekend.

Maybe we were just being a little impatient about the time his recovery from the neurosurgery would take? We certainly hope that's the case.

He'll be going in to see the consultant and the physical therapists, for the usual post-surgical followup appointment, on the 13th of February. And if the consultant is right, John could start seeing some improvement between now and then.

I'll keep you posted! Meanwhile, John is most appreciative of all of the good wishes!


Wednesday, 23 January 2008

"Encourage Me Baby" - Little Joe Blue, 1997


John's consultant called him about 7:15 this evening. After John described his current level and type of pain, the surgeon didn't seem overly concerned and told John that this degree of pain at 3 weeks from the op was "within the normal spectrum". He said that there could be improvement over the next week or so; but that for some patients, this type of residual pain can last 6 weeks or more after the surgery. He does, however, think it would be a good idea for John to have an x-ray taken in the next few days -- just to be safe -- and John will talk to the administrative assistant for the consultant about that tomorrow (Thursday) morning.

We both are feeling a little more positive this evening. Thanks so much for all of the great comments, everybody! Please send good vibes.




I've been postponing writing this post since the weekend, hoping that I wouldn't need to do it. But I do. And I might feel a little bit better if I do.

John's just not feeling as well as either of us thought he'd be feeling at this point following his neck surgery. We're disappointed and fighting very hard not to get discouraged. So far so good. But it's only because, for the moment, when one of us starts feeling too down the other steps in to do the encouraging.

He's finding that much of the pain that sent him to the doctor in the first place (last August) is back. He's as debilitated as he was for the first week after he got home from the hospital. This morning, for example, he was only upright for about an hour before the pain became severe enough that he had to lie back down. To be fair, his neck/shoulder mobility is much better than it was before the surgery. So that's good. And he was told by the consultant surgeon that some of the original pain might temporarily return as the healing process progressed.

But we really thought he'd feel better than this.

Tomorrow will be the 3-week anniversary of the surgery itself. And John's followup appointment with the surgeon isn't until the 13th of February.

I've been urging him to put in a call to the consultant and tell him what's going on -- either to get confirmation that this is a "normal" reaction to the procedure or to get an appointment ASAP to find out what's going on. John has been very reluctant to do so. Being British, he isn't as "direct" (his terminology) about things as I am. But this morning, he's left a message with the surgeon's admin assistant, saying that he has some concerns that he'd like to talk about. We'll see what comes of it.

I hope what the consultant says to him makes him feel better. I'm trying so hard to be upbeat and encouraging, but I fear I'm failing him a little...

Just wanted to vent a bit today, I guess. That's one of the good things about blogging. But also, I wanted John's friends & family to know why we're a little quiet these days.


Tuesday, 22 January 2008

"...Baby One More Time" - Britney Spears, 1998

The scene: Cornmarket Street, Oxford (then and now)

The time: Around 12:30pm today

The players: An exasperated teenaged mother, with a big toddler on one of those kid-leashes (argh). She (the toddler) is pulling and pulling on her constraint, wanting to get away and explore the world.

What I observed: Young mother swats the little girl while shrieking the little one's name. Shrieking at the top of her lungs, I might add.

Mum was yelling "BRITNEY!!!!!!!!"

I just couldn't help but wonder if she'll ever regret the name she chose for her daughter only a few years ago...


Saturday, 19 January 2008

"Air India" - Pooh, 1999

I'm feeling a little lazy today and can't come up with my own idea for a post. So I'm going to highlight my friend Steve's blog, where he is sharing his trip to India with the readers of "Today Is Absolutely Today". If you enjoy travel, I'm sure you'll find his descriptions and his photos really interesting.

Hope you don't mind my relying on you, Steve, for today's topic!


Friday, 18 January 2008

"Three Little Words" - Paul Whiteman's Original Rhythm Boys/Duke Ellington & His Orchestra, 1930

Since my last post, John continues to recover from his surgery. He's a little discouraged at the amount of pain he still has sometimes (and I am too, to tell you the truth), but I think he's doing well given that the op was only two weeks ago. And I was in London from Sunday afternoon until early Wednesday evening, running three days of training courses for a major oil company. I must admit that I would preferred to have stayed home to look after John during the evenings. But he was fine without me -- and a big thanks to John's brother Paul for coming down from the Birmingham area to have dinner with him Tuesday night!

Why today's title, though? Because of a news report I heard on BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast this morning, as I commuted to work in Oxford.

Most of you will likely have heard about the British Airways 777 that landed short of one of London Heathrow's runways yesterday. Here's the latest on the story, from BBC News.

Well, one of the features on Five Live Breakfast this morning was a discussion with an airline pilot about what might have happened...particularly as the passengers had no idea that there was a problem until the oxygen masks dropped during what apparently just felt like an especially bumpy landing. The pilot being interviewed said that in flight training, pilots are taught the phrase "Aviate Navigate Communicate". So it's more important to keep the plane from crashing and to guide its direction rather than tell the passengers what's going on, if there's a sudden emergency with little reaction time.

Aviate. Navigate. Communicate. Interesting three words. Makes logical sense. And given that I fly so much, I suspect they'll now be stuck in my brain forever.

That led me to think about other combinations of three words that I've encountered since moving to Britain.

The first two sets have to do with one of the training courses I run for my employer here in Oxford. It's an introductory course in oil refining processes, designed for students who aren't engineers. As I was first learning how to teach the course, I would constantly drill two sets of three words: Separation Conversion Treatment (for the three stages of an oil refinery) and Decomposition Unification Alteration (for the three main categories of conversion units). I think I probably say those in my sleep.

And then there were my driving lessons to prepare me for taking the very complex UK driving test, in order to get a British driving licence. Before pulling out into any sort of moving traffic, I was told to remember "Mirror Signal Maneuver"....check your mirrors, signal which way you intend to go, and then pull out onto the roadway. I can't help but recite those three words every single time I start my car. But then that was the intention of the training, wasn't it?

Finally, there were the three words that I had to memorize last autumn when I was studying for my "Life in the UK" test, which was the one I had to take and pass before I could apply for residency last month. That set of words had to do with the Queen's role vis-a-vis the British government. They are "Advice Warn Encourage". John suggested I remember the word "awe" as a memory prompt, and it still works!

Three little words.


Wednesday, 9 January 2008

"Getting Better" - Beatles, 1967

Here's a photo of John, taken this afternoon in our kitchen...with the beautiful roses and freesia sent to us by his sister Claire and her family.


Monday, 7 January 2008

"Sporting Life" - Decemberists, 2005

John continues a good recovery at home. He's very tired and has an aching neck from the operation itself, but I'm delighted to report that he's feeling almost none of the pain he had from the herniated disc!

He's taking it easy here at home. He won't be able to drive for two or three weeks, and right now he really doesn't feel energetic enough to do much anyway. I'm taking vacation days off work through Wednesday so that I can be here to help him, and I might decide to extend that into Thursday as well. I really need to be in the office at least one day this week, though; unfortunately, I'm heading over to London Sunday afternoon, as I'm teaching at Canary Wharf Monday through Wednesday next week. I hate that I have to go be away from home then, but sadly that's a big part of my job.

I'm so proud of how brave he's been through all this!

But why today's song title? Because last night I was thinking about something funny that the weekend physical therapist told us. When she (Jo) was giving John some final instructions before he was discharged, she was talking about his type of cervical disc prolapse. She was particularly focussed on talking about posture, saying that people who spend hours hunched over computers are especially vulnerable to neck and back problems. In fact, she said that most of the patients in Oxford who need operations like the one John had are either in IT or are rugby players.

And given that John doesn't really have much natural ability at sports (neither do I, by the way), I'll bet all of you can guess what he's been doing for a living!


Sunday, 6 January 2008

"You Are Never Too Old" - Jimmy Cliff, 1963

As John continues to quietly recover here at home, let me pass along a story we first heard in the British press a few days ago.

If you've ever felt like you were too old to do something, you should take a look at the story of Eric King-Turner and his wife Doris. It'll change your mind!

The King-Turners are on the way to New Zealand from England. So what's so interesting about that, you say? Well, Eric is 102 years old, while Doris is a mere 87! And sponsored by Doris, who is a New Zealander herself, Eric has become the oldest ever emigrant from Britain -- he's following Doris to a new life in New Zealand!

Here's a link to the story.

Having myself changed continents for love, this story really touches my heart.


Saturday, 5 January 2008

"I'm Looking Through You" - Beatles, 1965

We got to bring John home from the hospital this afternoon! (Why have I put the word "the" in italics, you might ask? Because a UK native wouldn't add the "the" when making that statement, as we Americans do.) It's a banner day here, as a result!

Here are three photos...and, as always, you can click on any of them for a full-sized image.

Here's John in his room at the Manor Hospital, just before being discharged.

I love this photo! Can you see the bandage on the front of his neck? That's where they made the horizontal incision. And doesn't he look happy to be headed home at least one day earlier than expected!

This is yesterday morning's x-ray of John's neck, after Thursday afternoon's surgery. Can you see the thing that looks a bit like a matchstick? That's part of the "cage" (made of a polymer...a plastic-type material) that's been put in between his 5th and 6th cervical vertebrae to act as a spacer, in place of the disc. Incredible technology, isn't it?

Although John is tired and his neck is sore from the surgery, it's just amazing how the pain he felt from the prolapsed disc is virtually gone. He told the surgeon this morning that it's as if he had a piece of shrapnel removed from his neck and right shoulder.

By the way, yesterday was our 2nd wedding anniversary. So we're starting our third year of married life on a terrific note!

And BOY am I glad to have him home!


Friday, 4 January 2008

"Along Comes Mary" - Association, 1966

(Image courtesy of

First off, HAPPY 2008 everybody!

This post will be purely about John. I'll catch up about our Christmas/New Year's later.

John's surgery yesterday afternoon, at the Manor Hospital in Headington (Oxford) to fix the herniated disc in his neck, appears to have been a success! He's recovering well and quickly, and they might even let him come back home tomorrow. So I'm hoping that tonight is the last night I have to come home without him.

Why the title to this piece? Because John's physical therapist is a feisty lady named Mary. She's terrific and was very encouraging to John this afternoon, in terms of his degree of neck and shoulder movement and lack of pain today. All signs are that the surgery will stop the awful pain he's been in since late in the summer.

And I want to give a BIG thank-you to John's mum Anne for all her help the past few days! I don't know how I would have managed without her!

More when I can...