Images by John 'K'

Life as seen through my lens…

Category Archives: For my family

RIP Wanda, and some less important stuff

Yes it’s been a while since I did one of these – for reasons that’ll become obvious as you read this it’s not been top priority in my life just lately…..
Lets start with that then. On April 29, 2008 my only sister (I am the youngest of 3, a brother and a sister came before me) was killed in an accident while driving to see my mother. From all accounts she was killed instantly, but that is little comfort to her remaining family. I went back to the UK to spend some time with my mum, brother, brother-in-law and family, and to be there for the funeral (which was a wonderful send-off for Wanda), and while it was nice to have the time to catch up with many members of my family that I haven’t seen in over 3 years, it was unfortunate that it had to be under such tragic circumstances. It was also unfortunate that we were unable to have my wife and two younger daughters attend too, but under the circumstances and given the timing that was not possible. I was also able to visit my eldest daughter and her family and celebrate the birthday of my youngest grandson (all be it  aday early as the actual day of his birthday was the day of my sister’s funeral).
RIP Wanda Mary, you will not be forgotten. You leave behind a loving husband who has 38 years of wonderful memories, two beautiful daughters, and 3 lovely grandchildren who (as with the rest of us who knew you) will have you in our hearts always.
Next to that, anything else I could write hardly seems worth it, but life must go on….
Before that fateful day in April, my wife and I had the pleasure to spend what was a far too short trip travelling to China. It was a package my wife heard about through a group she is a member of, and as we had yet to organise anything for our 25th anniversary (which is later this year) we decided to treat ourselves as an early present to one another. China is an amazing place – full of contrasts between new and old, modern and traditional, rich and poor, and it’s the only foreign country I’ve visited where I didn’t need to travel with any of the local currency. Most situations that needed cash the dollar was perfectly acceptable, and for the few situations where only the local currency was accepted we were able to use plastic.
During our all to brief 9 days, we spent time in Beijing, saw the great wall, the Temple of Heaven, Tienanmen Square, the Palace Museum (aka the Forbidden City), the Ming tombs and the Summer Palace, we travelled to Shanghai, and then on to Suzhou where we visited Tiger Hill, took a trip on the Grand Canal, went to Hangzhou where we went to the national silk institute and the "Lingering Gardens", took a cruise on the West Lake before visiting the Longjing Green Tea plantation and the Lingyin Buddhist Temple before returning to Shanghai where we took in more gardens, the Bund, and before returning to San Francisco via Beijing we saw the Era show. Way too much to do justice to in 9 days, but a wonderful trip none the less. In hindsight too this is rather a special trip, as the last significant trip my sister took with her husband late in 2007 was China too.
Since then we’ve tried to get back to normal, however have had a number of other unexpected issues to deal with. My elder daughter injured her knee at work, and has been walking around on crutches for the past couple of months while she’s worked through a series of doctors appointments. As it was a work injury this is all at their expense, but it’s dragged on. My youngest daughter has split up with her boyfriend, and what started out as an amicable split turned a little ugly last week (hopefully now all resolved). My 2nd eldest daughter go engaged earlier this year and has now moved out of our house and the area she grew up in to be with her fiance in Warrington. As a result of this, my wife will be back to the UK in a couple of weeks to sort out what needs doing to the house to get it in a state where it could be rented or sold.
My plans to get in shape for my "Mount Diablo Challenge" got somewhat put on hold, but since my return from the UK my wife and I have new bikes, and now I’m on something that’s much better suited to my size than my old bike I’ve recommenced regular cycle rides in the hope that I can still get myself ready for a ride up Mount Diablo before the end of the year.
This past weekend saw Memorial day here in America, and we had the pleasure of seeing a flight of old World War 2 planes at the local airport at Livermore. Having had the chance to get inside and crawl through some of the planes on exhibit there, I am left in awe of the brave souls that flew these into battle to try and keep the freedoms we all to often take for granted.
If there is one thing to come out of the past couple of months it’s an appreciation that life is too short to be taken up worrying about some of the petty stuff we all too easily fill our days with. Worry less about the petty stuff, and live life to build memories that you hope you don’t have to leave to your loved ones as a legacy.

Happy Birthday to Me :) (Thank you Jan)

I’ll do a big update sometime in the next day or two, but for now I just want to say a big THANK YOU to my wife for what has to be the best birthday present I have ever had (not that the other pressies I got weren’t great too, but…….)
See my latest photo album addition to get a feel for why

Time plays tricks…

How is it that 3 weeks can feel like a lifetime, and too short, all at the same time?
We have my eldest daughter and her family visiting us fro the UK for 3 weeks for Christmas – they’ve been here 5 days already, and in that time we’ve had my youngest daughter turn 16, and have spent some time in San Francisco. With all the preparation for my youngest’s birthday, and with our visiting family members recovering from jet-lag, we’d really not done too much from an activity perspective with them, but have spent time with them at home catching up on things. I’d last seen them 16 months ago, and the boys (my grandsons) have really grown up in that time.
Back in the UK, they lived fairly close to us, so we used to see a lot of them, and after 5 days it almost feels like nothing has changed and that the past 16 months have just been put to one side; however because the boys have changed so much it feels strange.
I’ve got some time off work over the next couple of weeks – unfortunately this is a busy time for us at work so couldn’t take all the time I would have liked, but will make the most of what I can get. Now we have the birthday stuff out of the way, we can concentrate on other stuff, like Christmas, and having them see some of the places we have here and why we wanted to move here, and at the same time enjoy our time together.
So with that in mind, yesterday afternoon we took a family trip out to San Francisco (as it’s only an hour away). The boys have a short list of ‘must do’ things they want to do while they are over here – one of them was to see ‘the wiggly road’ that is Lombard Street, and they also wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge, so we went and did the tourist thing. They’ve been on the Golden Gate, have been driven down Lombard Street, rode the carousel on Pier 39, saw the sea lions, and got a few souvenirs. Not a full day in San Francisco, and there’s more for them to do when they go back later in the week, but after all of that they were pretty much worn out (they’re still adjusting to the time zone difference).
It was a lovely day out – the weather was kind to us, and I’ve popped a few pictures up.

Thanks for 27 wonderful years…

This one’s for my wife.
As immigrants who have relatively recently moved to America, we’re not yet fully wrapped up in the whole Thanksgiving thing, but we obviously take advantage of the days off work, and we can relate to the wider underlying theme of Thanksgiving, which is to give thanks for family, friends, and the things that make life special.
So we had a strange Thanksgiving on Thursday, with 3 of us popping into San Francisco for the afternoon to visit a car show, and then a family meal in the evening, where we sat and gave thanks for the important things in our lives.
But I really needed to say a special Thank You to one very important person in my life – my wife. We’ve been married for 23 years – know one another for a bit over 27 years, and have been together for nearly 27 years. In all that time we’ve had our ups and downs, have brought 4 special girls into the world (yes I know we moan about them from time to time, but they are special in so many ways), and she’s followed me nearly half way around the world, leaving behind the world she knew and all her friends and family to follow my dream.
I love her more than I could ever say, and as a small token of my thanks we took some time away from our daughters and had a weekend to ourselves in San Francisco. The basic idea was I’d get us there, bring us back, get us a place to sleep, all the ‘infrastructure’ things, and she’d basically have the choice of what we did, where we went and so on. So we spent most of Saturday in Chinatown, and our time on Sunday before coming home down at Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39.
It was a wonderful weekend – so nice to see her happy and smiling and not caring about things at home or work for a couple of days, and I hope she enjoyed it as much as she seemed to (despite the lovely wet weather on Sunday).
Some pics from the weekend are up as an album.
Jan, I love you, and I don’t care how much of a nutter that makes me in your eyes. For as long as you want me around, I’m here for you.

Dealing with teenage addictions…

Wow – 2 updates in the same month. Will have to watch I don’t become addicted to this…..
We’ve lived in Pleasanton for 14 months now, and yesterday my wife and I finally got around to taking a hike up Pleasanton Ridge. Why oh why did we leave it so long. It was beautiful. The day couldn’t have been nicer – it was mid October, and we were hiking in shorts and t-shirts. We could both tell that we hadn’t done any serious hiking for a while, as the first real incline left us both looking for breath, but we walked through it, and worked our way to the top of the ridge. The view was amazing.
We would have stayed longer, but we had limited time, so we’ve vowed to return and spend longer. Some of the photos I took have been added as an album.
With stuff like this around us, it pains me that my daughters seem to spend so much time on-line on their computers playing games.
My youngest daughter at least manages to find time to do some things away from her computer – she’s heavily involved in the girls basketball team at her school, and during last year has formed some strong friendships with other girls from her year with whom she goes out from time to time. Having said that, she still spends a lot of time on-line playing Jedi Academy and Medal of Honor. She’s an able student, and when she puts her mind to it is capable of very good grades – she needs to make sure she doesn’t loose that focus, as otherwise her grades will suffer, and she may find herself being kicked off the basketball team if she lets things slip too much.
We have more of a problem with her elder sister though. She discovered Halo a few months back. I’m to blame for that as I play it a lot (I played it a lot more while we were separated last year, but still keep my hand in now) and I introduced her to it as an activity we could do together. I tend to play just one of the multi-player game-types (race), and even with limited time to play I consistently rank in the top 50 race players world-wide (when I spent more time playing I was in the top 10, but I’m trying to not play to those excesses again). Our daughter however seems to have a harder time limiting herself.
She too is pretty good at this game (perhaps it’s genetic), and because she’s found something she’s good at, she is on-line pretty much all the time she is home and not eating or sleeping. She’s ether playing, participating in message forums for a number of groups (clans) who play, and/or talking to them via the various group voice-chat programs available. It has become so much of an addiction for her that she’s frequently been on-line during the night when she is supposed to be sleeping. In recent times she’s done this to a point where she has given herself really bad headaches, and recently has even missed time at college because of her ‘addiction’. Apart from mealtimes, she rarely spends time with the rest of the family, and she has become a virtual recluse. She doesn’t seem to want to make friends outside of the on-line game community, and rarely ventures out of the house apart from to go to college or the occasional shopping trip.
As parents, we are getting seriously worried about this. We have started restricting her on-line time such that she can get some proper sleep, but we may need to scale her access back further. I don’t want to just stop it altogether (cold turkey) though, as I’m really worried about how doing so would make her react. She’s taken the move to the US harder than her younger sister, but she needs to see that there is a big chunk of life away from her computer that she is missing out on.
As a parent, I don’t know how best to deal with this. I don’t want to react in a way that hurts our already strained relationship, but something needs to be done. Not knowing what to do is a strange place for me to be. I don’t like having a problem without a solution… I’m almost at a stage where I think we might need to get professional help to deal with this, as the daughter herself doesn’t seem to see the damage she is doing to herself and her future at this critical point in her development.