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Hugs, Not Kisses

To all of you that have been following my Cancer Journey, I am so grateful, thankful and happy to say that two-thirds of my chemotherapy regime is behind me.

I also have great news – the weekly blood test results and recent CT scan have shown that the chemotherapy is working!! It is killing the cancer cells and preventing new ones from forming!! I knew in my heart and soul that my body would be totally responsive to the chemotherapy and that it would do its job.

This really helps me to “Keep My Eye on the Goal” – to be back to my healthy self so that I can get on an airplane and fly back to Southern California to my kids and grandson Isaac, and for the birth of our second grandbaby, due in November. This is what keeps me going!!

I also want to be back to my healthy self to enjoy our wonderful life here in the South of France.

All of you have and continue to play an important part in my healing process. Whether it is through a text, an email, a card, a phone call, or a visit, by sending me positive healing energy, positive thoughts, love, keeping me in your thoughts and prayers, lighting candles and saying special healing prayers for me, I want you to know that it really works. I can feel it from all of you. It is if you are standing with your arms around each other surrounding me with this incredible energy and love that heals and protects me. It contributes to my feeling Healthy, Strong and Positive through this trying time.

Although you will not hear me complain, it has not been a picnic. After each chemotherapy treatment, my skin is ultra-sensitive to hot, cold and touch, I’ve battled nausea, I can become emotional easily – happy tears – thankful and grateful for everything, small and large things, and sad tears – missing my kids and grandson Isaac, wanting to be done with the chemotherapy and all of these things that it does to my body and mind, and yet thankful that it is working. About a week after each treatment I can feel the effects of the drugs subsiding, leaving me to be my usual happy self.

During my “good weeks” friends that I have been able to see in person are familiar with my “Hugs, Not Kisses” policy. Because one of the effects of chemotherapy makes me more susceptible to germs, I have to “screen” my guests to be sure they are not suffering from coughs, colds or worse!

I still have two more chemotherapy treatments to go – July and August. It is comforting to think that more than half of the tough times are in the rear-view mirror, and all the good things in life are in front of me, thanks to my family, friends and you, my faithful readers.

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My narrative continues with my stay in the pulmonary wing at Le Centre Hospitalier de Béziers (CH Beziers).

After the fluid was removed from my right lung, the fluid was sent to the lab to be analyzed and the results confirmed that it was a lung infection. However after a more in-depth investigation of the fluid, it also showed that the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, that I was originally diagnosed and treated for 17 years ago, had a made a recurrence.

I was given several antibiotics to attack the infection. After a couple of days of antibiotics, I could feel my strength returning, along with improved breathing capacity. Meanwhile, preparations were being made to transfer me to Le Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Montpellier, Saint Eloi (CHU Saint Eloi), where my oncologist/hematologist practices.

The first attempt at the transfer was interrupted by a very rare event in the south of France – a snowstorm. After two hours in the medical taxi – and not even getting halfway from Beziers to Montpellier – we had to turn around and, after another two hours, arrived back at CH Beziers, where they hadn’t given up my bed, on the chance that I would return.

Finally two days later, the snow had for the most part melted and I finally left CH Beziers and was checked in to CHU Saint Eloi. My hematologist confirmed that I would need to begin chemotherapy, but first the main priority was to get the infection under control. I had many tests to monitor my situation. One of the crucial tests was to confirm that the lymphoma that had appeared was indeed the same type that I was diagnosed with back in 2001. When the results confirmed that the lymphoma was the same, it was a relief because we knew that I responded well to treatment before, and was confident that I will once again. Who could imagine that someone could be happy to have a confirmed diagnosis of cancer?

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With these results, the treatment plan could be established. The protocol is six rounds of chemotherapy, with each round consisting of two back-to-back days as an outpatient, spaced 28 days apart. The first round was done while I was still in the hospital. Following this first round, I developed a low-grade fever, a result of the tail-end of fighting the infection. I was not able to leave the hospital until the fever broke.

After a few days of continued antibiotics, the fever finally started cracking until it finally broke. I was finally going home after 23 days in two hospitals.

In conjunction with my release from the hospital, a team of nurses sprung into action. There was a check-out nurse who was responsible for ensuring that everything was done to prepare me to leave the hospital as well as coordinating all of the medications that I would need with my neighborhood pharmacy. There was a coordinating nurse who arranged upcoming home visits, supplies, paperwork – even down to arranging medical taxis for the next few scheduled trips to the hospital, for chemo, doctor visits etc.

I have access to day and night nurses at the hospital, who are only a phone call away. Of course there are language barriers, but they always find someone that can speak a little English, and Steve speaks a little French, so we always manage to communicate.

There is a rotating team of three home nurses that visit me to take blood, give me injections and change the dressing on my picc line, all on the well-documented schedule organized by the coordinating nurse. In fact, they provided a customized binder containing all of the instructions for the doctors and nurses, places for the nurses to document their actions, as well as all of my prescriptions – and there are many! I take a number of pills daily, some for five days after the treatment and some for the entire six months as well as a daily prescription mouthwash to prevent sores and fungus in the mouth, common side-effects of chemo.

As one of my girlfriends said “It is a full time job to keep up with all of this.” Fortunately, my Steve has it all organized in the diary on my phone, and it beeps with a reminder of all of these things to do throughout each day.

I have to say that the French healthcare system is #1 in the world. The doctors, nurses and the hospital staff were incredible. They were supportive, understanding and caring people. I am provided with a taxi to take Steve and I to my doctor’s appointments and all chemotherapy appointments in Montpellier – which is 45 minutes from our house.  Not to mention our village pharmacy, who delivered all of my medications to our house the day I came home from the hospital.

It is so good to be home with Steve and our many supportive friends. The support from our family and friends in the USA, France, UK, Canada, Australia, Belgium and Israel is what helps keep me going.

An adventure in the journey of life – I stay strong and positive and am thankful and grateful for everything – everyday.

I look forward to going home to our kids and grandson Isaac when my six chemotherapy treatments are behind me. It is what keeps me going…

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A Long and Winding Road

Let’s see where do I begin?

This blog post is a long time coming as I have not written a blog in many months, for good reasons, as you shall see.

When Steve and I moved to South of France almost 4 years ago, after living in England for almost 7 years, I told Steve that once our kids starting having children – our grandchildren – that we will need to be going home to Southern California more often. I would not want to miss watching our grandson Isaac growing up.

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“Bubbie’s Boy” Isaac my Precious Grandson 

I have looked forward to having children and grandchildren since I was a little girl myself.

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Bubbie and Isaac “Inseparable”

Wanting to keep Steve happy by living in South of France 7 or 8 months out of the year, and keeping myself, my kids and grandson happy too, by seeing them more often,

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Uncle Joshua and Isaac – Ready to Go Play 

we finally came to an agreement. We decided to fly home more often and stay for fewer weeks at a time. This meant that we fly home every three months for four to five weeks at a time. This travel plan has worked well for the whole family since Isaac was born – June 18, 2016.­­­­

We have been home 5 times and this past time was for 2-1/2 months. It included all of the holidays in December,

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Our Family Celebration of Chanukah and Shabbat

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Bubbie, Isaac and Papa

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Liz, Isaac and Jonathan  – Intrigued by the Candles

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Happy Chanukah – Isaac’s Menorah and New Trucks

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Celebrating the Holidays with Lupe’s Family

a three week visit to New Zealand in January 1-22 2018, then back to Southern California for our younger son’s wedding February 2, 2018,

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Steve and Maxine With the Happy Couple – Joshua and Lupe

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Jonathan, Lupe, Joshua, Liz and Isaac

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Our Family Wedding Celebration 

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Isaac With His Papa

celebrating Jonathan’s birthday and my birthday together,

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Jonathan and My Birthday Celebration 

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Isaac With Bubbie on Her Birthday

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Isaac Helping Bubbie Open Her Presents

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Look What I Got – A Jonathan Painting – I Love It

and Valentine’s Day before heading back to France mid-February.

Even though the trip from Paris to Los Angeles consists of a lot of travel, including a short flight from Montpellier to Paris to catch our non-stop flight to Los Angeles, we have enjoyed each trip and I have been able to keep up with the busy travel schedule.

However this past December 2017 to February 2018 trip was a little different. I had been having a few health issues over the past 6 months and I was not feeling 100% myself. I had a cough and cold a few times during those 6 months and my breathing wasn’t feeling normal. I could take deep breaths but had labored breathing if I walked too far or did uphill walking.

I noticed my stamina for physical activities wasn’t where it should be. I had been to my GP doctor in France a few times and she checked my lungs, heart and breathing, and nothing showed up at the time. So we decided to continue with our plans to go home for 2-1/2 months to be with our kids and grandson Isaac.

It was the best decision that we could have made.  We had total quality time with all of them.

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My Girls – Liz and Lupe – Shabbat Shalom

We also spent time with Liz’s parents and family and Lupe’s parents and family. We had time with many of our friends, too. I was able to keep up with Isaac, playing with him all day and chasing after him in the garden, taking him to Gymboree

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Isaac Playing at Gymboree

and to the park.

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We Are at the Park with Jonathan and Isaac

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Papa, Isaac and Jonathan Taking a Walk in the Park

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Sunshine and Warm Weather in December – I Love S. California

 

As you see, we packed a lot into this visit.

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We Wore Out the Kids on This Visit

Towards the last week before we were to leave to go back home to France, I began showing signs of low energy and labored breathing. I went to see my GP doctor in Diamond Bar 2 days before leaving for France. He took a chest x-ray which showed that I had fluid in my right lung.

He gave me a prescription for antibiotics and a mask to wear on the plane. He said that it was safe for me to fly back to France, as long as I saw my doctor as soon as I returned.

I made the two flights back to France and saw my GP doctor a few days later. He said to come back after I finished the antibiotics for a recheck.

But my health took a sudden turn and I ended up in the emergency room a few days later. After a few tests they checked me into the hospital and the rest is history. They did many tests and the pulmonary doctor did a procedure to remove the fluid from my lung. He removed 1.4 liters of fluid – a lot of fluid that I was carrying around.

I thank God for giving me the strength and energy to enjoy those 2-1/2 months of quality time with our family and friends, it is priceless!!

To be continued…

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Light the Night Walk

WOW, it has been a long time since we have been in Southern California in September. However, due to our 3 month plan of visiting our kids and grandson Isaac, this year we ended up there mid-September to mid-October.  This is exciting because it meant that we were with our family for the Jewish Holidays and that Steve and I could attend the Light the Night Walk – the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s annual 5K walk.

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I Brought the LTN Walk to Angel Stadium 16 Years Ago

This is the walk that I started at Angel’s Stadium 16 years ago. I was the Campaign Manager and I took it from a $10,000 walk to a $250,000 walk in just three years!! It now raises over $1,000,000!! It is said that this is a legacy that I left to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Something that I worked very hard for and  I am very proud of.

Mike Hunter’s Team – supporting a family team that started with me 16 years ago. Mike Hunter lost his battle with cancer when he was just 32 years old. I met Barbara, his mom and Vicki, his sister 16 years ago when I was the Campaign Manager of the Light the Night Walk. They shared their touching family story about Mike’s diagnosis, treatment and passing. I wanted to help them by doing something that would give them a way to have a positive impact on others and keep Mike’s memory alive. I asked them if they would like Mike to be the Light the Night “Memorial Honoree”. Both Barbara and Vicki jumped at the opportunity and for the three years that I was Campaign Manager, Mike was the Memorial Honoree. They became volunteers on my committee. Their family has done the walk every year since. They just celebrated their 17th year doing the walk. They have created a large team that raises a lot of money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, helping to fund research and support patient’s needs. They also have Mike’s Teams in other states walking and raising funds. I worked with LLS National 16 years ago to get Mike’s Team to become the first Light the Night National Family Team in the country.

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Steve and I Surprised Them and Walked With Their Team This Year

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Steve, Barbara, Maxine and Vicki

 

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Our Friends Harriet & Ben Joined Us Too. They Were Also Volunteers On My Walk Committee. It Was a Special Night For Us All

Each walker carried a Lighted Chinese Lantern throughout the walk – A White one if you are a Survivor or a Patient, A Red one if you are a Supporter, and A Gold one if you are walking in Memory of someone.

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As a Survivor, I Carried a White Lantern

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We Also Surprised Our Friends Van & Virginia Who Were Volunteers on My Walk Committee. All Six of Us Are Cancer Survivors – Virginia, Maxine, Van, Harriet & Steve

This year there was a Survivors’ Circle where all of us gathered before the walk began to turn on the lights in our Chinese Lantern together and acknowledge the amazing survival rate for blood cancers. It was a very moving moment and I experienced a flood of emotion run through me as I reflected on how long we have been cancer survivors – Steve is 31 years and I am 17 years. Also you realize that you are not alone in this fight to find a cure and beat cancer.  You are doing it together.

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The Survivors’ Circle. A Very Emotional Moment for Many of Us

For me the walk was emotional, inspirational and empowering, as I reminisced about what I created here 16 years ago and how much it has grown in attendance, money raised and awareness of blood cancers.

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I Was Excited to See What I Had Created Here 16 Years Ago and How Much it Has Grown in Attendance, Money Raised and Awareness of Blood Cancers

I started the walk here at Angels Stadium 16 Years Ago and it is still going as strong!!

Here’s to finding a cure!!

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Maxine and Harriet – Survivors

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Our UK Visit

It had been nine months since we had visited our friends and relatives in England. We were going to have a very busy schedule.

We began this adventure by visiting our friends Jemma, Kevin and Sienna in a quaint village in Greater Manchester called Marple.

This was our first introduction to Sienna who had just turned 7 months old.

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Maxine with Sienna

We spent two days with them, walking into the village of Marple Bridge through a beautiful park and stopping along the way for a delicious lunch at a cozy restaurant overlooking the river.

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A Scenic Walking Path Through the Village

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Our Friends Jemma, Kevin & Sienna

The next day we visited Lyme House Park & Garden where Pride and Prejudice was filmed.

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Entrance to Lyme House Park & Garden

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The Grounds are Beautiful

Everywhere I looked was a photo opportunity.

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A Maze of Beauty

The last stop of the day was at Kevin’s parents’ house where we were welcomed with a cup of tea and biscuits, and some very interesting conversations with the whole family.

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Kevin’s Wonderful Family

We had such a good time with everyone, however it was time to say good-bye to our friends in Marple and hello to our friends in Lincoln, where Steve and I used to live. We had a three-hour drive through some beautiful scenery, especially crossing the Pennines.

Lincoln still feels like home and we had a wonderful time catching up with many friends that we met for lunch and dinner over the four and a half days that we were there.

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Our Lincoln Friends Pat & Peter

We went to our favorite cafes, restaurants and shops, and I was able to squeeze in a pedicure at my favorite spa salon. We had a bit of rain but also some sunshine every day. It always feels good to visit Lincoln.

Our main reason for this visit to England was to attend my cousin Brad’s son, Alex’s wedding party in Sheffield. Alex and Lia were married in Greece last month with the immediate family in attendance. In order to have their family and friends at the wedding party, they held it locally, in Sheffield.

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The Happy Couple Alex & Lia

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Cutting the Cake

Since they wore their wedding clothes, did some speeches and had a wedding cake, it felt like we were at the wedding, not just the party.

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Steve & I With the Bride & Groom

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 Cousins Brad, Maxine & Alicia

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Cousins Warren, Carrie & Ben

It was a wonderful event. We got to see relatives that we had not seen since last year and reconnect with others.

During the four days that we were in Sheffield, we stayed with my cousins Brad, Max and Lissie.

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Our Cousins Walking Group at the Cafe

We always look forward to the long walks every day, exploring the surrounding areas. This time we went to Forge Dam, Linacre Reservoir and Eccelsall Woods. Of course we stopped at fabulous little cafés for tea and scones, and for Sunday lunch at a great pub. We had lots of family time with our cousins, which is what we enjoy most when we visit England.

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Sunday Lunch was Yummy

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A Walk Through the Woods

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We Had to Walk Across the Stones to Continue the Trail

We arrived at our next stop, Stratford-Upon-Avon, in time for lunch. We stayed with our friends Kath & Tony in the village Shottery, adjacent to Stratford-Upon-Avon. We settled in and had a cup of tea and a homemade sweet, just what we needed to walk into town and have a look around.

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Our Friend Kath Welcoming Us to the Village

This is Shakespeare Country so we enjoyed strolling among the character buildings. We saw the house that Shakespeare lived in as well as the Ann Hathaway house.

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Amazing Building for Costa Coffee

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Another Character Building 

Along the way we saw a beautiful thatched house in their neighborhood.

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Such a Beautiful Thatched House

We walked back into town on the following day. We had warm weather and plenty of sunshine so we walked through the whole town and along the Avon River. We met a couple who owned a narrow boat that they lived on year-round. We started talking with them and they invited us on-board for a tour. It is pretty amazing how they can fit all of the things they need in it and call it a house. It is inspiring to learn how little we really need to be comfortable.

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New Friends Made Along the Way

With most of the two-week adventure behind us, we drove to Gloucester Cathedral, where we met up with our American friends Marcy and Mark from Southern California.

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American Girlfriends Meet in England

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Lunch with Mark & Marcy

Marcy is the conductor of an amazing orchestra (as well as a violinist herself). We had arranged to see and hear Marcy’s Musique Sur La Mer youth orchestra perform.

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Wonderful Young Musicians 

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Steve & I with Mathew, the Youngest Musician and his Mom

We heard them perform in Southern California just a few weeks earlier. After the performance we followed their coach to the Cotswolds for some sightseeing including the obligatory pot of tea and a scone – you are never too far from a café in England as they like their tea and scones.

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Having Fun in the Rain at the Cotswolds 

We joined the group for a moving farewell dinner. The orchestra was heading back to California the next morning and we had to say good-bye and head to our hotel in Wales.

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St Pierre Marriott Hotel & Country Club

It was a very scenic drive from the Cotswold’s to our hotel in Chepstow, Wales. It was full of green fields, trees and sheep grazing as well as a long bridge that we drove over to get from England to Wales. It was a welcome sight to finally arrive at our hotel –   St. Pierre Marriott Hotel & Country Club.

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The Oldest Buildings Date from the 16th Century

We had time to relax and reflect on this amazing two week visit to the UK. The following day we were on our way to Stansted Airport in London to fly back to our home in the South of France. Back to the sunshine and hot weather for now.

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So Far Away

Our grandson Isaac is 9 months old already. Time really flies when you are so far away (almost 6000 miles away) from your grandson, especially the first year of his life. They grow so quickly in that first year.

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Our Precious Little Grandson Isaac

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Bubbie and Isaac ~ Play Time

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Bath Time ~ Papa and Isaac 

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Papa, Bubbie and Isaac Celebrating New Year’s Eve

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My Boys ~ Joshua, Steve, Jonathan, and Isaac

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Feed Me ~ Isaac’s First Taste of Baby Food

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Bubbie Feeding Isaac His First Baby Food

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Isaac Rolled Over to Play ~ Now He is Crawling All Over The Place

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Mommy And Isaac

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Daddy And Isaac

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Uncle Joshua, Aunt Lupe and Isaac Celebrating New Year’s Eve

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Our Family ~ We Love When We Are All Together 

It’s times like this that I feel so far away from our grandson Isaac (and our kids):

Since we saw him two months ago, he is now sitting up on his own, crawling all over the place, has begun to eat table food, listens to music and beats in sync to the rhythm, and a variety of other amazing things.

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Happy Birthday Bubbie ~ The Best Present I Got on My Birthday ~  This Photo of My Baby Doll Isaac

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Just After We Left ~ Isaac Sitting on His Own

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Isaac Singing to the Music

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Isaac Has Grown So Much in the Two Months Since We Saw Him

Fortunately my daughter-in-law Liz sends me short videos of all of these milestones, and Jonathan makes sure that we Skype regularly.

I am grateful and thankful for today’s technology – Skype, WhatsApp, telephone with unlimited free calls to the USA, email and all the rest; however it does not take the place of  real hugs and kisses and face to face talking and singing songs and reading stories together, and especially rocking him to sleep in my arms.

We were there when Isaac was born June 18, 2016 and for the first seven weeks of his life. Then we were away for three months (seemed so long), and then we were with them for two full months and all of the holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve into the middle of January. But now we will have been away for four months (feels really a long time) until we are with them again for five weeks (we will be celebrating Isaac’s first birthday!!) Where has the time gone? Thank goodness for all of the technology as it has allowed us to keep up with Isaac’s every move while he is growing up in front of us (on a screen).

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Jonathan, Liz and Isaac ~ Their Own Little Family

Both Steve and I have decided that we do not want to have more than 3 months in between our visits to see our grandson Isaac and our kids, so we will be going back at least three times a year and having them come to visit us in South of France once a year. That is a plan that we can live with for now.

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At the Beach in December

WOW – It is December and we are at the beach here in Southern California!

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The Hermosa Beach Pier

Steve and I are at Hermosa Beach walking on the pier enjoying watching the waves roll up against the sand and taking pictures of the many seagulls flying around us. The sun is shining, it is warm with a windy breeze.

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A Seagull Flying Into the Breeze

It is rare but there are only a few people on the pier and the beach today which makes it so nice and relaxing. Part of that is due to the windy breeze and the other is that many people are at work. That is what being retired is – going places when everyone else is at work.

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Not Camera Shy

Although in the “City” – Los Angeles with millions of people and cars, that doesn’t always hold true, places and streets and freeways are still crowded and full. But today we are lucky and we have the pier and the beach to ourselves at least for a few hours.

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Putting Up the Hermosa Beach Christmas Tree

We stopped to watch city workers put up the community Christmas tree at the top of the pier. They will also put up a large Chanukah menorah  just across from the tree.

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Seagulls Watching Us Eat Lunch

I packed a lunch for us to eat on one of the benches on the pier allowing us to take in the sunshine, the beach life and to watch the waves roll in and out against the sand.

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Watching the Waves Roll In

We are enjoying the warm weather 22ºC / 73°F. Due to the breezy wind advisory, there were no surfers out today and we saw the airplanes flying a different course out of LAX airport. The air was so clean that it made me feel light headed and happy. I love the beach and the weather in Southern California in December.

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The Surf Crashes into the Beach

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