Monday, October 30, 2017

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The Summer of 2017

We entered the summer of 2017 with almost everything unresolved.

Here is what we did know:
  1. We would be moving to a new house (which we closed on in May)
  2. Elisha would be changing schools from the local public school to private school
  3. Mariah would be changing schools from the local public school to a home school
  4. I would officially begin my new position as a manager at my job
  5. Anne-Marie would try to figure out what in the world is going on with all the conflicting reports from the doctors
The list points out the obvious: Our family as a whole was facing a major change in buying a house and moving into it.  At the same time, all four of us were facing individual challenges.  This is the story of our attempt to connect all these dots.
The big move day.  We had a whole new crew!  Thanks everyone.
1.  The House

The property market in Portland is absolutely bananas.  By the time we would find a house we were interested in, the house would already be pending.  With the help of Richard at Portland Digs, we found a house we wanted, put together a very strong offer and won a very short war for possession.  The house went on the market on Friday.  We found out it was ours by Monday.  We were picking out decor by the time most people saw it on Zillow.

The move thing is always intimidating, but we had huge help from friends.  The amazing thing about it is that it was a completely different group of friends we tortured with moving last time.  I'm so grateful for all those poor people who helped us come back home in 2014 and am forever indebted to the people who helped us this June.  Gatorade Flow on me any time, guys.

The kids love the house and the new neighborhood.  I have all kinds of work to do making the 2 bed / 1 bath into something like a 4 bed / 2 bath with an office.  I'm giving myself a decade.

New neighbors
The sun vanished
2.  Elisha's new school

We tried for 3 years to do our best with Elisha in the local public school.  He learned a lot there and was succeeding academically.  We are grateful to the exceptional teachers he had for his success.

Yet there was nothing they could do to stop the bullying.  I don't want to say a whole lot about it because I know Buddy might be reading this blog himself sometime in the next five years.  Let's just say, the problem was so bad that early in the 2016-17 school year we decided it would be his last at the public school.  Ultimately, it is our responsibility as parents to put our child in a healthy environment, not the government's.  

First day at the new school
The good news is that Elisha is now a student at Cornerstone Christian Academy.  This doesn't guarantee a school year without issues, but it does put Elisha in an academic setting with similar values as he's taught at home and place him in the position where his education is a privilege and not a right.

3.  Mariah's new school

This one was even more challenging.  Mariah wasn't doing so well at school either, but her problems were just plan ol' academic.  Whether it was the system not working or whatever, something needed to change in order for her to progress, so while we were changing everything, we came up with the solution to homeschool Mariah for at least one year.

We signed her up with the online version of a local Christian school with curriculum by Alpha Omega.  In a totally different way, we are heading toward the same goals as we had for Elisha: values and accountability.

Starting out with the new setup has been a bit rough, but we are getting it figured out.  Our hope is that each of our kids is a little jealous of the other for how cool their new school is.  That is, until the day (hopefully) comes where they're back together in the same place on school days.

4.  Eli's new position

After a month of negotiating in March/April of this year, I decided (agreed to if I'm honest) apply for the vacant Project Manager position at work.  I've been a drafter my entire career and the opportunity to manage other drafters and represent our department to the client seemed a bit intimidating.  But it was a salary increase and we needed the above three points to work, so--after counsel with a bunch of people--I applied and easily got the position.

Then our most experienced drafter died in a tragic accident.  Then the head of our department resigned.  Then the senior project manager (my trainer) resigned.  Now, with five months experience, I have become the most junior senior project manager in the history of the industry.  The first 3 weeks was really, really hard, but this week we started to turn stuff around a bit.  I know that God knows and understands the entire situation and that something good can still come of it.

5.  Anne-Marie's jumbled medical news

The last four were complicated.  This one is so confusing, I can't even remember how everything happened over the last few months.  Remember this?  The oncologist cut us loose from the harsher treatments and put Anne-Marie on an injection every four weeks with periodic CT scans to check on anything concerning.

After a three months of treatment with the injections, Anne-Marie's scans came back with concerning areas near her sternum.  We spent a day at the hospital waiting for the doctor's to get a tissue sample with a laparoscopic biopsy.  They couldn't reach the area.

Rather than rushing to an "open heart" style situation, we elected to allow the pulmonologist to prescribe a series of antibiotics and steroids to see how the unwelcome growth responds.  This may tell us what the growth is.

Last Friday, Anne-Marie went in for her follow-up CT scan to see what's changed under the antibiotic/steroid treatment.  We expect results in the next couple of days and we're believing in faith that the results will be completely boring.

16 years

This Friday, Anne-Marie and I have been married for 16 years and we celebrated the accomplishment last weekend with a trip to Central Oregon.  We know there's craziness going on all around us, but it doesn't keep us from celebrating the special days.  And from celebrating every day, really.  Not that it's all positive and happy, but whatever it is, we're thankful for this last three months and believe we'll read this in 10 years and laugh about how crazy everything was.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

Sydney Wydney Garcia 3/7/02-6/29/17

In the past year or so, our cat's health started failing. We waited to see if small changes would make it better, but eventually we knew we needed to bring her in to see the veterinarian.

The vet said she had thyroid problems and put her on a twice-daily prescription that was moderately expensive.

Sydney showed a little improvement, but still was struggling physically quite a bit. Getting her to take her medicine was challenging.

We were weeks away from a (nother) move and Sydney responds horribly to change. Every time we've moved, it's been very hard on her and taken her months to adjust.

We knew she wasn't coming to the new house. So after 15 years of her companionship, we brought her in to the vet for the last time. It was a very sad time.

Many nights in the new house--after everyone else is in bed--I think I see her shadow sneaking through the hallway, but then I remember that this latest adventure is our first without her.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


This marks one year.  The doctor called Anne-Marie a year ago today and told her she had stage IV cancer.

We held on to every shred of hope for weeks waiting for the final test but the report only became more concise.  The news was stated simply by Dr. Korde:
Your cancer has metastasized.  As a result of this, you will lose your life.
If there is any true preparation for a moment like this, I am not aware of it.  If anything should have helped, I guess it would be that Anne-Marie had, in a sense, been cheating death for years.  To be a two-time cancer survivor in a family with less survivors than, well, non-survivors comes with its own type of gravity.  We've had many good times.  We've seen amazing miracles.  Yet we know what this disease can do to a person.

King Solomon was wise in saying that the increase of knowledge is the increase of sorrow.  We could see it coming and it was coming fast.

Treatments, biopsies, scans.  Treatments, biopsies, scans.  Treatments, scans, confusion, biopsy, confusion, biopsy, biopsy.  Nothing.  

After ten months of pandemonium, now Anne-Marie goes in every four weeks for an injection.  It takes two hours if you count the drive time into Portland.  She's feeling great.

May 12 was eleven years since first diagnosis.  May 10 was five years since recurrence.  Today marks one year since stage IV.  (And they don't make any more stages after that one.)

Last week, we bought a house.

This week--after 15 years as a drafter--I accepted a promotion to become a project manager.

The past eleven years has taught me well that it's just a house and it's just a job.  But, obviously, none of this should be happening.  We're supposed to be in a corner somewhere crying.

But by the grace of God, here we stand.  We're ready for the next stage.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Uncle Gene

On Good Friday, April 14, 2017, Uncle Gene Denny left this life for the next.  He wasn't really my uncle; he was Anne-Marie's great-uncle.

Uncle Gene was an old-fashioned, salt-of-the-earth, grass-roots kind of guy with a Texas drawl and a face that looked like it was chiseled out of granite.

Gene worked with his hands his whole life. In fact, he loved working so much, he lifted weights from his youth up into his eighties.  Lifting weights at the local gym was his favorite hobby.  Cousin Greg said at the funeral, "He would say, 'Don't work out to get big muscles.  Come to the gym so you can get strong and work hard.'"

In spite of his hard-earned toughness, Uncle Gene would be the first to tear up at the news of a family member's suffering or upon seeing the pain facing one of his friends.

Photo by Derrell Denny
He laughed at the goofiest things.  He prayed for the hurting.  He made time for the people who could offer nothing in return.  Even for a punk young kid from another town who happened to be interested in his niece.

On Good Friday he went to the gym to work hard one more time.  But this time the world's biggest heart gave way and he was gone.  His hard work was done.  God took him.

Find rest, Uncle Gene.  You were bigger than life.  You were tougher than death.

I can't believe you're gone.