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.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Disneyland post #5: surprises and survival

1.  Biggest Surprise: Frozen: Live At the Hyperion. This stage play is only an hour but very efficiently tells the entire Frozen storyline, complete with singing, dancing and special effects. All of which are done at a very high level.  I went for my daughter's sake but actually found this much more bearable than the film itself.

2.  Runner up: Storytellers CafĂ©. This restaurant was in the bottom floor of our hotel and offered a buffet that was fully stocked with fresh roasted meat, salads and bakery items late into the night. Delicious.

3.  Uber/Lyft: We didn't rent a car. If you're going to Disneyland, whether flying into LAX or SNA, and mostly staying at the park, it's a little less costly and way less hassle to use a ride share service when you need it. (Using basic math it would have cost us about $350 for a rental w/parking compared to about $200 spent on ride shares including two rides offsite to other places in Orange County. Mostly that was for a minivan or SUV that seats 6+. Plus not having to be behind the wheel in LA traffic.)

4.  Lost and found: Among the several times Disney went stratospheric with their service was on the second-to-last day when my daughter lost her shoulder bag with her character autograph book. They hadn't found it by the next morning, but said they would keep looking. They took down our info. A week later a purple shoulder bag arrived in the mail. Disney paid $4 to send it to our house.

5.  Time of year and weather: we were in Anaheim in the middle of winter. The coldest day was 65 degrees; the warmest was 85. All with a slight breeze and a trace of rain on the last day only. I guess it rained pretty bad off and on in the few weeks following Christmas, but that weather is not typical. I would say in general that any time of year is a good time to go to Disneyland as far as weather, but with the summer potentially being very hot. We set our trip up with Disney and SW Airlines' help to be able to cancel within seven days, whether due to a medical situation or another freak set of storms. The weather ended up being perfect for our original January/February dates. We're glad because the crowd was half the size of the busy season.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Disneyland post #4: characters

1.  Characters: Wondering what to do between fast passes? The Disneyland app has GPS on all the costumed characters in the parks. (If you have young children) find one and get in line. The character will take about 1 minute with each person/group, so count the people in the line. It's a good way to burn 20 minutes before the next ride. Our kids met about 30 characters (really). For posterity, here's the list: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Mary Poppins & Bert, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, a Stormtrooper, Woody, Buzz, Flik (Bug's Life), Snow White, Ariel, Cinderella, Donald, Chip 'n Dale, Cruella, Fairy Godmother, Belle,  Tiana, Rapunzel, Olaf, Daisy, Anna & Elsa, Fawn (fairy), Tinker Bell.

2.  Fine print concerning characters: If you take the time to buy an autograph book, characters at Disney will sign it with very unique signatures. Ballpoint pen is awkward for someone wearing big Mickey gloves, so think more along the lines of a Sharpie. Star Wars, Cars and Zootopia characters do not sign autographs. Characters with masks and "mascot heads" do not talk, but will respond non-verbally to anything you say. The exception is the Star Wars characters. They have masks, but still talk. Except Chewbacca who growls.

3.  One more thing about characters: Is it just weird to me? Or does waiting in line for a grown woman to stop fawning over a costumed Disney character seem a bit troubling? (This happened multiple times.)

4.  The only rude person in Disneyland: We were impressed repeatedly by the level of service we received over the phone while planning, at the hotel during off times and in the parks during the main part of the day. Everyone was very patient and pleasant. This was with one exception. Cruella de Vil was completely condescending and pompous to everybody.

5.  Most Seriously Underrepresented Franchise: The Incredibles. I saw about two Incredibles-themed items in a gift shop. That's it. Others who got ignored: Ratatouille, Aristocats, Uncle Scrooge.


Thursday, March 09, 2017

Disneyland post #3: the bad

1.  Missed out on: Almost nothing, but Hollywood Tower of Terror, Grizzly River Run and Enchanted Tiki Room were not options. First two were closed and the last serves all stuff I'm allergic to.

2.  Biggest Disappointment: ESPNZone. After hearing about this amazing sports place for a decade, I had to go see it for myself. It's like going to Big Al's down the street from my house but with a bunch of surly Golden State Warriors fans. Don’t get me wrong, Big Al's and ESPNZone are both cool, but not enough to waste my time and Disney money (and Disney loves charging Disney tax).

3.  Runner-up Biggest Disappointment: Hyperspace Mountain. Disney StarWarsified this ride in ridiculous ways. Please just switch off all the lights and call it good. It's better than the uneven mess of projected clips and LED lights scabbed on to this otherwise classic roller coaster.

4.  Biggest Waste of Time and Money: The Disneyland Resort Express Bus. We took this special Gray Line bus as the "official coach service from terminal to resort". The exterior was decorated for Universal Studios. It got us there, but was slower and more expensive than Uber.
5.  Most Overrated Experience: Early admission. "Magic Morning" or "Early Magic Hour" lets you into one of the parks an hour before the gates open. Guests at Disney Hotels and holders of special tickets are offered this special privilege. The thing is, crowd at the gate is almost as big for the early opening as it is the normal one. No Fast Pass machines are available and no characters are out yet, so pretty much after you ride that first ride (which pragmatically should be Star Tours, Space Mtn. or Radiator Springs Racers), you're stuck standing in a line for 30 minutes anyhow. So run to that high demand ride and enjoy it. It's likely all the magic you'll get out of that morning.