Friday, June 30, 2017

The Month of May

"So, they tell me it's pancreatic cancer," my dad says to me across the kitchen table. Nonchalantly, really. A universe of feelings, fragments of thoughts. Oh - and there's the floating-out-of-your-own-body-looking-down experience. Wasn't expecting that. Wait. Is that relief? See, being a pessimist is messed-up in times like this. I'd already prepared myself for the worst - you know instant death, homelessness, insanity - that kind of stuff. "So really," my dumb brain reassures me, "this isn't so bad. We can deal with this." Shut up brain.

"Shit," I mutter. We all kind of look at each other. My mom pastes on a smile and talks about the day. The doctor was good. There's a plan moving forward. We all make jokes. "Oh, ha ha, if you wanted attention, you should have just said so." Make the best of a bad situation and all that.

Really, it had been a very quick journey to this point. My dad had a quadruple bypass about 10 years ago, and those things don't last forever, you know. Chest pains brought him to the hospital (conveniently on my 37th birthday) and stents were the solution. Except when his blood sugar wouldn't regulate. And when he started turning yellow. And then when he was tired all day. A domino effect had started and that's how the cancer was eventually discovered.

Now, I know the way I'm writing this seems all very dramatic and theatrical. This is the hard part about me being me. The Barber in me demands that I soldier on, bake some dinners, clean up some yards, and be useful. The Barber in me repeats, "It is what it is," and other such tough-upper-lip sentiments. The Allen in me wants to collapse on the sofa, crying tears of anguish. The Allen in me wants to wallow, and demand sympathy and attention. I think nearly all of my depression and anxiety comes back to me flopping from one side of my personality to another, (adding in a healthy dose of self-hatred, of course). The person hardest hit by this is Bryce. One moment, I can be vigorously cleaning a toilet, and the next I'm on the floor of our closet sobbing. I have enough mood swings for the whole family.

Okay, so back to cancer. We've entered that stage of life where we "take it one day at a time." Some days are good, some days are bad. And chemo hasn't even started yet. It's like when you're hiking and you get to the top of a really shitty hill only to discover that there's another even shittier hill behind that one. And you feel like dropping into the dirt and having an old-fashioned toddler melt-down. I can't begin to imagine what my mom and dad are experiencing.

But one thing they have is support. Support from their church, their neighbors, and of course their families. So we'll prop them up one day at a time and value each and every moment we have, all the while hoping there's one more moment, and then another, and another after that. Because my dad is the most amazing man in the world and I'm not ready for anything less.
"Get well, not worse." Cole's get well-card, featuring Pa's cool heart


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Structural Challenge

You remember when they used to make you build bridges from thin sheets of wood in junior high? Well, this was that. With Legos. And less angst.
From left to right: Bryce's, mine, Cole's
Check out those rock-balancing skills!
Careful monitoring of build rules...


Jack's could even hold all of his body weight!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Trip of Necessity

I know I don't talk about work much on the blog, but every so often is can be kind of fun. I was nominated to be a part of a two-year leadership program, and the first session was in St. Louis. Bryce and I needed a just-us trip, so we decided he'd fly out after the session and we'd do some fun stuff. I knew it wasn't the top of our list of places to go, but we have fun no matter where we go. However, I should have been warned when this was the response from all of the people who had been to St. Louis:
 
"So, what should we do in St. Louis?"
"Well, there's the arch."
"Cool. What else?
"And...um.....BBQ?"
 
Our hotel was located in beautiful downtown St. Louis; a massive grid of plain 60's-style office buildings and parking structures. We were right next to the courthouse and the arch, so I got to see that famous arch pretty quick. It was pretty impressive.
My room overlooked the courthouse, and just beyond that Cardinal's stadium, where the baseball team plays. However, my first night there it was host to a Metallica concert. All night, I heard muffled guitar, angry lead singer, and the "raaaarrrrrr" of a drunk crowd. That's the closest to a Metallica concert I'd like to get, I think.
The glowing lights of metal rock
It was also kinda fun to see the Mississippi River. It's big.
The leadership session was fantastic and it was extra fun to be there with Sarah, one of my closest friends. Amy joined us and sportingly put up with our nightly cocktail(s).
From left to right: me, Sarah, Amy
Finally, the conference ended and Bryce arrived. That night, we rode up the arch to see the view. It was awesome as long as you didn't think about the fact that you were traveling in a small oval chamber with three other strangers up a serious of tracks to the very top of a super-high arch. But the view was pretty incredible.
 
We spent our first day at Forest Park, a gigantic area containing the Fine Arts Museum, the Zoo, and the old Worlds' Fair pavilion. And some other stuff. I wore flip flops, so most of the day is a blur of hot humid sunshine and streaking pain in my feet. But everything was free, so that was a positive.
 
I particularly enjoyed the Fine Arts Museum. We got to see this Monet, and it sorta changed the way I see art. You have to see it in person. I've seen plenty of pictures of Monet, but I felt this one. See, even looking at this picture, you think, "Oh - muted colors and seaweed." But there? There it is was a shimmery pond with warm glowing yellow flowers that soothed your soul. 
They also had a cool section of armor on display.
 
By the end of the day, we were pretty done with St. Louis. We still had another day to go. I had heard about this place called the Central West End, and we decided we had nowhere else to go.
 
We hit our groove there.
 
It had a bunch of hipster-y stores and restaurants and these old historic homes that were super cool.  We went and saw Wonder Woman at a small theater in a hotel. They also had a vodka bar. Sigh....
 
We were on our way back to the hotel on the train when we emerged from our vodka-infused state and noticed everyone wearing Cardinals gear. So, in typical-Danielle-decision-making style, we decided to go to the game. People tell you that you haven't really seen a game until you've been to a major league stadium.
 
Let me tell you something. Those people are big fat liars. Or, they really like sitting extra close to a guy eating jalapeno nachos and a woman screaming at children and throwing doodle sheets of conspiracy theories at people in the crowd. We stayed until someone scored a home run and I figured we had eeked out as much fun as we could from the cost of the tickets. Bryce probably would have stayed, but I was...persistent.
 
The next day we flew home. Yay!
 
So - thanks, St. Louis, we enjoyed ourselves and will never need to come back again.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Little Red...Briefly

A few years ago, I did a bike tour called Little Red. It's an all women ride up in Lewiston, Utah. It was transformative. I loved it. I felt like I could do anything when I finished my 50 miles.
Jennifer, Shannon, and I - before the torture began

For various reasons I haven't gone over the past couple of years. I signed up again and did my best to get some riding in beforehand, but I knew I wasn't well-prepared. So the day of, I pushed my miles down to 36.
 
I wanted to die.
 
Let's talk about how I felt as old ladies and people substantially larger than me zoomed by as I huffed and puffed and tried not to throw up. There were numerous times I wanted to pull off the road, sit my ass down on the ground, and wait for one of the support vehicles to pick me up and drive me back. Part of the problem is that you got one pit stop 13 miles in, and then nothing for the remaining 22 miles. No shade, no bathrooms, no energy goo to force down. Sheer will kept me on that bike. That and Shannon, who was so amazing I can't even begin.
 
Part of me is ashamed at how difficult it was. But part of me is proud that I finished. That even though I didn't have the same smiling victory face as last time, it was a face that finished.  

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Kindergarten Graduation

How?!  How is it this time so soon? My sunshine is graduating from Kindergarten. While the year started a little rough, he's come such a long way. We were happy to see him come so far!
 
Jack's first day of school (left) and his last (right).
 
The Kindergarten program - Jack's waving, as usual
Our graduate!
Pa & Nana
Mom & Dad
Jack with his teacher, Ms. Kinneberg

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cute Girls

In a trampoline park full of little boys, Jack predictably latches on to the cute teenage girl.
"Her name's Olivia, mom. We're a team."


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day

Another Mother's Day in the books. It was truly lovely to spend time with the best mom in the world and the two cute boys who made me a mom.
 
I'm pretty lucky.