Acute Myelogenous Leukemia


That's Papa's diagnosis.  I've pretty much skipped the denial stage of grief, and landed feet first in anger.  I'm going to bed now.

Please Pray for my Dad


More soon about our vacation journeys, I promise.

On Tuesday night I took Blake and Ava camping at Roaring Springs.  Courtney was working that night, so my parents offered to let Jack stay with them to make the trip a little easier on me.  As we settled into our sleeping bags, Blake wanted to tell scary stories.  He went first, and told a story about a witch who brought a haunted sunken pirate ship up from the bottom of the ocean.  I decided to go with a classic, and told them the story of the hook-hand hanging from the car's mirror.  Then it was Ava's turn.

"Once upon a time, there was a princess who liked to ride horses.  And she had a nightmare.  She was hurt and scared, and her daddy couldn't help her."

There was more to the story, but that opening stayed with me.  What's scary to Ava is thinking of situations where Daddy can't help.  I held her in my arms as we went to sleep that night.

We returned home the next day and picked up Jack, and my dad mentioned that he felt like he'd sprained his knee, because it was very sore.  My mom called me Thursday morning to see if I'd help her take him to the doctor.  His knee was swollen to the size of a cantaloupe, was bright red, and radiated heat.  The doctor diagnosed him with cellulitis, an inflammatory skin condition, prescribed antibiotics and painkillers, and released us.  We were still worried, but felt like we at least had a handle on things.

Two days later, things had not improved.  I called my mom to check on him, and while we were speaking, he tried to get up and fell to the ground.  He managed to get up but fell again.  Mom called an ambulance and took Papa to the hospital, where he was up all night being moved around and having tests.

This morning Papa's organs started going into failure, especially his kidneys.  His heart went into atrial fibrillation, his platelet count dropped through the floor, and his blood pressure was very low.  When a surgeon visited, they quickly diagnosed the problem as necrotizing fasciitis, flesh-eating bacteria.  They took him to surgery almost right away.


And then the surgeon came to the waiting room to speak with us.  They removed all skin, fatty tissue and muscle from below his knee to his hip.  They're pretty sure they got ahead of the infection, but may still have to do more surgery.  She kept talking in terms of "if he lives," and tried to prepare us for the chance that he might have to lose the leg in order to survive.  None of us can believe how quickly this has all happened.  We still don't really even know what caused the infection, but right now my father is sedated and fighting for his leg, and his life.  Even in the best case scenario, he'll probably be recovering for three to four weeks in the burn ICU, where there are more sterile conditions.

I had a nightmare.  My dad was hurt and scared, and I couldn't help him.  I couldn't help him.

Kid's Got Moves, Part 2: The Peffercorn Event


I haven't had much chance to get back to the blog in the last two weeks.  After I posted the wrap-up article for Enter The Danny, I spent the rest of the week scrambling to get stuff for the examiners who were at the bank, and that's where my mind was.  This week I've been on vacation, which has been awesome, and which has also had me on the road away from my computer.  I'll have some more about all of that in a day or two.

Although I've still got the weekend ahead of me, today was my last day of vacation.  *Sigh...*  Like my sister, I am really good at being on vacation.  After I dropped off Jack and Ava, Blake and I had some breakfast at Burrito Tower, hit the gym for a while, and then went swimming after lunch.  Most of my swimming trips this summer have been far from relaxing, since I've usually got all three kids with me, and Courtney is asleep after working the night before.  Since there is no shallow end, this means that I spend the whole time in the pool holding on to Jack (who wants nothing more than to escape my grasp) and Ava (who wants nothing more than to wrap her arms and legs as tightly as possible around me the second water touches her body).  Today, though, was my chance to kick back by the side of the pool with a magazine and soak up some sunshine, jumping in sometimes to play with Blake.

I've complimented Blake on these pages before for his advanced mojo, and I got another glimpse of it today.

When it was time to go, I motioned to Blake; he dried off, put on his shoes and shirt, and then told me he had to do one more thing before we left.  There were some white wildflowers growing at the base of the fence behind our chairs.  He plucked one of them, stood up, and walked to the other end of the pool, where he reached up to the lifeguard sitting in her chair and handed her the flower.  From where I sat, I could only see all of this, not hear it, so of course I had to ask him how it went as we were walking out.

"What did you say to her?"
"I told her that I picked a flower for her, and I think her ponytail is pretty."
"Nice.  What did she say?"
"She said, 'Thank you!  That's really sweet!'  Do girls really like getting flowers?"
"Yeah, they do.  That was a smooth move, son."
"Daddy, no!  I just wanted to do something nice for her."
I looked back over my shoulder to see her smiling and holding the flower up to show to the lifeguard on the other side of the pool.  Both of them had their eyes on Blake as we left.
"Well, I think you did something very nice.  I think you made her very happy.  And you're right, her ponytail is pretty."

I'll have to show him The Sandlot sometime soon.


Tap Out: A Look Back at Enter The Danny


"In one's life, there are levels in the pursuit of study.  In the lowest level, a person studies but nothing comes of it.... In the middle level he is still useless but is aware of his own insufficiencies and can also see the insufficiencies of others.  In a higher level he has pride concerning his own ability, rejoices in praise from others, and laments the lack of ability in his fellows.
These are the levels in general.  But there is one transcending level, and this is the most excellent of all.  This person is aware of the endlessness of entering deeply into a certain Way and never thinks of himself as having finished."  From The Hagakure: The Way of the Samurai

Enter The Danny is the fourth project that I've done for the blog.  When I start a project for Look What Danny Made!, I like to have some kind of arc or journey in mind for it.  To accomplish that journey, I'll break viewing projects into themed groups and save some of the best movies for last, or I'll try to decide on a really good finale, like the party at the end of Project Gastronome.  I started this project with two thoughts in my head about the directions I wanted it to take.

First, as I mentioned in the post where I introduced Enter The Danny, I really, really liked the TV show Fight Quest, and I wanted to try an experience similar to what the fighters on that show had, albeit on a much more modest scale.  Second, I envisioned getting plenty of laughs from my readers when they watched the big guy getting repeatedly beaten up.  As it turns out, neither of those things really came to pass, and the project went in a direction entirely different than what I had anticipated.

On the first point, I had my mind changed before the project ever began.  My original vision was to try a different martial art each week of the month, kind of like the guys on the show.  My friend John talked some sense into me on that one: "Those guys have studied martial arts for decades.  If they're able to compete in a new discipline within a week, it's because they've already got very solid fundamentals."  True.  I shifted my focus instead to seeing how much knowledge an average guy could pick up within the span of a month.

Being unable to take video in class ruled out the second angle, but I think that it was actually a good thing.  When I started this, I thought that a lot of the appeal for people would be "watch Danny get painfully knocked down" kind of like a lot of the appeal of Project Gastronome was "watch Danny choke down awful food."  Once I got a few classes in, though, I realized that there was a lot less of that happening than I'd anticipated.  Not having the camera there also made me much less conscious of where I needed to be, and of trying to provide a highlight-worthy moment, which was good since my mind needed to be in the class and not on the camera.

What are the lessons I learned this month?  Here are a few, in no order.
  • One of the biggest reasons people give for studying martial arts is that it gives them confidence.  I always wondered just how much there was to that.  It's really true, though.  I still consider myself an absolute beginner, but in just one month I was able to face some fears and learn that I am stronger than I thought.
  • There are actually only a few moments in a fight that really hurt, but just the act of being in a fight is still a tremendous effort.  Also, the easiest way to start a fight?  Just start fighting.
  • Throughout this month, I continued to work with my trainer and started a meal plan he gave me, so BJJ wasn't the only thing I was doing.  Still, it is worth pointing out that I lost nine pounds this month.
  • Many of my preconceived notions about what it would be like to study a martial art were completely wrong.  You know in Karate Kid (the original, real one), when the evil instructor is all, "Pain does not exist in this dojo!  RAAWRGH!"  That's an extreme example, but I wondered if that's the mentality I would face.  Instead, I was surrounded by students, professionals, and other seekers, and they were all very thoughtful guys.
  • I forgot to tell this story in my final entry, but I love it so much that I'm throwing it in here.  My partner in the last class was a little more experienced than me, but not a lot.  At one point, Tony sent his assistant instructor Gabe over to work with us.  I was on my back on the floor while he was demonstrating on me.  One of the steps was to bring your knee up right alongside your opponent's head, so that you can control their movement and keep them from rolling towards you.  Gabe put his knee by my ear, and my neck audibly cracked.  I crack my own neck a couple times a day, and this was a good one, like at the chiropractor, not a bad one.  Gabe was instantly off of me, though, standing beside me and asking questions to make sure I was OK.  It's probably only funny to me, because I felt great, and he was really worried for a second.  At the same time, though, I was really impressed with his concern and friendliness.  He really didn't want to proceed until I proved I could sit up and respond to questions.
About a week into this project, I realized that I wasn't like the Fight Quest guys at all.  No, I am a 21st century George Plimpton.  Stop laughing.  Although Plimpton had a broad and varied career, some of his best known works are his books about entering the world of pro sports as a layman.  For Out of My League, he pitched in the majors.  Paper Lion was about playing football with Detroit.  The Bogey Man - PGA.  Shadow Box - boxing.  Open Net - NHL.  These are just a few of the worlds that he temporarily stepped into in order to write about them.  I've never been all that into sports, so I'm not saying that I want to follow down that path.  It's been done.  But this was a thought that kept coming back to me this month - this is a thing that I want to pursue.  I want to find new experiences that push me outside of my comfort zone, and I want to share them with the world.  I'm really serious about this, and although I'm not entirely sure how to pursue it yet, I've found something that makes me really happy.  I am a 21st century George Plimpton.

A few people have asked me if I plan to continue now that I've reached the end of the project.  That's a good question, and I'm going back and forth on the answer to it. The biggest limiting factor, as with most things, is time and money. I enjoy it, but I don't know if I enjoy it enough to dive deeper into it. I've been able to do the lessons this month because of Tony's generosity, and even though the cost of continuing them wouldn't be terribly expensive, we do have some added expenses coming up this fall that we're trying to plan for. On top of that, there's the expense of having a babysitter come to the house each time a lesson falls on one of the evenings that Courtney is working. Over the course of this month, that's added up to about as much as a month of lessons normally would. My parents are very cool and welcoming to their grandkids, but I don't want to saddle them with the kids three nights a week, either.

As far as getting the boys (or Ava!) into it, I think it could be a positive thing. On one of the evenings that I took Blake up there with me, he actually sparred a little with a boy who is in the kids class while I interviewed Tony. He loved it! Again, though, our evening schedule would make it kind of tough to work out the timing for it, and I think there's some other things he's more interested in. For instance, he's been asking about violin lessons for a while. I think Jack may be the fighter in our family!

I'd like to extend thanks to all of the folks who made Enter The Danny possible.  To each of my training partners, thank you for your patience with a newbie and for making this month a lot of fun.  To all of the babysitters who came over on nights that Courtney was working, I really appreciate your time, and I'll be happy to refer you to my friends!  To everybody who read and commented, thanks for letting me know that I wasn't just sending these entries out into the void.

Most of all, thank you to Tony "The Gun" Bonello for opening your class to me, and for making this month a successful reality.  Your passion for what you do really comes through in the way that you teach your class, and I enjoyed myself immensely.

Final verdict: Although I learned a lot, I'm a lover, not a fighter, baby.