It's Friday night, and I wanted to do something special, so I took Ava to see The Lion King at the theater.  As I explained waaaaay back in my first blog entry, The Lion King actually played a bit of a role in the naming of this site.  Each time we left the hospital with one of our babies, I would hold them up in the air like in the "Circle of Life" scene and cry out, "Look!  Look what I have made!"  And there you have it - Look What Danny Made!

This is the first time I've had the chance to see a movie just with Ava.  I've been to plenty with Blake, who loves movies, and a few with the whole family, but never one with just her.  I didn't tell her where we were going until we reached the theater, and when she saw where we were, she was so excited.  She asked if we could have popcorn, so of course I said yes.

I've seen this movie a LOT of times.  It came out when I was still a student at A&M, so I can never forget the experience of watching this in a room full of other Aggies, for whom an elephant graveyard has a whole different significance, and laughing as all the juniors in the theater whooped at that scene.  Anyway, after seeing it so many times, my mind wandered during the movie.  Here's a loose transcript of my inner monologue...

"Oh man, I totally was not ready for the father-son stuff in this movie.  Ouch.  Hmm?  Nothing, sweetheart, there's just something in Daddy's eyes.  There sure are a lot of lionesses and cubs in this movie, but no adult male lions except Mufasa and Scar.  I think Simba wasn't the only cub to lose a Daddy in the stampede.  Huh.  I can't be the first person to notice how similar Triumph of the Will is to the scene where the hyenas go marching past Scar.  Way to enjoy the moment with your daughter, Holwerda.  She's going to town on the popcorn, and you're thinking about Leni Riefenstahl.  Simba is led through underbrush and tunnels by Rafiki, an eccentric shaman, until he sees his own reflection and realizes that his father, who is voiced by James Earl Jones, lives in him.  In Empire Strikes Back, Luke is led into a tunnel by Yoda, an eccentric shaman, until he sees his own face in Darth Vader, who he later finds out is his father, and who is voiced by James Earl Jones.  Whoa."

Here's a loose transcript of Ava's completely verbal reactions...

"Daddy!  Let's move to the back of the theater so we can see the whole screen better!  Daddy!  That's my favorite shirt of yours that you're wearing!  Daddy!  Where's the popcorn?  Daddy!  Why is Scar so mean?  Daddy!  What's Mufasa's last name?  Daddy!  Does Simba miss his daddy?  Daddy! Is that an octopus or an elephant?  Daddy! Hakuna matata!  Daddy! Can we see Papa in the stars?  Daddy! Do I have to wear these glasses the whole time?  Daddy! They got Scar!"

One time I shushed my own mom at the movies.  That's how crazy it makes me when people talk through the movie.  I have to admit, though, I was loving every word out of Ava's mouth.
3D Ava


Return of Project Horror!

One year ago, when Look What Danny Made! was just a baby blog, I found my writing legs by launching my first ever blog project, Project Horror.  The rules were simple:
  1. At least one horror movie every day in the month of October
  2. No movies that I'd seen before (although I did end up making one teensy exception to that rule)
It was a blast!  As October drew closer this year, I decided that it was time to do it again.  Here's the conversation I had with Courtney about it.

ME: "I hope you don't mind, I'm going to be hijacking the Netflix queue for a little while for another Project Horror.  (next part is in creepy horror movie trailer voice) Because every good fright deserves a sequel!"
HER: "(eyeroll) I can't be-LIEVE you just said that."

I took that to mean that she gave it her blessing.  Yay!

I'm sticking to the same basic rules again this year (although I will have, again, one exception to the "never seen it before" rule).  But I have to mix it up at least a little bit to keep it interesting, right?  I considered doing it entirely with movies that are available on Netflix instant streaming (or as it is soon to be known, just plain Netflix [which, don't even get me started...]) and calling it Project Horror II: It Came From Instant Streaming.  A little bit of time spent browsing the streaming catalog, though, convinced me that it wouldn't be a very enjoyable month if I only used those titles.

Instead, here are a few of the new elements that I'll be introducing to the Project Horror witch's brew in order to give life to Return of Project Horror:
  • Guest Bloggers: a few of my most cinephilic friends are going to be co-authoring entries along with me!
  • Exclusive Director's Commentary: it just so happens that the director of one of the movies in this month's features is an old friend of mine, and he has agreed to give an exclusive commentary on it to Look What Danny Made!
  • Another Look What Danny Made! party: I had so much fun eating Miracle Fruit with you people that I added a crowd-pleaser to the line-up, just so I could have folks over to join me again.  Mark your calendars now - if you will be in Lubbock on Friday, October 28th, you'll want to come!  More details soon.
  • Watch Along With Danny: I've kept my viewing schedule a secret in the past, so that the surprise of each day's movie was part of the fun.  I'm going to flex that rule a little bit this year, and announce each title the night before so you can go find it at Redbox or pull it out of your collection and watch it with me.  If it's available for instant streaming, I'll let you know that, too.  (About a third of them will be.)
And, of course, I have to tell you ahead of time what this year's themes are:
  • October 1-5:  Vampire Variations
  • October 6-10:  Slashers
  • October 11-15:  Parlez-vous d'horreur? 
  • October 16-20:  Cult & Indies 
  • October 21-25:  Evil Twins & Children 
  • October 26-30:  Campy & B-Movies 
  • October 31 (HALLOWEEN!):  Danny's Choice
I still haven't decided what my choice for Halloween will be.  Give me your best suggestions.  I want something that I have to watch between the cracks in my fingers!

TOMORROW: 30 Days of Night

Fried Fun on a Stick


Every year since we first started dating, Courtney and I have gone to the Fair when it comes to town.  When we were younger and had no kids with us, we'd make a leisurely evening of it, go on a few rides together, maybe stick around to watch a show after eating.  It's more of a challenge with three kids, and we don't really go on any of the rides ourselves anymore, but it's also a lot more fun.  I'm not going to write a lot about it other than to caption the pictures, but here's some shots of the family at the Fair tonight!

Jack chowed down on a corndog.
Ava enjoying her corndog

Ava and Jack went on a spinning ride that looked like hot air balloons.  They were both happy at first.
But this is how they looked after a few spins.
The race cars left everybody happy.
And Blake loved the Indiana Jones obstacle course.
"Fly, fly, Lil' Sebastian!"
He holds one of these every year, and every year he has the same look on his face.
Inside the petting zoo area
This was as close as Jack wanted to get to any of the animals.  Maybe he's more like me than I imagine.

I love his sweet face so much in this one.  Lord, guide and protect these, thy sheep.

On the way out, we stopped at a booth where the kids made power bands, those bracelets with the colored beads that give a visual of salvation.
And last, but not least, Ava turned four years old on September 25th!  I didn't get many pictures, but I did get one of her opening her favorite present, a CD player for her room.  She'd been asking for one for a while, and was so excited to have music at bedtime now!
Ava was born while the Fair was in town, four years ago.  The day after Ava was born, while Courtney was still recovering in the hospital, Courtney asked me if I'd go to the Fair and bring her back a fried cheese on a stick.  Of course I would!  If you go to the Fair before 1 PM, it's free to park and go in.  I got there at ten after one.  I pulled the phone out of my pocket, showed a photo of my beautiful newborn daughter to the man at the parking booth, and told him I had just enough money in my pocket for a cheese on a stick for my wife.  He let me in.  At the gate, I had the same conversation with the ticket taker, and showed her a different picture of the little girl who took my breath away from the first moment I saw her.  She let me in, too.  Then I got to the booth that sells the fried cheese, and was so excited that I made everybody inside look at a picture, too, with a smile that never left my face.  I'm smiling even now, just thinking of it.  I smile every day that I am with her.

(PS - I have a new comment system installed, and I want you all to try it out!)
(PPS - Return of Project Horror begins this weekend!)

Look What Danny Remade!


Don't panic!  I know that the page looks different from last time you were here.  But if you remember, I did tell you that changes were in the works.  Let me know what you think of the new design.

The other day, Courtney was telling me about something she'd read on The Bloggess, and I had to stop her to ask if she also reads my blog still.
"Well, yeah, but you posted like two days ago about changes that were coming, and nothing is different yet."
"Yuh-huh!  I have a Facebook fan page now!"

(By the way, I have a Facebook fan page now.  I cannot emphasize enough how personally validating it is for me every time somebody "Likes" my blog.  Please, recommend it to your friends who you think may also enjoy reading Look What Danny Made!)

Little did Courtney know that I was intentionally delaying the unveiling of my new design so that it would coincide with Facebook's unveiling of their truly awful newest round of changes.  By comparison, anything I do is going to look AWESOME!  There are still a few tweaks to be made, and a few more features in the works, but I'm interested in hearing what you think, too.

ALSO!  Your old bookmarks will still work, but you can now reach Look What Danny Made! at our new address - http://LookWhatDannyMade.com

When you register domains through GoDaddy (and probably through anybody else), they try to upsell you with all kinds of additional features for your site, including variations of your address.  For instance, LookWhatDannyMade.org, LookWhatDannyMade.net, and LookWhatDannyMade.info - yeah, I bought them all.  What's funny, though, is that it also tries to sell you domain names with variations of the words in your address.  I actually got a screenshot of it, which I then lost, but here's some of the best recommendations:
  • DannyMadeThis.com
  • ObserveWhatDannyCreated.com
  • SeeDannysFabrications.com
I won't lie - I was really tempted to register Observe What Danny Created, just for the heck of it.  But that ain't my brand, baby.  I'm living the Look What Danny Made! life!

Getting Better All the Time


I wanted to post this yesterday, on my birthday, but Jack's birthday present to me was to royally screw up my computer.  While I was in another room doing something with Ava, he opened it up and discovered how fun it was to press the power button again and again and again.  Sometimes he'd mix it up by pressing the button that launches the computer into Media Center and then pressing the power button again.  After running an hour-long disk scan, I was finally able to get the thing to boot, but I still haven't been able to get it to connect to my home network.  I think I've just now decided that Jack's real birthday present to me will be for me to cash in a portion of his college fund to buy myself a new computer.

The name of this post is "Getting Beter All the Time," a title I chose for two reasons.

First, my family is doing well.  The weeks since Papa's death have been very difficult, but we're healing every day.  September 13th would have been his 64th birthday, and the whole family went out for dinner together to celebrate him.  A generous friend was dining in the same restaurant and bought our dinner, which touched us all.  So many people have reached out to us, and I've heard from lots of folks who have been inspired by Papa's words.

Second, as I mentioned above, yesterday was my birthday.  You know what I love about my birthday?  It's a yearly reminder that I just keep getting better.  All the time.  One of my lifelong friends, Jason, called me yesterday to wish me a happy birthday and to see how I'm doing.  He told me that he was ready to start reading about the latest silly stuff that I'm up to again.  I'm also ready to write about that again.  Look What Danny Made! is a year old now, too!  I launched it towards the end of last September, but I've decided that we share the same birthday.  Just as I keep getting better each year, so shall Look What Danny Made! continue to improve.  Between now and the end of September, keep watching this space.  I've got some improvements lined up for various areas of the site, in terms of appearance and interactivity.  I'll announce the changes as they arrive, and I think there'll be some fun things in store.

And just to whet your appetite, we're only two and a half weeks away from October, which means...

In His Own Words


I promise that I'm not going to turn this into the all-Bob-blog (and I also promise there are some fun things coming up in the next couple of months!), but obviously my dad is still very much in my thoughts.  I've dreamed about him nearly every night for the past two weeks, sometimes happily, sometimes with difficulty.  Night before last, when I couldn't get to sleep and it was far too late to call any of my friends in Texas, I called a friend in California.

"I read what you wrote about your dad.  It was beautiful...  Did it help you to write it?"
"Yes, I think so."
"Write more."

I haven't had the chance to share with you about Papa's funeral yet.  Actually, I should tell you first that he wanted no funeral.  He didn't want to inconvenience us or his friends.  Luckily, we didn't have to go against his wishes - my mom convinced him that the service wouldn't be for him, it would be for us.  We held the funeral at Bacon Heights Baptist Church in Lubbock (where he and my mom are members, and where my brother-in-law Mike is an associate pastor) on August 29th.  I have to say, for as smart a man as Papa was, he really underestimated how many people would want to commemorate his life.  I know that the number of attendees at your funeral is not a reliable measure of your life, but it was amazing to see just how many friends from different areas of his life came out.

Mike opened the service with some really great reminiscences, and then my brother and I each spoke.  Although neither of us had compared notes with the other before the service, we each ended up sharing things that my dad had written as part of our memories.  I'd like to share those things with you.

I was completely stuck as to what I was going to say.  Every time I thought of a good story to illustrate Papa's life, I could think of ten others that seemed like they should also be shared.  I did what I do when I get hopelessly logjammed - I started to clean house, so that I could feel like I was at least doing something.  While I was going through some papers on top of my dresser, I came across a letter that my dad wrote to me on Christmas 2007.  His gift to me that year was an envelope with 25 coupons in it, with things like "Call Papa for a movie outing with Blake! Popcorn included" or "Call Papa to bring dinner for the whole family when you and Courtney are pressed for time!"  There was also a letter, which I read in the service, and which several people asked if I could post online.  Here is a link to that letterIt touched me deeply, because he was giving me encouragement that I really needed, at a time when I really needed it.  I decided that the one thing I want people to remember my dad for was his generosity.  He loved to find out one thing that you really needed, and help you with that thing, whether it was through service or a tangible gift.  He often did this anonymously, or with the knowledge of only a few people.  In just the past two weeks, I've heard stories from many friends (some of which I also shared in the service) telling how he'd helped them in a hard time.

Mark spoke next, and painted such a wonderful picture of Papa as a man who valued integrity, faith, and fun.  He told the story about the last out of the last inning of last year's World Series, and how Papa (who grew up near San Francisco and was a lifelong, die-hard, true-as-they-come Giants fan) sprinted around the house, screaming, until he plopped down on the living room floor, pumping his hands and feet in the air until he was exhausted.  Then he stood up and simply said, "I can't believe I lived to see the Giants win the World Series again."

Mark also shared some excerpts from a beautiful, engaging essay that Papa wrote several years ago, titled "To Know and Believe," which both of us were also asked for, and which I've linked to here.  He wrote this as his personal statement of faith as a man who believed both in the power of God and in the marvelous opportunities to understand God's creation through the discipline of science.  He truly believed that these were two areas that don't have to exist in conflict with one another.  I could pull quote after quote that I love from this essay, but really - just read it, and you'll know my dad.

OK, one quote, because I love it so much:
If truth is to be found at all, then it must be God’s truth. For this reason, Christians are not threatened by any scientific theory and should not look to science as an advocate with regard to matters that properly fall within the spiritual realm. Think about that for a minute. If the theory of evolution was proved to be correct, would your faith in God be endangered? Does your belief in the Bible rest upon the premise that the earth is very young? Is your relationship with God centered on the issue of whether the six days of Genesis 1 are literal days or not? I’m not saying that Christians should change their beliefs to accommodate popular scientific opinions.  However, we must not discount scientific discoveries on the prejudiced thesis that only certain kinds of truth are acceptable to God.
Three more things:
  1. My sister Kristen gives her own, very touching, perspective at her blog.
  2. Here is a link to my dad's memorial page.  If you would like to leave a memory of him or a message for the family, we'd love to see it.
  3. I mentioned this on Facebook already, but last Friday the president and chancellor of Texas Tech ordered the school flag to be flown at half mast to honor Papa's 33 years of service to the school.  Here's a picture taken by a friend of Mark's.

Best Laid Plans


The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

-Robert Burns

 I actually started typing this entry at about 9:45 PM on August 24th.  It's been sitting here, saved as a draft ever since then, and is edited into a much different post than it started as.  See, I had planned to post an update on Papa's condition, but then I got a phone call from my mom just before 10:30 to let me know that he had died.  A plan gone askew.

This summer was the first time since Blake's birth in 2004 that we've really had to think about what we were going to do for childcare.  He finished kindergarten in the spring, and he was the first of our three kids to be in the situation of not being in full-time, year-round daycare or preschool anymore.  As we put together plans for what he would do this summer, my parents kindly offered to let him come to their house two days a week.  Blake loved this.  So did I.  As an end of summer treat to themselves, my parents had planned to take a month-long trip to Lake Tahoe.  They would have left this week.  Another plan gone askew.

So, here is what happened, and there is so much to tell that I already know I'll leave some of it unsaid.  I already told you about the infection of flesh-eating bacteria in his leg.  It turns out that the reason his immune system was suppressed enough for the infection to take hold was because of what turned out to be a very aggressive case of leukemia.  What followed that diagnosis was a week and a half of ups and downs.  Papa took several days to regain lucidity, but he knew we were there with him throughout that time.  When he started to wake up more, all of us were able to talk with him.  Some days he would seem really strong.  Others weren't as good.  We were never able to start chemo treatments because his white blood cell count never fully rebounded from the infection.  Another plan...

On Sunday the 21st, Papa had a heart attack.  It wasn't as severe as the one he had last summer, but it was enough to weaken him even farther.  Surgical repairs were out of the question, as were blood thinners, since his blood platelets were so low that even a minor bleed could quickly become a severe problem.  The next few days went quickly downhill, until Wednesday.  On Wednesday, all of the doctors who had treated Papa conferred with each other and agreed that while they could keep air in his lungs and blood moving through his veins, that was about all they could offer.  Papa was removed from everything except medicine to keep him comfortable, and I spent his last afternoon with him watching old movies on Turner Classics and holding his hand.

Courtney and I took the kids and met friends for dinner, and then I went back to the hospital.  Not directly, though.  Papa had been asking for root beer floats for days, and I decided that he should have one, so I stopped at Sonic.  When I reached his room, he drank all of the root beer in three long swallows.  He thanked me, told me he loved me, and said to put the ice cream aside for him to eat a little later.  And that's the last thing he ever said to me.  He didn't get to eat the ice cream.  Best laid plans...

I've already gone on for paragraphs just telling you what happened, and I haven't even started to tell you how I feel about it all.  I guess if I had sense, I'd break this into several different blog entries, but I don't think I have it in me.  I have to pull this band-aid off all at once.  I already miss him so much.  Every day I reach for the phone to tell him something.  Throughout the whole hospital stay, even after we got the leukemia diagnosis, I kept imagining there would be more time.  I don't feel like anything important went unsaid between us, but there was still so much that I wanted to do with Papa.  We were planning a camping trip with the boys in the Ozarks next summer.  I wanted to interview him and record his voice for the kids to have when they were older.  I hoped maybe he'd be able to make it to Grandparents Day at Blake and Ava's new school.  I just thought there would be... more.  That was my plan.

Papa was Jack's favorite person in the world, no exaggeration.  Jack adored him.  He asks for him almost every day.  Every time it's like a knife to my heart, but I know that it's nothing compared to the pain I'll feel when he quits asking.  I'll show him pictures, I'll tell him stories, but he won't remember.

I think about how Papa's dad died when Papa was not yet 24, and I wonder how he did it.  Who did he talk with about being a husband and a father?  Who did he turn to when he needed somebody to be his biggest fan?  I keep catching myself reaching for the phone to tell him things, and then feeling silly for it.  I know that time will dull the ache, but right now it's still really fresh.  I'll get there.  It'll be OK.  That's my plan.