Wednesday, February 24, 2016

End of Watch 1/17/16

Last week I wrote two posts on about my brother-in-law Doug's death.  I'm glad I posted them there, but it's been difficult to link to them as I have to explain how to display them properly and then link to both individually.  So I decided to combine them here for ease of sharing or referring to later.  You can still visit the Imgur pages to see the amazing comments from over a thousand strangers.  Here is what I wrote when I linked to them on Facebook:

Last night I wrote two posts about my experience with Doug's passing. I didn't realize this would happen, but there was a big response and there have been over 18,000 likes on the posts, and over a thousand really sweet comments. Erika suggested I post them to her wall so others could see.

This is the first post:
*When you get to the bottom of the pictures you have to click on "load remaining 14 images" to see the full post.

This is the second post:
*At the bottom of the pictures you'll want to click on "load remaining 7 images" to see the end.

Here are the posts as the appear on

Last month on a Sunday morning, my brother in law, Doug Barney, was shot while responding to the scene of an accident.  He died a few hours later in the hospital.  Another police office was shot in the leg and survived.

I'm writing this because I want to talk about it.  I guess I'm still processing what happened.  Honestly it's really hard to believe he's really gone.  I also want to talk about what kind of man Doug was.

Doug had been a cop for 18 years and was a credit to his profession.  I realize that there are a lot of serious issues right now with law enforcement, and I have to say that Doug embodied exactly what a police officer should be.  

There have been so many amazing tributes from fellow police officers and law enforcement around the country, but I just want to talk for a moment about the man that I knew as a family member.

The best way I think I can describe Doug is that he was a lot like Steve Irwin.  He was passionate about his career, he was excellent at what he did, and he was probably the most charismatic person I've ever met.  I mentioned this to my sister and a few friends a few nights after his death and we laughed so hard we cried while we did impressions of the "American Cop" Steve Irwin.  "Crikey!  Look at the size of this perp!  He had a rap sheet THIS long!"

Doug was a gifted storyteller and his job gave him endless material to talk about at family parties or even just driving together in the car.  Everyone sort of stopped what they were doing when he started a story so we could listen and laugh our heads off.

Back in the day we had some Ghost Recon LAN parties with Doug. Such good memories.  Pretty much if you were in a room with Doug, you were laughing at something he said.

Doug was amazing with kids.  He had a genuine love for them and an ability to make them feel like they were the coolest and most special person in the room, even when 15 other kids were running around.  I was 12 years old when Doug married my sister and I got to experience this first hand.  Doug was an instant hero.

More than anything, Doug loved to hold babies.  If there was a baby in the room, he begged to hold it.  If he went to church he'd ask any family with a new baby if he could hold it.  You can imagine how magical having his own children was/having a dad like that was.

This is Doug getting a hug from his shy niece Ella.  He had begged her for a half hour, and finally started offering her money to give him a hug!  We were all in tears laughing by the time he got to five dollars and she ran up and gave him a big hug!  She's 11 years old now, and still has that five dollar bill. 

This is Doug holding my baby girl when she was one month old in 2010.

Doug was a car guy.  A passionate car guy.  His father was a mechanic and Doug picked up a lot from him growing up.  He had a magical ability to be able to tell the make and model and year number of almost any car from even long distances.  He helped everyone in the family go car shopping (two of my three cars he went with me to get, including my first car).  

My son, who is three years old now, is also a passionate car guy.  He loves cars more than anything in the world, and at family parties he would run to Doug and sit on his lap to show him whatever Hot Wheels car he happened to be holding at the time.  Of course Doug knew exactly what kind of car it was and they would talk about how fast it could go!  Being a police officer, Doug naturally hooked my son up with awesome police car action!  He did this for all the nieces and nephews but for my son it was better than a trip to Disneyland.

More than anything, Doug loved his family.  

And oh boy, did he love my sister.  Through their whole marriage, no one ever doubted his love for her.  You could be as sure of it as the sun rising in the east.  Erika matched him in her love back.

Doug also struggled with bladder cancer for over a decade.  Several years ago he had to have his bladder completely removed and a "neobladder" was made from part of his lower intestine.  We all hoped this was the end, but after awhile he developed pain in his bladder that was so bad he couldn't function anymore.  They had to remove it and he had a bag that hung on the outside of his stomach to collect urine.

He hated that bag.  It was a pain in the ass, it grossed him out, and he couldn't whip his gun out from his hip like the other cops!  He wanted to look cool!  As much as he hated it he wouldn't hesitate to yell at me, "Come look at the hole into my stomach!!!" if I ever asked about it.

Doug had a lot of close calls with his life through the years with cancer, many surgeries, and frequent infections that were serious enough to be life threatening.  This is a post he put on Facebook after the neobladder was removed.  It's a bit heart wrenching to read now.

A lot of the newspaper headlines claimed he was shot while "working overtime to pay off medical bills."  This really bothered my sister because it wasn't quite accurate.  He had worked overtime the day before - an 18 hour day, actually, but the shift he was working that morning was his regular shift.  She also felt bad that they were exploiting the medical bill angle.  "Everyone has medical bills," she said.  We told her that ours were nothing compared to hers.  She told us she had been paying $6000 every six months to pay off their deductible.  After being horrified into silence for a moment, we told her that was not a normal expense at all.  She shrugged and said, "That's weird.  It was just normal for us."  At the time Doug died he was working consistent 80 hour weeks.

Like I said before, Doug was a credit to his profession and everything that police officers stand for.  He also loved what he did!!

I remember Cops being his favorite show for the first two years of their marriage, until he became a police officer and could experience it all for real.

This was a comment we found on one of the news articles about Doug's death.  It's from someone who Doug arrested, and I think it's a good representation of the kind of man Doug was.

The thing that pains me the most, and strikes me as incredibly ironic, is that if this man who shot Doug had instead turned around and spoken to him, that Doug could have helped him change his life.  Doug wasn't the pig enemy that this guy thought he was shooting.  He was compassionate and could relate to anyone, no matter their circumstances.

My sister spoke at the funeral.  Unusual for the widow to speak, but we were all blown away by what she said.  It was one of the most profound moments of my life listening to her.  You can watch the whole thing on YouTube if you search for Erika Barney, but these quotes were my very favorite.

Erika spoke mostly to the law enforcement officers gathered.  Within two days of Doug's death, she accepted friend requests from over 400 people on Facebook (pretty much all law enforcement), and the messages of love and support poured in.  She said their words were the most comforting thing to her during that time, I think because she felt like they understood this risk that Doug had taken more than anyone else.

Part 2

I took a screen shot of these texts because the time stamps kind of amazed me.  Erika's five siblings and mom all arrived at the hospital within minutes of each other.  My brother and I were the last to arrive and when we approached the group, they told us we were going up to say goodbye.  We hadn't even known how bad it was beyond that he was shot in the head.  I know that's pretty much a death sentence, but sometimes people do survive it and the whole drive there we were hoping, hoping, hoping.

My sister Erika worked as a 911 Dispatch operator for two years.  I think working so closely with emergencies for so long helped to prepare her a little bit for this.  She has been very collected and level headed through everything, including those minutes in the hospital.  I'm so grateful to everyone who helped to keep Doug's heart beating so that we could get there and he could be surrounded by family when he died.  If anyone reading this was involved, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

After the hospital we took the kids home and sat together to see the press conference about the shooting.  We still didn't have a great idea of what the hell had happened.  It's very weird, though, to get updates about a situation like this from the news.  You can see everyone on their phones in this picture.

They told Erika that she couldn't have the funeral in a church building as is normal for our family.  They said we'd probably have to have it in an arena and we were all astounded.  Erika shouted, "None of us is ever going to go out this big!!"  We all laughed.  Laughter is a big part of our family dynamic and part of what brings us all together.  

Having such a big profile funeral was really weird.  It was also overwhelming, in a good way.  There were benefits and drawbacks.  Overwhelming support and love from the community, but almost no opportunity to feel anything privately.

Still, our family is so, so grateful for the outpouring of love, for all the officers who came and showed support.  Thank you, thank you for being there.

The procession to the graveside was one of the best parts of the day.  Every single overpass was crowded with fire trucks and men and women in uniform, saluting the casket as it went by.  Even people on the other side of the freeway pulled over to watch us go by.  I saw trucks stopped and their drivers standing outside, saluting.  So many civilians also came out and lined the streets, thousands of people, many holding signs saying Thank you to Doug.  

They told us that the procession stretched over 50 miles and took over an hour to pass.  

The other office who was shot, John Richey, carried the Honor Flag to the graveside and held it as all the ceremonial stuff took way.  He was an incredibly sweet man and a real comfort to all of us.The other office who was shot, John Richey, carried the Honor Flag to the graveside and held it as all the ceremonial stuff took way.  He is an incredibly sweet man and a real comfort to all of us.

This will go on Doug's headstone sometime in May.

"How's your sister doing?"

I get this question several times a day.  Erika is a rock.  Through all of this she has been graceful, poised, elegant, and composed.  She spent the days immediately after Doug's death greeting a million visitors in her home, including the governor and several mayors and police chiefs (the senator got stuck on the east coast due to a storm).  She went to dispatch to speak with the workers who were on duty when Doug was shot.  Then she went to the Huntsman Cancer Institute to speak with the doctors who have spent over a decade trying to keep Doug alive.  She said, "I figure they feel like they got pretty jipped."  Yup.

She even went to see this sweet woman whose photo went viral.

And she got a commendation from the governor this week.  She's been told by the widows of two other police officers who were killed in the line of duty that big things like this happen at least once a week for about a year, so she's preparing herself for the long haul. 

This has all been so public - and she's a figure in the community now. She gets calls from the press wanting her opinion on things in the news. There aren't a lot of moments to be alone and process what happened.

But there is a bright side to having so many people want to help

A few days after Doug's death Erika asked on Facebook if any officers would want to come to Jack's (Doug's 13 year old son) next hockey game.  They showed up in the hundreds.  It was a wonderful, positive experience.

And nobody loved it more than Jack.

Today is one month from the day Doug was shot, and also Doug and Erika's 20th wedding anniversary.  Despite being so busy, I know she is sad, I know she is feeling this.  

Our whole family is feeling this.  We are close, and we are heartbroken to have lost Doug.  He leaves such a huge hole in our family.

But I'm so grateful that Doug was in our lives.  That's what I whispered to him at the side of his hospital bed, "Thank you, thank you."  Thank you for loving my sister.  Thank you for being amazing to my children.  Thank you for all the joy and laughter over the years.  Thank you for teaching me so much.  I love you and I'll miss you, Doug.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

15 Best Books of 2013: Reading Review

In 2013 I read 57 books and a total of 16,920 pages.  Not quite as much as 2012, but I don't feel bad about it.  I think 57 books is still pretty cool in one year, and it's more than any other year besides 2012.  Plus I raised a couple of beautiful kids, worked about 1200 hours, built a couple of Tron costumes, wrote 50,720 words in November, and made no small number of pies.  I'm declaring 2013 the "Year of New Experiences."  It feels like I tried a lot of new things like sewing, soldering, marathon writing, and also playing the ukelele for the first and possibly only time ever.

I don't think I mentioned it on this blog, but I participated in NaNoWriMo in November, which is a 30-day effort to write 50,000 words of a novel.  It's an ambitious undertaking, but I did it!  I'm happy that I did and I plan to do more in the future.

Books read in 2013:

Pages read in 2013:

But this post is supposed to be about books!  So here are my favorites from 2013 (specifically, books that I read in 2013, not necessarily published in 2013).

15 Favorites From 2013

15. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
It kind of goes without saying that Brandon Sanderson will be on my list.  Steelheart is brilliantly imagined, turning the notion of superheroes on its head and imagining what a world would be like if people who got super powers turned evil.  Featuring a likable main character who just can't make a good metaphor to save his life, and a team of normal people who are trying to take the "Epics" down, the ending of this book just might blow your mind.

14. Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia Macneal
This goes on the list because it's a mystery that I really liked, and I don't like mysteries!  Set in WWII London, Maggie Hope takes a job as a secretary for Winston Churchill.  But as she tries to navigate her new position, a conspiracy is closing in on London.  There are now three books in the series that I have read, and the story keeps getting better.

13. The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
I mentioned this book last year on my blog.  It's sort of achingly beautiful, good for fans of literary fiction.  I don't think I'd rank this in my top 5 anymore, but it definitely deserves recognition.

12. Longbourn by Jo Baker
This book is getting a lot of buzz right now.  It takes place in the Longbourn household during the events of Pride and Prejudice, but is from the point of view of the staff.  It's sort of a downstairs version of Pride and Prejudice, and has a lot going for it.  It's sort of irresistible to see bits and pieces of P&P, and also the description of life for the lower classes in that era is fascinating.  It definitely pulls back the curtain from our idealized notions of idyllic English countrysides and society.  This book doesn't quite hit it out of the park for P&P lovers, but is a substantial contribution to Austen spinoff literature.

11.  Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
I keep telling people about this book and I get blank stares, and I don't get it!  This book was awesome, full of swashbuckling adventure, romance, and adventure.  Here is the synopsis I wrote for my library's staff blog:
Owen Wedgwood, famed chef, has been kidnapped and is being held aboard the Flying Rose, captive of the notorious captain Mad Hannah Mabbot. Mabbot informs him that he will cook a sumptuous meal for her each Sunday or he will be killed, a dismaying challenge considering the pirate ship's meager, weevil-infested stores. Dreaming up ways to escape, Wedgwood works wonders in the kitchen while the ship hunts for the notorious Brass Fox and flees from a deadly privateer. Wedgwood comes to rely on the gruff crew he once feared and begins to see something softer behind Mabbot's swagger and threatening power.
I loved this book. It's a swashbuckling adventure that doesn't gloss over the grim reality of life on a pirate ship. Told from Wedgwood's perspective, the story is sprinkled with delectable descriptions and metaphors drawn from his culinary experience; food is the dialect by which he speaks. The plot is fast-paced and action packed, and you come to love some and fear other characters through the course of their adventures. The real star is Wedgwood himself, a likable and talented fellow whose expertise and lifetime of experience still hasn't quite prepared him for all that he is about to face. 

10. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Elevator Pitch: Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory falls in love.  (Okay, it's not really Sheldon Cooper, but Don Tillman is his doppelganger).

9. Requiem by Lauren Oliver
This is the final book in the Delirium series, and I have to say, it's how I wish the Hunger Games series would have ended.  If you were dissatisfied with Mockingjay, reading this series might be therapeutic for you.  It's also one of the rare series where I thought the second book was better than the first.  There is a bit of fan anger at some plot threads left untied at the end of the third book, but I think that doing so would have left a too-perfect bow on the end of everything.  Many things in life don't have resolution.  The author gave an interview where she said this:
Part of what adults have to live with is ambiguity. It's not like you make a choice and find happiness hiding behind one of three doors looking like Kim Kardashian. You have to choose what you want every day. There is no one point at which you get your happy ending.
That may sound like nothing good comes of the ending, but Oliver weaves redemption into her final chapters that, in my opinion, will leave many readers more satisfied than they were at the end of Mockingjay.

8. and 7. Etiquette & Espionage/Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
This is a fun YA steampunk series that mostly shines for the likable, clever main character, Sophronia.  Sophronia is sent to a "finishing" school for young ladies where she will learn dance, dress, and etiquette, as well as deceipt, diversion, and espionage.  A fun concept and an entertaining if simple YA series.

6. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Another rare instance of a second book in a series outshining the first.  This is the second book in Marissa Meyer's science-fiction series retelling classic fairy tales.  The first book was Cinder, the cyborg Cinderella of her time who is caught up in a conspiracy relevant to the entire kingdom.  Book two follows Scarlet, whose grandmother has gone missing and the only person who seems willing to help her is an enigmatic street fighter named Wolf.  The relationship between these two was absolutely mesmerizing for me, and I honestly didn't know how to peg Wolf for most of the book.  Their story also interweaves with Cinder's continuing story from book 1, and we are introduced to a few new characters who I loved.

5. The Disaster Diaries by Sam Sheridan
This was a really interesting nonfiction book by writer and MMA fighter Sam Sheridan.  Sam takes one question: "How would I survive the apocalypse?" and trains for various life-threatening scenarios.  Need to outrun the aliens?  Better take a course on stunt car driving.  Need to hijack a car first?  Better train on hot-wiring with an ex-con from south central LA.  Running low on ammunition?  Better train in knife fighting.  One of your crew has been injured?  Better brush up on emergency medicine.

This was fascinating, and was woven together with a hypothetical narrative of things that could happen in an end-of-the-world situation.  Fun reading.

4. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
If you needed any inspiration for putting all of those apocalyptic skills to good use, you will find it in this book.  This is a great read for fans of Divergent, The Hunger Games, basically anything exciting.  Here's a quick summary:
Cassie Sullivan is trying to survive after crippling attacks have wiped out the majority of humanity, and she's not sure if she can trust anyone still left alive. Great tension and a quick moving plot keep you turning pages, but the vulnerability and humanity of the characters really make this novel hit home. 

3. Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini
This book is an easy one to recommend to anyone in your Relief Society!  And by that I mean it's 1. squeaky clean, 2. historically significant, and 3. inspiring for women.  This is about Elizabeth Keckley,  a black woman who was born a slave but bought her freedom and built a successful business as a dressmaker, with her crowning achievement being her time working for Mrs. Lincoln and also acting as her confidant during all of the drama and heartbreak of her years in the white house.  Keckley was present during intimate moments of triumph and grief for both Mrs. and Mr. Lincoln.  Later in her life, she wrote a book describing her time working there, which led to an estrangement of her friendship with Mrs. Lincoln.  I need some friends to read this so we can discuss whether it was right for Keckley to write such a book, and if Mrs. Lincoln's reaction was called for.  This was a really good book, interesting, thought-provoking, and enjoyable.

2. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
A haunting true life dystopia describing the situation in North Korea from the perspectives of six people who lived most of their lives there.  Pieced together from many interviews, this is a glimpse into a world that I can hardly believe exists on our planet today.  I read this almost a year ago and I am still haunted by it.  But rather than leaving you feeling bereaved, Demick renders these peoples' lives in not a tragic light but one that is meaningful, vibrant, showing you their passion and purpose.  A full 5 stars for this one.

1. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
This is a love story that will make you remember your first love and all of the little moments from it that you may have forgotten, all wrapped up in a surprisingly engrossing story.  This is set in 1986, and brings to life the agony of having to wait whole weekends before you could see or talk to that person again (kids today and their cell phones... grumble grumble).  The real magic of this story was how it made me feel.  The first time they talk on the phone my heart was pounding, and the first time they touched I couldn't breathe.  I also listened to the audiobook, and the performance of the two people reading for Eleanor and Park was stellar.  Seriously, it's won awards.  All in all, this is my #1 favorite from 2013.  I've read one other book by this author and I'm excited to see more from her in the future.

So how was your 2013?  What would you classify it as "The Year Of..."?
Do you have any favorite books from 2013?