Welcome To September

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Pumpkins and scarecrows adorn shop windows and Target has Halloween costumes up for grabs. Even though the grocery stores are piling up on endless supplies of candy, all the kids are a bit downcast because they’re faced with a whole year of school ahead of them.

Welcome to September.

The end of summer, shorter days, longer nights, and browner leaves.

And a slow, dreadful preparation for winter.

But that’s just the thing. If you’re like me, you’re always looking back wishing it were the glory days of summer or dreading the drudgery days of winter ahead. You’re never living in the moment. You’re never taking the time to just enjoy the season for what it is.

Fall is everyone’s favorite time of year. It’s not too hot to stay inside or too cold to necessitate the use of all the hot water in the house. You can open the windows and begin building your Christmas list while looking for the best recipe for butterbeer. I think what Green Day meant to sing was, “Wake Me Up When September Starts.”

It’s the perfect season, and maybe this year we can learn to just enjoy it for what it is and live in the moment.

And if I don’t, will you remind me to? Because I’m not getting any younger, and my Septembers are falling off.

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Do You REALLY Understand Healthcare?

MedizinYou’re sick. You begrudgingly take off work, using your last sick day of the year available to you. You’d rather not go to the doctor, but your boss is requiring a doctor’s note.

You drag yourself out of bed, buckle the screaming baby up in the car seat, drive to the doctor and sign in.

You provide the receptionist with your insurance card. You write a large check for your deductible (the very reason you’ve been avoiding the doctor). On top of that, you owe a copay, and this is ONLY if that doctor accepts your insurance provider….

Has anyone ever stopped to ask, “What’s going on here?” If you’re practically having to take out a loan to pay your deductible, and you’re expected to fork up a percentage of your bill, then what are your premiums going toward? Insurance retention?

But if we’re all honest with ourselves, I bet we’d say, “I wish insurance didn’t exist.” It’s a hassle at best. I mean, is it really so expensive to pay a doctor to look down your throat and prescribe an antibiotic that you can’t pay a flat rate yourself?

Is insurance really helping us? How much would an X-ray really cost as a flat rate?

And, not to get political here, but… well, I’ll save this question for a later post.

In the meantime, am I the only one who’s had these questions but has been too afraid to ask them? Is there anyone who can explain this or elaborate? Has your insurance provider helped or hurt you? Share your experiences as an insurance subscriber below. Let’s hash this out.

And keep checking back for further posts on this topic. I just might have some more to say on this topic that you and your family can benefit from.

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Birthday Blog

It’s my birthday and I must say that after last year’s birthday blog post, things have taken a positive turn in my life.
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I’ve had a year to accept the fact that I’m in my 30’s, I get heartburn more often, more cricks and cracks in my joints, and my body is more apt to display the calorie count of the last two meals I’ve had (and it is resilient at holding onto the last 18).
I’m not a bestselling author yet. However, I’m proud to announce that my second book comes out on Kindle Select tomorrow (it’s a tear-jerker and a perfect read to usher in the holidays)!
But about those positive turns in my life: We have a kid now, a baby girl who’s growing faster and faster each day. If you don’t know our story, Sarabeth and I had been waiting for a child for five years and we’re grateful to finally have our foster daughter in our lives.
Now we are in the process of trying to adopt her as our own so that she can be a Toy forever. Just the thought of that makes my eyes water and my heart pound like crazy in my chest. Sarabeth and I hold out for that day with all our might.
Along with aging however, comes an increasing tendency to be cranky and cantankerous in ways I never expected. For instance, I’m a much crappier father than I thought I’d be. I kind of turn into a jerk if my little girl starts crying when I’m busy working or eating or sleeping or – well, any time, really.

Screen Shot 2011-10-20 at 12.41.59 PMI don’t shake her or anything like that. And I don’t yell or scream at her. But I take on this tone that’s very… fatherish. (Not fatherly – there’s a big difference.) But she starts crying in the middle of Parenthood and I’m like, “Baby A.” – I don’t really call her that, that’s just what I call her on this blog until we reveal her name after she’s adopted. But I’m like, “Baby A. Stop. You don’t need to be crying right now. Wait eight more minutes when the show is over then Mom will come and take care of you while I disappear to the bathroom with a book until I can’t hear you anymore.” (Old age – seriously – it’s a killer.)
But then, there’s those moments when I look at her and I remember how small she used to be at just 6 pounds. And I recall how, less than a year ago, my heart would crumble by the shrieking cries in the night caused by her illness. Movies make me cry, but real-life stuff doesn’t really (something Sarabeth is often concerned about). But my little girl’s painful cries brought me to tears a handful of times.
It’s good to reflect on your life on your birthday. For me, I wouldn’t really have much of a life if it weren’t for my wife and 10801921_10205375378008123_2425218875246496621_ndaughter. In fact, I’d just be a cranky, cantankerous 31 year old with no one to remind me stop working for a day, or take a few minutes to play, or laugh, or just simply stop the rat-race for a moment and stop living in the future in my multi-million-dollar beach house surrounded by notable awards and honors for my bestselling books (not to mention the award-winning movies that are based off of them).
I need to stop and be content with my lot in life with my loft and my wife and my baby and my dogs and my books (by other authors), and just be. And maybe watch what I eat… after my birthday leftovers are gone… or sometime after Christmas.
And if you feel inclined to wish me a happy birthday in a meaningful way and help me achieve my goal of becoming a bestselling author, please feel free to purchase my book I Am the Lion on your Kindle device. I really would like that beach house for my wife.

Big Week For Baby A

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So last week our foster daughter and Sarabeth went to Florida to visit her family. According to Sarabeth, our little girl did wonderful on the airplane, so if you’re stuck on a plane with a crying baby and an overwhelmed mother, you can bet it’s not my wife or daughter.

Well, Baby A did two things this week which I’m thankful she didn’t do in Florida while I was at home here in Kentucky.

Two days ago, Sarabeth was holding Baby A and the dachshunds began licking her feet and Baby A just laughed, and laughed. Part of me thinks she began laughing so hard because she figured out that she could laugh! Probably one of the best sounds I’ve ever heard.

And this morning, just moments ago, Baby A rolled over. First onto her belly then onto her back.

Needless to say, Sarabeth and I are very proud. In fact, after I write this post, I’m going to probably start drafting up her college resume.

Baby A, proficient at giggling and rolling over. My aspirations include being an attentive audience member at local comedy clubs and teaching fire drills (“stop, drop, and rooollllll”).

On the grand scheme of things, I’m sure these aren’t really big happenings. I’m sure back in colonial times it was like, “Look Pa, Junior just took his first step.”

“‘Bout dog-gone time. Hand him that there pile of wood and he can take it out back and chop it for the fire.”

But then, is it such a big deal when we do the things we do? Like, get a job, or pass an important exam, or earn one of those Fortune 500 Company jackets? To us, those are pretty significant deals.

But I wonder what God thinks. After all, have you ever created an entire cosmos? Have you ever begotten a living creature (or made one out of the dust)? Have you ever walked on water unassisted, or calmed a storm, or healed a blind man with mud?

Yet, God is pleased with us. Just like Sarabeth and I are pleased with our daughter for the littlest of things (but mostly for going to sleep!) – things that we’ve been doing ourselves for 30-plus years. Things that human beings all over the globe, all across the span of time have been mastering since the Garden.

All of Heaven rejoices when we enter into adoption by God as His child. A great cloud of witnesses hangs over the mist to marvel at our spiritual accomplishments and cheer us on to further endeavors, challenges those ghosts have likely bested while they were like us.

So, yeah. I’m pretty proud of my little girl. But then again, I’d be just as proud if she never rolled over.

Bet You Never Thought of These Five Ways to Prepare for a Baby

babd-baby-names-crying-baby-e1333102292894Jim Halpert on The Office said it best: “Having a baby is exhausting.”

So for you people who haven’t had a baby yet, here is a list of things I wish I’d done to prepare before bringing Baby A. home:

1) Practice smiling. A lot. When you’re changing a diaper at 3 in the morning, the last thing you feel like doing is smiling. But think about it, if you’re a baby stuck on your back and some person comes up and starts tampering with your personal space, you’re already going to be a little uncomfortable. So practice smiling in unusual or stressful situations (I don’t recommend doing this when you’re arguing with your spouse). A little smile could go a long way while your baby’s helplessly looking up at you while his southern region is flooding.

2) Learn to do things one-handed. I write and edit books. And Baby A. needs to be held a lot. So I’ve had to quickly master the art of typing with one hand. Move over, Mavis Beacon, I’m getting up to 35-wpm! (Really, it’s like texting on Zack Morris’s phone.) You’ve got to learn to do other things with one hand as well. As soon as we brought Baby A. home, I coined a phrase, “Gain a baby, lose an arm.”

3) Learn the lyrics to songs. I’m awful – absolutely awful – at remembering the lyrics to songs. I sound like this in the car: “Let it go, let it go. Bum-dum-dee-dum-anymore…” So when I’m trying to sing Carolina on My Mind to Baby A., and I reach the verses I don’t know the words to, I start making up ridiculous lyrics that can tend to be offensive or just plain nonsensical. Baby’s don’t need to hear that stuff. And I refuse to do nursery songs because once you start down that road, I know it could take years to get them out of your head.

4) Watch all your R-rated movies before the baby comes home. I’ve always got to be either working, watching something, eating, or reading. And, living the the 21st century, you’re probably the same way. While feeding the baby, watching something is the only realistic thing I can do without making a stinky, formulaic mess all over the couch (“Feed a baby, lose both arms”). It’s generally not a good idea to have John McCane yelling, “Yippee Ki-yay, mother —-er” with the baby nearby. So baby proof your home by getting the R-rated movies out of your system before she comes home.

5) If possible, take a stealth class. When it’s midnight and the baby is finally falling asleep in your arms, you don’t want to be jostling him around while standing up from the couch and walking him to his crib. Learn to move with poise and grace. Learn to open the refrigerator without making any noise. Get good at tiptoeing. Be okay with not flushing until later (just kidding). And, if applicable, learn to craft anonymous notes with cut-up letters to tape to your neighbor’s door telling them to keep the noise down or you’ll set their poodle on fire and leave the remains in their pantry.

That’s all I’ve got for now. If you think of any more, share them in the comment section below.

*Note: The picture above is not our baby (ours is much, much cuter – no offense,  baby in the picture). I just googled “crying baby” and choose the funniest one.

She’s Not a James, But…

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I’ve been married for five years, and I just fell in love again.

You’re probably aware that Sarabeth and I have been in the process of becoming foster-to-adopt parents.

We’ve been longing for a child all these years.

Well, we finally got a call last week for a little girl born a month-and-a-half early.

So through a whirlwind of confusion and excitement, we’ve been at the hospital visiting with our beautiful, gorgeous, foster daughter whom I’ll call “A” for privacy reasons.

Seriously, for the first time ever I understand what the big deal is about babies.

I mean, I’ve always been pro-life and have understood the value of a baby’s life, but loving a baby?

Yeah. That’s a new one for me.

Now, we fully understand that, as foster-to-adopt parents, we may not be able to keep her—that there’s only a chance that our time together will end in adoption and little “A” becomes “A. Toy.”

It’s a fear and a faith we’ve never known. But more on that in later posts.

She’s not home with us yet. She’s still at the hospital, but we’ve got everything ready for her big arrival day later this week.

In the meantimes, I’ve learned a few things this weekend as a foster dad:

How to change diapers.

How to swaddle.

That I chose the best wife to be the best mother.

That out of respect for little “A,” I’ll always keep my nose hairs trimmed (not that that’s been a problem).

And my tears aren’t like a Phoenix; they can’t heal my little girl’s tummy cramps, or make her sleep. (I know, I know, let the ultra-cheesiness begin.)

Oh, and I learned one more thing.

While I had given up on God waiting for a child all this time, He was busy giving A. life, forming her, shaping her, caring for her.

So even while I was angry at God for “holding out” on us, He still came through. And now, I don’t want any other baby in the universe but her. Even if she does cry and fuss all night long.

The Sudden Vanishing of a Mist

If you haven’t seen her, then it’s almost certain you’ve heard her voice. Some might wonder what was more tragic – the length of her life, or the way it ended. Or maybe the real tragedy was the lost potential that laid before her.

If she were alive today, she would be 35 years old and possibly making a great life for herself either continuing to grace the silver screen with her talents or working an honest trade job or raising children of her own with a loving husband by her side.

Barsi_JudithBut none of this was to be for Judith Barsi, born on June 6, 1978 in San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles California.

Judith’s parents both were Hungarian immigrants, fleeing Communist rule. They met in California where they married and had Judith. Maria, Judith’s mother, immediately began prepping her daughter to be an actress. In no time, Judith stared in over 70 commercials and made guest appearances in several popular TV shows such as Punky Brewster, Cheers, and The Love Boat.

At the age of 10, the year of her death, she stood only 3 feet and 2 inches, and was given hormone injections to encourage her growth.

Her father, Jozsef, was a raging alcoholic, and all this time, while his daughter grew toward stardom and fame (bringing in an estimated $100,000 a year by the fourth grade), he grew jealous. He acted out abusively toward Judith and her mother, and after the police determined there was no proof of abuse to lead to an arrest, she – Judith’s mother – decided to no longer press charges.

Due to her father’s continued behavior however, Judith began to put on weight, and began acting out by pulling out her eyelashes and plucking her cat’s whiskers. She broke down in front of her agent one day while auditioning for her voice-over roll as Anne-Marie for Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go to Heaven. Judith began getting help by a child psychologist who reported her alarming findings to child protective services.

Maria assured the CPA that she would be divorcing Jozsef shortly and there was no need for them to take Judith away. But she put it off, claiming that she didn’t want to lose her house and belongings that Judith’s wealth had acquired for the family.

July 25, 1988 was a sunny day. Los Angeles carried on with business and shows, and Judith, like every other kid that summer day, was seen riding her bike. She had just completed filming for her role as young Carol Seaver for the hit show, Growing Pains. A future as bright as the day lay ahead of her with her first major motion picture animated film scheduled to be released in November, and the next one still in development to be released the next year, it helped that she was a favorite of Don Bluth, as he reportedly said that he had planned to continue employing Judith for future roles.

AnneMarieHad she seen Ducky merchandise yet? You might remember Ducky as the green Saurolophus (or “duck billed” dinosaur) that she voiced in the Spielberg-produced hit, Land Before Time. (“Yep-yep-yep!”) And oh, how people would dote on her for her role as the adorable Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go to Heaven. Ducky_300

But she would not be there to receive such praise, or to go on staring in movies for the renowned animated film director/producer team.

Instead, she parked her bike in the garage and ate dinner at the usual time and went to bed for the last time in her life. Her father cut her sleep short by shooting her in the head where she lay. He shot his wife as well, but sulked around the house for two days before lighting their bodies on fire and then shooting himself in the head with a .32 caliber pistol.

We mourn the lives of those cut short, and we stew over lost opportunities. But I ask you, if you’re still here, alive and breathing… what are you doing with your life? No one can escape the certainty of danger in this world, but you can certainly make the most of your life each day you’re given.

And you really should do just that. Because you never know when your last bike ride will be.

What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14

Read the source here.

 

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