Marriage: A Beginning, Not An End

funny-marriageIt seems marriage has become the topic of ridicule and mockery. The prestige and honor of marriage has been replaced by the glamor and dazzle of bachelorhood and promiscuity. Not that this is anything new.

But honestly, when is the last time you’ve heard a good word spoken about marriage? When is the last time you’ve spoken honorably about your spouse?

Think about it. We spend the whole first part of our lives searching for our significant other – someone to spend the rest of our lives with. And then, when we find that person, we grow tired, and spend our time wanting out.

(The Man in the Box is a great book for those who feel this way.)

I, myself, often forget that marriage takes work. I take for granted that I don’t have to stress over who I’m going to take out on Friday night (not that that was often), or figure out some clever way to score a girl’s phone number (I got numbers to Bill’s Plumbing and Domino’s quite often).

Then I met Sarabeth. I achieved the Big Yes. When I said “I do,” I was 25.

If I live to be a hundred, I’ve still got 75% of my life to live.

We get this idea in our heads that marriage is the end-all goal, when in fact, things are just beginning!

I love Disney movies. But they repeatedly got one thing wrong with their classic princess movies:

Marriage is once upon a time. Not happily ever after.

Happily ever after is years of commitment and devotion and love in the wake of an elderly couple still holding hands … not the first kiss after slaying the dragon.

The dragon invades our marriages in the form of finances, late oil checks, dirty diapers, dirty kitchens, morning breath, unseemly hair, burnt food, the Hallmark channel, etc.

So, a reminder to married people and to myself: let’s begin to treat marriage as the midst of a journey we’re trekking through, each bounding toward a certain goal, warding off the dragons together.IMG_1180

To those of you not yet married, start ingraining it into your heads that marriage is the start of a new life, not some early retirement.

I’m thankful to be married to my wife. Her corrections sometimes sting, and my attitude toward her often needs to be checked. But with her help, I am growing and learning, and without a doubt, I am a much better person today because of her than I was eight or ten years ago. (I dress better, too!)

And no matter what, I know she loves me, and I love her, and we never have to worry about who we’re going to spend Friday night with.

I only share the best on my new Author Facebook Page.

How We Got Our Daughter Part 2

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Click here for Part 1 of our story

The next two days seemed longer than the last year in some ways. We were told that they would call back to tell us to come meet our foster daughter. We spent our time  wisely, running across town picking out newborn girl clothes, baby bottles, blankets, and a plethora of pacifiers.

And then no call came. We were under the impression that they’d call us back that same day. That night must have been the longest night of our lives. Our little girl was alone in a hospital basin and we couldn’t be there for her. We spent the next day with our phones turned all the way up clutched tightly in our hands. Every sound caused us to answer them. All the while the nursery remained barren and silent. We lost even more sleep that second night. Was it all a misunderstanding? Did they call the wrong people?

Sarabeth and I were by each other’s sides the entire weekend while we waited for permission to see our little girl. Exactly one year ago today, at Target, picking up more baby stuff, Sarabeth and I split up so she could grab the paper towels at the back of the store while I began checking out.

The phone rang in my pocket annoyingly loud just as I was swiping my Target Rewards card. For the first time ever I blew someone off by answering it while they were talking to me (I don’t envy retail workers). I panicked because Sarabeth wasn’t nearby to take notes and I had a terrible memory, especially under pressure. I waved and jumped up and down to get Sarabeth to hurry back with the 12-pack of Downey. She started jumping up and down too when she reached me and we both started crying like little school girls in the middle of Target on a busy Sunday morning.

I drove fast enough to the hospital to merit getting yelled at: “You don’t want to die before meeting your daughter, do you? SLOW DOWN!”

There are three things in my life I’ll never forget as long as I live.

1) How terrified I was all four times I saw Jurassic Park in theaters.

2) Meeting my wife (even though I still get some facts wrong). And,

3) Seeing my daughter for the first time.

She. Was. Beautiful. I generally don’t think babies are that cute, but this one, she was perfect in every way. The first thing I thought was that ironically, she looked exactly like Sarabeth (no jokes, please – I’ve tried). Seriously, even the nurses were saying it and people still say it today. And the other thing I thought was that even though we were just fostering this beautiful little girl, I knew we’d keep her forever.

We’re hopeful to adopt her this summer.

Oh, and that was Sarabeth’s birthday. I know I’ll never be able to beat that gift. And we stayed with our daughter at the hospital that night and for the third night in a row, we didn’t sleep. But for a much better reason.

Happy birthday, Sarabeth, and happy “Hi Day,” little girl. We love you more than you can ever imagine!

Be sure to join my Facebook author page for more fun stuff!

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How We Got Our Daughter Part 1

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A year ago we met our infant foster daughter for the first time. Below is the epic saga of how it all came to pass. And, you’re welcome.

Sarabeth and I had been married for four years while everyone around us was popping babies out like gum ball machines gone haywire. We applied to be foster-to-adopt parents in February of 2013 thinking that would be a quick fix to a deep void. Come Christmas morning eleven months later, we still had no kid to lavish with gifts. Every Christmas was becoming harder and harder and only brought us more devastation.

It’s one thing to want a bike for your birthday or yearn for a promotion, but to have an ever-empty nursery in the house to welcome no child is a pain that even Hemingway couldn’t describe.

Enter bitter cold January of 2014. No child. Our background checks for the foster program had been lost. Again. Redo, resend, repeat. Goodbye, January. Hello February 6, five years into marriage and one year after applying to be foster parents, a day that would forever change our lives.

It started with an email from our assigned social worker: “You’ve been approved.”

My ever-optimistic thoughts: Oh, good. Now we just have to wait another year while they find us a kid. 

My phone rang. I scan my calls, so I didn’t answer it.

A minute later I got an email from the same social worker: “Can you answer your phone? We have a baby to place with you if you’re interested.”

My thoughts: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I pressed Call Back and immediately I was told that there was a newborn baby who needed a home and would we be willing to accept her? I was already emailing my wife. The frantic message looked something like this: Were aprived! They have a gbabya. Y or B?

Her response: Yes! Yes! Yes!

“We’ll take her!” I screamed into the phone as though I were at an auction.

The funny thing is, even though we had no idea what she looked like or had ever heard her cry, and knew very little about her, Sarabeth and I had already fallen deeply and madly and hopelessly in love with her.

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of our story…

And be sure to join my Facebook author page for more fun stuff!

First Steps

Baby A

So we’re pretty excited. Baby A. took her first steps last night, at 12 months and 11 days old. Sarabeth and I were playing with her in the living room before bedtime and she happened to be standing up. I was sitting approximately two small feet away.

She was holding one ball, and I was holding the other. She really wanted that ball. She then took not one step, but two steps toward me to retrieve the other ball.

And then I heard singing behind me and when I turned, Lady Antebellum was in our dining room singing “I Run to You.”

Baby A. has also been *almost* saying “Hi,” accompanied by an excited wave of the hand.

But her first definitive word so far? “Da.” I count that as “Dad,” but Mommy and I are kind of in disagreement over that. So then I just said, “Fine. ‘Waaaaa!’ is the new word for Dad. So I still win.”

But at any rate, I’m very proud of my little girl. And we’re still very much looking forward to her permanent goal being changed to adoption in March.

On another note, have you read about my upcoming teen book? I think it’s pretty spectacular so far… click here to read a teaser.

A Letter to My Foster Daughter on Her First Birthday

Little girl,

You’re a year old now, although we’ve only known you for 11 months. I’ll never forget seeing you for the first time in the nurse’s arms after the foster care program told us we could go see you in the hospital.

My first three thoughts were: You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. You look just like my wife – your foster mother. And, I know we’ll adopt you one day and you’ll be a Toy. 

I still think all three of those things every day.

Sometimes I go to work and I get a little teary-eyed when I think of you because I am just so thankful for you. And when I drive home, most days I just start laughing because I’m so excited to see you.

I’m always wondering what you’re going to be like when you grow older.

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor going to be? What will you want to be when you grow up? Who will your favorite Disney princess be? Will you eat sugary cereal with your dad in the mornings, or share a pot of coffee with your mom? Will you love dinosaurs more or Volkswagens?

Last year we found you – and that made it the best year ever. This year will be even better, because I believe you will be a Toy, and we’re going to celebrate that for like a whole month (but really, for the next seventeen years)!

Your mom and I are so proud of you and are thankful for you. Nothing on the planet has ever made us happier and brought us so much joy and laughter. You, little girl, are the greatest gift we’ve ever received.

Happy birthday, Baby. Rest assured there will always be enough salsa in the house for both of us.

Love, Daddy

Hope you love the doll Mommy made you!

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10 Movies About Adoption No. 3: Lilo and Stitch

WallpaperIf you Google a list of adoption movies, Lilo and Stitch isn’t likely to be there. True, it was overlooked by many since it came out durring Disney’s sub-par years, but it’s actually a little gem wedged between the direct-to-video Cinderella II and the deplorable Country Bears. So because of Disney’s track-record the studio was setting for itself at the time, it’s easy to see why many opted out of watching this movie about a destructive alien invading Hawaii.

But it’s good. It’s not a masterpiece, or unforgettable, but it’s a good flick to pop in while the kids are still up and about.

In it, the alien Stitch ends up being adopted by Lilo’s older sister (sorry – spoiler alert). But I think it’s a good reminder that families can be made up of many different nationalities and cultures. And besides that, people outside the world of adoption often can’t imagine adopting a “destructive” or “wild” child, which is essentially what Stich is.

Our seven-month-old is going through a very grouchy stage right now. She’s frustrated that she can’t move on her own from point A to point B. So she cries all day long. Toys don’t make her happy, pacifiers don’t pacify, and don’t even bother trying to put her to sleep – you might as well try taming a rabid zombie.

But still, that doesn’t matter. We love her even when she’s kicking and screaming and blowing bubbles so forcefully that it sprays all over the spinning ceiling fan. And so what if she’s a little loud because she’s teething (or not teething)?

But there’s a line in Lilo and Stitch that we often use in our family, as I’m sure most other fans of the movie use as well:

“Ohana” means “Family” and “Family” means no one gets left behind.

I’m sure our little girl will cause us some headaches and give us ulcers in the coming years, but she’s still our family, and once she is adopted, always will be.

Some foster parents are amazing enough to take in older kids – kids that society has deemed as “troubled” or “a nuisance” – like Stitch. But they’re still worthy of our love and care. They’re still as valuable as anyone else. And they still need a family just like anyone else.

And they’ll probably require a lot more love and attention than other kids, but I think in the end, it can be worth the effort.

This is my family. I found it, all on my own. Is little and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.

10 Movies About Adoption No. 2: Punky Brewster

Screen-Shot-2014-04-05-at-15.55.02No, this isn’t a movie, but you probably remember this show from the ’80s, about an orphaned girl with mismatched socks and her dog Brandon who were adopted by the old, grouchy, set-in-his-ways Henry Warnimont.

Punky Brewster’s mom ditched her in a grocery store. The eight-year-old was suddenly and unexpectadly abandoned with no one but her dog to comfort her. She and Brandon find themselves living in an empty apartment when the landlord, Henry, finds them occupying the space.

After a series of mishaps, Henry decides to make Punky his foster daughter. At the end of two seasons Henry then proceeds to adopt Punky Brewster to maker her his daughter forever.

True, it’s no Office or Big Bang Theory. Humor-wise it’s proabably closer to Full House than Home Improvement, but it does embody the themes that we are living out in our household with Baby A. being our foster daughter. And it’s a show I plan on using as a tool to help educate our little girl about the journey her mom and me are on in trying to secure her officially as our daughter.

I’m taking the time to point this show out because in an emotional 5-part strand of episodes, entitled “Changes,” in season 2, the show walks viewers through the process of moving from foster care to adoption.

If you haven’t lived out the process, it can be difficult separating foster care from adoption and foster-to-adopt from adoption and all the terms can get kind of jumbled and confusing. You can Youtube “Punky Brewster – Changes” and a list of the five episodes will come up.

If you have an adopted child, sometimes it can be comforting to know that they’re not alone and that there’s nothing wrong or weird about being adopted. Punky never shows resentment toward her foster dad or spends her time hashing out the what-could-have-beens in her life – not that there’s not an appropriate time to do that – but instead, she looks toward the future with hope and optimism with her new father and she recognizes that he loves her just as if she were his biological daughter.

After all, even though Baby A. wasn’t born to us, it’s impossible not to see her as one of our own. And hopefully she’ll always feel that way toward us.

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