thoughts

Foreplay Starts in the Kitchen

So I’m that guy that thinks it’s cool to do the dishes.

The road to happiness.

Disclaimer: This post may be a little controversial and get me into some trouble, but this is one of the most important things that I have learned in the last 12 years of marriage to my beautiful wife.

Early in our marriage I read a quote that hit home for me. More or less, it goes like this, “Happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and  well-being of one’s spouse.”

My wife and I have taken that quote to heart and made it a priority to focus on each other’s needs, rather than always thinking about our own needs. When each of us is focused on the other, our own needs our met and we see each other as equals partners. That doesn’t mean that we do the same things and that our roles are interchangeable. We each have strengths and weaknesses, but when we work together we make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Every marriage is different, but this is what our marriage looks like. I work and my wife stays home with our four children. She also works very flexible hours from home, but mainly she focuses on the children. I see her role as equal to mine, in fact most times I feel like my 8 hours at work is a vacation compared to the war zone at home. When I get home I help with the kids, help make dinner, help clean up dinner, and help to straighten up the house. We both have demands on us through the day so I try to share equally in the responsibilities that come at night. I change diapers, do bath time, put kids in pajamas, and help put them to bed. It is all in my job description.

We take turns waking up late at night to feed the babies. This is the hardest part because it is hard to remember whose turn it is at 3 a.m. when there is a baby screaming.

So some guys may be asking themselves, “What’s in it for me?” I am sure at some point you have heard the statement, “Foreplay begins in the kitchen.” I have found that to be true, need I say more?

The overall lesson I have learned is that I truly want my wife to be happy. My taking responsibility for some household duties makes her life easier. In return she is focused on my needs and it all comes together to make an awesome marriage. It may sound bizzarre, but I really like doing dishes.

Time Flies

Tempus fugit - Il tempo vola - Time flies

Last night my boys and I were shuffled out of the house to make room for a “make up” party that my wife was hosting. At first it seemed like an annoyance to be forced out of the house on a Thursday evening. It was up to me to figure out what to do with my sons for the hour and a half that they would occupy our house.

We ended up going to a park near a small lake about 2 miles from our home. The boys played on the playground, ran up and down the hills, and played near the water’s edge. As I watched them, I was grateful for the excuse to go out and spend time with them. They are a lot of fun to be with and I realize daily that they are growing fast and I need to make the time to be with them and develop our relationships.

I never thought I would say this, but Thank You crafty, over-priced, makeup sales Lady, for giving me an excuse to spend time with my boys. I may rethink that statement when I see how much the makeup costs.

Balancing It All

So I’m that guy trying to find balance in chaos.

Health Work Career Friends Signpost Showing Life And Lifestyle Balance

I’m sure everyone is just like me in thinking that life is chaotic. The hardest part for me is trying to find the balance in all the different aspects of my life. The ambitious part of me would spend 24/7 working on my projects and developing my businesses. The family man in me would love to stay home with my kids all day and develop those relationships.

I grew up with less than perfect examples of balance. My father is a farmer and in that profession the demands of the farm generally take control. There is no way to maintain a 40 hour work week throughout the year because the needs of the farm are much greater during certain times. He did try to balance that by involving us in the farm labor and spending more time with the family during less demanding seasons.

My mother is a business owner as well. She started her business when I was 3 years old out of our basement. Through the years it has grown into a business with about 30 employees that I currently manage. It has always been a big part of our family. My mom even likes to refer to it as one of my siblings. Unfortunately, as we grew up, it was the favored sibling and it received much more attention and care than the rest of us.

As a result of my childhood and role models, when I reached adulthood I had no concept of balance. Throughout my childhood, the careers of my parents came first and on many levels I can’t fault them for that. It taught me how to work hard and I had many opportunities to grow through working with them in their businesses. But looking back on that, I want to live a more balanced life.

My roles are many, I’m a husband to a beautiful wife, and we have four children ages 10, 4, 20 months, and 5 months. Professionally, I’m a part owner and general manager of the business my mother started when I was 3. I also own a general contracting and real estate development company, and I try to fit in selling some products on Amazon on the side. Civically, I serve on a board of trustees for a public charter school in our community, and I’m a volunteer leader in my church of a group of young men ages 14-16. Sometimes I feel like I have A.D.D. as I switch roles throughout the day. There is always a problem that needs attention, or a challenge to overcome. With all the demands on my time, it would be easy for me to focus solely on my work and neglect the important parts of my life.

To overcome my tendencies and maintain balance, I try to schedule out my day and structure it to meet all the needs of myself, work, community, and my family. I wake up every morning at 5 a.m. and focus on myself and my personal development. I meditate, read and write. Exercise is also a big part of my morning. I’ve found that if I don’t get it done in the morning it won’t happen.

When the family wakes up, I usually have my personal things done and I’m able to help my wife prepare the kids for the day and we sit down together as a family to eat breakfast. I help clean up and I leave for work at around 8 o’clock.

At around 12 o’clock I’m usually able to come home and eat lunch with my family. Then I’m back at work until 5:30 when we have dinner together. My office is close enough to my home that my commute is generally walking, so throughout the day I have the chance to see my family and sometimes we all load up in the car and go run errands for work together. Some evenings I have activities with my youth group or board meetings for the school, but most are spent at home with my family. Saturdays are always reserved for family activities or work projects around the house, and Sundays are set aside for church and visiting extended family.

This schedule has been working well for us and I think it is helping maintain the balance in my different roles. I’ve found that the most important part of the scheduling is living in the moment. For example, when I’m with my children, I can’t let my mind drift into work. I have to be present in every moment whether it is with my wife and children, at work, or in a board meeting. If not I’m neglecting another part of my life and losing the balance that I’m trying so hard to maintain. I’ve found that being present is both the key to balance as well as the hardest part.

In the end, what is really important? At my funeral, I don’t think anyone will talk about how great I was at business or how many houses I built. What they will talk about are the relationships that have been developed. They will talk about the fun vacations we went on together. They will talk about the lessons they learned through example and conversation. They will talk about the memories of eating meals together as a family and spending time together.

Life is too short. Children grow up fast. Providing an income and meeting their physical needs is an important part of being a father, but it shouldn’t be done at the expense of spending time together. Finding balance between these roles has been one of my greatest challenges, but I have found that it is also very rewarding.

Miracle Morning

So I’m that guy that figured out a way to add another 2 hours to his day.

Man on the beach

When I’m doing work that doesn’t require a lot of thinking I like to listen to podcasts. I learn a lot from them and it brings new ideas to think about as I’m working. Recently I was listening to an entrepreneurial podcast where the author of a book was interviewed. His name is Hal Elrod and the book is called, The Miracle Morning.

Some of the things they talked about got my attention and I decided to read the book and see what it had to offer. The book encourages people to wake up earlier than usual and start the day with a period of meditation, reading, writing, and exercise. I’ve never considered myself a morning person. The only time I’ve consistently woken up early was during the times I have been training for marathons. It has always been the hardest part of the training to drag myself out of bed and start the day early and head out on a run. But this seems different. The main focus is to get up and get your mind in the right place before the stresses of the day distract you from what’s important.

I decided to try it for myself. I was actually kind of excited to take control in this way. I’ve always felt that I’m at my laziest at that moment when I’m trying to get out of bed in the morning, and this seemed like it gave me a purpose to get up. The first day I tried it was June 9th. It has been almost 2 months since then and I can say that with only a few exceptions while on vacations, I’ve been able to wake up and start every day with a miracle morning.

I’ve seen some significant differences in my life. I’m excited to wake up every morning and start my day in this way. I’ve been able to continually do things that I’ve always thought I didn’t have time for. I’ve been more consistent with my exercise goals. Ideas have come and I’ve been able to follow through on them. This blog, for example, is a result of the extra time I have in the morning to think about what’s going on in my life and write it down. I feel that it has helped me to be more focused and proactive in my business dealings.

I’ve had to cut back on my sleep somewhat. I’m used to getting a little over 8 hours, and now I’m getting a little under 7 hours. I haven’t noticed any change in energy levels throughout the day. The main things I’ve noticed are that if I want to take a nap in the day, it’s a lot easier than it was before. The other thing is that I fall asleep a lot faster at night. All in all, I don’t think it’s had a negative impact on me, but I will continue to pay attention to this and make adjustments if necessary. As far as sleep, I feel the key is going to bed somewhat early and maintaining a consistent schedule.

Based on the last two months, I think this is a habit that I would like to maintain in my life. I feel more creative and proactive in all areas of my life and I’ve come to the conclusion that the benefits outweigh the negatives. I’m not following the outline of the book to the letter, but I have adapted the morning rituals to fit my life and my needs. I think I might become a “Morning Person.”

Coping With Camping

So I’m that guy, chasing my 20 month old son around the great outdoors, trying to keep him from killing himself.

 

No Camping Sign

We took the whole family camping last weekend for a reunion with my immediate family. I have mixed feelings about camping with kids. We have a 9 year old, 4 year old, 20 month old, and a 5 month old. The 5 month old was nearly perfect during the trip, the 9 and 4 year olds had their share of whining and drama, but the 20 month old was the challenge. I think it might be somewhat normal, but he seems to have a stronger than usual desire to test the durability of his small body. One comedian I have listened to likes to say that all children around the age of two are essentially suicidal and it is our job to make sure they do not succeed in their attempts. I’m becoming more and more convinced of the truthfulness of that theory as I observe the judgment of my son.

The campground we went to was next to a small water park. Our first activity after setting up camp was to go swimming with the kids. As we got to the pool I was watching our son. We went to set our towels down about 20 feet from the pool and I set my son down as I took off my shirt. As I was distracted, my son recognized the opportunity and went straight for the pool. He is not necessarily fast, but my judgment to finish taking off my shirt before chasing after him was called into question as my wife rushed to catch him with less than 1 foot to spare before he went toddling into the deep end of the swimming pool. It was an effective reminder that my son could not be trusted and I would have to be on high alert through the rest of the trip.

The rest of the trip was essentially two days of suicide watch as I followed my son around the campground; watching him get as close to danger as possible and dragging him back to our campsite.

The first night in the camper was a disaster. Our kids thrive on routine and changing that routine by being in a new environment and sleeping in a camping trailer was enough to make life difficult. Once again, the 20 month old proved to be the most difficult. At 11 p.m. my wife finally gave up trying and loaded him into the truck to drive him around until he went to sleep. No one got enough sleep that night.

The next day in the pool was when it finally caught up with them. The 20 month old fell asleep on my shoulder while I was carrying him around in the water, and the 5 month old fell asleep in her floatation device. I found a quiet corner of the pool to hold them as they took their naps. After the morning swim we went back to camp for lunch. We spent some time with my family visiting and after lunch I took the two babies into the trailer where they both fell asleep. I think that was one of the best parts of the “vacation.” I was able to take a short nap and the rest of the afternoon I watched the Shaytards on my phone.

That evening our routine was interrupted again. My sister was in charge of dinner for the group and she was at the swimming pool. Our family is accustomed to eating dinner at between 5:30 and 6:00. We were finally eating at 9:00. In spite of this delay and the late bedtime, thankfully the children slept better than the night before.

In spite of all the interruptions to our family routine, we were able to have a good time. It was great to be able to visit and spend time with my siblings and their families. We have a pretty close family and get together regularly, but being in a different environment seemed to improve the interactions that we had. The children had a lot of fun playing together and swimming.

It may sound like I had a terrible experience, and yes many aspects of the camping trip were difficult and annoying. But there were moments of fun interspersed throughout the experience that, in the end, made it a worthwhile trip to go on.

I was telling a neighbor about our trip the other night and he said something that impacted me. “Making memories and having fun, are not the same thing.” That is a very profound statement. I may not have enjoyed every minute of my time camping, but the memories of the good times we had will stick with my older children for a very long time. I have to constantly remind myself to live in the moment and enjoy the experiences we have together. Children grow up fast and the memories we have are the only things that last.

 

Adventures In Golf

 

So I’m that guy, watching as the best golf shot he ever hits, gets pulled by the wind and sails towards a new house.

 

IMG_1178

So I’ve never claimed to be good at golf. The last time I played was over 10 years ago. I like golf, but I work, and I don’t have the time to dedicate to get really good at it. This week I had the chance to go golfing with a church youth group of 14-17 year old boys at a small golf course.

The first hole had gone well and after my first shot on the second hole, I was about 150 yards out from the green. I pulled out my seven iron, not because I knew how far a seven iron would take the ball, but because it seemed like a reasonable choice. I lined up with the ball and took a solid swing.

There were three 15 year old boys with me to make up my foursome. They stood around me in awe at the solid hit that went high into the air and straight towards the green. For an instant I was very proud of my shot. To my untrained eye it looked perfect. Unfortunately, I either hit it too hard or the wind propelled it more than I had planned and we watched at it sailed directly toward a house about 30 yards behind the green.

At this point there was no way to take back the shot. I could only watch and hope for the best. Because of the trees around the house, we could not see very well, but even at 150 yards we could clearly hear the ball hit the house with a thud. About 2 seconds later, the thud was followed by the sound of glass crashing down on to the deck behind the house.

I stood there stunned for a moment, and the boys with me did not move either. The sound clearly indicated to us what had happened, but I for one, was not immediately able to accept that I had just done that. Yes, I am “That Guy.”

I am somewhat embarrassed to say, that for a moment it seemed like there were a couple of options for how to handle the situation. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the only real option was to show the boys an example, by taking responsibility for what I had done, and making it right.

As I walked toward the house, I was angry. I was angry at myself for hitting the shot and not being able to control where it landed. I was angry that someone thought it was a good idea to put a house 100 feet directly behind a golf green. I knocked on the door and no one answered. I decided to take care of the situation after we had finished our game.

The rest of the game was not very fun. There were many houses along the course, and the boys and I were careful not to have the same thing happen again. When we finished the game I went into the clubhouse and let them know about the window I had hit and gave them my phone number. I also left a note on the door of the house that I had hit. I was relieved as I spoke with my insurance company, to find out that my homeowner’s policy has “Stupid Idiot” coverage (liability), and that it would take care of the expenses associated with replacing the window.

Here is the moral of the story. We all know that around the country, every day there are thousands of windows broken by golfers. I would venture to say that there is a small percentage of those golfers that admit to and take responsibility for the damage done. I am sure that I could have walked away from that hole and played the rest of the day and no one would have known that I had done the damage to the window. But I would have known, and the boys with me would have known. I hope that my example to the boys helps them to choose to be honest and accept responsibility even when they know the consequences will be difficult to deal with.

I’m pretty sure it will be another 10 years before I decide to play golf again.

Kendall is a boy name

So I’m that guy who woke up to his phone ringing at two in the morning, only to be told he was a girl.

Hello my name is

(Disclaimer, this is intended to be a humorous rant on names.)

Growing up, I didn’t know many people with my name, but I did know some, and they were all boys. As I got into my late teens, I realized that there were also girls named Kendall, but it was a rare occurrence for me to hear this and I was not overly concerned. Now I am afraid that the name has almost completely been taken over by the opposite sex. In 1906 the name was 100% male. In the early 80’s, when I was born, it was still mostly a boy name. But by 2012 it was 86% female. I found it interesting, that a Google search for “girl names that became boy names” yielded absolutely no results. This is a phenomena that affects males exclusively.

I am troubled by this, as I am sure many other men are. Just think about all the Lynns, Quinns, Shirleys, Ashleys, Shannons, Stacys, Taylors, and Whitneys to name a few. They are stranded in a world where their names were once proud and masculine, only to hear kids snickering when they perceive that they have girl names.

A few years ago I was woken up at 2 a.m. by my phone ringing. I tried to ignore the call, but the caller was persistent. I answered the phone and a woman asked, “Is Kendall there?” I said, “This is Kendall.” She says, “No this isn’t; Kendall is a girl name.”

Still partially awake, I was hurt and offended and when she tried to end the call I said, “You can’t just wake me up and call me a girl without an explanation of why.”

She proceeded to tell me that she had found a note in her husband’s pants pocket with my name and number. Assuming I was a girl and fearing the worst, she decided to call the number at 2 in the morning to catch the person off guard and find out if there was something going on. It turns out her husband is a contractor I had spoken with earlier that day about a job I needed done.

This woman’s trust issues, or her husband’s lack of trustworthiness, vividly illustrate the confusion that is being created in the world because of the name migration. Some women think it is cute to name a baby girl with a name that is not commonly used for girls, and I have to agree that sometimes it is cute. But at what cost for all the boys that carry that name? Is it fair to take a name and change it to fit your purposes? Just think of all the Leslies out there that have no choice but to be Les. (Pun intended.)

I guess my hope is that before you choose that name that is not traditionally used for a particular gender, you think of the effects on society. What name will be next? Maybe it’s David, Michael, or even George that will be the next to cross the line. No name is off limits apparently. And although this is written mostly tongue in cheek, I have been affected by the blatant takeovers of male baby names.

What’s your opinion? Agree or disagree, please comment and put in your two cents on this issue.

 

Adoption “What If’s”

So, what if I’m that guy who analyzes things too much?

what if

Adoption was not our “plan A” when it came to growing our family. Don’t get me wrong, I had the idealistic thoughts that many have, thinking that someday it would be nice to adopt. I viewed it as something that truly selfless people do to help humanity, but it was not necessarily for me.

Infertility changed all of that for me. It took some time to wrap my mind around the situation, but eventually it became a present reality. I realized that adopting would fill a need in ourselves and our family as well as give a child a good home. I didn’t come to this realization easily, here are some of the “what if’s” that crossed my mind, and some of the conclusions I’ve come to through my experiences.

-What if it is too expensive? This is a very valid question. Adoption can be very expensive and to some it seems impossible. We were blessed with the resources to make the adoptions happen and I have never regretted it. There is nothing that money could have bought that would bring more joy and happiness to me and my family.

-What if I’m not able to bond with the child? This question was one of the first I had. I had no idea if I would bond with an adopted child the same way as I had with our biological daughter. In my situation this is the easiest one to answer, the bonding happened immediately. From the first moment I saw each one of our adopted children, I was totally and completely in love. There was no hesitation or second thought.

-What if I feel like a babysitter? This question went back to the previous question of bonding. Like I stated earlier, from the beginning there was not question of the bond that immediately formed between us. Whenever my wife goes out with her friends, leaving me alone with the kids, she likes to tell me that it’s not “baby sitting” when they’re your own kids.

-What if the birth parents want the baby back?  We have all heard the horror stories of the birth parents who come back after two years, and after a long court battle regain custody of their child. While this does happen, it’s very rare. In my experience, the birth parent’s greatest motivator is the happiness of the child. Though difficult, they put their own needs aside for the child to have an intact home, and a better future than they can provide.

-What if the child grows up wishing they were with their birth parents? In visiting with adults that were adopted, I have found that the child does mourn the loss of his or her birth parents, but they all have expressed to me the gratitude they have for the birth parents that placed them for adoption as well as for their adoptive parents. A few have described difficulty in their teen years, but adolescence can be a very difficult time for anyone. We all try to identify who we are and who we want to be. Adoption is something that kids can blame their troubles on, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that is the root of the issue. While I am sure there are exceptions, adult adoptees that I have met are very well adjusted, happy people.

-What if I’m not a good enough Dad? This was the hardest question for me, and continues to be difficult. A birth mother places a lot of trust and hope in an adoptive couple. She wants her child to have a life that she can’t provide, and it rests on the shoulders of the adoptive parents to fulfill her dreams for that child. When I lose my temper or catch myself not being the best I can be, I feel like I’m letting that her down. We all have weaknesses and struggle at times, but I always try to remember the sacrifice of their birth mother and try harder to be the father she wanted for her children.

Don’t let the “what if’s” stop you if you are thinking about adoption. If nothing else, through my experiences I’ve realized that things have a way of working out. And even though they may not turn out the way we first planned or hoped, I can look back and say I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you have had experiences with adoption that you would like to share, please leave me a comment.

The Economics of Adoption: Using an Attorney vs. Private Adoption Agency

So I’m that guy that decided to go forward with a private adoption thinking it would be cheaper and easier than working with an adoption agency.

Adoption agreement

When we received the information that the birth mother of our first adopted son was once again pregnant, we had some mixed feelings. With our first son, we went through a private adoption agency and the cost was difficult for us to manage. We have no regrets at spending the $30,000 fee that the agency charged the first adoption, but we just didn’t feel that we would be able to afford another costly adoption so soon afterward. At the same moment, we wanted the baby and could not imagine telling our son that we couldn’t afford to bring his brother into our home when he was older. It seemed silly on one hand to quibble over the cost of adopting a half sibling, but on the other hand, it would put a serious financial burden on our family.

Upon further research, we were told by the adoption agency that their fees had gone up since our last adoption. The current fee would be $33,000 plus any medical expenses incurred during the birth. The medical costs could be anywhere between $7,000 and up to $10,000 if a c-section was necessary, and any costs associated with complications would be ours as well. That brought the cost to a range between $40,000 and $43,000.

Here is some un-professional tax advice for people looking to adopt. There are adoption tax credits available to adoptive families. In our situation there was up to $12,000 in non-refundable tax credits. Non-refundable means that you don’t get it back unless you owe taxes. If you owe taxes, the tax credit is a dollar for dollar reduction of your tax bill. It will usually make your refund larger, but you won’t necessarily get the money back in the first year. Consult your CPA for further information on this.

Even with the adoption tax credit, the price was so high that we felt we couldn’t move forward with the adoption because of the cost. The only other option we had was to work out a private adoption and work with birth mother directly. Believing this would cost less, while knowing it would be difficult to manage the situation, we chose to move forward without the adoption agency.

We contacted the birth mother and told her our situation would not allow us to go through the agency, but that we would like to handle it privately. She was hesitant at first, but she decided that she would cooperate in order to keep the kids together. My wife and I started making phone calls and doing research into the costs that we would have in doing an adoption privately. We interviewed lawyers and spoke with social workers and hospitals to pin down all the costs that we would be responsible for.

Our budget included an estimate of travel and living expenses to move the birth mother closer to us during the last two months of the pregnancy as that is what she had asked us to do. All together we estimated the cost of a private adoption at between $15,000 and $18,000. That was still a stretch for our finances, but we decided we would make it work one way or another.

The adoption turned out to be very difficult. The day to day events could fill a book and I don’t want to get into the difficult details of the situation. To put it concisely, when you are doing a private adoption, you take the roles of social worker, adoptive family, and financial provider on yourself at the same time. It puts you in a very tenuous position, and opens you up for manipulation. If you know going into the situation that you will be manipulated, be sure and be open and honest with your spouse on how much you are willing to be manipulated. We found it to be very difficult to refuse extravagant demands when she threatened to leave and not place with us. We would not only be devastated at losing the baby, but any money we had already spent in the adoption would be unrecoverable as well. In some states there are legal limitations on what can be provided to a birth mother who intends to place a baby, but unfortunately the laws in our state are very liberal in this area and have virtually no limitations.

With our willingness to bend, we were able to successfully complete the adoption. There were several points along the way that we were afraid we were going to lose the opportunity to adopt the baby and looking back, it is nothing short of miraculous that it all worked out the way it did. We realized in the end, the value of the adoption agency probably would have been worth the added expense. We did save money on the cost of the adoption, but it took an emotional toll on us and our family and required a lot of work that we had not planned on.

By the end of the adoption, our lawyer now had a new, “Most expensive adoption.” The fees added up as they helped us navigate the situations that we dealt with daily. Be aware that your lawyer is not your friend. When you call them up to chat about a situation, they are billing you.
Between the added legal expenses and the added living expenses for the birth mother, our do it yourself adoption ended up costing just a little over $30,000. Yes, we saved some money, but it was a far cry from the budget we had started with. In the end, we had an amazing outcome. We walked out of the hospital with a healthy baby boy that has been a source of joy in our family ever since. While we would change some aspects of it if we could, the outcome was well worth the struggle we went through to get him into our home.

How I met their Mother

So I’m that guy, who while looking into his wife’s eyes as they were married, thought that he loved her more than anything in this world and couldn’t possibly love her more, but realizes now that he can and does love her more every day.

Couple holding hand at sun rise

 

When I first met my wife, Katy, she was only 16. I thought she was cute, but as she was a little more than 4 years younger than me, I didn’t consider dating her. She worked for my mom’s business at the time, and I also ended up working in the business. We didn’t work together but we were around each other sometimes through the day, so we were able to get to know each other a little.

When Katy was 17 I was pressured in to taking one of her friends to her Senior Prom. I wasn’t very excited about the situation, but I said I would do it if Katy came along, so I arranged a double date where she went with a friend of mine. We had a really fun time together, and on that date, I saw her sense of humor and personality and I really liked her. After that night, I was talking to my friend, who had also had a good time, and he said he had also liked her. “Too bad she’s so young,” he said.

It was another year before we started dating, but through that year we had a few opportunities to hang out and get to know each other a little better. Finally, one day at work we were talking about our lack of weekend plans. I had said that I wasn’t doing anything, and she said the same. So I asked if she would like to go out with me to see the Star Wars movie that had just come out in the theaters. She said yes, and the rest is history.

That was around the last week in May of 2002. By the middle of June we were going out almost every weekend. We had a really good time together and enjoyed talking and spending time with each other. We talked about anything and everything. The realization that she was the one I should marry came little by little, but it wasn’t long before I knew I would be very happy sharing my life with her. We really became close through those few months, and in late August our relationship had arrived at the point where we started talking about marriage.

I remember the first conversation we had about marriage. It was exciting and new to realize that we were both thinking about this. We were driving in my truck at the time, and she said, “We haven’t even held hands yet.” I was a very shy person and struggled to get up the courage to make the “moves,” but when she said that, I reached over and held her hand. From that point on we were inseparable. We spent all of our free time together and shortly thereafter I bought a ring.

We went for a drive and parked to talk. I had the ring in my pocket and I was so excited at the thought of putting it on her finger. We were talking and I held her hand and said, “When we are old and grey, I want to look at your hand and see this ring on your finger,” and I pulled out the ring and showed it to her and I asked, “Will you marry me?”

She said yes and I put the ring on her finger. Then she said, “Don’t you think you should kiss me?” Looking back on those moments, I can’t help but think I could have done it all a lot better. I could have made the proposal more elaborate or more romantic. We could have held hands more and kissed while we were dating. But all in all I don’t have any regrets. From that courtship we have developed a relationship that is built on a true friendship and not solely a physical bond.

That stage in our lives culminated in the most important day in my life, November 30, 2002, when I held her hand and we were married. It was at that time that our family was united and began. I can truly say that I married my best friend. I clearly remember thinking on that day that I could not possibly love any person more than I loved her. Looking back at our lives, we have gone through a lot together. There have been amazing times, hard times, tragedies and miracles. I realize now that I do love her more with every passing day. Through it all, the friendship that we started with has only strengthened. Our relationship has become integral to our lives. I realize that with each passing day, I do love her more and more.