Sad Anniversary

Tomorrow, June 19th marks 20 years since the world got a little darker. That was the day Mom officially died. I could say passed on, went to a better place, took the next step in her journey or whatever other polite euphemism people afraid of death use to avoid admitting what happened. That would be to demean who and what she was though.

The last few months of her life were pretty miserable. Bedridden at the end, ravaged by morphine, destroyed by chemotherapy and cancer, she was a shell of her former self.

Before becoming bedridden there was a time when her life consisted of spending the week unable to get out of bed because of the effects of the prior chemo treatment. She would get just strong enough to walk to the car to go get the next one. She hated it. It was hard to watch.

As an aside is no secret how I feel about intentional short hair on a woman or why. But you will seldom if ever hear me comment on it because for all I know the person is suffering from chemo or is shorn in sympathy for someone going through it. It was pretty shattering to Mom when her hair went. It wasn't as if there was anything she could do about it or it made her any less her, but it sure bothered her.

It was just one of many indignities her declining health forced on her. It was an ugly thing. But it was a beautiful thing.

Watching her friends and family come together to comfort her, comfort Dad, comfort the kids...that was a beautiful and memorable thing that I can never properly express my gratitude for.

I will never forgot or stop appreciating the conversation she had with Kenneth D. Barton​, maybe 12 or 13 years old at the time, on how he could stand performing an odious but necessary task and hearing his response "It is easy because I love you, Mom." I know how much that meant to her and how much it means to me.

I was blessed to be one of the kids who early on appreciated the wisdom of his parents and thankful I did for she was a true renaissance woman with a vast array of skills.

Oh, I am not one of those people who thinks my Mom was the best cook ever, etc. She did not cook 7 course dinners. But she did cook nutritious, plentiful and varied food on what was often an essentially non-existent budget. She sewed clothes for us for years. She took tole painting with her friends, did calligraphy, had done some medical field stuff, I cannot even put it into words.

Until too many bouts with cancer took their toll she was a very funny, caring and generous woman. I am not blind to some of the changes to her personality after years of torture at the hands of the forefront of medicine. The doctors did the best they could with the knowledge and technology they had but it was still torture and it did change her.

She taught me a lot about life and I miss her still. But I am glad the misery ended for her. The season of pain passed 20 years ago and she went to meet her maker.

Not everything left behind was peaches and cream. It has been a difficult patch of years from time to time. There are cracks in the family that we need to fix. We are working on them. There are life paths altered, sometimes for good and sometimes for ill. In other words, she lived a real life, not an idealized life where she was perfect and her passing taught everyone lessons that healed the world and lived happily ever after.

And I am thankful she did. I am thankful for the joy and thankful for the grief. I am thankful for the lifelong friendships that deepened. I am thankful that daily when I am praying for Doris Allen​ I am not just thinking of her but also of Jerry Allen​, Rocky Allen​, Emily, Daniel, Amanda and everyone who cares about them because, while I am not there and living close to them, I know some things they are going through and know Doris needs prayers and encouragement and so do those who love her as so many of us do so deeply. It helps me understand and have compassion that otherwise I am not capable of.

For good or ill, who Mom was and how she lived and died shaped who I am and how I live. Sometimes I am happy for how I represent her. Other times I am ashamed when I know what I am saying or doing is not what she raised me to do. Sometimes it gets me back on the path I should be on.

Do I wish she was here today? Yes and no. Her death opened other doors for new friendships with Dan Loveless​, Don Loveless and so forth, and a marriage for Dad and Arlene.

I miss her. I miss her guidance. I miss her smile and the joy she took in simple things. Watching her play Mario Brothers was legendary for her incompetence and the wild swings of her hands as she guided Mario to death after death on the first obstacle. And she would laugh and laugh and laugh and have so much fun.  Emily Fethkenher Barton​ can relate from watching me attempt Ninja Dash with pretty limited success.

I hope her day of judgement has her standing in front of a loving, compassionate God who says well done faithful servant enter my rest.

I hope those of us behind who love and miss her take the valuable lessons she had to offer and use them to make ourselves better people. I hope the hurt goes away from those still hurting and leaves them at peace because that definitely is something she would want.

I miss you Mom but thank you for who you were and who you taught me to be. 20 years is too long to miss someone but not too long to be grateful for the years we had and the help you still are. I will love you forever. Thank you for being you.

Something I posted on Facebook and do not want to forget

As many of you know, my Aunt Ann passed away yesterday. I have not and will not say a lot about it or her on here. It is enough to know she was family and I love her as I love all my family, including many who, through the years, have been angry with me or because of me, some of whom have not.
What I will say is this. Because she was a human being with the struggles attendant on that, there will be people at the funeral or thinking about what I am about to say when they should be at the funeral with regrets over the things they said to her or about her or felt about her. Others will be full of regret because she has passed on from this life.
Those regrets, of course, are too late in that case. But they are not too late for those of us still behind. I beg you. If you have things in your past between you and your parents, you and your brothers or sisters, you and your friends, you and your co-workers, you and acquaintances that you will regret when they are no longer here to make peace with, do not wait. Do something about it now while you are both still alive.
It bothers me so much that in my own family there are people with so much hatred toward one another that they cannot both be at family reunions at the same time for fear the other one will be there.
It bothers me I have friends who do not want to be around others of my friends.
And do not think it is not hatred. You might cloak it under the guise of anger at things done or imagined, at bitterness or numerous other emotions but the cold hard truth is you are making a mistake in not getting right with that person or people while there is time. You are wrong to not find a way to be civil for 1-2 hours once or twice a year. You are wrong to have the opportunity to not have regrets when someone you should have loved is gone and you cannot make right what is between you.
I have listened for years as people talked about how stubborn and hateful my Dad and Jim Richardson were. All I know is Dad and Jim both have had open doors, a willingness to talk to anyone, including people who have done them much harm, and there is no place they are afraid to go because someone who said something bad about them or did something wrong to them might be.
They exemplify love as discussed in Scripture far more than those who hate them for how "hateful" they allege them to be.
I grieve for those of us who grieve the passing of Ann, but I grieve far more for those with things they regret. And I do not limit that to this situation.
May Ann rest in peace and may those of us left behind have peace with one another. If you are on my friend list you know I love you.

It is a curiosity

For reasons far too numerous and boring to list, I seldom write on here any longer. Some of the reasons are after over 2200 posts there just were not a lot of new thoughts to least, not that i was desirous of sharing.

Yet I still pop round every once in a while to drop a note about one thing or other. Almost did a couple weeks ago when my ex-wife had the unmitigated gall and blinding stupidity to try to "friend" me on Facebook.

I have to wonder what the thought process is that leads to that request.

"oh, I haven't talked to the man I cheated on repeatedly, kept claiming to get pregnant by other men and then mis-carry, then later said I had never been pregnant or cheated on him, then left him with thousands of dollars in phone and dentist bills incurred after we started divorce proceedings...I think we should be friends on Facebook!"

I mean, seriously, how incredibly idiotic, insensitive and unaware does one have to be to do that?

I started to put a much longer rant about it on here, but then did not. Also, for whatever reason this year Mom's death was hitting me hard a mere 19 years later. No idea why. Not a landmark year like the 20th would be, I am no special "key" age...

did not post that, either.

Been a few other thoughts I considered. Couple friends...former friends, I guess? stopped answering my texts (I have never been good at making or taking calls, I spend too much time on phone at work), been thinking about them lately but I am sure they have their reasons and I shan't trouble them. And in a sense it is a bit of a relief as I am at a different point in my life than they are in theirs now and it was fair to none of us I guess.

At a different point than my oldest friends, too, who have all moved out of state except one who moved to Sun River. I literally...and I mean literally, not figuratively as most people use it...see my friend who moved to Washington, DC more than the one who lives in Oregon.

Maybe it is just old age creeping up on me. It has certainly affected my meandering mind and stream of consciousness post.

Thing is, the other day I was randomly trolling the web and find I am not unusual. I see a lot of blogs that used to have a daily posting then just...stopped. Seome were going to post part 2 or 3 and just never did. Others stop for a month, a year, three years...then may suddenly post again.

Just curious why. What motivated me to post this tonight?

Fathers Day

Tomorrow is Fathers Day and there will be a host of related comments. Already seen a ton reflecting the modern belief that a father is not the guy who contributed the genetic material, etc. It is not something I agree with the way it is presented, and a lot of why I feel that way is because of my beliefs and experiences.

I am exceedingly thankful I was born to parents who believed the Word of God, who worked through differences instead of splitting over them, who in good times...and we had them...and bad times...had those too...provided as good of role models as I could ask for. Had I not had those I would be in prison or the grave right now.

People claiming to be much wiser than Mom and Dad would say Dad did not talk about his love enough. People wiser than those people would recognize the love he showed us every minute of every day in the way he treated Mom...friends...acquaintances...strangers...we children...I would say enemies, but that is part of who he is. There are people who considered him an enemy for speaking the truth but to my knowledge, in my formative years he called nobody enemy.

For decades I have heard him called stubborn, unbending, bull-headed...other things meant not to be complimentary. Thing is, he would always listen to things said by the people calling him those things, consider their arguments, and simply would not compromise. He could listen without agreeing, though when he found areas he could improve he did. Where he did not agree he would try to show them why. Meanwhile, the people calling him those things would seldom reciprocate. As with the words, his displays meant a whole lot more than their words.

Watching him deal with Mom all the years she had cancer...trying to care for her, keep us provided for, fulfill his duties as a preacher, be a comfort and support to her when needing it himself...I learned things I cannot express in words.

I honor and respect those who, in todays broken society of fly by night relationships, "committed relationships" that end for reasons I personally find lacking, faithless parents, I am thankful I grew up with a Father who fought through the challenges to be Father in genetics, responsibility, example, and teaching.

I was no easy child. The stubbornness I had was not offset by the gentleness that is a hallmark of his actions to those who actually take the time to get to know him. We had many battles of will and I am thankful he did not give up.

I hope someday to be half the man he is.I hope to learn to have within me and to show the love he has demonstrated all my born days. I hope to find the patience, the care for others, the willingness to forego my own needs that others might be helped he has always shown.

 There are men out there who have been more financially successful. There are men out there who have become more famous. But there is not one person out there, in the past, present or future, I would rather have for my Father. I love you Dad and thank you for everything you have done. I feel that one not on Sunday, June 14th 2014 but on every day since I was cognizant of what the parent-child relationship was, is, and should be. Thank you for molding me, guiding me, supporting me, loving me and being the man you are.

Well THAT Was a Colossal Waste of time:My Two Weeks as a Juror

For the past two weeks my life has been dominated by my civic duties. I was called as a juror on April 1st, and the date would prove monumentally accurate...that is, it turned into a very poorly done practical joke.

The case I was selected for was a civil case; it was a lawsuit alleging age discrimination, gender discrimination, and unlawful job place harassment. I would say those are serious allegations.

Based on my previous jury experience, I was always going to have a tough time getting deliberately dismissed...I believe people like myself willing and able to set aside personal prejudices in favor of delivering a fair verdict based on presented facts are necessary. So lets take a look at some of the reasons people used to get out of jury duty.

"I don't believe anyone should ever sue anyone for any reason whatsoever."

"I think it is ridiculous to ask for 9 million dollars and I am so prejudiced against the plaintiff I could never be fair." (Two people used this one).

"I am a small business owner and hate all big businesses." (Note: Where do you get the product you supply? The parts and pieces that make it up? Going out on a limb hate big businesses when it is convenient to do so and when you want out of jury duty)

"Defendant is the evil empire."
"They are not suing Defendant Inc, they are suing Defendant HIM, a subsidiary"
"I hate Defendant so much I could never be impartial towards them."

A few others nearly as bad. There were a couple I thought were legitimate and several (such as the ones above) I found so ridiculously transparent as not wanting to be on a jury I wanted to hit them between the eyes with their stupidity.

So the Plaintiff's attorney had his opportunity to ask the potential jurors questions. He had of us...28 in the initial batch...18 in the replacement batch...may have been another group added...what something was we enjoyed doing.

Best/worst answer? Taking care of feral cats. REMEMBER: The question is what they enjoyed doing. Wow. Spoiler alert; she ended up on the jury. She sat at the end of the row in a special chair to accommodate a pillow. It was difficult getting in and out of the row past her. She insisted on being the first one seated. She should have been the last one seated. On a completely unrelated note...I hope to never encounter her again.

He asked zero questions related to the trial at hand. My trouble flag started its first attempt to raise.

The defense attorney asked questions about HR experience, difficulties with bosses, know, stuff related to the topic we would spend two weeks investigating. One side has an early lead...

On the Plaintiff side was jury make-up...including the alternate, 8 women and 5 men, so theoretically sympathetic to a woman being discriminated and harassed.

Regardless, by the end of the day 13 of us were selected...12 jurors and 1 alternate.

Opening Statements
Plaintiff's attorney starts out talking about how the operations manager would wander around the plant with a black bat, waving it around, and it made the plaintiff nervous, she once asked to hold it, later he was given a plastic bat. She had to challenge her employee rating three times, once having it overturned. She was victimized by a "Good Old Boys" club, when she was out on medical leave, they replaced her with a younger male. She was on medical leave after being threatened physically and cursed at heavily.

Wow. Serious stuff. What is the defense thinking?

Defense makes their statements and I have a pretty good idea the trial is already over. They address every point and already I think it is going to come down to a he said/she said credibility check on one specific meeting and whether we believe he yelled, screamed, and cursed at her.

So then the judge points out that in pre-trial, the bat and the psychological issue were ruled inadmissible and will not be part of the trial.

So the first witness is the plant manager. Remember, these are the PLAINTIFF'S witnesses. He praises the plaintiff as a very hard, talented worker who was very effective. The questions are bouncing back from 2005 to 2011 randomly with no discernible pattern and it is very confusing.

Meanwhile, as he would with virtually every witness, the lawyer had this or a similar exchange:
"When you had a conversation with X, and you talked about Y..."
"Objection. Hearsay."
"Ok." Pursed lips, look of disgust, letting us jurors know the judge was being unfair.
"Did you have a conversation with X?"
"In that conversation, was such and such said?"
"Objection, hearsay."
"Did you have a conversation with Z about..."
"Objection. Hearsay."
"Did you have a conversation with Z?"
"In that conversation, was such and such said?"
"Sustained. It's hearsay."

Over. And over. And over. And over. And over. And over. And over.

Finally the plaintiff's attorney presents an email. Aha, some actual evidence.

See, plant manager had a habit of walking the floor and talking to every employee as part of their version of LEAN manufacturing. One day he asked a guy working on a machine a question about it. The plaintiff then sent the branch manager an e-mail telling him if he had questions of people on her team to come to her, not them.

What? Isn't that kind of proving the case AGAINST your client that she wasn't part of their work culture?

Then followed a series of questions: Have you ever used the F-bomb? Have you ever cursed in front of an employee? No, no, etc.

Plaintiff's lawyer tries to  bring up the bat about 4 times, instant objection, instant sustain, instructions to jury to disregard.

Asks the plant manager various questions about employee's ages. he doesn't know. Asks who was paid how much. He doesn't know.

Thing is...the branch manager was showing poorly for knowledge on certain things...but believable. Payroll for hundreds of people, maybe he would or would not know people 2-3 levels down from him...same with age.

Cross examination was mostly how much input he had on the ratings given. Very little, that was the managers job.

Most witnesses saw same questions with virtually same response; no, they had not heard the two guys mostly being assailed ever curse, yell, scream, in fact they universally thought the bosses were great but had major communications issues with the plaintiff, a notorious micro-manager who rejected the corporate culture because she wanted total command and control.

Wait...these are the PLAINTIFF'S witnesses? Because they SOUND like the defense's witnesses...

The manger is interviewed. And the plaintiff's lawyer, in a major "gotchya" moment, shows a picture of him with a beard. "I notice you shaved."

We all look at each other with that, "What?" look.

"Yes, I grow a beard every year for hunting season and shave after it."

And yet the lawyer makes a huge deal of this, showing us how intimidating he looks with a beard. Think a kindly grandfather with a snow-white beard and you get the gist. Wow. Strike 27. And we are just 2 or 3 witnesses in so far.

So the plaintiff brings in a third-party recruiter. he points out he does NOTHING with internal hiring, he only comes into play if they cannot find a suitable candidate internally.

Plaintiffs Lawyer: "So did you see my client's resume for job A?"
"No, unless the hiring manager asked me to, I wouldn't."
"Did you interview my client for that position?"
"Did you see my client's resume for position B?"
"Did you interview her for that position?"
"Did you see my client's resume for job 3?"
He introduces an email sent from the recruiter. It is a form rejection letter. "So you didn't see her resume?"
"It is attached to this rejection letter."

Uh-oh...they got him.
Recruiter: "It is a form letter. I never opened the resume because she, being an internal employee, was not someone I would look at unless the hiring manager specifically requested me to do so."
Lawyer: "So even though you had her resume, you never opened it?"
"I had no need to."
"And you never interviewed her for the position?"

Wow, we are just going in circles here.

Finally, the defense interviews him.
"Do you know (branch manager)?"
"Do you know (her manager)?"
"Co-worker 1?"
names every co-worker involved in case, followed by no.
"No further questions".

We jurors are staring at each other. What did this guy have to do with anything? He doesn't work their internal employees, knows NONE of the players...what on earth?

The plaintiff's call her immediate subordinate who had filed a complaint against her. Subordinate is a great witness...for the defense. Backs up EVERY claim the defense had made...plaintiff was micro-manager who had difficult communication style that did not fit the established corporate culture of open communication between everyone. The clients' boss was easy going, great boss. No, never heard either of them curse. No, never heard of an "Old Boys Network" and never experienced it.

And so it went. Witness after witness saying the same things. Yes, the Plaintiff was hard-working, a good employee, sure, had a couple issues like micro-managing and could be difficult to communicate with, no, they had never heard the two primary defendants curse, threaten anyone, shout...

As we turned into week two we were still waiting for the bombshell that would turn all this on its head and tell us what the lawsuit was about.

Age discrimination? Well, one person had been hired younger than the client...but she was saying her advanced age (48 or 49, somewhere in there) was preventing her from advancing.

Gender discrimination? Well...2 of the 3 people in her position were female, in fact over half the plant was female in positions on every level.

Harassment? Everyone was disputing her claims...and they were HER witnesses.

So we start discussing a fateful moment. After she sent her e-mail telling her bosses' boss to go through her to talk to her people, her boss called her into his office to discuss that e-mail. See, from her very first performance review six years ago, on EVERY performance review he had addressed an ongoing problem; she needed to develop a better work/life balance and needed to let other people have input and communication.

This was documented by the items the plaintiff had admitted as evidence.

So he was talking to her about it and said, "You just aren't getting it. I feel like I have to hit you between the eyes with it to get you to understand."

The meeting was supposed to last about an hour. It lasted an indeterminate time (stricken evidence indicated 10 minutes but who knows) she stormed out. She called the HR manager and they talked for 10-15 minutes. She said she felt her e-mail was misunderstood and that was the extent of her complaint.

Worked the rest of the day. Worked the next day. Talked again to the HR manager who asked her what her complaint about how it was received was and asked for a formal complaint which was never filed. Went out on medical leave and never worked another day there.

Turns out she was having relationship problems at the same time (the defense was prevented from bringing this up. The plaintiff's lawyer had her intake form admitted which told us this and under problems with job it said "none". Smoking gun evidence...for the defense. But presented by the plaintiff.)

After 3-4 months her doctor referred her to a psychologist. 2 months later she decided she had been threatened physically when he threatened to hit him between the eyes, that he had stood over her, pounded his hand on the desk, cursed at her and threatened to hit her.

The first time this was ever mentioned was 6 months later.

Oh, one of the Plaintiff's witnesses, whose office was next to the guy accused of this had mentioned if he had ever yelled it would have been heard by them all because the walls were "paper thin". Additionally, every witness the plaintiff called testified under oath they had never seen him yell, curse, threaten or intimidate.

So finally they call the plaintiff herself to testify.

And she pretty much repeats everything everyone else had testified, albeit with a couple breaks for tears. In one of those breaks I saw her peak out to see if the jury was looking at her and, seeing most of us were, take her hand away and turn her face so we could see she was crying. It was so stage-managed I could not believe it.

Anyway, the lawyer goes through this long, complicated deal trying to show how much lower her income is now than it was. Problem: she made, according to her pay statement, 86,000 and change. Her new job paid 91,000 the first year plus paid overtime which this job did not. Interesting math to consider that a pay cut.

So the cumulative evidence presented by the plaintiff when he was done with his witnesses:
She was a hard-working, valuable and valued employee who did a great job on the business side but struggled to communicate with superiors, employees under her and the people in the same position. There had been a poorly worded e-mail sent that they had addressed and put in place a plan for training that was essentially a promotion according to everyone interviewed. In other words, she took something minor and turned it into something that ended her career.

There was zero evidence of age discrimination, quite the contrary.
There was zero evidence of gender discrimination, quite the contrary.
There were about a dozen people who testified there was no history or evidence of profanity, threatening, or voice-raising.

And the plaintiff has rested their case. I am thinking they did a great job of presenting the defense's case and if the defense calls nobody, simply rests, our deliberations will take about this long: "Anyone for the plaintiff? Okay, case dismissed."

We are saved the trouble. The judge dismissed the case as the plaintiff had not provided sufficient evidence to prove their claims.

I had the good fortune to talk to him after it; he concurred with my assessment that most if not all of the witnesses had more or less proved the defense case, that there was no evidence on behalf of the plaintiff. I had to admit curiosity about the bat.

See, in production meetings...which entailed numerous people...the plant manager had a habit of toying with a baseball bat. When a new person came into the company and complained about it, he stopped the habit. Later he was given a plastic bat from someone who knew he was a Cubs fan and had gone to a Chicago Cub game and gave it to him as a gift. He then toyed with that.

Not one person had ever been or felt threatened by it. It took nearly 6 years after the habit had stopped for it to become an issue.

Wow. What a colossal waste of my time. I am a dedicated worker. I habitually stayed up 3-4 hours after I got home working, was getting up at 4 to go in to work and stay caught up, was working through the breaks and lunch while at jury duty. I have been short of sleep for two weeks.

So let me give you the actual timeline devoid of court-speak.

Employee has e-mail exchange with bosses boss. Is called to account for not buying into corporate culture. Works another day. More than likely has argument with significant other. Stressed her so much she starts taking medication. Things get worse. Doctor forwards her to psychologist. Has been off work for months now. Time for yearly pay statement. Has not been at work, received pay statement with low rating, decides all the fault lies in the meaning. Decides the statement "I need to hit you between the eyes with this for you to get it" means he was ACTUALLY, PHYSICALLY going to strike her, decides he was yelling and cursing, that everything that has gone wrong is because there is a good old boys network that results in age and discrimination, finds a lawyer willing to try and twist the evidence to reflect that, starts looking around for other proofs and recalls the bat from now 8 years ago...

Wastes several hours of my life over the course of a week and a half in a ridiculous lawsuit with no foundation, no evidence, and that contradicts all available evidence. Wow.

On the bright side, there were some funny the defense lawyer objecting to a document....that she herself later submitted as evidence. I guess she didn't really object to it...

On Adoption

The Goose and I worked hard to make sure we were in a good place. She has an excellent, well-paying job. I likewise have a very solid career rolling. We have a spacious house in a good location. We have been getting various things paid of and a savings built up. We have gotten used to living together again after her time at school and getting work experience.

We have also spent a pretty fair amount of time planning our future. We have discussed options involving having children and being childless. The first has become very much our preferred condition and ideally we would like 2 children, a boy and a girl, though that is not set in stone.

We have talked long and deeply about our child-rearing ideals. We both are in agreement we want a well-rounded child/children who takes up an instrument, takes up a sport and is interested in their studies. Naturally we are aware the child's inclinations and abilities have some bearing on this, but our guidance would matter. We want to be sure they have the opportunities.

Along with this has been the admission certain things have to change. My noted food finickiness would be one shining example. For the sake of our children I have made marked changes and while certain foods will never be on the list of favorites...or even things I the interest of setting an example I consume them on occasion. And if we had children it would be constant.

That is just an example of the changes we have made or are prepared to make in the interest of giving our kids a great start to life.

We have discussed various educational choices. Potential family activities. Trips. Even what room we would take for our bedroom until the children reached certain appropriate ages.

And as anyone who knows us can tell you, we are already well-stocked with many pro-child items. My movie shelf alone is a child's dream...lots of Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon, Incredibles, Finding Nemo type might almost argue we already have a child. Me.

But I like that kind of stuff and will not apologize for it. I would much rather watch an innocent, clean, humorous movie than a blood-soaked scream fest.

We have also discussed certain things our parents did that we liked, some that we might have wished changed. We have observed other young parents and more experienced parents and taken into account various factors.

Obviously our goal is to raise happy, healthy children who have the physical, mental and financial capabilities to become whoever they want to be. Ideally we would be involved in their schoolwork, guide them to take care of them physically through a sport or more, have a musical interest so that later in life they are prepared to go where they want, do what they want and have a wonderful life.

Regardless, we have, as should be evident, spent a great deal of time examining our options. Unfortunately a combination of factors means we are highly unlikely to ever have natural-born children of our own.

But that does not change either our desire for children nor our belief we could be excellent parents given the opportunity.

I have recently been looking into the steps necessary for adoption and a few very clear lines have quickly become evident.

First off, by the time children reach 5 or 6 years old they have often been put in a very difficult position. Many have been abused, others have developmental issues, still others have developed a "I want to go to a place with few rules" explicitly stated mindset.

My heart goes out to these children. They deserve everything we want to provide. However, they are already deeply ingrained with certain patterns that we want to discourage and I am not sure that our lack of experience would allow us to be the parents they need, nor are we prepared to start in that far along.

I am wording this poorly and I apologize for that. It is not that I would love such a child any less, it simply is not where we want to start out.

Second, many others are in even more difficult straights. Children with the need of 24/7 care, as many are, I feel for them. Very much. And again it is not that I would not love and care for them. However, that is not what we are seeking to do.

At the risk of sounding even more selfish and self-centered, I would love to have a son I could bike with, play catch with, enjoy watching his guitar playing get better and better, maybe play some chess, tennis, whatever...that I could sit down and discuss his studies with.

Does that mean if by some miracle we had a child who say...could not walk that I would love him any less? Absolutely not. A child is a miracle and blessing and we would show the same love and care towards that child as we would one born with an incredibly high IQ who turned out to be the next Jimmi Hendrix/Elvis/Michael Jordan/Einstein rolled into one.

What it does mean is that if we are going to "pick" a child rather than have one through childbirth we have a preference to start with a young child who is healthy.

I feel awful typing that. It sounds very selfish. I feel awful that I cannot provide the time, care, and loving home that so many of these children need.

But I can't.

Here is the thing. When I go to adopt, I am making the explicit statement, "I am choosing you to love, to guide, to mold, to be my family, to carry on my name and legacy".

That is not contingent upon the child being healthy, developmentally challenged either physically or mentally. If we got a healthy child, natural or adopted, and tragedy struck it would not change how I felt about them.

I should say as an aside that I have several friends and relatives who are adopted. I even vaguely know who some of the family members are...I am not sure if it is to my credit or shame if I say that, while I know some of the Strands were adopted, for example, I cannot say which ones. Because I don't care. To me Gloria, Ben, Kent, Jason are my family just as much as Shelli, Trudi, and Lori, for example. There is no difference to me between Dale and Brenda, between adopted and natural born. I do not care who was adopted into the family and who was born into it. They are family. No difference to me. I cannot emphasize that enough.

So having already come out as a selfish jerk who wants to pick a healthy child to start, let me make myself look even worse.

I don't want a child with a lot of interference. What I mean is that many, many, many of these children come with the warning, "Joe is in counseling and that will need to continue" or similar statements that come out to "the state will be heavily involved in the rearing of your child".

I have zero interest in having case workers constantly around. I have no interest in the state determining how, when, or where my child will be raised.

A parent has responsibilities towards a child and the more people involved the more difficult it is to do those in the way the parent believes is right.

This is also one reason I am not particularly interested in an "open adoption" where the "birth" parent is still involved.

I understand the wonderful work being done there. For many people that is the right choice. It simply is not the right choice for me.

Adoption can be a very sensitive topic. I remember hearing as a kid other kids telling each other as a pejorative "you are adopted". Here is the thing; I consider it not a pejorative but a compliment. What I hear is "they love you so much they took you for their own".

The Goose and I have talked long about how, when and why to let our potential children know they are adopted. There are reasons for this, including medical and their right to know. It is a very serious topic and one we have an agreement on that is flexible depending on circumstances.

It is important to me. I had a friend growing up whose mother told her often, "You were an accident". She was devastated by that saying and it led to many, many problems.

Our children will never be allowed to know anything other than unreserved love and they are greatly desired. By the time the time arrives to let them know they were adopted, not natural born I want it so deeply ingrained in them that they are an indispensable part of a loving family that it will not matter to them that the blood is not the same. We may not be linked by heredity but we are in every other way. Inextricably, irrevocably, without reservation or regret. No more and no less valued and loved than any other child we may or may not have.

I know adopting from foster care is often mentioned. I think you can see from above why I am not overly on board with that. It is not that I do not want those children to have long, happy, healthy is just that we may not be the right match. They already KNOW what I want them to learn in the proper time and way, they already have other influences in their lives.

Along with that, we have kind of established an artificial "we would like 4 years or younger" child...and prefer babies for a variety of reasons, including many in this screed.

We have talked about children from other countries and it may turn out that is what we end up doing. The Goose actively wants a baby from China. I would be good with that, although it would alter the timing of the adoption conversation obviously.

There are so many things to consider. We will be actively pursuing this year. I welcome all comments, advice, and even accept heavy doses of criticisms for the parts you think insensitive or selfish.

We also are very, very open...if you know someone having an abortion who would consider giving up for adoption instead, please let us know, we know we can provide a wonderful, loving home and very much want to.

I hope you read between the lines and do not think me hateful or spiteful. It is meant to be the opposite, but this is a topic many people have very strong feelings on and I am sure some of you will not care for our approach. Hopefully most of you understand where we are coming from.

Ultimately if we are able to provide a home for one or more children and can be, if not wonderful parents we wish to be then at least adequate to give that kid or kids a great start in life then it will be a wonderful thing. If not, I will understand, albeit with disappointment.

So long 2013

What a great year in many ways.

When the year started the Goose and I were living in a dark apartment next to some dope-smoking mendicants. We had a few thousand dollars in credit card debt still from her journey through nursing school. We were learning to live together again.

During the year there were some real negatives that happened. I did not enjoy the heart issues that kept me in the hospital and started my downward health spire that has added 30-35 pounds back on, the tennis elbow, the torn meniscus, etc.

I did not enjoy losing friends, though it was not by my choice in any of the cases. I do not hold it against them, they had to make the choice(s) that were right for them but I do miss some of them. There is one I don't really miss, but he wasn't much of a friend and I think it funny his stance on how tolerant he is and yet he cut me off because he did not like something I have believed for over 42 years now. A great show of tolerance on his is normal for his ilk.

But I tell you what I have enjoyed.

We got those credit cards paid off. We purchased a house we both love a great deal in an area very close to both our works. We were able to help out a bunch of people when they needed help while making near-constant house improvements. We are closer to being completely debt free than we thought possible. We have learned how to live in the same house again and life has never been better.

On the docket for 2014 is getting down to just the mortgage and student loans, with a very decent savings amount. getting back down to 214 pounds. Looking into adoption since it seems natural childbirth is unlikely. Helping out some other people we know need some help. Enjoying time with family and friends. Maybe writing a second book.

I hope 2014 is great for all my family, friends current, past and future, and acquaintances.