Category: Personal Updates

People of the Lie

Today I turn 39. A couple of years ago I read a book called People of the Lie, and I realized that I and my entire family were the subject of the book.

Being in a home with a narcissist while growing up is challenging in ways you can’t fully understand until you are an adult, and in my case, not until I was in my late 30’s. What’s interesting is that my little brother, six years my junior, figured it out 10-15 years before I did.

When you are a person of the lie, you are simply a fixture… you’re not a person. You exist to validate and placate the narcissist, never rocking the boat, never hurting their fragile ego. If you do, you aren’t berated – you are shunned.

As a little kid, you learn that love is conditional, and you’d better not do anything to upset the apple cart. You do everything you can to placate the narcissist to preserve yourself as best you can.

The narcissist will swing back and forth between flattery and bullying. You are puffed up with compliments to keep you hooked, then the rug is pulled back out. It’s a control tactic, and it’s very very effective on spouses and children. People who feel obligated to make it work.

I sat and stared into space during thousands of hours of conversations. I had learned never to disagree, but my conscience wouldn’t let me agree either. I sat silent so that I wouldn’t have to do either. He would press me “Are we on the same page” to which I would continue staring off into space and I’d mumble something incomprehensible. It’s a very strange thing to have learned, and even stranger that the dynamic worked for as long as it did.

As a little kid, you learn that love is conditional.

A narcissist can never self-reflect. The narcissist is “always right,” “always persecuted,” and “always the good, altruistic hero.” If someone rejects their manipulation or challenges their skewed version of reality, not only are they shunned, but they are a “loser” or “crazy” or a “bad person.” They are badmouthed to everyone else stuck in the lie. I saw this happen with each of my siblings, until finally it was my turn.

I’m actually sad that I was the last. I should have figured it out sooner, and I should have tried harder to protect my younger siblings. I knew the damage it was doing to all the members of the family. I just didn’t know how to fix it, and I didn’t want to be on shun island.

Now that I’m on shun island, I feel free. There is no more control, no more manipulation, no more being part of the lie that is his double life. You can’t use people as pawns and against one another if they all communicate directly with each other (something narcissists try like heck to prevent).

So, I got no idea what I’m doing, but I know I’m free. No matter what happens in the courts, no matter what happens in my job, it doesn’t matter. I’ll never be part of the lie again.

Christmas Letter 2016

2015 sucked. You may remember it from the last Christmas letter, or if you are lucky, you got to watch us flame through the year like the Bad News Bears.

2016 was different.

After our failed adoption with Brandon, we were quickly rematched with a new birth mom, this time in Florida. We took a couple of trips down to hang out with her during the pregnancy, but we were much less confident this time around. But then, a week into January, I met Nicole for dinner at 54th Street Grill, and there were no kids with her. This was unusual, but it was a nice change. Then she pulled out a box, and in it was a pee-stained stick that said “pregnant.”

Naturally this came as quite the surprise since we’d been told by the experts that we couldn’t conceive naturally. That meant we had to make a huge decision – do we go ahead and adopt anyway? We thought about it for a few seconds and decided yes, we were already committed to the birth mom.

We had numerous false alarms in late January, but eventually the call came that we needed to jump the next flight. We got to the hospital literally as the c-section was in progress. And little Mia Grace was born.

The next two months are a blur of a newborn screaming in pain every 15 minutes 24 hours a day. At the end of month two, the doctor finally relented and let us switch to a lactose-free formula. Almost instantly, Mia became our best sleeper. I really don’t remember anything from February and March except for having Mia with me in the basement all night so Nicole could sleep.

Throughout 2016, we learned that pregnancy while caring for a newborn is really not fun, but we knew it would be worth it.

April was filled with Royals games and dance competitions. Spring is always the best time for both. April is also the month Nicole and I celebrated four years.

In May, I lost my grandma after a long bout of hospitalization and pain. We all traveled up to St. Louis for the services and saw the family.

Then in June, I lost my mind, and I bought Nicole a new puppy for her birthday. The dog is so cute it’s ridiculous. She’s also stubborn, loud, and refuses to poop or pee outdoors. Ah, the gift that keeps on giving. We also took a road trip to St. Louis so that we could watch Nicole barf in plastic bags – as is her tradition while pregnant.

July and August, I was in bed. And in the bathroom. And back and forth. I had a case of Strep that was treated with Augmentin, and the Augmentin gave me C-Diff. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t google it. If you’ve had it, you know what I mean. Imagine if you will, horrible stomach pain 24/7, with a side of diarrhea every 10 minutes 24/7 – for months. My favorite (least favorite) moment was when I was on an important call with our distributor WHILE I drove myself to the ER. What I learned is that next time I need an antibiotic, I’ll just go ahead and die instead.

On the plus side, August also brought the finalization of our adoption of Mia. August 24th is her “Lucas Date”. Which is awesome because her birth mother had given her a legal name as a practical joke – Nicole Miracle.

Then September 9th, the most perfect baby in the history of babies was born – Molly Ryann Lucas. And I immediately saw that she had a cleft chin. Apparently she looks just like her dad – except for that.

For some unknown reason, my sister scheduled her wedding for a week later, so we loaded up our 4 kids and our recently c-sectioned wife and had a road trip to Madison. The drive there was ok, the wedding was a lot of work, and then on the way home, Nicole and I decided to get divorced. Fortunately when we got home we changed our minds.

Olivia and I went to the Royals and sat in the Crown Club for her birthday – and we got to meet Rex Hudler!

In October, my retina detached, as evidenced by a black line running through my visual field. I went to the ophthalmologist, then the retina specialist, and he diagnosed me with retinoschesis. Apparently I’ve had 4 previous detachments that were outside of my visual field. And apparently the treatment for this condition is – well, hopefully you won’t have any more detachments in your visual field.

November was my annual Society for Neuroscience trip, but this year I got to take Nicole (and Molly). It was in San Diego, so there was lots of beach time, and some unplanned house hunting. Yes, we like it there.

Finally in December, I started my quest to become fully inked and got my first three tattoos. More are planned, but it was a good start. My wife says they are sexy, but she also says I can’t get a “Don’t Tread On Me” tattoo no matter how much I want to. I thought this was America.

2015 Christmas Letter

So, we meet again. I’m fully aware that I didn’t even call when I broke up with blogging. I could have at least texted you. But I didn’t, and that’s something you’re just going to have to live with.

After October of 2013, my life was altered in a very permanent, very drastic way. A little tornado named Elaina entered my life and now my blogging time is spent hiding in the bathroom trying to get my Reddit fix.

2015 was a really long, tough year for the Lucas family. But here we are, still standing. In January we finalized our adoption home study, which involves fingerprints, financials, interviews, home visits, and microchip implants. Nicole and I were excited to get the process going, however, so we could adopt a baby before Elaina was ready to go off to college. In January, I also took over the worship leader position at our church, a church that is 50% young families and 50% people over the age of 65. As you can imagine, song selection is like a game of Russian Roulette where every chamber is loaded.

Then, in February, I blacked out for the entire month.

In March we went to visit my mother-in-law’s fiance’ in Scottsdale, AZ. The weather was great, and aside from taking a cranky toddler on an airplane, it went off without a hitch. In what we’re told is supersonic speed, we were matched with a baby-to-be in Americus, Georgia (town motto “We may be hot, humid, and gnat infested, but at least we don’t have any stores, restaurants, or attractions”).

When we returned from Arizona, we opened the door to our house and heard a waterfall. Water was pouring down the walls and through the light fixtures. The 2nd story bathroom supply line had burst and pumped out a week’s worth of water (about 60,000 gallons) into our house. It was a gut. I called ServPro and booked us a room at the hotel, where we would live until August.

The advantage to having your house flood is that you get to have all new floors, sheet rock, paint, and kitchen cabinets. The bad part is that you have to live in a hotel room with a 1 year old and a 10 year old. This also put the nursery decoration on hold for our impending adoption. We knew we were cutting it close – the baby was due in August and the house was due to be completed in August.

Over the summer Olivia competed at dance nationals in Branson, MO (mottto “We’re just like Vegas without the nice hotels”). Her team won “best of show” and all was happy. Ironically, we were living in a hotel while checking into another hotel. Double dipping on the Marriott points…

Then in August, we got the call “baby’s on the way.” We loaded up the kids into the SUV and started the long drive to Americus. We dropped Nicole at the hospital just in time to catch the baby and cut the cord, while I took the girls to the most disgusting, shady, dirty, 90 degree hotel room I’ve ever seen.

The next morning, my mom arrived and took over watching the girls so I could go to the hospital and meet the little guy. We named him Brandon after my friend and fellow worship leader Brandon Hollis. The mother signed the consent and we took him back to our hotel and began the wait for interstate clearance.

Sadly, in Georgia, they have a 10 day revocation period for an adoption consent. On day seven, the mother revoked her consent, and we had to take Brandon back to the social services building and hand him over. Then the long, sad drive home began. The girls were crushed. I was mostly angry. Angry about all the money down the drain. Angry that I’d wasted the only boy name I liked on a kid I wasn’t going to end up raising.

Now we wait and see what’s in store next.

Not the best year, but we certainly learned a lot as a family. Looking forward to turning the page. 2016 is bound to be better!

2013 Christmas Letter

When we last left off, I told you all that I hoped by this letter I’d be talking about a baby. I almost can’t comprehend 2013 as I sit here and try to put it into words. It’s been a wild ride, filled with anxiety, tears, fears, happiness, pain, and immeasurable blessing. So here goes 2013. January. Giving injections to Nicole. That’s how the first several weeks of the year started. Big needles, little needles, boxes and boxes of pills. The whole thing is overwhelming to even think about now that it’s all in the past.

The IVF process started in November 2012 when we began our orientation and started planning. After months of hormones and shots, craziness, and anxiety, on January 18th they finally did Nicole’s egg retrieval for IVF. She was sedated and sent to the operating room where they jabbed a huge needle into her ovaries 43 times. Of those, 22 were mature, 8 fertilized, and 5 made it to day 5. They transferred 2 eggs back on day 5, and 2 of the final 3 made it to freezing on day 6. Then we waited.

So get this. February 14th, Olivia, after a year of nada, tells me she loves me. Just one week later, we find out that we have a baby on the way. Also, a coworker told me I needed to “call Google and get screenshots of our deleted website.” You simply cannot make up this stuff. This is the same coworker that sent me a tersely worded email telling me I needed to “make sure I let her know in advance if she’s going to have a computer virus so she can back up her files.” The same person said the following to me: “I’m a really good artist; my sister is a painter and a sculptor.” Eh? True. Story. I’m an expert at Constitutional law, too – because my sister has a Ph.D.

Oh, did I mention in February we found out we were expecting our little IVF rainbow baby? March was memorable because of the first two sonograms and the visit where we heard the heartbeat for the first time. That pretty much sums it up. If you haven’t experienced that yet, I hope you get to. Oh, and I got to see the Weinermobile with Olivia.

April. Our first anniversary. What a wild ride this has been. Just two years prior I was being verbally abused on a daily basis by a selfish, lazy narcissist while she played all day and expected me to do everything for her. Now, I find myself living with an amazing, loving woman, and doing such activities as rhinestoning dance costumes. I could never have predicted any of this.

May can be summarized with this: On my birthday, I felt the baby kick for the first time. After fighting the urge, we finally gave in and scheduled a gender reveal party. When the pink balloons popped out of the box I’m pretty sure there were a bunch of really happy ladies. In June, what turned out to be the first domino of managers quitting at my company. She gave two weeks of notice then came in for only 6 of the days, in no particular order. This left me with the joy of figuring out her job and transferring my “knowledge” to other people who had no desire to add that to their job description. I am so tired of people leaving and doing it without any consideration. I long for, and will relish the day that our company is ridiculously successful so they can kick themselves for leaving the way they did. I have all your names on a list, and they’re all scratched out.

The only good thing that happened in June was Nicole’s birthday, which we naturally spent at the T-Rex cafe, because everyone knows that’s the best food money can buy. July brought our family vacation – the last before baby Nugget arrived. We decided to do San Diego, mostly because I love San Diego, but also so Olivia could see the “other” SeaWorld. We paid the big bucks so that we could have close encounters with Belugas, penguins, walruses, and other assorted wildlife. Nicole and Olivia even got kisses from the Beluga. I got some beach time and we racked up some Marriott points to boot. I even accidentally tipped a valet $100 and got treated like a celebrity the rest of the week.

In what may be the most shortsighted, stupid act in history, one of my managers quit in July because he got his nose out of joint about this very blog. You know I often say if you’re offended by a post, the shoe probably fits, because I’m not thinking of you… well, clearly the shoe fit and he didn’t like how it felt. In July, I also learned that bouncing back is harder the older you get. After falling while teaching Olivia how to roller skate, the guy came over and asked if I was ok and if I needed help. Naturally, being a guy, I said Heck Yeah I’m OK. Then I tried to get up and realized that I was in fact NOT OK. Sadly he had already skated off so I had to crawl to the edge of the rink under my own power. The 3D ultrasound we got in July was amazing. The first picture was so crystal clear and perfect that Nicole cried. Both of our parents were there along with grandparents and Olivia.

August 5th was a day that will live in infamy. It was the day I sent the final cash payment to my ex from our divorce settlement. I paid it off 3 years early. And now that it’s paid, allow me to tell you something. When a man divorces a woman after finding out she’s running around with other men, getting naked at drunken parties out of state, and generally not being a very good wife, the system is so screwed up he will still end up paying in a divorce. For me it cost $61,000 in cash and a $39,000 Jeep. That’s a ridiculous amount of money when you consider the circumstances. But it’s still a bargain when you consider I don’t have to spend one more second with someone who disrespected me in every way she could think of.

After a horrible SNAFU involving a heart catheter product failing during our clinical trial, I got to spend several days convincing the trial hospital continue the trial and another day or two with our engineer, Alex, cutting apart defective catheters in a clean room and reassembling them. Such is the life of an medical device startup. August was our second attempt at going to a Royal’s game as a family. This time it was above freezing and I insisted we stayed for the whole game. The older I get, the more I appreciate baseball.

September is literally a blur of painting and fixing our rental house that was destroyed for no apparent reason. With a week to go before our baby’s arrival, I decided it was the perfect time to have all of our home’s floors replaced. Nicole was super excited about it.

The beginning of October brought us a couple of false alarms that sent us to the hospital, followed by a scheduled C-section on the 7th. Nugget decided to cause a full week of contractions with absolutely zero dilation. The day of the C-section finally arrived, we went to the hospital early and sent Nicole in for her spinal block. She was a trooper and finally after listening to the assisting physician refer to his resident as “dumbass” four or five times, they invited me into the operating room. They cut her open, started tugging, pushed her back in, tugged some more, climbed on Nicole’s ribs and shoved, and the next thing we knew, a 8lb 2oz baby popped out – COVERED in hair. Nicole and I looked at each other for just a second, wondering if they’d mixed up samples in the lab. But upon closer inspection, it was clear she was 100% ours. Elaina Kay Lucas joined us 10/7/13 at 12:10PM.

The day before Halloween, I packed up a huge suitcase full of literature and product samples (read: disassembled parts), weighing in at 104 pounds. If you fly much, you know this is way overweight and most airlines won’t even take it if you pay extra. I tipped the skycap $100, paid the $75 overweight fee, and included a product brochure on top so TSA wouldn’t shoot me for checking a bag full of circuit boards and wires. I threw a minor fit in my hotel room as I missed Lainey’s first Halloween. Then I got over it and went to sleep, and then it was November.

After starting the company in 2006, we finally launched our first new products in November at the American Dental Association meeting in New Orleans and the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego. Naturally they were one week apart and I had to attend both. The neuro was a SMASH hit with all of the nerds at SFN.

100 Things About Pete

1. I had a girlfriend in Kindergarten named Jill. She was my last girlfriend till I got to college.

2. I quit drinking alcohol 10 years ago.

3. My first alcoholic drink was in Hawaii when I was 20. They didn’t check my ID.

4. My hair fell out when I was still in high school and I had a combover by my senior year.

5. I didn’t shave my head until I was 22.

6. Yes, that means I had a combover for five years.

7. For most of my childhood I went to a home-based church with about 25 members. And it met in my house.

8. I went to a Christian school and my graduating class had 11 kids.

9. I once hazed my brother so he could join my club. Once he made it in, he realized I was the only member of the club.

10. I was a finalist in a science symposium sponsored by KU and the US Army when I was a senior in high school.

11. My project was so stupid, to this day I can’t figure out why I was selected.

12. While at the symposium, our sponsor from the Christian school rented us a movie that had about 9 sex scenes. I’m not making that up.

13. I have seen virtually all sci-fi and action movies made between 1980 and 2010.

14. Our family of six lived on my mom’s salary as a check-out clerk at the grocery store when my dad quit his job to become a writer.

15. We ate a lot of beenie weenie.

16. Almost my entire life I planned on going to the University of Kansas. Go Jayhawks.

17. I didn’t take one single class at KU.

18. I took 205 hours of college courses. I’m pretty sure that would have equaled a Ph.D. if I’d planned better.

19. My favorite kind of food is Japanese.

20. In 2009, I made more money doing freelance photography than I made at my job.

21. My siblings all moved out of state. They suck.

22. I am paying alimony to my ex, not because she is incapable of work, but because she DIDN’T work the last two years before the divorce.

23. I lost a full-term baby to a drunk driver when I was just 19 years old.

24. Sometime between the time I was 18 and now, I killed off enough of my swimmers that my wife and I had to try IVF.

25. My favorite place to visit is San Diego, CA. 2

6. Two of my long-term girlfriends, I never kissed. I thought kissing was nasty.

27. When I met Nicole, I realized kissing rocks if it’s the right person!

28. I used to be able to get computers to behave just by being in the same room with them. I’ve lost that touch. I must be getting old.

29. I prefer contemporary design. I’m far too lazy to do anything about it, though.

30. I met my wife online. eHarmony works.

31. My favorite vegetable is cauliflower.

32. Even as an adult, the smell and taste of broccoli makes me gag.

33. I work with a full-grown adult who tattles on me on a regular basis.

34. When I was growing up, I was certain I’d be a professional musician.

35. I have been cheated on in every relationship I’ve had thus far, except for my current marriage.

36. I’ve been far to passive about my feelings, wants, needs, and desires for the majority of my life.

37. I don’t feel like I have a right to ask for what I want.

38. I’ve been truly raging angry only two times in my life.

39. Usually I just simmer inside, which is probably why I’m such an anxious person.

40. I used to be a boob man. Then I was a “depends which way she’s walking” man. Now I’m a butt man. I think it’s a sign of maturity.

41. I think there’s nothing sexier on a woman than a smile.

42. I think I’m very smart and I’m frequently reminded that I’m totally wrong.

43. I spend more time on Pinterest than any straight man should spend.

44. I decided when I first saw Nicole that I was going to kiss her at the end of the date, before we sat down and talked.

45. My first time on a roller coaster was Space Mountain and it was because my grandpa lied to me about what it was.

46. I have about 20 pairs of wingtips.

47. I only wear argyle socks.

48. I have 20+ suits but only 2 pairs of jeans (only one of which fits me).

49. I overthink things way too much.

50. If everyone who ever “borrowed” money from me paid me back, I could retire.

51. I naively assume that if I am good to people, they will be good back.

52. Being a dad has been a new found joy in my life.

53. I frequently wonder how a dad could walk out on his kids.

54. I have obstructive sleep apnea.

55. I used to have a heart syncope, but I grew out of it.

56. The baby I lost would have just turned 13 years old.

57. There are four people on the planet that I truly detest. My wife says I should forgive and forget. She’s probably right.

58. It has taken me 34 years to start learning to set boundaries.

59. I’m not stupid. Just foolishly optimistic.

60. I’ve been in 6 churches since I was 18. George McDowell is the best pastor bar none.

61. I am the girl in my relationship. So I’m told.

62. I need glasses to read, but I haven’t worn them in years.

63. The smell of beer is great… the taste, not so much.

64. I can remember long strings of numbers, but I can’t remember anything else.

65. The best part of waking up, is Pepsi in my cup.

66. When I was 23, the Senior VP of HR at my company labeled me Pete the Hatchet.

67. I have a Master’s degree in supply chain management and forecasting. Most people don’t know or care what that is.

68. My IQ is somewhere between 100 and 200.

69. According to the DISC personality assessment, I am high D followed by C. I just don’t see it.

70. I prefer Nikon over Canon, not because of the camera bodies, but because of the optics.

71. At one time, I owned 12 guitars.

72. There isn’t enough persuasive power, begging, or money on the planet to get me to be a worship leader again.

73. I think yellow gold looks tacky and outdated.

74. I am a medical device patent holder.

75. I have fired more than 50 people in my career, and all of them have made me nervous.

76. One time I fired a lady and she told me to watch out, because she has a high-powered rifle and knows how to use it.

77. I was once surrounded by angry union members and threatened, and was only saved by the cops.

78. I worked with a woman at my old job that propositioned me almost daily for 6 years. I never gave in. And no, she wasn’t fat or old.

79. I am frequently tempted to edit my old posts to make them align with my current viewpoints, but I never do it.

80. I will always choose salty over sweet.

81. When I was eight I zipped my manhood up in my shorts and had to go to the hospital.

82. The nurse who looked at it was so nice and understanding, that’s probably why I ended up marrying a nurse.

83. I once put a nail through my hand on accident. It hurt.

84. My eyebrows grow at an alarming rate.

85. If I roll onto my back when I’m asleep, it instantly wakes me up.

86. If I wake up in the night, it takes me an hour or more to go back to sleep.

87. I pee more often than anyone I know, and I don’t have anything wrong with my prostate.

88. Before my first marriage, my ex’s best friend called me and tried to talk me out of it. I sure wish I’d listened to her.

89. The taste of mint makes me gag.

90. For nine years, not a day went by I didn’t think about my lost baby. For the past 3-4, it hardly crosses my mind.

91. I have written more than 433,000 words on this blog. Most books are around 90,000.

92. I like dogs.

93. I’m allergic to cats but I think they’re hilarious.

94. Nicole turned my entire life upside down when we met, and I’ve never been happier.

95. Pessimistic people irritate the bajeezus out of me.

96. Chicken is my preferred form of meat.

97. I never liked the nightlife, and I never liked to boogie.

98. My iTunes has everything from Mozart to Metallica to Garth Brooks to Chaka Khan to Chris Tomin.

99. When I first met Nicole, my “shuffle” setting during my commute played Kenny G’s “Wedding Song” almost daily. I have more than 5,000 songs. I took it as a sign.

100. My BMI is 27.5, which is apparently “overweight” but not “obese.” Suck it, BMI chart.

Pete Peeves

The things that annoy me are a fascinating topic to me. I’m sure it will be quite boring for you, so I suggest you stop reading now. I have pet peeves.

People who spit in the sink and don’t rinse it down. Really any foreign substance left in the sink, actually. I have chairs being left out when you get up from the table. I feel like everywhere I go I am pushing in chairs. I hate it when people dispute my facts and assertions. Especially when they’re right and I’m wrong. Dumb people who are condescending to me are a big one. Bad design or typography make me want to gouge my eyes out. Dirty things where they don’t belong – shoes on the kitchen counter, dirty underwear on the sink or on the bed… gross. I’m sure each and every one of you could list off 20 pet peeves of your own, so please don’t even think about judging me for mine. But I have to wonder about the origins of my pet peeves.

Why the heck does it bother me if people don’t rinse their spit? Is it pure germaphobia? Was I spit on as a child and scarred for life? Maybe I’ll never know. But I know it hits my gag reflex. As in, spit in the sink makes me want to buy a new house. I don’t want to clean it, look at it, or even acknowledge that it’s there. And it’s not just spit – I have the same reaction to soap overspray from a pump bottle. Why is there soap drool in the sink?!

The chair thing – I think I may be the only person on the planet that pushes chairs in. It makes no matter what context, they just don’t. It’s probably the same mental defect that makes people leave their shopping cart next to the cart return instead of in it. Pure laziness. I really don’t know why this bothers me. Is it simply OCD? Was it all the time I spent sitting in time out? Everyone dislikes being disagreed with, so I won’t analyze that one. But the condescension… so frickin annoying. It’s one thing when a Ph.D. or a subject matter expert talks down to me. I can live with that. I, right or wrong, respect when people have devoted a lifetime to learning about a topic. I wish they weren’t butts about it, but whatever. They’ve earned the right to be a butt.

Dumb people, on the other hand, have not earned that right and I want to punch them. I am fully aware I am not a professional designer. I bombed out of design school. But… I was exposed to a great deal of really incredible design work. I know good design when I see it. And typography – I took 18 hours of college typography. It’s the one thing I actually got good at. Comic Sans doesn’t even enter the equation. If you don’t know what kerning and leading are, you sure as hell shouldn’t be doing any design work and calling it “design.”

Ok, I just looked at my list of pet peeves and I am coming to the realization there’s a theme. Germs. Gross things being left where they don’t belong is just another example. Poop goes in the toilet. Dirty clothes go in the hamper. Shoes go on the floor. Anything less would be uncivilized. And now I need to go increase my dose of OCD medicine, cuz wow. Those are some dumb pet peeves.

Infertility

This is pretty personal, but I’ve never shied away from using this blog as therapy. Please do not use this post as a forum for discussing the ethics or medical risks of IVF. As many of you know, my wife and I are beginning the IVF process this month. But things really started happening months ago. We both knew that we wanted to have babies together right from the start. We both were ready to start right away. We tried the old fashioned way beginning when we first got married, but a couple months in we read an article that said my anxiety meds could cause problems with fertility. It’s super cheap to test the guy, so we thought what the heck.

Well, it wasn’t good news. My numbers were all bad… low count, low motility, bad morphology. Basically, I had 12 million retarded swimmers that were stupid and going in circles like a dog with three legs. The threshold for “low” is 20 million, with normal being more than 60 million. Nicole’s had a baby before. We knew she was OK. I’d gotten a girl pregnant, but that was 15 years ago. So here we were three months or so into our marriage and I found out that for some reason or another, I was broken. I know the folks out there that have been through this already can relate to how I felt. Defective. Inadequate. Worthless.

And then angry – angry that others that don’t want babies can accidentally get women pregnant while I can’t get my wife pregnant within the bounds of a loving marriage. That’s a pretty wide spectrum of feelings, none of which are good. Being sad, depressed, and angry all at the same time is not exactly healthy. If I’m being honest, although I’ve come to accept that this must be part of a grander plan, I still sometimes struggle with those feelings, particularly the feelings of inadequacy. I hate feeling like I’ve let my wife down (although she has NEVER been anything but supportive to me).

Even after we found out I had low numbers, we still continued to try. I was diagnosed quickly – vascular, and surgically fixable (although the fertility doctor scoffed at this option). The urologist recommended other things. I started taking a “fertility” supplement, and I switched to boxers, cut out caffeine… and we prayed. After three more months I returned for a follow-up test. My numbers had fallen to 5 million, and they were still retarded circle swimmers. IVF was our only viable option. IVF has very good success rates these days… upwards of 70%.

There are no guarantees, and it costs a lot of money. But given the biology, I had to accept that we needed intervention. I struggle with the fact that Nicole has to take so many risks because of my medical issues. She has all of the nasty meds, surgical procedures, and associated risks. The risks to me are, ummm, very low. Through the process we’ve come to find out that we are both contributing to the infertility, but I still feel solely responsible.

If I was normal, we’d be able to conceive with just a few meds – no IVF would be required. I do believe there’s a plan. We’ve been blessed with the ability to try IVF, and we’re learning plenty about ourselves and each other through the process. In this new year my desire to live in the moment means I can no longer obsess about my feelings of inadequacy or my anger.

We will take this process one day at a time, do what the doctors tell us to, and the rest is up to God.

2012 Christmas Letter

This letter will be epic in length, so please allow yourself plenty of time. I suggest a bathroom break before beginning. Or if you’re really smart, you’ll just skip reading this bad boy altogether and simply comment something like “have a happy new year” or some such nonsense.

2011 Addendum

The end of 2011 really wasn’t official enough to report in last year’s Christmas letter, so here’s the wrap up. As I had mentioned, I filed for divorce in 2011, and the final divorce decree arrived in my mail, signed by the judge, at the beginning of January, 2012. I honestly celebrated the day it came through. Things had been bad for a long time… years, and the events of last summer put a fork in it. Which was good, because I was going to need a back transplant if I kept sleeping on the pull-out sofa in the basement much longer. It seemed a bit silly to have a three bedroom home which I was paying for 100%, and be relegated to the basement. But as Proverbs 21:9 says, “Better to live on the corner of a roof, than to share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” My roof was too slanted to sleep on, so the basement was it. I hoped there was something better waiting for me around the corner, and that corner just happened to be the new year. Very convenient actually, when your fiscal year and calendar year align.

2012

2012 was a year of changes. In fact, almost everything in my life changed in the course of one year. All for the better. I had spent about 2 weeks right before Christmas emailing on eHarmony to a girl named Petunia, who I knew was a nurse, was smart, compassionate, and who had a daughter, but who I had no idea what she looked like thanks to her microscopic photos. Literally, the large versions of her photos were about 20 pixels across. But I liked her from the conversation, and we had a first date on December 30, 2011. I realize that should have been included in LAST year’s summary, but at Christmas it hadn’t yet happened. It turned out, much to my delight, that in addition to her numerous positive qualities, she was also the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Sparks flew that first night as we closed down Bo Lings and walked together to our cars where we would share what would be the first of countless kisses.

On New Year’s Eve 2011, I sat at my parent’s house texting her, and she was at her house hosting a “kid party” (not to be confused with a Stewie Griffin “sexy party”) and texting me. January 2nd, we had our second date, this time at Cheesecake Factory. I would later find out that it was after this second date that she was sure I was the one. I was sure after the first date, but don’t tell her I said so. After that second date, we were virtually inseparable. We saw each other the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 19th…. and every day after that. One of the more momentous occasions was on the 14th when I met Lu and Momma White for the first time. Little Lu had NO idea that I would end up being her dad. I will admit, I had a hard time biting my tongue on the whole “I love you” thing with Petunia. That cat got out of the bag on the 13th. Yes, I realize that’s only two weeks. I wanted to tell her on the 3rd, if that makes it any better… Thankfully, she reciprocated, and the rest is history.

My “friends” told me I was crazy and that I was stupid and that it would never work. Ironically, the friends who made these dire predictions are hopelessly and permanently single. Perhaps there was a bit of projection happening? I digress. January included an outing to the T-Rex Cafe’, numerous trips to Research Medical to have lunch with Petunia and the nurses of the Transplant Institute, and a first trip to a new church, Gashland Baptist. On the 28th (yes, we’re still in January), I bought a ring, but she didn’t get it just yet. I knew it was a good sign when Petunia asked if I’d go with her and Lu to Florida in April and take Lu to Disney while she was at a nephrology conference. I took that to mean she thought we’d still be together in April, and that she trusted me with her daughter. The beginning of February is a bit of a blur to me, because a random virus gave me a 103.5 fever for 7 days and landed me in the hospital to get IV fluids. Petunia was by my side, keeping my parents updated and watching over the activities to make sure they didn’t kill or maim me on accident. Fortunately (for me anyhow), I recovered and didn’t have any lasting issues. My white count came back to normal after about 2 weeks. Once I was finally healthy again, I was ready to pop the question. I snuck into the Transplant Institute at Research and gathered her coworkers in the conference room. Her boss, Becky, called her to have her come join the “meeting” and then I walked in, flowers and ring in hand. I got on one knee and prayed the answer would be yes. And it was.

The next day, I officially moved into her house in Liberty, leaving my Olathe house to be destroyed by my “roomies” (or rather, the people who lived there but didn’t pay rent, let their pets destroy everything, and then skipped town instead of being an adult). My “roomies” left a cat to wander the house and pee, poop, and scratch everything in sight, virtually ensuring it would cost a fortune to sell my house. The wedding plans commenced immediately, with most of the details arranged and deposits posted before the end of February. We booked the Pilgrim Chapel and the Event Space at Nara for our September wedding. Petunia pushed for a fall wedding because she “wanted to make sure I wasn’t a psycho pretending to be nice.”

March was filled with bonding activities for the soon-to-be family. We spent the first weekend at Coco Keys indoor water park where we discovered the joy of an 11th floor walk up. Two days later, we went roller skating. And by roller skating, I mean Lu skated on the carpet, I skated like a boss, and Petunia fell on her butt and bruised her tailbone, rendering her unable to sit without screeching in pain. The weekend before St. Patrick’s day, we went to the Snake Saturday parade where we donned our gay green apparel and enjoyed the nice weather. In the interest of keeping up the pace, the next weekend, we visited St. Louis to enjoy the sights and let Petunia meet my extended family. It also gave us the opportunity to use the City Museum as a litmus test, since that’s where Petunia’s first engagement from several years ago ended. Thankfully, I passed the test and we made it through the museum without breaking up. On the 22nd, Petunia had to assist at a surgery, which gave Lu and I an opportunity for our first solo date. Needless to say, we went toy shopping. What else would we do?

The 30th of March, Petunia and I spent the day at Children’s Mercy with Lu trying to determine why she was having double vision. It was a scary day, but it turned out to be eye fatigue. We also celebrated three months together, meaning I had passed another of Petunia’s tests – apparently a psycho can only pretend to be nice for three months. With that test under our belts, it was time to get crazy. Petunia applied for a job working in Obstetrics, and not surprisingly, was offered the position, which she was to start the first week of May. Needless to say, that rendered the nephrology conference in Florida completely moot.

The second week of April, we decided to scrap our big wedding plans, and elope to Florida, using the tickets we’d already bought for the conference. We spent the following two weeks making plans and tiara shopping, and on the 27th, we hopped a plane to Orlando. We spent the 28th at the Magic Kingdom, which should actually be called the Crazed Cattle Chute from Hell. It’s basically a 140 degree parking lot stuffed with people and $95.00 bottles of water. Even Amber was like “Disney isn’t really that great.” Fortunately we had fun plans for the next day. I woke up on the 29th at about 3:30 AM and got dressed to meet with the hair stylist who was coming to do Petunia and Lu’s hair. At 5:00 AM I met the minister and went out to t

Stepping Up

Being a stepdad is the most difficult, most rewarding thing I’ve ever undertaken. I never really thought much about it before… but it’s an uphill battle. Kids naturally want their “real” dad. That relationship, at least from the young child perspective, is automatic. It’s also been a massive change to simply have a child at all. I spent 33 years without a kid, and now I have an 8 year old.

Being a parent is WAY different from how I was living before. It’s good different. I’m certainly not complaining, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But wow… so much of my daily routine is completely changed now. For example, I used to walk around naked and think nothing of it. I can’t do that now unless I want to irreparably scar a child. I used to lay around doing hardly anything, now I hardly ever lay around doing nothing. I used to sleep till 8:30 AM (at least) every single weekday, and 10 or 11 AM on the weekend. I haven’t slept past 7 AM in 2012 (except for yesterday, man I was tired). I used to watch 4-5 hours of TV a day. I would estimate I watch 20-40 minutes of TV on average. Many days it’s none.

The point is, I was basically living a selfish, lazy life. And you can’t do either of those if you’re a dad. And honestly, that was no way to live. I was miserable. I want more kids. I’m confident of that. I know that eventually I’ll be a good dad or die trying. And I am sure this new lifestyle will become “the norm” to me. Nicole had a 7 year head start on getting used to the parent lifestyle, and I must say she’s incredible at it. She’s the most loving, patient, giving mom you could ever meet. She never puts herself first. That’s her normal. She’s been very patient with me as well while I get used to (and find) my role in this new little family.

Being a stepdad means taking on all of the care, love, support, discipline, and relationship of a biological dad, without having ANY clue how to do it, and not wanting to “blow up” the poor kid’s normal – she didn’t choose me… Nicole did. I want to follow my wife’s lead as to how she parents, because I love her and I believe she’s a great mom. But it’s all very different from how I was raised, and so my natural tendencies as a new parent are to revert to those things. But you can’t just thrust a whole new paradigm on an 8 year old. That’s very unfair to her. It would be different if we’d co-parented her from when she was a baby, but we didn’t.

So I know how to love Olivia. I do love her. I know how to care for her and support her. I have no idea how to discipline and correct her. My inclination is to NOT discipline, because I want every interaction to be positive. I don’t want to “undo” the connection I’ve made with her. But then I get frustrated and (apparently) I get snippy. I told Nicole months ago and again yesterday – the most important things I want to do in my life is be an awesome husband and an awesome dad. Everything else is secondary. Just got to figure out what that means exactly. smile

Everyone Gets Something Out of It

I considered posting about the nut in Colorado that killed all those people last night, but that would inevitably spiral into a gun control debate. You already know where I stand on that issue (guns kill people in the same way a spoon makes you fat), so I’ll just let it go this time. Instead, let’s talk about boobies. I’m kidding, but I probably got your attention. In every relationship, each person plays a role.

Relationships stay together as long as both parties are content to play their role. If one party changes, chances are it won’t work anymore. Some relationships that means that one person gives and the other takes. The giver never says they don’t want to give without reciprocation, and the taker never feels the need to reciprocate. Eventually the giver feels like a victim and the taker loses respect for the giver. But a lot of the time, they just keep right on trucking, because both of them are used to it. Nothing will ever change. And if the giver really was getting NOTHING out of the relationship, they’d leave. So we have to assume that they get something out of it (even if it’s simply the ability to play the victim).

In other relationships, one person is dominate and the other is submissive. Usually the man is the type A pushy guy who expects his wife to tow the line. Have dinner on the table when I get home or I’ll be pissed. You handle all that “kid” stuff because I work hard and it’s not my problem. Satisfy me in the bedroom whether you feel like it or not, and if you happen to enjoy it too that’s not really my problem. Even in a case like this, the submissive partner is getting something out of it, or she’d leave. Maybe it’s security. Maybe she sees potential or thinks she sees the “good in him” that no one else sees. I’m not saying I could ever tell you what it is she gets, but she gets something.

Some men let their wives push them around. Their wives don’t respect them, because not many women out there want a husband who’s a big fat pansy or a doormat. The man gets something out of it or he wouldn’t stay. Often what he gets is the ability to never have to think or make any decisions, because she’s more than happy to do all the thinking for both of them. I honestly believed that relationship problems could be totally one-sided. Then I modified my belief to maybe the “victim” has a LITTLE bit of responsibility.

Now, I believe that it’s usually close to 50-50 (obvious exception being a man who physically beats his wife). People don’t hang around for emotional abuse unless the relationship is providing something they think they need. I don’t know what it is. Maybe you do. Discuss.