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.

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 Nicole, 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 Nicole. 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 Nicole 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 Nicole 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. Nicole 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. Nicole 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 Nicole 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 Nicole meet my extended family. It also gave us the opportunity to use the City Museum as a litmus test, since that’s where Nicole’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, Nicole 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, Nicole 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 Nicole’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. Nicole 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 Nicole and Lu’s hair. At 5:00 AM I met the minister and went out to t

2011 Christmas Letter

January brought a milestone… my first trip to the dentist in 12 years. Not for any particular reason, but because I figured everyone should see a dentist at least once every dozen years. The result, one tiny cavity. And a nice deep cleaning. And replacing all of my silver fillings with composite. I also upgraded my PC in one last attempt to make it not suck. After $3,000 in upgrades, it still sucked. In January, we also made a presentation at the University of Kansas that led to licensing of two exciting medical devices.

In February, since the 5 buinesses I was already managing weren’t enough, we launched Epic Finishing, a plating/anodizing/engraving business. I also made the switch. Finally. Bought my first Mac… an iMac 27″. To say that it changed the way I work would be an understatement. I would spend the next 10 months replacing every computer I come in contact with to a Mac. I enrolled in a Final Cut Pro class that lasted about 18 hours, and then immediately realized I now had yet another skill that I would be expected to use on the job.

March brought all sorts of fun stuff from a business standpoint. The consulting company I work for got an eviction notice (the building was purchased and new owner wanted everyone out), and within a couple of days, the medical device company got an FDA recall notice. This presented all sorts of interesting things. The eviction notice gave us 30 days. If you’ve ever looked at commercial real estate, you know that’s simply not possible. Even if you find a new space the same day, it takes more than 30 days for the buildout, not to mention the move. The FDA recall was not our fault, but we had to clean up the mess. A mess we’re still cleaning up as of the writing of this post.

April was very expensive. I went out and bought a BRAND NEW Jeep Unlimited for about $40,000. 6 days later, we had the biggest hailstorm I’ve ever experienced, which is something considering I live in Kansas. My truck, the Jeep, and the roof, windows, deck of my house were smacked. I used the check for my truck to pay taxes, and we got the Jeep and house fixed. But it was a pain, and it cost a lot. While all of this was happening, we were securing a new location for the consulting company, and I was managing the FDA recall. To say I was stressed would be an understatement. The move into the new office happened the last week of April. The new landlords are awesome and the space is actually much nicer than the old one.

In May, the church moved into a permanent building, after 7 years of meeting in schools. Sadly, the location we had to share space with a Jewish group so that meant the entire sound system had to be put up and torn down each week. Christen and I did the setup until I melted down and told the pastor I couldn’t do it anymore. Late in May, a tornado went straight up the road towards were I work, leading us all to hide in the stairwells like we were hiding from Nazis. Fortunately the storm took a detour and destroyed some of Kansas City Kansas, instead.

In June, we hired two new assistants at the consulting company, which meant lots of help, and… lots of training. As is my tradition, June was a month filled with gardening. I’m very proud of my front yard gardens, and I spend way too much time and money on them. Between work and weeding, that’s about all I had time for.

A much more disturbing trend started to develop in June and July. I started losing my ability to remember things. Like, in a scary way. It started happening often, I’d have someone come and say “remember yesterday when we talked about X” and not only could I not remember talking about X, I couldn’t remember having a conversation with that person at all. I started logging my conversations as they happened, and sure enough, I was losing big chunks of every single day, within a day. I high-tailed it to the doctor, who promptly ordered a sleep study. My apnea/hypopnea index (AHI) was 83. An AHI of 30 is considered “severe apnea”. 90 minutes into the study they put a CPAP mask on me because they were afraid I was going to have a stroke. August brought CPAP, which brought sleep to my life. For the first time in at least 20 years, I started dreaming. My blood pressure dropped 30 points. I didn’t spend all day yawning. I could remember things. My anxiety went down. I took a vacation with the family to Arizona. My first time there. It was 106 degrees and comfortable. When we got back, it was 116 and humid in KC. Go figure.

August also brought change on the church front. When I arrived back from vacation, I found that I and my fearless cohort, Christen, had been replaced in our absence. We’d been leading the music for about 11 months, so imagine our surprise. I felt like I should write 95 theses and nail them to the door. We both stayed for a few weeks but things got a little ugly and we ended up moving on. For me, that meant moving on to Bedside Baptist…

In September I got to do a comprehensive quality audit of the medical company operations. If you have ever audited a quality system, you know that it’s completely riveting. September also marked the biggest purge of Facebook friends I’ve ever done, culling more than 40% of my total number. Go where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated. At the end of September, David Koechner rubbed my head. Really. Also in September, Jenna and I decided to part ways. She decided she wanted to move to Colorado and spend time in the mountains. Naturally I’m staying in KC. It’s home.

I filed at the beginning of October. Did I mention that Liz moved in to be my roomie? I can’t remember what month, so we’ll say it was October. That way I have something to say for an otherwise uneventful month.

In November, we finally moved Liz’s storage-locker-o-crap into the house, and she turned the man room into the girliest room on the planet. We also said goodbye to Chasey the cat in November. She was not young by any stretch, but lymphoma is never a happy thing. Tragedy struck on the 14th of November, when one of my oldest and kindest friends died in a head-on collision, along with her oldest daughter. I was Heidi’s date to her senior prom, and bought her first cigar for her on her 18th birthday. Her other two daughters survived the crash, but Heidi will leave a big hole in the universe. She was larger than life.

Finally in December, I gave up on the iMac. I needed more power. I went with a Mac Pro 8-core, put 64GB’s of RAM in it along with 4 512GB Solid States. Needless to say, it’s fast. Sheriff had to get a facelife. He kept getting MRSA infections in the fold above his nose. After the surgery, he was like a puppy. He could smell, taste, and see properly for the first time in his life. I’d never seen him salivate over a new scent before. It’s been so good to see him behave like a normal dog. It was a year full of ups and downs, but it was a year of change. I expect 2012 to be a year of new beginnings. Here’s to you all.

2010 Christmas Letter

And yet another year is in the books. It’s Christmas once again and for some reason, this year seemed to fly by faster than any previous year. Here we go: January started like any other January… cold, dreary, and completely boring. Except for the surgery. As most of you know, in 2009 a “orthopedist” broke my wrist “on accident” which left bone fragments that were tearing everything up in there. My new orthopedist decided I needed surgery to take out the bone and damaged cartilage. They let me to it under a “beer block” (which despite the name does not involve alcohol) which is basically a local where they numb your arm. I got to watch my arthroscopic procedure live and in person. A bit freaky, but very cool.

This brought February, which was still cold and dreary.

March was filled with… a complete blank. Must not have been important.

April, however, brought my least favorite part of the year… the part where I take all of my income from the previous year and send it to Obama to spend on putting a chicken in every pot. After being relieved of $23,000 (that’s in addition to the withholding from my paycheck), I realized I needed to ramp up IHS even more or risk having to start selling adult services on Craigslist.

Sadly, in May, Craigslist closed their adult services section, meaning my only option was to ramp up IHS. So I started pimping my web ninja skills and adding new services. That led to a flood of new business (which will undoubtedly result in the Feds taking even more money next April).

In June, a bad call stole a perfect game which made me much madder than it should have. That’s literally the only notable thing that happened in June. June sucks.

July brought our annual family vacation, and this year we went to scenic San Diego which was 20 degrees colder than normal and was completely overrun with purple jellyfish. Needless to say, I went swimming anyhow in spite of the 40 degree water and overwhelming risk of stings.

August was retardedly hot in Kansas City, and I spent the entire month sweating in the fetal position.

October was fairly uneventful except for our worship leader’s announcement that he’d be leaving at the end of November. He was the reason I had started attending the church, so I considered my options and ultimately decided I liked the church even without him. I told the pastor and soon found out he wanted a team to take over the job, so he asked me and two other folks.

November was spent being understudies for the worship leader, getting reacquainted with my piano, picking songs, going to practices and trying to learn the ropes.

In December, me and the team officially took over the music at the church. Naturally I dislocated my bad wrist right before our first service by pulling to hard on the laundry that was stuck in my washer. It sucks not to have cartilage…. I was also promoted to COO and VP of our company, my loftiest title yet. Christmas Eve we had a special service at the Interncontinental Hotel rooftop ballroom overlooking the Plaza, where 90% of the people that said they’d be there didn’t show up, but dozens of people I wasn’t expecting DID. All in all, the year was good. I had less anxiety than I’ve had in several years, partly due to the miracles of modern science. 2011 is looking promising as well.