Story 1- Hug Me, Kiss Me

Hug Me, Kiss Me

As the months passed, I became more and more appreciative.  I was lucky, really lucky. It may sound silly, but I’m being honest.  I’m a married man, and coming home to my wife is the greatest thing ever—it’s the something . . . the someone.   


For years, I feared making a commitment to her. I wanted things to be perfect for the one person on planet Earth I love most, but my life wasn’t in order the way I wanted it to be when we finally did get married.  In fact, things were pretty far from the way I had imagined them.        


My wife’s name is Gigi.  Without question, she is the best thing that ever happened to me.  For men who still believe that the male gender is the superior gender, consider rethinking this belief.    



I walked into my home, and I heard a “hello.”  Gigi was in the bedroom working on her computer.  Her voice made me smile.  As I heard her walk towards the door to greet me, my eyes watered.  At one point, I had been afraid of marriage.  After all, more than half of my family, including many distant relatives, had been married and divorced.  Statistically, the odds of me having a successful marriage were not high, but I can’t imagine life without Gigi.  I love her very much.                        


She turned the corner and reached to give me a hug and a kiss.  After we embraced, I looked at her and smiled.  I’m home… I’m home!… I’m home!  The tears started flowing again.      


I’m one of the helpless romantics that tears up quickly. My wife saw my tears. “What’s wrong?”               


“I’m home.  You’re my wife.  You are my life.  Nothing is wrong.  Everything is perfect.”     


I am often more emotional than Gigi.  I think she is getting used to it, but she still makes comments.  In our home, we call this our role reversal. I like it this way.  


“You cry over nothing,” she said.       


Each day when I arrive home, this emotional feeling comes over me more and more, and I bathe in it.  Sometimes I like it when Gigi is not home because the emotions still come.  Whether she is physically there or not, she is still there.       




Sometimes, after it hits me how lucky I am, I wonder: How do single men do it, especially single men in their fifties and beyond? I know I couldn’t.      


I remember when I was young. I prayed that God would send me the perfect wife, and He did.  I married later in life then most of my friends, but now that we are together, it is hard to believe just how many years have passed. Occasionally I try to imagine what my life would be like if Gigi were not part of it, but as I play out these scenarios, they get boring quickly. On some occasions, life brings a little drama to remind me of how important my wife is to me.        



Not long ago, an event happened that I will never forget.  I was with my wife in China, preparing for a trip to America to celebrate Christmas with my American family. Because of scheduling conflicts, I had not celebrated this holiday with them in a few years. I had previously decided that nothing was going to stop me from going this time.  Nothing.  


A few days after I had purchased my plane ticket, Gigi got sick.  Her sickness wasn’t life threatening, but it did require her to go to the hospital for daily treatments, for a period of weeks.  I had a problem: My mind was set on leaving, knowing Gigi’s friends and family would help her, but my heart was set on staying.      


As the date of departure grew nearer, I got very worried. I was not seeing her condition improve. The struggle between my heart and my mind turned into panic attacks.  She was struggling with a facial muscle condition called Bell’s Palsy. Part of her face could hold a smile and part could not. The most important person in the world to me was suffering and needed me, even though she said she didn’t.    


When she first got sick, I asked her if she wanted me to stay, fully expecting her to say, “Yes.“  Instead, her response was “Go. Spend time with your mom in America.  I will be fine.”    


For those who are not familiar with this condition, Gigi’s treatment included acupuncture.  The doctor literally stabbed her face, arms, and hands with a large and sharp needle.  When he finished, her hands often could not grip her purse, and she had a difficult time putting her coat on.  It looked so painful, but she said it only hurt for a short while.  I had several jobs when we went to the hospital, but my favorites were carrying her purse and helping her get dressed.    


As I lay in bed a couple of days before my plane was scheduled to leave, I couldn’t sleep.  All I thought about was how much I wanted to be with Gigi.  The emotion hadn’t caught up with me yet, but I felt it coming.  At this point, I didn’t care what she said.  I was going to stay with her, even if she told me to leave.  It was my job, my right, to stay with her.   


I marched into the bedroom and gained eye contact with her.     


“I am not going anywhere.  I’m staying with you.”       


“. . . but what about your plans for America? Christmas?”     


“I don’t care.  I want to be with you.  I love you, and I want to spend the holiday with you.”      


She didn’t yell at me or tell me I was making the wrong choice like she had a week before.  Instead, she smiled, got out of bed, and gave me a hug.   


“Thank you.”  She paused, preparing to change the topic.  “Are you ready to go to the hospital with me?” 


“Yes, every day.  I will do whatever you need me to do.” 


Damn, was I happy!  I made the woman I love smile.  That was the greatest Christmas present she could have given me. 


As perfect as that moment was, I knew I had a couple of calls to make.  This is when the real emotion took over.  I called my mother and, when I heard her voice, I choked up.  She could tell something was wrong.  


“Hi, Mom.”  


“What’s wrong?”  


“Gigi.  She’s sick.”  I wanted to say more, but that’s when the tears starting coming.  Mom didn’t say much.  There wasn’t much to say.  


After tearing up for a few seconds, I gave more details. “Her facial muscles aren’t working quite right.  It’s affecting her smile, and I need to be with her because she must go to hospital every day for needles.  We don’t know how many days or weeks it will take . . .” 


The call ended soon after.  Mom had assured me she would update the others.  


That was the most memorable Christmas I ever had.  I was so happy that I had stayed with her.  It was the perfect Christmas.   


Published By


Story 2 – Farm Boy


Farm Boy



An angel  


All I remember was laying in the hospital bed and seeing four nurses in white watching over me. I knew my wife Nancy was near, but I don’t know how I knew it. My body felt like it was floating, but I didn’t know where it (or I) was going.  I had been warned by a few locals about my surgeon and his reputation.  His diagnosis was I needed a gallbladder operation. Being that I wasn’t a drinker and had no history of any organ trouble, none of this made sense. Why I agreed to the operation is also a mystery to me.  For the first time in my life, I knew I was ready to fight because I wasn’t ready to die.  I wanted to grow old with Nancy and be there for my two daughters.   


More on this later. 



When I first met Nancy, it was love at first sight.  I think when people saw us, we looked like the odd couple. I’m 6-foot-5, and my wife is 5-foot-4. I was a hulky farm boy.  Now I’m a hulky farm man. Nancy was a cute city girl. After we met, we couldn’t stay away from each other.   


Our second date was one of the more memorable experiences of our dating life because at this point we had already tuned into each other’s personality, especially our sense of humor. I was one of those boys who knew what I wanted in a wife early on. 


I also had enough street smarts to know a few stereotypes people have of farm boys. This meant pretending to be a little naive.  I love doing this because it keeps people guessing.  



The Cemetery Flowers 


So one day I was heading towards Nancy’s house. It was our second official date. I wanted to make a good impression on her mom, but I was also a prankster. I had found a beautiful collection of flowers from the farm, picked ‘em right out of our garden.  When I showed up at Nancy’s house, I kind of changed the story of where and how I had found the bouquet.  Her mother greeted me, so I knew there was no better time to launch into the story.           


“Good to see you Dean. And I noticed you brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers!”   


“Yeah, I really lucked out.”    


“How so?”     


“Well, I felt a little bad that I forgot to grab a bunch at this nice little flower shop near my home, but as I was walking towards your house, somebody had laid flowers down on a stone.  There were a whole bunch of ‘em, um . . . I mean stones, but only two or three of ‘em had flowers like these.”  I pointed at the bouquet. “So I had a quick look around to see which bunch was the nicest . . . wanting Nancy to have the best . . . The stones where the flowers lay were a little strange. They had writing on ‘em.  Stuff like “In memory of . . .  so and so!” Words like that.   


Her mouth dropped. She acted like I had just made a pact with the Devil.  


“But Dean, that was a cemetery, and those flowers were gifts to the dead from their family and other loved ones.  Ya can’t just go taking those kinds of flowers.  That’s grave robbing!”    


I couldn’t help it—a smile snuck out. She hadn’t yet figured out that I was pulling her leg, but then Nancy walked in.  


“Oh Mom, stop getting worked up. Dean knows better than that. He was just playing a game.”  


I knew, sooner or later, I would have to own up to the truth, so it was fun watching my future wife take the lead.  




As I look back on my life, things did improve between my mother-in-law and me. She began realizing how the stereotype of a poor and naive farm boy did not fit my personality, and that I was a bit smarter than she had initially thought.  Nancy had picked up on it, so our relationship took off.   


Our life has been filled with blessings.  I feel fortunate because Nancy and I got along really well from the start.  I know many friends whose marriages had one rough spot after another. Nancy and I have had a few tough times, but all in all, we’ve had less than most people.  


When it came to raising our two girls, Nancy was the friend and I was the discipliner. But over the years, she taught me a lesson or two about understanding my girls. Growing up, I was the oldest of an all-boy farm household. Fact is, when you consider my high testosterone family, I did understand young women better than most of the boys my age who had a similar background.   


However, in the early years of our marriage, I missed many cues. One of those lessons came when my oldest, Alicia, was about four or five years old.  We lived out in the country on a farm.  One day she came to me and asked me if she could set up a lemonade stand. Two scenarios came to my mind within seconds of her request.  


My first thought was how heartbroken Alicia would be when she didn’t make any money. Our driveway is about sixty feet.  We don’t have too many neighbors nearby, but the occasional car will drive by.  So I whispered to myself, “Who in the hell is going to stop to buy a glass or two of lemonade out here?”   


The next scenario was a little scary. What if the wrong person, some sicko, drove up?  Alicia was about 3-foot-5 and as cute as could be.  I then whispered to myself, “So she goes out to the road, a stranger drives up, and grabs her.”   


I hope I don’t sound too paranoid, but that is where my imagination took me.  I didn’t like it, so I didn’t give it more thought.  




That was my final decision, and boy, did I feel terrible about it a few minutes later.  It was such a simple thing, yet it has haunted me through the years. Thankfully, Alicia says she doesn’t remember it. So how could I have done things differently?  This is where Nancy comes in.  She got me in touch with my nurturing side. It took years, but I’ve learned from her. 


Some years later, I re-imagined the lemonade stand story.   



“Hi, Dad.” 


“Yeah, Alicia?”


“I want to do a lemonade stand.”  


“OK.  Now, you know you gotta do some planning right?” 


“What do you mean?” 


“Well, I will have a talk with your mother. Today is Wednesday, so let’s aim it for Friday. Good?” 


She smiled and walked away happy.   


Different ending, right? 


As soon as she walked out of that room, I got busy.  I called Nancy and all my relatives and friends and got them into action.  I was ready to orchestrate the perfect lemonade stand day for my little girl.  Not only would she sell a lot of drinks, but dammit, she would be safe.   


Unfortunately, what I just described never happened. But I wished it had.  I considered it years later, but I just couldn’t think of how to bring it up to Alicia.  



I believe today that I could’ve worked on my nurturing side a little more. During the first ten years or so of our family life, it was probably 90/10. I was the parent who disciplined, and I was proud of it. Today, it’s probably 75/25. As I often tell Nancy, “You can be a pushover, honey.”  She laughs when I say this to her because she wouldn’t change our parenting roles for any reason.  I do hope I’ve swayed her a little in my direction, but honestly, I know she swayed me more.  



Back to the hospital.  


Before I went under from the anesthesia, I remember feeling Nancy holding my hand. As far as I know, she never left my side when things started to go wrong. There I was, in really bad shape, fully aware that I could die.   


One of the witnesses said that the surgeon literally ran out of the hospital after he botched my surgery. Although the timeline is only a guess, I started my ascent towards God soon after my doctor exited the building. 


I had been taught in church, if I ever found myself in a near-death experience and I knew it wasn’t my time to die, I should call on the name of Jesus.  I have always had a strong foundation in my faith in God and a strong belief in Jesus as the Son of God, so calling out to Him was the natural thing to do.   


“Jesus, Jesus.” I said it twice, if you can trust my recall in my almost dead state.  As soon as I spoke these words, I saw the nurses arrive and I heard Nancy’s voice. Peace came over me, and I knew things were going to be OK.    


Later when I awoke, I described what had happened, including calling on Jesus and seeing the nurses surround my bed. Nancy told me she had been there the whole time, along with friends from church, like our pastor.  However, no one who had been in that room saw the four nurses, nor did they see me floating above the mattress.      


Although I will never know what happened, one thing is for sure. Nancy was there in that hospital room.  She is always there for me; we have always been there for each other.     



This brings me to my next memory. About three years ago, our daughter Melissa had reached age fifteen. In Michigan, we all know what this means: drivers education.  As I lay in that hospital bed about five years before, I knew I didn’t want to go and see God yet because I had my fatherly duties to do, and this was one of them.   


I believe that God did help me out at the hospital because helping Nancy raise our daughters has been a highlight of my life. 



I wanted Melissa to take the next big step, the milestone towards being a young adult.  I had just purchased a new Ford Taurus. It wasn’t more than a few months old. It had its shine and its smell. I loved that car and was proud that my girl was going to learn how to drive in a classy, brand new car. 


I ignored the fact that she had repeated, or more accurately, continuously protested, “I’m not ready yet, Dad!”   


I didn’t care because I knew that sometimes my girls needed a little push, and this was simply one of those times.  She needed to be a bit braver, so it was my job to push her.  To me, driving is a life-skill. It is comparable to walking or going to the bathroom. Since she had mastered those two skills years ago, I was sure that she was ready to handle this next lesson. 


So we got in the car together. She plopped into the driver’s seat, and I plopped in the passenger seat. To this day, I will never forget the lesson I learned regarding why all drivers education cars should be equipped with one of those passenger-side brake pedals.  It really would have helped me that day.    


I also forgot how easy it is for a new driver to forget that there is a difference between the brake and gas pedal, especially when the new driver starts to panic. Anyway, she put the car into the gear called R. In her mind, R meant Ride. So she placed the car in R, hit the gas pedal, and moved swiftly into a head-on collision with a very large garbage can.   




Miraculously, we got the car back in park. After making sure she was stationary and she was OK, I went to have a look at what she had hit and the damage to the car.  The car’s trunk took on a new shape, kind of like a V.  My brand new Taurus would never be the same, and my daughter and wife now hated me.  


I don’t know if it was the noise of Melissa screaming or the sound of the car crashing, but either way, Nancy marched out, yelling at me until she had time to grab her girl and rescue her from her terrible father. Once she knew Melissa was fine, Nancy continued to yell at me. 


“Dean, Melissa said she wasn’t ready, and you just had to go and push. This is what you get for that!”  


I knew if I pointed at the damage done to the car, I’d be sleeping on the sofa, so I shut up and nodded.  The damage was about $5,000, but I don’t think I ever mentioned this to Nancy. 


As I stood there taking the verbal beating, I saw a small smirk flash on Nancy face, but only for a second. For some strange reason, the memory of lying in that hospital bed came to me.  I believe God did send me his healing angels that day in the hospital.  He knew I wanted to be the best dad I could be, and He didn’t let me down.   


Truth is Nancy could have yelled at me for another five minutes, and Melissa could have continued to cry. It wouldn’t have mattered.  I just stood there and enjoyed being with two of the people that I love most in this world.  I often wonder what Alicia would have said had she been there.  I’m guessing she would have taken the side of her sister.  If she had, it wouldn’t have bothered me one bit. The girls are close and trust each other.  What more can a father ask for?


What can I say. I’m a proud papa.    



Because of the roles Nancy and I have played with our kids through the years, there were times when I did want to be the nurturer. The car incident was one of them.  My pushy nature did usher in an uncomfortable moment now and then. When things need to get done, I’m the drill sergeant.   


Having the honor of being surrounded by these three wonderful ladies for the last twenty years has made me a very content husband and father. I often do think back to growing up on a farm with all boys. As a father of two girls, life has kind of reversed itself, and I love it. I’m a ladies’ man now, and I like it.   


Friends of mine often tell me how jealous they are of me. The girls have turned out great, and Nancy and I have always had a wonderful relationship. The only advice I can give to other men is if you ever feel like you and your wife are not in agreement on major issues, such as how to manage your money or raise your children (having lemonade stands), either start listening to your wife (agreeing with her) or just don’t get married.    


We have never had marriage counseling, and we never put on any show for each other. We met, became genuine best friends, and have been living together happily. Nancy is beautiful, inside and out.  I have a down-to-earth, beautiful, and loving wife. And I thank the Lord for her every day.  




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Story 3 – Married Late

Married Late

(Why I Love You)


Recently I had the chance to look back upon my life and think about the people that I am so thankful to, the people who have made my life wonderful.  Although many made my list, this story is about the two ladies in my life that I met in my thirties, my wife Terri and daughter Lindsay.  This story is a work in progress, after all, as I’m still alive, learning, and doing well. Choosing where to start this story was easy.  It started with when I was preparing to meet Terri. The ending was chosen because I am heading into the unknown confidently.        


Soon after I met Terri, about three months, I knew she was the one for me. I married at a later age than most of my friends, age thirty-six.  I hadn’t dated much, so as I started my journey towards finding that special someone, I did my due diligence. This included putting out ads in singles magazines and making my list of what I wanted and did not want in a wife.   


My profile had a short list of important items.  At the top was I didn’t want a woman with a kid. I was also upfront on the first date that I am an atheist.     


Terri had been married previously and had a son, Adam. Ironically, I will probably never know why, when I typed up my profile for one particular singles magazine, I forgot to include that I wanted a girlfriend who didn’t have children.      


On our first date, Terri was upfront about her religious beliefs. She was a born again Christian. However, the connection between us was instant, so me being an atheist didn’t turn her off. It didn’t take long before I both wanted and needed her.  As an intuitive person who knows how to nurture, she picked up on how I was feeling and responded beautifully.      


One of my fondest memories of that first date was when I made an ass of myself by taking a tumble. It was November, so the snow and ice were covering everything. As I lay on the ground, not sure if I should laugh or cry, she leaned in and kissed me. It was quick, but the kiss did its job.  I thought, I like that!  


Because we both felt the connection, I met her son Adam within the first week. He was nine years old at the time. The meeting went well, so I decided to keep it to myself that I didn’t want a kid.  


As the days passed, I saw my new habits forming. One of my favorites was waiting for her at my home, like a teenage boy who was nervously excited to go on his first date. One day I realized that I kept staring out the window, waiting for her car to pull up.  This was when it hit me; her kindness and beauty were affecting me.     



It didn’t take long, however, before tragedy struck. I will always treasure this memory because of how it toughened me up.  


I arrived at her home one afternoon expecting a common, pleasant evening. Instead, she had left me a note that she had gone to the hospital. I got nervous. Although her condition was not life-threatening, I felt a panic attack come on because I kept having a flashback of my sister’s death. She died half a dozen years earlier. We were close, so her death upset me.  I had experienced people die in my life since my sister’s death, so I was not able to understand at that time why I was overacting about Terri. 


Later, it all made sense. There I was. I had finally found my soul mate. We had only been dating about three months, but I was getting hooked.  She was in the hospital, and she needed me to be with her. I got dizzy. After feeling weak in the knees, I took a seat. As the time passed, each time I tried to get into the car, I felt the shakes and a cold sweat come over me. I became angry with myself, so much so that my condition worsened. The final result was I fell asleep from exhaustion. 


Although the details have escaped me, I remember waking up in her bed alone, in the middle of the night. As I went for a walk towards the kitchen, I saw her sleeping on the sofa in the living room, so I knew I was in trouble. Either I had to give the real reason for my bizarre behavior or risk losing Terri. 


For the first time since the death of my sister, I was able to talk about how my sister’s death had affected me. Before and after our talk, Terri yelled at me for not going to the hospital. However, it was difficult for her to remain angry because she realized how important she had become to me. As I shared this with Terri, her eyes watered. It was then that I knew she understood.  I loved my sister dearly, so placing such value in Terri was a bonding moment for us.   


Imagine that. Being yelled at from the woman who I was falling madly in love with cured my anxiety; disappointing her was not an option.   


I know I am cured because I have been to the hospital many times, including many trips when Lindsay was born, but more on that later.  



After we got married, we began to plan for a baby. I took comfort that she had been through this before. There is a movie called Back to School.  It was a famous movie in 1986.  One of my favorite lines is “Remember, the best part about having children is making em.” So we got busy practicing to make one, a daughter.  We practiced regularly and not only in the bedroom. One of my favorite places to get comfy was the hot tub on our back patio. My best friend had become my lover, and I knew this would be important as we raised our child together. 


I had felt disappointed that it took me until age thirty-six to marry, but I knew others who had married earlier and divorced. So waiting this long to find the woman I would want to stay with for life, well, the wait wasn’t too terrible after all.  I married for companionship, not for sex or on a romantic whim.  Maybe this is why we are still together years later and going strong.  



Once Terri conceived, I felt a strong confidence about my up-and-coming duties. Though it was a family event, I kept saying to myself, “My daughter.” Crazy as it may sound, the word my had special energy to it.  The months passed quickly because I often felt like I was in a euphoric state. My thoughts often drifted. People saw it and commented. I was going to be a dad in my late thirties.  


We experienced a few challenges along the way that shook my confidence, but as long as I shared my concerns with her, since we were in this together, the fears lost their hold.  The first was when we discovered that Lindsay would be a premie-baby, or pre-mature.  Although it was all guess work, we figured she’d come into the world a week or so before Thanksgiving.     


My next challenge was watching her birth and knowing she couldn’t go home with us any time soon. She had a condition called Rh disease and this meant she had to stay in a special ward at the hospital for an unknown number of days.  With Thanksgiving so close, this hurt. 


Adam was very helpful at this stage in the game. At age thirteen, he was maturing quickly and becoming a friend and helper to me, his stepdad. When I made comments about this to him, he gave me that look that said “of course I should be helping you.” I didn’t feel the right to require him to take this role. Instead, he had the desire to be this person.   


We visited Lindsay every day, but we couldn’t stay overnight. I was losing sleep, weight, and hope. Deep down I  knew she would survive and come home, but I wanted her home for Thanksgiving, so as that special Thursday approached, I noticed Terri talking to herself more.  Later I discovered she had been praying.  Since she was a born-again Christian and I was an atheist, I didn’t want to admit that I was happy someone was praying. And if God was going to listen to a prayer request or two, I figured Terri was the right person to be doing the asking.   


The day before Thanksgiving arrived, the news came that we could take Lindsay home. By this point, I was no longer calling Lindsay my daughter.  I was calling her our daughter.  We have a Thanksgiving family photo of the four of us. Every time I look at it I smile. Terri and I look so exhausted in that picture that it is the best reminder of why we were so thankful for that special Thanksgiving gift.  


I was ready to tend to my daddy duties, but I wanted to do more watching first. I told Terri this, but she tried a really bad line on me: “I’m kind of new at this too.”  Adam was thirteen, and he had turned out well. He really loves and trusts his mother.  I figured, if Terri did it so well with Adam, I was willing to trust her with teaching me how to be a great parent to Lindsay. So I watched Terry.  All I needed to do was watch her and learn. . .and I loved watching her.  



The years passed with relative ease.  I know, as a parent I shouldn’t say that, but it’s true. We had a surprise here and there, but Terri and I were in agreement on the major issues, so Adam and Lindsay knew if they asked one of us a question, the other parent would have the same answer.  The truth is if I wasn’t sure, I told them to go and ask their mother. I didn’t care what her answer was. I was confident it would be the best answer for our children.  She’s a smarty. 



I now have a confession to make. We kind of liked the Waltons. Yes, this has a point.   


When Lindsay was about three, I was helping with potty training.  One important rule we had as parents was allowing our children to have self-expression, as long as it wasn’t vulgar.  So there I was watching my daughter sit proudly and task-focused on the toilet.  She was the type who liked to speak her mind and it was time for me to get a nickname from her.  


Lindsay had heard the name “John Boy.” I hadn’t paid too much attention to how often we heard or spoke this name at home.  I also can’t remember the first time that I called her “Lindsay girl,” but I’m guessing it was inspired from the show The Waltons. 


Since she was in a playful mood, a common occurrence, she decided to start playing with words and sounds that she liked. I got into the game with her.  As I listened, I figured out where she was going. 




“Yes Lindsay Girl.”


“I have a name for you.” She smiled while I held my breath. “Daddy Boy Poop.”


I didn’t know what to say, but I felt a smirk sneak on my face. 


“Daddy Boy Poop.”  She repeated it again.  


As the days or perhaps weeks passed, she decided it was too long, so she shortened it to “Poopy.”     


Although I would have preferred another name, my Lindsay Girl had a way of doing things that I found hard to object to. 


If I was making a list of terms of endearment, Daddy Boy Poop and Poopy would make my list. At times I cringed when she said them, but now ten years later, I can’t help it, I miss hearing these silly names, from time to time.   


Our names for each other have changed through the years, but if you take a guess or two, it’s easy to speculate about why that name really stayed with me as easy to remember.  





As Lindsay grew older, our relationship got better.  But I must admit, there have been days when I was a pushover.  Even in recent years, she always knows just what to say.  Although I have learned to say “No” much of the time when she makes requests that I should simply ignore, on occasion I joyfully concede.


We were home and she wanted to eat something. She didn’t know what, so she decided it was my problem to solve.    


“Daddy, could you get me something to eat?”


“Lindsay, I’m not your slave.”   


She paused for a second and smiled at me. “Yeah, you kind of are.” 


I just laughed out loud, got up, and headed for the kitchen. I don’t remember what I got her to eat, but I remember that I enjoyed that moment. 


If there is one characteristic I want to engrain in my daughter, it is that I will always be there for her. Although I usually say no to such requests, it is one of the more humorous recent memories of how she knows that Terri and I love her very much.  I am privileged to be that kind of dad.      



From my bachelor days to my married-with-children days, life has changed so much and for the better.  It is hard for me to imagine what life could have been like had I not made the mistake of forgetting to reject the love of my life by mentioning the part about “no kid.”   


I didn’t want to be a stepfather, but now I can’t imagine my family being any different or better. Of the people who know both Adam’s real father and me, they all said that I had been a better friend and provider for Adam.  The funny part is I never thought too much about it when those events happened. It was common sense to me how to be a friend and provider, especially after Terri got me tuned in.       


The kid, Adam, is now grown up and married with a son. Lindsay is thirteen years old and ready to take on her teen years like a champion. I’ve heard enough stories through the years of how the teenage years are a struggle for many, but so far I’ve seen no major red flags.    


Lindsay and Adam are good friends, so they talk a lot. And I know that Adam has put in a good word for me many times during his chats with his sister.  They love each other and trust each other.   


Terri and I have had more than a few talks about how well our children get along.  When I shared with Lindsay about the panic attacks and how mom was there for me, Lindsay confirmed that she knows she is never alone.


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Story 4 – Never Alone

Never Alone





This is my story of learning how to communicate my true feelings to my wife.  Since that special day, I realize that I was never alone.     



As a Chinese man, I was taught many good traditional values about family, marriage, and children, but I had one struggle in my life that could have destroyed everything.  My marriage and my relationship with my daughter used to be a bittersweet story. Now it is much better.    


I’ll never forget what it was like to sit with my friend, who was also a family therapist. His name is Daniel.  I am fortunate because I didn’t need to pay hourly therapy fees. Instead, we spent time together as friends and colleagues. When I visited with Daniel, often my daughter was with me. After more than one year of building our friendship, I prompted a conversation that changed my life for the better.


This is my story. 



While having a meal with Daniel, Hanna also had accompanied me. She is a joy. She always has been and always will be. However, she is also a very active child, never wanting to sit still.  Her behavior was frustrating me because I wanted to have a talk with Daniel about a topic that I had been afraid to mention before. I didn’t know how to start, so I spoke whatever words came.  


“So, what do you think of my family?” As I spoke, I felt my nerves jump.  


“My friend, you have a lovely family. Your daughter could not be more adorable, and you are such a good father.”  


I smiled, knowing that wasn’t really what I wanted to talk about. I wanted him to be more honest. Though what he had said was true, there was more to say.    


“Thank you for your kind words. However, I want you to tell me the good and the not-so-good.” My heart sunk. I was happy I had said this, but I knew he had thoughts about how I could improve my relationship with my wife and daughter. 


While our conversation was progressing, Hanna was nearby, pulling on my arm, over and over, to remind me that she wanted to go home.  This was often the case when she accompanied me while I visited my friends.  She had been taught good manners, but she was filled with energy, so she was often restless.   


When we regained eye contact, Daniel spoke. “OK, so what you are really asking me is . . . what you can do to make things better at home. Right?’”  




“OK. Fair enough. Can I ask you a question?”     


“Of course, but be kind.”  We laughed.   


“Your daughter told me that your relationship with your wife is strained, can you tell me about that?”    


I was startled by his question. “What do you mean?  She has said little or nothing to you. In fact, you know that her English level is low.” 


“. . . but her body language is very good—its more revealing. So again, is the relationship between you and your wife strained?”     


I nodded yes, feeling both uncomfortable that this secret had been revealed and happy that I might be able to put into words the very frustrations I had been feeling.  Before this day, I had never been able to express to others how I had felt in my heart. I knew this was my chance, and I knew I wouldn’t have to explain much of my life story to my friend Daniel. For he already understood.  


He continued. “OK. So, I am going to ask you a question. All I want is a yes or a no.  Can we agree?”  


My courage grew. I knew I was ready because my heartbeat was speeding up.




“Good. Did your wife get pregnant with your daughter before you were married?”  


“Yes. How did you know?” I sort of remembered telling him this, but it was a while ago. 


“I thought you had made a comment about it before. Next question.”  He was ready.  “On a scale from 1 to 5, how do you rate your marriage today?”     


“A 3 or 2.5.”  I broke eye contact with him as I said this. I wanted the number to be higher, but my response was honest.    


“OK. So, are you ready to raise that number to a confident 3 or perhaps a 4?” 


“Yes!” My confidence surprised me. 


“Did you ever have a talk with your wife about how important she is to you?” 


“Huh?” A second after I made this sound, I was surprised with myself. We had had many good conversations in the past, my wife and I, but I knew I had hidden special details in my heart that I had not said to her but had really wanted to say.  “Yes. But there are a few details—tell me your ideas.”


“Good answer. How would you like to have a memorable experience tonight or tomorrow? An experience of starting to achieve at least a strong 3 or 3.5 in your marriage?”    


My eyes stared at an unknown target in the room. My stomach tightened. He had invited me into the place that I wanted to be, but going forward meant I would need to take a step or two, and after I followed his advice, my life would change.  I felt the need to end the conversation at this point.  I couldn’t help thinking that I wanted to stop my daughter’s restless behavior, and I was just given the invitation. However, I would need to put the invitation on hold. Soon, we would continue our chat in a different setting.  



A few days later, we were sitting at Daniel’s house on his balcony, immersed in conversation. This time my daughter was not with me. I was happy because I needed to focus.  I bit of guilt came to me as I thought about my daughter’s absence, but I shrugged it off. What was most important to me now was my relationship with my wife. Once that improved, everything else would follow.      


“Our last conversation was so refreshing . . . I really want to talk about Susan again with you.”


“So, what number do you want your marriage to be?”    


“I want to go to at least a 4.” My words were spoken shyly.  “I’m feeling a bit . . . strange now.”  


“Good Sam.”      


“I am feeling a bit unhappy with . . . myself.”  


“That’s fine. And it’ll pass soon. The good news is these feelings have a wonderful purpose. They will guide you to a place where they will turn into joy, real happiness. Are you ready?”  


I was ready. I knew what he was saying was true. 


“OK, what do I need to do?”  


“Tonight, when you go home and you and your wife have a few minutes of together time, you only need to tell her one thing.”   


I stopped breathing, but I was still able to speak. “You mean tell her—?”  I paused.


“Yes.  Do not spend time preparing your speech. Speeches never work well because, when you really get into the emotions, you will forget the speech and speak from the heart anyway. All you need to do is keep your mind on the topic or subject matter.”   


“So do you mean . . . I am not sure what the subject matter is!”  I hadn’t been able to put it into words, but I knew, with a little help, I would be able to find the words. 


Daniel noticed my mind had gone blank. “Yes you do, you know. But allow me to put it into words for you. You have felt resentful towards your wife because she often leaves you to take care of your daughter, and so you feel like a single parent because these are the behavior patterns you’ve both adopted to avoid the root of the pain. Unconsciously, she has never felt connected to you as a husband, only as a lover and father of her child. She felt used, even though she was a consensual partner when she became pregnant. When she sees you and her daughter together, she has mixed feelings.”


“That hurts!”  


“Of course. But you have the power to heal it.”    


I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I just listened.  I felt a deep-down joy because I was finally hearing what I had been feeling for so long.     


“Sam, all you need to do is go and tell her, in your own words, by letting your heart guide you, that you will do whatever is necessary to take your relationship to the place you both have wanted it since the day the negative feelings about being bad people and bad parents began to guide you.  Your daughter has also picked up on it emotionally, but her ability to communicate it into words is—it’s a little too much to ask of her at this time.” 


“Yes. So do I need to remember when and where that started?” 


“No. This is not about remembering a specific date in the past. It’s much easier.  Instead, all you need to do is tell her the truth—that she is very important to you and always has been.”  


My eyes watered. My face turned bright red. I was starting to feel what I had been wanting to feel for so long. I really did, deep down, love my wife, but I had never actually told her this, in this way.  I felt choked up, so I took a few seconds. 


“So no long speech is needed?”      


“Sam, most often saying a lot is not good. If my guess is right, she has been waiting for you to take your place in her life as her best friend and husband, not just lover and baby maker.”   


After these words, I knew Daniel was right. I didn’t need a memorized speech, only to stay on topic, and that would be easy. The conversation shifted, and I stayed another 40 minutes, knowing my life was going to change when I got home. Every few minutes, I glanced at my watch. I really wanted to time the evening well. I had to guess the time she would arrive home  and how long it would take for her to settle in. It was now all about the timing.  As the minutes passed, so slowly, I continued to repeat the topic in my mind:     


[It’s time for a change, honey.  I want to hear your thoughts about how we can improve our marriage and family life. But first I want you to know that I am so happy you are my wife and I could not be happier with our daughter . . .]   


Each time I got to this ending, it seemed like I had said enough. I only hoped she would agree.  


The trip home took a long time.  Once I walked in the door, I was pleased because my timing was good.  Susan had already arrived, and she was finishing a task in the kitchen.  I knew there wouldn’t be the perfect moment.  Instead, I would need to create the special moment. Since our kitchen was small, I leaned on the door without entering, trying to act relaxed.    


At first, she looked at me and smiled. Then she took a second look. I was just standing there, looking at her with a big smile on my face.  My behavior was a bit unusual, and I knew she noticed it.   


“Hi.”  I spoke first.    




She gave me that look that says, “Why are you acting that way?” 


“What?” I made a nervous laugh. 


Her eyes returned to cleaning a pot.  She knew I was behaving different, but she wasn’t about to guess why.


It was my turn. “I’ve been thinking about our family.”     


She looked up at me, offering her full attention. 


“Well, I think we need to bring some changes, and it can start with me.” 


“OK.” I heard skepticism in her voice. 


At that moment, my mind went blank. I knew what I wanted to say, about one minute earlier, but my thoughts vanished.    


She looked at me again, waiting for me to speak. 


OK, I’ll admit it. I had practiced more than one speech on my way home, but none came. I only remembered two of the things Daniel had said to me during our talk: “Focus on one idea, and don’t try to give a memorized speech.” 


“I just want to say that I think our relationship is . . . well, it needs improving. So I want to take the first step.”


She smiled, still offering her attention.  By this time, she had finished cleaning. She changed her stance and looked at me with her arms crossed, covering her chest.  This meant her guard was up. She was ready to listen, but she couldn’t imagine that I would have anything important to say. 


As I found out in the weeks and months to come, she had often made subtle comments to me in the past, but I didn’t catch them because I had been so busy doing all the things that I thought would make things better. She had given me cues, and I had missed them. 


“Thanks for your attention.” I cleared my throat.  “I just want to tell you that marrying you was the best choice I ever made. I often feel like maybe you think we married because of Hanna.  But even if something happened to her, God forbid, or if she had never been born, I would still have chosen you as my wife.”   


I had finally said it. I wanted to add a lot of other details. But I had said it.  She stared at me. No words came. I was sure I saw tears come to her eyes.


Finally, she spoke.     


“Oh. Um, . . . what made you think to say this?”   


Daniel was right. The words did just flow.    


“Because I know I never told you this. But I have wondered what you might think, so . . .” 


“Well, that’s good. I mean, I have wondered at times—“ she stopped. 


“We can discuss it much more later. I don’t have a long speech.  I only want to tell you that am I happy we are together, as a family.”   


Susan exhaled and leaned into me with a hug and kiss.  That night as we climbed into bed, I felt a new joy. There was freedom in how we talked, laughed, and held each other.  Although the words were few, I felt that my life had just changed for the better. The rest of the details of that evening are just between her and me.   


Hanna was in her room. She had quietly finished her homework and was also slowly drifting into a night of rest.  The whole house was quiet and filled with peace.  It hadn’t felt this way in a long time.   


Although my journey has not ended here, it was a big first step.  




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Story 5 – Heavenly Made, & Happily Together



Heavenly Made, and Happily Together




“Love is not a word we Chinese people usually talk about openly, instead, we save it until a very big moment. I think that right time to share some stories of my love is here. “




I am sitting in my home. It’s been almost four years since we had the wedding party. My wife Elaine is playing with our daughter, Eva, who is three. I try to convince myself that I’m not the romantic type, but watching these two lovely ladies has taken me down memory lane. I keep feeling thankful for all I have as I watch them, quietly. The best part is I don’t even think they know I am watching.   


I lounge back into my chair and close my eyes, and perhaps a minute passes. Then I feel someone tickling my nose.  


“Hehehe,” I know that giggle.   


I open my eyes and sit up.    


“Hehehe.” Whenever Eva laughs, she has the cutest smile too.  




“Hi ba.”  


She jumps into my lap and lies her head on my chest.


The end, almost. . .


The evening began with me watching her and it ended with her watching me.  


I never had the courage to ask her or her mother if they noticed that I had been watching them earlier, but Eva wanted to make sure her daddy didn’t feel left out.   



Before I met my wife, I had hoped that when I did meet her, whoever she might be, it would start as a friendship without the need for me to be overly romantic. To this day, I’m still not sure how I am so fortunate because it worked out this way with, what seems to have been, so little planning.   


For a man to love his wife and daughter is natural. But for a man to watch how his life has changed for the better because of his family is some a little more special. I believe this because I know that not all of the men I’ve known through the years are as fortunate as me.  


When I first met Elaine, the connection happened quickly. I wasn’t looking for a wife at the time, not even a girlfriend, but I couldn’t help feeling that maybe it was my time. After all, from the day we met to the day we knew the friendship was special was less than one week.  


One of the most memorable moments during our first week together was when we traveled to Beijing together from a smaller city called Hangzhou. We were on a business trip for work. In all, I was traveling with 12 colleagues. As the train was making its way northbound, an all night trip that took about 12 hours, as I laid restless in my cot, I was startled when a quilt from the bunk above, slipped past me, and landed on the floor.  Without thinking, I returned it, not knowing my simple act of kindness would be the birth of a beautiful friendship.   


It was dark, so Elaine wasn’t sure who had done this. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but the next morning she inquired regarding who had helped her. Her level of thankfulness was a little more than what I had expected, for she pealed me an apple for breakfast.  I don’t remember the last time a woman who I had just met did such a thing for me, so I took notice.   


I always thought she was beautiful, but in China beautiful women are everywhere. Her act of kindness is what got my attention, and the fact that she was very smart also impressed me. 


From the time we arrived for training in Beijing to our ride back to Hangzhou, the friendship grew. I was a young man in his early 20’s who wasn’t looking for romance or a wife. But there was something special about her, so I just couldn’t say no. Spending time with her became a priority. 


The realization that we were falling in love took hold as the months passed because we went out of our way to meet up. If we were separated by geography,  I never hesitated to take a two or three hour bus ride, one way, so I could spend the afternoon with her. 


Before we were officially married, however, we experienced a rough spot or two.  The one that always makes me smile was when we had had an argument. I had to make it right, and I wanted surprise on my side. After the argument was over, she sent me messages and tried to call me, but I refused to reply.  I figured the only way I could pull this off was by pretending to be a bit rude. Although my heart would race each time she sent me a message or tried to call, I stayed with my plan. 


When the evening arrived and the moon was shining, I snuck out to her dormitory. I wasn’t even sure if she would answer my call, but she did.  That’s when my heart really started to race. Next, I told her to look out of the window at the beautiful sky. She was intrigued by the unusual suggestion enough to honor my plea. As she opened her window and gazed out, I saw her but she didn’t see me.  I was hoping she would enjoy the night sky and the glowing moon before I revealed myself.  She did.  At last, I told her to look down. She did, quickly, but all she noticed was a strange man standing on the ground below, holding a bouquet of flowers.  I will never forget the look on her face—her joy. I had pulled off a nice surprise. 


After she finished her graduate studies, we both knew what was next.  I had been thinking of different ways to arrange the proposal, so we could make our marriage official.  But Elaine took the lead.  She made the proposal, I accepted, and the next day we stood at the government office in our hometown, smiling for our pictures as they designed our certificate booklet.   


Unlike you see in the movies, I never knelt and officially proposed. Neither did she. However, one day I will make it up to her, and then we will laugh about that informal day when she asked me to be her husband.    


When our wedding party day arrived, I was more than proud to show off to all my friends and family my wife.  To me, that day wasn’t the day she became my wife. Instead, it was her day to be my bride in front of a group of those dearest to us.  I kept saying to myself and others “This is my bride.” 


I noticed a new excitement in my life within that first year after the wedding. I started leaving work earlier than I had in the past, wanting to get home. Elaine had become pregnant about five months after the wedding party, and I knew I wanted to be there.   


Eva’s birth and life have changed me. I can understand why people often describe their experience of watching the birth process as being a miracle.  I knew from the day that I met Elaine that she was a nurturer, someone who knew how to tune into the needs of others. Her natural tendency to serve was one of the reasons I was attracted to her. So watching Elaine in her mothering role has been one of the greatest ongoing experiences in my life.     


Many people have heard of the One-child policy in China. It has its benefits. One of those is the availability of grandparents.  Without asking, both of our parents were happy to help out with child care. We all were there when Eva took her first few steps and when she was able to speak full sentences, both milestones happened within the first two years.  At each event, Elaine’s yearning to be home with her daughter grew stronger, so when Eva was two and a half, Elaine made the transition from part-time mom to full-time mom.     


Eva is now five. My desire to leave work early and be with my family has never grown old, and knowing Elaine and Eva are together each day, always leaves a smile on my face.   


Every now and then, I think of how Elaine kind of proposed to me and how I felt bad that I hadn’t been more romantic on that occasion, so I’ve decided to prepare a surprise.  I know I did well with the bouquet of flowers in the moonlight at her dormitory, but I’m going to top that because I love making these memories with her.    


Eva has learned to be part of the memory making.  Now that she is five, she often expresses her love for us in her own adorable way. 


“Hi Eva.” 


“Hi daddy.” 


“Eva, who do you love more, mom or dad?”


She always replies quickly, “Both mom and dad.”    


My life has turned out beautifully.  I married the perfect woman for me and she gave me a healthy, lovely, and smart daughter.  I couldn’t have asked for more.    









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Story 6 – Don’t Jump


Don’t Jump




Life always brings good and bad times.  When standing near a cliff, one person thinks, “If I jump, maybe it will stop the pain.” But on another day, that same person thinks, “The glory of God!”  This story is about both. 




My family life is most important to me now. It wasn’t always this way. As a young man, the rules about how to be a good family man were never clear, so when we started having children, my life became unpredictable and painful.  I was the discipliner in my family, but since my wife, Debra, and I did not agree on some of the rules, I confused the kids when I enforced them.  Debra was the one who kept everyone sane. If nothing else, this is a thank you letter to her. 


I did a lot of things right, but in this letter I want to share how Debra and my daughter, Coco, had a wonderful affect on me.  In fairness, much of my present happiness stems from the lessons they taught me over the years. These lessons humbled me to better appreciate other people’s pain.  


Debra and I have three children. Two of our children, Carl, Jr. and Coco, came from our marriage. One of the children, Mathew, came from Debra’s earlier relationship. Debra is my better-half.  It took me years of marriage to really appreciate her, and now I know she is what matters most to me.  This story is about the great job she did raising our daughter. It took me years to put it all together, but when I look back now, I know that my daughter is an unspeakable joy to me because of Debra’s efforts.    


My upbringing was filled with a void. Debra had a similar one. Our attraction to each other was not surprising.  We mutually accepted we would do our best while allowing three children to live with us. We were in a common place; many other families were and are in a similar situation. Since raising children is one of the most difficult tasks on this planet, I just wish there was more universal agreement on what the rules are.  Maybe that way, I could have followed them.    


Debra was the nurturer; I was the discipliner.  We both had a different idea of how to do these jobs, and this often led to disagreements. When I felt there was lack of clarity on how to do my job, I marched forward trying to convince myself to do my God-given duty with confidence and firmness.  If I yelled too loud or was a bit mean, the kids went back to their mom for a hug.  I would have been happy to offer them a hug, but they didn’t tend to ask me for it.    


Debra is an angel, my angel.  I think she sometimes questions why I use this word, but let me fill you in. We both have our vices. We like to have a smoke. A sip of wine is also nice, and when we do, we laugh at every joke, especially the dirty ones. I like to call her an angel because, although she’s not perfect, Debra has never been one to judge.  Instead, she is very good at seeing the world through the eyes of others. She can see a person’s pain, and she is always ready to offer encouragement.  We both strive to be nurturers, but sometimes I judge and yell. Debra does not; I call Debra my angel.  


I have learned more from Debra than I realize. I don’t know who thought up the theory that our wives are supposed to take their orders from us men, but I can tell you it’s not true for me. It took me many years to understand that in the midst of all the mistakes I made, my wife had been quietly and patiently steering the ship.     


As a man who worked in a blue-collar environment, a common topic at work was how we as men viewed women or girls.   We often bragged about the women we were sleeping with and how good we were at finding these lovely trophies. During these years of boasting, I noticed an interesting trend. As my colleagues bragged, their stories often sounded a little too familiar—like they were being borrowed from a Hollywood movie script.       


As a father, I wasn’t sure if I wanted my boys to come to me with questions like: “Why is it so important for us to want to sleep with women?” or “Dad, tell us about all the sex you had when you were younger.”  As I later learned, my sexual history was part of the reason I felt the gulf between my family and me.      


The disconnect between Coco and me started when she was about age 12 or 13, about the time her body began to take shape. Many fathers go through this. Our daughters really are a mirror-image of our wives. One day I was working in my backyard and noticed Coco step out on the pool deck.  She was no longer a cute little girl; she was becoming a young woman. During her single digit years, she was cute. Now she had changed, and so did my life, always and forever. To be clear, nothing inappropriate happened between us, but I didn’t have the connection with her that I had with my sons.  


Since I had done a good job of sexualizing women years before, watching my daughter grow into a breathtakingly beautiful young woman unconsciously put a strain on me. I could no longer bounce her on my knee or play games with her.  The relationship we had shared was gone. A new relationship had to be forged, but I didn’t know how to do it or whom to ask. I couldn’t ask Debra and admit I didn’t know much about this topic.  I was a man. I was supposed to have all the answers. I wanted to keep this facade alive, as painful as it was.    


A few of my friends told me how to build a better relationship with Coco, but I didn’t really listen. Intuitively, I knew if I listened to their advice, I would have to change. The prospect of changing was too daunting; I was supposed to be in control.  I was the man of the household and was supposed to know what to do.  




As Coco entered her teen years and summer came, she asked me to build a small pond in the back yard and put a few fish in it. A simple request.  It was her way of saying, “Dad, let’s spend more time together, or something like that.”            


At once a wave of brilliance flowed over me. I agreed to the project and got busy. The more time I put into it, the more Coco’s smile faded.  Her simple request had backfired, and she felt rejected. At that time, I did not realize that my behavior was fueling her rebellion. I had only one goal with this project; the pond was my way to tell her “I love you.” To me, this was the best way to communicate that to her. I always was a big doer and not a talker.       


What she had wanted was a small pond that would allow us to work together, and when it was finished, to sit near it, play with the fish, and have great talks.  Perfect father-daughter time.      


I put all my energy into the pond, and it was a great success.  As people came to my home and admired my work, I stood and nodded at the compliments and often made comments that I had built it for Coco. Most of the time, when I said this, she was not in the conversation and nowhere in sight. I don’t know if she even knew how I bragged about my love for her.        


One or two years passed, and the pond became too much work and too expensive. We took it apart. Around the same time, Coco began to date a guy, a local young thug. I often whispered the name Thug, but I don’t remember if I used this word when I spoke with others, at least not in the beginning. No one in our family was happy about him or the situation.  On more than one occasion, I expressed to Coco my clear dissatisfaction about her thug. By this time, she had tuned me out. The girl I loved so dearly was now actively ignoring me, her father—the man of the household. This really angered me. I thought what disrespect!   


One of my greatest fears was now upon me. Coco had developed into a beautiful young woman and was getting the attention of many of the boys, but I was the last one from whom she wanted to take advice.  Demanding that she obey my orders was even less effective. I noticed a couple of young men that seemed better than the rest, but she liked the guy that I didn’t like, the thug. At this time I could not see the bigger picture—or wouldn’t.  I took offense, and let her know it. I know what you are thinking: “How could you have been so stupid?”


When men disconnect from the people they most love they often fall into a deep depression. This is what happened to me.  A family friend who is a therapist had many talks with me. As the years passed, I learned to better tune into my thoughts.  


He said my depression began when my family, especially Coco, became a burden instead of the source of my joy and happiness. Because I had not allowed myself to express to the people I love most how important they are, they withdrew from me. 


Just to be clear, I did communicate to them in my own way.  I spent a lot of time at home, so I was often available.  The kids knew that I wasn’t running around with other women, but Coco wanted my time and my ear.  She wanted to tell me what was bothering her and get my advice.  I just didn’t tune into this. 


As my friend and I had conversations about this over the years, I began understand. Debra reminded me that Coco had begged me for my attention during her early teens, but I lacked the confidence I needed to offer her what she really wanted. She wanted to be close friends with me, her dad.    


Deep down, Coco resented this lack of closeness, and it caused a bit of a gulf between her and her mother.  When children realize they don’t feel they can talk openly with one parent, that child may begin to trust both parents less.  In Coco’s case, she trusted her mother, but only to a degree. She wanted more from both of us, but when I turned her away, she withdrew from both of us.              


My poor fathering skills were affecting my family, and two of the people that I loved most didn’t want to talk to me. Alone in my family room hoping no one would ask me what I was thinking about, I wanted to find the magic that would make our family life better.  I figured it was my responsibility, as the man and head of the household, to start solving problems. I was proud of myself.  I wasn’t the world’s best reader, but I did spend time reading self-help books, the Bible, and Bible commentaries.  I read a lot of good advice, but I still felt paralyzed when I tried to use it. It felt unnatural to tell the people that I love how I really felt about them.  Crazy, huh?  


The day in the back of my mind that I feared most arrived.  I remember sitting in my chair doing my readings and feeling pleased with myself. Then the news came:  Coco was pregnant! To make matters worse, the father was the thug. I felt as though she had just kicked me in the stomach with all her might.


How dare she? I remember thinking, I am secretly spending my time trying to solve our family problems and now my daughter has to go and cause another problem!  I was furious.        


I didn’t know it at the time, but my granddaughter, Jenny, was to become one of the greatest blessings of my life. My precious granddaughter would offer me the chance to be, so to speak, born again.  After Jenny was born, something remarkable happened. Joy returned to our home. Secretly, I called her a miracle because she was what our family needed.     


Although Jenny’s father is not involved in our lives anymore, Coco met a man named Tom, who happily stepped into the fathering role.  I liked him from the start, but now we love and appreciate him all the more.   


Coco grew into her mothering role, and the pressure for me to be a better father vanished. She had my attention now, and so did her daughter. I became the full-time sitter when Coco went to work, and it was an honor. The time I spent with my granddaughter brought back memories of what I had done right with my daughter when she was young. I had learned a lot, and I knew I had been given a second chance.  


I am now in my fifties and am enjoying the relationship that I have with my wife and daughter. This has made my life very fulfilling.  I am not Jenny’s disciplinarian; that is her mother’s job.  I am my granddaughter’s nurturer and buddy.  My relationship with Coco has changed; now I am her fan. I am the proud father and husband who is able to watch my daughter be a great mother and see how Debra has influenced her in so many ways. It is the perfect avenue by which to fall in love with my wife and daughter, all over again.  


Sometimes we sit down and talk about Coco’s roles as a mother and my teacher.  I’ve never been so humbled and so happy at the same time.  She will always be my daughter, but now she is much more.     


On many recent occasions, I have noticed Coco and Debra talking to each other in a whisper.  As I have watched this happen, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. Coco continues to improve as a mother, and my ability to love her has naturally flourished.   


The only regret I have is that she and I didn’t communicate well as father and daughter many years earlier. I am confident, however, that we will have many greats talks in the days and years ahead.      


When we accepted our new roles, I feared Coco might remind me of the many mistakes I had made. I need not have been afraid. When we sit down now, she doesn’t bring this subject up. Instead, she reminds me how great I am with her daughter. 


I can’t help thinking about all the ways Debra has been working behind the scenes. She has always been and always will be the one I love most.  Coco is growing to be her mother’s daughter. They both continue to contribute to making our family life a blessing.  The depression and confusion is gone.  I am a humbled, happy and joy-filled man.



The Loving Critique 


I agreed to take this walk down memory lane because I wanted to see where and how I had grown.  When Debra offered a critique, I blushed…     


Carl has a big heart and is mostly a softy, so we call him “papa.”  He is everyone’s go to guy when someone needs something fixed, whether it’s emotional or a job for a handyman. He can fix anything that breaks in your home or your car.   


If you get into trouble, even with the police, you can count on papa for help. As he comes to your rescue, he will probably lecture you about how to avoid making the same silly mistake again. Although you may cringe at the time, it’s worth it.     


But mostly, he has learned to tune into our children, and I feel so much more connected to him.  He loves to cook for me and tell me how beautiful I am, inside and out. Although I don’t always believe him, I know the compliments come from his heart.  


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Story 7 – She’s Mine


She’s Mine




I often call myself a Pacifist Marine. I joined the Marine Corp to avoid the draft because I knew I couldn’t kill another human and didn’t want to be on the front lines. It worked. After a short time in active duty, I was still collecting benefits without causing any real harm. I think the government liked having me because I had a hell of a temper — I almost killed someone who lived in my community during my teen years — but more on that topic later.  


The best part is I had made up my mind who I would marry during my teens. Today, at age seventy-something, after a divorce and a lot of fuss about nothing, she is mine again.                                                                                     



As I mentioned earlier, I am seventy-something now, so I have had a few years to figure out who I am. It’s all clear to me, and I like it.  I’ve also been called an agnostic Christian, with emphasis on the agnostic part.  I believe there is a God, but I never had a religious experience that gave me a strong connection to the Almighty.  One day, I’m guessing, many years ago, I decided that if God wanted my attention, He or She was more than able to send me a sign. I found my purpose when I became a father. 


I’ve never thought of my life as miraculous — perhaps a little loony, but whose life isn’t?  Based on the lack of direction and parenting my father gave me, I turned out fine. No regrets.  My father was the son of a World War One father. Like me, my father wanted a good father figure but never got one.  


However, I didn’t want to blame my father for my failures, so I got busy making my own way. I am the product of my choices, and I am proud of those choices. My children and I turned out well.  


The two people who are closest to me are my ex-wife, Janet, and my daughter, Amy.  Janet’s nickname is Gypsy.  This name fits her well because she has always been a free-spirited girl who wanted nothing more than to flee the bad circumstances of her childhood and experience independence and love.      


We met at about age five. She was my neighbor, the girl next door.       



I had my first official date with her when I was thirteen, the Sadie Hawkins Dance. We were already in love when she asked me to the dance.  I knew we would get married, but we had to endure a little hardship first.    


One of my first memories of hardship happened around age fifteen. Janet’s father was giving her a hard time across the street. I could hear them yelling at each other, out in front of their home. This made me angry.  I loved that girl and knew she hadn’t done anything wrong. Instead, her father was drunk and acting stupid. Knowing I would one day marry her, I got involved. Yeah, it got bad, but the police arrived before I had a chance to kill him or at least hurt him really badly. Ironically, her father, the man who became my father-in-law, respects me today in part because of that incident. I guess my father-in-law figured that if I was willing to put myself at risk to protect his daughter then I must be a pretty standup guy. Threatening to kick his ass and kill him, or whatever words I used during that crazy evening, had made a good impression on this man! He died years ago, but I think back on those years often and feel sorry for him. Like so many men of that era, he had lost his way. 


After that event, it was a waiting game until Janet and I were ready to leave the prisons we called our homes.  Although there were other tense moments along the way, when I turned nineteen, I popped the question that Janet had been waiting for.  We got our wedding certificate, and said goodbye to our parents. Our upbringing taught us to take nothing for granted, so we worked hard, many hours, saved every spare penny, and began planning for our first child. 


Although we were now living under the same roof, it still didn’t feel like a family yet.  I didn’t mind being home, but I loved working, so I worked a lot of hours. I’m not sure when it dawned on me that we got married to get away from our crazy fathers. Also, we are both the same age, so I wasn’t robbin’ the cradle.       


The family planning seemed easy enough, before the children started coming. Our initial plan was for five boys, but when our first born was a daughter, Amy, the all-boy scenario kind of died, thankfully. From the day of Amy’s birth, a part of me changed. I happily gave up the dream of being a rough and tough father to five boys and embraced the joy of being a nurturer to the most beautiful creature that I had ever seen.    


Like it was yesterday, I can remember the feeling of becoming a family.  The most magical part was I fell deeply in love with both my daughter and my wife on the same day.  Although there are probably a few reasons why this event was special, the one that sticks out in my mind is Janet became the mother of my first born.  For the first time since I had been born, I understood what it meant to be part of family.  And I cherished the role of being my daughter’s protector and provider. I knew she would be the love of my life, no matter what.  


You probably noticed earlier that I called Janet my ex-wife. That wasn’t a typo. Although we married at an early age, we had twenty-six great years before we divorced. After the divorce, we have remained best friends. To this day, I feel closest to my daughter Amy, but Janet is my best friend and first love — strange but true. No matter what, even after our divorce, I knew I could never hate Janet. From the earliest days, she was the one who offered me companionship. 


 I had made a couple of vows to myself during my teens years and when I started my family.  The first one was I would not let drugs or alcohol destroy my family the way my father and Janet’s father had allowed them to.  Second, I wanted to be a good dad. Amy made that easy.   


Three years later, our second child, Danny, was born, and then another three years passed and Brian was born.  With plenty of money in the bank, a big beautiful house, three lovely children, Janet and I sailed through the next fifteen years or so.  


We had been married for more than twenty years when the gypsy part of Janet went on the hunt. The same happened with her three sisters.  Our family life was good, but Janet wanted to experience a few things beyond the dream life we were now living. She had met a man who was saying the right things and giving her special attention.   


At the same time that she started to see another man, Richard, I had a freak industrial accident.  It left me in the hospital for four months. I had broken my pelvis, back, neck, legs, arms, and elbow.  I made a promise to myself at that time:  Either I was going to fully recover or die trying. 


I did fully recover from my injuries.   


After our divorce, Janet got married again, years later.  But both of us remained emotionally and geographically close to our children. This meant we did see each other regularly.  I never stopped loving Janet, nor did I regret having children with her.  I understood why she did what she did, the divorce and all. She even admitted to me what a big mistake cheating on me had been.  She told me with about one year into her second marriage.   



Now that many years have passed, I realize how my life is coming full circle. Janet just finalized her second divorce, and we are dating again.  I probably had something to do with this because we had started seeing each other again. Old habits are hard to break!  While I was on a date with her, I felt a tinge of guilt because we were spending the afternoon together, going for a walk in our small town, our hometown, when we saw her almost ex-husband drive by us.  He didn’t see us, but we saw him.  For a fleeting moment, I felt bad — it passed quickly.  Instead of feeling guilty, I reminded myself of a simple truth: I am allowed to love who I want, when I want, as long as they consent, and I don’t hurt others. My wife and daughter taught me this lesson in the beginning, and it has made my life wonderful.  


I know Janet’s almost second ex-husband very well. He’s a good guy.  Divorced or not, we all gather for holidays with all our children every year.  The kids have two dads and one mom.  We all see this as normal. I think it’s wonderful. Forgiveness runs in our family as a deep tradition.  There must be a God or Creator, so I am thankful to Him or Her for the people in my life.        


Janet always has been and always will be a good mother to our children and my best friend. And although she made the mistake of leaving me after twenty + years of marriage, I am gladly taking her back.  I don’t know if we will get another marriage certificate, but paper or no paper, she is my best friend, and I have every intention of enjoying having her in my life for as many years as we have left.    


Our children Amy, Danny, and Brian all feel the same.   





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Story 8 – Leave Me Alone


I feel very uncomfortable when people try to fix me by telling me what to do. This is especially true about my beliefs in religion and my boundaries emotionally, physically, and sexually. I was taught that there is right and wrong, and I believe this is true. But I was not taught how I can learn for myself the differences between right and wrong, without talking to a religious leader within my community. This bothered me.  So to all of those who want to fix me, I really only have one thing to say to you, “Leave me alone!”  




My story: 


Allow me to introduce myself. I am a Chinese girl in my mid-twenties. Internationally the world doesn’t use the word girl to describe me. I realized this while living in Europe for high school and university. More often, the world calls girls like me “young women.” I now remind myself that “I am an intelligent and beautiful young Chinese woman who can do anything.” Rick encouraged me to remind myself of this often, so now I believe it. A few years ago, I didn’t believe this.  


I was one of the lucky Chinese students who was fortunate to study overseas in the UK, but I often did not feel so fortunate during those years. My religious Chinese culture, which is Christian, simply had not prepared me for a small list of cultural differences that I was introduced to within my first year of high school. And it only got more interesting (scary) as time passed.    


After my second year of high school, I felt like a foreigner wherever I went. I realized this when I visited my hometown in China for the summer. What I didn’t understand was why I was feeling this way, but now I know. I learned two important lessons about me and how this world really works.  


First, the vast majority of parents are struggling to raise their children in this modern time. This is not a cultural concern of any particular country, it’s global.  It doesn’t matter what your religious or political beliefs are. Raising children is hard work, so kids (me included), realize your parents don’t hate you, although sometimes it feels that way. They love you but they show it the way that they are comfortable showing it.  For example, spending a lot on your education or working 80 to 100 hours a week at their jobs, which often they don’t even like.  


Second, if society (like our schools and religious institutions) were able to help parents and children communicate better, this world would be a much better place.  However, these institutions are often trained in everything accept how to raise children which includes encouraging students to be their best. But kids don’t get angry, get even. You can start learning what I’ve been learning.    


I am one of the lucky ones because I met a few people that had a profound influence on my life before I was even twenty years old. One was Rick. It took me about two years to really trust him, but when I did, that is when my life changed. It is easier than you think to find people to trust, but more on that later.  




More than two years had passed since I met Rick, so I had built up a strong trust. Since I also guessed that coaching fees can get expensive, I decided to use my coach and therapist favors for the right time—a last resort.  


I will never forget the moment when I dialed him. I was in France and I felt threatened emotionally, physically, and sexually by the people who were supposed to be my host family.  I was a mess. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say when Rick answered, but I knew memorizing a speech would not work. One strategy that usually did not work for me was using memorized speeches. When I feel connected to a particular event emotionally, giving a memorized speech does not work for me. 


English had become my primary language in Europe, so when I heard the phone connect and Rick’s “hello,” my first sentence felt memorized, but then the emotions took over.  


“I don’t know how to begin, so. . .” 


He could hear the panic in my voice and how I was holding back the tears. 


“It sounds like you are calling because you are feeling distressed, perhaps frightened. Do you mind if I share a few things with you first? It might help.” 


It was obvious that he had tuned into my emotional state. I exhaled, “Yes. Go.”


“I have been listening and coaching people for years, over fifteen years, so there is nothing you can say that will surprise me. I’ve heard it all.”  Then he spoke a short list of common issues people ask him about. A few items on the list caught my attention:  sexual pressure at school, the desire to rebel against my parents, and feeling uncomfortable in a place, such as a foreign country.  He was a bit more graphic when he spoke his list, but I got the idea quickly and stopped him mid-course.    


“Ok, you don’t need to go through the list—I know it.” I felt a little rude for cutting him off, but he didn’t seem to mind a bit. “So how much do your coaching or therapist services cost?” 


He paused, pretended to add some numbers and answered. “For you, free.”  


I noticeably exhaled again. “Wow.” I would have happily paid any amount he had said. I paused and realized it was now or never. “As you know I went to France. Well, I met up with a family that is really messed-up. I mean, they are very open sexually and they often yell at each other, especially the husband and wife — this is different from my Chinese culture. My job here in France is a nanny. The host woman is divorced, but her ex-husband is around a lot because he likes to visit his son. The kid acts a lot like his father. They, the father and son, make all kinds of sexual comments at me, things like ‘you have a nice butt’ and the boy even tried to sit on my face — long story, hard to describe — I know, it sounds crazy, but I really feel strange being here. I have never had someone talk to me this way. Since they told me what they are thinking, sometimes I feel it when they stare, although, sometimes it might be my imagination. . .I’m too afraid to look over at them when I feel them staring at me. You know what I look like. I know guys look. . .” 


I knew I could say so much more, but I stopped. Either he would tell me I was overthinking it or he would tell me I wasn’t. I had made my case. I was no longer afraid of his answer because I knew I could handle and accept whatever he said. 


“Are you feeling a little better now?”




I grunted, “Yes—a little.” 


“You’ve been through a lot recently. I have heard similar stories from others. . .they ended well. I am trying to imagine what you described, like the little boy trying to sit on your face and how uncomfortable you felt when the man told you about your “nice butt” in front of his son and ex-wife. If these have made you feel uncomfortable, that is understandable. Good?” 


“Sure.”  I wasn’t sure where he was going, but so far I was feeling better than I had even three minutes earlier. At least I had someone to talk to who seemed a little saner than me. 


“Good. Allow me to gain a little more understanding about your setting. How does your mother feel about this? I am guessing you called her.” 


“I did but she told me I was over-thinking it. She told me I should not be thinking such bad thoughts because as a Christian I should see the good in people, or something like that.” 


“So, it was hard for you to understand her advice because you are feeling too much emotion right now. Correct?”  




“Ok. Let me remind you of a rule or two I have that we discussed in the past. At any time, you can choose not to answer a question I ask. And sometimes it’s better to just answer it quietly to yourself.” 


“I know.”


“Also, I do not need to know the details on most questions to help, especially if they are of a sexual nature. Good?” 


I felt myself wanting to cry in relief. Both his tone of voice and the words he chose were calming my nerves as the seconds passed. 


“Got it. I know that I can stop the conversation or change the topic at any time. You are the only one who gives me that freedom. It’s weird but it helps me to be more honest with myself.” 


“Ok. You are in a foreign country. If you needed to, could you leave that place immediately? For example, call a friend or get a cab?”   


I paused. “Umm. . .Yyyes.” 


“Ok. Have you recently, especially in the past year or two, had an experience where you felt pressured emotionally, physically or sexually by someone.”


I paused again. “Kind of.” I am a beautiful young Chinese foreign student in western Europe, and I was surrounded by non-Chinese friends during high school and university, so the answer was a resounding “yes.” Rick knew this, but he didn’t challenge my response.  





My answer to Rick’s question was a partial lie, but he didn’t care. He didn’t ask the question for his benefit. He asked it for mine. The fact is I had a boyfriend in Europe who, on more that one occasion, tried to pressure me to have sex with him, so I upset him when I said no. I was shaken by this relationship because my boyfriend had acted as though I owed him sex. His insistence led to me break up with him. He had even told me that many of his friends were having sex, so it was expected. I felt as though he placed more value on how sexy I am compared with my other attributes. I immediately felt better the day I ended that relationship.  


As I answered each question, some I spoke to him and others I whispered to myself. As the time was winding down, I literally felt myself breathing easier and relaxing. I knew good news was coming, so I decided it was time to be rude again. 


“So?. . .” He laughed. He expected the interruption. 


“First, I do not think you are over-reacting, or over-thinking. You are a lonely young woman in a France and the host family is not aware of how their behavior is making you feel. Does that sound fair?” 




“We can look at that more later.” 


“So. . . what does that mean? Like, do you think I can just leave?”  


“You can make that choice for yourself soon.”  


Although calling my mother and other friends had not helped, in less than ten minutes, I felt very different. I was rethinking who I was. I realized that I was a young intelligent woman who had the ability to make good choices. The others had treated me like a little girl who should be told what to do. 


As my heart slowed, I realized I had just come down from a panic attack. I had not felt this safe in a long time, so the laughter mixed with tears began to flow. 


A question I used to have came to me: Isn’t the world responsibility to look out for me and make me safe — to make all girls like me safe? The sad answer is no.  


As we continued our talk, he asked me to describe the French family in more detail. After this, he predicted how they would act after I told them why I felt uncomfortable.


I did have a talk with my host, the wife, soon after I spoke with Rick. I felt very good about it all.  My conversation with her had a few rough moments, but she came around. I think it was a good learning experience for both or us. The goal of the meeting with this woman was not to tell her everything she had done wrong. After all, she had enough pressure with her out of control son and ex-husband, who was not supporting her parenting style. The goal of our meeting was to explain to her how I felt about being in the strange environment. The conversation ended with us agreeing on things we could both do together and we gave each other a hug.  




I wasn’t too surprised that Rick’s predictions came true. He is part of a global network of professionals who are able to predict people’s behavior. The truth is we all want to feel respected and accepted. 


As my conversation with Rick was coming to an end, he told me that I would laugh about this event in the future. As time passes, his prediction is coming more true, and my memory of France is becoming more pleasant. Although on occasion I still cringe a little, I am laughing more. 






I am sworn to secrecy on most of the details of our conversation, but I will tell you that even  when my mom and other friends did not have the training to hear to my heart and my fears, Rick was happy to help. He respects my parents and reminds me how difficult their job is. I believe it’s true.


“Leave me Alone.” What does this mean to me?  When someone tells me what I should do and tries to control me, I remind myself that I have choices.  I do not typically tell people “Leave me alone” now. Instead, I listen, say “thank you,” and move on. 







Published By


Story 9 – My Wife Really Does Love Me!


“Either my wife is not too smart, or I am missing something. Why on earth did I marry her?” I used to say this too myself during our early years of marriage. Things have changed since then. 



I am sitting in my backyard watching my son, Emerson, play. Every now and then, he runs to me and gives me a kiss on the cheek and runs back to play, giggling all the way.  Often, I get up and play with him, but today I am just sitting and watching. Our family time is great, but it wasn’t always this way.   

Emerson is almost four years old, and I am very pleased that over the past several months, his life has improved because his family life has improved. I know this because he tells me. 


Recently, my backyard went from very small to very big because someone knocked down the fence. The open area is just what I needed — what we all needed. The fresh air and better view have ushered in a nice change. 


My wife, Daisy, started encouraging me to sit out here and watch our son play. I like that she made this suggestion before I thought of it myself. The reason is when she makes suggestions that I did not think of, she notices a spark in my eyes that reveal my genuine enthusiasm for her and the joy I feel in those moments. Also, I love the look in her eyes, when she realizes how much I appreciate her. On the other hand, if she offers a suggestion that I already considered, although I am happy to act on it, the connect isn’t as strong.    


She has made more of these little suggestions recently, and most of them are good. More and more, I see the wisdom in her outsider’s view to my thought life and what will make us happy as a family.  




How did all of this begin?   


They told me that an international marriage would be challenging, but I didn’t listen. Who is they? They refers to most of the people in my life, like friends, colleagues, and family. My wife is Chinese. I am Australian. Way back when Daisy seemed to attract me for the wrong reasons: She was beautiful and nurturing, and I was lonely — I was a foreigner living in China. After a year passed, I kind of concluded (thoughtfully), if I marry her, my life in China might become easier and I won’t be so lonely. Plus, she is very beautiful, and I really do like her.  I wasn’t smart enough to understand the psychology of it at the time, but many had offered me the advice, “Go with your gut,” so I did. 


I was the type of husband who made a common mistake: I believed I was much smarter than my wife, and I let her know it, regularly. In the past, when she made a request that seemed really stupid to me, I explained to her why her request was stupid and felt proud that I saw the obvious. However, this all changed recently. The secret of going from a frustrated husband and father, to a happier husband and father took place at the same time because they are connected — I learned that when I make the choice to be a better husband, the job of being a better father requires less effort. You could say, the two work together nicely.  I just needed the right balance. 


A little background: My environment during my teen and early college years was common for an Australian household in my hometown. No one bragged about great marriages or family life, so the idea that I thought my married life would be great didn’t come from my family history. I think the fantasy of a perfect family life came from TV shows or movies, but not real life experiences.   


My relationship with Daisy improved when I decided to test out my theory that I had not figured everything out. This included accepting that I often took my wife’s comments too literally. Part of my secret experiment was making an honest effort to not take Daisy’s comments literally, especially when she is angry.  After a short time, I noticed how my life got easier.


One of my friends, a therapist, reminded me on many occasions that women often speak in hyperbole and metaphor.  I didn’t fully grasp what this meant when he first mentioned it. For example, she used to love reminding me, “You never spend time with your son.” To me, this was an utterly foolish thing for her to say, but I had heard her say it many times. My most vivid memories of her telling me this was when my son was playing nearby me. I am a good father, but I used to work a lot of over-time because I wanted to launch a new company to increase our family income. I was annoyed that she couldn’t or didn’t want to see why I made the effort that I made.   


My changed behavior started after I considered one question. “Is it possible she is speaking hyperbole or something like that?” In my thinking, words like hyperbole and metaphor were fancy terms from literature, so they had nothing to do with real-life relationships. Although, I had never thought of her as a novelist or poet, I was willing to consider this possibility that she had a better grasp on literary terms than I did. After all, either I married a woman who was completely out of touch with our family life, or she was much smarter than I gave her credit for. I was hoping for the latter. 


Although I’m not sure when I first realized that her attitude had changed, my gut tells me that her singing played a part. She has enjoyed singing for years, but I saw it as annoying, instead of enjoying it for what it should be, a pleasant home tone setter. For example, I didn’t think her singing was appropriate if her house chores weren’t done.  I worked more than full-time while she stayed at home with our son.   


How did this change happen? One day it dawned on me to change my attitude about her singing, so I started listening. This often happened when I was doing chores. I quickly began to enjoy this routine because she is a good singer with a beautiful voice, and our son loves to listen and watch his mom smile.  Imagine the scene. Instead of complaining, I happily focused on my duties at home while listening. On occasion, I even did her chores. 


Her response came quickly. Upon experiencing my changed attitude, she soon gained the confidence to make polite suggestions about how we can improve our home life. One of her first suggestions was I needed to be more mindful of my time management. Even her tone seemed to have changed. After a short chat with her, I understood her idea, “You need to spend more time with your son, and schedule it.” The best part was, I learned what she really meant. She wanted a guaranteed day and time, the same days and times during any given week, when Emerson and I would be together because, on occasion, she might want to invite herself along. Emerson and I happily obliged her.  Her self-invites always work nicely.  Emerson really loves his mom, and I can see why. They have a nice connection, so when she decides to tag along, he always smiles.  


After I saw this success, it prompted me to become a bit more insightful. This included me showing my appreciation to her. It is easy to do this. I would deliberately make an effort to do the things that made her happy without her needing to make the suggestions again.


The months passed and life became easier and more predictable, so she had the nerve to suggest that we needed to move to a bigger home.  When she first made the comment, she noticed my non-verbals. I wasn’t happy.  However, as the days passed and I was by myself, I took a moment to put this in perspective. I knew she didn’t mean today or tomorrow. Instead, she was actually speaking my thoughts. I had not put a plan into action to make this happen, so knowing me, I had made a comment or two in the past about this and had forgotten.


However, when she first made the suggestion, all I thought about was the bigger monthly payment. This idea got me nervous, but I knew we would make this move sooner or later. We both had the same dream, so the request went beyond buying a “bigger building” we call a house. It meant having a home of our own. Allow me to paraphrase both of our thoughts: “I want a place I can call my own, so I can spend quality time with my family, after my busy day of work.” 



Another event followed that took my breath away. After I started responding to her suggestions, she responded to mine by getting a part-time job, a career move.  Once she successfully started a job and a few more months had passed, she made the request about buying the home again.  This time I was not surprised.  



Like I said in the beginning, either she was kind of stupid or really smart. I think you are getting the idea of why my gut told me to marry her.  I am a very logical person, but often I focus on now, today.  Since Daisy typically thinks about both today and the future, I am learning to be less surprised about her future plans. 


When I compare the early days with Daisy to now, I have begun to put the puzzle together. When we first started dating, things were ok. After we got married, I saw the pressure and it made me nervous. When she saw the change in me during those early days of marriage, she sort of panicked. My behavior changed from the nice boyfriend, to the panicked husband. This is a common phenomenon that men experience globally.    


 It’s hard to describe what it’s like when you marry a woman from a different country whose culture is very different from your own. The culture and language differences stick out regularly as a challenge. However, we are learning, as a family, to focus on being more culturally diverse. We are not a Chinese family and we are not an Australian family, anymore. We are a diverse family that is part of a global culture, so we have freedom to choose our culture, as long as it works for our family and community. 


Today life is different for us.  Although we have a long way to go, I am more excited than ever to move forward.  


It’s hard to imagine that our home life went from a place we had tried to avoid, to a place where we look forward to spending time together. We’re in the new house now, she has a job, and things are moving along steadily.  I feel less pressure and I enjoy our family time. 




Daisy had attempted to get my attention for years, so when I made a few small changes, although she needed time to adjust, I see the mystery of why I married her.  She saw in me a man who wanted to be everything to her: a friend, lover, and father to our son. 


I am learning how to be this man. 






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