Time Marches On

Here are a pair of photos of my dad and brothers with me, and there is a difference of 25 years in between the two images. I stumbled across the second image as I was going through some old photos, and it was taken in 2011 at my daughter's wedding. The first image I have posted on Facebook before, and that photo was taken in 1987. It's kind of amazing to see what the passage of time does...

I don't know what the deal is with those other guys who all appear to have aged, but I haven't changed a bit.

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The Most-terrifying Moment In My Life

I will admit, I have done a lot of crazy things in my life. It's pretty amazing that I haven't earned a Darwin Award by now. I drove cars way too fast when I was young; and I lost control on more than one occasion. (Once I spun the car so many times that gravel had managed to embed itself through the bead on the tires; when the tire was flat the next day, we found a bunch pebbles inside the tires.) During my tenure in the Army, I did some pretty foolish things, too. Before the end of the Cold War, I snuck across the border into East Germany - and I did so on more than one occasion. Oh sure, everybody in my unit had done that at one time or other... but still, sneaking undetected into Communist territory just for the rush of trying not to get caught is kind of... stupid. All told, I've avoided more vehicular catastrophes than I can remember: I've gone free climbing at night, I've rappelled from helicopters, I've been scuba diving with sharks, I've jumped over rattlesnakes in the desert, and I've survived a host of other reckless, ill-advised, and/or dim-witted decisions with regard to my personal safety.

But what has scared me the most in my life is when my first daughter was born. I know a lot of people make jokes about how becoming a parent is terrifying, but that's not what I mean.

My wife and I married very young - just out of high school to be exact - and we became parents when we were still quite young. In fact, I was a few months short of my 20th birthday when our daughter was born. I only mention my age because it made everything harder; I had no real life experience to judge the seriousness of any situation. So when we arrived at the hospital prior to the birth of our daughter, everything was new to us.

Thankfully my wife's good friend was there; she was a pediatric ICU nurse, and she helped keep things running smoothly for us. (And of course, by "us" I mean "me.") After my wife had been in labor for several hours, she apparently still had several hours ahead of her. With that in mind, my wife's friend told me that she and I were pretty worthless hanging around the delivery room, so she said that she and I should head to dinner.

However, when we got back from dinner, complete chaos had erupted in my wife's hospital room. Medical personnel were running all over the place, my wife was wired up to all sorts of equipment, and everyone's face had an expression of dire seriousness. When a nearby nurse finally had a moment to describe what was going on, she explained that our daughter's heart rate had dropped in half - from 140bpm to 70bpm. If the doctors didn't operate immediately, our daughter would die. So before I really knew what was happening, I found myself decked out in surgical scrubs and being quickly escorted down the hall and into a densely-packed operating room.

Watching a cesarean section was... well... it's hard to explain; I experienced a range of emotions. Under other circumstances watching surgery would be fascinating, but there was something that was really unnerving about watching someone cut open my wife with a scalpel. Added to that was the knowledge that both my wife's and my daughter's lives were at stake. And that part was especially terrifying.

There's a scene in the movie She's Having A Baby where Elizabeth McGovern's character is having a cesarean section while Kevin Bacon's character is nervously waiting outside the operating room with both sets of their parents. It's a heart-wrenching moment in the movie, but even more so for me because I more or less lived through that same experience.

The end of my story is that the surgery was a success; both mother and daughter recovered from their ordeals. Thirty years have come and gone since that fateful day, but I have never forgotten what if felt like to realize that I might lose everything that was important to me. I have never felt more helpless. Or more petrified.

Living with Adult Children

There was a brief period when all three of our adult children were living with my wife and me in Seattle. Our youngest was starting college, our middlest had just returned from a year living in Peru, and our oldest had relocated from Texas to Washington following her graduation from college.

Things are different now; our children have all left home, married, and started lives of their own.

However, when I was recently going through several folders on my computer with collections of old files, I discovered a Word document with a note that I had typed up for my children during that short boomerang season when they were living with my wife and me as adults.

Notice to Everyone in this Household:

  • You will wash your own dishes immediately after you are done with them.
  • If you have friends over, you will wash their dishes immediately after they are done with them.
  • You will carry any dishes from your room (or your car, or wherever) back to the kitchen immediately after you are done with them.
  • If the dishes in the dishwasher have not been run, you will put your own dishes in the dishwasher.

Contrary to Popular Belief:

  • It will not hurt you to periodically empty the dishwasher as a favor for the dish person.
  • It will not hurt you to periodically cook dinner.

Do you think this note this made any difference in their behavior?

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Losing My Father-in-Law to Alzheimer's Disease

I seldom talk about this, but it was on this day three years ago that our family lost my father-in-law, Terry Wetmore, to Alzheimer's Disease. My father-in-law was truly a second father to me; after my wife and I were married, Terry quickly became one of my closest friends. No matter the situation, the two of us would trade jokes back and forth - perhaps a little too often - and often to the chagrin of everyone else around us. Terry was a successful businessman in his younger days, and in his latter years Terry and my mother-in-law were part of a clown ministry that performed around the world.

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The first indication of Terry's battle with Alzheimer's Disease was forgetfulness, and as his symptoms gradually progressed over several years, we found ourselves trying to help him process his fears and frustrations as he fully realized what was happening to him. I cannot imagine how terrifying that must have been for Terry, and it was extremely painful to watch his slow descent from a successful and self-determined businessman and loving grandfather into a growing fog of confusion.

As the months slipped by, Terry became progressively disorientated; for example, on more than one occasion he would plead with me to take him home, and I would have to gently remind him that he was already there. Eventually he could do little more than sit and stare at the world around him with an empty gaze from eyes that could not process his surrounding environment. One of the worst parts about Alzheimer's Disease is that each day passes and you are gradually robbed of your loved ones in spirit, even though you still have them physically.

I have a cousin who is living through similar circumstances, and during one of our conversations I mentioned that I am certainly no expert on how someone should go through this type of situation with a loved one. But I told her that I learned to appreciate the good days that we had near the end, and one particular event came to mind. My wife and I were visiting with my in-laws at a time when Terry's existence was rarely more than sitting in his favorite chair and watching television during his conscious hours. My mother-in-law invited my dad over to join us for dinner, and as the five of us relaxed around the dinner table, Terry miraculously emerged from his usual lethargy and became fully-engaged in the conversation. Terry was behaving more like his old self - he was joking with everyone, he was firing back at my dad's ubiquitous one-liners, and he was referring to me by an old nickname which he had fashioned for me during all the years that we had known each other.

This was a wonderful moment in time; but it was all-too-brief, and sadly it was the last of its kind. Terry's return to normalcy lasted for just that evening, and even though the weeks ahead had periodic episodes of lucidity, we soon had to put my father-in-law in a nursing home because his day-to-day needs were too much for my mother-in-law to take care of on her own. Terry's health declined rapidly over the next several months, and he passed away within the year.

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There is hardly a day that goes by where I do not think about how much I miss Terry. Brief moments like the dinner that I described were unexpected blessings, and they are wonderful memories that I will treasure for the rest of my days. Events like that are the way that I choose to remember Terry's latter years, and I am so thankful that I have a lifetime's worth of deeply-cherished reminiscences of him from our younger years.

Looking Back on 30 Years of Marriage

Today my wife and I are celebrating our 30th Wedding Anniversary, which is the single-greatest and most-important adventure upon which I have embarked in my life. I remember when my wife and I were newly married and we would meet couples who had been married 30 years; I would think to myself, "Wow – that's such a long time." But now that I'm the one who has been married that long I think, "Wow – that sure went by fast."

But truth be told, I cannot take credit for the length of our union - I married someone who is an infinitely better person than myself. Seriously. Anyone who can put up with me for a mere afternoon is a miracle-worker, which probably elevates my wife to sainthood.

That being said, sometime around our 25th wedding anniversary I started getting questions from younger couples like, "What's your secret?" and "Why has your marriage lasted so long?" Let me be very clear - I am not an expert on marriage, and in general I am not a person who should be emulated; I am wholly aware of my many shortcomings as a human being, and I am overtly cognizant of my failures as a husband with regard to holding up my half of our relationship. (I always mean well, of course - but I am just as flawed as the next guy. Some days I simply forget to take out the garbage, or empty the dishwasher, or whatever. [Darn. I'm so ashamed.])

However, if I can't be a good example of a husband to anyone else, perhaps I can share a few of the things that I've learned from being a bad example. To quote the good people at Despair.com, perhaps my purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others:

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With that in mind, here are some of the reasons why our marriage has endured, what has helped us over the years, and some of the lessons that I've learned the hard way.


I'd like to start things off by answering the question that I seem to get the most: "What is the secret to a long-lasting marriage?" Okay, if you're taking notes, you might want to write this down, because here it is:

Point #1 - Don't Get Divorced.

That's it. Period.

You could stop reading right now because you've already got the main takeaway from this blog. Now in case anyone thinks that I'm making light of this situation, I'm actually being perfectly honest. If you decide that divorce is not an option, it affects every part of your partnership. In our journey together, my wife and I have gone through incredible peaks and valleys - surviving both good and bad times - and many of these situations would have ended other relationships. In the past 30 years we have gone through everything we mentioned in our vows; we have endured sickness, health, prosperity, poverty, joy, adversity, etc. In the end, facing these seasons together and surviving side-by-side to live another day as husband and wife has bonded us together in ways which resemble the closeness of combat veterans. Collective perseverance yields intimacy.

I understand that there are situations where divorce is the only option; for example, when your spouse walks out on you, or your spouse is abusive and refuses to get professional help. When I talk about refusing to get divorced, I am speaking to those of you who get up one day and decide that you don't want to be married, or you claim that your spouse "just doesn't understand you anymore." When these feelings happen, you have to work your way through them. It takes conscious effort, but you made a commitment and you should not quit simply because you are wondering whether the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Walking out on your marriage because you're bored or you don't want to do the work is little more than cowardice.


To be honest, the fact that my wife and I are still together is a much greater testimony to my next topic:

Point #2 - Christ.

Yes, I know - invoking the name of Christ is considered "Politically Incorrect" these days, but it is a simple statement of fact that my wife's and my faith has helped us weather countless trials and tribulations. So I don't care if it's an unpopular to talk about Jesus, because faith works. Don't argue with success.


Over the years I have learned this next valuable lesson:

Point #3 - Fighting Is Not Worth It.

I have to be brutally honest about whether my wife and I ever fight, and I sincerely wish that I could say we never quarreled. But the truth is - we used to bicker. A lot. In the early years of our marriage we fought like cats and dogs. And on that note, the unfortunate reality of our situation at the time is inescapable: I was 19 years old when I married my high school sweetheart and best friend, who was only 18 years old at the time. We went from kids to couple overnight, but only in the legal sense - maturity didn't show up until many years later. (Perhaps it still hasn't. Hmm. Probably best not to digress on that point.)

I would love to say that my statement about how "fighting is not worth it" was due to some grandiose epiphany which I arrived at through years of soul-searching and mature contemplation of our relationship. But the truth is much simpler, my secret to avoiding arguments boils down to one single concept: laziness. Seriously, fighting took way too much effort, and we eventually learned that it was better not to fight. Here's what an argument looked like in our house - we would disagree about something, which would escalate into a maelstrom of heated and hurtful words thrown back and forth between us. Eventually we would reach some form of resolution, but once the dust settled from the actual argument, we had to endure days of coldness as the two of us figured out how best to rebuild all of the trust which we had destroyed during the argument. It dawned on both of us that it took a great deal of effort to work up the anger for an argument, and the emotional trauma that we experienced was exhausting after our disputes had ended. Once we had realized that valuable lesson, both of us learned to recognize when we were hurtling toward another squabble, and we'd agree to skip over the major conflict part. It sounds easy enough, but it took us years to figure that out.

Now please don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we never disagree, nor am I insinuating that we do not defend our opinions passionately when we hold opposing positions on important topics. The truth is - we still differ on any number of subjects, but we both realize that nothing is worth losing our marriage. Together we have endured destitute poverty, years of work-related separations, the births and deaths of several family members, and raising three children to adulthood.


Throughout all of our combined experiences, I have vividly retained the following critically-important fact:

Point #4 - Always Remember Why You Married Your Spouse.

My wife and I were friends for several years before we ventured out on our first date. In fact, by the the time it occurred to either of one of us that we should be more than friends, many of our friends already thought that we were dating and were rather sick of the subject. (They're probably still sick of the subject, but after 30 years I really don't care. :-P)

Kathleen is my best friend, and we still hold hands when we walk together in public - which is how life should be; she has been the predominant character in all of my experiences as an adult, and she has been a major part of my life for almost 35 years. My wife is truly my better half, so why would I gamble all of our collective memories and life experiences by failing to remember the simple fact that I am sharing my life with the most-important and most-loving person whom I have ever known? If I fail to keep these thoughts in mind, I risk destroying everything. And that would make me a pretty selfish jerk. (Feel free to quote that to my face if it ever looks like we're headed for trouble.)


Point #5 – Be Self-Critical.

Believe it or not, you are not the perfect spouse. The folks at Despair.com got it right when they published a demotivational poster which reads, "The only consistent feature of all of your dissatisfying relationships is you."

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While they were just making a joke, it should be noted that there is a lot of truth to that statement. More often than not, you will find that the source of unhappiness in your relationship is your attitude and not some shortcoming on your spouse's part. Every once in a while you need to step back and take a good look at yourself before lecturing someone else about their behavior.


I should probably mention one last thing before bringing this blog to an end:

Point #6 - A Good Marriage Takes Work. A Great Marriage Takes More Work.

Somewhere around our seventh year of marriage I decided that I wasn't content to have a 'Good Marriage,' I wanted a 'Great Marriage.' Unfortunately, I had no clue as to how we should go about creating such a thing. With that in mind, I decided to read at least one book about marriage each year. Some of those books have been great, and others I've tried hard to forget. A few books I have re-read years later; this has usually been an amusing experience for me, because I often discover that some part of a book which I thought was silly and chose to ignore at the time was eventually learned the hard way. In any event, there are a lot of good books on marriage out there, and you may think that some won't apply to your situation, but you have to be willing to try.

Two books which have been life-changing for me have been The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology by Dr. Gary Chapman; these two books probably changed all of my relationships with everyone I know  - spouse, kids, parents, extended family members, friends, coworkers, etc. There are lots of other great books which I have read, but those two are a good start.


In closing, I may not be the best role model for a husband, and I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. But I have learned a thing or two along my journey from the cradle to the grave. I take no pride by admitting that most of my life lessons have been learned the hard way, so you can consider my advice from two perspectives: if I have been an idiot from time to time throughout our marriage, perhaps my advice isn't worth anything. On the other hand, if I've made enough mistakes as a husband to finally realize several of the most-important things to remember in a relationship, perhaps you can learn from my errors.

In Memoriam: Kenny King

On Tuesday morning, October 28, 2014, my good friend Kenny King passed away after a long battle with cancer. Kenny was a loving father and husband, and he had been one of my closest friends for almost 20 years. I was honored to speak at his memorial service, and I wanted to share the notes that I used during the service.


Proverbs 18:24 teaches us that, "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but a true friend sticks closer than a brother (ISV/NIV)." Matthew Henry explains this verse in his Commentary on the Whole Bible in the following way: "In our troubles we expect comfort and relief from our relations, but sometimes there is a friend, [who is unrelated] to us, the bonds of whose esteem and love prove stronger than those of nature, and, when it comes to [trials], will do more for us than a brother will." I cannot think of a better way to describe my relationship with Kenny King, for even though I have a younger and older brother by birth, they were stuck with me against their will; whereas Kenny adopted me by choice.

Kenny and I met in December of 1995 when he and I were hired by Microsoft in Tucson, Arizona. We were hired the same day, and our employee IDs show that he was technically hired six people before me. (Because of this, Kenny loved to point out that he had an hour or so of seniority over me.)

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We were both hired as part of a newly-formed team which was to provide technical support for the same Microsoft products, so we went through all of our "New Hire Training" together. And it was there that I learned several important things about Kenny.

First of all, I learned that Kenny knew all of the best places to find Mexican Food in Tucson. He would organize team lunches, and he would lead a group of trusting coworkers to some of the strangest, hole-in-the-wall eating establishments which I would never have discovered on my own; yet he could convince everyone that we were going to be fine.

Which brings me to the next thing that I learned about Kenny: for those of you who never saw Kenny at work, he had a superpower - Kenny was an amazing leader. It never ceased to amaze me that you could throw a dozen people in a room with a problem to solve, and somehow Kenny would wind up being the guy at the whiteboard putting the plan together. He never asserted his role as a leader; people naturally wanted to follow him.

But I also learned that Kenny had a rather interesting sense of humor, and let me explain by example: in the first few days of training for phone support, we were required to go through several "Role Playing" exercises in front of our peers, where one person would coach another person through a common task (like making a sandwich). I was assigned to talk Kenny through the process of changing a tire, and I coached him through locating his tire iron, raising the car with the jack, and removing the tire. Everything seemed routine, but suddenly Kenny started yelling, "Oh no! My car is rolling backwards! You forgot to tell me to set the emergency brake! My car just crashed to the ground! Where's your manager?" Some people in my situation would have been horrified, some would have been offended, and others would have been furious - but I thought Kenny was hilarious. And at that moment, I realized that he and I were going to be great friends.

Kenny and I worked together for a couple months, but then I quit the team in order to help create another support team which was working on cutting-edge products for this new-fangled thing called "The Internet." As part of my new responsibilities, I was setting up several UNIX-based servers in a lab, and since my UNIX skills were a little rustier than Kenny's, I would ask him to drop by and help out. After a few days of "borrowing" Kenny for his expertise, my colleagues and I decided that it would be better to just "steal" Kenny. We gave him no choice in the matter; we simply told Kenny that he now worked with us, and he agreed to it. This proved to be a fortuitous change for both Kenny and me, because a few months later the products for our newly-formed team were some of the fastest-growing technologies in Microsoft.

Shortly after our one-year anniversary with the company, life handed us an interesting predicament: Microsoft announced that it was closing the support site in Tucson, and we needed to find other jobs within the company. Because our products were in such high demand, we had our choice of locations. With that in mind, (and I am somewhat ashamed to admit this publicly), the first person I asked - even before my spouse - was Kenny, because I wanted to see where he wanted to move. Kenny replied, "I don't know - where do you want to move?" And that was the humble beginning of a plan the two of us hatched which brought us to Texas. (I moved here first, and Kenny arrived a few days later, so I claimed that I had seniority in Texas.)

Believe it or not, Kenny and I came up with the following proposal: since Microsoft would give each of our families a one-bedroom apartment for a single month as temporary housing, we asked Microsoft if we could combine our benefits and move our two families into a two-bedroom apartment for two months. This meant moving our wives (who had never met) and our four children (who had never met) into 1,000 square feet of space for sixty days. Kenny and I thought that if we were such great friends, then our wives would get along, too. (We're guys - we can be stupid like that.) But as it turns out, our families did get along, and the group of us became great friends. We eventually bought houses around the corner from each other in Lewisville where we were neighbors and our kids grew up together. Kenny and I often carpooled to work when we were on the same team, and our families spent countless days passing back and forth between our two houses for birthdays, barbeques and holidays.

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My wife and I became members of Grace Community, and we brought Kenny and Gloria to a variety of church events. It was on those occasions where people like Pastor Richard and Ladonna and a score of other wonderful people loved on Kenny and Gloria and their family so much that they couldn't help but fall in love with Grace, and they eventually became part of this congregation, too.

When Microsoft moved my wife and me to Seattle several years ago, our oldest daughter, Rebecca, was completing her degree at TWU in Denton, so she chose to stay here in Texas, and she moved in with Kenny and Gloria for about a year. Kenny became a second dad for Rebecca, and it is with extreme gratitude that I tell you that Kenny's wisdom and encouragement helped shape the person my daughter has become.

As most of you know, Kenny had several great passions in life: Christ, his family, fishing, golf, and - of course - the University of Arizona. When I moved back to Tucson last year, I began taking graduate classes at the U of A, and as I walked around campus, I started sending Kenny photos from various U of A landmarks with innocuous statements like, "Guess where I am and you're not?" and "Wish you were here?"

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In the weeks that followed, I began to call Kenny every week or so when I had a break between classes to catch up on life. (Since the U of A mascot is the Wildcat, I would refer to our conversations as "Kenny's Weekly Cat Call.") We discussed a variety of topics, and when Kenny was diagnosed with cancer, our conversations naturally turned to discussions about his treatments and his health. But the subject that Kenny discussed the most was his family:

  • KJ, Kyle, and Keynan - please believe me when I say that your dad was so proud of the three of you. Every week he filled me in on every detail of your lives, and you should never doubt how much he loved you all.
  • Gloria - it was always evident to everyone who knew Kenny that you were the most-important person in his life, even though he sometimes told people that he was the most-important person in your life.

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A verse that I have been reminded of these past few days is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14: "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (NIV)" Because of Kenny's faith in Christ, I know that we will see him again, but for now my heart has a tremendous hole in it which only Kenny could fill.

Kenny was one of my closest and dearest friends, and I miss him terribly. And yet I have to remind myself that it is only my personal self-interest that wants Kenny here, for Kenny is where God called him to be. Gloria mentioned last week - and please forgive me for paraphrasing - that she knew Kenny would be healed completely, even if it was not during his time on earth. So I am thankful today that Kenny has been healed, and I look forward to being reunited him when God calls me home. Although God called Kenny before me - so Kenny will probably claim that he has seniority.

The Road Less Travelled

Perhaps it's because the media is going through yet another season of what seems like a never-ending parade of Hollywood awards programs, but I was thinking the other day about all of the awards that I will never win. For example, I will never win a Golden Globe. I will never win a People's Choice Award. I will never win an Oscar, or a Tony, or an Emmy, or any award that is named after some person who might not be real. And despite a lifetime of playing music, I will never win a Grammy or any other award that the music industry is giving out these days. This may be my reality, but to be perfectly honest, I am never saddened by this, nor do I generally give this concept a second thought.

That being said, the most-recent awards show made me think about the reasons why we even care about those kinds of awards. I can't name who won Best Actor or Actress from any of the awards shows that have taken place in the last several years, and that's really not an issue for me; I'll never meet any of the people who win those awards anyway. What's more, I'm not sure if I would want to meet most of the people who actually win those awards, seeing as how the evening news and morning talk shows are always spinning stories of their latest transgressions. I think the part that gets me the most is how - after throwing their lives away on one selfish pursuit after another - the world eventually calls them "artists," and everyone waxes poetic about how these artists have suffered for their cause; as if they woke up one day and consciously chose to take the road less travelled in Robert Frost's famous poem. When I was younger, I think I bought into that illusion, too. But the older I get, the less I am impressed by their actions - and perhaps I should explain what I mean by that.

If a man whom you knew personally walked out on his wife and family, in most cases you would probably think he was acting like a selfish pig. But if it was a famous actor from Hollywood or a legendary singer from Nashville, you might think to yourself, "Gee, that's too bad...," as if their fame has excused their adverse behavior for some inexplicable reason. You might even go so far as to feel sorry for said person; after all, it's just so sad that their family doesn't understand how hard an artist's life must be.

But why do we feel this way? Why do we put these people on some sort of undeserved pedestal? Is it because they're artists? The more I think about it, I don't believe that they've chosen the road less travelled - I think they've chosen the easy path; they've chosen the path that's all about them. Perhaps that's why they need so many awards shows; they need the constant reassurance that all of the suffering they cause is for a noble purpose. But I just can't bring myself to see it that way.

Let me briefly tell you a true story about my life, and this is difficult for me because it is always dangerous when you open up your life to public scrutiny; you never know what people are going to think. When I was much younger, I faced one of those situations where it seemed like two roads were diverging before me and I had to pick which path I would travel.

I had just celebrated my 19th birthday, and my rock band was starting to do really well. We weren't great by any means, but we were just coming off a series of really great gigs when my fiancé told me that she was pregnant with our child. I had a lot of options before me: we could get married, we could put the baby up for adoption, etc. (My girlfriend had additional concerns: what if I suddenly became some sort of jerk and told her that it was her problem and left her to face this on her own.) Once the news began to work its way through the grapevine to all our friends and family, I heard a lot of advice from a lot well-meaning people - all of whom listed off suggestions that were much like the choices that I just mentioned.

But I didn't take anyone's advice. Instead, against everyone else's counsel, I married my girlfriend. We had a baby girl, who is now almost ten years older than I was when I made my choice to keep her. But this decision on my part didn't come without cost; my days of playing long-haired lead guitar for a rock band were over. In fact, my entire youth ended almost overnight - it was time to put aside my personal ambitions and accept the responsibilities that lay before me. My wife and I spent many years in abject poverty as we fought side-by-side to build a home together and raise our children as best we could. Despite the difficult times, my wife and I recently celebrated our 28th anniversary, and we raised three great kids along the way.

However, my life might not have been this way; I could have chosen the other path when I was given the opportunity to do so. I could have chosen something selfish that I wanted just for me, and I could have left my girlfriend to deal with it on her own. Some years later, I could have written a heart-wrenching song about the hard choices that I had to make. Perhaps that could have become a hit, and I could have sold that song to untold scores of fans. Maybe I could have written a book about my life and my admirers might have said, "That's so sad - look at everything he gave up to become who he is."

Every year people walk out on their responsibilities in the hopes that the scenario which I just described will happen to them; they hope they'll be successful despite the pain that they cause to others. What is worse, however, is that popular culture applauds such actions. Songs like Bruce Springsteen's Hungry Heart attempt to spin public opinion in support of egocentric behavior by unapologetically suggesting that a deadbeat dad was simply "following his heart."

Yet in my personal situation this delusion would have been far from the truth; I would have been a selfish punk who left his unwed 18-year-old girlfriend to face the world alone with a newborn baby girl. Perhaps I might have become a successful 'artist' and sent generous child support payments to take care of my daughter's every need, but that's just not the same. Children need parents; they need both a father and a mother to be there to love and raise them.

There is no way that I can say this so it won't sound overly-judgmental, but I think it makes someone a coward when they choose their own selfish desires over their family and their responsibilities. When I chose to become a father, I gave up everything that I wanted for myself; I gave up my personal hopes, dreams, and desires for my life. I sacrificed everything so my daughter would grow up with both a mom and dad. My choice was much harder to live with than I ever could have imagined, but my daughter's life was worth the cost.

So in the end, when I finally shrug off this mortal coil, I will not have won any awards for what I have accomplished in my life, and I'll have no golden statuettes to adorn the shelves in my study. I am sure that I will never win father of the year, but my three children will have had better lives because I chose to be their father. I did not choose the easy path for my life - I chose the road less travelled, and I pray that for my family it has made all the difference.

Proud Microsoft Dad Moments

This past August my middlest daughter married her fiancé in a small ceremony that was as unique as the two of them. That being said, one moment of entertainment occurred during the service when my daughter recited her self-composed vows by reading them from her Windows Phone.

As a Microsoft Dad, this was too amusing to keep to myself, so I forwarded a photo to some of the folks in the Windows Phone division, and the story was picked up by the Windows Blog team, which published my daughter's description of the event as "First Person: With this phone, I thee wed"

"The wedding was in a little white chapel, up against a mountain, near the ocean. We wanted a simple, elegant wedding that represented us. We went through all the different weddings we'd seen - do we want to mix the sand? light a unity candle? - but we decided that wasn't really us. So we cut out all the things that weren't really us, and wrote our own vows.

"My phone is the thing I always have on me, so when I needed to write my vows I used Office on my phone. Whenever I thought of something I wanted to add, I could just jot it down. When it came to the day of, I thought maybe I should write it on a piece of paper. Then the minister said, 'Why not just read it off your phone?'

"My husband didn't know I was going to read off my phone. He said his vows off paper, and when it was my turn I looked at the pastor and she pulled out my phone and handed it to me. Everyone laughed - it made it a little more lighthearted, so we weren't bawling.

"My husband laughed, because I'm on my phone all the time, and he's on his. So I'm sure he wished he had thought of it. Now the vows are saved on my phone, and every time I want to go back and read them, I can. Meanwhile, his piece of paper is floating around somewhere - I don't even know where it is."

(photo: ©Rebecca Calvo Photography)

For My Wife: Growing Old Together

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, which is always an occasion for me to become a little introspective. With that in mind, I remember the days of our courtship when we would promise to love each other forever and to grow old together; yet now as I look back on our lives, I realize that we had no idea what we were saying. We were young and in love and completely clueless about what being in love really meant.

30 - Rings

Mark Twain once wrote that "No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century," and now that we have passed that milestone I can look back and begin to catch a glimpse of this elusive concept called "true love."

Love has meant staying together through times of destitute poverty when we didn't know from where our next meal would come. Love has meant enduring months of separation when I was serving abroad in our country's armed forces. Love has meant countless sleepless nights raising children and meeting their every need. Love has meant staying by each other's bedside to nurse one another back to health. Love has meant walking side-by-side through that timeless season of joy mixed with pain that all parents must suffer when watching their children grow up and leave home.

Over the years I have learned that true love is not the offspring of well-meant promises made hastily in your youth; true love is borne of a thousand little things over thousands of days and nights as you grow older together, until you find that so much time has passed that you cannot remember a time when you were ever apart.

Will Durant wrote that "The love we have in our youth is superficial compared to the love that an old man has for his old wife," and I have found my greatest joy in growing old with you.