Sunday, July 27, 2014

What makes a family?

I love the impromptu moments in life.  Tonight I was sitting around with my kids and we got on the topic of childbirth (only the girls were with me).  I told them all the gory details of birth, the stuff only a momma can share, that from the looks of their frightened faces told me I may have shared too much....but better to be prepared someday!  Anyway after a lot of laughs we started talking about memories we had about the kids baby (or since a few weren't babies when we adopted them) little kid years.  All the poopy diaper disasters, the stories of ill timed vomit and the crazy dance moves only a preschooler can come up with had us all all roaring with laughter.  Its funny how the most mundane days become the best memories.  Its stuff only a family can share because we lived it.  Some of it would embarrass us if we told it to someone outside the clan, other things were had to be there moments, that others would not find half as hilarious as we do.  But mostly it reminded me why I am spending most of my adult life raising 8 kids from all over the world, because these the moments that make us.  Its the one's who remember the crazy thing you said or did, the chorus of "OH YEA!" when someone starts a story with do you remember when....   There is something special about people remembering the moments that defined us.  So many kids grow up in foster homes or institutions going from one caregiver to another, no one knows their story, or their story is a piecemeal work of an old picture or a fragment.  A family however remembers the cute stories, the messy stories, the crazy stories, the I am glad you survived that stories.  All of our kids will have a dad and a mom who will be crazy excited every time their lives change, crying as they graduate remembering seeing them struggle over that math problem or watching a wedding with anticipation as we remember the first dates.  A mom and dad who can't wait to squish the cheeks of the grand kids some day and share the memories of them to their children.  Talking over the memories I realized life is fun, crazy, messy, heartbreaking, and meant to be shared.  Family is who you make memories with, who loves you enough to laugh about the bodily fluid that landed on them or smiles when they think of your crazy past.  Sometimes its biological, sometimes its adopted, sometimes its the friend who did not officially move in but was there all the time, but its always who is present and witnessing the current to most likely laugh about later. Or maybe its just my strange bunch of humans that bless my life....because seriously some of our memories are kooky.....

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Memory Lane

Back to regular blogging :)  Today I got a surprise in the mail.  My father had sent a box filled with old pictures from my childhood and all sorts of old report cards, tooth fairy letters, Christmas lists I had written. I spent the afternoon walking down memory lane.  Somethings made me laugh, like my insistence to the tooth fairy that for my first tooth I wanted a Susan B Anthony coin, and then for my 5th tooth I wanted gum and 10 dollars.  Others made me tear up, like an old book my mother read to me all the time as a child that when I saw the pictures my eyes filled with tears. Even typing this I had to pause and go wipe away the tears.  I had so many memories flood me as I looked at the old pictures of me and my siblings and the early days of my marriage.  Why is it we only appreciate things after they have passed?  Or maybe its just me.  I remember during those days thinking everything was so normal or even dull or frustrating.  I used to live so close to my parents and siblings that we would get together for every holiday, weekend, bbq.  I would meet my sister at the park so our children could play.  I sat in my basement and sang songs with my brother. When anyone needed a sitter, family was just there.   It was all I had ever known and yet my heart was drawn to see the world and experience new things.  After my mom died part of me wanted to leave the painful memories and make new ones.  So we moved away 8 years ago.  I can see how great it was for me in many ways.  It made me take chances and learn how to be independent.  In some ways I look back and regret that I didn't stay, that I let those connections fall.  What I have learned though is no amount of close friendships can replace family, even if you argue or don't see eye to eye, family is family.  You have a red thread that passes through that binds you together forever (or maybe this is just the Italian in my family blood).  Even now I am guilty of missing the moment.  Held back by frustration or fears I neglect to think about 10 years down the road when we pull out the pictures how precious these days are.  I forget that those strong bonds my mom and I had through a book or a hug trumped any bad day.  That for my children I may make mistakes, they will make more but someday they will pull out a picture or a book and remember how much they loved.  I need to learn how to enjoy the moment and stop seeking the future and missing the past.  I think that for me living like this is much easier.  I am a deep feeler, I have a hard time shutting off my emotions unless I can box it out in my mind.  The hardest stuff I tuck deep away.  My dad use to describe me as a soda bottle, I keep stuff in and push it all down but sometimes when things get shaken up everything comes out.  I think its what makes me such an introvert. So anyway, I encourage everyone to stop today and look around and take it in.  These are the pictures in 10, 20 and 30 years you will look back on with nostalgia, make sure you enjoy them!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Change the WORLD part 8

In our world we see everything done to the extreme, we have xgames and extreme home makeovers.....somehow we have bought the lie that its not good unless its extreme.  Its an easy lie to buy, I do it all the time, I can't run a marathon, so really is going on a walk going to really matter??  I can't end world hunger, save all the children, fix the countries problems, is the little I can do really going to matter??  I am only good at one strange thing, how can I make any difference?  Here is where the lie is......YES YES YES you can change the world.  What we need is not some superhuman super hero to fly in and save the day, we need everyone doing what they do best to the best of their ability and they need to work together as a team instead of working side by side in competition. Still don't believe 1 person can change the world....George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa......Each of us has a story we have our personal world changers....people who along our journey stood by us, taught us something, guided us, loved us, carried us.....

Trusted World is committed to going and meeting people where they are whether its on the streets, in the homes, in a hut in Ethiopia or a suburban home in Allen, TX. It is bringing them immediate relief through food, water, clothing, aquaponics systems and medical equipment, while laying the foundation and creating real sustainable relationships with those they come in contact with.  It is not replicating working agencies, rather it is finding the source of the hardships through caring relationships and finding them the local resources or preparing them to pull themselves out of the situation to go on to be another world changer.  As a practical example Randy is not just handing out food to the homeless he is finding out why they are homeless. Sometimes its as simple as a lack of transportation for work that a bus pass can help.  Sometimes its the lack of information they have about local shelters or rehab centers.  Sometimes it is someone who truly feels like no one cares.  One thing I have learned from my life journey is every person needs to feel like they belong to something.  We as humans need to feel needed.  It is that drive to fulfill a need that often motivates us to do things that are difficult.  

Right now I want to encourage EVERYONE who reads this to join our awareness campaign, its easy!!  I encourage you to take a selfie of yourself (or if you are technically challenged like me have someone take your picture) holding up one finger (stick to the pointer finger people, G rated!) showing that 1 person has changed your life or that you have changed at least 1 persons life.  Show your belief that 1 can change the world.  Then post it to instagram or facebook and put #1canchangetheworld (and if you want to bug teenagers tell them its pound sign....1canchangetheworld) Here is my example ... 

And if your self conscious put a kid in the picture doing the same, that way it draws attention to their insane cuteness..... I encourage you, if you use facebook and a person who changed your world is also on facebook, to tag them and let them know in some way they are a world changer.  Also like us on facebook and visit the website

Lastly I encourage you to be a world changer everyday.  Smile at the person at the checkout, call that person on your mind, meet your neighbors, help someone with their groceries, get to know your kids friends, volunteer at a soup kitchen, coach a local sports team, take dinner to a person in need, give a family adopting your support, make dinner for the family and sit together and talk.  Still not sure it matters???  Go back to part one....this all began because a girl and a boy met and her mother baked him a birthday cake and her father helped him write a resume and taught him to tie a tie. This journey we are on involves me an introvert raising my kids to the best of my ability.  Now my oldest daughter is working and using part of her paycheck to support a child in another county.  When we pass on kindness and love its contagious and others want to do for others and this is the way we start to end the injustice in the world.  Get engaged in people's lives teach them what you know, stand with them when they are alone, be a real community. Stay tuned in the future....we are about to change the world!!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Change Part 7

We are coming up towards the end of this series, we moved from  Texas to northern IL and then back to Texas within 3 years.  When we moved back to Texas we joined up with a new church plant.  Part of the outreach they were doing was bringing food to the homeless.  For years while my passion had been orphans, Randy had been feeding the poor and homeless.  This was the perfect opportunity for him.  The food came from extra's from a food bank.  Basically when the office was closing Randy took the leftover bread, cakes, fruit, veggies or anything else that would go bad while it was closed and deliver to the local area where those in need gathered.  He and a team of people would fill up his car and drive it out every Saturday morning.  We collect grocery bags and then let the people choose the food they need or desire.  And so this began a few years ago and even when the church plant closed he had developed relationships with these people and continued to go out faithfully every Saturday with is team of guys.  Sometimes they bring bagged lunches or Christmas surprises.  Its awesome to see how he has learned these guys he serves names and stories. Sometimes they need a pair of shoes for their kids and Randy will go out and buy a pair for them.  No questions asked.  He remembers what its like to not have your basic needs met.  He knows what it is like to go to school in the free shirt that came with your parents cigarettes because it was all you had.  He knows that buying a pair of sneakers for a teenager can make a huge difference.

During this time I felt that familiar tug.  I had heard about a girl needing a new home.  She was newly adopted from India, but her adoptive parent was not able to handle her issues and we offered to readopt her.  We went to the lawyer and began the process, she was in another state and we waited a few weeks.  Suddenly we did not hear from her adoptive parent anymore and their lawyer did not return phone calls.  Our retainer with the lawyer was running low and we got a devastating phone call.  The adoptive mother had some issue with the adoption and she would not be placing her with us, she had turned her over to the foster care system.  Again I felt like I had been foolish for looking at life with rose colored glasses.  Then  I saw the face of a little 7 year old girl in Bulgaria with special needs in an email.  I went to Randy and said I feel like we have room for one more.  He agreed and we inquired on her.  The agency said they had found her a home but had we considered a teenager since they were so hard to place.  Only 1% of teenagers available for adoption will find a home.  They sent me the picture of a 12 year old girl.  One moment to make a decision.  Someone gave Randy a chance in his teens.  Someone gave me a chance in my teens.  It was time for us to bring home number 8. We went through a long 18 month process, but last year our newest daughter joined our family.  I went to Bulgaria to visit with her and then Randy and Alex went on a second trip to bring her home.  We didn't empty an orphanage, but we did empty a bed and one more child will grow up in the safety of a family.  Our social worker says we are blessed because her adjustment has been so good.  For us we see the ups and downs and yet we are encouraged because we see the growth in her and the development of security.  She knows she will never walk alone.  She knows she matters.  She knows she belongs.  No we are not the richest family or most fun.  As you get older you come to see all of that revolves around relationship.  Fun,happiness, sadness, boring days are all relative and short term. Relationships and knowing you belong to a community is what lasts. Its what you celebrate the good with and carry through the bad.  It is what makes life LIFE.

So here we are now. The thread you follow from a determined homeless teenager who meets a girl to a father of 8 from around the world spending his free time serving the poor in the community.  Yeah he is pretty special :)  He has now had the opportunity to merge what he has been doing for years with a new nonprofit.  This organization called Trusted World has Randy in charge of its domestic programs.  I wish everyone could have walked this journey with us.  It has been an amazing ride even when it drives me to my knees.  In the last part I will talk more about what we are doing now and how you can join our journey.

Change ... Part 6

We were now adjusting to life with 7 children.  I was fun to watch people's reaction.  Many people asked if we were a daycare center or summer camp.  I learned so much about scheduling... I had to, I was totally overrun with little humans.  We ran and still run our life on a tight schedule, things like meal times and bedtimes were nonnegotiable.  Randy and I were committed to making traditions for our family.  We believe strongly that families bond over traditions.  However having 7 kids meant cheap traditions, so we started a New Years Eve all day game day, we all made Christmas cookies together, we ate dinner as a family together every night.  Randy embraced fatherhood.  He is the fun dad.  He jokes and plays with all the kids.  While our children have their struggles (as we all do), one thing that was built was an intense loyalty to each other.  Some children's personalities mesh better with some then others, but I have no doubt that if anyone of my children needed something they would have the others around them.  As this was all happening my oldest daughter was starting to grow up.  She developed a deep passion for orphaned children.  She and her friends began selling friendship bracelets to raise money for a new orphanage to be built in Liberia.  She had developed Randy's determined spirit.  She knew where her dad had come from and she saw her siblings come home and the emotional and physical struggles they faced and instead of becoming bitter at sharing her parents, she developed the softest spirit.  In fact now as she gets ready to start her senior year of high school her goal is to go to college to become a deaf interpreter and an ABA therapist so that she can adopt some of the neediest special needs orphans from around the world and follow her parents footsteps of a CRAZY life :)  My oldest son has developed the strongest bond with all of his siblings.  He looks out for all of them.  He is about the only one can handle little brothers who want to wrestle constantly, his younger sisters look up to him and he shows them how to be treated by men.  I have no doubt that anyone messes with his little sisters they will face a pretty angry older brother :)  Sometimes people wonder how giving of themselves will affect their family.  From our experience, its not easy on the family some days.  There is always an easier path.  However nothing can replace experience and the more we experience when we give of ourselves strengthens our spirit and teaches our children and strengthens their spirit. I am not sure why we think life should be easy.  Life is never easy, even when we are sitting still.  Our lives are stories ready to be written.

Change Part 5

I spent a lot of time in prayer.  I doubted myself, my hopes, my God you name it.  I learned perseverance.  After a month I got a call and learned that 2 new boys were ready to be adopted.  They were brothers, 5 months old and 3.  Again my heart leaped!!  It was going to happen!  I saw their picture and I realized that 2 little African boys were going to be my sons.  We rearranged the beds, as now we had to put up a crib. A few weeks later I was talking to my friend who happened to be the agency director about a girl that was supposed to be adopted and the adoptive parent was unable to complete the adoption.  My heart broke as I thought about them telling a little 6 year old that she was not going to be adopted.  That the world forgot her.  My friend said unless....and I immediately finished with we can adopt her, we still have the extra bed!!  And so we were back on track to adopt 3 children.  Five months later Randy was in Liberia for a second time picking up our 2 boys and 1 girl.  We were now parents of children aged 8, 7, 6, 3, 3, 2 and 11 months old. Did it solve the orphan crisis in Africa?  If you ask our 3 African children, they would say it did for them. We went from 2 to 7 children in 2 years and life got CRAZY!!  I learned how to grocery shop with 4 kids under 4 hanging off the cart.  I found out that with 9 people you never make a single double or triple.  I learned that I was made to do this, I was so excited to tell anyone who would listen that if I can do this anyone can!! I have no special training or skills.  It was not however easy, many days I felt like I wanted to throw in the towel, Randy was my rock during that time.  I always thought about how he went from no family around him to never getting 5 minutes alone without a little one hanging off of him, or a wife craving adult interaction!  I watched him become the man I knew was inside many years ago.  The one who knew how to love deeper then most because he knew what it felt like to not have it in his life.  I watched each of my children go from timid strangers to sons and daughters, true sisters and brothers.  I saw how racial tensions are ridiculous because although we may have 2 races living under one roof, we all had the same feelings, desires and everything else.  I started to see the world completely different.  I wondered how many people I judged because of how they look or how they spoke and I was ashamed to admit how little diversity I had allowed in my life.  Now pictures of adoptable children didn't look like unnamed masses, they looked like my kids, they looked like one child at a time that could be helped.  A solution seemed possible and I would go nuts walking around seeing people with so much space at their table and so much to give who never gave a second thought to opening their home.  I knew for sure that if they met these kids or if this kid wandered onto their front yard they would not be turned away, the problem was, it is easy to ignore a problem when you don't experience it. I would later learn I wrongly believed I knew the BEST way a person can change the world.  I learned quickly that life with 7 children is hard, especially when your children have been through trauma.  When you adopt a child you sign up to walk alongside a hurting child, you feel their pain, you hold their hand, you struggle when they struggle, you realize that you don't have all the answers. However, I had seen with Randy that sometimes people don't need you have all the answers or all the tools to fix a problem, they just need someone to stand next to them and let them know they are not walking alone.  They need to know they matter and they belong to something bigger then themselves.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Change... Part 4

So we were now a family of 6.  At the time the kids were 7, 5, 2 and 1.  We were adjusting to our new normal when that year Randy was given two opportunities to travel with our church to Romania and then Liberia.  Neither of us had never left the United States.  I had for years researched the orphan crisis around the world.  I had focused primarily on Haiti and that was originally where I had wanted to adopt from, but we did not meet the criteria.  That year I watched Randy return from each trip with a totally new perspective on the world.  It was no longer a news story or something his wife talked endlessly on about.  He hugged the kids who had never known the outside of an institution, he took numerous photographs of children and adults who would crowd the camera.  I remember thinking how they so desperately seem to need to be remembered.  He had scene the depths of poverty and the smelled the reality many people in the world live within.  He came home from both trips and had to take sometime to readjust to everything he had known being turned upside down.  We knew their names, their stories and knew that their hopes and dreams mirrored many of our own.  They wanted a better future for their kids, they wanted to have real relationships, they wanted their lives to matter.  He traveled to Liberia in November of 2006, the girls had been home 10 months and that Christmas I felt that stirring in my heart to add one more baby.  Come January Randy agreed to pray about it.  The next morning I got a phone call from Liberia about a 2 year old boy that needed to be adopted.  We choose to move forward and push off the idea of a newborn.  A few weeks later we found out this boy had 2 older siblings.  We were offered a chance to either adopt all 3 or separate the youngest and adopt just him.  I knew immediately after seeing the bonds between my kids that we could never separate these kids.  They were all they had and I could not do that to them.  However when we though about the reality of 7 children, we were scared.  It seemed too much, they wouldn't fit in our car, our house and we had no idea how you support 7 children!  We discussed it before I had to take Alex to a cheerleading practice.  When I left we had decided we could not do that.  We had planned on calling the agency and letting them know that we could not separate them and therefore not adopt the boy.  I left home feeling defeated.  I felt like I had read so much about the crisis in Africa and I had heard Randy talk about it and saw the pictures and here I was with a clean house, plenty of food and a desire to be a mother and yet I didn't feel like I could wrap my mind around it all.  As I came back home I felt like the world's problems were too big for someone like me.  I was a young mom, I didn't finish college, I had no important job.  I was just a housewife.  I walked through the door and put the kids to bed and Randy said so I called the agency and I told them...... we will take them all......  My jaw dropped and my heart about burst!  I began to believe hey maybe a homeless kid and teenage mom can make a difference after all!!  We sold our house, sold our car, bought double and triple bunks and we began the endless paperwork. I was so excited to see that our dreams were coming true, we were going to bring home a 2, 5 and 8 year old.  Then we learned something very important, a desire to do something does not always look like what you think it will look like, sometimes its a journey, a hard journey.  We got a call and learned those 3 children had been removed from the orphanage by family and would not be able to be adopted.  We were heartbroken and crushed.  We looked at the empty van, the empty beds and we felt defeated.  I felt like I had been stupid to think that this would really happy, I felt naive and it truly rocked our world.  The agency said we could wait for another available child.  Sometimes doing the right thing hurts.

Change part 3

I promise all these posts are leading up to something :)  However sometimes I think people need to know the whole story to really understand things.  I see it a lot when we are in community or church or any other human gathering spot.  We hear things and learn about things and our own experiences, bias or lack of experience tends to skew our view of the situation, but once people open up and share their life and heart with others suddenly we see them and their situations in totally new ways.  So with that said.....

Randy and I got married in 1999.  We moved into our first apartment.  During the next 5 years we celebrated the birth of our son, a little preemie due to more pregnancy complications. We bought our first house, a scary old haunted house :)  We lost Randy's mother to alcohol related disease, we lost my mother to cancer, we moved another 2 times and thanks to my brother I found my faith.  By this point we were fumbling through growing up.  However we had a great support system of family and friends. When we lost our mothers, we never felt alone as those we loved surrounded us, and we always had each other.  For the first time in Randy's life when things got hard people stuck it out and our family stayed together.  We learned how life isn't meant to be done alone.  I needed him as much as he needed me.  Sure we could have done OK on our own, but we accomplished and enjoyed so much more because we combined our life, skills and experience and worked together.  

In the early 2000s we moved to Midland, TX....such a huge culture shock!! During this time Randy found his faith too.  For many years I knew I could have no more children, but I still had a burning desire to be a mother to many.  I had talked adoption and Randy had not thought it was a good idea. We had 2 awesome kids, life was just starting to get a little easier.  We still had financial struggles and he did not want think it was a good time to consider it.  In 2005 he came to me and said I have been being selfish, I think we should adopt.  I pretty much had him sign the papers the next morning :)  We began the process to adopt with a small amount of savings and huge amount of faith.  We decided to adopt 1 newborn.  In January of 2006 we got a call from our agency and learned about our 2 girls.  They said this never happens as we only place newborns, but we have 2 toddler sisters that are already in our foster care home, would you be interested. One moment to stick to our "plan" of a newborn.  One moment to decide if 2 girls should remain another week or longer in foster care.  One decision to the change the entire future for them and for us.  So we became a family of 6.  It was not a hard decision, once we looked at the 2 sweet girls in the referrel picture and saw 2 babies (they were 2 and 1) we knew that they were ours.  I think a big issue for people is we don't take time to look at faces.  Randy saw in my face the desperate desire to be a mother, it was what I felt like I was created to do.  We both looked at the sweet faces of our little girls and our "newborn plan" was instantly replaced with this new journey.  It is easy to pretend things are not our responsibility as other humans for things we do not cause, as long as we don't see the faces or meet the people involved.  Those who look into the faces of people who are desperately in need  feel compelled to respond.  

Friday, July 4, 2014

Change Part 2

So to pick up where I left off, Randy and I dated for a little over 2 years when I took a pregnancy test my sophomore year of college and learned I was going to be a mom.  My parents were not too happy at first to learn about this.  However in a few tense days my mother stopped me in the hallway outside my bedroom and I will never forget this moment, she said "a happy baby needs a happy mom".  From that moment on, that one boost of encouragement we embraced the pregnancy as a family.  One moment of my mother putting past her disappointment and my father setting aside his anger allowed Randy and I to begin our adventure of parenthood and have the support we needed to make it work.  As the mother of teens now, I can better comprehend the strength it took for both my parents to put aside their hopes and dreams for us and accept and embrace us where we were.  This was good timing because about  week later I begin vomiting constantly for the next 4 months.  I lost my internship, dropped out of school and lost 17lbs.  I was on home IV's to my fluids and vitamins.  I learned what a PIC line was and everyday my mother came and hooked me up (she was a nurse).  Randy found new work as a help desk guy which made a little more money.  Later in that pregnancy just as I was recovering from the sickness I went into preterm labor at 27 weeks.  They quickly gave me some medication and somehow I ended up with fluid in my lungs and around my heart, which sent me to respiratory ICU while still having contractions.  It got very serious.  At one point they told my family that me and my unborn daughter would only live another 30 minutes because the fluid was so intense around my heart and lungs.   A priest came in and gave me my last rites.  I remember being confused and tired and then I remember the ultrasound tech coming in a few minutes later and as she moved the wand she looked surprised.  The doctor said, I don't know what has happened but the fluid is almost gone.  She said I have to just write miracle on the paperwork because I have never seen this. I asked her here name and she said it was Alejandra, and so my baby's name was chosen that day and she became Alexandra. So 7 days later I went home still pregnant and on bed rest for the next 6 weeks until my baby girl was born. During that 7 days Randy never left the hospital, he stayed by my side, my parents brought him clothes and he ate hospital food with me.  One moment to run scared as a 20 year old man from a sick and pregnant girlfriend or one moment to stand by her side and protect and be responsible for me and my daughter.  One moment changed our worlds.  Over the next 5 years so much happened.  Shortly after my oldest daughter was born my mother discovered she had late stage ovarian cancer, Randy and I lived with her and my father for the first 18 months of my daughters life and then we got married and moved to our first apartment.  During that time my mother would tell me that God sent her Alex  at the very time she needed her.  She was the light in the darkness of that moment.  They would joke about being bald together and they shared a very close bond.  I would often times sit back and look at how life works, how every moment and every choice changes our future.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Change (a mini series)

I would like to take a few posts to talk about something very near and dear to my husband and his vision.....  19 years ago a girl met a boy.  The girl came from a good home, parents who were married my entire life who loved me and my siblings with everything they had.  My dad worked tremendously hard to set up me and my four siblings for a normal life.  We always had a home, food, entertainment and vacations.  I took this for granted and whined and disobeyed like most teens.  Then a fateful night I was driving around what we called the "Franklin 500" basically a parking lot where boys and girls would meet each other.  I was wearing a long Abraham Lincoln beard goofing off when I came upon a very tiny roller skate of a car...a geo metro.  It had 2 young men inside and we started talking to them eventually getting their phone numbers.  A few days later on a break from my job as a preschool aide, I nervously called this older guy ;)  He was all of 18 and I was 16 and so he came to pick me up on the first date wearing WAY too much cologne, but that night something special started.  So as we began to get to know each other I realized our lives were very different.  He had graduated high school the year before and was currently living with a friend's family.  He was technically homeless.  He was working as a security guard to make ends meet to pay for his car.  As we talked I learned his mother had divorced his step father and they had moved from their home.  However they left my husband behind at 16 to finish school in an abandoned house with no lights, water or anything else by himself.  So his senior year of high school he lived in this house cooking from a car battery contraption making sure to get to school and to his job at Burger King.  His determination was nothing like I had ever seen.  He had been abused, abandoned and neglected and yet he was the hardest working most caring guy I had ever met.  We began dating pretty immediately and I watched him save up and get an apartment with some friends and then another apartment.  I am not going to lie at 17 and a senior having a boyfriend with an apartment was super impressive :)  However we quickly learned that we were on a journey not a sprint to a "real" relationship.  At the time I was coming out of a difficult time and had been spending my weekends partying, experimenting with things I should not have been (keeping this the G version).  I quickly found out that my husband wanted none of that in his life.  I learned his childhood and adolescent had involved too much alcohol and drugs and he was not interested in a girlfriend into that.  I had to make a choice to leave the lifestyle I lived for the past few years for a boy I had only known for a few months.  Something inside me said he's worth it.  We had many struggles in our first few years, our lives had resulted in dealing with a lot of insecurities, jealousy and other problems we both dragged in.  However we stood by each other and stayed together, not ever breaking up or taking a break.  My parents loved him, he quickly became one of the family even staying at our house many nights (on a totally different floor!) even though he would say he NEVER lived with us :)  I watched my dad help him get a new car when his was repossessed and my Mom took the role of making him birthday cakes and giving him Christmas presents.  Don't get me wrong, he was no charity case, he was the reason their daughter had stopped partying, he picked me up at work every day and he always was helping out around the house.  I watched how one person made such an impact on my life, he gave me direction, confidence, made me feel beautiful and happy.  He taught me not to take my life for granted and how to stand by someone.  I watched how my dad, one man, gave Randy confidence by doing what he knew how to do, help him write a resume, learn to tie a tie, show him how to buy a car and NOT get ripped off.  I watched my mom do what she did best, she made him feel welcome, made private jokes with him, made sure he was well fed (she was Italian and we both gained a lot of weight those first years!).  I watched how 1 person began to change so much in the world..... to be continued