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The Fisher of Stories



I catched a big fish the fish was ginormous. My dad catched a ginormous turtle. It was a mean turtle. The wind was (unreadable and he couldn’t remember what he wrote). And we went to the military.

The wind was wicked gusty.


Today was really fun. We went fishing and then saw the Ft. Gibson National Cemetery. When we were fishing my dad caught a turtle and said “Stand back.” “Yes sir,” we said back. Clip, my dad clipped him off and it ran madly back to the water. Then I/my dad got a huge fish up to the bank then my dad had a fish and lost it and last my brother caught a fish couldn’t get the hook off but my dad did and then we packed up and left. On the way back I asked my dad “Where is the national cemetery?” And then my dad took us. There were a lot of people who have fought for our country. Then we left, went home, and wrote this. Then ate lunch. The End. 

We do not have lounge chairs.


I like to fish.
Today I took our son and daughter out with me. The wind was terrible, and when we got to the pond I immediately regretted spending five dollars on minnows. But we soldiered on.
The lines went in the water, and before long corks started going under. Akeeli did what Akeeli normally does, which is catch a lot of fish but then lose them at the bank.
For the first time since we’ve started fishing, Aven caught more fish than anyone, and he was actually pulling them on the bank and taking them off, then throwing them back into the water.
Then, my cork went under. As I reeled it in, I knew something felt wrong. I told the kids I thought I’d caught a turtle, and sure enough, I hauled an enormous “Tennessee Fightin’ Turtle*” out of the water. The neck on this thing was longer than my leg and it. was. pissed.
I told the kids to get back because it kept charging us, and I kept yanking it up in the air, making the relationship more difficult. I finally got my clippers, stretched it out as far as I could, and clipped the line, letting the thing run straight back into the water.
In the meantime, Aven caught yet another fish.
Then, Keeli’s cork went straight under. Being a girl, and naturally predisposed to not paying attention, she didn’t see it.
“Keeli, your cork is gone.”
She set the hook and started reeling like crazy.
“Dad, it’s too big. You’ll have to do it.”
I took the rod and to my surprise, she had a nice fish attached. Then it jumped. It was amazing. After a couple more minutes, I drug the fish onto the bank…and lost it.
Then I told them about how to construct a “the one that got away” story.
As we left, I sneezed about 600 times and my eyes swelled shut due to my “seasonal” allergies. I was dying.

Not pretty y’all.

On the way home, Keeli asked me where the National Cemetery was in Fort Gibson. I asked if either of them had ever been, and they both said no. I figured then was as good a time as any for an object lesson, so I drove them out there.
I told them how those people were the reason we could go fishing, go to church, and be free. I told them there were more people serving who were helping to protect those rights as well, including their Uncle Josh.
As we drove out of the cemetery, Keeli looked at me and said, “We probably better go home, your eyes are watering from your allergies.”
Yeah. My allergies. Stupid allergies.
I like to fish. I love our kids.

It started innocuously, as a nice Thursday evening dinner at Rib Crib with my family.

Aven challenged me to a game of Tic-Tac-Toe, and I’m here to tell you, he actually beat me one out of four times. The boy beat me.

This was essentially the look I gave him after he won.

He looked up at me and said, “You let me win that one, didn’t you dad?”

Faced with a crossroad, I decided to actually tell him the truth, in hopes that it would encourage him to feel better about himself, and let him know he’s capable of doing great things if he tries.
Then I beat the brakes off him in the last game.
Just because I want him to do great things doesn’t mean I want to lose.
For those that don’t know, I’m practically deaf in one ear, and I really can’t hear out of the other. Although I’ve had my hearing tested, and the doctor said it really wasn’t that bad, I still think it’s terrible.
So you can imagine my surprise when I started overhearing a conversation at the table just in front of me.
And then you can imagine my surprise when I started hearing this guy use every curse word I’ve ever been privileged to know while discussing the television show “Duck Dynasty” with his family.

I’ve never watched the show, but with wisdom like this dripping from the mouths of the cast, I might have to.

You might even be able to imagine my surprise when I saw that his family consisted of a little girl around 10 years of age.

My friends, I do try not to be a hypocrite.

I have used curse words in the past.
Hell, I use them now (sometimes).
But what I don’t do, EVER, is use them in front of my children.
Now listen. If that’s your thing, or if you’ve accidentally let the F-bomb slip in front of your 5 year old, I’m not judging you. I’m absolutely positive that if a situation called for it, and my carefully placed “kid-filter” wasn’t firmly situated, then I’d change my rules on cursing in front of children in an instant.
But I don’t go to Rib Crib on a Thursday night and talk about an insanely popular TV show sprinkling the conversation with profanity as one might sprinkle salt on their catfish dinner.
As die-hard readers of this blog, or die-hard fans of my stories will know, I do not like confrontations. However, having children has somewhat changed that.
While being mildly offended myself, I recognized that our kids weren’t listening to the man at all. They were engrossed in their corn dogs and grilled cheese, blocking out all ambient noise, and the boy was busy kicking me in the leg thinking it belonged to the table.
I decided to withhold a confrontation about the language until after my wife and kids left the table. I told The Missus what I was going to do, and I sent them on their way.
I got up, my mind racing with possibilities.
I walked over slowly, my body going cold, anticipating the man’s movements, trying to ascertain how aggressive he might be, and how he was going to react.
I was, to put it bluntly, scared to death.
I approached the table and smiled. I looked at the man and said, “Sir, I apologize for interrupting, but the language you’re using is absolutely terrible, and there are kids all around.”
He glared at me.
“Well, I have the right to free speech. So why don’t you f*ck off.”
My temper flared.
“Yes sir, and I have the ability to take that right away from you if I have to.”
He caught my meaning, and unfortunately, he called my bluff.
He rose from the table at a Rib Crib on a Thursday night, cocked his fist, and hit me square in the jaw, knocking me out…
…I got up, my mind racing with possibilities.
I walked over slowly, my body going cold, anticipating the man’s movements, trying to ascertain how aggressive he might be, and how he was going to react.
I was, to put it bluntly, scared to death.
I approached the table and smiled. I looked at the man and said, “Sir, I apologize for interrupting, but the language you’re using is absolutely terrible, and there are kids all around.”
And, in the most surprising twist of all, the man looked up at me with actual shame in his eyes.
“Sir, I apologize for that. I’m very sorry.”
I smiled, thanked him, and walked out the door.
It turns out, standing up to myself is a lot harder than standing up to others. Hopefully I remember that next time.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” – James Neil Hollingworth

As I’ve mentioned previously, one day our children will find this blog. Someone will tell them about it, they’ll meander their way around the Internet, and voila, they’ll have more information about their dad than they’ll ever want.

Another aspect of that would be the fact that one day our children will have a Facebook account. And when they do, they’ll want to look back at the story of their lives I’ve told with pictures and with status updates. Kids being kids, I’m sure they’ll want to count how many times each have been mentioned or shown, and that’s when our son will realize something…

Akeeli is a Facebook “Like” machine.

I’ve often joked that if I want to improve my Klout score, all I have to do is post something to do with our darling daughter, and the response is overwhelming…not to mention the impact on the above mentioned Klout score.

And so this blog goes out to you, son. One day you’ll see it, and hopefully this will make up for all the Internet attention your sister got.

This is the adoption finalization. Crying, crying, smiling, and then Aven, the double thumbs up.

This all started on Saturday.
I’ve been really busy with work and school, and what little time I’ve been able to spend with y’all has not been as precious to me as it should be. You changed that this weekend.
I woke up early and headed out to cover a story for the paper. I didn’t have time for breakfast, and rushed through the interviews and the article because I had an appointment at the Apple store for my computer battery.
I didn’t have time for lunch before we went, so as we walked into the store, I started feeling the first effects of having taken diabetes medication without food. I got a little cranky. You rushed up to me and asked if you could go play on the iPads in the kid’s section. I said okay, and your sister went too.
After a couple of minutes, I noticed a little girl standing beside your sister watching. I asked her to get up and share with you so the kid could have a turn. When she sat down next to you, she immediately started trying to touch the screen of “your” iPad, and you shoved her arm away a little too roughly. I told you that you were done, and you had to come over to the wall and put your nose in a corner.
I know you don’t remember this specific incident, but I’m sure you’ll remember the discipline you’ve gone through growing up, and I’m sure, depending on how old you are, you think it’s so terrible. You want to know a secret? I think it’s terrible too. You and I share many qualities, remarkably so, given your lack of my genes, but the one thing we don’t share is an ornery childhood. I was mostly calm and introverted, and you are the complete opposite. I grew out of my esoteric behavior. I truly hope you never grow out of your outgoing and carefree nature.
We headed to CiCi’s Pizza, and as we were getting out of the car you did something that upset me. Right now, less than 48 hours later, I can’t even recall what it was. This tells me that it wasn’t really “me” that was upset, it was “Hungry Dad,” who is a monster. I’m still learning how to be a dad, son. I don’t know it all, and I’m sorry for that.
So I snapped at you.
You replied with a “Yes sir,” and we started walking to the restaurant.
Without even thinking, you reached up and grabbed my hand. I know you had no idea what that could do to me, and I don’t know that I can explain it.
You weren’t even mad that I had just gotten on to you. You knew that I wasn’t going to let anything happen to you crossing the parking lot, and you just trusted me – and loved me – enough to get you into the restaurant.
We ate, and I felt better. In fact, I felt so much better that I gave you and your sister each a dollar to go play games with. You went straight to a claw machine that promised you could “play till you won.” You played twice, looked up at me, and said, “Dad, can you win me something?”
Then you ran off.
Son it took me 15 more tries to win you that candy. Your mom laughed at me. But I wouldn’t quit.
When we left the restaurant, we had to take your mom to Hobby Lobby. We were walking in, and you did something I thought was hilarious. You parked yourself under a tree that was half as tall as me, and sat there in the “shade.”

There’s no shade except me.

As we resumed our trip inside, you looked up at me and said, “Dad, your favorite superhero is Superman, right?”

I said, “Yes.”
You just nodded your head like you knew all along, and then we went on in. While we were in the store, you pointed at something and said, “Dad, it’s your favorite color flower!”
I looked where you were pointing, and I saw a gigantic orange flower on display.
I’ve been saying for a year now that you don’t listen. Apparently I have been terribly, terribly wrong.
I smiled and said, “Yes it is,” and we went out to “cool off the car” while your mom and sister checked out.
Later that evening you wanted to go with me to a basketball game. You have no idea how badly I wanted to take you, but since I was the referee, I couldn’t keep an eye on you…and since you wouldn’t sit still for longer than 30 seconds, that’s kind of important. So, you didn’t get to go.
When I got home later that night, I was standing in the kitchen and you walked in.
“Dad, I got your favorite color juice tonight!” you exclaimed as you held up a bottle that once held an orange sugary beverage that was not at all similar to juice.
You know my favorite superhero is Superman.
You know my favorite color.
You even know my favorite basketball team.

You made this for me at school.

I think you like Spiderman a little better than Superman, and I think you’re partial to pink instead of orange.

And let me tell you a little secret.
I LOVED the color pink until about the sixth grade.
God, in His infinite wisdom and screwy sense of humor, put you and I together for a reason. Then, knowing we’d need women in our lives to keep us from killing each other, He went ahead and gave us your mom and sister too.
One day I’m going to figure this “dad” thing out.
I’ve got you eating like me already…

Your first corn eating contest. I’m absolutely certain you won, but they gave first to some little girl.

It’s not always sunshine and pleasant thoughts. You are stubborn, prone to violent outbursts towards your schoolmates, a bit of a liar (albeit a terrible one), and did I mention that you’re stubborn?

However, every phone call we get, every bad report from a Sunday School teacher, and every talk from anyone telling us you’re in trouble all ends the same way.
“He has a heart of gold. He is so thoughtful and sweet…when he wants to be.”
We still have work to do. About a year ago, after one of your fits, your mother and I looked at each other and cried, each wondering if we could ever straighten you out. I looked at her and said, “If God didn’t want this to happen, it wouldn’t have happened. It’s going to be okay.”
Guess what. It’s all okay. In fact, after this weekend, it’s better than okay. It’s amazing.
In honor of this post, I changed my Facebook profile picture to the one below. This is one of the happiest moments of our time together for me. We told everyone that you caught this fish. In reality, your mom set the hook and reeled it in while you ran to tell me about the fish you were “catching.”
She gave you all the credit. That’s how your mom is. That’s why we love her.
You were ecstatic. You ran. You yelled. I barely got you to stand still for the picture.
That’s how you are.
That’s why we love you.

Your biggest fish to date.

P.S. If you count the “likes” you got for this picture the first time I posted it, AND the “likes” it’s gotten since I made it my profile picture, the total comes in at a whopping 90. That’s not bad…
…but it’s not even half the “likes” your sister got on the picture of me baptizing her. 
But don’t worry. It’s not like it’s a contest. 
P.P.S. If your sister is still getting “Internet attention” when you read this, let me know. I’ll shut whatever she has down and give you $100. That’s a promise. 

I suppose I should start by telling you that I am a pretty decent liar.

That’s not really something I’m proud of, nor is it a gift I try to put into use very often, particularly at this stage in my life.

But I just want to say that at one point, I could have told you that the sky was green and the grass was blue, and you’d have not only believed me, but also would have bought some ocean front property in Oklahoma from me as well.

It is the largest body of water in Oklahoma.

When I was a child, my mother would often say things to me like, “Travis, one day you’re going to have a kid just like you, and I’m going to laugh.” I spent most of my time laughing at her, and saying things like, “I’m never having kids.”

Well, water flows under the bridge, time marches on, thoughts and feelings change, and eventually you come to a point in your life when you discover the sex. And when you discover the sex, even if it is at the ripe old age of nineteen, you discover that at almost any given point in time, a woman can decide to make a man start trying to have a kid.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this is what The Missus did. To level such charges at her would be disrespectful, and make her out to be manipulative and conniving, which are two things she isn’t. She is both kind and loving, and all I remember is her saying, “We should have a kid,” and I was undressed and in the bedroom, under the assumption that we were going to start immediately.

Of course you know the story from there, how we tried (HEYO) for many years before eventually coming to the understanding that we were going to require expensive medical treatment in order for child-rearing to become a reality for us.

Lacking the required funds for that, we turned instead to adoption, and sort of placed the whole thing in God’s hands.

In the words of Seinfeld, yada, yada, yada, we have two kids.

That brings us up to present day. And by that I mean earlier this morning, as I am typing this on Wednesday evening.

I got a text message from The Missus at about ten this morning saying, “Call me, I got a phone call from the school.”

Since it’s three weeks into the year and our son has already punched a kid and pushed a bookshelf over on two others, you might be able to see how I expected the worse. In fact, I’m fairly certain I took the Lord’s name in vain (I have since asked forgiveness on the matter).

Sighing heavily, I scrolled through my phone, highlighted The Missus, and punched “Call.”

TM: Hello.
Me: What now?
TM: The cafeteria called.

I immediately understood what was going to be said next. She was going to tell me that the kids were eating breakfast at school after they’d already eaten at home, which was a problem we dealt with all last year. We’d give them oatmeal or cereal or something for breakfast, and then they’d walk into the cafeteria, and since food was available, they’d eat it. It almost drove us into the poorhouse.

However, that wasn’t the issue at hand.

Some of you might be familiar with Lady Obama’s new school lunch program initiative. I know just enough about it to see that the price of a school lunch costs moderately less than a trip to the local “classy” steakhouse, and that the kids aren’t even getting a decent meal when that happens.

Image source

As a result of this, The Missus has been packing the kids’ lunches for them. She’s been giving them sammiches and chips and other kid lunch stuff that I know nothing about because with my work and school schedule, I’ve been reduced to the role of step-father, seeing them on the weekends.

Stay with me now, we’re coming into the home stretch.
Apparently, our dear, sweet, and innocent children have been walking into the cafeteria in the morning, walking through the breakfast line, opening their lunch boxes, and telling the cafeteria worker that they have been given express permission to eat any “snacky” type foods The Missus has packed them to, and I quote, “hold them over until lunch.”
When asked if they were getting fed at home, both children immediately responded with a yes, but that they were supposed to eat their fruit snacks, pudding cups, etc., as sort of an after breakfast snack.

How I imagine the cafeteria worker looked at their “explanation.”

Here’s my concern. This was obviously Keeli’s idea, because the lady at the school said “Keeli has been doing all the talking.” But at this point I have to worry about three things.

1. Our daughter is sneaky, manipulative, and brilliant in an “I don’t have much experience but I work well with what I’ve got” way. 2. Our son is dumb enough to go along with that sort of thing. 3. Both of them think that everyone they meet is severely retarded and cannot begin to comprehend their sneakiness.

“Don’t hate the player, dad. Hate the game. Why is your eye twitching?”

So here we are.

We have two children that are exactly like me. Brilliant liars with incredibly adorable faces and a heart-wrenching life story to go along with it.
The Missus is “handling” the situation, and from what I gather, that entails her telling the cafeteria worker to call them out on it tomorrow. Just sort of surprising them with the fact that everyone they know isn’t a complete idiot. I don’t have much of an imagination, but I like to think it’ll look something like this:

Score one for the dumb adults, eh?

Somewhere my mother isn’t reading this, but she’s laughing. And one day, God willing, I’ll be laughing at Aven and Akeeli as they post blogs about their kids handle their own problems in a completely normal way.
From “The Walk,” a blog I wrote about two years ago.

“There are lots of walks that people make in their lifetime. Some are important, some are not. Some of those walks are tougher than others, and some seem like they take forever, because you know you can’t wait to have what’s at the end. Some are painful, some are joyous. Some are profitable, some will end with you losing everything.”

Today I want to talk to you about another walk I recently made.

I am convinced that there is a serenity that comes from floating in the ocean that cannot be achieved by doing anything else. Maybe it’s because I live in a landlocked state, or maybe it’s just something that I feel. Regardless, our story begins with me, floating in the ocean, and listening.

My family was with me as I peacefully reflected on thoughts of life, the Universe, and everything. Aven was splashing around with Jennie, and Keeli and The Missus were floating as well, but I could tell they were involved in a deep discussion. They passed within earshot, and through a lull in the breakers, I overheard my wife telling our daughter about Jesus.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
 -Proverbs 31:30

Keeli has been asking questions about the Lord’s Supper and baptism quite frequently, and we’ve been doing our best to answer those questions without using the phrase, “You have to be a Christian first.” You see, I don’t want our children to think that they need salvation simply so they can eat crackers on the last Sunday of the month or take a dip in the baptistery. I want them to know they need salvation for the right reasons.

I paddled closer for a listen, and then I realized that I needed to be praying for the whole situation. It wasn’t too much longer before The Missus said, “Well, let’s go get your daddy and we’ll go have a talk.” Then she looked at me and said, “Travis?”

“I’ve been listening,” was my reply. “Do we need to go up to the condo?”


And so began The Walk.

I walked through the water, praying feverishly. “Lord, give me wisdom. Lord, please give me wisdom. Lord, please don’t let me screw this up.”

My toes hit the beach, and then the powder-fine white sand. My wife and our daughter in tow, and still I prayed. “Lord, it’s been way too long since I’ve lead someone to salvation, or even used words to witness to someone face to face. Please give me the words she can understand.”

The sand turned to wood, signaling the closeness of our destination. Just a few more steps. Likewise, my prayers turned as well, to thanks. “Thank you God, for a wife who can effectively minister to our children. Thank you for Jennie and her family, who have been stoic Christian examples in the turmoil of their lives. Thank you for this gift that You’ve given us that I have the privilege of sharing with our daughter.”

And then we were there. We walked through the door, and I grabbed my Bible and told The Missus to give me a minute to myself so I could prepare for this. She nodded, and I walked out on the balcony, hit my knees, and repeated everything I’d prayed in the last five minutes.

On June 28th, 2003, a door opened, and my bride to be walked through, radiant, beautiful, and a gift from God.

On May 20th, 2011, a door opened, and our children jumped out and ran to meet us, radiant, beautiful, and gifts from God.

On May 25th, 2012, another door opened, and my wife and daughter walked through, radiant, beautiful, and absolutely gifts from God.

They sat beside me, and I started asking Keeli questions about her knowledge of salvation. I made it two sentences in, and I started crying. Keeli, the ever-empathetic child, started crying as well. It took a few minutes, but I finally explained to her that I wasn’t sad at all, I was happy, and very proud.

In the end, we joined hands and prayed together as a family, and our beautiful daughter accepted Christ as her Savior. I promised her we’d talk to our pastor about baptism, which is something we’re going to do this Sunday. I fully plan to be the one to baptize her, and I fully plan on being the biggest blubbering mess in the world whenever I do it.

And so The Road continues, and so do The Walks. For our daughter, this walk has consisted of being a baby born to a twelve year old kid, a six year walk through hell on earth, the life changing event of being given to new parents, and now securing a spot with Jesus in eternity.

I’ll never understand why they went through what they did, and I’ll never understand why we’ve gone through what we have. All I do understand is that the Lord has a Plan, and it’s a plan for good, and not evil. A plan to give us hope, and a future.

And this little family He’s given me is the best Plan I could have ever asked for.

We are His.

This is the final post in a five-part series on my blog called “The Road.” This series will chronicle the events of my life leading up to meeting my wife, the events that transpired after, and how it has led us all to where we are now. The series will end not by my hand, but by my wife’s. Some of this will be very hard for me to write, and as a result, will be hard for you to read. Some of you will think differently of me afterwards, but I ask that you please don’t get halfway through this series and stop. In the end, maybe you will find something here that let’s you know you aren’t alone. The roads we travel are unique, but they intersect often. I have changed almost all the names in this story in order to respect individual privacy.
Part Fourimage
Part Five: The Call
This post is from my lovely wife, Alicia. You’ve heard my story about The Adoption, and now, for the first time ever, she’s telling hers in a written voice. This has been lightly edited, but I’ve not added or removed anything that would detract from her words. 
Greetings from the Missus.
Most anyone who knows me knows that I am not a writer. I don’t enjoy writing, as a matter of fact writing in general is the main reason I have not started work on my Master’s Degree. I do however feel that I want to share just a little bit about the importance of the month of May to me.
All of my life May was a great month. As a kid it always signaled that school was out and swimming was beginning.  May, also was the one month out of the year that I knew we had standing plans for Memorial Day.  Every Memorial Day weekend my Mother, Father, and I would pack up the car and take our family vacation.  Please…Please hold your excitement. Our family vacation consisted of a weeklong visit to Kentucky.  “Why Kentucky?” you might ask. Out of all of the places in the United States, why would we drive that 11-12 hour car ride just to visit? Well the answer was simple…Family. All of my family lived in Kentucky and, more specifically, Nelson County, Kentucky. So May has always, just like Kentucky, held a corner of my heart as my favorite month of the year. Now I am grown and no longer make that yearly trek with my Mom and Dad, but May still holds strong as my favorite month.
Last year in May we received a phone call from our adoption Case Manager, Jennifer. Jennifer made a habit of surprising us with phone calls and visits over the next seven months. This call in particular was to set up an appointment to learn all about these two kids that needed a Mom and Dad of their very own. So on May 12, 2011 Travis and I set down in a little room with nothing more in it than two stacks of paper, a desk, and three chairs. In those two stacks of paper were all of the details – some heart breaking – of these two little kids.  We sat there and read each page trying to absorb all of the information, then came the fun part.
Jennifer asked, “Well do you want to meet them?”
At that moment all I remember is trying to keep calm while my brain was screaming, “Bring them to me now!” Instead Travis and I looked at each other and said. “Yes.”
One week later we were on a two hour journey across the state to meet these two little people at a Chuck E. Cheese. I remember the entire week before this trip all I could think about was will they like us? Will they be scared? Do they look like their picture? How am I going to be able to leave them? What if Travis changes his mind? What if I change my mind? What if we are not good enough?
I tortured myself for a week about all of the things that could go wrong. I remember praying for them. As a matter of fact I remember praying for them the day we decided to adopt. I didn’t know their names but I remember praying that they were ready for us and we were ready for them. I prayed that they were safe and being loved while we were getting our paper work done. However, all of the peace and assurance I had from the beginning was being rocked because of “what if.”
As always I was worried about nothing.
I looked at Jennifer and Travis took a deep breath and we all climbed out of the car. When that white state van opened a little blond haired girl came running around the back of the van and around the front of the car screaming. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.” She wrapped her arms around me and just clung to me. The little blond haired boy was a tiny bit different. At three, I can imagine it was hard to understand what was going on, but he did understand that we were there to see Chuck. That little boy had us on our toes the entire day. I am telling you his eyes were as wide as saucers and he didn’t skip a beat. But we had fun, took some pictures, bought some flip flops, and said goodbye.

The first time we met them. Also Chuck. Aven’s eyes are about the size of Chuck’s ears.

Two days after that we were on a three and a half hour journey to watch a little ballerina perform her heart out for her “New Mom and Dad.” This was our first few hours alone with the kids. We were nervous and ended up lost with the kids and the low fuel light on, but we made it back. We got to meet the foster mom and say goodbye for the last time.
On May 27, 2011, a repeat trip in the Groom’s truck was made to move these two little people that we’d only met a week ago into our home. We had that truck packed with stuff. Now let me say most foster kids don’t come with anything more than a trash bag of clothes but it was easy to see that this little town loved these two kids. They had so much stuff it took me days to go through it all.
When we got home that night we had a house full of family just waiting to meet these two little people that were changing our lives forever. Most people would say that it would be scary for those kids to have all of those uncles, grandparents, aunts, and cousins there just to see you. You haven’t met these kids, because they fit in with our family better than most of your blood relatives probably do.

First family portrait.

As we are once again into my favorite month, we are celebrating our one year anniversary as a family by taking a family vacation. Don’t worry we are not going to Kentucky this time. We are headed to Florida so the kids can visit the beach for the first time on their first family vacation.
If I had any advice to give anyone looking to adopt it would be to look into the state system first. I understand that most children in the system have a history, and that you will probably not get that baby you have always dreamed of. However, you will find children that need love and who have so much love to return. I still want that baby someday, but I could never imagine my life without our two kids. They make my life have a meaning that it never had before.

Alicia with the kids. I’m not there, so the smiles are bigger. Especially Alicia’s.

My Corsica was hunter green not blue.  Travis has trouble telling the difference between blue and green.  Just ask him about the Fossil watch I bought him for his 19th birthday.
Editor’s Notes: That watch was green, and that car was blue. That’s my stance. 
The Road is not over. It will be continually traveled for the next seventy years or so, Lord willing. Hopefully with less pain, fewer bad decisions, and not as many missed opportunities. I also hope you’re all there to share it with us. Thank you for reading.

The book of love, is long and boring,And written very long ago. It’s full of flowers, and heart-shaped boxes,And things we’re all too young to know.The Book of Love – Peter Gabriel

This is me. Right now. Pissy and sad.

I’m in a foul mood. Thanks to the IRS, the jackass that I work with that ate all my oatmeal and left the empty container in the cabinet, a headache, and the fact that my church league basketball team got slammed again last night, I have sort of gone into this funk, almost a pity-party, but with more anger and loathing.
So before I sink too far into the “well of despair” and have to see some sort of doctor who will prescribe a pill that makes me really happy all the time but kills my sex drive and gives me a permanent case of the hot poops, I’ve decided to make a list of all the things that I have to be happy about.
I’ve never tried this before, and I may leave some things out, but don’t judge me.
The Literal Counting of My Blessings

  • Our kids. Obvs. I actually got left alone with them the other night for forty-five minutes, and they didn’t annoy me at all. In fact, I finally had to give them gum to shut them up because we were getting along so great.
  • My wife. She’s every bit as mad as me, but hey, misery loves company.
  • I’m alive. I’m fat, I have diabetes, I’m stressed from work and school and everything, but when I woke up this morning, I wasn’t dead. So there’s that.
  • I have pretty much the coolest dog on the face of this planet. She licks my face.
  • My Sunday School class is seriously the best thing in the world. They REALLY suck at basketball, but they are definitely the underwire in the push-up bra of my life.
  • My best friend is getting married.
  • Last week, I told a lady at work that her lunches always looked amazing and that I was seriously considering giving her money every week to pack mine for me. Today she made me a sandwich.
  • I serve a God who I get really mad at sometimes and maybe I say mean things to Him. He can handle that, and sometimes He slaps me in the face with sandwiches to remind me He’s still around.
  • You’re reading this.
  • I have an A in Algebra. Which, if you’re an atheist or maybe even just agnostic, proves the existence of God.
  • In five weeks I’ll be laying on a beach in Florida. That may, in fact, be all that I can afford to do, but at least I’ll have that.
  • My mom, brothers, sister, and niece are the bees knees.
  • We have a house, two vehicles, jobs, and food to eat.
  • I’m actually not that terrible at Draw Something.
  • I’ve lost thirty pounds since January. My BMI is still 8,456, but it’s progress.
  • I got a new flash drive today, and I named it Turd Ferguson, and then I found out that you can replace the default icon on your desktop with one of your own, and so now when I plug Turd Ferguson into my Mac, a picture of Norm McDonald in that ridiculous hat pops up and makes me laugh.
  • I can still laugh at Norm McDonald.
  • I haven’t heard the song “Rack City” in almost two weeks.
  • I can still tell a wicked good story that will have you laughing so hard you might pee a little.

So there you have it. Those are a few of the things that I feel like are blessings in my life right now.
But remember that guy a few years back that flew his prop plane into the IRS building because he was mad at them? For the record, I totally understand that guy right now. Totally.
This may come as a shocking revelation to some, but I’m a very sarcastic person with a pretty dry and ironic sense of humor that borders on narcissistic cynicism.

This picture has circulated Facebook more times than the words #StopKony, but still it pretty much  describes me perfectly.

As of late, I’ve noticed myself using sarcasm less and less, and I’m almost positive it stems from our two new recent additions to the family. You see, if you do something, and you are positively reinforced for that behavior, you tend to use that behavior again, seeking the same response. Now I’m sure that has a clinical name, but I call it the “Conditioned Response.”
So it makes sense that if you do something, and you are negatively conditioned, then you won’t do it again, because you don’t want the negative experience. Again, I’m no psychologist. So stay with me.
Before The Missus and I got the kids, I was a sarcasm machine. My wit was withering, y’all. I could wilt plants at a hundred paces with my abilities. Really, it was a work of art. I dabbled in sarcasm the way Van Gogh dabbled in paints. The way the Democratic party dabbles in socialism. The way Nic Cage dabbles in acting.
I think you understand.
However, there have been some changes. It turns out, the kids don’t understand sarcasm. The Missus keeps saying, “They’re concrete, Travis. Concrete.”
Here’s an example:
Yesterday, as we were about to leave for church, I was walking through the house in my underwear trying to find clothes. As I approached the living room, I could see that the front door was open, so I asked Aven to close the door. I said, “Aven, please close the door.”
“The front door?”
“No, son. All of the other doors in the house.”
“Yes sir.”
And he started walking back to the bedrooms to close all the doors.
“Yes sir.”
“Travis. They’re concrete. Concrete, Travis.”
The girl child is just as bad, but with her it’s mainly making terrible jokes. Jokes that the boy child finds hilarious. Keeli spent fifteen minutes yesterday on the car ride home “April Fooling” Aven.
“Aven. There is poop on your shoe. APRIL FOOLS!”
“Aven. The cow is in the car. APRIL FOOLS!”
This went on and on until Aven started whining. Finally, I said, “Keeli, stop. You have no idea what April Fools is, and until you do, you’re not allowed to April Fool anyone.” Then The Missus added, “What your dad is saying is that you suck at April Fooling.”
Then I pretended to pass out at the wheel and swerved into oncoming traffic while they screamed at me to wake up; and then I popped my head up and yelled “APRIL FOOLS!” It was a valuable lesson.
I’m kidding.
But seriously, if I don’t get to a comedy club or try to start writing stand-up bits again soon, I think I’m going to be in real trouble. My father-in-law taught the kids some sort of fart joke the other day, and they’re still laughing about it now. The sad thing is, The Missus can tell I hate it, but she thinks it’s hilarious, and does her best to always hide her amusement when they start in on it.
I have come to appreciate the laughter of a child. I’ve even started to appreciate the fact that their innocence shields them from the oft-pointed barbs of a sarcastic or sardonic reply. I realize that there might even be an advantage, living in a world where sarcasm doesn’t exist. How living in that world might mean less hurt feelings, and fewer questions about loyalty.
But if I can’t live in that world, why should they?

I’m going to tell you a story today about Jennie.
No, not this Jenny, even though that’s the first thing that always comes to my mind when I hear that name.
I try to be a “credit where credit is due” type of person. If someone does something for me and my family, I want to brag on them a little bit, kind of give their ego a little boost. In my mind, that’s the best form of repayment, when no real price could ever be named. I don’t always succeed, but I like to think I hit more than I miss.

A few months ago, I blogged about our adoption process. In that blog, I mentioned a family that was very interested in adopting Akeeli and Aven before they knew about us. The state, for whatever reason, decided ultimately to give them to us, but it’s not like there was a giant fuss or anything, we just had the training done already, and they really wanted to get the kids placed.

To put it mildly, this family is amazing. I said in the original blog that the kids had winners in every corner, and I hold true to that to this day.

However, there is one particular member of that family that I’m going to brag on today. It’s a young lady, twenty years old, who was still a teenager when Akeeli and Aven came into her life. A young lady who we met on the second visit to see the kids and who we watched dissolve into tears when she met us. When she met the people who were going to be taking them away.

This is her story.

I cried when I read it the first time, and I cried when I read it today. Tomorrow, if I read it, I’ll cry again.

At a time when our children didn’t have anyone to love them, Jennie and her family were there. At a time when they desperately needed stability, Jennie tried her best to give it to them.

And it cost her.

My wife still has nightmares where someone knocks on the door, tells us the children have to go back for some reason, and takes them out of our lives as quickly as they came in.

Jennie lived that.

Not in the way we would, not in the way that she had them day and night and was a parent, but in the sense that these two kids wormed their way into her heart (the way they do everyone) and then she watched them pack up and leave.

The kids talked about her constantly when we brought them home.

“Jennie did this.”
“Jennie took us there one time.”
“We went to church with Jennie.”

It wasn’t about the foster mom, it wasn’t about their birth parents, it was about Jennie.

So it was no surprise when one day, Aven was talking on the phone with her, and just decided he was going to invite her to the zoo trip my wife was planning for them.

Without asking us.

I’ll be the first to admit, that was awkward. You see, all we’d been told about the family was that they wanted the kids as well. To us, at that point, they were competition. I also thought that it was a bad idea simply because I saw her as a spy. Someone who would report anything to DHS to have the kids taken back in the trial period.

We were scared.

The zoo trip came and went. The kids were angels for her. The Missus fell in love with her, and the way the kids responded to her.

From that moment on, Jennie has become part of our extended family.

She is currently going to college, and our children have inspired her to go into Social Work. She has her head on straighter than any twenty year old I know, and I firmly believe that one day she’ll make a difference in the world. She’s already made a difference in ours.

She came down and stayed with us over the weekend. The kids climbed all over her, talked to her, jumped on the trampoline with her, played video games with her, made videos with her on her computer, and in general just ignored us for about twenty four hours.

I got the yard cleaned up and mowed. The Missus got to read.

When we first got the kids, we were told that most adopted children needed a contact back “home.” They needed to maintain a relationship with someone that would help ease their transition into a new life. The Missus and I were hugely skeptical about that. All we could think about was losing the kids because they said something that someone thought sounded funny. Trusting anyone from their lives before us was a huge obstacle.

In hindsight, we were dumb. Of course, it’s easy to label it as “over-protective,” but in reality, it was just being dumb.

You see, Jennie is the young woman that I am praying my daughter grows up to be. Jennie is the young woman that I am praying my son marries.

Not every adoption has a continuous horror story behind it. Sometimes there are tragic circumstances, sometimes there are unwise decisions, and sometimes there are terrifying and painful memories. Our children have harvested a lifetime of those.

But sometimes…after all of the pain…sometimes there’s a Jennie.

One of the eight thousand pictures of them I’m sure she has on her hard drive. Not in a creepy way though.

Well, I’m back.EDIT: There was stuff here about my new blog, but I switched back to this one because it was a mistake to leave Blogger and I’m sorry and I’ll never do it again. The answer is simple, my friends. I’m a father.A little over a year ago, The Missus and I started a journey with the end goal of adopting a couple of children so that my wife could have more people to love than just me. I went along with it because, hey, I like to mold minds. So we sat down in a silly class for six weeks, then we had our house inspected to make sure we wouldn’t electrocute anyone, then we had our lives so thoroughly investigated that at one point I’m positive Barbara Walters did an interview, and THEN we had to get to the fun part. Picking out the children.As I said on my older blog (which has been deleted, because I don’t want my children coming across pictures of me topless on the Internet) picking the children was the absolute worst experience of our lives. Imagine someone setting up a bunch of kids in front of you, and you having to say things like, “Well, we really don’t want one with six fingers or a predilection for starting fires on pets.” Or, “Yeah, we’ll take one with attachment issues but they have to have all their organs intact.” In short, it was very painful, and something I hope no one else on this earth ever has to go through.But.About seven months ago, we both were sat down in a small room with about one hundred case files of children needing to be adopted in the state of Oklahoma that mostly met our guidelines. A lot of them were simply too old for us to consider. I had imposed that I would not adopt a child older than five. My wife and I were in different rooms in different counties, and we both came across two names. Aven and Akeeli, a brother and sister from southern Oklahoma. She was five, he was three. They were gorgeous blonde-haired children who were smiling brightly in their photographs. When we got together afterwards, we both knew these were the children we wanted to look into.The details were arranged, and before we knew it, we were driving to Oklahoma City with our case manager to meet the kids. We went to a Chuckie Cheese, and as we pulled into the parking lot, I had no idea what to expect. I can tell you this though, NEITHER of us were prepared for what happened.Akeeli ran out of the van that she was in, jumped off of the ground into my wife’s arms and shouted “MOMMY!”Folks, I’m here to tell you, I kept it together while we were there, but I’m on the verge of tears as I remember that. If we had any doubts, if we had any fears, they were gone in that moment. They simply evaporated, not able to stand up to the love a child who just needed someone to call “mommy.”Aven was a bit more standoffish, but he still walked up to me and grabbed my hand, excited to be at Chuckie Cheese, ready to play. And play they did. Those kids wore us out that first visit. They also won our hearts. By the end of the day, both of the kids were calling use Mommy and Daddy, and it was the most natural thing in the world for us to hear it. This, quite simply, had been ordained in the heavens, God’s plan set in motion before the existence of the world. If you choose not to believe that, then it was fate, predestined for eternity, since the Big Bang and all that gooey stuff started making our DNA.There was a tiny hiccup in the plan though, one that darkened our minds for about a week after that first visit. You see, there was another family that was interested in adopting Akeeli and Aven. A family that had fallen in love with them down in their hometown. The case manager for the kids mentioned this but didn’t dwell on it, which gave us grave concern after having such a positive visit.We’ve since met that family, and yesterday at the finalization, that family drove six hours round trip to be with us and the kids on our special day. They are an amazing group of people, and the love they show our kids is astounding. I firmly believe that Akeeli and Aven had winners in EVERY corner of their adoption process, and had this other family adopted them, they would have had an equally incredible life as they will with us.But as the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, the state chose us to be their parents.We got the phone call that we were approved for the second visit, and that the final visit, an overnight, would be done in our home, where if all went well, the kids would be put in adoptive placement, the final stage before the adoption is finalized. This all took place at the end of May, and so we drove down south, picked them up, brought everything they owned with us, and brought them…home.The last six months have been an absolute whirlwind of emotions, draining every last bit of strength from my wife and I, and probably the kids as well. We have emptied our hearts, our bank account, and our surprisingly short reserves of patience into these kids, and without realizing it immediately, have been paid back dividends beyond our wildest dreams. We have been blessed beyond measure, and I am prepared to spend the rest of my life thanking God for what he has done for our little family.And so I’ve been on hiatus, staying away from the blog, devoting time to the kids, and in general trying not to post anything on the Internet that would make people question the morals of the state in trusting me with the lives of two people barely old enough to spell. It’s been a whole lot easier than I thought it would be, and even now, at the end of this first blog, it’s strange to be back “online.” There are so many other experiences that we’ve had in the last six months, but right now I’m at a thousand words and you’re probably getting bored. However, I have to close with the best news yet.Yesterday, at around twelve noon CST, we stood in a courtroom that had been packed out by family and friends, in front of a judge who smiled at us, asked us if we were ready to accept responsibility for Aven and Akeeli, and when we said yes sir, said: “I pronounce this adoption final.”Names will be changed, birth records will be altered, new Social Security cards will come out. These children now bear the surname Sloat, something that my father told me was the greatest thing that could have ever happened to me. We have a family. We have children. We have a journey.In closing, I want to thank ALL of you who followed this crazy path with us from beginning to new beginning. Thank you for your prayers, your kind words, your shoulders, and your support. Without you all, I would have folded a long time ago, and simply ran into the woods naked, yelling things about tractor beams and blueberry pies, never to have been seen again except in the occasional “DeerCam” photo.And here you are, after six months of waiting. Their first picture on a blog. At least it dang well better be.

“If a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, then OUR children are on mile number 1001.”