Mommy and Daddy…



So as foster parents there is the inevitable dilemma.

What should our foster child call us?

Mommy and Daddy?

Should they call us by our names?

Is it even up to us?


Our little one has called us mommy and daddy since she got here.  Honestly we have not discouraged her, as doing so I think would cause even more confusion.  She is not old enough to understand why we would be discouraging her.  But I have to tell you at first it seemed odd.  Obviously not odd to this little innocent child.  Odd to the adults who know the circumstances.  I mean, how will the bio mom feel about that?  How will our little one react when she sees her bio mom again?

Just last night at dinner, we were sitting around at the table, and our little one pointed at me, and told my wife “That’s daddy!”.  I pointed at my wife and asked “Who’s that?” to which she answered “Mommy!”

After some thought, I realized the sense of comfort and safety those words must mean for her.  She is with mommy and daddy.  Mommy and daddy represent family to her.  They represent normalcy.  They represent love.  Isn’t that, in the end, what we are called to do for this little girl?  Aren’t we charged with bringing the joy and love of Christ to one who needs it the most?

Of course the answer is yes.  So for now, we will be her mommy and daddy.  One day, when she is older, she will understand the difference between our kind of mommy and daddy, and the bio mommy and daddy.  But this child has already experienced a trauma in her life  no child should ever experience.  Adding more trauma by trying to take away the only mommy and daddy she knows right now would not be in her best interests.

Besides, I can’t tell you it doesn’t feel good to be called daddy.  Sure, I know one day, she will be mad at me, and as most do, she will angrily take that title away from me as revenge.  It is part of growing up and for foster kids part of dealing with their circumstances.  And I will have to understand.

But right now, I am daddy.

And as George Strait says in his song, a dad’s love is “A love without end, Amen!”


One step forward, two steps back…


“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

–James 1:2-4


We are learning every day about our precious child of God, this foster child we have been blessed with.  We had been progressing with her pretty steadily.  However, a couple of days ago, she met with her bio family.

All seemed to have gone well according to the case worker.  However, that night, she couldn’t sleep.  She awoke at 1 AM and was awake for about 3 hours before falling back to sleep.  We can only imagine what she was thinking.  Maybe she thought when she saw her bio family that she was going home with them.  We were not able to be with her during the visit so we don’t know for sure, but we know it could not have been easy to leave her family again.  She probably thought it was all happening again, that separation that these foster kids deal with over and over again.

My heart breaks for this precious child, and I feel helpless.

The last couple of days have been hard at day care drop off.  As we get closer to the door, she starts to grab on tighter to my neck, wrapping her little legs around me to prevent me from putting her down.  Inevitably, when I finally set her down, the tears flow.  As much as I want to grab her tight and take her home, I simply tell her I will be back later, and walk away quickly.  I can see her through the window as her care taker picks her up to console her.

Again heartbreaking, even if it is necessary.

I know the impact we are having on her.  I see the progress she is making.  I see how much she smiles and dances when we are together.  In her smile, I see the work of Jesus.  She really is our Lord in bottle for me, pure joy that comes from the love He emanating from Him through us.

But sometimes I simply don’t understand why she needs to go through this.  I know there is a plan, a holy one that one day I will realize.  But right now, I just want to protect her from this world,  a world that can be cruel and uncaring, and one she does not deserve.

For now, I will lean on this verse:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

–Proverbs 3:5-6


Gratitude – A Lesson Learned

Mid 1960’s.

My grandfather had been in the country only a few months, having been forced to leave his homeland. One of many Cuban exiles, he was a University professor, but was unemployed, collecting unemployment benefits. Already in his 50’s, it was difficult to find work in his field, since English was not his first language. After searching for a few months, he finally found a job. Now that he was working, there was something he had to do.

“What? Um…what do you mean, give it back?”

My grandfather had asked my father to go with him to the unemployment office. My father, having been in the country longer, already spoke enough English to be able to translate for him. As they waited their turn, my father was nervous. He knew what his father was about to do, and he knew this was going to be a difficult thing, but he also knew there was no talking his father out of it. He could be a little stubborn, and trying to persuade him out of his mission would only embolden him.

“My father wants to know how much money you have paid him in unemployment” My father asked the lady behind the counter.

She looked at my grandfather, who smiled back at her, eagerly awaiting the answer. Realizing he was serious, she told him. Once my father translated the number back to the older educator, he immediately went to work. He took out his checkbook, and began writing a check. The government worker tried to tell my grandfather it wasn’t necessary, but he stopped her by lifting his hand, as if he was a traffic officer directing a car to stop.

“Por favor…” he answered her, then kept writing, handing her a check for the full amount of unemployment benefits he had received. He instructed my father to continue translating his words.

“He wants this to go back to help the other Cubans that are coming from the island.”

My father hunched his shoulders and smiled sheepishly, knowing this was a little uncommon. The lady looked at the check as if she had never seen one before. She kept looking back and forth between the check and my grandfather, perplexed as to what to do next.

“Sir, this is very nice of you, but I don’t have any idea how to process this. There is nothing in the system to let me take this check back.”

My grandfather was not deterred. He told my father to tell the lady that he would not take no for an answer. All this of course was said in the most polite and amicable way, always smiling back at the confused worker. The lady excused herself to get her supervisor. After another discussion with the supervisor, the elder immigrant was adamant, not budging in his demands. My father was forced to do something he really didn’t want to do. He had to lie. It was the only way. He told him that it was illegal for them to take the money, that they could get fired as it could be thought of as a bribe. My grandfather, not wanting to get anybody in trouble, relented. He excused himself as politely as he he began, smiling and thanking the lady for her help.

It made the papers the next morning.

I just learned that story recently. I would like to tell you that this was a unique story, that my grandfather did something that had never been done before. Not true. It was not uncommon for Cuban exiles to try to give government assistance back to the government once they were back on their feet. In their minds, it was not their money. It did not belong to them. Cubans – as many immigrants of that era – were not taught to take money from anyone. They were taught to work for their money. It did not matter if they were poor or rich. Work was something to be admired, and as such, taking money while not working was not acceptable to them.

Here is the lesson I have learned from this story. It is about gratitude. My grandfather understood the concept of gratitude. He did not see that unemployment benefit as an entitlement, as something he was supposed to have. He understood it as a debt. He was grateful, but not only was he grateful, he realized the great responsibility that came from taking money he had not earned. The money came from somewhere, and he knew someone had to work for that money. In his mind, it was only natural for him to give it back.

What a concept.

We are talking about money here, but it really applies to anything we take without actually working for it. How many times have we been help by someone? Have we always paid it back? Are you in debt to anyone? We all are in one way or another. Have you expressed your gratitude lately to those in your life who got you through a tough time?

I will take it one step further. Have you thanked God lately? We all go through tough times. In those dark times of our lives, many of us pray. We pray that God will help us, that He will give us the strength to get us through. Then, somehow, we make it through our tough time. Things change, things get better. Do we ever recognize the one that got us through that difficult period?

One last point. Do we ever recognize where that gift really came from? Did the unemployment check my grandfather receive really come from the government, or from God? No my friend, the government does not own anything. It all belongs to God. We are called by God to be stewards of His resources. It was right for my grandfather, being a good steward of those resources, to want that money to be used to help another immigrant. He understood the concept of stewardship. Do we?

Will you make it a point today to thank God for everything you have?

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
–James 1:17

Will you thank Him for your trials and tribulations, knowing He allows them to strengthen you, to prepare you for something much greater, that He is planning for you?

“And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.“
–Deuteronomy 8:2-3

With God’s help, we make it through good times and bad. Let’s praise him always, showing our gratitude, and being good stewards of the resources He provides.

UPDATE: After writing this post, I was informed by a family member that this story did not exactly occur as stated above. I was told that the check was not for unemployment but was instead for Welfare. I was also told that my grandfather did indeed know English at the time. I am reminded by this that family stories tend to get watered down through the years, and the facts get cloudy. The message of the post is the same nevertheless. My message to those who remember the story differently – don’t shoot the messenger.

The Dunes Golf Course, Sanibel Island, Florida

I like Golf.

I started playing the sport when I was a teenager. My dad was into the sport, and I got hooked after going to the golf course with him. I later played on my high school team. After several years away from the game, I am now back into it, and I’ve got the “fever” again.

So a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took a trip to the west coast of Florida, to our favorite getaway, Sanibel Island. We decided we would take the opportunity to play a round of golf while we were there, so we booked a tee time at The Dunes Golf Course. From the pictures of the course, it seemed like a real challenge. The course is cut out of the wildlife preserve, surrounded by water, and we were looking forward to playing on this unique course.

Our tee time was at 8 am. We booked it early so that we would have time for other activities later. When we arrived, we were one of the few cars in the parking lot. Our first impressions were very good. The Country Club consists of a club house, with a restaurant and pro shop, a driving range where you hit balls into the water, and the course itself. Everything was very clean, and quite inviting.

As soon as we got out of the car, one of the staff immediately took our clubs, and asked us to register at the pro shop. This was a nice touch. It’s nice not having to lug your bag around while registering. The girl in the Pro Shop was also very friendly, registering us quickly. The pro shop is small, not too different than most golf course pro shops. After registering, we went out to get our cart, and noticed that our clubs were already on a cart, and ready to go. The starter greeted us, letting us know when we would tee off, and also advised us where to get drinks if we wanted.

One thing I really liked about the staff here was how they handled teeing off. In some of the courses I play at, there is really no organization at the first tee. The result is that everybody bunches up and you end up in a long line waiting to tee off. Not here. The carts are all lined up and you are asked to stay there until it is your turn. The starter does an excellent job of checking to make sure the party ahead of you has gone far enough on the first hole before allowing you to step up to the first tee. It makes the round more enjoyable, so that you don’t spend too much time waiting to hit your shot, and don’t hold anybody up either.

As for the course itself, it is simply breathtaking. Most of the holes have water on either one or both sides. Some holes look as if they are an island unto themselves. However, the interesting thing is that even though the water is in play on many of the holes, the hazards are so strategically placed that if you know how to manage your game well, you can avoid them easily. The result is a great round of golf while enjoying the nature around you. I lost two balls during the round, which I consider pretty good for never having played it before.

You will need to be smart off the tee on this course. The fairways are not brutally narrow, but they are not wide by any stretch. If you tend to slice, you are encouraged to account for this by aiming correctly to account for it, or you will surely play from the rough. However, another interesting thing about this course is that because of how well it is maintained, the fairways are a joy to hit from, and even the rough isn’t so – well – rough, where you will be hitting from longer grass, not weeds. Since you don’t have weeds on this course too tangle up your clubs, hitting an iron out of the rough is very possible.

Because I had never played the course before, I decided to avoid keeping score. However, after about 7 or 8 holes, I realized I probably should have. I had read reviews that said playing here was like playing “target” golf. I disagree. As I said, the maintenance of the course and positioning of the hazards were such that all you really need to do is play smart and your score should be comparable to what you normally shoot on other courses. What you definitely cannot do is whack your tee shot or approach without carefully considering you landing zone. Because you have water and narrow fairways, you must play the odds and lay up or otherwise play conservatively at times. But so what? As amateur golfers, we should be doing that anyway right?

At the end of our round, someone was there immediately to help us take our clubs off the cart, and even cleaned our clubs for us. We were truly impressed. If you are considering a weekend trip that includes a round of golf, I urge you to consider The Dunes Golf Course on Sanibel Island. You will not be disappointed with either the staff or the course.

Now, if your are still disappointed with your round, that will be on you my friend, not the course.

Have fun!

The Rock


I was a Senior in High School, living with my dad, step mom, and step sister. I had moved in with dad after my parents divorced. Why? Well, my older brother and I, we just didn’t see eye to eye. I suppose we both had our own way of dealing with divorce, and we ended up fighting all the time. In the end, when my dad moved to a rural area of South Florida, and I realized he had an extra bedroom, I jumped at the chance to have my own room, and a little piece and quiet.

It was a difficult transition for me at school. I knew no one, and the environment was completely different. The fact is that I never really adjusted, and although my grades were always decent, socially I just never fit in. I became a loner at school. I had a couple of acquaintances but no real friends. Today I wish I could go back and re-do that time. Doesn’t everybody once in a while say to themselves “if I only knew then what I know now?”

There is one thing I remember about my senior year, and it had nothing to do with school, but everything to do with my big brother. I don’t know if he did it on purpose or not, but the only thing that matters is that he did it. My brother had already graduated from high school, and I started spending weekends at my mom’s. My brother started inviting me to hang out with him and his friends. I was a little confused at first. This did not happen while he was in school. So my senior year of high school, I actually started to come out of my shell, out of the extreme shyness that was so much a part of my teenage years. I remember that year very fondly, hanging out with a brother I so much wanted to emulate.


A few years after high school, he and I started to go to a local comedy club. After a few outings, I started to realize that my brother was planning on getting on stage himself. I had no doubt he could do it successfully. He had been in drama during high school, so he was no stranger to the stage. But soon, another thought started to creep into my head. Was it possible for me to do the same? Mind you, I was still quite a timid young man. However, I so much wanted to be like my big brother, not to mention that I was also quite competitive. So I made my decision, spending the next 3 months writing comedy material, with the hopes of taking the plunge during an open mike night.

So then it came, the big night. I had practiced my routine in the mirror. I had written down my comedy bits on an index card. I had even tried some of them out on a select few, including my brother. There we were, at Uncle Funny’s in Miami. I would be the third comic to go on. The place was pretty full. My brother would also go on that night. I was sweating bullets. I was pretty scared. But I was determined to get on that stage.

“Let’s give a big warm welcome to…..”

And there I was…

All alone…

Not really. He was there. My brother was sitting right there, in the middle of the club. So I told my first joke, and all of a sudden, my brother breaks out in the most comforting loud laughter one could hope for. Of course, laughter is contagious, so others laughed with him. Then I told the second joke, and there he was again, laughing louder than anyone else. By the time I finished, the crowd was in stitches, led by guess who, my brother.

He and I would spend the next 3 years or so appearing in comedy clubs throughout South Florida. It was one of the greatest periods of my life, and was a big reason for me overcoming my shyness. I am convinced it would never have happened if my brother had not been there that night, encouraging me with his laughter. I don’t know if he even realized what he was doing that night.

It was not the first, nor the last time my brother would step up to the plate for me. He and I are only 14 months apart in age. Throughout my life, I have always felt the comfort of knowing he was there if I needed him. We have been through quite a bit together, and it hasn’t always been pretty, but as they saying goes “blood is thicker than water.”


Recently, as the best man at my wedding, he stepped up to the mike. Every time he does that, it reminds me of the days of old, watching my big brother command a stage like few others. He started talking about a rock we played on in the park as kids, and how we would imagine it was a space ship. He went on to say the following to my new wife.

“No matter what problems you go through in life, that man next to you will always be your rock.”

There was not a dry eye in the house, including mine.

Maybe he doesn’t realize it, but it really is the other way around. He has and will always be my rock.

Thanks brother…

The Bruthas


I am the assistant manager for a video rental store. It’s a franchise, a competitor to a larger video rental franchise that shall remain nameless. This was before online video rental. Back then, people actually got in their cars, drove to a store, and physically picked out the movies they wanted. Then they would drive back home, watch them, and return them the next day. I know I know, it was a crazy concept, but trust me it is all true.

So it’s Saturday night, and the place is packed. There were three employees besides myself, and we were all at our respective terminals, checking out customers. Each one of our lines was at least 6 or 7 customers deep, and we were working as quickly as possible to help our customers.

“Ring! Ring!”

The telephone rings, and one of my employees picks it up. It is her husband. They have been having problems, and I can hear that they are arguing. From discussions I have heard before, he apparently likes to drink, and when he does, likes to fight. This goes on for about a minute or so, and then she hangs up. I am relived since we cannot afford this tonight. We are too busy. She is visibly upset but continues working.

“Ring! Ring!”

Great. She picks up the phone and begins arguing again. This is not going well. I give her a look and she hangs up again. This is now becoming a problem, and customers from her line are moving to others as they realize that her line is moving slower.

“Ring! Ring!”

I reach for the phone, but she beats me to it. She pleads with her husband to stop calling, but he apparently continues the conversation. She put the phone on hold, and walks into the office in the back to continue the conversation. Customers are now upset and complaining. I assure them we will get to them as soon as possible. I am fuming inside now, but I try to work faster, and start handing out free rentals to the most angry customers, without tipping off the rest of the customers so that we don’t start a fury of free rental requests. After a few minutes, I go back and tell her she needs to get off the phone, or go home for the night. She hangs up again, and I can see she has been crying.

“Ring! Ring!”

I reach it first this time. It is him again of course.

“She is busy and can’t talk right now!”

I hang up. My employee looks at me, fear on her face. I don’t really care. I was fed up with the constant phone calls.

“Ring! Ring!”

This time she gets the phone and once more, puts it on hold to continue the argument in the back office. She comes back, and tells me “Now you did it! He is coming here to kick your @#$!” Apparently, he was in another county, but was so enraged by my hanging up on him that he decided to drive drunk all the way down to the store to beat me up. The most alarming thing was, my employee seemed almost happy about it, like she was proud of her drunken husband for standing up to me.

I am no hero. I suddenly started having visions of disaster, a drunk maniac coming in with a bunch of his friends to exact their revenge. And here I am with three young women. Those were not good odds.

“Ring! Ring!”

This time it is me calling my older brother. I tell him what happened. He tells me to hang up, call the police, and tells me he will be right there. He asked me if I had anything to defend myself. I kept a Louisville slugger under the counter just in case, and I told him so. He told me to keep it handy.

In about 5 minutes, my older brother, and one of my younger brothers were in the store. Both of them were carrying their own form of defense. The color suddenly left my female employee’s face as she saw that this was getting out of hand.

“You didn’t have to call your brothers!”

Was she really serious? Did she really think no actions would be taken, that I would just wait to be pummeled by her drunk husband?

You may think that the end of this story involves us fighting our way out of the store, warriors dodging bullets and sniper fire to save our fellow employees and the store from the assault of my employee’s husband and friends. No not really. When he got there, he was alone, and his wife told him what awaited him inside. In an apparent moment of clarity, he decided this was not a fight he wanted. They both left, she quit the next day out of embarrassment, and all ended well. Mind you, none of us were really that brave, and I have no idea what we would have done should he have gotten violent. But one thing I do know is that my brothers would not have allowed him to lay a hand on me.

Imagine my apprehension when she and her husband came in a couple of weeks later to rent a video. Of course, I tensed up as he came towards me. Was this the day of revenge for my drunken opponent? Was this the end of my walk on this earth as he pulls a weapon on me and finishes the job? Nope. He extended his hand, shook it, and apologized. He told me he was wrong.

This was not the first nor the last time my brothers came to the rescue. I have been truly blessed in this life with brothers who would do anything for me, and I for them. There have been countless times we have been there for each. No don’t go there. We are not mobsters – far from it. I am not talking about anything illegal. In most cases, it was simply an ear to listen, a hug at the right time, advice when we need it the most.

Sometimes I look at photos we have taken of us together and I think back at all we have been through together. No matter what has been asked of us, we have never asked for anything in return. Our love for each other has truly been unconditional. No it has not always been pretty. We have each been stubborn at times, and there have been arguments. Most of them have been foolish on our part. But even when we were angry at each other, we always knew it would never stop us from stepping up to the plate for each other. It is a truly great feeling to know that in this world, there are a few guys just a phone call away, willing to stand toe to toe with you through any situation.

When I need it most, I will always be able to count on….

The bruthas!

It’s Still Crooked!

December 22nd, some time in the 80’s….

I was a teenager, living with my dad and step mom. Both of them had been very busy running a business, trying to make ends meet. There had been no time for Christmas trees and decorations. The rest of my brothers and I had been telling Dad about getting a Christmas tree, and he kept saying the same thing. “Soon, son, soon…”. Well, soon turned into a couple of days before Christmas eve, and….nothing….

“This is the saddest Christmas ever.”

“This really sucks!”

“All my friends have Christmas trees.”

There were other comments as well, not just from the kids, but from my step mom as well. I guess the guilt trip finally got to Dad, and…

“Gosh darn it, we are going out tonight and get a tree!”

So we all piled into the family car, and drove off in search of the perfect tree.

Well, if you have to get a tree so close to Christmas, I am sure you can imagine that the definition of the word “perfect” might need some adjustment. The trip started out with the idea of getting a great big tree, a mammoth expression of our love for the holiday. Images of a huge towering tree taking up the entire living room, with hundreds of lights, and endless number of ornaments hanging from our acquisition soon began to change and morph as we went from location to location. It was getting late, and none of us had eaten dinner, but still no tree.

Dad was getting frustrated. I am sure he was aware that he would be blamed for ruining Christmas at this point. Something had to be done.

“Ok there is one other place we can go.”

We get to the last place in town we knew that was selling trees. It was almost closing time. The employees were not exactly happy to see us. But Gosh darn it, we were buying a tree. I won’t tell you when we got to the place that our hopes were lifted. If I remember correctly there were a total of five or six trees left, if you could actually call them trees. They were drying out already, and had few branches. Think Charlie Brown Christmas. We looked over our choices, weighed our options. Dad moves to the back and finds one of them.

“This is the one!”

“It is kind of crooked.”

“I will fix that.”

Did he actually say that? Fix it? Oh boy. So he pays for the tree, and it gets mounted on top of our car, and we are home bound. We start to lift our spirits. We have a tree! My step mom starts to talk about the ornaments she is going to bring out, Dad says he has some lights in the garage, and we start singing, carrying on. This is going to be the best Christmas ever!

Then one of us asks a question.

“Dad do you have a stand?”

Long pause. Silence. A small bead of sweat is now visible on Dad’s brow.

“We don’t need a stand. I will make one!”

Oh boy.

Now we are home, and mom is gathering the ornaments and lights while we bring in the tree. Dad is now holding the tree upright, pondering his next move. Again, there is a long silence while we all await Dad’s answer to the whole stand issue.

“Ok, you go into the back yard and get that bucket. And the rest of you, get as many rocks as you can. Hurry up!”

Oh boy. Within minutes, we gather a few hundred pounds of rock (or at least it seemed that way), and a 5 gallon paint bucket. Dad directs one of us to hold the bucket, while he picks up the tree and places it in the bucket. Then he tells us to fill the remaining space with rocks while he holds the tree.

“Gosh darn it, son hurry up!” He did not really say gosh, nor did he say darn it.

“It’s still crooked!”

Dad steps back to look at his creation. But after a couple of seconds, the tree starts to lean over, then begins to fall, and we all rush to hold it up. Apparently the rocks are not enough.

“Ok kids, take the wheelbarrow and fill it with dirt. Hurry!”

Within minutes, the bucket was packed with dirt along with the rocks. Surely now it will hold right? Nope. Still leans when you let it go. There are frowns all around now, and Dad gets the stinking feeling Christmas won’t happen unless something is done quick. MacGyver suddenly makes his appearance.

“Ok go to the garage and get that spool of wire….”

“And the tool box, and some nails!”

At this point I was pretty scared. Was this the Christmas we all end up in the hospital? How was my step mom going to explain this to the ER doctor.

“Then my husband got some nails…”

So Dad tells us to move the tree over, away from the wall. Out comes the hammer and nails, and Dad strategically pounds two nails into the wall. He then cuts a long strand of wire, wrapping it around the trunk of the tree. With the tree back in its place, he stretches the wire tight and then ties each end of the wire to the nails. Now – miraculously – our tree stays in place. Look mom, no hands!

We all step back, surveying our accomplishment. We are smiling now, and pride can clearly be seen in our faces. Yeah, it’s a screwed up, dis-functional tree, but it’s our tree, and Christmas was back on!

“It’s still crooked!”

My little brother got a swift slap up side the head for that crack. No one wanted to hear that right now. We were all too tired, sweaty, and full of tree sap to deal with any more set backs. Besides, we all knew Dad had a level in the tool box, and if he brought that thing out, we would be at this all night.

The rest of the night involved lights, ornaments, hot chocolate, singing, horsing around, and it turned out to be one of my favorite Christmas memories.

Psst…..That Christmas tree was there until March….