The Work

The Work

My work arrangement took no form, no contract, no formal understanding, and no real definition of what it was that I was supposed to be doing. Consequently, I saw myself as their consultant, arriving each day at whatever time I chose and dealing with whatever issue showed up, providing possible solutions to the presenting problem, before implementing whatever needed to be done.

In actuality my daily discourse went something like a scene from “Princess Bride”, written by William Goldman:

“Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

In Goldman’s story this discourse went on for about three years until fate showed up and Westley became the Dread Pirate Roberts.

In my story, this discourse went on for about two years until I left.

Now, there is a reason for this insanity and it lay entirely with the owners. During my time there, they were actively engaged in trying to sell this hotel. They were desperate about it. Every improvement that was made, every repair completed was because that was the one thing the last potential buyer did not want to deal with. Week after week, month after month, so many potential buyers and so many times that at the end of my work day the owner would bring me aside and let me know that my employment was potentially ending because they were most likely going to be selling in the morning.

And if it wasn’t that they were close to selling this damned business it was the fact I was sure I would arrive one morning to find them dead, her slumped over at her desk, the staff schedules strewn all over the place, and him slumped over at his desk just behind hers, knocking over his neat piles of coins that he counted each and every morning. Natural causes would be the official report but who knew in this place. The walls had stories.

And if they were to have died that would be to the giddy excitement of their daughter who would have it no other way.

And there would be no way in hell that I would ever find myself working for that bitch. We tolerated each other – me because she was the owner’s daughter and her because I was too damn good at my job and the owners loved me. The coroners would be barely completed with the removal of the owner’s bodies before they would have to come back for at least one more.

Day one was me sitting down in their office hearing about the tale of their getting scammed. Day two was me beginning to track down all of the information I would need to help them sort out this mess. A couple of weeks went by and I had all the reports done, the audit complete, and some of their financial mess cleaned up. I then moved on to the next project and then the next, and the next, and so on.

This continued until one day the wife was frustrated with the kitchen and she asked me if I knew anything about cooking or running a kitchen. She seemed to have forgotten that I had owned a restaurant but perhaps it was only a reflection of her own experience that I was offended by. I responded yes and then my consulting role changed to a more active management role over the restaurant, pub, and banquet facilities. I worked closely with her and I revised the menus, trained new staff, cleaned up the restaurant and worked on improving her banquet business.

The threat of losing my job each day remained, and my paths crossed all the more with her daughter and her granddaughter, however there did seem to be some resemblance to normalcy with this slight change of roles. And with the last potential sale gone down the crapper I was now working with the husband in installing a state of the art computer system for both the pub, the restaurant, and the banquet facilities. I was now programming and doing the hotel’s IT work on top of running another restaurant.

I was enjoying the paychecks, which helped us complete our adoption journey while I was there, however I couldn’t help but find myself stuck back in that old place of wondering what the hell I was supposed to be doing with my life. Sure I got a buzz out of wondering if today was the day but when those days turned into weeks, turned into months, I began to think that this threat of losing my job was only another carrot dangling from a stick.

 

The Characters

The Characters

He was way past his prime, the years having caught up to him. He walked with a distinct limp, his left foot akimbo to both legs and his right foot. His hair was peppery white and he crouched over, his stocky frame making him appear to be like a large medicine ball with legs and arms. His favorite hangout was a competitor’s pub down the street where he would sip ‘special coffees’ all day long until summoned. Whenever he would show up he always carried an oversized pipe wrench, as old as he was or even older. He had an edge about him, not giving a damn about what was going on in the world around him, and he liked it that way. He was the go-to maintenance guy for our ‘unique’ set of problems, and the other pubs/hotels in the downtown core felt the same way as well.

She manned the bar and I place emphasis on the use of gender terminology for she would, and did, easily go toe-to-toe and eye-to-eye with any foul-mouthed intoxicated male who should have been cut off a couple of hours earlier. Without blinking an eye she would come out from behind the bar and remove said male from the premises like she was throwing out Kleenex. Then she would march back in and with a stare-down that would make Clint Eastwood hesitate she would challenge the room before returning to her roost behind the bar.

Then there was the barmaid’s equal – the bosses daughter who ran the kitchen and banquet facilities like she knew what the hell she was doing, although most of what she knew came from reading a housekeeping magazine or attending another snub your nose high in the sky event for the rich and not so famous. Consequently, we were serving panini sandwiches when most patrons just called it a grilled cheese. Her form of managing people was through the use of yelling, screaming, and demeaning antics, designed to intimidate, humiliate, and segregate. Consequently, the staff all had various psycho semantic symptoms.

Her husband, on the other hand, was literally half the size as her and as timid as a garlic-flavored pickle. Together, they both owned and operated a local butcher’s shop slash mini-grocery store just down a couple of blocks from this hotel. He spent most of his time there and she spent most of her time away from him, sitting in the pub, talking shit with the rest of the patrons until called upon to yell at someone new in the kitchen. When their business didn’t do so well, he headed north to work on the oil rigs and they both seemed to enjoy the break from each other. One of those times away, he found Jesus and came back a changed man, much to her frustration. Jesus didn’t seem to bring new life to their marriage and eventually it crumbled apart.

Interestingly enough this woman was the daughter of the wife who co-owned the business with her husband, however he was not her father. The owners were both working on their second marriages, the first one for her not working out so good. The daughter was proof of that fact. Ironically, perhaps, the daughter also had a daughter from a previous relationship, who ran around like she owned the place, and enjoyed taking off, chasing the parties and the who’s who in the larger cities in the area. When the money dried up and mom was tired of bailing her out, the owner allowed her granddaughter to work in the restaurant, bringing her natural charm into the mix.

Then there were the owners. A husband and wife team who had been together for quite awhile, remarkably as I discovered but it seemed it was a mutually beneficial arrangement. He had spent his career as a pharmacist and I forgot what she had done but together they had amassed enough of a nest egg that they no longer needed to work. Instead, he got bored out in the eastern part of Canada and went online looking for something to do. He found this hotel for sale and thought that was a brilliant idea that would keep him busy, keep his investment secure, and allow him to play some more golf.

He couldn’t of been more wrong.

In the end, their decision kept the slot machines busy in the area, and a fresh supply of wines in the pub, only enjoyed by her while he sampled the many beers in both his pub and his cold beer and wine store, where he opted to spend the majority of his time. They both did not want to be there, perhaps even the day after they first bought the place but most definitely now, when forced to take it back over from the person they had hoped had bought it but instead scammed them out of more than one hundred thousand dollars.

When I sat down to talk with this couple I found myself drawn to them. I liked them. I liked their quirkiness. I felt sorry for them and I wanted to help them out. We talked about and agreed on a weekly salary. We then talked about what they needed me to do.

They weren’t sure.

So, we started with the most pressing issue. They were being audited for both the provincial sales tax and national sales tax, and in particular how that related to their liquor sales. An audit meant that instead of just focusing on the last six months of when this scam artist had the business and refused to pay these sorts of things – they were going back the maximum five years. Turns out, paperwork and administration was not really their strong point. They had the receipts but they were stored loosely in empty liquor boxes down in the crawl space by the massive steam boilers.

And so this is where I began. Day one.

The Hotel

The Hotel

With its distinctive round, shiny copper dome atop the three story wooden structure, this historic hotel is an icon for this valley city. Not the original hotel however, as that was built a couple years earlier across the street from its current location before it burned down and was replaced with this more ‘modern’ building. All of this occurred before the city actually became a city, which helped to set this building up as the icon that it is today. A large hotel in its day with three stories and 50 rooms the balconies that complimented the rooms on each floor takes the visitor right back to a setting in the late 1800s.

Of course, the pub, which takes up most of the first floor helped reinforce that old western theme even to this day. Back in the middle of the last century when this valley city was bankrupt and the entire city resorted back to its roots in the wild west, rumour has it that this hotel was more of a brothel house then a hotel. But that was back in the day when there was another famous legend of a gang of bikers rolling into town, stirring up some trouble and going after the women in the town. Their husbands and boyfriends, and the rest of the men, who were out working the mine heard about this and left their jobs to head back into the town. The miners clashed with the bikers, beating the stuffing out of them, driving the bikers out of the town.

Yep, this valley city has a very colorful past and I was on my way to meet with the owners of the most famous icon of them all.

Over the decades this iconic hotel had been added onto. First a large restaurant was attached to the building, making it possible for patrons to order some of the hotel’s famous food without needing to go into the pub. Then they added on a large banquet room to the back of the hotel, which quickly became the place to go for weddings, special occasions or community gatherings. The last addition was a separate building on the property where they had opened a cold beer and wine store, the bread and butter of the entire operation. However, the last updates to the hotel happened several decades earlier and although the age of the building and the lack of modern updates lent to the public’s appeal of the place, operationally it presented many challenges.

Nothing had been modernized inside the building and in fact the owners were still using the hotel’s original safe, a two-tonne fortress on wheels, that they never locked completely, for fear that they would not be able to open it again. The original lobby was no more than a half door leading to a hallway and two offices. To the right, off of this lobby, you could enter into the spacious restaurant or to the left you could walk through some old oak doors into the historic pub. Just slightly off of the lobby there were a set of stairs that took you up to the rooms. There was no elevator back in those days.

As you walked up the worn red shag carpet to the first landing you needed to take a 90-degree turn to continue walking up to the landing for the second floor. Pushing open the doors you are immediately transported back to the beginnings of the last century. High ceilings with narrow arched doorways. Thick woodwork lined the hallways that traveled around the second floor like a square. The entire center of the second and third floors is empty with the windows in the rooms looking at each other and the somewhat obstructed sky above. Everything had various shades of the same color of paint on it, the efforts of maintenance men over the decades trying to keep this building together.

Walking down the dimly lit hallway, even on the brightest of days outside, lent itself to you screaming out, “Don’t go down there!” like a cheap theatrical horror movie. A fluttering bulb, and the old creaks and groans of a worn out old boiler system pushing heated up old sludge through its pipes added to the atmosphere of the place. To say it was creepy would be an understatement. Then there were the residents. Long ago, the proprietors stopped trying to market the hotel aspect of the business, instead providing rooms to the various music acts that would entertain the bar patrons until 2am, and saving a handful of rooms for the odd traveler who had lost their way.

Instead the business came from renting the rooms for the week or the month or for an indefinite amount of time, depending on the circumstances. This meant that there were now a very colorful group of residents who lived on the second and third floors of this historic building. They would provide dramatic theatrics for the staff and emergency personnel that would frequent the establishment every weekend or when the monthly checks were handed out. Most of these residents were not seen during the day, some you only heard rumours of, others you regularly checked in on to make sure “things were still okay”. And over the next couple of years that I worked there, unfortunately a small handful of them were carried out of the building, never to return again.

 

Leaving the Cult, Sort of.

Leaving the Cult, Sort of.

When my wife and I talk about leaving the cult we present two different dates. The first date was a few months before the restaurant closed down. That was her date and she attributes that date to their – no, his disgust – over us purchasing the van. Perhaps she is correct, although I find the timing of my departure from the role of General Manager to Restaurateur an interesting coincidence in regards to my falling from his grace. Considering I was no longer in a position to provide ongoing employment to every member of his family, what good was I too him?

But, I digress, because the date of departure that I reference occurred a few years later, although we no longer attended the cult services held in his basement – the final severing of relationship from the cult, for me, occurred over a fateful conversation a few years later. We still remained tangled with them, though not through our own means but by his relentless pursuit of us – of me, as his prize and his property.

When we transitioned back into a community church he phoned the pastor several times to ‘inform’ him of all of my misgivings. He contacted his followers on the island, informing them that they were to no longer have any contact with us under any circumstances. He then monitored our social media and any contact we had with people remotely connected to him in the community and beyond, in an attempt to control what was said and not said about him.

He even would find us in this valley city and confront us with questions around what we may have shared or told others about him and his family. In those days it was hard enough for my wife and I to even find language to talk with one another about what we had experienced, so because of that we did not say a word about this cult leader or his family to anyone else. In fact, my wife and I had made a commitment to one another that we would only talk well of him and his family – if pressed – in order to avoid any further conflict with him.

This continued for years, even after my ‘official’ exit date and continued longer, even though we were beginning to be contacted by others in the cult that wanted to understand how we were able to exit. They had heard such horrible stories about us from this cult leader but things were no longer adding up in their heads and they were beginning to question what was going on. We shared our story with a few people who, as far as we can tell, have been able to make a clean break of it all and in fact it has only been in the last few years that I can confidently talk about the cult experience I had – using such strong language. I can talk that way because I feel safe enough now – even if he were to begin his terrorizing once again the damage he would be able to do would be minimal as his foolishness would be exposed long before people in my life would begin to believe him.

But that departure – the first date that my wife subscribes to – created another clean slate place for us. In the beginning the time was consumed by our restaurant and the adoption process. It was if we had no time for anything else. But when the restaurant closed and we were now restarting as a family – in those moments I was realizing the chance we had once again to start over. It was a small enough place – this valley city – where you did get to know everyone as you walked downtown – but just big enough that people were not that wrapped up in each other’s lives that we could figure out how to start over again.

And start over we did.

We began attending the same church we had gone to years earlier but with some few faces in the mix, a new pastor and leadership team, and enough life experience to be welcoming to some weary travelers, such as we were. It was refreshing to be connected to a larger community once again and I now began the arduous process of rebuilding the broken relationships that was a result of my involvement in the cult over the last few years.

In the sanctity of these new beginnings I was beginning to think clearly again. My wife and I spoke to great lengths over where we were in our life and what it was that we wanted to do. Adoption was the answer. Even though we now had this financial hard place to recover from we did not want to disrupt or worse – shutdown the adoption process, so we were able to slow our lives down to a step-by-step process. First, I would pursue employment opportunities so we can keep paying the bills and continue walking through this adoption process. Once the adoption was complete then we would regroup and rethink life options.

Seemed good enough for me.

Next step was to set up a meeting with this couple to discuss what they needed and whether or not I could help them.

Finding Myself

Finding Myself

Okay, let’s go back to that back parking lot, the sun fading as the fire exit door closed on my dream for the last time. With a heavy heart I climbed into our van and turned the key – the last employee – ex-employee now, having driven away with a trunk full of inventory stripped from the shelves of my defunct restaurant. I pulled the transmission into gear and pressed the accelerator softly, rolling away like a funeral procession from this truck-stop that I had helped build, set-up, and become successful. There was no glory left for me in this place, no celebration of my accomplishments, and I suspected, within days, no mention of me at all.

As I was driving home I was reflecting on all that had been happening in my life and what it all meant. Meaningless. It was all for naught. I had climbed that mountain of success. I had achieved my highest dream, my largest accomplishment and it turned out to be a pile of shit. Worse, though, was because of the sudden closure of the restaurant I now had a staggering debt load to deal with. The prospects of being unemployed once again overwhelmed me. Figuring out how to pay my bills overwhelmed me. Figuring out what to do with my life next overwhelmed me. Then there was the adoption process. Being unemployed would jeopardize the adoption process. Declaring bankruptcy would end the adoption process.

I could only see one option.

We needed to get the hell out of Dodge.

Fortunately my wife was feeling the same way. We needed to get out of this valley city – to regroup and rethink life. To figure out what our next move would be. There was one option waiting for me. The sales agent of the supply company that I utilized for the restaurant had approached me. He explained that a couple who owned the local historic hotel had just recently been scammed in their attempt to sell the business and were forced to take it back over. However they were in desperate need to have someone come along and help them clean up the mess. I told the sales agent that I would think about it but what I was going to do right now was to take off for an indefinite amount of time  with my family – to clear my head and figure out what my next move might be.

With that my wife and I packed up the children and some suitcases for a trip to somewhere, nowhere, and anywhere. The children were excited and we just didn’t care anymore. So with an eenie meenie miney mo, we chose the highway leading to the south Okanagan. We traveled on a whim, stopping wherever we wanted to stop and staying wherever we wanted to stay. No reservations, no planning, just going and stopping as we wanted – as we needed.

Without a care in the world we pulled up to museums, roadside attractions, and eateries that caught our eye as we traveled along the highway. As we drove, we began to put a bit of plan in place, deciding to travel into the southern part of this most western province, back into an area where my wife’s family lived and back to the mountain top village so I could prove to my children once and for all that I truly did walk uphill both ways to school.

Along the way we took a detour that weaved its way up into the mountain passes that dominated the bottom half of the province, surrounded with lakes and lonely, isolated mountains, long ago searched for gold with only their make shift gold rush shanty’s telling the story today. We got distracted with a quest to find one of these forgotten places, the last stop for an old paddle-wheeler, where my wife’s long ago relatives came and settled. We found it after driving along a windy and often narrow road.

It was a beautiful place, in a haunting sort of way, the surface of the massive lake still and quiet, echoing the sounds of birds, which interrupted the silence. We found a cabin to rent and booked it for a few days. We took in the sites around this quaint little community, toured the paddle-wheeler that had been dragged onto the shore and turned into a tourist stop. We searched the cemetery but could not find their resting place, however the cemetery was much, much larger than we had realized, for this was an old town and an important town back when these hills were luring the young man with tales of riches and fame.

After a couple of days the loneliness of that place was beginning to catch up to us and we found ourselves reflecting on our own failed dreams and uncertainties of life that awaited us back at home. Our present circumstances had found us so it was time to pack up and take off again in hopes that we could outrun them in the high mountain passes of my old stomping grounds. But it was too late. They caught up and stayed with us, pressing on my wife and I and we began to fill the journey with talks of what was next.

The option waiting for me back home was beginning to look a lot more attractive. Any other option surely meant that we would have to end our adoption journey and we did not want to do that. I would at least have a conversation with them to see what it was that they wanted help for and perhaps it would provide a fill-in-the-gap sort of thing until I did get my head screwed on correctly to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life.

And so, having solved none of the world’s problems, and only a handful of our own, we turned the vehicle around and headed back home. It had been a shorter trip then we would have liked but it was chalked full of memories, fond memories that the children still talk about to this day, a spontaneous vacation filled with sights and sounds, a fun adventure for them and a hard drive down the road called life for us.

 

Life’s Roller-Coaster

Life’s Roller-Coaster

Something else was becoming obvious to us as my wife was chasing our toddlers and young children around our house. We had outgrown our piece of paradise. When we purchased our home it had two bedrooms. Our addition added one more large master bedroom but the rest of the dimensions remained the same. Now with our children getting older it was no longer the accessories that babies and toddlers have that were taking up the space but it was them. And us. We were beginning to trip over each other and an attempt for any of us to have some corner where we could retreat to – even for a few moments was getting less and less plausible.

So we made the decision to sell.

A bright, sunshine-filled, landscaped yard, filled with roses and tulips and spring flowers. We loved everything about that place and saying goodbye wasn’t easy. We sold and for an interim solution we rented a home on the opposite side of the valley city, until we figured out what we wanted to do in terms of home ownership. At first it was comedic as we unpacked our belongings into this new home. It was a two-story, large 5-bedroom home with a full basement, large living room, dining room, and kitchen. Once unpacked, the house still seemed empty and deserted. However, it didn’t take long for our children to unfold and begin to fill in order to expand into their new space and for the first time we all had a corner to retreat to for some alone time.

In the middle of this life transition we had already begun the process of adoption. The paperwork, the registration, the home study, the references, the fees, the portfolio, the pictures of our home, the courses, the reading, the research, the phone calls, and ultimately the heartbreak. Ideally, we were looking to adopt children that fit into the natural birth order of our family. That meant we were looking to adopt children that were younger than our youngest. Not entirely impossible but difficult. Then there were the adoption rules of Canada, and in particular within the province we were living in. Minority population groups were given preference to be adopted by similar races and cultures in an effort to preserve the adoptee’s heritage. Given Canada’s history as a nation in such matters it made sense but it complicated our own adoption efforts.

This meant that we would need to pursue an international adoption and entering into that foray meant an extensive study of diplomatic relationships as  country by country adoption rules differed dramatically from each other and sometimes changed within their own country over the course of months. As we were walking this journey out, contacting various adoption agencies and working extensively with our own adoption agency, located down at the coast we also opted to provide some fostering. This lead us to providing both some respite and emergency foster care for a young girl, whom we grew quite fond of.

Emotionally we were on a roller-coaster ride that would win awards.

We purchased a newer vehicle that conjured up the disdain of our cult leader and as I was already struggling to comply to his ever-increasing behavioral expectation he was relentless with his pursuit and concerted effort to ‘fix’ me. We were walking out the growing struggles with my work place environment, first as the General Manager and then as the restaurant owner, becoming more and more aware of the under-girding antics of the new General Manager to push me out. Mixed into that was coming to a place where we needed to sell our home and now where not only were we pursuing adoption, which was getting to be much more difficult then I had imagined, but we were also foster parents, caught up in the emotional journey of that experience as well.

At one point we were working with an agency in the United States and had come very close to having an adoption go through but at the eleventh hour circumstances arose that stopped the entire process, leaving us dangling there, emotions spilled out on the floor. Constant phone calls, keeping a cell phone on us at all times, in expectation that we would receive the call and need to board a plane immediately, it all was becoming too much. We needed to figure out another strategy.

But in the midst of this part of the journey there would be no time for that. For, the home we were renting was sold, much to our surprise as the owners had committed to us that they were not selling the home, so we had two months in which to find another place to move into. We did, and interestingly enough it was just down a few blocks from our cult leader’s home. But this – even larger home – was shared with a downstairs tenant, who rented out the two-bedroom enclosed suite. At first this was a young mother but shortly after we had settled into the home she moved out and our cult leader’s wife’s twin brother – my old assistant from the truck-stop – moved in.

More frustrating, perhaps, then the whirlwind of circumstances that seemed to be tossing us around, was that the cult leader now knew of our adoption plans and his ruling on the matter was that we were now actively sinning against God. He had concluded that our very painful journey of losing our son a few years earlier was God’s way of letting us know that we were not to have any more children. It was decided and we needed to accept that and our not accepting that fact, only meant that we were sinning, broken, rebellious, and in need for much healing. The purchase of the van only added to that fact.

He had made his stand and decree against me and our family.

Now it was time to leave.

The Birth of Another Dream

The Birth of Another Dream

Okay, wait one minute. We need to leave me sitting in my vehicle out back of my now defunct restaurant, wallowing in self-pity with an every increasing hatred for the asshole who had caused this. We need to leave that moment in time and turn back the clocks because what happens next won’t make sense without the telling of the other story that was going on during my time at the truck-stop. This is the story that matters.

In the quietness of our days, away from the demands of my new job managing this truck-stop, and caring for our children, and the constant behavioral adjustments being forced upon us from the cult leader, my wife and I would retreat to our master bedroom, our private patio, and most importantly our vehicle. During the months that we did not have a vehicle, nor were we employed, we took solace on our back patio, just off of our master bedroom, where we would swing late into the evenings, watching the sky, and holding each other close. Those were healing moments and were a very important place for us to rest our hearts and allow us the space to grieve the loss of our son together.

Our ‘wintering in the prairie golden city’ was a significant chapter for me in terms of my coming to grips with the loss of my son. I had sought some personal counselling when we were there and found it to be very helpful. Oddly enough, when we returned back to the valley city and started participating with the cult leader this is the one area that I kept from him. It was if I would allow him to use and abuse every other part of me to his sick satisfaction but I would not allow the memory and existence of my son to be used by him as well. Oh, he tried, in an almost I-told-you sort of way, reminding me of the stance he took near the beginning of our pregnancy journey, but that only drove a wedge between him and I and he very wisely backed off and stopped chasing after that prize that I was clutching to my chest.

Ironically, looking back, I think it was this precious part of our lives – both my wife’s and myself, that set in place the disruption to this cult existence. Like a pebble in one’s shoe it was a constant interruption to what had become my new ‘norm’ and served as just enough of a crack in an otherwise locked door, which, in the end provided the escape out of the cult. For, as life continued on and we were getting immersed in the cult, and now with a new job, as grief and loss always attest to, there were moments along that journey where I would be reminded of my incredible loss and would retreat – first by myself to begin processing that loss in the moment but inevitably that journey would bring my wife and I together to process that loss as a couple.

When I was starting at the truck-stop we purchased another vehicle – a temporary vehicle to help us get back on our feet. After a year of employment we purchased a newer and larger vehicle to accommodate our family’s needs, much to the frustration of our cult leader. However, we were not phased by his comments because of something far more powerful in our lives – the journey of grief.

My wife and I drive just for the sake of driving. When we were dating we would drive hours and hours and spend that time talking and laughing and crying together. It was what we did – it was foundational to our source of entertainment and that has continued for over the last two decades. It is not uncommon for us to get in the vehicle after work and go on a drive to nowhere for several hours so we can “solve the world’s problems” – and a few of our own along the way.

This was the one area of our lives that the cult leader could not get at. He couldn’t control it, perhaps because he didn’t really know about it. That didn’t matter though because during this period in our lives, driving and processing our loss went hand in hand and we would ferociously defend it. So drive we did and the many mountains that surrounded this valley provided us with relatively small getaways, yet secluded so we could drive and be detached from life and the various responsibilities that came with it.

It was in these mountains that we cried for our son. We mourned his loss and with it our dreams. But it was also in those same mountains that we found healing and over time we dusted off an old dream of ours – a dream that we talked about when we were dating and then engaged – when talking about family planning was an expected topic to bring up. During those early family planning conversations we talked about our desire to have children – lots of them – as many as we could and then when we couldn’t have them naturally we would look at adoption as a way to continue to grow our family.

It made sense to us and the thought brought us a lot of joy. Then we got married and soon after my wife was pregnant with our first child. The dream of adoption was put up on a shelf but not forgotten.

Now, up in those mountains, overlooking the valley city below, and safe from the world’s prying eyes, my wife and I reached up to that shelf and grabbed hold of that adoption dream, dusting it off and setting it on our laps to look at and to talk about.

Another dream was taking shape.