Six months later…
It was the end of summer. We were so happy to announce the news that we were matched with a birth mother and were going to be adopting her baby boy when he was born. The days and weeks that followed were filled with baby showers, books about parenting, shopping for tiny clothes, comparing baby formulas, meeting with pediatricians, and an obsession with the scent of baby powder (because it smells like heaven).
Autumn came with all its glory. I imagined crisp mornings walking through the park with our baby in his stroller, as the leaves blended from earthy shades of green to fiery crimson. I began an evening ritual of reading Winnie the Pooh stories to an empty crib—just for practice. I imagined that I was sending my loving words out into the universe, and somehow miraculously, our baby would receive them in his mother’s womb.
Two weeks before the due date, the mother disappeared. Daniel and I panicked, although panic isn’t a strong enough word. I can’t convey the helpless feeling of being at someone else’s mercy, not knowing where she was and if our unborn child was alright. Sleep was a novelty. Daniel was able to stay busy at work, but I couldn’t function other than just sitting on the couch watching Netflix like a zombie.
Our agency assured us that it’s normal for a mother to freak out right before she gives birth. It was possible that she just needed space to make peace with her decision. But they also told us it’s possible she had changed her mind, which is always a risk with adoption. We knew the risk, but nothing can prepare you for the shock when it actually happens.
The due date came and went. Many things happened in between, and I suppose none of those details matter now. We didn’t come home with a baby, so this particular little boy wasn’t meant to be ours. His mother has a long history of problems. Her other children were already in foster care, and we suspect it’s just a matter of time before that baby ends up being taken away too.
All of it was preventable. We were offering a stable, loving home for the child, and for reasons we’ll never know, his mother bailed at the last minute. If she were a responsible, trustworthy adult, maybe the sting wouldn’t hurt so much. But we know this poor child will suffer, and it breaks our hearts.
The half year that followed was filled with sorrow. Therapists compare it to a miscarriage. Although the child wasn’t biologically ours, we still went through many of the mental and emotional steps of preparing for bringing a baby home. And then we didn’t.
We spent one year year working with a private agency on this adoption. We spent two years before that working with the foster system. Adoption is a broken system all the way around, and it rarely ever focuses on the health and well-being of the children, or the families who are dedicating their whole lives to adopting a stranger’s child. It’s a terrible system.
We always heard horror stories of couples waiting five years to be placed with a child. We thought that was ridiculous. How could it take half a decade to have a child? But now we understand. The system moves slowly. There are set-backs. Cases fall through the cracks. Birth mothers disappear after months of coordinating details.
Then there are those lucky few. Those couples who adopt a baby within one week and seem to live a charmed life. We know several of them. They look at us with such pity. “What are you doing wrong? I don’t understand why it’s taken you three years?” they say to us. I’d like to sucker-punch them, but I just smile and say, “It’s different for everybody.”
I’m not looking for advice. God knows there has been no shortage of family and friends who think they have some clever plot on how we can expedite things. We know they are just trying to help. But there is no quick pass to adoption…
We don’t need another person telling us what to do. We just want people to hear our story, understand that we’re hurting, and offer us a hug or pat on the back. That’s all anyone can really do.
I hope that a child is in our future. Until then, we move forward.
It was Sunday night and Daniel and I were folding baby clothes. Little socks and shoes, mittens, bibs, onesies. I couldn’t believe how tiny they were. This is really happening, I thought to myself.
We’ve been matched with a baby boy for adoption. The whole thing feels like a dream, after nearly two and a half years of ups and downs, set-backs and near-misses. Adoption has been the hardest thing we’ve ever gone through, and yet all the hurt and disappointment melted away as soon as we got the good news. It’s all coming together now and the wait will soon be over. He hasn’t been born yet, and I will have to keep many details private. But later this year, a baby will be born and we’ll be bringing him home. We’re so happy!
I look forward to sharing stories of our new life as fathers: the funny moments, the sweet moments, and the moments of sheer joy. Daniel and I are going to be Dads.
Twenty years ago, I wrote my first short story. Even then, at the age of twelve, I had a thirst for bringing stories to life on a page.
The story was about a teenager possessed by the murderous spirit of his dead uncle. I’m pretty sure the plot was influenced by several dozen horror films coming out in the early 1990s, but hey, it was a kid’s first effort at building suspense. I can’t say it was the most original, but I gave it a go. I wrote two sequels over the next year, and as I matured into a teenager, my judgmental inner critic took over and I never wrote a story again.
Five years ago, I got the writing bug again and started drafting a book. I didn’t know the first thing about writing a book, but I had a new story I was compelled to tell, so I started anyway. The words poured out of me at first, but eventually that same inner critic chipped away at me until I surrendered.
Our inner critic is a terrible monster, far crueler than any bad review could ever be. The inner critic knows your weaknesses, your insecurities, and he goes for the jugular every time. Suffice it to say, I never finished that book, and the story has become so diluted over time, I don’t know if I ever will finish it.
Last month I learned about a book called No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty. It’s a mind-boggling test of your sanity that pushes you to write your first draft of a novel in 50,000 words and 30 days. I’m have trouble with 30 day programs and usually either give up or lose interest in the first week. I knew it was really going to be a test of my will power and creativity.
On day one, I started with a blank slate, as the book recommends. I had no concept of the characters, plot, or locations. I just took an idea that popped into my head and ran with it, diligently writing each day and letting the fictitious characters hold my hand and lead me into their world. These characters told me how they feel, how they react in certain situations, and they told me their story as I listened to him. It felt like an out-of-body experience.
It’s been 20 days and I reached 25,000 words, which is only half of the goal I was supposed to meet. But the story is complete and I won’t be writing during the remaining 10 days (unless I get a sudden burst of inspiration).
By the standards of the No Plot? No Problem! book, I didn’t complete the assignment. But I feel that the story was successfully told in 25,000 words and I’m satisfied with the results. It has a clear beginning, middle, and end with multiple conflicts and resolutions.
Could the story be extended to 50k or 100k words? Absolutely. I think there is a lot of room to grow with this story, but it will require a visit from my inner critic in order to work out all the little details with character development and extended plot points. Now is not the time for the inner critic. It’s not the point of the first draft. My goal was to get a cohesive book written at break-neck speed, and I’ve succeeded.
The current status is novella, which 25k words is acceptable for. I’ve written my first novella and now I can go confidently into the future, knowing a lot more about the process of writing a book.
If you’ve ever wanted to write a book, I highly, HIGHLY encourage you to test out the principles of No Plot? No Problem! sometime very soon, before you talk yourself out of the idea. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but the rewarding feeling is worth every sleepless night and it’s over in the blink of an eye. A month later, you’ll have your first draft of a story done.
Who’s up for the challenge? Leave a comment and let me know!
A dream came true for me during our Hollywood vacation (see previous post). As some of you know, I’m a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies and Psycho is one of my favorites. I’ve always wanted to see the famous house and Bates Motel up-close.
Universal Studios Hollywood offers tours that pass by the house on a tram. It all happens in the blink of an eye, so if you’re a hardcore fan, it’s not enough. I really wanted to actually get off the tram and walk on the set.
I called the ticket hotline and told them it was my goal to see the house and actually walk around. They told me I could do that with their VIP Experience, which costs a hefty $299 per person. That’s a lot of money for a studio tour, but Daniel and I decided that it’s actually a small price to pay if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do. For example, if your dream is to see the Eiffel Tower, you might spend thousands of dollars on a trip to Paris. With that in mind, it’s really not so bad to pay $299 per person for the VIP Experience.
We arrived at the VIP entrance of Universal at 9 A.M. and enjoyed a gourmet breakfast. Our tour guide then took us to the rides, which we got on immediately with no wait. After that, we took walking tours of movie and TV sets, including the houses from the NBC show About a Boy. An amazing lunch followed with beef, lobster, pasta, desserts, and any other extravagancy you could imagine, all included as part of the experience.
After stuffing our faces, we continued on the tour. Our tour guide knew we wanted to see the Psycho house because at the beginning of the tour, he’d asked everyone if there were any special places people wanted to see. I explained to him that it was my dream, and it was the only reason we bought the VIP tickets, and he said he understood. We were six hours into the tour, pretty worn out from all the fun we’d had, and we finally came up to the Bates Motel.
Our tour guide didn’t stop to give us warning, and it happened so fast that I didn’t even have time to get my camera out. The tram drove right past the motel and house, and in the blink of an eye, it was all over. I felt heartbroken. It was the same drive-by viewing we would have gotten if we’d bought standard tickets to the park. All this waiting and anticipation for that?
When we got off the tram, the guide asked if we had enjoyed the tour. I told him that I was actually pretty upset. I explained that when we bought the tickets, we were told we’d get to walk around the motel and house, and that’s the only reason we bought the tickets. I also told him I didn’t understand why he said we’d spend time at the motel when all we really did was drive by it. He said we could always ride the tram again, as if that was a reasonable solution.
Our tour group dispersed at 3 P.M. Daniel asked if I wanted to go back and take the tram again. I said, “No, this is not over.” We walked to the front of the park and tried to get into the office of the VIP tours. The doors were already locked and apparently they were closed for the day… At 3 o’clock. I guess they cut out early to avoid any unhappy guests.
We then went to the customer service building and I patiently explained the situation to a young man at the desk. He didn’t seem to know what Psycho was, nor did he understand what I was trying to accomplish, but he called over another gentleman, who I also explained the story to. This man seemed to understand about the movie and the set, and he explained that the agent who sold us the tickets must have been “mistaken,” and said that the set is far too old and rickety for people to walk around. That’s why people can only see it from the tram.
While all this was going on, the younger guy called over to the VIP office and got someone on the phone for me. The man on the phone was very nice and listened intently as I explained the situation to him. He said, “This isn’t right. We have to fix this. Will you wait in the office for 20 minutes? I need to make a phone call.”
Here’s where the fun begins…
20 minutes later, a new tour guide walked in and greeted us. “Come with me,” he said.
He led us behind the building and a large gate opened up, revealing the backlot of Universal Studios. It was like stepping into a new world. At first I thought we were going to get on a tram and drive by the house again, but when he took us over to a van, I knew something bigger was happening. We got inside and started driving through the back roads, past famous buildings and houses seen in hundreds of movies and TV shows.
“Is this really happening?” I said to Daniel with a huge grin.
A few minutes later, the van was parked in the lot of the famous Bates Motel. It was just the two of us with the tour guide and driver. We walked around the parameter of the motel, snapping dozens of photos from every angle. It must have looked hilarious seeing us taking pictures of a decrepit old house like a couple of paparazzi.
“Hey guys,” the van driver said. “I need to make a few stops. Do you mind if I leave you here for a half hour?”
Um, hmmm…. Leave us here alone at the Bates Motel with our own personal tour guide? Let me think about it…
“Do you want to go up to the house?” the tour guide asked.
“Can we do that?” I asked.
“Well you have to be very careful on the steps going up the hill. They’re pretty old, so watch where you step.”
The steps had huge gaps in them, so we tried to stay around the edges where there was more support. There we were, creeping up the hill toward the house, just like Lila Crane. It was sunset and there was an eerie glow behind the trees. It was perfect.
When we got up to the house, I noticed our tour guide was busy on his phone and a plot seemed to be brewing. A few minutes later, I looked down at the motel to see a man in a khaki blazer creeping up the steps toward us. It was an actor dressed as Norman Bates!
We posed for a photo on the front porch with Norman. As we were standing there, he whipped out a butcher knife from his coat pocket and aimed it at me.
It was all so beautifully sinister and wonderful. We loved it. Apparently the actor dressed as Norman was already done for the day, but our thoughtful tour guide had called him and asked him to come back to the set to surprise us. Now that is how you do a VIP Experience!
We were so grateful and must have thanked the tour guide several dozen times. He explained his philosophy about how Universal Studios makes movies that people love. Audiences pay money to see the movies, money to buy the memorabilia, and money to see the park. If Universal can make someone’s dream come true simply by taking them to the set, they should do it, and so that’s what they did for us that day.
I am so happy that I can say we got to see the Psycho house and Bates Motel up-close. It was unfortunate that things hadn’t worked out with our first tour guide, but I’m actually happier with the way it worked out because of the special tour we got. I owe a huge thank you to everyone at Universal who made this Hitchcock fan’s dream come true!
Daniel and I recently took a vacation to Hollywood to see my friend Winston.
Winston was the first friend I could be honest with when I was coming to terms with being gay. We met online in 1997 when I was 15.
Over the years Winston has become like a big brother to me. He offered support when I first came out, made me laugh when I had my heart broken by a boy for the first time, and he’s been a part of every milestone in my adult life.
Since he lives in Berlin, we don’t see each other often. Actually it had been 10 years since I saw him last, so when I found out he’d be staying in the L.A. area for awhile, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to go visit. Daniel had never met Winston, and had never been to Los Angeles. I was there once before, but it was a quick trip and I didn’t feel like I really had the chance to explore.
We took a trip to Griffith Observatory for a gorgeous panoramic view of the Hollywood hills and downtown Los Angeles at sunset.
We visited some wonderful bakeries and enjoyed dinner from a gluten-free pizzeria. Yum! Los Angeles has an abundance of gluten-free food options, which made my stomach very happy.
The trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Universal Studios.
We even got to spend some time with the minions from Despicable Me.
Los Angeles was good to us. We had a lot of fun with Winston, explored some beautiful scenery and architecture, and ate some wonderful food. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip.
Today’s the day Jason Mraz’s new album, titled YES!, is released. I love Jason’s music and songs from this album were an inspiration to me when I was working on my blog recently.
His new short film combines three songs from the new album to tell the lifetime story of two lovers. It’s a really beautiful. Naturally I dedicate this post to the love of my life, my husband Daniel.
Check out the video below:
This summer’s season of the CBS reality TV show Big Brother has been one of the most entertaining so far. I’m relieved at the way the votes went tonight—I was kind of worried!
Today I found some YouTube interviews with the house guests that were filmed before the show started. It’s interesting to see how they act outside of the house. I think I was most impressed by Derrick’s video. He seems like a well-rounded and down to earth guy both in the interview and in the house.
My favorite house guest still was/is Joey. Her YouTube video just reaffirms what a sweet and awesome woman she seems to be. I really wish she’d been able to make it further in the game.
Who are your favorites this season and who do you want to win? Sound off in the comments and let me know!
How do you get rid of Brown Recluse spiders?
It’s easy: Just blow up your house, all your personal belongings and the entire land around it.
It was a dark and stormy night… And I was enjoying a nice summertime poop when suddenly a spider dashed across the bathroom floor.
(Spiders dash, right? It didn’t really jog or skip across the floor. I wouldn’t say it was running because it didn’t have arms flailing in the air like most runners do. Yes, I’d say it dashed.)
I’m usually not too bothered by spiders. I wouldn’t say I love them, but then again I can’t say I’ve ever known one. I guess I shouldn’t pre-judge them though. I just don’t think I’m into them, you know? They’re very leggy.
But this spider was big and looked like trouble, so I took a photo of him (of course) and then smashed him with a big fluffy handful of toilet paper. What a way to go.
Well it turns out this was a Brown Recluse spider, and little did I know this was just the beginning of a summer long nightmare.
According to exterminators, once you have Brown Recluse spiders, you never get rid of them. They’re like house guests that can’t take a hint.
We’ve sprayed—and sprayed—and fogged, and sealed cracks, and repaired base boards, and vacuumed, and de-cluttered, and sprinkled dried orange peels (which actually helped), and coated the floor with lemon cleaner (also helped).
The floors are covered in a fun house of glue traps, which frequently get stuck to the dog and cat. After 5 weeks, the best I can say is that we’ve drastically reduced them. We even found a few of their nests, which we promptly destroyed.
I’m beginning to fear that the saying is true: You can never truly get rid of Brown Recluse spiders.
I’ve told Daniel we’re going to have to sell the house and leave everything behind. How else can we be certain they won’t follow us to our new home?
If anyone has some amazing tips we haven’t tried, please enlighten me. At this point, no suggestion seems too extreme. Thank you.
I’m (nervously) excited to present the new look of Nathan Exposed.
This is the first version that has offered a responsive layout, which should automatically adapt to your screen size—mobile, tablet, or desktop. I ran into some compatibility issues right before launching it, which always happens at the 11th hour. (Yippee!) If you run into any problems, please leave a comment and let me know.
Hopefully the new look will inspire me to write more often. I have many stories to share about this summer!
I still remember when Queer as Folk premiered on Showtime in the year 2000. I was sitting in my living room watching it on my 15″ GE tube TV, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Men were having sex and relationships—with other men! Women were raising babies together.
Before Queer as Folk, the most shocking thing I’d seen on TV was Ellen DeGeneres saying “I’m gay” into a microphone at an airport. Oooh, scandalous! But that’s really the way it was, and just saying those words out loud was enough to start a war. Nobody had ever made a U.S. TV show like this before.