Where Babies Come From

Father, daughters and son -- the story of three Guatemalan adoptions. (Photos: K. Daniel Glover)

Father, daughters and son — the story of three Guatemalan adoptions. (Photos: K. Daniel Glover)

Originally published on the FAA’s internal website and at Medium
By K. Daniel Glover

Sixteen years ago this month, my wife and I entered that new phase of life called parenthood. Some young adults dread the responsibility — the sleepless nights of infancy, the terribleness of toddlers, the drama of middle childhood, the rebellion of teenagers and the costs of college. But with our glass half full back then, we dreamed instead of the rewards of nurturing children.

For five long years we dreamed. Then one evening, in the back of a car in Guatemala City, our dream came true. That’s where Kimberly and I met our son, Anthony. Two years later we went back to “The Land of the Eternal Spring” to add our first daughter, Elli, to the family mix. And in 2005 we made one more trip to bring home the baby of the family, Catie.

Our lives have been a blur of (mostly) precious memories ever since, and along the way, we embraced another culture as part of our heritage and developed a passion for adoption.

Adoption has been part of my life since childhood. One of my aunts took several foster children into her home and eventually adopted two of my cousins that way. So when infertility temporarily dashed the parenting hopes Kimberly and I shared, we decided to adopt.

We quickly learned that adoption is more than one simple decision. Foster-to-adopt or outright adoption? Agency or private lawyer? Open or closed adoption? Domestic or international? Infant, toddler or older child? Special needs? Sibling group? Transracial adoption? We knew we wanted a baby, but the options seemed overwhelming as we reeled from reproductive loss. Even after we settled on international adoption, we had to pick a country.

A providential trip to the airport made that choice an easy one. We met a couple with a young girl from Guatemala. Her Hebrew name was Eliana, which means “God answered me.” We knew right then that not only would we adopt from Guatemala but that one day we would have a daughter named Eliana.

guatemala-adoption3Big brother came first, though. Anthony’s foster mother placed him in Kimberly’s arms almost nine months to the day after we turned our adoption focus toward Guatemala. He was eight weeks old when we brought him home hours before Thanksgiving, the perfect holiday gift. We had some fun with our adoption announcement, which proclaimed, “We finally figured out where babies come from … Guatemala.”

Anthony had our full attention for the next year — but that wasn’t always to his benefit. To this day, Kimberly calls him our “practice child,” the one subjected to the idiocy of bumbling, first-time parents. Here are just two of the embarrassing lessons we learned: 1) Don’t hold a baby in your lap while shaking Tabasco sauce onto your gumbo or you may blind him; and 2) when your son cries the first time you feed him refried beans at Taco Bell, it’s because they’re stuck to the roof of his mouth and burning his palate.

Despite such mishaps, we felt confident enough as parents by Anthony’s first birthday to try again. Guatemala had changed its rules, so Elli’s adoption took longer. We didn’t get to bring her home until she was 3 1/2 months old.

The upside is that we had changed, too. Two years earlier, we rarely left our hotel with Anthony for fear of how Guatemalans might react to our mixed family. By the time we adopted Elli, we invited a globe-trotting friend to Guatemala with us, stayed there longer, and spent as much time as possible shopping, sightseeing and talking to Guatemalans. We spent several days in Antigua and toured both a coffee finca and a macadamia plantation.

Our two years with Anthony made all the difference in our attitude. We didn’t just fall in love with him; we fell in love with his heritage. Latinos in our community also loved meeting Anthony. We once passed him through the window of a Checker’s when he was a baby so all the ladies inside could cuddle him and get a closer look.
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Danny’s Nightmare Aboard Betty’s Dream

Co-pilot Bill Miller (left) and pilot Alan Miller pose in front of Betty’s Dream in May 2015 after a practice run for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

Co-pilot Bill Miller (left) and pilot Alan Miller pose in front of Betty’s Dream in May 2015 after a practice run for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

Originally published on the FAA’s internal website and at Medium
By K. Daniel Glover

If one slogan could capture my thoughts at lunchtime on May 7, this would be it: “I flew in the belly of a B-25 bomber, and all I got was this lousy motion sickness bag.” That’s how I felt as I exited the floor hatch of Betty’s Dream, stepped onto the tarmac at Culpeper Regional Airport in Virginia and inhaled a much-needed breath of fresh air after a rough flight.

But if a pilot in the Commemorative Air Force had asked me later that day whether I’d ever want to fly in a World War II aircraft again, I probably would have said, “When do we take off?” I don’t think I could resist an adventure like that — even though I get anxious about flying in general and even after having endured the worst flight of my life.

I am a writer for the Federal Aviation Administration and talked my way onto Betty’s Dream while reporting an advance story on the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover for the agency’s internal website. With several high-profile media outlets covering the event, I figured my chances of getting a seat were slim but made my pitch anyway for a flight with good video potential.

Two months and many pestering emails later, I finally heard from Leah Block at CAF: “I will put you on one of the trainers, so you should be able to take some great shots. … You will fly from Culpeper. In the air about an hour.”

The writer originally was scheduled to fly in this Stearman trainer. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

The writer originally was scheduled to fly in this
Stearman trainer. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

And that’s the point at which my nerves began to fray. The journalist who practically begged for a seat in a 70-year-old warbird suddenly remembered he used to drive up to 10 hours one way for assignments in order to avoid flying in modern aircraft.

When I asked to fly along, I thought I’d be in the air a half-hour max. Fifteen minutes would have been plenty. Now I was looking at an hour in a “trainer”? I didn’t even know what that meant until I clicked to the Arsenal of Democracy website again.

Then I started asking frantic questions. “Do you know yet what type of trainer I will be flying in? And just to prepare myself mentally for the experience, what maneuvers can I expect in the air? My co-worker who is a pilot said I probably want to avoid being turned upside down.”

That was an understatement. I definitely did not want to be part of any acrobatic maneuvers, but I couldn’t bring myself to openly admit that.

Leah reassured me that the flight — later confirmed to be on this Stearman biplane so I could get the best GoPro footage — should be relatively calm and that the pilots had been told not to subject us newbies to any “funny business.” But I was on edge for the next 10 days.

By the morning of the flight, I was more excited than nervous — at least for a few hours. I stopped at a 7–11 on the way to Culpeper to check for Dramamine, but the store did not have the non-drowsy formula. I opted for alertness over peace of stomach, a bad choice in hindsight.

World War II aircraft filled the tarmac at Culpeper Regional Airport earlier this month in preparation for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

World War II aircraft filled the tarmac at Culpeper Regional Airport earlier this month in preparation for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

I was in awe as I drove past the airfield and saw the array of aircraft on the tarmac. My favorites were the P-51 Mustangs and F4U Corsairs, the latter of which I remembered best from the short-lived 1970s television series “Baa Baa Black Sheep.”

I went to work after registering at the press office. I snapped a few photos of the warbirds from a distance, listened to part of the pre-flight safety briefing for all pilots and attended a short press conference.

Andrew McKenna, who owns and flies a P-51 Mustang and a North American T-6 Texan, talks with a colleague during a pre-flight safety briefing. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

Andrew McKenna, who owns and flies a P-51 Mustang and a North American T-6 Texan, talks with a colleague during a pre-flight safety briefing. (Photo: K. Daniel Glover)

Soon after the press conference, a guide pointed a few of us toward the Stearman planes. We found our designated rides by using the tail numbers on our press badges.

“I’m now at my assigned plane — and pretty well terrified,” I posted to Facebook at 10:07 a.m. My hands were shaking uncontrollably, and my legs were wobbly. I couldn’t even picture myself maintaining enough composure to climb (or fall) into a plane that small, let alone fly in it for an hour without having a panic attack.

Fortunately I only had to ponder that potentially embarrassing fate for a few minutes. When owner/co-pilot John Weyrich arrived, he said he hadn’t realized the ride-along was part of a practice run for the flyover the next day. That being the case, he didn’t have a spare seat for me — but the event organizers found me another spot on a B-25 Mitchell.

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The Social Customer Is Always Right

Originally published on the David All Group’s social marketing blog
By K. Daniel Glover

One evening last month, we started getting robocall after robocall from our insurance company on our home telephone. I tolerated a few of those interruptions from Allstate before I decided to take action. But what could I possibly do to halt recorded phone calls?

Then it hit me: Tweet!

So I did. I sent a couple of pointed but friendly tweets to @Allstatenews, specifically calling out Guy Hill, the executive vice president whose recorded voice kept disturbing our family time, and I included a link to Hill’s bio so the Twitter manager would know he was a real Allstate person.

Allstate promptly replied and the robocalls stopped. Even better, Hill sent me (and other customers) an apologetic note by snail mail a few days later and included a $25 gift card. “This is not typical of how Allstate operates, and we are taking the necessary steps to help ensure mistakes like this will not happen in the future,” the letter said.

My experience proves that the cardinal rule of commerce — the customer is always right — has never been more true than in today’s social media era.

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The Illegal Immigrant Among Us

By K. Daniel Glover

Three years ago, my wife and I had the pleasure of hosting a young Guatemalan man in our Virginia home for a few weeks. Andres came to the United States on a work visa for a job in Texas, but when he arrived, his sponsoring employer told Andres he had no work available.

The employer then told Andres he could use the short-term visa to work anywhere in the country. He chose Northern Virginia, in part because of the job market and in part because mutual friends introduced Andres to our family — including the three children we adopted from Guatemala.

We loved having Andres in our home. The children adored him and even took an interest in learning their native tongue, an idea they had resisted for years when Mom and Dad suggested it. We took Andres to the White House, treated him to exotic meals (by Guatemalan standards) and spoiled him as best we could while he struggled to make sense of his immigration status.

But after a trip to the Guatemalan embassy, we became concerned that Andres had no right to be in America. We paid an immigration lawyer who confirmed that suspicion.

Andres’ would-be employer had lied. His visa gave him the right to work only in Texas, only for that employer and only for a few months. He was an illegal immigrant — and living in our home. Worse, he was in a city on the prowl for illegal immigrants, with our house located just blocks from the “Liberty Wall of Truth.”

The lawyer advised Andres to stay in our home until he could take the earliest flight to Guatemala. We bought his airline ticket and sent him home to the needy family he had come to America to support.

I thought of Andres last week as I read and watched the confession of “undocumented immigrant” Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-winning journalist who lied for more than a decade so he could stay in America and rise to glory in a profession that prides itself on truth-telling.
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Our Long Journey To Parenthood

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

My wife, Kimberly, and I traveled to Guatemala City last month, and I could not tell you any more about that Central American nation now than I knew before the trip. There I was, an American scribe in the capital city of a foreign country, and I could not have cared less about the issues of the day.

My journalistic instincts should have moved me to curiosity about a country increasingly at the center of the war on drugs, as reported in IC just a day before we left. I should have wanted to learn more about a nation on the verge of electing a confessed killer. And I certainly should have wondered about a Guatemalan military that has slaughtered people indiscriminately — atrocities so clearly linked to decades-long U.S. involvement in Guatemala that President Clinton has apologized for our misdeeds.

But during our five-day stay, I asked not one question about a nation I could not have pinpointed on a map a year ago and gave nary a thought to the problems plaguing its 11 million people. I gave all my attention instead to Anthony Lee, the precious, two-month-old Guatemalan baby Kimberly and I now call our son.

The anguish of infertility
I have begun this story near its end, though, so let me jump back in time.

First, a few words about the enlightened redneck that Anthony now knows as Daddy. I am not your stereotypical male — the kind committed to sowing wild oats and avoiding commitment, or the workaholic who cares more about career than children. Even as a teenager, I dreamed of marriage and fatherhood. I did not meet Kimberly until I was 27, but by then, we were mature enough to know what we wanted out of life. We married four months after our first date.

Our first year was ours alone. Both Kimberly and I wanted children but thought it wise to pay our debts, save for a house and, most importantly, meld our two lives into one before adding a child to the family mix. We achieved the first two goals in short order and decided to prepare for a new addition. Kimberly quit her job so we could adjust our budget to one paycheck.
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Dear Dad: Let Me Walk For You

Originally published in the Prince William Journal, April 8, 1998
By K. Daniel Glover

The year is 1958, and Jack is in a strange place, far from the tiny West Virginia community he has called home for the first 20 years of his life. Everybody knew him there. Here, in Great Lakes, Ill., he is just another sailor wannabe lost in a boys club called the U.S. Navy.

Jack knew when he enlisted that life in the Navy would be difficult, but week five, what they call “service week,” truly has tested his mettle. Mornings in the chow hall start at 4 a.m. and last until after the evening meal for his company of about 60 men.

A high fever early in the week has sapped Jack of his energy. He doesn’t know what is wrong; he only knows he feels awful — like someone gave him a shot of morphine that has left him dazed. He is exhausted, but the fatigue is mysterious.

He is sure the weariness is unrelated to the rigors of basic training because he experienced it before, in high school. He didn’t understand it then, either. But there are no excuses in boot camp. Jack visits the sick bay and a military doctor immediately sends him back to the chow line.

Somehow he survives the week and joins his Navy buddies for a weekend trip to Milwaukee, the nearest major city.

Jack is my father, and he shared that story with me a few days ago when I quizzed him, 40 years after his boot-camp ordeals, about the inexplicable sensation that plagues him to this day. Thanks to an episode of double vision in one eye about 15 years ago, Dad now knows the cause of that fatigue is a nasty disease called multiple sclerosis.

Knowledge, however, has provided little comfort — either physical or emotional — to my father or the hundreds of thousands like him because modern medicine offers little relief from a neuromuscular disease that slowly ravages the body. There is no cure, and only a few drugs have proved effective in treating the symptoms.

The prognosis of MS patients has improved in recent years with the help of researchers worldwide. And in 10 days my wife and I will join dozens of other area residents in the annual MS Walk sponsored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to raise money for more research and aid to local MS patients.

My interest in this cause obviously is personal, and I will be the first to admit that multiple sclerosis doesn’t touch as many lives as cancer or some other terrible afflictions. But I hope after hearing my father’s story that you will appreciate the impact of a disease unfamiliar to too many people.
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Who Ya Gonna Call? Floodbusters!

Originally published in the Prince William Journal, March 25, 1998
By K. Daniel Glover

The writer finds his muse in the strangest of places sometimes, and I found mine in four inches of water at about 1 a.m. Saturday.

Just a few hours earlier, as I reclined in front of a cozy fire and imbibed in a little of college basketball’s March Madness, I had decided to change my approach to this column for at least one week.

Since the first edition of “Inside the Box” in late January, I thought to myself, I have criticized just about everybody — school officials, athletes, Democrats, Republicans, “feminazis,” 12-steppers, aggressive drivers and the spoiled rich folk intimidated by some pesky buzzards, blackbirds and deer.

Irony already has slapped me in the face once for my satirical prose. That blackbirds that made life so miserable for the country-club crowd in Haymarket, Va., last December apparently decided a few weeks ago that our deck is as good as any outhouse.

And besides, I don’t want my three loyal readers — Dad, Grandpa Tumblebug and my wife, Kimberly — to think I’m just a crotchety, cantankerous curmudgeon. (OK, Kimberly already thinks so. She calls me “Triple C” when I get real grumpy.)

Rather than focus solely on the negative, outside-the-box thinking that so aggravates me, I purposed in my heart to praise some evidence of the old-fashioned, inside-the-box thinking that makes me nostalgic.

The only problem: There are few inside-the-box thinkers left in this world, especially in a bureaucracy-laden region like Washington. If there were, I wouldn’t be writing a column called “Inside the Box,” now would I?

After two hours of couch-potato meditation, I realized I would not find my inspiration in Duke’s Sweet 16 victory over Syracuse and headed to bed at 11 p.m. That’s when Kimberly awakened me from my basketball-induced stupor.

“The basement is flooding!” she screeched, sending our hound dogs, Peanut and Shelby, into a panic. (Not really, but I like to be dramatic.)

The downpour that dumped three inches of rain on the metro area made the sump pump that protect our basement from the wrath of nature its first victim, and the water already had begun to seep into our family room.
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Where The Weather Is ‘Fine As Frog’s Hair’

Originally published in the Prince William Journal, Jan. 28, 1998
By K. Daniel Glover

If we are to believe the managers of the world (you know, the boneheads who have made a rich man of “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams), there are two ways of thinking: “inside the box” and “outside the box.”

I do my thinking inside the box. I know that only because a former supervisor once told me during a review that if I wanted to move up the ladder within the company, I had to start thinking outside the box.

What does it all mean? I wish I knew. I think it has something to do with eating McPizza, drinking New Coke and dating the office intern, but I’m not quite sure. I left that company to take a job inside the box.

What I do know is this: If I think inside the box, the powers that be in the Prince William County school system definitely think outside the box. How do I know? Because they closed down the schools a couple of weeks ago on what The Washington Post later called “a pretty standard cold, wet day” and because I thought they were absolutely crazy for doing so.

But maybe I’m just nostalgic. I remember the stories my Grandpa Tumblebug told — of walking two miles to school each day, uphill both ways and through three feet of snow in sub-freezing temperatures — and I long for those days.

OK, Grandpa Tumblebug didn’t actually make that trek each ay, and he didn’t even tell me those stories. His real name isn’t Tumblebug, either. But that’s what I called him and he does tell some good stories — and he did live in an era when men stood tall in the face of bad weather.

People in those days — like the dedicated postmen who delivered their mail — saw rain, sleet, snow and hail not as an excuse to miss a day of school or work but as an obstacle to overcome.
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A Warning To Cyber Journalists

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

The name Wayne McGuire will be etched in my memory for years to come. I suspect that if senility ever hits, I will sooner forget the names of my own children than that of the man who unintentionally soured my debut as the associate editor of IntellectualCapital.com.

I have only myself to blame, though. Wayne McGuire and I have never met, nor have we spoken. And while he may know the name Danny Glover from the actor of Lethal Weapon fame who shares my moniker, I doubt that he has heard of Danny Glover the cyber journalist. McGuire is an innocent party in this episode, which is more about my own ethical lapse than the Bostonian’s inflammatory Internet postings on Jews, Vince Foster and the Whitewater scandal.

I tell this story not to draw attention to his views but offer it as a warning to my journalistic colleagues about the pitfalls of this expansive new medium we call the World Wide Web. Here, in a nutshell, is my warning: Remember that the basic rules of news-gathering apply equally in media both new and old.

A lesson learned
I learned that lesson the hard way a couple of weeks ago. After nearly seven years as a reporter and editor at Congressional Quarterly, the last two-and-a-half in the realm of “new media,” I had accepted my new post at IntellectualCapital.com. The transition had been smooth, and I was excited about my first chance in months to write a feature-length article. My assignment: Compose an essay on the future of newspapers in the information age.

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Here’s Good News About Teens

Sean Teagarden’s legacy: courage, friendship, hope

Originally published in The Dominion Post
By K. Daniel Glover

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When the seniors at University High School, with diplomas in hand, say goodbye to youth and take that first step into adulthood tonight, one member of the Class of 1994 will not be there to share in the joy, the anxiety, the memories with his classmates.

Sean Teagarden, once a vibrant young man and always a dear friend of mine, died Oct. 9, 1992, less than two months after his 16th birthday. Halfway through his freshman year at University High, Sean was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that ended his life less than a year later.

I had met Sean only six years earlier when I moved from my hometown of Paden City to Morgantown to study journalism at West Virginia University. His father, Vernon, preached at the church of Christ where I attended services, and I became a regular guest at the Teagarden household during my college years. We became family.

Vernon and his wife, Evelyn, were my parents away from home; Michelle and Mindi were the sisters I never had. And Sean, well, he was my spiritual clone, my soul mate.

I saw in Sean the boy I once was, good and bad, and I saw the chance to guide a child 10 years my junior through the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Although still a wet-behind-the-ears college kid myself.

I was sure that I had some wisdom that would be of benefit to Sean. If he accepted me as a mentor, I told myself, he would avoid the mistakes I had made.

Sean did accept me as a mentor of sorts. We hunted together; we talked sports and girls and religion; and we picked at one another, as boys are wont to do.

But I now know how presumptuous it was to believe that Sean could learn anything from me, for I learned more from him in his last nine months than I possibly could have taught him in a lifetime.

I learned from Sean the true meanings of strength, of love, of dignity, of hope. And I learned anew something I had known when I was Sean’s age — that in spite of what some may think, teenagers are not inherently bad. Their judgment may be poor at times, but that is part of growing up.

Sean’s family, his mother in particular, walked away from his graveside with that same realization. But they learned as much from Sean’s classmates and friends as from the boy they buried.

Evelyn Teagarden asked me to write this article so that others — parents, grandparents, young adults who have not yet experienced the joys and pitfalls of parenthood, perhaps even some teenagers — might know the good news about the next generation, the news they do not notice in the newspapers or see on television.

The news is this: Today’s teenagers, like others who have gone before, are by nature wholesome, caring people.

Sean’s friends proved that time and again during his last months. The stream of visitors — to the hospital when Sean was receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and to his home when he was recovering — was endless, and many of the “regulars” were young men and women who put Sean’s happiness above their own. Some students collected money for Sean; others sent flowers and food. Two classmates gave Sean video games.

When Sean’s parents decided to organize a big birthday bash the August before his death, friends came to wish Sean well. Sean’s grade-school classmates did their part to lift his spirits, too, sending both flowers and cards. Even those who knew Sean only through mutual friends sent cards and phoned.

In his last months, Sean often lacked the stamina to do the things he had done before the cancer invaded his body, but his friends were there when his strength returned. James Swords, one of Sean’s best friends, took him fishing and sometimes chauffeured him around town. When Sean returned exhausted from a bike ride with a group of friends, they helped him into the house, then they all took a nap.

The compassion did not cease when Sean’s life did, either. The memory of dozens of mourning teenagers at McCulla Funeral Home in Westover on a dreary Monday touches my heart to this day. Nobody made those youngsters trek to the funeral home; they went of their own free will to say goodbye to a friend and to grieve for one of their own. A year later, they remembered Sean again with an article in the senior yearbook.

Sean and his friends taught me, the chief of cynics after three-plus years as a political reporter in Washington, D.C., that people young and old alike are good. Most of us want nothing more than to be happy and to make others happy. Although we sometimes may lose sight of that goal, it is the driving force within each of us.

It is what drove Sean and continues to drive those who survive him.

Sean Teagarden never had the chance to graduate from high school, but he graduated from life with honors. The other boys and girls — nay, men and women — of University High School’s Class of 1994 are well on their way to doing the same.

They and their counterparts are the future of this city, this state, this nation, this world. A heavy burden though that may be, I know they are up to the challenge. They proved it two years ago.