It wasn’t easy for Paul Fullerton to turn in his firefighter gear after suffering a spinal injury.
But it needed to be done.
“I had a hard time leaving my job as a firefighter,” he said. “I still get choked up thinking about it.”
Fullerton, now 43, battled blazes for more than two decades — first in Esparto, where he grew up, and later as a Captain at the UC Davis Fire Department, a post he held for more than 20 years.
His devotion to his trade, and the pride it brought him, made it difficult to leave that all behind after his injury — that he sustained on the job — limited his career options.
Specifically, Fullerton’s neck is held together by 12 screws and three plates, which resulted in a recovery filled with numerous medications to ease his pain.
“They pumped me full of pills,” he said, noting he hated taking them.
Looking for other options, a friend suggested medical marijuana as an alternative treatment.
Fullerton, who prided himself on being a retired firefighter and “model citizen” was reluctant to try... http://www.dailydemocrat.com/general-news/20151002/lil-shop-big-dreams-woodland-plant-supply-store-continues-to-grow
Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, she and Raquel flew home to California in October, 2013 for a quick wedding ceremony at the Fullerton courthouse.
"That summer, gay marriage became legal in California and federal benefits were extended to same sex couples. The Army gave everyone who wanted it a four-day leave to get married. It was a small wedding, but it was beautiful. Crissel wore her uniform and it was amazing," Raquel said.
"It's been so wonderful to be married and receive the same benefits, like a housing allowance and health insurance as other married couples. We got to attend the Military Ball together, which was such a special night. We finally received equality on all platforms in the military," Raquel said.
Raquel said parenthood was a topic of conversation early on in their relationship, along with family values, religion and, as she described them, "all the biggies."
"We both had tough childhoods and previous relationships that weren't great, so when we met, we decided to just be honest about everything. We both had always wanted to build a family through fostering and adoption. That made everything even that much more special because we both always knew that's how we wanted to become parents," Raquel said.
Once Crissel was medically retired from the Army and they returned home to California, they began researching the adoption process and, last December, attended a RaiseAChild panel discussion to learn more. They returned the blessing this past December when they spoke as panelists at a similar event.
"It was our first time hearing people actually talk about their experiences and it helped us a lot. That was when we learned about Five Acres (adoption agency) and how we got started on our way to being moms," Raquel explained.
Adamant about adopting a sibling set because of Crissel's long-ago promise, they were matched with five different sets and, each time, the placement never took place.
"It was one reason or another, but none of them worked out. Then our caseworker told us about this little three-year old boy. We asked the advice of all of our family and friends. We thought about it all night and we decided it was the right thing to do. Then, the next day, we met him and we knew right away he would be our son," Raquel said.
The child was being fostered by a family member at the time and moving to Raquel and Crissel's house would be his eighth placement. They spent two weeks visiting with him, taking him to the park and inviting him to their home for meals. Still, Raquel said, he was fearful and anxious that first night with them.
"We sat with him and reassured him, hugged him and told him everything would be ok. We were really glad we spent those two weeks getting to know him so we weren't complete strangers to him.
"That first night, Crissel slept on the couch with him because he didn't want to be alone in his room. Then, one of us slept on the floor in his room and then, we sat on his bed until he fell asleep. Now, we have our good night ritual of hugs and kisses and reading a story and he's fine. He's come so far in the short time he's been with us," Raquel said.
A budding athlete, the boy just finished the season with his toddler basketball league and is now taking tennis lessons. He loves all things Spider-Man and Marvel Comics and is, as Crissel described him, "a very happy, busy energetic boy who is very much loved."
Once the first adoption is finalized, Raquel and Crissel plan to add another child -- possibly two -- to their family, but one at a time, they said, laughing.
They also want to continue to be strong supporters of foster care and adopting by encouraging everyone, not just those in the LGBT community, to build their families this way.
"We are excited to promote fostering and adoption, to make it clear that it is so possible to create the family you want. We want people to know the process is accessible, not complicated and certainly not expensive. We want them to know it isn't a scary or intimidating process, either.
"We definitely want to be advocates and share what we've learned because there is a big difference between what we went into the process thinking and what we know now. There are a lot of misconceptions and events like the RaiseAChild panel... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/moms-forming-dream-family_us_56aa4634e4b05e4e37038257