Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Pictures and stories of over 12 years of love and life
Published on May 28, 2004 By Draginol In Home & Family

Today is the 10-year anniversary of the day Debbie and I got married. I can't believe it. It's been such a fun and wonderful time for us. Looking back on those 10 years..

Once upon a time…

When I met Debbie, it was explosive. Literally. We were in EE 221 lab together at Western Michigan University. We were building a power supply. My power supply would have worked perfectly except for one crucial misstep: my circuit didn’t include a resistor which, coupled with 110 volts created a small fire in the lab. That was when Debbie really noticed me.

Before that moment, I was just the guy who came late to her classes. Half-dressed, barely awake. The guy who always had a smart-alek response to questions from the professors. I didn’t know the subject matter very well. But I had something very important going for me – I looked very very nerdy which insinuated I must know what I’m doing. Soon after, Debbie and I began studying for the classes we had in common together. And soon after that, we started dating.

I was a lot younger than Debbie when we met...

Meanwhile, my friend and roommate of 3 years, Doug Coates, had a long time friend coming to Western and wanted to have him as a roommate for the following semester. That meant I needed some place to live. Debbie proposed a solution: She and 3 friends of hers (all girls) were getting a house and they needed one more person.

“Let me get this straight, you want me, to live with you and 3 other women?” I asked.

“Yes.” Debbie responded.

“In a house.”


“Together. You, me, 3 other women.”

“That’s what I said.”

“Sign me up!”

With the benefit of age and hindsight, once might question the wisdom of signing a lease to live with a girl you’ve only been dating a few weeks along with 3 of her friends. But contrary to rumor, I’m not the brightest bulb in the closet. But amazingly, it worked out.

Debbie and I got engaged 6 months later and 6 months after that we got our own apartment where we lived for the next year before we got married. Admittedly, living together before marriage had some social taboos. On the other hand, it allowed us to know a lot better what we were getting into. Or more to the point, it allowed Debbie to know what she was getting herself into. Toilet seats (always up). Toothpaste cap (always off). Towels (on the floor). Dirty clothes (next to the hamper on the floor). Flogging marks on Brad’s back (heal quickly).

Before we got married, Debbie and I talked long and hard about what we wanted out of life. Children, how many we wanted, what they’d be named. Our philosophies on money (i.e. no credit card debt, save for a rainy day, live within our means). Religion and in what ways would religion play in our lives. Where we would live (Michigan as long as she shoveled the snow!).  And hundreds of other topics.

Debbie and I got married in Kalamazoo Michigan. I remember watching her walking down the aisle and thinking “This beautiful angel wants to spend the rest of her life with me! I can’t believe how lucky I am” and I was right. I am very lucky.

I can honestly say that Debbie and I have had a pretty blissful marriage. We spend more time together than I suspect most couples. When we’re away from each other, even during the day, we’ll call one another just to chit-chat. And we enjoy talking to each other about all kinds of things besides just home and family issues. Politics, technology, news of the day, religion, life after death, newly discovered odors emanating from me, you name it. I think the single biggest reason our marriage has been so wonderful is because we simply enjoy each other’s company on a day to day basis.

Of course, we’ve had other advantages. During college I wrote a game called Galactic Civilizations for IBM’s OS/2. That was for my little company called Stardock. That game didn’t make any money because our publisher didn’t pay royalties. But it gave us a good reputation that we would use to bring out other programs for OS/2 which did make a lot of money. Financial security has certainly helped abate one of the more common sources of marital strife.

Debbie and I also had the advantage of having good parents. My mom instilled values that have been the crucial factor in much of the success we’ve enjoyed. Simply put – work hard, stick to it, have personal discipline, and you will succeed.

Unfortunately for my mom, those traits never showed up while I was living with her. The only showed up after I started working for “the company”. My friend  saw me working on Galactic Civilizations for OS/2 and remarked “Wow, Brad, I’ve never seen you work like this.” “Like what?” “Well, normally you do everything..well..half-assed. You actually seem to be trying to do a good job on this.”

Debbie’s aura of calmness and uncanny ability to put things in perspective have been the real glue of our relationship. Anyone who knows us cannot help but see how much Debbie does on a day to day basis to “make things happen”. How much marital strife is the result of blowing things out of proportion? In our case, Debbie always has a keen eye on what things really matter in life and when I tend to get melodramatic, it is Debbie that brings the situation back down to earth. “Put the printer down, honey. Just take a break for a few not break it! Nooo!”

As Stardock became successful, a fork in the road came up. I could either work harder and longer and try to make Stardock into a “big company” or I could have a more flexible schedule, focus on having Stardock be a nice place to work at and have it be a smaller company. We chose the latter with no regrets.

Debbie and I would rather see more of each other; spend more time together with our children as a family than anything else. There’s no substitute for being able to play with your children a couple of hours before you go to work. We also wanted to make it a place where other people like ourselves could come and work at with relative security.

In 1996 Debbie got herself pregnant somehow. We knew it would be a boy because Wardells always have boys. Even days after finding out the good news, we referred to our future son as Alex. We had recently moved to our new home in Canton Michigan when Alex was born. And everything changed.

You can imagine what it’s like to be a parent but nothing can prepare you for actually being a parent.

For example, having children is significantly different than having a pet. Not just because you have to feed them more than once a day (though that is a big part obviously). You also can’t just put food in their bowl and expect them to crawl up to it and eat it (yes, I know, Deb, I still owe you $5 on that bet). Potty training a child is also…somewhat different than potty training a pet.

Meanwhile, our company was gaining a lot of attention. By 2000 our software development model was working pretty well. We hired developers no matter where they were. And by anywhere, that often meant outside United States. Our philosphy was simple: we simply decided to hire the best software developers in the world in a very real and literal way – regardless of where they are physically located, if they were the best in their field, we did what we could to make them part of our team.

That’s why most people here have seen our software in action or at the very least seen software that was influenced by what we make (movie studios using our software for those cheesy fake computer screens and Windows XP’s new interface influenced by WindowBlinds to name but 2 examples). Our software has been in the New York Times, US News and World Report, The Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other newspapers. It's also been on TV countless times. I've been on TV to discuss both our games and non-games on places like the Nightly Business Report to TechTV. That's a pretty big impact for such a small company. It's not my doing, it's the incredibly talented people I am honored to be associated with.

Meanwhile, in 2000 our second son was born: Ryan. I had told Debbie I wasn’t sure if having a second child would be a good idea. I wasn’t sure if I could love a second child as much as I loved Alex. But Deb was right, when it comes to children, there’s no limit to how much love there is to give to them.

The four of us have been very happy. The two boys get along so well and because of my schedule, we’re able to spend a lot of time together as a family.

But time does bring change. Debbie is much better at handling change and stress than I am. Not everything has always been rosy. Having your own company can have a lot of advantages but it has come with a stiff price tag. It has caused the estrangement of some of our good friends (note to others: Don’t go into business with your friends unless their last name is Ford).

Plus, long time friends move to far away places. As my friend Norm can attest to, when you’re an only child, friends take on a much more central role in ones life than those with siblings realize. Circles of friends can feel like a TV drama where the characters slowly change.

And Debbie and I have made a lot of new good friends too. When we moved to Canton, we became good friends with two neighbors and their families In fact, we became such good friends that when they moved to a new neighborhood in Canton, we stalked er I mean we followed them there. And while “the courts” contend we have to stay 150 feet from them at all times, our robotic cameras ensure that they’re always only a few feet away…

And so here we are, 10 years later. What an incredible journey it's been. And we're so excited to see what comes next.

Comments (Page 4)
on Feb 10, 2006
Thanks BakerStreet. At least E3 doesn't fall on our anniversary this year Brad probably won't go anyway now that they banned booth babes.
There goes any reason to attend E3 ... NOT!

Anyways, Thanksgiving falls on the same day as my wedding anniversary ... about every 10 years or so. Of course, getting married the Friday AFTER Thanksgiving kinda made that a given ...

We will have been married 12yrs this May and will have our 3rd child in!

Conrats on 12 (early even). The third kid makes it even more fun. Add in #4 for the sheer crazy factor (and have #4 be the oddball gender - 3 boys and #4 be the girl) for even more fantastic fun.

One of these days, I'll post pics of the little ones.
on Feb 10, 2006
Add in #4 for the sheer crazy factor

Yeah, well, we'll see how #3 goes

One of these days, I'll post pics of the little ones.

I for one would love to see them!
on Apr 23, 2006
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on May 01, 2006
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on May 01, 2006
on May 01, 2006
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on May 01, 2006
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on May 01, 2006
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on May 01, 2006
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on May 01, 2006
on May 01, 2006
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on May 01, 2006
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on May 01, 2006
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on Jun 01, 2006
You've got a beautiful family Brad.
We may not agree politically, but I think we can agree that we are both
very lucky guys when it comes to family.
My wife and I have been married 13 years with 4 wonderfull kids to show for it.

I like the picture of your wife when she was pregnant.
It brings back so many memories
Women just seem to have a supernatural glow about them when they are "with child".
My wife was worried I would think she was fat and ugly.
She was never more beautiful.

I'm guessing you felt the same, hence the picture.

Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story.
on Jul 08, 2006
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