This evening my wife hosted dinner for some family and friends at our house to celebrate my completion of graduate school. After dinner, Honeybun gave me a graduation gift: the Michael Parkes stone lithograph “An Angel’s Touch.

I first saw Michael Parkes’ art on our honeymoon. The gift shop of the hotel we stayed at had a framed poster of his “The Juggler.” We ended up buying that print and it hangs in our house still.

Just over a year later I was taking a humanities class for my undergrad degree. I was assigned to write a report on a piece of art. Coincidentally, I had just bought a book on the art of Michael Parkes. That book included a picture of An Angel’s Touch. I choose that piece to write the report. It was my favorite of the book.

Perhaps it was because of thinking about the piece for so long and the work that went into the report, but having one of the original lithographs became a dream of mine. I took that class in January 1999.

Tonight was a complete surprise. In fact, I at first thought it couldn’t be one of the actual lithographs. Honeybun started working toward buying it more than a year ago. She has secretly been putting money aside to save up for it. During that time, she spoke with our family and friends about it and many of them contributed to the gift.

This piece of art is something I’ve thought of for the last ten years. To me the image represents our desire for holiness. The contrast between the purity of the angel and filthy sow is striking. The beautiful angel deigns to touch the pig. The angel has to lower herself to do it. The sow is extending her head as far up as possible seeking that touch and seems to be happy for the slightest contact. I can sense the joy in the pig for even the slightest touch in that brief moment.

I dreamed to one day have one of these lithographs but knew that it was a fantasy; an item on my if-I-win-the-lottery list. I really am blown away. That my wife would work so long and hard to make this happen and that my family and friends would contribute to make this a reality amazes me.

I do not consider myself materialistic. OK, I have a bunch of gadgets. But really, if the house burned down tomorrow (God forbid), I would not be heartbroken over losing “stuff.” But this lithograph is something else. This work now represents more than its subjects. It also represents a thread that goes back to the beginning of my marriage, the joys and many, many trials we have been through to get to this point. It includes the achievement of my educational goals through both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Most importantly now, it represents the love of family and friends who care enough to help make a fantasy come true.

I am touched and blessed to have these people in my life. Thank you Honeybun and Bailey. Thank you Mom and Dad, Sally and Dave, Grandma Stone, Steve, Jay, Melissa & Brent, and Julie, Shawn, Cody & Tyler. You are all angels to me.

Just checkin

So Honeybun and Bailey got home Sunday night after visiting my in-laws for a couple of weeks. I was helping unpack and took some things downstairs to put away. Of course Bailey followed me. While I was putting things away, she climbed onto the desk chair in front of the computer. The computer was off, but she was pushing buttons on the keyboard like she was using it.

A minute or so into it, Bailey announced, “Just checkin.”

I asked, “What are you checking?”

In that little 2-year old, matter-of-fact voice she said, “just checkin email.” Cracked me up.

Sign of the times. Email was not known when I was her age. I wonder if that means Honeybun and I check it too often.

Anyway, I’m glad they are back. Strange how those little moments make life worth living. Like Merlin Mann said the other day, “Weird part about being a parent isn’t that I’m living all the clichés I ever hated; I’m just startled by how much I’m enjoying them.”

An adoption story

My friend (and former boss) David and his family were featured on a local news station in a story about adoption. Here is the video. You’ll have to watch a 15 second ad to see it, but it’s worth the time.

Last November, my family and I had the honor of attending the final adoption hearing for their son Luke where the legal proceedings were completed.

David and I are polar opposites in political views. We used to entertain coworkers by our intense debates. It speaks to his integrity that I, as his subordinate, never had to be concerned with retaliation for my differing views. Even professionally, I could tell him where I disagreed with him. One of the marks of a good manager is knowing that disagreement alone is not a threat to authority. David understands that.

David and I got along well because neither of us took disagreement with our opinion personally. We also have something even more important in than politics in common, our love of family and understanding of priorities. Family comes first. Work is a means to that end.

When I worked for him, David put in his 40 hours a week but rarely more than that. Don’t get me wrong, that was not because he was averse work. I think he may have called in sick two days in the 5 years I worked for him. After work, he would spend his non-work time with or doing things for his family. There were a number of times that he would finish his work day, then go do more hours of volunteer work to raise money for his son’s hockey league.

One thing the news story doesn’t show is the difficulty in bringing an adopted child into the home. I know that David and Shannon’s road was not all rainbows and sunshine while expanding their family. In spite of some difficult times, I think they would say the rewards are worth the effort.

My own desire for another child (or children?) has grown, especially in the last few months. I am beginning to accept that Bailey is likely to be our only one – biologically anyway. Honeybun and I have talked briefly about adoption. Anyway, we understand it to be an possibility. David and Shannon’s example encourages me to think more seriously about it. I would like Bailey to be a bit older and I want to get my post-graduate career in place first, but it is something I want to pursue.

David and Shannon are doing God’s work. I pray He blesses them for it. I think He has.

Standing in…

For the last four days, my wife and I took care of the three daughters of a friend of ours – a 9-year old and 5-year old twins. Adding our own 2-year old daughter into the mix and we had a house full of girls. I was quite out numbered.

I wasn’t looking forward to the weekend. Adding three children who aren’t your own can be a test. On top of that, these girls are going through the roughest time of their young lives. This family is recently divided and in the process of divorce. The father was unfaithful and is now apparently living with another woman (he won’t even give the mother his residential address and claims he is living with a “friend”).

We volunteered to watch the girls because their grandfather is dying and their mother went out-of-state to see him before he passes. The girls’ father lives in another state and has had little contact with them since they moved. No letters or cards, no phone calls – just a text message or two to the oldest.

It turned out their stay was the opposite of what I expected. These are three beautiful girls and, in spite of their troubles, they were well behaved. Oh, there were a few little tiffs here and there as young sisters will have, but they all showed great hearts in helping each other when we asked (and even without asking sometimes) and helping my daughter when they could (who loved playing with the older girls).

I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and was blessed by my time with them. I ended up putting out a twitter joking that my wife should know better than to volunteer for these things because every time we watch someone else’s children, it makes me want more of our own. I even got hugs from all three girls when I left for work today.

Here is the part the gets me. As I was reading a story to the girls last night, I was thinking how great it was to have them sitting around me on the couch. The twins on either side of me especially seemed to need the attention and I enjoyed reading to them all. The thing is, it shouldn’t have been me. I shouldn’t be the one getting their hugs before work. My complaint isn’t about being with them. It’s that they have a father but he isn’t providing financially or emotionally for his children.

It is beyond me how a father can abandon his children. It is just so far outside of my experience that I can only believe the man who does is dead inside. Shoot, these three girls aren’t even mine and I want do what I can do to protect them and let them know they are loved for who they are. When they are under my roof, they are.

Maybe this one hits too close to home. My own father left my mother and me when I was about the age my daughter is now. I know first hand how it affects kids. Everyone knows that mothers are important. When I see what I saw this weekend, it reminds me how important fathers are too.

Racquetball practice

I take Bailey to her Tiny Tots gym class on Friday mornings. The rec center’s racquetball courts line the hallway that leads to the gym. Bailey likes to look in the windows while we pass and watch people play.

This afternoon we were killing time at home. She picked up her big green ball and a stick then asked me to play racquetball with her. I switched out her stick for an actual racket. We did this for over a half-hour. Here’s a taste. Good times.

She doesn’t know it yet but it will be tennis for her before racquetball. Promising forehand though, don’t you think?

Proud daddy moment

I took Bailey to the park yesterday to enjoy this great spring-like weather we have been having. We don’t normally go to this park so it was a change from our usual outing. We were the only two at the playground for a few minutes before two other mothers arrived separately. One had two young children, the other had what looked to be a three-year old boy.

The playground at this park has a slide with vertical 8 foot ladder. I had been helping Bailey climb it before the other kids got there. And by help, I mean spotting her to make sure she didn’t fall while telling her she didn’t need my help. She got the hang of it quickly before deciding she would rather play on some of the other equipment.

A few minutes later the three-year old boy started climbing the ladder. He got about halfway up and then got scared. His mom encouraged him to keep going but she had to lift him off. Bailey watched what happened then decided it was time climb it herself. She ran past the boy and climbed straight up the ladder.

The mother pointed to her and said, “See? She isn’t afraid.” Yep, she made me proud. These two pictures were from her next trip up the ladder. Pretty good for a being just past two.

Bailey at the bottom of the ladder.
Bailey at the bottom of the ladder.
Reaching the top
Reaching the top