Sunday, December 11, 2011

Happy Anniversary

     Today is our 12th anniversary.  Somehow it doesn't seem as glitzy or exciting as 10 or 20 years, but then every anniversary is a milestone, which is why we celebrate them.  I'm not sure how I would have pictured us 12 years down the road, if I had taken the time on our wedding day to consider such things, but I probably would have been a little idealistic.  Probably I would have imagined a stunning couple staring lovingly into eachother's eyes cuddled close by a roaring fire or something along those lines.  I doubt I would have envisioned lunch at Jason's Deli with 5 kids, potato chips and hot dog chunks scattered on the floor.  Nothing says romance like hunks of food on the floor.  But then, reality seldom matches up to what we dream it will be.

     I would have thought, in my long lost naivete, that 12 year into a marriage, we would have perfected the whole relationship thing.  I would have imagined that we would be past the point of petty arguments and reached a place where we could look past or laugh off the little annoying quirks we each brought into the relationship.  Yeah, I guess I thought that 2 or 3 years into this marriage, we would have pretty much figured it all out and then could enjoy the next 50 or so just cruising along without conflict or misunderstanding.   

     So much for for pipe dreams.

     The reality is perhaps less glamorous, but I wouldn't trade a minute of it.  I love my wife more today than ever before.  We struggle through the day to day challenges of marriage just like everyone else, but we never even consider giving up.  She helps me to be a better person than I would ever be on my own.  Believe me, I am far from perfect, but I am a much better man because of her.  I hope that in the next 12 years I will become the kind of husband that she truly deserves.

     I hope that she knows how much I love her.  I hope that the love I have for her is always more than words; that it is a love lived out daily in such a real way that it becomes a place where she feels safe and content.  I hope that through the way I love Karlye, my children feel safe and can see a picture of how a man should treat his wife.  I admit, I have a long way to go, but having her in my life makes me want to be better tomorrow than I am today.

     So on this 12th anniversary of our marriage, I want to take the time to tell my wonderful wife a few things that I don't usually take enough time to say.  I love you Karlye.  I love you for being such a stong person.  I love you for the way you care for our five kids.  I appreciate the hard work and grueling effort that you put into making our home a safe and caring environment for me and the kids, each and every day.  Thank you for putting up with my grumpy moods and angry outbursts.  Thank you for the sacrifices you make for me and the family.  Thank you for 12 wonderful years and five terrific children.  I am glad that I will have the chance to grow old with you.  I look forward to the rest of our journey together.  It may not always be a smooth ride, but I'm certain it won't be boring.  I am so glad that God brought us together.  You are my life.  Happy anniversary.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

     Ah, back in Tonganoxie.  Traveling to a city like Chicago always reinforces how glad I am that I live in the middle of nowhere.  Surrounded by miles of concrete and buildings and millions of people makes me claustrophobic.  It also makes me feel small.  I get the sense that I am just one small ant in a massive ant hill.  I know some people live for the bustle and movement of the big city.  Me, I'll take the less hectic route through life.  I enjoy knowing the woman at the check out counter at the grocery store.  I like meeting friends every few feet when I walk through the city park.  There is a comfort in the smallness of this corner of the world.  I can breath here.  Maybe I am not made for greatness, but I am content with what I have here; my life, my family, my home.

    I did enjoy watching my kids experience the city.  They adapted very quickly.  I looked at Caleb and could almost see him like some street-wise character from a movie.  Of course, he wasn't all that street wise as several times he attempted to place himself directly in the path of oncoming vehicles.

    The kids loved the Shedd aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry.  I realize that you don't get stuff like that in the small town.  I suppose that's why we occasionally venture into the big city. 

    I just wonder sometimes if we aren't somehow spoiling our children by taking them too many places.  It seems like the more we go, the less they appreciate what they are getting to do.  I was in awe when I first went to Chicago as a teenager.  I don't think they experienced even the slightest twinge of real excitement.  Sure, they had fun, but for them, it was just another trip. 

     The  again, maybe things will not always be so easy to do.  Maybe the economy will come crashing down even worse than it already has and traveling with 5 kids will become next to impossible.  I guess I should be thankful or the ability to do these things as a family while time and money permit. 

     In the end though, I realize how blessed I am with a wonderful wife who makes me take fie great kids on trips that I would never be willing to take without her prodding.  I come back from them all a little tired but very aware of the great riches I have in this little troupe we call a family.  You can take all the fame and wealth the world offers you.  You can live in your up-scale hi-rise department on Lake Shore Drive.  We're good just the way we are in our little town in Kansas.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Windy, Rainy, Chilly City

Ahhh Chicago. The last time I was here Barak Obama was some community organizer running for the senate. I actually walked past one of his big promo events and remembered thinking what a weird name he had. That was summer 2004, this is the fall of 2011. I definitely. Prefer the summer weather to this cold rain. 48° never felt so cold before. I think October in Chicago is like March in Seattle with hurricane force winds. The kids seem to be troopers though and as of yet have not been overly whiny about the rain and cold. Okay, enough blogging from my iPhone. Gonna call it a night and maybe tomorrow I'll take more pictures. Unfortunately I left the camera at home.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Preacher Man

     This week at church I preached my second-ever sermon.  I know that I am not made to be a preacher.  I don't like being in the spotlight.  I could write sermons.  I have plenty of opinions and am not at all afraid to say what I think.  I just don't like being front and center.  I don't like to be looked at and watched.  

     When I started dating my wife, my future brother-in-law used to call me Preacher Bill.  I'm sure he meant it with the utmost respect, however I had never preached a single sermon in my life.  I remember going to Christian youth camps as a young teen and they had this this called the "Young Preacher's Club".  I always wanted to give it a whirl, try my hand at the whole fire and brimstone thing, but I was simultaneously terrified of getting up in front of people.  

     Now twice I have filled in for our Pastor while he was away for various reasons.  I have learned a lot of respect for him and what he does just on Sunday morning.  Add in all he does the rest of the week, and I don'r know how he manages to do it week in and week out.  The same goes for all pastors.  This is pastor appreciation month, and I can't think of a group of people who deserve out appreciation more than pastors.

    Pastoring used to be a highly respected profession.    Many of the founders of the country were pastors.  Pastors were the ones who people turned to for guidance and insight, for counseling and encouragement.  They held the nation together through times of tragedy and pushed us to be a better people.

     Today is is most common to see a pastor on TV or in a movie portrayed in a much more disrespectful light.  Hollywood would have us see pastors as backwards and uninformed.  They might be good intentioned, but usually are made out to be hypocritical and scheming snake oil salesmen, who bang on a big Bible and then secretly bed their secretary or live high on the hog off the Social Security checks that their brain washed elderly parishioners send them dutifully each month.  Their children are also usually the most rebellious and promiscuous kids in the local school.

     Sure there are always examples of pastors who have blown it, and I have known my share.  The fact remains though that most pastors serve God faithfully their whole lives, with little or no recognition for the amount of time and effort they pour into their work.  The work long hours studying and preparing sermons and lessons that people will listen to with glazed over eyes.  The are always visiting at the hospital when anyone gets sick.  They get called in the middle of the night.  They spend hours listening to people's problems and seldom have anyone think for a moment that they might occasionally be dealing with some of their own.  It is for the most part a thankless job. Many times they don't have a lot of close friends, because I think most people don't feel comfortable around them.

     I just want to go on the record and say that I am lucky enough to have two amazing and hard working pastors who are as above reproach as men can be.  They deserve a ton of praise for all they do.  I don't know how they keep going week after week and still do such a great job at being husbands and fathers.  They are men of God who put Him first in their lives and live out their faith boldly and without hypocrisy.  Thanks Mike and Mark.  I am proud to know you and call you both friend.

     So anyway, I preached as a fill in for Mike this week.  It was a privilege.  I don't know if anyone else got anything out of the sermon, but I know that I needed to hear what I had to say.  I'll post a link should anyone else want to listen.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Englewood, FL

Well, It's been crazy with all of us on a road trip for 3 days and I haven't gotten a chance to write anything, but I will. In the meantime, here are a few pictures.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011


     This morning I heard a story on the news as I was getting ready for work.  Scientist somewhere have conducted a study to find out what the most annoying sound in the world is and it turns out that it is (drum-roll): whining kids.  Now the first thought I have about this is why the heck did people spend money to learn what any parent in the world could have easily told them for free.  On second thought though, it is kind of nice to have some solid evidence that there is a good reason I often fantasize about ear plugs.
     As dads, we have developed an uncanny ability to block out the sound of whining.  Moms don't seem as skilled at this and that is probably for the best because sometimes I'm sure there is a legitimate reason for the whining.  You probably want at least one parent capable of hearing the children in case they happen to be bleeding profusely or have managed to wedge their foot in the hole at the bottom of the toilet bowl.  Most of the time though, children revert to whining for far less serious things like wanting a bowl of rice crispies at 6:00 in the morning or their older brother not letting them sit in the correct seat at the dinner table.

     Dad's are far less adept at blocking of the sound of an angry mother who has been effected negatively by a child's whining and so, we ultimately are forced into action one way or another.  With 5 kids, there is an constant background noise of whining.  It starts about the time the sun rises and continues unabated until 10:00 at night. This is why I stay up too late.  It is the only time I can actually concentrate.

     I love kids.  Every day is a learning experience.  Today we learned that geckos really can snap off their tails if they feel their lives are in danger.  It turns out that having an 80 pound 8 year old grab you and try to shove you down his brother's pants produces an adequate amount of fear to make you lose your tail.

     I honestly don't know how Karlye can put up with them all day.  If I was a stay at home dad, there would be sound proof cages installed in the basement.  In the old days when I was a kid it was easier.  There was the outside.  Mom would kick us out the door and lock it behind us, the attic fan running to block out the sound of our whining.  Those were simpler days when no one worried about some sicko abducting children out of your yard.I'm sure we were bored out of our minds most of the time, but we always somehow managed to find something to do.  Now the kids have Xbox and Wii, satellite and Netflix, computers and a thousand toys and there is absolutely nothing that they can find to occupy their time.

    Well, will did manage to install malware on my computer so I would have hours of fun trying to get the internet running again.  One of the kids entertained themselves by twisting Karlye's glasses and popping the lens out.  I think I am going to need to take my poor wife out for a relaxing night out, or send her to get a massage.  I need to keep her healthy and happy because if she every quits on us then my only option will be to start reading through military school brochures.

     In all seriousness though, life without children would be so dull.  We have friends who chose not to have kids.  They have dogs instead.Not pet dogs, but family member, surrogate children dogs.  Yes they get to go out anytime they like, they can jet set all over the place and don't have to make emergency trips to the grocery store for milk and bread.  I'm sure they are quite happy with the life they have chosen, but something tells me that despite all the noise and chaos I have experienced a joy that is greater than any they will ever know.  Life is short and the only thing that lasts is imprint we make on the lives of these little one that God has given us the awesome responsibility of turning into the next generation of men and women.  I scarcely feel capable of fulfilling that task.  I worry every day that I have failed them as a father and that I am messing them up beyond any help of their future therapist.  I think every parent has felt that way though and most of us turn out okay.

     So while they can whine and can annoy, they also are capable of some of the sweetest most tender expressions of love.  It is those moments that more than negate any frustration that they give us.  I just need to remember that the next time I'm trying to talk to the annoying survey lady on the phone and Josiah screams at the top of his lungs 2 inches from my ear.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gracie turns 3

   Gracie, I was terrified of you before you were born.  Actually I was terrified of any little girl.  I had a grasp of what boys were like, but I wasn't sure I could handle a girl.  I didn't know how to relate to you.  I wasn't sure I would have the patience or empathy or whatever part of a person that gives them the ability to listen with rapt attention to a little girl's stories, worries, troubles and cares.  I didn't know about dresses and shoes and matching colors.  I didn't know how to play with dolls or stuffed animals.  I understood wrestling and rough-housing and throwing kids in the air.  Girls have always perplexed me.

     Three years ago you came into my life anyway and a whole new world opened up to me.  I was told by the old ladies at my office that I would spoil you and I secretly swore to myself that I never would allow that, because I've seen too many little girls grow up into spoiled big girls.  I swore to myself that I would avoid the frills and pageantry. I never wanted a princess.

     What you have shown me is that girls have a way of changing their daddies' hearts.  I still don't think I can ever spoil you because I love you for who you are and I would never do anything to spoil that precious innocence and unique personality.  You have taught me that there is nothing about you that scares me.  You have taught me what sincere love and adoration are.  I love coming home every night to have you meet me at the door saying, "Daddy, are you done with your work?" followed by "I missed you so much."  I have never felt so blessed as I feel when you endlessly chatter on about everything under the sun, because I see a love for life and a hope for the future that you don't even fully comprehend and I have begun to lose sight of.

     You have complete faith and trust in me, far more than I deserve.  That faith makes me want to try harder to be the best daddy possible to you and the best husband I can be to your mother.  The other day you told mom that you wanted to marry me when you grew up.  I hope that I am the kind of father and husband that you could use as an example of the man you will look for in a husband someday.

     Now my fears are not of you, but for you.  I sometimes wish I could freeze you in time at this exact age before you lose your innocence.  I still dread puberty and later dating and watching you grow up needing me less and less. I think you know that I will always be your daddy and you will always be my little girl, yes, even my princess.  I feel sorry for any boy that ever wants to date you because between me and your 4 brothers, he's gonna have some tough interrogations before he will ever get that privilege. 

    For now though I am more than content to watch you run around in your tutus and princess dresses telling me the storyline of Tangled, Alice the Wonderland, or Booty and the Beast.  Yeah, we will most likely have a confrontation tonight about you staying in bed, but I am glad to know that if I lay beside you, you will drift off into your dreams in just a few minutes.

     I don't know the best way to protect you from whatever threatens to hurt you in your life, but you can know that I will be there for you.  You will most likely make me mad and break my heart from time to time, but you can't ever do anything to tarnish my love for you and I hope that I will always see the same unconditional love and admiration when I look in your eyes that I see today.

     I thank God so much for giving you to me.  He knew that I needed you.  It was one of the most precious gifts he ever gave me.  Happy Birthday.  Now let's get you  ready for bed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

To My Sister on Her Wedding Day

     I think I was the first person you ever saw.  I was the first person to ever hold you after they cut your cord and cleaned you up.  No, I was NOT in the delivery room when you were born, but they called me in while you were still naked and wet and squalling on the scale.  When they had you dressed, they handed you to me.  I was 17, a junior in high school.  I always felt a special bond for you because in a way it seemed you were mine.  I was going to protect you and care for you.

     You don't remember, but I used to experiment on you when I was taking early child development classes in college.  I new you were brilliant.  You did things babies your age weren't supposed to be able to do.  I actually did a project on you for class.  I remember a time when you were maybe 18 months old.  We were at Grandpa and Grandma Weatherford's house and they had just gotten their gumball machine.  You sat and watched as all your siblings and cousins stuck their pennies in the machine and took the colorful balls out.  After a while you walked into the other room, went up to Dad, stuck out your little hand and said, "Need money Dad."  You were about 18 months old and not only was it cute, but I was amazed that you already had a sense of object permanence and were grasping abstract concepts such as monetary value.  Okay, my education classes had warped me a little, but I sure was proud of you.

      You were always tough as nails too.  Maybe you just learned early on that as the ninth kid, you weren't ever going to get much sympathy, but you could take a tumble and get up and go like it never even phased you.  I watched you running on gravel once when you were not even 2 yet.  You wiped out big time.  Your little knees smashed hard onto the rocks and when you stood up, your legs were scraped and bloody.  I started to run to you and then stopped in amazement, because you never even cried.  Instead you squatted down and picked little chips of rock out of your bloody knee caps and then took off running as fast as before.

     You were my little gravelly voiced sidekick when I lived with you and I would try to picture what you would be like when you became a woman.  I imagined you would be strong, and courageous, beautiful and a person of great character.  Eventually I grew up and took off on my own.  I left you in good hands with Dad and Mom, but in the transition, I sacrificed that bond I had with you.  From then on I watched you grow from a distance.  For me it felt like you crawled into a cocoon and now much sooner than seems possible, I am watching you emerge and stretch your wings and I am so proud of what you have become.

     Willie is a lucky guy and I think he is a great enough guy to have someone as special as you.  I look forward to getting to know another brother and friend.  Marriage is wonderful and you two will be great at it.  It is hard work, let me assure you.  There will be amazing times and hard times.  Sometimes you will be running full steam ahead and then suddenly you will find yourself face down in the gravel wondering what happened.  Just get up, clean the gravel out of your knees and keep on running.  I pray that you will be caught up so much in the joy of your life together that you won't even notice the occasional bump or bruise.

    I don't know exactly how to tell you as a woman what marriage will be like.  I can give you a little advice on men though.  It might possibly come in handy since you are going to be spending a lot of time with one from now on.

     First of all, men need to feel needed and respected.  We don't always deserve respect, but it is what motivates us to be better than we are.  You show Willie that you respect him for what he does and who he is and he will give his all to make sure he's earned that respect.  Yeah, we want to know that our wives love us, but it means a lot more to us to know that you're proud of us.  Our biggest fear in life is that we will fail you in some way.  We have pretty fragile egos no matter how much we pretend otherwise.  We go to work each day so that we can provide for our families.  We can endure criticism and stress all daylong every day if we know that you will be there for us when we get home.  Sometimes a "thank you for what you do" is the best motivation a man can ever receive.

     Secondly, keep your priorities straight.  God comes first and Willie second.  Eventually you will probably be a mom.  It is so easy to pour so much energy into children that you don't have any left for your spouse.  It won't seem possible while the whole marriage thing is new and exciting, but in 10 years when the shininess has worn off and the luster has faded, when kids are screaming and demanding all of your attention, remember what you feel for Willie today and always take time to get alone as a couple.  So many marriages focus so much time on the children that when the children are gone the couple has no relationship left.

      You two are a team, formed by God for a purpose.  He has taken both of your strength and both of your weaknesses and forged them into something unique.  Find that purpose and dedicate your marriage to fulfilling it.

     Put value on the things that matter.  Invest in eternal treasures.  Don't get caught up in collecting stuff that grows old and sits in boxes in the basement.  Be content with little even when you have times of plenty in your life.  Hold material things with an open hand and never be afraid to sacrifice the temporal for the eternal.  The size of your house, the logo on your car, the value of your bank account, these things do not bring happiness or make a strong home and family.  Time is precious and it slips by far too quickly.  Use every minute wisely and squeeze every last drop of goodness from each second.

     This day may seem the greatest in your life so far, but it is just a day and will soon become a memory.  The real joy of a wedding day is the journey that follows.  You both are grounded and equipped for whatever life may throw at you.  Do me proud little sister.

      I love you so much and am so proud of the woman you have become.

Monday, June 13, 2011


     Recent headlines once again are detailing the self-destruction of another one of the men of power who pass laws to tell us how we should live.  It happens so often, that we no longer are shocked and most buy into the idea that somehow we can still trust a man who would lie to us and betray his pregnant wife.  Meanwhile we watch as the elite mock another as incompetent and ignorant while she stands by her convictions.  They pour through her private correspondences looking for any scandal that might destroy her once and for all.

     I once thought I wanted to be great at something.  In my younger years I truly believed that I was capable of greatness.  I wasn't sure in what way it would manifest itself, but in my heart, I knew that I had a seed that properly planted and tended would outgrow who I was and make me somehow larger than I was.  Life has shown me that I am not destined for fame or glory in the wide world.  I have far too much a sense of my own weaknesses and faults.  I also have come to see that greatness is not what brings power and fame nor does celebrity forge greatness.  I'm still not even certain what greatness really is, but I have a pretty good sense what it is not.

     I look at the people I have known in my life.  I think of my father who never finished college and had a once successful business ripped away from him in a short time.  He raised 10 children and has remained faithful to my mother for 43 years.  He has never wavered in his faith in God.  He has his weaknesses certainly.  He never achieved any degree of fame or renown, but he is someone I would consider truly great.   

     I once though greatness was the ability to make a lasting impression on the world.  I thought it meant living in a way that the world could not forget you.  How many men can ever accomplish that though.  Time has a way of erasing all that we do.  Most of our accomplishments are remembered only by ourselves and are buried with us at the end of our lives.  More often than not it is their great failures that survive men in history.  Still, we long for greatness.  I think we just don't know what greatness really is.

     I imagine a lake.  It's surface still like glass.  Each life is a drop of rain falling into the body of that lake creating a series of ripples spreading out across the surface.  If we could alone see how those circles of influence spread, we could perhaps measure the worth of that life.  Some would be small, scarcely noticeable.  Others would make a huge splash and create great waves.  The problem is that no drop strikes the surface alone.  Humanity is a rainstorm pelting the surface endlessly and the circles collide with one another.  The result is a billion ripples overlapping and getting lost in one another.  The imprint of even the biggest impact is soon lost in the midst of the storm.   I think I need a better definition of greatness.

     In life there is no equality.  We all are given varying degrees of wealth, power, talent, intellect, beauty and determination.  As I experience more of life, I am starting to believe that it matters not so much what we are given, but what we do with it.  I have seen people with countless wealth throw it away for nothing.  I have seen great intellect squandered.  I have also seen men with very little of either achieve far more in life than they should.  Some men seem to be born lucky and others cannot seem to catch a break.  Perhaps greatness is not measured on an absolute scale like we want to believe, but rather on a more individual basis.

     I want my children to know themselves.  I want them to find their strengths and I will help them nurture those strengths.  I want them to work hard and enjoy life.  I want them to strive to be more than they are today but be content with what God has given them.  I believe we have but one purpose in life and that is to be all that God created us to be.  It is easy to compare ourselves to others and give up when we find ourselves less gifted than the next guy.  I will not let the world judge me by its standard.  I will teach my children that they should also not allow themselves to be judged by the world's standard.  Maybe I will only achieve greatness in the eyes of my sons and daughter.  If I can live a life that holds fast to my convictions, if I can say at the end of each day that I have not compromised who I am or what I believe, and if I can stand someday before my Creator and say that whether He entrusted me with 10 talents or 5 or 1 I invested it wisely, then I suppose that I truly will have lived a life that was great.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summertime is here

    There are those times in life in which storms blow and we struggle not to get lost in the noise and confusion, but the storm always passes and as the rain drops are still clinging to the leaves, the sun breaks through the clouds.  We crawl out from our shelter and feel the refreshed air on our faces as we soak up the warmth.  For a while we will have a respite.
    That is how I have felt this week.  After being overwhelmed by the devastation I saw last week, maybe I needed some time for nothing to happen.  I needed the contrast of the quietness of solitude up against the noise of chainsaws and piles of debris.  In truth, this is a week just like most others.  I really hasn't been particularly quiet or slow, but I think the shocking reality of Joplin maybe has caused us all to better appreciate and enjoy what we have.
     It is summer.  School is out and days are long.  T-ball and baseball rule our evenings.  While I work, the family treks to the pool.  The two oldest are swimming semi-competitively.  They brought home their first ribbons.  Actually Karlye brought them by the office so they could display them with pride.  Caleb had a blue and two reds, Will a white.  They love the water.  They get that from their mother.  I go to the pool only under coercion.  Maybe if I still had the body I had at 24, I'd enjoy it more.  I think though that I still would be no fan of the pool.  I have too many memories of bad experiences at the pool as a child.  Swim lessons where I was more worried of drowning than I was interested in learning not to.  The night I lay crying at my aunts house with blisters on my sunburnt shoulders after too long in the sun at the pool with my cousins.  Some inner fear still possess me at the though of public swimming.  Just another strange quirk I developed over the years.

    My boys are growing up.  Now they are baseball superstars.  It is fun to watch their enthusiasm.  For them, this is the big leagues.  I realize that I have never taken them to a professional ball game.  I think it is time to rectify that.  Hopefully they will have gotten some athletic gene from their mother, because they certainly haven't got much of a chance that I passed one on to them.
      Caleb is the most competitive of all our children.  He cannot stand to lose.  There is a drive in that kid.  I often wonder what he can accomplish in life if he can stay focused.

     Will seems to enjoy himself but tends to show signs of absent mindedness that his mother blames on me for some reason.  He more than the others wants to please us.  He cares the most what we think of him.  I've said before that I see a lot of myself in him.  Maybe it's a firstborn thing.  He basks in our praise.  I am afraid sometimes I am to slow to give it.  That is something I have to remind myself of.  It is to easy to come down hardest on him.

     Josiah is his own special character with little quirks and idiosyncrasies.  He wants to prove that he is just as big as his brothers and is often frustrated at feeling just a little too young to fit in to their big kid world.  At the same time he marches to the beat of his own drum.  I am glad because I want him to stand on his own merit.

    I think it is wonderful to be in this time of life with boys enjoying the spring of youth, unsullied by the world in full possession of their innocence.  Sometimes I think that they are at the perfect age, when life is simple and summer is a time to relax and be free to be a kid.  Soon they will want more.  They will yearn for adulthood not knowing that forever they will try to get back the magical freedom of childhood.  

     I'll take each day as it comes and pray that these times will be ones that they will remember as better than the reality.  I'll let them bask in their glory as the great athletes they imagine themselves.  I won't be one of those parents who yells at coaches or get on their case if they let a ball roll past them.  I want to encourage them to give their best effort.  I also want them to realize that some times, it really is just a game and if you can't enjoy it, then you'd be better off not wasting your time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A tribute to Joplin

     I really don't know how to share my experience in Joplin in a way that people can understand.  I hope this video give those who haven't been there some idea of both the tragedy and the hope that I witnessed.  For those people who are suffering, I give this as a tribute to you.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lessons Learned

     Today I am tired and sore.  My back aches, my shoulder is bruised and my neck is sunburned.  I feel blessed to have earned these minor discomforts.  I feel honored that I was able to give just a little to something bigger than myself.  Seeing what has happened to Joplin shakes a person to the core.  There is just no way to take it all in and even more impossible to put it into words.  I think it will take a long time for me to digest all that I have seen and experienced over the last weekend, but I have learned a few things through this tragedy.

     Digging through piles of rubble and seeing what can happen in an instant to the treasures we collect was an eye opening experience.  Our sense of value is so skewed.   I thought about the treasures I have collected, the money we have spent on adornments for our home.  For the first time, I think I really got a glimpse of what it was all really worth.  I saw people who lost everything thankful for a meal, praising God that they were alive.  We lie to ourselves and make ourselves believe that we are protected by our wealth.  I saw first hand how everything can be swept away in an instant.  I makes one stop and consider if there is not a better investment that can be made with our labor and wealth then filling our house with trinkets.  So many of the volunteers I worked with said the same thing, "This makes me want to go home and get rid of everything I don't need."  In the end whether a tornado destroys it all or we keep it all horded away, the saying remains true, we can't take it with us. I want to start focusing more on people and less on things.  I want to start laying up my treasure in heaven where moth and rust and tornadoes don't destroy.  Ask the people of Joplin about treasure.  They will tell you what really is important.

     I learned that there is truly something great in humanity.  Yes we are a fallen, messed up lot.  We can be selfish and stubborn and mean.  There will always be people trying to get ahead at the expense of another.  However bleak the human condition seems at times, I understand now that there is also a part that is selfless, giving, and beautiful.  It seems odd that it usually only against the backdrop of unimaginable tragedy that this part of humanity comes into focus.  It is comforting to me to know that while we are broken, we have not completely lost all of the good qualities that God built into us.  We are more than mere animals, each looking out only for his own survival.  We are tiny imperfect images of God.  Maybe that is why He has not completely washed his hands of us.  Maybe He continues to love us despite our many evils, because He can see us as he created us and longs to restore us to the what we were created to be.  It's not so different from my own children who often exacerbate me to no end, who lie, and fight and tend to destroy what we give them.  Still though, there is nothing more wonderful than holding them close in my lap after a good bath, knowing that they are a part of me and that they love me as much as I love them.

     I have learned a new appreciation for my wife.  It was her heart for the people of Joplin that made this weekend a reality.  I never would have gone if It had not been for her.  She came to me and said that she wanted to do something for the people who had been effected by the tornado.  I half-heartedly agreed to go with her.  She went all out getting supplies donated and contacting pastor Vogel of Grace Baptist Church so that we would have a place to get tied in.  She passionately urged others to go when she stood before our church on Sunday and I believe that she was responsible for stirring the hearts of 40 some people to go and serve on Memorial day.  I hate to admit that sometimes I need her to push me to do what I need to do, but don't necessarily want to do.  There's no telling what I've just opened myself up to once she reads this.  I mean it though.  It is often because of her that I am motivated to be a better person, sometimes sometimes gladly and sometimes less enthusiastically.  It is just one of the many reasons I need her in my life.

      I hope most of all that I have learned to be content with what I have and hold it with an open hand.  I have been blessed with so much in my life, but it could all disappear tomorrow.  I don't know how I would react if I woke to find that everything I owned was washed away.  I hope that, like so many people I have met this weekend, I could say that what really matters was still just as present and just as real as before.  We have God and our families, friends and neighbors, all else is just decoration. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A memorable Memorial Day

     For 4000 years, those of us who live our lives according to Judeo-Christian teachings have believed that the two greatest commandments are that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind and that we should love our neighbor as our selves.  I don't know his motivation, but one day a man asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?"  Jesus responded with a story. He told of a man that was attacked, beaten and robbed and left for dead.  As he lay dying, two religious and moral elites walked by on the other side of the road, unwilling to get involved.  A third man, himself a social outcast, saw the man and was moved by compassion to take him into town and dress his wounds, then put up his own money to cover the victim's medical costs.  Jesus then asked his own question, "Who do you think was this man's neighbor?"

     His point was clear, every man is our neighbor.  We aren't supposed to get caught up in definitions, but instead just act.  I don't pretend to understand why God allows tragedy and human suffering.  I do know that through tragedy, the human spirit is often distilled to it's purest form. We grow sedentary and selfish in the easy times of life.  It takes suffering to stir our hearts to action.  It is in our response to tragedy that it is most clearly seen that we are indeed created in the image of God.

     My heart has been stirred by the devastation that occurred one week ago in Joplin.  The easy thing to do would have been to sit back and pretend that because I live 3 hours away, these people are not my neighbors.  I thank God for a wife who was so moved by compassion for these people we don't even know that she pushed me out  of my comfort zone and made me go with her and do something instead of just thinking about it.  We went and did what was really a miniscule amount in the grand scheme of things, but it changed me.  Tomorrow if possible I plan to go back and do a tiny bit more.  This time we will be joined by a much larger group.  Compassion is contagious.

      I start to think that I am becoming a bit preachy in my urging of others to go and do what they can.  I don't mean to make anyone feel guilty for their inaction, but rather I want others to know the indescribable joy of serving someone in need.  I want people to experience humanity the way God created us to.  I want to knock folks out of the every day rut that they have sunken into and realize that this isn't a government problem, or a local problem, but that it is a human problem. John Donne once wrote that no man is an island, entire in itself, but that we are each a part of the main and if one small clod be washed away, then we are the less.  When our neighbors in Joplin, or Tuscaloosa, or Louisiana, or Japan suffer, we all are effected.  Human suffering happens every day and it is just a matter of time until the next great tragedy strikes.  My question to whoever reads this is are you capable of looking the other way and justifying not getting involved in a way that lets you sleep at night, or are you like the Samaritan who was willing to roll up his sleeves and get a stranger's blood on his hands in order to save his life.  I won't lie to you, it's hard work and exhausting, but the sleep you earn by your efforts will be so much more refreshing that that you get by easing your conscience through excuses no matter how logical they may seem.

      Tomorrow is Memorial day.  I don't have to work.  I want to sleep in, take it easy, eat too much and think about nothing important.  Despite what I want to do, I am planning at getting up ridiculously early and making another 3 hour drive so that I can work my butt off for people I don't know and will never meet again.  I expect it will be the most wonderful and memorable Memorial Day of my life.  Who want's to join me?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

There and back again

     What a day this has been.  I have never seen anything that approaches the devastation I witnessed in Joplin.  It truly makes ones heart ache for the people of that community.  Words do not suffice to begin to describe the she extent of wreckage the was inflicted on the town and its residents.   Picture can convey a glimpse but fail to show the size.  Thanks to Google's Street View, I was able to recreate some before and after pictures.

                               Such as this street:

                                Or this house:

    The woman who lived in the house above survived somehow by riding out the tornado in her bathtub which was located in the area that is still upright in the center of the above picture.

    I think what amazed me the most is that the death toll is currently at 142 and not magnitudes higher, because this amount of devastation went on unchecked for 6 miles through the heart of town in a path that was one half to a mile wide. 

     Seven of us set out from Tonganoxie on Saturday and arrived with 4 carloads of donated food, water, and personal items that were donated by friends, neighbors, and local businesses.  We had made contact with the pastor of Grace Baptist Church.  This one church has been feeding over 500 people a day.  After unloading what we brought, We spent an hour organizing all of the medical goods that had been dropped off at the church.

    Karlye and I and Natasha, a girl who works in my office,  then headed out to help sort through the rubble of a house, looking for any thing of value that might be salvaged.  We would spend the remainder of the day just sifting through the crumbled remains, digging up pictures and coin collections and the like.  It was so inspiring to be joined in this endeavor by some 15 others people all coming on their own in groups to see how they could help out.

     Throughout the day other people in cars and trucks would drive by offering us barbeque and sandwiches, water and snacks.  They also came on their own, helping in their own way.


    Still others came by in bands with chainsaws and heavy equipment, doing thousands of dollars worth of work for free, not even knowing for whom they were doing the work.

    We joined in clearing away the trees that has been strewn about another neighbors yard.  When we finally left, we could see that we had begun to make a dent in that one corner of the street, but looking back down the road, it seemed like no headway had been made at all.

     We had been told all week not to come yet, that they didn't need supplies, that the wok had not really started yet.  Fortunately about 9,000 people (according tot the local radio station) came anyway.
 As we spoke with people, they urged us to come again, to bring whatever we could, and to help out in whatever way possible.

    If you have been hesitant to go because you wonder if you are really needed, let me assure you, you are needed.  The people of Joplin told us they need you.

     If you are hesitant to come because you don't know what you could possibly do, then I would tell you that there are a million things you can do.  Just  lend your hands to sift through the debris.  Lend your back to haul brush, lend your skills to sharpen dulled saw blades.  If you cook, serve meals to people.  If you Have a backhoe, lend your time to clear out the millions of tons of debris.  If all you can do is sit, then sit and listen or pray with people.  The only people not needed are the ones who's hearts are not moved with compassion for those suffering, and I'd bet even they could be used id willing.

     It is amazing to see the goodness that man is capable.  It reaffirms in me that we are created in the image of God, even though it often takes such tragedy to see that part of us come to the surface.

    I'll leave you for now with a few pictures.  Say a prayer for the city of  Joplin and then keep praying.

     Don't wait for someone else to go in your place.  We will be going back soon.  Please join us.

The Home Depot


Saint John's Hospital 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ready to go

     Well, My truck is packed full of supplies that have been so generously donated for the people of Joplin.  Some wonderful people from church spent their Friday night helping us fit it it their with their amazing packing skills.  I am tired and ready to leave tomorrow to do I don't know what for people I do not know.  Best of all, tonight I feel a little better about humanity.
     Just when you think the world is falling apart, people have a way of amazing you.  My wife gets a crazy notion that we should help out a town of people we have no connection to, two hours away.  She launches a Facebook campaign the next morning and now, 4 days later we have at least 2 truck-loads of supplies and 4 more volunteers coming with us.  I don't even know most of the people who donated to our little effort, but God bless them for taking the time to collect and deliver the bundles of stuff to our door.

     It amazes me too how the times that we see the most selfless actions often follow great tragedy.  My heart was wrenched when I learned that one lady made a donation as selfless as any I have ever seen.  She lost her baby due to a miscarriage the same day that the city of Joplin was devastated.  Her nursery was already stocked with diapers and other baby supplies. I can't imagine the pain she is personally going through and yet she donated her son's supplies to help another mother who was suffering in a different way.  There are not words to describe that kind of character.  Please pray for her as you pray for the other families who have suffered so much this week.

     I hardly feel deserving of the honor of delivering these few items.  I just hope that tomorrow, we might help someone who needs help.  I just hope I can show the love of Christ to someone who needs it.  It has been an amazing few days already thanks to everyone's generosity. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

I'll update you all later.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Helping Joplin

     As someone who strongly believes that people depend far too much on the government to meet their needs, there are times when I have to quit sitting around and waiting for someone else to get out and take care of problems when they arise.  Yesterday's tornado in Joplin is just one example.  It would be easy to sit back and let FEMA come in and sort things out for those people.  It is a lot less convenient to go and get involved.  It is a lot less convenient to break away from my daily routine and take time to help those in need.  The problem with America today is that so many sit back and let the government do what we should be doing. 
     Karlye asked me tonight if it would be possible to drive down to Joplin to help out.  I'll be honest.  My first response was not one of great enthusiasm.  I don't have a clue what I could do, or how I could make a difference.  Then it struck me that if everyone excused themselves for those reasons, nothing would ever get done.
     So this Wednesday we are going to go to Joplin and offer what ever help we can.  If I can work as a doctor, I will.  We will take water, batteries, tarps and whatever else we can think of that people might need.  Mostly I just want to be there to offer my assistance to someone who might need it.  We may not be able to do much in the grand scheme of things, but we can do something. 
     As a Christian I am supposed to give to those in need, to show others a Christlike love.  Sometimes God calls us to go and serve.  If this isn't one of those times, then I don't know what is.
  If there is anyone who would like to join us, then contact me.  We can caravan down there.  If you want to get some water or food or some other supplies and can get them to me, I will deliver them. If we can just help one family ease their suffering through this ordeal, then we will have made a difference.  If you know of a specific family or a specific need, please let me know as well.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

For my brother on his wedding day

    It's a little strange, as a sophomore in college, to visit your mother in the hospital after she's just had a baby.  Not that I wasn't prepared.  I hardly had known a time when my mother wasn't either "with child" or with an infant.  For the most part it didn't effect me in any way.  Sure, as the oldest, I got stuck watching the rest of my siblings a lot.  I liked them though, and I was old enough that they still thought I was cool (at least the younger ones did).  There were the occasional moments of utter humiliation like the time the lady at the check-out counter assumed I was the father and told my mom and me that we had beautiful children.  For the most part though, I always liked being the oldest of 10 kids and especially enjoyeded the littlest ones.  The babies were kind of like my own children in a way.  I didn't have to raise or pay for them, I wasn't responsible for their well-being, but I had a special bond with them that was some sort of complex amalgamation of sibling and parental.  When the youngest, Mark, was born, I truly was old enough to be his dad.  That was a little strange for me.  I never really had much of a relationship with Mark, not like I did with my other siblings.  I was off away starting my own life, doing the whole teaching thing, then the med school and residency thing.  I watched my siblings grow for the next decade in through a strobe light.  There were momentary flashes of time I would spend with them and then they would disappear in darkness as I got lost in my own world of worries and care.  Over the years those flashes of their lives were somehow stitched together into a time-lapse film.  Just like those movies of seeds sprouting and growing into plants sped up a thousand times, my brothers and sisters grew up abnormally fast, or so it seemed to me.

     Time is a strange sort of magic that works on our minds in mysterious ways.  For me, my personality must have solidified in my early twenties because that is where time stopped moving in regard to how I view myself.  When I dream, I am still twenty.  I am sometimes shocked to look in the mirror, because I don't recognize the man staring back at me.  He is middle aged and overweight, with greying hair and beginning to wrinkle around the edges. I have a hard time believing that this is who I am now.  I certainly couldn't have changed that much in such a short span of years. In the same way, in my memory, my family was frozen forever in time when I left them to make my own way in the world.  They linger on that way to this day.  It's like when you stare too long at an image an then it lingers in negative when you look away or even close your eyes.  I still expect to pull up to my parents house and see them all come piling out climbing on me asking me to play with them.  But now they are grown, and it is my children running to me.   The shouts of "Bill's home!" have changed to "Daddy's home!" Sometimes I get lost in time and memories from 20 years ago merge with the here and now.  In those moments I get some kind of chronologic vertigo and it makes me feel like the time-space continuum is all off kilter.  Other times I am going about my daily routine, talking with my children, and find myself getting stared at because I have called them by the name of one of their uncles.

     I often feel like I'm raising my second family.  I've tried to explain this to Karlye, but she just can't grasp what I mean.  Everything about my family life is tinted a sense of deja vu.  It has gotten especially noticeable as my own children have reached the ages my memory tells me that my siblings are still supposed to be.  What scares me is how fast my "first family" turned from toddlers to adults.  My babies will be gone forever far sooner than seems possible from inside the noise and hustle and scurry that we are caught up in right now.  Part of me longs to see them grown and on their own, safe and secure without my having damaged them too much. Part of me wants to hold them tight and make them stop growing, because I can't think of anything that could ever replace the joy that they bring to my life.  Generally the part that wins out depends a lot on what we are having for dinner and how much of a fight it is to get them to eat it.

     I have a theory about perception of time.  The speed of time is relative to how much of it we have experienced.  When you are 4 it takes forever to get from one Christmas to the next.  That's because your talking a span that's 25% of the time you have lived and can comprehend.  Four years of high school seemed never ending for the same reason.  At 40 that same 25% is a decade.  How odd it seems to me that I no longer think in years but decades.  If the time from age 20 to 40 went so quickly, 40-60 can only seem faster.  I'm just hypothesizing, but if there is someone who is 60, or 70, or 80, could you let me know if I am correct in this line of thinking?

     My baby brother Mark is getting married this weekend.  That's what has me musing about this stuff in the first place.  It doesn't seem possible to me that he is old enough or that I am old enough to see him get married.  I wonder how my parents feel.  Are they sad to see their baby all grown up?  Are they relieved to be done?  Are they still haunted, as I am, of memories from 20 or 40 years ago that seem but a moment past?  I won't have to wonder long because as impossible as it seems my children will all too soon be leaving us to start their own lives.

     Perhaps because of my fairly unique perspective I am getting a premature dose of empty nest syndrome even though my nest is quite full at the moment.  I think that maybe I am a bit schizophrenic in that there are two versions of myself.  One resides in my mind as the ideal of what I was when I first stepped out into adulthood.  The other exists in reality and has been weathered a bit by the experiences of life.

     When I look at Mark I see myself as I was 20 years ago.  Young, confident, certain with an infinite number of possibilities before me.  I realize that I am no longer that person.  I chose a path and I am working my way down it.  I don't regret the path I chose.  My wife, my children, my career are wonderful blessings that God has given me along the journey.  There are certainly choices I have made along the way that I regret, but I never have doubted that I am on the road God intended for me.  Still, looking at my brother, there are twinges of nostalgia for that moment in life at the start of the journey, brimming with expectation.

     In light of the upcoming nuptials,  I have been thinking what I would tell my younger self, if I had the ability to travel back through time.  What advice would I give myself?  Not being able to do that, maybe I can instead give some insight to my youngest brother.

     So Mark, as you begin your new life with your bride, know that I will be praying for you.  Hold fast to your beliefs because they will be tested.  Sometimes your faith will be tested by trials and other times by the monotony of the daily grind.  Fix your eyes on God and never take them off of Him. Right now you see marriage as a culmination of your hopes and dreams and a completion of yourself as a person.  You will soon come to find that it is just the start of a long journey that will shape and mold you.  It takes hard work, more than you can even imagine.  Hang tight to your wife so that you ride out the storms of life together as a team instead of as two individuals.  Be a man of character, because character matters.  Life is humbling.  It teaches you just how little you know and how little control you have.  I don't doubt for a moment that you will succeed, but nothing in life comes easy.  Work hard but always enjoy life.  Learn to relax without compromising what you believe.  It is the trials that make you grow and harden your faith.  It is the quiet times of calm and peace that cause you to to let down your guard and become complacent.  Never be afraid to admit when you are wrong and stand resolute when you know you are right.  Listen more than you speak. Resolve to live each day in a manner that you have nothing to be ashamed of.  Live out Philippians 3. 
     Time changes everything, mostly for the better.  It is a tremendous equalizer.  Now more than ever we have an opportunity to get to know each other as we never have had before.  Each year that passes will give us more in common.  Twenty years from now I hope we will be more than brothers.  I hope we will have a true friendship such as never has been possible before.  I don't have much to offer you in the way of amazing advice, but I do have a twenty year head start on you and if you ever want to bounce an idea off someone, I'll always be available to listen and tell you what I've learned.
     Good luck.  I'm proud of the man you have become.  I look forward to seeing what God will do with your life.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


     Well, This has been a strange week.  I've had every intention of writing and have just not found the time.  I had planned on trying to honor my wife with a post on Mothers Day, but I'm fairly certain that she appreciates me participating with parenting more than just writing about it.  Some strange force is at work in my body as well.  I think it's called age.  Whatever it is, over the last few nights I have been totally exhausted by the time the kids get in bed.  Generally I avoid sleep as much as possible.  I know it's not the healthy thing to do.  I just feel like so much time is wasted lying in bed asleep.  I have a lot of more enjoyable ways than sleeping to waste 30% of my life.  I generally try and coast by on 5 hours or so of sleep a night and then every few weeks get 9 or 10 hours and that sort of resets everything.  The last few days I've been needing  8+ hours.  It really is frustrating, because I just can't function after about 9:30.  That is normally when I am just getting started.  Consequently, things like writing have been neglected.

     Now that I have a few moments, I wanted to reflect a little on Motherhood.  I don't often appreciate all that my wife deals with in her role as a mother.  I think I sometimes get jealous of the amount attention she gives the kids.  Sometimes I fear that we focus so much on the kids that we unintentionally neglect our relationship.  It's hard to keep things in balance.  I watched my parents walk the same tightrope.  I'm amazed that they came through as well as they did.

     I wanted to post on Mother's Day, because I truly believe it is an important day.  We celebrate Fathers Day, and that's nice, but most dad's really don't expect much from father's day.  It's nice for us, but we really don't get all that into it.  I'm sure it's partly due to the difference in the sexes.  I love being a dad.  I am close to my kids, but I will never have the sense of a bond with them that Karlye has.  They were a part of her once.  She felt them grow inside her.  She felt their first fluttering movements within her.  She carried them each for nine months and then went through an excruciating ordeal to bring them into this world.  That changes a woman.  As a man, I can't begin to understand the bond between a mother and her children.  Mothers have earned their day through physical and emotional sacrifice.

     Men are separated from the whole experience of pregnancy and birth.  It is a mystery that we can never fully grasp. Because of this, we are often confused and frustrated by what we see in the way our wives relate to our children.  I have had moments that have been truly precious in which I have a baby fall asleep in my arms.   I still don't really enjoy rocking a baby to sleep at night when I could be doing something else.  Karlye loves those moments.  I think she is most at peace with a a baby snuggled up to her breast.

     Even when the kids have pushed her to her limit, she still is their most ardent defender.  Many dads have probably experienced a situation in which they are totally baffled by their wife. It is the end of the day and mom is worn out.  She has been surrounded by crying and complaining children all day with no adult conversation.  She is frustrated and tired and pushed her to her limit.  Dad walks in, he has been at work.  He had forgotten that he even had children until he pulled in the driveway and found a collection of Big Wheels in his normal parking space.  He goes inside ready to wind down, relax, maybe, if everything goes well, spend some romantic quiet time with his wife.  That all changes as he steps across the threshold.
     "You need to deal with your son.  I've had about all I can take from him.  He has kicked a hole in the wall, clogged all 3 toilets, spilled a gallon of milk on the carpet, and told me that I am the meanest person that ever lived.  I'm done."
     Now a truly amazing dad and husband would probably tell his bride to go sit down and rest while he straightens up the kitchen and gets dinner finished and on the table.  He might then go down to his son's room and have a good long chat with the child about respecting mom and treating her the way she deserves.  He would do it firmly but with love and his son would then apologize and begin treating his mother with the respect she deserves.
     I typically don't live up to that ideal.  I most likely would pretend I didn't really hear her and hope somehow that I might still be allowed to go sit and relax for a while.  This never works and eventually I am persuaded to take action.  I now am mad at the child more for the inconvenience that he is causing me than for anything he may have done to his mother.  I  head back to teach the little creep a thing or two.
     At this point there will be an immediate change in a mother's position toward the child.  She moves from prosecuting attorney to public defender in a heart beat.  That child may have driven her to the edge of insanity, but at the slightest perceived threat she will become the mamma grizzly defending her cub. I have become the bad guy for coming down too harshly.  I am threatening her baby.
     It is a situation that frustrates and confuses me, unless I stop and look at it from her perspective.  This kid, no matter how horrible he has been acting, is a part of her.  She is right too.  I generally am not acting in love at this point.  God has given her a special insight that I don't have.  It is good to have that as a counterpoint to my sense of justice.  If only I could remember that at the time, instead of taking it personally.

     There is also a common bond between two mothers from the shared experience of giving birth.  Put two men in a room and they will try to talk about sports, or work or something that they can find as a common ground.  Most likely they will not discuss their children.  Moms start with motherhood and children and expound from there.

     We took the kids to a nature center last weekend.  I brought Elijah and Grace into a room set up for preschoolers.  There was a woman and her baby in the room with us.  I nodded at her in acknowledgement, and then proceeded to focus on my kids completely forgetting that she was there.  After a while Karlye came in and I left with the older kids to look around some. After 20 minutes or so, I wandered back into the room to see what the wife was up to.  I found her engaged in conversation with the other woman.  I sauntered up to see if she what she was discussing.  As I approached I heard, "..and he never experienced any nipple confusion."
      I did an about face and left the room as quickly as possible.  I don't know that I have ever been engaged in a conversation with a total stranger about nipple confusion and had no intention of doing so at that moment.  That is a conversation far outside of my comfort zone.  These to women were engaged in mom talk.  Two mothers can discuss personal anatomy, bodily fluids, excrement and a whole host of other uncomfortable topics without even a hint of social awkwardness. These two women were fully engaged and I knew that they would be there for quite a bit longer.  The other woman's husband was also hovering about, afraid of getting close enough to overhear their conversation.  We exchanged a knowing glance and then both wandered off.  I think our wives must have shared their life stories in their 45 minute chat.

     I'm glad my wife is the way she is.  She loves being a mom.  It is her life.  She lets her motherhood define her.  Too many women are afraid to do so these days.  Karlye is a wonderful and talented person.  She was great at being a nurse and I know she could accomplish anything she set her mind to.  She has chosen to focus on raising 5 children. Because of this, she has sacrificed the accolades that come with what the world considers a real profession.  She can't leave her job at the end of the day.  She spends hours doing laundry, cleaning, and cooking for people who not only take it for granted, but most of the time complain about the way she does it.  Unfortunately, I am far too often one of those people.

     I could never do what Karlye does.  She can keep track of all 5 kids and has an intuitive sense that tells her when something is not right.  She keeps them fed, knows what their homework is, knows when their ball practice is, works in their classrooms, knows where their clothes go and manages to not only dress them in a socially acceptable fashion, but most of the time has them all color coordinated.  She is an expert on safety and has all the guidelines for car seats committed to memory.  She alone keeps our house from descending into utter chaos. I don't know what we would do without her.

     I hope that I can learn to be a better support to her.  I try, but I let her down far too often.  I hope she knows that despite our squabbles and the monotony of our daily struggles, I really don't take her for granted.  Of course, it is easy to write about being a good husband and it is a whole different thing to be one.  I'm not a perfect husband, but she makes me want to keep trying. Karlye has said at times that I could be just as happy if I was alone.  While I do enjoy getting away from the craziness of our life when I can,  I would be nothing without her and our litter of urchins in my life.  Our life together is anything but perfect.  It's crazy flurry of madness most of the time.  It's a roller-coaster to be sure, but with her by my side and this brood of kids wrapped tight in our arms, it the most amazing and fun ride imaginable.  I would not have it any other way.

     So Karlye, I hope you had a great Mothers Day and may it continue every day of your life.