How It All Started?

So, this week on the 10th of August, I mark 26 years of being married to my best friend. Every year around this time Chrissy and I get asked the question, “How did you two meet?” For this week I thought I would share how we got to where we are.

It actually started 30 years ago.

If Chrissy was telling the story, which she will add her two cents into this before it’s all said and done, this is how she would say it all started…

Chrissy attended a concert that a group of youth put on called “Rock to Reach.” I was a part of this group. Chrissy was also, but we really didn’t know each other. At this concert there were three acts– two local openers followed by a somewhat big-name band. The first act was a group that I started called “The Live Wires For Christ.” We were a vocal group that used backtracks to sing along to. I have to say that we had some of the smoothest group choreography of any conservative Christian kids in the 80’s. We thought we were the bomb-diggity. So, after we performed, we would stand at our table in the hall, available to talk to our fans. Thinking back to all that just cracks me up that we thought we had fans. We even had black and white 8×10’s of the group that we autographed and gave away.

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So, as Chrissy would say, there was this one very cute guy and another guy that was just so full of himself. Chrissy thought the second guy had an way over-inflated ego, yeah well… that was me. The cute guy was my best friend at the time. Well. As the story goes, Chrissy didn’t want to have anything to do with me that night we first met.

Fast forward to four months when our youth group held a Christian skate night at Great Skate.

Side note: This youth group we were in had no adult sponsors. We were made up of a group of Christian teens who wanted to make an impact in our community for Jesus. It was called S.O.S. (Sword of Salvation). We held all kinds of outreach events and concerts.

At the skate night, I was there with my friend best friend, Sam. I loved to skate– if you needed to find me on a Saturday morning, you would find me at the rink. I was pretty good at skating, and Sam, well he could just about stay on his feet. That night there was a couples skate. This was when they slow the tunes down, and only couples would be on the skating floor. This was the time when you could ask a girl or a boy that you may be crushing on to skate with you. Most time you got to at least hold their hand as you skated around. I had just came off the floor when this little girl came up to me and asked Sam if he would skate with her friend. Then she turned to me and said, “Will you skate with me?” So Sam accepted first, and I looked at this little girl and thought, sure why not, what would it hurt? She looked like she was 10 years old. So I skated around with her. As we skated, I found out that she was actually 14 and was in middle school. She was very sweet and funny. When we were done, she gave me a paper with her phone number on it and said, “My name is Carla” as she cracked her bubble gum and smiled at me in a very flirtatious way. Then she said in a high-pitched squeaky voice, “Call me some time, sweetie!” Her friend (Chrissy) exchanged numbers with my friend, Sam.

I thought she was way too young for me to be serious. So, perhaps we could be friends. After all, I had just turned 17. That was a big age difference back then.

Side note: It’s funny how the older you get, the gap in age doesn’t seem that big of a deal. It actually seems more common than not.

Carla who lived like 20 miles from me and she went to a school a few towns over. So, we got to know each other through phone conversations. But Sam and Chrissy’s phone numbers were long distance from each other, so they couldn’t talk as much. See we didn’t have cell phones back then and for our home phone, we had to pay for long distance calls, and they were actually pretty expensive. So, I could call Carla and give a message to her for Chrissy from Sam. This worked fine for a while, but Carla seemed to always be getting in trouble with her parents, and they would take her phone privileges away. That caused me to call Chrissy directly, and then she became the messenger to Carla.

Over the next few months, Chrissy and I became really good friends. We talked almost everyday after school, even if we didn’t have a message to pass along.

Fast forward again. Our group youth group was bringing in a band called “Bash’n the Code.” Chrissy was there, and so was Sam. It was April 17th 1987. (This is the date we consider our anniversary for starting our relationship.) At this time I was beginning to realize that I really liked Chrissy. So, I wanted to make sure she knew I existed. While I was taking every opportunity to flirt with her, I thought that I would be funny and pull her chair out from under her as she sat down. I planned to catch her, but this was one of those times in my life that a prank went wrong. I didn’t get in position to make the catch. She fell to the ground and smacked the back of her head on brick floor. (Which she says she still has an indentation in her head to this day.) I felt horrible. I thought all chances of her liking me more than a friend were totally over. I was in the “Friend Zone,” and I just gave my friend a lump on her head!

But the night was not over. As Chrissy tells it she and Sam went for a walk out on a playground, and he tried to kiss her. Yeah. I think it had a worse impact than me pulling the chair out from under her. So I was back in the game! You have to understand there was really no bro code, so it was all good.

The four of us made plans to hang out together at Chrissy’s house one weekend. The telephone games were getting old for both Chrissy and I, but we still hung out this weekend. At one time when Chrissy and I were playing with the soccer ball, she kicked it into some lilac bushes in her yard. When she ran behind them to get the ball, I followed and as she turned to come out, she ran right into me. Face to face, and I went in for the kiss, and it was received pretty well because she kissed me back. It made things a bit awkward the rest of the day because we were now both very aware that we liked each other.

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At some point my parents came to pick me up at her house. That was when the unspeakable happened for both Chrissy and I. My parents said, “What is Chrissy’s mom’s name? I said, “Jo.” They me if it could be Jo Cott? I said, “I don’t know, why?” They then got out of the car. This was not good for a teenagers reputation. My parents wanted to be introduced, so I did, and as it turns out, Chrissy’s mom knew my parents from years before. Chrissy’s mom loves this part of our story, because we found out that she uses to babysit me when I was a baby. So she likes to tell everyone, even to this day, that she changed my diapers! Talk about humiliation for Chrissy and I both!

Then our parents made plans to get together when they were camping at a place called Kettle Creek.

We met up with them, my family and Chrissy’s family all together. Chrissy and I decided to go for a walk and talk. We decided we needed to be sure we were definitely sure about what we felt when we kissed the first time, so we did again. Because our feelings were confirmed, we talked about what to do about Carla and Sam? As it goes, we each respectfully broke it off with them, and we decided to go steady.

There are many stories to tell from the 4 years that we dated. Like the time she through a plastic bottle of nail polish remover at me, which cut my forehead wide open. She got sent to her room for that one. Then you have the marriage proposal. Chrissy got so mad at me for being late to pick her up. I really wasn’t late; I was just down the street taking pictures of her because I was getting ready to ask her to marry me, and I wanted the area to clear out. But the one story that I love to tell is the first time I told her I was going to marry her. It was after we had been going out for a month. I felt so sure of myself that I looked at Chrissy one day and I said this: (Wait, you should know that at this time I was 17 and she was one month from being 14. Okay, so she was 13.)

I looked deep into her gorgeous brown eyes and said, “Someday I will marry you, and you will be my wife! She smiled at me, then started to laugh. She said, “Yeah, right.” And then she walked away.

30 years later, she is my best friend, my soulmate and my wife. We have been though a lot over the years. With each challenge that has come our way, I thank God that it was you that I was able to walk through it with. You are one of the most creative and fun people I have ever known, together we are a blast. Love you, Chrissy Hunter!

I should have ran off with the circus when I was 5!

The other day when Chrissy and I went to the fair we saw a booth for bounce houses and other cool inflatables. So, I naturally picked up a brochure of their products and services. There were all kinds of inflatables– obstacle courses, Velcro walls, jousting, and themed bounce houses. They had tons to choose from!

If you’re around me for any prolonged length of time you will figure out that I love inflatables. Somewhere deep in me I have the makings of a carnival worker, or at least someone who works or performs in a circus. If I’m getting raw and real here, I will let you in on a secret. Don’t tell anyone though. I think perhaps I should have ran off with the circus when I was 5.

I remember my dad getting me up super early when the circus would come to Williamsport. He would take me down to where the circus would set up. It was right next to the railroad tracks. The circus train would come in, stop, and unload right there. When we would arrive, often the fog would be just lifting and you could hear the men calling out to one another, laying out the huge tent that soon would become the “Big Top” of the Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Thinking back forty plus years ago, I remember sitting on the dike next to the Lycoming Creek with dad, my sleepy eyes trying to focus on what was happening in the field. Once the tent was spread out and laced, a line of big men would hoist up a humongous pole to their shoulders and make their way in under the tent to place the main support beams.

Then, my favorite part was coming. My dad grabbed my small hand and led me down the incline of the dike into the green, grassy field. We slowly walked trough the field closer to the action, to have a better viewing spot for what would take place next.

With my eyes wide and my mouth wide open, an exciting electricity flowed though my entire being that my small 5-year old body could hardly contain. My dad hoisted me up on his strong, wide shoulders and sat me there, so I wouldn’t miss anything that was happening.

Just then, I heard the trumpeting and felt the ground shake a bit. Out of the fog came the huge white-tusked elephants. Their enormous ears flapping back and forth, and their trunks swinging from side to side, they majestically walked alongside their trainers.

I remember seeing one of the beasts lay its trunk on the shoulder of its trainers as if to say, “Hi, I’m with you.” The man reached across his body and gently patted the elephant’s trunk, looking over his shoulder into its eyes and seemed to speak kindly to it.

I recall each one having a special harness on as they moved past me. Their fire hose like trunks would swing to and fro, grabbing grass along the way as they moved into place. When the trainer told them to stop, they obeyed immediately. The huge pachyderms knelt down instinctively knowing what they were there to do. Each handler hooked up a large ropey strap to an elephant, all the while lovingly encouraging and gently praising the animal.

Then it was time for the magic. With one loud shout from the head man, the elephants all stood up and with their trainers at their side started to methodically walk effortlessly forward, They moved in sync slowly, and as they did, the tent rose to the top of the poles, kissing the sky. I have always loved the circus from that day forward.

The sad part is that if I did steal away with the circus that day, I now would be out of a job with the recent closing of the Greatest Show on Earth. That does make me sad to think about. This show brought wonder, excitement, and even a bit of magic to town. It always made me feel like a kid again, no matter my age.

So the family story I have may not seem too surprising, but then again, we are the Hunter Clan– nothing is ever too easy or dull.

Over the years, I have rented these inflatables for various events, and I have always thought it would be great to own one. I never really did anything with it. Then one year I was working on an annual church event called Trunk or Treat. This is a Halloween trick or treating alternative, where kids get to safely trick or treat out of trunks of cars that are hosted and decorated by a group or organization. At my Trunk or Treats, I always like to have a little more for those attending to do than just walking around asking for treats. So, sometimes I have been known to have games or food for those attending.

One year we did a superhero theme, and I had seen a huge, inflatable slide obstacle course that looked like Superman. The front of it was Superman standing in his classic superhero pose, then alongside of him was this huge slide– it was something like 16 feet. So this thing was big; unfortunately, so was the price tag to rent it. I’m pretty sure it was close to $700.00. These things were not cheap.

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After renting that one, I got to thinking… I wonder how much it would be to buy a used unit like this? So, I started to do some research on the web to see if there were used units out there that I could buy. Well, it just so happens that there are inflatables out there, and incidentally they only cost a bit more to buy then what you rent them for.

So, I thought ‘tis maybe an option someday. Just imagine if I owed my own inflatable. That would just be so cool! I started to do the math. How many rentals would I have to have to do to break even on this? 4 or 5 maybe?

Like most great ideas that I have, but I don’t have the finances for, I put it on the backburner. Then, I had another event that I needed to have an inflatable at something like camp or VBS. That is when it really hit me that I could be saving my ministry amazing amounts of money that could be used in other ways to reach kids for Jesus. So, I when back to my computer and started the search process again. I remember looking on eBay and finding a nice variety of inflatables. Then I saw this one that was simply put– Awesome! It was a huge slide shaped like a parrot. I called Chrissy over, and said, “You have to check this out! She came over and as she usually does when she knows I’m onto some crazy idea she looked at it and said, “That’s nice. What would you do with that?”

That’s all I needed. I told her all my great ideas and uses for this inflatable. I told her how we could use it for ministry and to bring in a little extra cash at times. Then she asked how much is it? I said, “Look it’s only $1200.00! Then she said, “What’s wrong with it?” I said, “Nothing!” I knew at this point I almost had her. I was on the verge of my dream becoming a reality. I was so close that I could smell the popcorn and cotton candy of the carnival.

 

“How big is it?” she asked.

I said, “25 feet tall! It’s giant!”

Well, she said, “That is big! How big is that?”

She’s not always that good at judging how big things are when you say it in feet. So, I told her it was bigger than our house! We lived in a ranch style house at the time.

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“How much do you think we could rent it for?” She asked. I said, “I don’t know. The one slide I rented was $700.00, but I would not want to charge that much, especially to churches!

She said, “Well, let’s see what we have in savings.”

So, we looked and thought we could do it. I went a ahead and bought it. Now one thing you should always do if you are shopping on eBay is look at the shipping price before you bid. Now, this was not my first rodeo with eBay, but we were so excited that we forgot to look at the shipping costs. We just made sure this was not a pick-up only kind of thing.

We were so very ecstatic that we were going to get this amazing parrot inflatable and all we were going to be able to do with it. This was a dream come true!

Then the seller messaged us, and asked how we would be shipping. What? The seller takes care of shipping, not the buyer! Then I dug into the post a little closer, and I saw that the buyer would be responsible for arranging shipping for the inflatable. I looked at Chrissy and said, “Awwww… no problem we will just use UPS, and have them ship it.

So I started make inquiries about shipping our parrot, only to come to find out that an 800 pound heavy duty vinyl inflatable would be very expensive to ship. So, I told the seller that it would take us a bit to figure out the shipping, but we would take care of it.

You may have seen the show Shipping Wars? Well, that was what I discovered online way before the reality tv show was a thought. I put my item up, and potential shippers started to bid on handling my package.

I was still not happy with the results. In the end, our shipping cost was almost the same as what we paid for the inflatable. It was the best price we had gotten though. After talking it through, we still thought it was worth it so, we moved forward with shipping it.

The next bump was that the shipper needed it to be on a skid and shrink-wrapped. The buyer didn’t even want to help with finding a skid. I did pay a little extra for a lift gate on both ends of the shipping. I thought that would help a bit. From what the seller said, the driver was not happy about any of it. But, if you watch the shipping wars show, the drivers never are happy about any of the jobs.

I somewhat understood a bit when it finally reached our house from California. The seller had this thing rolled up in the most inefficient way. It came looking like a wrestling mat. It was about 12 feet long and about 2 ½ feet high. The truck that it came on for some reason didn’t have the lift gate, so the driver went back and changed the load to a lift gate truck but failed to bring a lift jack to take it off the truck and gate. So, I was told I needed to come to the depot and pick it up.

So, Chrissy, the kids and I borrowed a trailer, hooked it up to our full-size conversion van and went to ABF to get our parrot. We got there and they finally found our package– it was really hard to miss. They used a forklift to load it on the trailer. I signed for it, and we were headed home.

We got home and all of us worked together to get it off the trailer. Then we unrolled it in the driveway and called a few of our friends to come over and try out our new slide. As soon as I started to inflate it in the driveway, we attracted the attention of neighborhood kids we didn’t even know existed on our street. They stood at the end of the driveway to see this spectacle, hoping for an invite to slide down our mammoth bird. This was the biggest bird I had ever seen, let alone the largest inflatable. We set up lights in the driveway and played on this thing far into the night. Everyone loved it and had a blast!

The next day, we needed to figure out how to fold it and roll it into a smaller, more compact manner than it came in. After a few tries, we finally achieved a roll that looked like a red and blue super-sized burrito. It sat about 3 foot wide and 4 foot long. It was heavy! This is when we discovered the amazing uses of ratchet straps.

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Side Note: It didn’t take too long for us to figure out we needed heavy duty straps to hold it all together. We used a furniture dollie to make it easy to move in and out of the garage.

Last thing we needed to get our big bird ready to rent was a trailer, and Chrissy found one off of…Guess where? Yup, you guessed it, eBay! This time we made sure to check the shipping. Actually we just traveled a little ways to pick this up.

Chrissy was very smart on picking a trailer for our bird. It was a tip trailer, and it had hand crank winch. We would hook the parrot up and crack away pulling the inflatable up on the tilted trailer. When it reached the tipping point, the trailer would come down flat, and we would strap her on.

We have had our share of adventures with this huge bird. We even rented it to a famous rapping celebrity who lived close to us. He wanted his kids to play on it one afternoon, so he rented it from us. I had to sign a disclosure, so I can’t tell you who he was. I can tell you that I didn’t get his name quite right when I told Chrissy who he was. I asked her if she had ever heard of a guy named Art Kelly. She hadn’t.

Even though we had a bit of a rough start in the beginning, the parrot paid for itself and even help fund a mission trip or two.

Never give up on the dreams that God plants deep in you. If you truly believe He can bring it about, it may just happen sometime in the strangest of ways. Some of those dreams are even passed on and come to being in our kids’ lives. For example think about David and Solomon with the temple. Keep dreaming and believing in the impossible, and wait to see what happens.

The Cake With A Surprise Ingredient

So today, as I sit and eat my very gluten-free lunch consisting of a spinach and chicken Ceaser salad, which has amazing olives, I think back to the times that I was not gluten-free. As I watch Chrissy eat one of my most favorite foods.–Stone oven baked margarita pizza! The smell alone is wonderful torture!

As I drool over her pizza, the rest of the wonderful foods that I can no longer have pop up as pictures in my mind. I have not really been on this gluten-free journey as long as others, but I definitely know that this is a lifestyle that I need to have, just for the simple reason that I don’t like the pain that comes after indulging in gluten-bearing food. And I’m seriously amazed at all the food that has gluten in it. Things that I always took for granted, like cookies and cake! No, I’m just kidding about those, but seriously I never thought that most ice cream contain gluten, as well as many meats at restaurants. Even steaks! That’s just crazy!

So this crazy train thought process left me standing at the memory station of a time when I was given the task of finding the most amazing and authentic Tres Leche Cake. I was given this job because our kids were taking part in a yearly 4-H Club ritual, preparing for International Fair. This was a group project that our family enjoyed immensely, whether they would admit it today or not.

A little history… each year the kids’ 4-H Club voted on a country to study, and then, after months of studying that particular country, they would give a huge group presentation at a area 4-H meeting. All the groups would be judged on the presentation of their county. So, in this process our group’s members would nominate different countries that they would like to study. After the nominees were selected, there was a member vote to make a final decision.

Side Note: This is one of the thing I loved about 4-H. Our kids learned the formal way to conduct business meetings according to Robert’s Rules of Orders. This is a super skill to have if you want to be in any type of leadership.

Our kids always had two countries that were close to their hearts, and every year they tried many times to have the group study the countries they loved. One was Scotland; the other was Honduras. Our family is Scottish, and with doing mission trips to Honduras, the kids wanted to share their love and passion for this country.

One year they finally caught on to what some of the older kids would do when they lobbied for their choice of county. They figured out with four of them, they could possibly win a majority vote, if they all worked together. So they did one year they each convinced their closest friends to vote with them, and they were able to get Scotland as the country. Actually, at the time only 3 out of the 4 were in regular 4-H. Silas was a “Clover Bud,” which is the junior version of 4-H in Cook County, Illinois. He was not a full-fledged voting member of the group. I tell you this because they tried the next year to get Honduras in, and they and failed.

So, the following year they lobbied again for Honduras, and out of sheer numbers of the Hunter Clan, they pushed their vote through. Quite a few older kids had graduated out of the group that year, and having almost 1/3 of vote gives you a slight advantage. This is just one of the advantages in having a larger family.

Throughout the year, as they would prepped for International Fair, the leaders tried to help the kids learn as much about the country as they could. We would go on field trips to different places, if at all possible, this way the kids could experience the culture first hand they would also bring in speakers who live there or had recently traveled to the country being studied. One time we spent the day in Chinatown, Chicago. Another year we visited a Hindu temple, and I also remember meeting a musician from Senegal. The kids would also be assigned different things to research and then report back to the group what they had learned.

One of the things the group liked best was when there would be a project that was a craft or some sort of thing the kids make that the people of the country earned a living at doing. The other thing that we all enjoyed is sampling the food of the culture.

One of the most impressive things I remember is that one of the moms in our group tried to make Haggis as authentically as she could for the kids during Scotland year. That was interesting to hear about. Some parts of the dish were not available for purchase in the United States, so she had to make do with what she could. (Sheep windpipe cannot be found for purchase on this side of the pond.) There was also the small matter of the sheep belly exploding in the middle of her kitchen! Some countries’ cuisines are more interesting and delicious than others. We had great food in Chinatown!

When it came to Honduras, there are a lot of similarities to Mexican food, but there are some major differences. Shortly after the club decided on the country, Chrissy came home and said, “Guess what we’re in charge of for the Taste of Honduras?”

I said, “I don’t know, what?”

She said, “Dessert!”

I said, “Cool! The best part of a meal!”

Side Note: Years ago one of my assistants had a saying. Okay well, Geri had quite a few of sayings but this one she really loved to say “Life is short, so eat dessert first.” Geri loved this saying so much that when I left that ministry, she gave me one of the coolest ice cream scoopers. It was silver and very heavy. I love that scoop! Even to this day, when I’m dipping my Breyer’s gluten-free ice cream, I think about my friend, Geri.

Chrissy was less than excited about it. She wondered, what can we make? One of my favorite Hispanic desserts is Tres Leche Cake.

So, I said, “How about that?”

She said, “I guess we can do that.”

Well. When she says that, it means she is going to look for something better, but if nothing comes up she’ll go with it.

So, the time was coming soon for a Taste of Honduras, and Chrissy was stressing big on this one. My wife is a pretty good cook, but one of the dads in our 4-H group was a professional chef. So, she was a bit nervous about making this cake. I’m trying to remember, but I think this confectionery delight was difficult to make. Some times it was a challenge to find authentic ingredients too. This cake has three milks in it, thus the name Tres Leches—Three Milk Cake.

As she was expressing her nervous frustration with all the recipes that she was looking through, I said, “I have an idea! I will explain it when I get back.” I was on my way to pick up an order we had called in at one of the best Mexican places I have ever eaten, here in the States that is. It had a great name too, “Whata Taco!” Seriously though, it was amazing, and I had befriended the owner. So I ran over to grab our food, and as I was waiting on the food I asked the owner if they had a whole Tres Leches cake that I could buy? Their cake was like a fiesta in your mouth, perhaps even a Cinco de Mayo celebration, all in one bite of this cake. It really was that good! I. knew they had it made by a Hispanic bakery closer to the city

So, I asked, “Do you ever get a full cake? Or do you just get slices in?”

He said, “I just get a few slices in each day.” I asked him if he thought he could get a full cake in, or tell me where to get one. I went on to explain why I was asking and what I wanted it for. He told me just give him a call a day before the 4-H Taste of Honduras meeting, and he would get one for me. Problem solved, so I thought.

I went home and over amazing tacos, I explained my brilliant plan to the family. I said you could even pass it off as your own. I was just kidding, and I did tell my wife that I was sure she could make an amazing cake, after all she has won a blue ribbon for her carrot cake at the county fair. That took care of it. It was a done deal. I would order the cake, pick it up, and they would take it to the meeting.

I’m not sure if something was lost in translation on what I needed the cake for or what. I think he thought I needed it for some sort of adult celebration or something. You will understand why I say that in a few minutes.

The day for Taste of Honduras came. I went to Whata Taco and picked up the cake. That was when I found out the price. Wow! I was bit shocked on that one, but I figured it was well worth it for the stress it would remove.

Side Note: Only one other time did we pay a crazy amount for a cake and that was when we took a trip with our friends Brock and Amie to South Haven. We had a nice dinner together, and on the walk back to the hotel, we stopped at a sweet shop, and Chrissy ordered a piece of chocolate cake. After ordering, we noticed a strange sign posted on the shop’s register that stated you must pay for cake after it has been sliced. Maybe instead of doing that, they should have just posted the cake slice prices next to the cake. But then, they probably wouldn’t have sold much cake. This was a big piece of cake, but it didn’t equal the price for the slice. I think it was around $15 bucks! We split that piece of cake and savored each bite.

Back to the Tres Leche Cake. I took it home, and handed it off to the 4-Hers. They looked at it, and everyone agreed it looked amazing! So off to their meeting they went. I was not able to attend this meeting for some reason. So, I just hoped for a left over of that cake.

When I came home that night I was bombarded with all kinds of stories of how the meeting went and what foods were there. Then Chrissy spoke up and told me that a lot of the people really liked the cake but some of the kids seem to not feel so well after eating it. One of the moms even complained about her stomach bothering her. Still, everyone had an amazing time! Then there was one person who really liked it, but he couldn’t place what a flavor it was that was in it, and he kept coming back for more. So, it seemed like hit.

It was only later that we discovered that the cake is traditionally made not only with three milks, but to keep it moist and to help with the celebration, it was doused with Rum too.

So this cake may or may not have had some extra spice in it, and some 4-H group members may or may not have had a piece or more of said cake. So the running joke about this cake is that we may or may not have been indirectly responsible for serving a cake with alcohol in it by accident.

So let this be a warning to you, just because something tastes great, make sure you know what it is that you are consuming, otherwise you may be ingesting something you may regret later.

I really don’t know how this crazy stuff happens, but I’m sure we can’t be the only family it happens to. I think we just are open enough to admit that we are far from perfect. I share life stories so others can laugh at us and even relate once in a while.

It’s my hope that we never forget what we learn from our mistakes, always forgive and never forget to love each other while having fun laughing at ourselves. Cherish the life we live and the good, the ornery, and the precious people God has crossed our paths to eat some cake with.

Our Candy Rocks

When the kids were young, we always tried to instill in them values that we felt were important. Like having integrity, honesty, gratitude, generosity, honor, self control, conviction, hope, love, respect, and responsibility. Just to name a few.

We also thought it was important to have creativity, ingenuity, and persistence. Always think outside of the box, use critical thinking. You should constantly be on the look out for opportunities to make our world a better place, give a hand up to those in need, and use the gifts God has given us.

We wanted our kids to have opportunities to flourish and make a difference. Lastly, we showed them how to be entrepreneurs.

One year, Chrissy and I decided we were going to teach the kids how to have a business and run it. As a family we decided that we all wanted to go on a mission trip. We wanted to go to Honduras with World Compassion Network. This was a mission we had come to know about and loved supporting. They do a number of mission venues from local to international.

Our favorite was the Family 2 Family Boxes. This was a small Rubbermaid box that you filled with specific things like rice, dried beans, soap, a hand towel, and a few other things. Then you brought the box to church, and it was shipped to Honduras to be handed out to families in need. The coolest part of this was that you could go on a mission trip to hand out the boxes.

Instead of just handing out the boxes, WCN works hard to find credible local churches and pastors to arrange distributions to families in need. Then, when we go to hand out the boxes the local church, the church or pastor gets the credit for helping the community in need, not the North Americans who helped pass the boxes out. This helps to build the church in that community, rather than fostering dependence on WCN.

Most of the boxes are given to families that don’t attend the church, but are members of that church’s community. I almost forgot– these boxes would feed a family of four for about 2-3 weeks. That is pretty incredible, if you ask me.

We wanted to take our kids and go do this all together. Ben and I had just gone the year before, and it was a life-changing experience for both of us. Now, Chrissy and I wanted our whole family to experience this. The issue that we faced was that it was going to cost over $10,000 for our family of six to go.

Chrissy and I also wanted to take the kids on a vacation in the next year, one that they would remember for years to come. Up until this point the kids thought that vacations were just things that they gave away at the radio station. To do both things, we would need to come up with some serious money.

So, we sat the kids down and shared our hopes with them. We thought this would be a great learning experience for them. We shared what we would like to do, and they were all on board with it. The next part was how to get the money. We have always taught the kids and believed ourselves that if God wants something to happen, the doors will open, and a way will be made. We might need to do some work, and it may take some faith in getting there. We just need to be faithful.

So we asked the kids for some ideas we could do to raise money for the mission trip. Someone suggested writing letters for support. We said, “Ok, what else?” Silas suggested collecting aluminum cans and getting money for recycling. (Which he ended up doing for hours and hours with a family friend and his truck.) What else? Someone said, “Maybe we could start a business.” I said, “What kind of business?” Someone came up with the idea of sandy candy. This was a colorful candy that looked just like sand art, but you could eat it. I said, “Okay, let’s put together a business plan, and see if we can do this.”

That was exactly what we did. We saved up some seed money and then invested it in this business. We decided that we would hit the festival circuit. Every town around where we lived had festivals. So we would rent a space, and the kids would sell their sandy candy. Each of them had a job to do. We had 2 people who would handle helping the customers make their edible art project, then we had two callers who would bring people into the stand. They would introduce people to the products and bring them over to the stand, then the table people would close the deal. Chrissy’s job was to be the money and business manager. When someone needed a break, Chrissy or I would fill in.

Most of the fests were 3-day events– Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I was not always able to help with the stand, with me being a pastor those were days that I worked and had to be available for services.

The kids would take turns at each job so no one got bored with what they were doing. It became evident to us who was gifted in which areas. Ben and Tori were great at helping the customers and closing the deal. Jonah and Silas– they were amazing callers. It did help that they both were really cute. Si was about 9, and Jonah was around 11. So, the cuteness factor did help.

Our first fest nearly wiped us out and closed us for good. The town we had booked was known for having a population of healthy eaters. No one wanted their kids to have sugar. Then during the night a tornado came through nearby the fair grounds, and many of the vendors tents and boots were destroyed–including the Candy Rocks tent (that was us!). Our brand new, heavy-duty pop-up canopy was twisted and mangled and ended up a row or two over.

Fortunately, we always took the product and tables down when we left for the evening. The tent was a huge expense for us, but we needed to have it. So, we went out and bought another tent with the money we just made the day before. If we hadn’t booked other events we probably would have ended the business all together. But that is not how the story goes, because that would be just boring.

So as we peddled our candy to people, we started to make some money. The kids started to get into a rhythm. That’s right, we had successfully become a carney family.

The kids came up with competitions to see who could sell the most in an hour or, who could get the most compliments. Not only was this business profitable, it was also a great learning tool. Our kids then started to figure out the best times of the day that sales would increase, and they noticed the best locations to have our stand located in the festivals.

You would never guess where the best spot was. You might think near kids’ activities or other dessert foods. And you would be wrong on both accounts. The very best place to be was directly across from the Beer Garden exits. (At most of the festivals, this was the only area that people were able to buy alcoholic drinks, hence the name “Beer Garden.”)

When people would come out of the beer area, they would often be looking for something sweet to eat, and guess what stand they would stumble over to? That’s right they would come right over to Candy Rocks. It’s surprising how much people who have been drinking will spend on something sweet. Now, you may be saying that’s not right, you were taking advantage of them. We just thought if they weren’t buying our candy, they would be spending money somewhere else. So, why not spend it at our stand?

Maybe it was a bit unfair, because the kids would give a little sample of the candy crack to them in their hand, and then instruct them to eat it. Silas was the best at this part, as they were licking the candy from their hand, he would look at them and very excitedly say “Now, that’s good stuff, isn’t it?” Almost 100% of the time, they would agree with him, and then, without missing a beat he would say, “Follow me over here, and we’ll get you some more.” And they would follow him to the table and buy pretty much whatever he suggested. Crazy!

We did have our share of experiences that were just weird, but too funny not to tell. Like the time we had borrowed a few costumes from a friend. These we costumes that you would normally have to rent. They were high-end mascot costumes.

The kids thought it would be fun to dress up in costumes, and let people take their picture with them. So one of the costumes we had was “Dora, the Explorer.” We thought this would also give the kids an opportunity to practice their Spanish if the opportunity presented itself.

We took the costume with the intent of the kids taking turns in it. Well as it happened, the costume only really fit Jonah well. So, the other kids took turns escorting Jonah up and down our row, meeting tons of people. Jonah loved to be in the costume, because it gave him the opportunity to be as silly as he wanted to be, without anyone knowing who it really was.

He would take breaks to cool down and get refreshed. Then when he was ready, he would suit back up and go meet more people.

As different 80’s bands hit the stage, Dora/Jonah would bust a move. Sometimes he would be dancing with kids, at other times with senior citizens. Some of the funniest people he danced with were the big biker guys who were a bit toasty. As they played and danced with Dora, they were always very respectful and kind.

The one story that has been told over and over was as one evening the beer garden was closing, and everyone was coming out. Jonah was standing out in front of the stand in the Dora costume. Up walks a lady and says “Hola, Dora! Will you be my friend? “She started to have this long drawn out conversation with Dora, while Dora/Jonah just stood there, nodding and gesturing.

Then the lady started to pat herself down, looking for something. She frantically looked in purse, then looked at Dora and said, “Dora, do you know where my keys are?” Then she asked Dora to help her find them. It really was pretty comical. Especially watching Jonah handle the situation.

I may be mistaken, but I believe we helped the lady get to security, and they helped her from that point on. Before leaving, the lady gave Dora a big hug and thanked her for being her friend. No matter what the situation was, we tried to have fun with it.

The kids learned a lot that year, and they raised enough money to go on the mission trip with the help and support of others.

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The following summer, we did the same thing, and this time the goal was to go on an amazing vacation that we all worked really hard for. We made enough money to take everyone to Disney World.

Overall, it was a great experience for the kids and us. Even today we still have a small side business called Tyes of Hope. We help people create their very own wearable works of art. We let people create their own tye dye t-shirts.

We can do all types of events from parties to customer-appreciation events. Big or small, we can tye dye at them all. We can even have a custom logo printed on the shirt before you create your fashion memory.

We have decided that we want to go back to Honduras in the summer of 2018, so we are looking to open our schedules for more bookings. And yes, we do fundraisers too.

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Looking back, it’s amazing to think of all our family has done and experienced, and it’s really cool to see how God has made a way for us to do the things He has put on our hearts.

 

 

Biker Momma

Okay, so summer is officially here. June 21st is Summer Solstice and also the love of my life’s birthday. Along with summer comes all those wonderful fun things we love to do outside that we can’t do during the winter. One of those things I love to do is ride motorcycle. Now it’s been awhile since I have had my bike out, only because I can’t get it running. I have had it looked over, and some of the things that I was told was wrong with it were fixed, but alas it still needs more work. I was told it needs a new carb and that is very expensive. So it sits, waiting on me.

When I was twelve I first learned to ride. Oh my, what a rush! I was at a camp that was sponsored and run by the Pennsylvania State Police called Camp Cadet. Yes, it really was the cops who gave me my need for speed. Of all the things I was able to do that week, learning to ride a dirt bike was the highlight.

I remember popping the clutch from the start and flying through a course that was set up in an open field. I really don’t know how we didn’t kill ourselves. I flew around the orange cones, shifting as needed. It just seemed to come natural to me.

When I was 17 I bought my first dirt bike, a 125 Yamaha Enduro. It was bright yellow. I tore that thing up! My parent’s one requirement was to keep a helmet on. I took it up and down and all over the mountain we lived on. Then, once in while, I would cross the street and take it to place we called the Gobi Desert.

This was a place where a lot of people brought their bikes and three-wheelers. It was a place made out of orange clay dirt and it had great little humps that you ramp off of. It was like a natural dirt bike racetrack. Tons of fun!

After I pulverized that bike, I decided to get another bike, this time a big boy bike. I got a street bike; it was a 400 Honda Night Hawk. I bought this one from my buddy, Rob Lynn. It was a great bike! I put a lot of miles on this bike. This is the bike that I took Chrissy to her senior prom on. That was a fun night.

Up till then Chrissy and I had rode with her parents. They owned Harleys and let us ride with their group, even though we had a rice burner Years later, I had it stored at my in-laws during a freaky flash flood in January, which destroyed the bike.

All our kids had grown up on bikes, if not mine, it was their Pop’s Harley. Ben and Tori have been on a bike since they were babies. They loved sitting on the bikes when they were tiny. Then when they got bigger and able to reach the foot pegs, they could ride on the back. We went years without a bike, but the itch never went away. Each spring I would have this desire to ride. Finally one spring, I had gotten a big raise in pay, and we thought we could get one again. So Chrissy and I went to look. We would have loved to get a Harley or a Triumph or even an Indian but they just weren’t in our price range. So, we found a Harley Softtail wann-be.

We brought a 1100 Yamaha Virago. Chrissy actually picked it out. I think it’s a bit funny that the word “Virago” means “loud woman.” I’m not saying my wife is loud our anything, it’s actually quite the opposite, until you get to know her.

I love this bike! It’s a two-tone turquoise and cream color decked out with chrome and drag pipes to top it off. You can hear me coming too. I have a sticker on my helmet that says “Loud pipes Save Lives.” If people don’t see me coming, they should hear me.

 

Like anyone who had rode for any amount of time, I have had my share of close calls on this bike, as well as the others. I learned early that I always had to anticipate what others would be doing; the other thing I was once told is that you always need to have a good respect for your machine. Don’t ever become over-confident or make stupid choices. This is what gets people hurt or killed. It just helps if everyone does their part.

The year we got the bike, I was asked to ride in a parade with a group from our church. Another friend that was riding said that his daughter was going to be riding their mini bike. This was a mini bike that looked like a street bike. Our kids overheard this and thought it would be cool if one of them could ride a mini bike in the parade with me.

I told them there was no way we could afford that. And that was the end of that with them. Then we went to Pep Boys for something, and Chrissy saw the small bikes that they had and said, “I think we could get one for the kids.” She said, “I would like them to know how to ride.” I said, “Let’s think about it.”

As we talked I said to her, “I do want them to know how to ride, and not like you!”

Side note: When Chrissy’s brothers got their dirt bike she tried to ride it. She took off and forgot how to shift gear and forgot where the break was so as she sped across the yard on this little dirt bike she struggled to keep her balance. She started to panic, so as she started to pass the swing set she reached out to grab the leg in hopes of stopping. Well, I was told that didn’t go as planned. She grabbed the leg and the bike flew around the leg in a circle. Until she let go of her death grip that she had on the bike with her legs. The bike traveled on, and she stayed, hanging onto the swing set. So, her first solo ride was not the best.

Later that day, after talking about it, we made a trip back to Pep Boys. We picked out a little chopper with metallic blue paint and chrome. I have to admit it was pretty cool, it had a pull start as well as a electric push button start. It really looked like a miniature street bike. We made the kids wait in the van while we went into the store. After going through the checkout, we couldn’t wait for the kids to see it.

We walked out the doors of the store and you could hear an eruption of screaming yelling in the van. As you looked at our van you could see it bouncing and rocking back and forth. Yup! They were a little excited.

We went over the rules and safety instructions on the way home. Like, always wear your brain bucket, and always make sure you have a clear path in front of you. Never take the bike out of the backyard, and never ride it on the street.

Our back yard was about ¾ of an acre of land. This was a big yard for where we lived. This is one of the main reasons we bought the house. We wanted to have plenty of space for the kids to run and play.

So we got home and unloaded our new toy. Just to be sure that I understood how the bike worked and handled I took it for the first ride. I discovered that even though our backyard was big we needed a little more space. So we decided to open the fence gate to the front yard, and then we gave permission for the kids to ride out across the yard, making a big loop by going up the driveway and into the back again.

As I gave the kids a few instructions, the excitement was so thick in the air you could cut it with knife. They hung on my every word as I told them that we would take turns riding, and we would go from oldest to youngest. I said, after one loop around the house, they needed to stop and switch riders. I also told them if I saw that they were doing something that was potentially dangerous, I would stop them, and they would loose their next turn riding.

So all the kids did pretty well. They all made it around the house at a good speed without falling or running into anything. They all had great balance and didn’t lose control at all. They all stayed on the course I asked them to.

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As kids do, they stood waiting for their next turn full of anticipation. They jumped up and down in place as their mouths we jabbering about what they did or what someone else did as they gestured with their hands and arms in huge ways. To say this was an exhilarating day would not begin to cover what the kids were feeling.

After a few trips around the house, Chrissy piped up, butting in line and said, “I want a turn!” She strapped a helmet on, then grabbed the bike, straddling it, she sat down on the seat. I believe she even dramatically flipped out a pair of sunglasses and slowly slid them on. (She doesn’t see the best without them, so she needs them when driving.) I told her to remember this doesn’t have a clutch, just the accelerator and a brake. She was like, “I got this!” waving her hand in my face. “I have ridden before!” I said, “Please, just stay on the course.”

Chrissy has a habit of doing things her own way and sometime you just can’t tell her what to do. To say that she can be a bit of a rebel would be an understatement. So, sometimes it’s best to just let her go and hope for the best. I have to admit most times what she does do is spectacular in a good way (most times).

So she was sitting there on the bike, and if there could be theme music to this, “Born To Be Wild” would be playing in the background. She sat there grinning the biggest, cheesiest grin, as she hunched her shoulders forward and acts like she is over revving the engine. Throws her head back and laughs. Then released the brake and hits the gas.

She moved forward slowly and placed her feet on the pegs, wobbling the entire time eventually she got her balance and around she went. As the kids stood jaw-dropped, mouths wide open in awe of their mom speeding by. I’m sure they thought we have the craziest, coolest mom ever! That would be until she came back to the starting point. She slowed down as if she was getting ready to stop, but when she got to where the kids and I stood, she cranked on the accelerator and waved to us as she flew past saying, “See ya, suckers!”

She threw her head back and laughed the most maniacal laugh you would ever hear. That’s when I lost control of the crew. It was like a Greyhound race when the little bunny flies out past the dogs, and they all start running in pursuit of it. She weaved in and out of the trees and around the trampoline. Laughing the entire time. Then she flew past me and out the driveway into the front yard.

We had a huge pine tree that was in the front yard, which she managed to circle that a few times, as the kids were still close in hot pursuit. Right then, she decided to take the bike down into our drainage ditch. This wasn’t too big but at the end, it had a little bit of a steep incline out on to the street. When she reached that point she cut up, and out into the street she went. I believe this is when she forgot all the rules we had talked to the kids about.

She was fist pumping with one hand as she flew down the block. The kids knew not to chase her any further, so they stood at the edge of the street yelling at her while they flailed their hands around over their heads. You would have thought that she was a thief, and she just stolen their favorite toy. I guess she kind of did.

She turned around at the intersection and came back up the street. I was pretty impressed with how she was handling the bike. That is up to this point. When she got to the end of our yard where she exited on to the street, she must have forgotten about the steep bank into the ditch because she flew over the one side of the ditch and landed in it. I believe she got some air too. I think that if she could have done a cool trick like a superman or a cliffhanger just like the free style motocross riders, she would have.

When she landed, well, that was when she had issues. She lost her balance and started to hit the gas, then the brake making the bike wobble up into the front yard as she went. And then she not so gracefully toppled over with the bike still running. Her evil Kevil escapade had come to an abrupt halt. She laid there with bike still between her legs she looked like a rag doll someone had just flopped down on the ground. Her helmet was over her eyes and all we could hear was a laughing-crying sound. The kids and I ran over to where she fell. I asked, “Are you okay?” She nodded her head yes flopping the helmet back and forth, because she was laughing too hard to speak.

That’s when everyone started to laugh, and the kids with big eyes and with lots of gestures told each other their favorite part of their mom’s little steal away. This would be a day that would go down in the books for the kids who have an awesome mom.

We picked up Chrissy, dusted her off, and made sure she was okay, then we checked the bike out. Of course, Chrissy had to tell the kids not to do what she did. Then turned to me and said it was fun!

This is the Chrissy few people get to know or see, honestly this is just a mild event that just scratches the surface of who my amazing, fun, and adventurous wife is. Even with this wild rebellious free spirit, she has a huge love for people and a heart of gold just don’t let her drive your bike!

Butch -VS- the Jet Ski

We live on a lake channel, so summer means we get to play on the lake. This week we were able to get our pontoon cleaned up from winter storage and have all the necessary repairs done that were needed. We put the boat in and docked it at our pier. It’s ready to go for all the adventures we want to have out on the lake.

To let you know, we are new to this whole boat ownership thing and navigating on the lake. We have had a small bass boat, but having a 24’ pontoon is a little different- mostly in steering it. So, when we’re on the lake, this thing will not turn on a dime.

The lake we live on is normally very busy with all types of watercraft. We see it all from speedboats pulling tubes, to the sail boats that glide effortlessly across the lake, as well as personal watercraft: jet skis, waverunner’s, and so on. Being on the lake means you need to be aware of all these, which way they are going and anticipating what they will do next.

Out of all the watercraft we encounter, my least favorite is the jet ski. These drivers tend to go wherever they want. When traveling on the water, most people follow a pattern, like lanes on a road. For some reason, the jet skis just seem to make it up as they go, and in my experience, can be very unpredictable.

I think I have a healthy respect for jet skis and how powerful they can be. I also know how fun they can be. You can be riding along jumping wakes, then racing like you’re going through a slalom course. Then all of a sudden, you are under water, off your craft, treading water, and trying to get your bearings.

Once you clear your eyes, you try to look for your jet ski. Hopefully, it isn’t flipped over and taking on water. I’m really not sure if they would sink without some sort of damage, but I have had one flip and take on enough water to make it difficult to flip it back to right side up.

So, in my experience they can be… well, let’s just say you need to be careful with them.

The best days on the lakes are those that have little to no wind and there’s not a whole lot of traffic. The sun is shining, and the water is smooth as ice. It doesn’t matter what your watercraft is. It just seems to glide along.

One of my first encounters with lake life was when our family was invited to go on a weekend getaway in upper Michigan, just outside of Kalamazoo. At that time I guess we were what we have come to label people who visit the lake area and then leave as “Lakers.” We were there just for the weekend, a few short days to have fun and relax.

Up to this point, I had never really driven or rode a jet ski. I had done motorcycles and dirt bikes, snowmobiles and other fun land motorsports, but not water. How hard could it be? Right? Famous last words.

So, our friends gave us a crash course on how to use these jet skis, then they took us out on them and we switched places. Kind of the whole hands-on teaching approach. We learned the do’s and don’ts, where we could go in the lake, and where not to go.

I passed the test. We were able to use the jet skis. Once I had the hang of the basics, my friend showed me how to have some fun by jumping your wake and doing power slides. I actually picked it up quickly. It was a lot like riding a dirt bike. We played for hours on these super cool machines. The lake was mostly empty, so we didn’t have to worry about other boats. We could do what we wanted, where we wanted. Then the day was turning into night, and it was time to come in off the lake for the day.

At dinner I asked if there would be any issue if I took a jet ski out in the morning with Tori? She had not had a chance to be on with me, so I wanted to be sure we were able to ride together. They said, “Sure, no problem.”

When next morning came Tori and I got our breakfast. My friend was up too. He said he would help us get the jet ski ready to go out.

Side Note: Tori was about 10 at this time. I was her hero; in her mind, it seemed that I was capable of all the things that Mr. Incredible could do. Yeah, I was pretty great then she became a young adult, and I’m no longer the incredible guy I once was. But, I know someday I will be pretty super again.

So we donned our life jackets, and I saddled up. I slid to the front and reached back to help Tori on. She wrapped her arms around my waist and squeezed as she had done countless times before on my motorcycle. Tori was my biker babe– if the motorcycle was out of the garage, and mom wasn’t on the back, it was Tori fighting for the seat.

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We slowly accelerated out onto the lake. The sun was shining, and the water was perfect. It was as smooth as glass. There were a few fishing boats out, but nothing that we would bother or would bother us.

I told Tori, this is just like the bike, lean when I lean, and in the same direction that I lean. She said “Okay.” I told her if you fall off, just wave your hands in the air, and I’ll come back to get you. She said, “Got it Dad, now let’s get going!”

I took my time getting reacquainted the machine and having Tori on the back. I did a few things that I had been showed. With each thing, I asked Tori if she was ready to try it. I wanted to be sure this would be a good experience for her and create fun memories of us together.

The lake started to come to life and more boats started to appear. It made me a bit nervous, so I asked Tori if she was up to exploring the lake a little further away and she agreed. So, we went all around the lake exploring the different inlets, and going around to all the islands that were separating the lake into different parts. Finally, we came on to this one little bay-like area that was deserted. It had a few houses and cottages on it, but they were far apart. I said “Let’s have some fun!” and I started going in circles creating big waves. I would then go outside of them and gun it and go over the wave we created. We would fly over the wave in the air and come crashing down to take another run at it. We would laugh harder each time. Then I decided to try and do a powerslide and whip the Jet Ski around to go the opposite direction. I explained what I was going to attempt to Tori, and she was up for it.

We got some speed up, and then I stood up and shifted my weight and turned the handlebars as quickly as I could and gave some gas. We created a huge spray and wave. Tori was giggling. So I said, “Want to go again?” She was like, “Yea, yea, do it again!” So, I repeated the same maneuver. This time as I stood up to shift my weight and turn, Tori must have felt like I was leaning too much, and she shifted her weight opposite of me. This sent us flying through the air and into the water. I remember hitting the water and then opening my eyes under the water. I was in way over my head. I swam towards the surface. Having the life jacket on increased how fast I surfaced. On the way up, I looked for my daughter. Not seeing her, I felt panic set in as if my heart wasn’t racing enough already.

I came up out of the water and gasped for a breath, then yelled, “Tori! Tori! Where are you?” Then I heard her voice as she shouted over on the other side. The jet ski had flipped and was sitting between us. As I swam to her, I asked, “Are you ok?” She said, “Yea!” As I got to her, we looked at each other and laughed. I said, “Wow, that was crazy!” She said, “It sure was!”

Now that I knew she was fine, I turned to try and get the jet ski righted. I said, “Ok, they told me what to do if this happened.” I reached all the way across the machine in the middle and grabbed the other side with all I had I pulled. It took a few times I’m sure I looked like a fishing bobber being tugged by a fish. I would get to rocking it, and almost get it then I would loose my grip. Finally, I did get it right side up.

The next part, well, that was the challenge that seemed to take forever. We needed to get back on. Now, it’s no secret that I have a bit of weight on me, and at this time I was pushing well over 200 lbs. Pulling oneself out of the water with a life vest strapped to you is no easy task, then add in that the Jet Ski was wet and slippery.

I would go from behind grab the handle and try to pull myself up, only to slip right back off. Then I thought, I’ll try it from the side, big mistake. I flipped it again. But this time, I did have it back up much quicker.

I thought maybe if Tori got on, it would stabilize it enough for me to get on. I got Tori on, but ended up knocking her back off again. I looked at my daughter and said, “Maybe we should swim it into shore and get on there. It was a good 1000 yards to shore; she looked at me and said emphatically, “No!”

By now, about 30 minutes had passed since we flipped. We both were getting tired. I saw in her face that she was not doing well and losing faith in me. So, I said a quick prayer, moved behind the jet ski and put my knees on the back and stretched as far as I could grabbing the handles. The back started to go under the water. Just then I heard a chirping noise and felt a boost up onto the jet ski, it was Flipper! Just kidding! There was no boost, but I did manage to get on the thing.

I then gave Tori very specific instructions on what to do. I stood up to provide counter weight and balanced as she pulled herself up and on . It was really like someone gave her a boost on.

We both breathed deep and thanked God, and I hit the start button. It fired right up. I remember looking back at her saying, “Let’s take it slow and head back. Is that ok with you?” She shook her head yes, and we started back. I said, “We may want to keep this to ourselves.” She looked at me, and said, “No, it was too awesome to do that.” And we both laughed.

This was a scary but fun experience. It really prepared us for some of the future adventures we would have together. Like getting lost under Chicago. Yes under Chicago. We were trying to get to a Family Force 5 concert and got ourselves lost down in the underground streets that run under the city of Chicago.

Still, trust is the big lesson here. Without trust, you have little to nothing. On this day we learned to trust each other at a new deeper level. When trust is broken, it takes awhile to be repaired, but it can be repaired, if both parties choose to forgive and move forward. This is what Jesus does all the time with us. If he can do that for me, I should be willing to try and do it for others.

The #1 Requested Campfire Story

This past week was one of my most favorite parts of what I get to do as a Pastor; I was at camp! Camp is the one week a year I get to build deep relationships with the kids that I minister to throughout the year. It usually takes a year or more for me to plan a great week of camp. Each day is jam-packed with worship, lessons, and the crazy games that you would anticipate at camp. I have tried hard over the last 20 years to keep the theme and everything else. down to the games we play, fresh and original. I have tried not to reuse or recycle these activities. One thing I do find myself recycling every so many years is our campfire stories. Some of what I have written and will be writing on my blog originated as campfire stories.

When I have repeat campers, I don’t get away with not telling one particular story. This story is usually requested by the repeat kids who have signed up months in advance. It is one of my favorite stories to tell, so most times I tell the kids that I will try to work the story in. This year was no different, so at campfire, I told this story.

Years ago, we lived in Maryland. We were attending Bible college, so we lived on campus in the married student housing. We lived in the bottom apartment of the unit. We had come to find out that at one time this building had been a large chicken coop. That was comforting to know that someone was very creative with their student housing.

When we arrived on campus, we moved our 3 children and all our stuff into the apartment. Over the the years, with 3 kids, we had somehow accumulated a lot of stuff. One benefit that we had was that we were able to store stuff in an outside shed behind the apartments. The shed sat about 50 feet out at the back edge of the yard. Behind the shed, there was a field overgrown with grass and weeds.

So, as we found out the hard way, the shed was not critter proof. Whatever we kept in there had to be able to which stand whatever would come in from the yard or field around the shed.

Every once in while, we would need something from the shed. So, when we did, I would go out and and try to find whatever it was. It really was not a big shed. It may have been about 6 foot wide by 8 foot deep. That did not stop us from filling it from back to front.

One day in the middle of July, Chrissy told me that she needed something from the shed. I remember this day very well. It was a Wednesday around 10am. I was doing something outside in the back yard, the kids were playing inside the house because it was already hot outside. So, Chrissy came out the back door and asked me to get something from a filing cabinet that we had in the shed. I moaned and threw an adult fit about getting it, but eventually I agreed to do it.

I walked over to the shed, grumbling the entire time and opened the door to the jam-packed shed. As I stared at the mountain of junk we had, I then realized that the cabinet was all the way at the back of the shed. I really didn’t want to clean this monster out on this sweltering day let alone any other day. So, I decided to do this the lazy way.

I moved a few things out into the yard, then I started to play Tetris with the boxes and toys. I piled some things up higher, and then I would carefully stand in the small area I just cleared. I did this over and over again, zigzagging my way though the shed.

I really didn’t realize that I was blocking myself into the shed the deeper I moved in. The sweat started running down my face as I finally reached the back of the shed. I dug out a small space to open the cabinet and retrieve what I was asked to get. Closing the cabinet, I started to unpile the stuff, carefully putting everything back right where I had removed it from, and if I could get the stacks tighter or straighter I did it. I had everything that was at the back all neatly back in place with room to spare. Honestly, I was feeling pretty accomplished at this moment.

This is when I felt like I was being watched from behind. I slowly turned and looking out the doors I could see that no one was in the yard. Then I focused closer to me and saw it. It was about 30 inches from me looking right at me, with its little beady eyes. Right at the same level of my face, it laid there watching me.

Side note: Most people who know me know that I have a healthy fear of snakes. I have worked courageously to overcome my fear for years now. So much that one year for our anniversary, Chrissy and I took the kids to a small circus and afterwards had our picture taken with an albino python that was about 20 foot long. Chrissy said we had to do something amazing for our special day. So, I obliged her and sucked up my fear and held a part of the snake for a picture. I have one word for it, yuck!

Yes, it was a snake in the shed with me! It was humongous! It was about 12 feet long and as thick as a fire hose– the big kind! It opened its mouth, revealing short pointy fangs dripping with venom. Right then I knew it was facing an Anaconda! I was so in trouble! I immediately evaluated my situation. I had blocked any possible escape route. So I could either become the Incredible Hulk and bust out the back of the shed or just turn green and grab the thing by the head and rip it to shreds. Seeing that I was not David Banner, that option was out. Then I quickly thought if I could create a diversion, I just may make it past it with out it noticing. Then I came to my senses and resolved that this could be the day that I meet Jesus. Now mind you that this all happened within a few moments of the beast arriving.

So, I did what every other grown man would do that had a huge fear of snakes I screamed like a little girl! I screamed out help! Help me, please! It was all for not! No one was out there to come to my rescue. I kept hoping one of my kids would wander outside to see what amazing things dad was up to, like they usually did, but not on this day. I stood there looking at the monster flicking its red tongue out at me then up and down. It was like a little hand waving at me trying to have me come closer, so it could get a taste of me. But I was not moving. I was scared stiff.

What seemed like hours past… I kept yelling, “Help!” It was just too hot on this day for any good Samaritans to pass by and help me with my plight. It was even too hot for a snake to be out in the sun. Instead, he would rather look for some human to torture with his presence in a shed. He was relentless. The more I yelled, the more he flicked his tongue.

I was dripping with sweat from being in the shed, and I’m sure from fear, as well. I looked around me for something I could grab to whack him with, but then I imagined myself knocking it to the floor and as I passed it latching on to my ankle. Now, it’s one thing to have Kankles, and it’s a totally different thing to have to go through life with snankles. I could see myself at a social get together and people staring at my feet as I drag along this thing stuck to my ankle. “Snankles are a serious issue people!” I would say, “Don’t judge me.” Yeah, whacking the snake, not a good Idea.

Finally, just when I was to give in to the mesmerizing tongue flicking and spinning hypnotic eyes of Kaa, I heard the back door of the house open. At that moment, I had a surge of adrenaline. I hear Chrissy yell from the porch, “Butch? Where are you? I could see her looking in my direction. That is when it happened– I opened my mouth to yell help, and nothing came out. The only sound I made was a weird breathy noise. No words at all. I tried again, and now it was like the snake was a bit bored with me. So, he had to do some thing to get my voice back.. it was more entertaining to have me yelling. So, he slithered back a bit all the while not losing eye contact with me. I freaked! Out came a noise that to this day is still indescribable. Chrissy heard it, and that was all that mattered. I think it made the snake happy too because he slid back into the position he was in before. I was like he was saying, “There ya go, you found your voice. Now dance and sing monkey!”

Chrissy slowly came off the porch, looking around like she was straining to see something in the dark. All the while asking where I was, and what was taking me so long, and if I had found whatever it was she needed, and would it be taking me much longer? When she finally made it to the opening of the shed, she peered in at me hands on her hips with a look of disgust on her face that I had kept her waiting. I looked at her with my eyes and looked down at the beast then again at her. Trying to communicate through eye movement.

Side Note: As parents, you become really good at making looks at each other that communicate things you need to say without using sounds at all. You know what I mean. It’s like the look everyone’s parents give them when they are in trouble. “The Look”

Well, that was not working because she was obviously blinded by the sun and could not see that if she made the slightest movement, she too would be in imminent danger of losing her life along with me. So I stuttered out the word sssnnaakke! She put her hand up to her forehead to see better, and that was when I screamed SNAKE!

Her face dropped like she had just been told there was a fire or something. Her eyes got huge and her mouth gapped open, before I could say anything else she was on the porch. Yelling out to me. What do you want me to do?

I’m sure this was exactly what the snake wanted. It lay there saying, “Oh, this is way better than I imagined– I have two humans going now! This is just way better than I ever expected! Woohoo!”

I yelled back to her I need you to clear a path for me! I’m trapped! She shook her head and said no way! I said you have to help me or I’m going to die! They you will be stuck raising all our kids by yourself. After taking a moment to consider that she said what do I need to do? I knew that would get her.

I told her to come over and slowly and carefully take things out of the shed to clear a path for me. Okay she said. She tiptoed over to the shed, reached into the shed, and pulled something out. She immediately squealed and tossed the item in the air and ran back to the porch and asked, “ Is it gone?” I said “Nope, still here. Come get something else!” She repeated the same action, as well as the question running to the porch each time she grabbed something. Piece by piece she moved things out, each time getting a bit closer to me. Still, the snake didn’t move. Finally she grabbed something, and it must have surprised the beast, or it finally really was bored of the game, because it turned around and slid down towards the floor. I immediately jumped up, grabbing the rafters of the shed, I brought my knees to my chest and swung myself back then forward, extending my legs like I was a karate fighter drop kicking someone. I cleared all the stuff. Gravity took me, but I’m not sure I ever placed foot on solid ground until I beat Chrissy to the porch.

She asked me a bunch of questions about the snake… what was it’s favorite foods, colors, when was it’s birthday etc. She said I was in there long enough that I should have known all that. I told her it was a snake, and I didn’t want to be friends! Then she had the gall to ask if I got what she needed, and I looked at her and said, “No, I’m sorry. I just was almost killed trying to get it.”

Later that day, after I recovered from my traumatic hostage situation, and when it wasn’t as hot, I cleaned out the shed and retrieved whatever it was Chrissy needed. My real motive was to see if I could find the snake and dispatch it. It would have made me feel better. I never did find it. I did learn about lots of things that day. Like fear, and that God is with you even when you don’t think He is. Over the years, I have been able to apply this to many things to describe the character of God and highlight His promises to us, and encourage many campers by doing so. Especially homesick campers.

I don’t know if Steve Erwin would have been proud or disappointed in me, but I tried my best to make the best out of a scary situation. Now, I just give God the glory for that little snake that has helped lots of kids overcome fear and have courage to trust that God loves you more than anyone, and that He wants the best for you.

Me overcoming my fears!Enlight9

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Chicken Flung

Summer is quickly approaching, and with summer comes all the fun activities, trips, and time spent making fun memories with family and friends. As I am sitting here, thinking about all the memories of what our family has done over the years, I can’t help thinking about one of the kids’ highlights of the summer. The week of summer camp! For pretty much the last 20 years, I have directed and planned a week of summer camp each year.

Then my mind quickly flips to the opposite end of the spectrum. The 4 days of Hades. (That’s what 4-H stands for,you know. Oh, I’m just kidding. Actually, it was more like the two weeks prior to the 4-H Fair. Especially having four kids involved. It really wasn’t that bad, but it was stressful. Being homeschoolers, 4-H was a big part of our yearly schooling. We would have tons of projects… each kid would end up with about 5 projects each year, so times that by 4. That’s 20 projects each year to register at fair!

Each year we would ask the kids, “what do you want to do for 4-H this year?” Some would want to do fine arts, another would do photography. The kids would also always want to do the traditional things you think of when you hear 4-H. You know, like farm animals, small pets, etc.

Side note: Silas always wanted to do goats. He had the idea of getting two kinds of goats. He wanted to get fainting goats and screaming goats. He thought it would be funny to have the screaming goats scream, and then the fainting goats would, well…faint. We never did this though. We should have.

Living in the suburbs of Chicago, our choices were limited as to what animals we could allow them to choose from. So cows, pigs, and even goats were kind of off the list. What we could do was dogs, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, and with pushing our luck with local ordinances, chickens.

Okay, I have to pause and lay out a warning here. Working with some animals can be challenging, and the unexpected can happen. So with that said, if you have a weak stomach or can’t handle life and death situations, you may want to stop reading, though the story is somewhat humorous.

Okay, so now that we have that out of the way, we can go on. One year, my kids and Chrissy thought it would be amazing to do chickens. They didn’t want to just get chicks, they wanted the entire experience from hatching them to growing the chickens.

I remembered doing this in second grade, and it was pretty cool. So I said, “Sure, lets do it.” We started to study and read all we could to make sure we did this right. We even sought out advice from other fellow 4-H people who had successfully raised chickens. We did our homework and collected all the necessary supplies we needed for our experiment. Chrissy even printed out charts and graphs that the kids would use to track the process of our eggs.

We cleared a place in the laundry room for a table that we could set our supplies on. We borrowed an egg incubator, got our eggs, and we were set to start hatching! So, every day the kids would take turns logging and charting the process of the eggs. As we turned the eggs each day, the excitement was building for our first sign of the hatching to start.

Finally, the day came… we had a crack in one of the eggs, then what seemed like days afterwards, our first chick emerged from it’s shell. The chick was wet, dark in color and well, pretty ugly. After some time it dried and fluffed up and started to chirp all cute-like. Then one after another they started to hatch.

We thought, we got this. But then the part of doing this that no one talks about happed. We had our first deformed chick hatch. I believe one of the kids saw it first. They came and got us saying, “I think something is wrong with a chick!” Sure enough, this little one had not formed correctly. Everything that was to be on the inside was on the outside. The chick didn’t live, but for a few minutes. Then, we a few more of the same horror show. Out of 12 eggs, we had 8 hatch. Out of the 8 that hatched, we had 3 that were deformed. With the remaining 5 chicks, we had two that were just weak and got sick and had to be euthanized. This was not a very fun thing to do or go through. So, we ended up with 3 chicks. Not a total loss.

So around this time there was a movie that came out called Chicken Run. This was a funny movie about a brood of chickens that want to escape their fate. Here is a description from iTunes:

“This exciting and original story about a group of chickens determined to fly the coop–even if they can’t fly! It’s hardly poultry in motion when Rocky (Mel Gibson) attempts to teach Ginger and her feathered friends to fly…but, with teamwork, determination and a little bit o’ cluck, the fearless flock plots one last attempt in a spectacular bid for freedom.”

Our kids loved this movie, especially Jonah and Silas. Looking back, I believe the boys thought that the methods the chickens used in the movie to learn how to fly were factual.

So back to our chicks, the last 3 were growing nicely and doing great. Chrissy and I had openly discussed taking the chicks out of their pen in the laundry room and moving them to the garage, with the occasional run in the back yard. So we decided to move the chicks to the garage where they stayed in a bigger pen. The kids would take turn going out and tending to them each day.

One warm sunny spring day Tori, Jonah, Silas, and our dog Lily were playing outside as they normally did. We had a long wire dog run trolley system for Lily. The wire spanned about 50 feet from one tree to another, with some slack in it from years of use.

Chrissy was in the house cooking, or cleaning, or something. All was well. An abnormally uneventful and pleasant day so far. At least that is what Chrissy thought, until the back door flew open and Tori ran in uncontrollably sobbing. It was that kind of sobbing that can make any beautiful girl a mess.

Chrissy heard the noise and ran to see what all the commotion was about. As she saw Tori in the standing in the kitchen flailing with emotion, she tried to make out what she was saying, “It’s dead! They’re all dead!”

It was really hard to understand what Tori was saying through her blubbering. Chrissy grabbed Tori ‘s head squeezing her chubby little cheeks and said in that loving yet frantic motherly way “ Who’s dead?” This is about the time the boys came flying through the door wailing. “We didn’t mean to!” By this time, Chrissy is freaking out! She looks at the boys and said “ What did you do?!”

Chrissy thought something happened to Lily. She looked down at at Tori with the mom look. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s the look that strikes fear into the hearts of grown men. It’s like moms are equipped with these laser beam eyes that can shoot right out of their eyes and into the depths of your mind.

They scan your deepest, darkest thoughts and memories. Then they look at you like their toying with you, and ask again a question that they already know the answer to. Chrissy spoke slowly and concisely, pronouncing every syllable. She asked “What happened? Still holding Tori’s cheek as moms do when they want an answer. Through the sucking of breath, Tori’s squished little mouth spoke out, “it was the boys!”

Chrissy whipped her head around using that mom super power, scanning their souls. With one fluid motion, she loosened her grip on Tori’s cheeks and stepping towards the boy, she glanced out the kitchen window to see the dog still moving outside. So, she knew nothing had happened to Lily.

She refocused her gaze back on the sobbing boys. Jonah, shaking his head and trembling. He kept muttering “We didn’t know.” Over and over. Chrissy turned her focus to the youngest, Silas. Bending over looking into his face, she said slowly “What happened?’ He looked up at her through his tears and said, “I’m sorry mom, We thought we could teach them to fly.” “Who?” Chrissy said.

Jonah piped up, while sucking back snot, stuttering, “the Ch, the Ch-i-cks.” Chrissy yelled “WHAT? That was our 4-H project! All of you sit down! Now tell me what happened. Jonah spoke, still all sloppy and crying. Without any hesitation he threw his little brother under the bus. “It was Silas’ idea!” he exclaimed pointing at Silas.

When Silas heard that he looked up as his bottom jaw fell open wide and his eyes grew huge. “What?” he said then broke out into tears again. “Calm down.” Chrissy said. Now “What happened?” she asked again. This time Tori spoke up. “The boys “ Now Jonah’s mouth was wide, catching flies in unbelief that he was lumped in with Silas.

She continued “They were playing with the chicks, when one of them said, ‘let’s teach them to fly.’ Then… She started to cry again. “They pulled back Lily’s line, (the dog run line) and put the chicks on it and, and, and….”Silas interrupted, blurting out “We let it go!” he broke out into fresh tears. Now Jonah jumped im. “And now they’re dead!” then he started to bawl.

Chrissy looked at them and told them that what they did was not a good choice and explained that they were not big enough to do something like that. She explained how big of a deal it was to have something like this happen and that these chicks depended on them to be safe. She told all three of them that they would have to have a formal burial for the chicks in the back yard when dad got home.

Then she asked, “Where did you guys ever get the idea that the chicks needed to learn to fly? Let alone using lily’s dog run as a sling shot?”

Silas said “Well, you know that chicken movie we watched?” Chrissy looked at him, all confused. Jonah jumped in, “Yeah the one where the chickens didn’t know how to fly, remember?” Chrissy was still not placing the movie. “Okay so what about the movie?”

Tori said, “ The chickens needed to learn how to fly so they could escape from being killed by the farmer.” “Okay, so what does that have to do with this?” Chrissy asked. Silas said, “We wanted the chicks to learn how to fly, so they could escape if they had too!” Chrissy said, “But why did you sling shot them off the dog line?” Jonah said, “ That was how they did it in the movie!”

Chrissy then started to understand that the last few weeks of hard work, hatching the eggs to raising the chicks for our 4-H project was just lost, all because of a kids’ movie that we watched. I think that’s when Chrissy started to cry.

Side Note: There was still hope– we had one chick left. Unfortunately, it didn’t survive for the fair either.

This is the life of a Hunter. Good, bad or indifferent we look at what happened, and try to learn from whatever it was that happened, and thank God for the lesson. We have a few of these 4-H stories that you will hear soon. I may even tell the heartbreaking story of Tori’s 4-H rabbit, and how we accidentally discovered that a Goo Gone and Shout Stain Remover mixture can be deadly for rabbits locked in a laundry room.

The Epic Hoagie Shadow Battle

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I have waited long enough to tell this story. Have you ever heard of a hoagie? Well, this is what most in the Midwest here call a sub, but growing up in PA, a sub was called a hoagie. Yeah, so we would go to the sub shop to get a hoagie, not a sub. I don’t know why. It was just the way it was.

Most Friday nights in the original Hunter house, we had hoagies from Newberry Sub Shop. They were arguably the best in the west end of town. I remember going into the shop, placing our order, then sitting at a table or on one of the counter stools. If it was a good week, I got fifty cents to play the jukebox that sat towards the front of the shop. I can still smell the aroma of oil, vinegar and spices mixed with fresh bread while Queen’s “Another Brick in the Wall’’ played.

Fridays were not complete without taking our hoagies home, sitting in the living room eating, and watching The Dukes of Hazzard. This was one of the two nights of the week that we would depart from our traditional eating together at the dining table. This was the best, a regular hoagie and watching the General Lee jump ravines, and then there was Daisy Duke. I don’t know which was better at the time, the car or the girl. Those were good days!

Well, my love for hoagies has not diminished one bit, and I have to tell you that I have not found one place where I live now that can replicate the memory I have of what those Hoagies tasted like. I do have to give props to Jersey Mikes, a national chain of sub shops based out of New Jersey; they definitely do come close. I really think it must be an East Coast thing: hoagies and Philly cheese steaks. We won’t even get started on those.

Side Note: if you should ever want a authentic Philly Cheese Steak and live, say in Syracuse, Indiana, there is a place the next town over, Goshen, that has the best Philly Cheese steaks in the area. It’s called the South Side Soda Shop. It was even featured on the Food Network’s “Triple D: Diners Drive-in’s and Dives.”

You may say I have a bit of a love affair with hoagies. Well, the older I got, the more I explored sub shops to see where the best ones were. You had Riverside Sub Shop, which had the best grinders. Yes, like a hoagie, but it’s grilled. Then, you had Cellini’s who had really good cosmos, again like a hoagie, this was a broiled cheese sandwich. In East End, you had Fred’s Market– they put a ton of meat on their hoagies. Then you had the OIP sub (not a hoagie). This was made with Fresh baked bread that was made from pizza dough. Then on the Creek Road, you had Heller’s Gas and Mini Market. They had great ones too.

Now Heller’s was right on our way home from church. So, Chrissy and I would stop after church, grab some hoagies and head home for lunch with Ben and Tori. This would have been around the time when Ben was 4, and Tori almost 2.

Side Note: When Chrissy was pregnant with Tori she craved turkey breast hoagies and french fries. In fact, that is what she wanted me to leave the hospital hours after Tori was born and get for her. Now, Chrissy also has a bit if a love affair with the hoagie, but not just any hoagie, it has to be a turkey breast. She just can’t eat dark meat or most processed meats.

Now that I have all the background laid out, we can get to the infamous story of the hoagie fight. See we had been going and getting hoagies after church for a while, it was becoming kind of like a bad ritual. I would get whatever kind of hoagie I fancied that day, but Chrissy always got the same one, Turkey Breast.

Well, one day we went and got our hoagies and when we got home and to our surprise Heller’s changed their turkey hoagies. This one was made with turkey roll meat. Very different from turkey breast.

My wife was not happy, but because we lived 40 minutes away from Heller’s, she sucked it up and ate it with the caveat of never getting a hoagie there again with turkey roll, because it was just gross.

A few weeks passed and something happened at church that made Chrissy upset, and if I remember I was not too happy either. It may have been that we were just not seeing eye to eye at the time too. Either way, we both were not in good moods.

So, I fell right into my rut and stopped at the sub shop. Before I got out of our Dodge Shadow, which we only had for a short time, Chrissy said, “Don’t forget, turkey breast. Not turkey roll!” I distinctly remember mocking her in a weird voice, as I closed the car door “don’t forget turkey breast,” then mumbling to myself I walked to the store.

Well, I went into the store and saw someone from church, and of course I had to change my demeanor right away. That’s what good church-going Christians do.

Side Note: this story all took place before we went into the ministry. So we were still heathens. I’m just kidding, we have matured since then, but we still have our days.

Anyway, I had a conversation with whoever and ordered our hoagies. By this time, coming out to the car, I could hear that they kids were not happy either. I thought, great… grouchy kids and wife, what a great day. I got in the car and handed over the hoagies to Chrissy, then pulled out of the parking lot and onto the county two-lane road that would get us home.

As I drove, Chrissy asked, “Did you ask for turkey breast?” Honestly, at that moment I hesitated, and I couldn’t remember… did I ask for a turkey hoagie or a turkey breast hoagie. Oh gosh. I couldn’t remember, so I diverted. “You know who I saw from church in there?” It didn’t work. She said, “Butch, did you get me a turkey breast hoagie?” I looked over at her, and I could tell she was hangry. I said sheepishly, “Yeah, that’s what you wanted!”

That is when everything started to unravel. She pulled out the hoagie from the brown paper bag and started to unroll the white paper that hers was rolled in. I think this is where I may have started to pray. Oh Jesus, please let it be a turkey breast hoagie! This is the point most husbands know that they are going to skate though just by the skin of their teeth or need to start to talk her down.

She looked at the meat, and it was like the kids in the back seat gasped, sucking all the oxygen from the car. I said, “Look, it’s turkey breast.” She looked at me, and I knew I was in such trouble. She said, “I told you to order TURKEY BREAST.

I couldn’t help noticing that her hand was clenched around the 12-inch hoagie, progressively squeezing it tighter and tighter with every word she spoke. I argued that it looked like turkey breast. She was not convinced. Then I said, “If it’s not, they clearly made a mistake, and I will turn around to get you another one.”

By this time, we were becoming pretty loud with our discussion, and it was quickly heading to an inevitable eruption. Chrissy picked up the sandwich. (Remember, I’m driving.) She whacked me in the chest with it, half of it fell on my lap. It was raining tomatoes and onions in the car.

I quickly grabbed the half that landed on my lap, as she is repeatedly smacking me with what is left of the hoagie in her hand. I retaliate in defense hurling my half of the hoagie back at her, all while trying to safely drive. It was like an epic sword battle in the car. It was like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, instead of sparks there were shreds of lettuce. Hoagie was flying everywhere, there was bread everywhere, meat stuck to the dash and windshield.

The kids were in the back seat in their car seats giggling. We both were wearing this undesirable sandwich. I remember Chrissy having mayo on her face. When we looked at each other, we heard giggles and saw the throwing of pieces of hoagie from the back seat, we both busted up laughing.

We both apologized to each other as we wiped off our faces from the remains from our battle. Then we joked about what happened the rest of the way home and for years to come. We still joke that if you don’t watch out, I will hoagie-slap you!

It took weeks to get all the hoagie out of our car, but what I never forgot was to always ask for turkey breast. Looking back we’ve had some big disagreements, but somehow we always managed to come back to common ground, support each other and always put each other ahead of the other. We love unconditionally and try to be authentic all the time. I believe this has gotten us through some of the hardest times, and even some of the best ones too.

One of our favorite artists penned these words that capture a glimpse of our love for each other:

“This love is strong, it will last. It will hold you up when you need it. It will not break, and I won’t give up. It costs too much, and I need you.” (Russ Taff)

The Bear In The Little White Trailer

The Bear In The Little White Trailer
Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my! Well, not so much the lions and tigers, but definitely bears. Bears are this week’s blog topic.
As I have mentioned in previous stories, I’m from PA. That stands for Pennsylvania, for all those who are not from the Keystone State. Nobody calls it Pennsylvania; it’s always  “P. A.” I grew up just within the city limits of Williamsport.
Side Note: When we moved in to this house when I was a kid, we had no running water or plumbing. In fact, we had the last standing outhouse within the city limits. The local newspaper the Sun Gazette did a feature story on it before it was taken down. Of course, we had indoor plumbing by then.
Our house was built by my Grandpap Hunter. It sat half-way up a mountainside. Directly behind our house, was an overgrown vineyard that had long since been cared for. It had been overtaken with thick brush and trees, just as the mountain started to incline. We has gorgeous evergreen pine trees that ran all the way up to the top of the mountain.
Side note: I’m saying that we lived on a mountain, which to anyone actually from PA would say “Aw, that’s just a big hill. The mountains are on the south side of the Valley.” And that would be true. But those who live in the Midwest, where I now reside… they would say we did live on a small mountain.  
I had the run of all the area growing up. It was great. I spent summer days exploring and playing, just my dog and me. We encountered many things throughout the years, and I heard a ton of stories about what lived in those woods. Some scary things, and some were just ridiculous.
One such story was about the night my mom was walked home by what she claims to have been a bear. She worked 2nd shift, and got a ride home late one night. The driver dropped her off at the bottom of our long driveway. Halfway up our drive, she was greeted by something big and furry. She thought it was our pet St. Bernard, Brandy.
All the way home she talked and walked with it, giving it encouraging pats on the head as they walked. When she reached our house, whatever it was ran off. She went in the house only to find Brandy asleep on the floor. She swears it was a bear. I don’t know.
That was not the only encounter we had with bears. My mother-in-law hit one with her car once. The car was totaled. She was ok, but the bear didn’t survive.
Another time, which I think is the best story, is when Chrissy and I were living in the real mountains. Our small mobile home sat at the bottom of a mountain close to her grandparent’s home. A small brook ran right behind the property.  In this little community called Proctor, there may have been a population of 150, perhaps a bit more. Our little neighborhood had 4 houses within a stone’s throwing distance from ours. We had two of our kids then, Ben and Tori, and stupid dog named Pepper.
Where we lived, trash pick-up only happened every 2 weeks, perhaps 4, depending on the time of year. So, we had 3 cans sitting out by where we parked our cars. We had been told that sometimes bears would wonder down the mountain and get into things. We had never seen this happen since we had lived in the trailer. The only things we had seen were the occasional deer, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, and a flock of turkeys.
One summer night, Chrissy woke me from a dead sleep. This was normal.
She said, “Did you hear that?”
I said, “No, don’t worry, it’s probably a raccoon getting into the garbage.”
She said, “No, it’s not, listen! It’s grunting and snorting whatever it is!
We lay very still in our bed, and I listened. All I could hear was my heart beating and my breathing.
I said, “Nope, nothing.”
Then she said, “There!” as she sat up in bed.
I said,  “Okay, I’ll get up and see.”
So, I got up and got the spotlight. Everyone who lives in PA has a spotlight.
Side note: Spotlighting. It’s a verb. That’s what you did for fun on a warm Saturday night. You drive around shining this huge 100,000,000 candlelight powered spotlight out your car window to see how many deer or other species of wildlife you could see. That, my friends, was a wild night!
I grabbed my spotlight, and I opened the drapes to look out the window. I could see nothing. I shined my light out the window, but all I could see was our cars.  I moved back through the trailer to our bedroom windows. I pulled back the curtains to shine the light out. And there it was as plain as day. The biggest, hairiest, monster I had ever seen with it’s teeth bared looking right back at me through my window. It was a Sasquatch!
No, I’m just kidding. All I could see was the hoods of our cars. Of course, by this time Chrissy is pushing me over grabbing for the light, so naturally I wouldn’t see any thing. Then, all of a sudden, I thought I saw something moving on the far side of the car by our garbage. Then it moved out in to plain sight. It was a big black bear! He was enjoying himself some dinner on us.
I think this is when Chrissy looked at me and said in Scooby Doo fashion “It’s a bear!” I think she may have peed a little too! She jumped from the bed, ran into the kids’ room, and scooped them up. The next thing I knew everyone was in our bed. Chrissy had the covers pulled over her head, asking is it still there?
I said, “Yep, it’s still there.”
This bear was not little– he had to have gone a few hundred pounds. I thought it would be cool if he stood up, but he didn’t. He just kind of meandered around by the garbage cans.
I finally coaxed Chrissy out from under her bear proof covers to watch the bear with me.  We watched him for what seemed like hours, but I’m sure it was nowhere close to that. Then Chrissy said to me, “What if he tries to get in the house?”
Now that thought hadn’t crossed my mind, but she said, “Won’t he smell the food in our house?”
 That’s when I started to be a little concerned, but being the brave man of our small family, I said, “Aw, don’t worry he can’t get in, and besides I have the 12-gauge.
She said, “You should get it.”
So, I grabbed the gun and carefully laid it on the bed.
Side Note: Now, at this time in my life I had only shot this gun maybe once or twice when I went turkey hunting as a teen. Boy, is that a story, but for another time. Honestly, the thing I remembered the most about that gun was that it kicked like a mule. I probably could have better defended our family by beating the bear with the gun.
Then Chrissy said, “You know the front door doesn’t latch very well.”
I knew that front door needed fixed, but I hadn’t had the money or the time to fix it. The more I thought about it, I started to worry. All you really needed to do was push hard on the door, and it would fly open.
As any brave husband would do, I thought fast and said, “We should move all the furniture in front of the door to barricade it. He’s not going to come over here, but, you know, just in case. So we frantically pushed our couch and chair over in front of the door, as well as anything else heavy we could get in front of the door.
When we were done, we scampered back to the bed to see where our furry friend was, and what he was up to.  I shined the spotlight over by the car and nothing. I stared to look around, where did he go? That’s when I heard a snort right in front of the window we were looking out. I quickly pointed the light down to where I heard the snort, and sure enough there he was. He was making his way over to the trailer. We watched as he waddled past us and then over by our front porch. We tiptoed out to the living room, and peeked out the window just in time to see Mr. Cuddles waddling right up our porch steps. Our porch was more of a stoop. It had three steps and then a 4×4 square deck. Not very big at all.
I ran back to the bedroom and grabbed my gun. With trembling fingers I put a slug in and closed the chamber, I was ready. If that bear welcomed himself into our home it was on. As I stood with my heart racing looking out the window. He came up the steps got on the porch. I though this is it, get ready. Then he just turned around and sat down on our porch like he owned the place. I had Chrissy go back to the bedroom with the kids and cover up with her bear protectant sheets as I stood guard.
Again, I watched for what seemed like an eternity. Then all of a sudden he sniffed the breeze and grunted. He flopped forward and jumped off the porch. He waddled across the yard and out of sight to the neighbor’s house.
I thought, I’m leaving the barricade up, just in case he comes back. I walked back to the bedroom with my gun clenched in my hands and pronounced that the bear has left the premises.

The funniest thing was that the kids slept through the entire ordeal. That night we all slept together in our full-size bed with the shotgun within reach. This was a crazy night that will not be forgotten. And that is the story of the bear in the little white trailer.