Senior Year Reflection

Some days I wish I had a telepathic thought converter that would take the thoughts that I have and transfer them to a document. It would definitely make writing my blogs so much easier. It seems like I have all these thoughts and experiences that fly through my mind’s eye in a day, and I don’t want to forget any of the details of what I think or remember.

As I move through the seasons of the year, it triggers these memories of the life I have lived and the emotions that flood my being are something too much to communicate or even try to express in any way, so most time they are just held in. Until the right moment presents itself to release them. For me, that is most times when I’m alone, or with my amazing wife, Chrissy.  I think perhaps I do this because it’s a safe environment for me to be me.

One thing I am discovering is that the more I do write, the more I’m letting some of the inner me out. The hard part is that even those who know me are perhaps are seeing a different side to me that most may have never known or seen. This is actually a bit intimidating and at the same time, freeing.

So, what’s with all the self-reflection and such? Over the last few months, Chrissy and I have been through some difficult times…the kind of things that cause everyone who goes through them to question everything, and that is okay. It’s actually has made us think and talk about things that we normally don’t discuss, and that has been good. In the mist of all this, life just keeps going on. It hits me now that we have plans that we have made and committed to rapidly approaching.

For example, a trip we have planned with our entire family is coming up soon. This may not seem to be a big deal, but somehow, we have grown our family to a total of 12 people and I’m sure there will be future additions to that number. Still, that’s a lot of people, especially to go on a trip with! This trip is one of those special trips that Chrissy and I really wanted to have happen. See, this year we have a high school senior in our home. Now, yes, we have had this before- 3 times before to be exact.

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The first child graduating was difficult and thinking about all that goes with your first born moving on to the next phase of their lives with all the unknown things and hopes and dreams you have for them and that they have for themselves. Then they move out, get married and all of a sudden, you’re a grandparent. Whew, looking back that was pretty quick, and before we knew it, we had 2 more graduates, another grandbaby, and another wedding, followed by 2 more grandkids. Talk about a blur. That brings me to the moment of reflection over the final of the four. The baby of the family.

Then it starts to creep in. This will be that last time you will be doing this senior thing. Not only that, but what you have done for the last 27 years is going to change a bit, because all the kids are soon going to be out on their own. Oh, sure they may linger in the nest for a bit longer, and that is all cool. No rush on our part.

What I think is the hardest part is remembering what you have done or not done and not being able to change that at all. If you stay in that place too long, you can start to second guess all you have done and whether or not it was the best for them.

A friend has a jar of marbles on his desk representing the number of weekends he has left before his first-born graduates. This was pretty cool to watch his countdown, but unconsciously I was having my own countdown without the marbles. I lost all mine after kid 2 or 3. (I feel a bit like the Lost Boy “Tootles” from Peter Pan, he lost his marbles too.) I believe that I almost have not wanted to think about this season of life coming, but here it is.

I want to say that I am so very proud of all my kids, what they are doing, and who they are becoming. I’m so impressed with the people they have become and are going to be. People full of God’s love and kindness, people who have courage as well as integrity. One of the best things has been to see how they take care of each other and hold each other accountable to the level of what it really means to be a “Hunter.”

For you Si-guy, my daredevil, the world’s most okay-est barista. I can only start to say how proud I am of you and all that you have accomplished. I am very excited to see where you go and what you do in the coming years. As I have always told you kids, whatever you want to do you can accomplish, just be sure to lay your plans out before the Lord and let Him have the final say on your endeavors. Follow him and walk in His ways. Always keep Him the most important thing in your life.

Stay humble and teachable. Be observant, always seeing what others do and don’t do. This will help you make wise choices. Be bold and passionate about what you believe in, especially when others try to steal your joy and passion about what you believe to be right. Let their words and intentions build you up in a positive way, not letting them destroy or devour you. Those who try to bully or humiliate you are only trying to bring you down to their level because they have a desire be like you in some way, but since they are struggling to make it where to where you are, they try to pull you down to where they are. Be merciful to them, show them love and grace in their ignorance. Still, beware not to fall into the same pit with those you secretly look up to also.

Gather friends to walk with you on this adventure; choose friends that you can trust, ones that will edify you and that are strong in your weak areas, so that they can join you in obtaining your goals. This makes the achievement of the goal you set so much sweeter because you have others surrounding you who genuinely care about you and what you’re working to achieve.

When you outgrow others, don’t be bitter, but be full of compassion and understanding. Stay gentle with an open mind. Keep good boundaries and hold firm to them; good boundaries can protect you from strife and heartache. Breathe deep, experience life and all the beauty that God has place in it for you. Be kind to others and most times they will be kind to you. Always remember where you’re from, and that you are a Hunter, and more importantly, you are a child of the King of Kings.

Always remember:

 

God loves you more than anyone.

Love him more than anything or anyone and love those around you as yourself.

Always be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Do everything that you do for the glory of God.

Your Mom and Dad are proud of you and love you more than anyone ever could!

 

I believe, if you have more than one child, the last is always the one you reflect on the most. You also hope you did all you could to help them be the person God showed you that they could become. Being parent is hard, but it can be the best thing you ever do. Then you become Popz and Abi, and it gets indescribably better!

 

Where’s My Partner?

Have you ever been surprised buy something in a good way so much that you cherish each second that passed as it unfolded before your eyes? I have, and I also know that experiences like this are hard to pull together and execute effectively. I’m really hard to surprise. I have a innocent way of putting pieces together when something is going on. I sometimes can pick up on the little things when I’m not supposed to, and then I end up soiling the surprise for myself.

Then on the other side of things, let someone try to leave intentional clues or hints to something that I should be able to figure out, and I’m usually late to the game. I totally miss my cue and mess things up.

When I do figure things out, I have a tendency to get really mad at myself and disappointed. I have a difficult time hiding my feelings when I feel like I do something dumb. This is then taken by others that I’m not happy with whatever is happening. Which is most times the furthest thing from the truth.

So when these seasons of the year come around when surprises may take place I somehow subliminally ignore things so I don’t mess things up. This is usually when Chrissy tries to communicate something with subtle hints, and I totally miss it. Then I’m in trouble, rightly so.

One last thing before I get into this story, I don’t know why but for some reason, birthdays are hard for me. I get a little moody and depressed. I don’t know if it’s just the fact that I’m getting older, which is stupid, we all get older. Then it also maybe the time that I allow myself to look back on the past too much. I try to live in positivity, but it’s easy to slip into the negative areas of life and start to focus on what you have failed at or disappointments you have had. With all that said, it’s hard to surprise me, especially around my birthday.

Now, this was not the case on this occasion few years back. I had been given a surprise that will forever stay as one of the best birthday surprises I have ever had. Chrissy would be the first to tell you that I like to dance. I may not be the best at, it but hey, as long as you’re having fun, do it, and you’re not hurting anyone, right? (I try not to step on toes).

So, on this particular year, Chrissy told me that we were going somewhere for my birthday and told me I needed to wear clothes I could move in, but look nice, and I had to have shoes with leather soles. I was then told not to question anything. She ended by assuring me that I would have a great time.

As the day of our mysterious date approached, I remember having a hard time finding the right shoes, but everything else was easy. And, eventually, I did find some shoes.

I remember the day as if it was yesterday. It was a Sunday afternoon, and there was a knock on the door; it was one of our babysitters. She said, “Hi, I’m all set to watch the kids!” At this point it seemed like everyone knew what was going to take place, but me.

Chrissy came out to the living room dressed very pretty, but that’s nothing hard for her. She took a deep breath and said, “Ok, you ready to go?

I said, “Where we going?

“No questions! I have directions, you just need to drive.”

So, as we left the house my mind was racing about where we could possibly be going. As we passed certain land marks, I crossed off ideas that I had formed in my head.

She had me go to an area that I had never been before. As I drove, there were all these huge pole barn like buildings. Itlooked like an industrial warehouse area. She gave me directions from her piece of paper, turn up here on the right. If I said the I wasn’t excited, I would be lying. If I said I wasn’t a bit fearful of what was to come, it would be a lie too. You know how your stomach gets tight right before you do something that is exciting and scary all together? Well, that was me.

Chrissy shouted, “Here! Turn here!”

It was a huge building with a big stone parking lot, only a few cars in the lot.

I asked, “Are you sure this is where we are going?

She said, “I think so.”

Then she glanced at the building and looked back at me with a sparkle in her eye and a nervous smile.

She said, “Yep, this is it. We may be a little early, so let’s wait until we see someone else go in.”

This is customary for Chrissy, especially when we are doing something new or she is unsure of where we should be.

We sat in the car and waited for what seem like forever. Finally, cars stared to pour in, and people went in the door on the side of the building. We got out and made our way to the building that’s when Chrissy looked at me and took another deep breath and nervously said, You better know that I love you, and you better like this! Happy birthday!

I asked, “What is it?” as we entered a door that said something about a club. We went through the door and rounded a corner. The entrance opened up into huge hall with a wooden floor and a stage. There were tables and chairs surrounding the polished floor. I looked at her and said, “What is this? And what are we doing?”

“Surprise!”she said with a smile.

All in one breath with her words running together she said, “We’re going to learn how to swing dance. Oh gosh, what was I thinking? This was such a dumb idea!”

Chrissy has never enjoyed dancing; she has always found an excuse not to dance. She will stand and sway to the music, and if I am lucky, I can get her to slow dance with me. On our wedding day, I think if her Nanny wouldn’t have given her something for her nerves, we would have never made it through the reception. So, for her to even attempt to learn how to dance was huge. Just thinking about this gift she gave me chokes me up.

I grew up dancing with my mom and every once in a while, if there was a good song playing on the oldies station Dad would grab mom’s hand, and they would cut the rug together. Of course, I would cut in and try to learn whatever it was that they were doing. The twist, mash potato, jitterbug, the stroll, just to name a few. Our dance floor was most commonly in the kitchen. Like I said dancing was something I loved, but for Chrissy it was not. She would rather do something else, anything else. So, when I say this was a huge thing, it’s really not an exaggeration at all.

I grabbed her hand, pulled her in close, and said, Thank you, but you don’t have to do this.”

The truth was that I was a bit nervous too. Being a person with dyslexia, I find that following instructions about left and right can be a bit of a challenge; one that still haunts me from childhood to this day.

She looked me in the eyes and said, “Oh we’re doing this.”

Just then a call from the floor came. We were told to get into a circle with our partner facing us. So we would have a big circle, then a smaller circle inside the big one.

We were welcomed, and given an outline for the night. We were told this was an introductory class to swing dance. Then followed with some basic instructions. Honestly, I don’t remember most of what was said. What I do remember is Chrissy looking at me saying, “I can’t do this!” And with every new move, she would giggle and the giggles turned into anxious laughs. We were having fun and getting comfortable with what we were learning, when all of a sudden, we heard the words “Switch! Outside move to the left. The panic and anxiety on Chrissys face was like someone told her she had to get naked.

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She looked at me and said, “No way!”Then she was somewhat pushed to another partner. This kept happening, we were slowly making our way around the circle. With each new partner, our eyes would meet, and she would silently mouth the words “HELP ME!”

Chrissy was about 6 people away and the next time the instructor said to switch, she quickly ran over to me, and politely said to the person next in line, “He’s my partner,please just skip us. She kept this up though out the rest of the evening, in spite of the instructor’s side comments and dirty looks. I believe she even said out loud once or twice while looking at me, “I payed to learn to dance with you, not someone else.”

Overall, we had a great time and even agreed to perhaps learn more. This was a very special time for me,, and I don’t ever want to forget the love and sacrifice Chrissy made to make this night awesome for me.

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I did order us some VHS tapes on swing dancing to learn in the privacy of our own home at our own pace, but after receiving the tapes somehow they disappeared. I still wonder to this day what really happened to them. I do recall finding the second tape somewhere unusual, but the first tape never resurfaced.

In our kitchen today, you will see a sign that Chrissy picked up. It says “In this kitchen we dance,” and since that time we do. I believe we have more spontaneous dance parties in the kitchen now that we have grandbabies and daughters-in-love.

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We dance unashamedly as David did before the Lord. We dance in celebration of the blessings the Lord has given us.

Hunter Traditions

The scene is set at the turn of the 20th century, in Russia. Tevye, a Jewish father is trying to hold on to what he had been taught his entire life and has been part of the faith and belief system that has been handed down to him from generations who came before him. He finds himself having his beloved beliefs and traditions being challenged. The musical’s opening number rings in my head, “Tradition! Tradition!” Fiddler on the Roof is one of my favorite shows ever.

The word tradition rings louder no other time of the year than during the Christmas season. I know in our family, Christmas drips with tradition. You need to be careful, because if you do something more than 2 years in a row, it’s highly probable that it will stick forever. Then if you forget or try to skip it one year, you will be met with overwhelming opposition proclaiming, “We have to do that… it’s a family tradition!”

The Hunter holiday season starts with Thanksgiving and ends sometime in January, when the tree is disassembled. So, in reality, it lasts somewhere around 2 months. I thought it would be fun and entertaining to share some of our fun traditions that still carry on, as well as some that have died a hard death, and even one or two that are revived yearly, but should probably stay dead.

One year, Chrissy wanted to take the kids to the Thanksgiving Day Parade in Chicago. You know the one that’s on TV every year. After some diligent research, Chrissy found out that we needed to arrive early and bundle up because most years it’s colder than a brass toilet seat in the Yukon.  You need to be there EARLY to secure a good spot. So, we put a plan together. The first year was fun. The second year, now that was the year that was more than entertaining and after that, it was decided that it would probably be in the best interest of the Hunter family not to go again. The issue is that this is one of those traditions that keeps trying to come back.

So, you may be wondering why we needed put this to rest? Well… it has to do with Chrissy getting into an argument with one of Chicago’s finest policemen. Long story short is that we were told to move from our “spot,” the one we had been at for over an hour with all the kids. It was a great place to see the entire parade, but we were told to move back. So, we did, only to have other people move in and sit right where we had been, blocking the kids’ vision. This did not go down well with the Hunter momma. So, she got the attention of the officer and asked why these people were allowed to stay where we were not? The cop was pretty irritated and said, Ma’am,  you need to relax and enjoy the parade from where you are sitting. Totally not cool. Well, the momma bear was getting ready to roar about the injustice that her family was dealt. I could see the tension rising, and so I had to step in and calm her down. We ended up moving to a better location, nowhere near as good as the original, but we still had fun and everyone could see the parade. We all agreed on the train ride home, that if I hadn’t stepped in, we would have been watching the parade from the police station waiting room.

Another tradition we have is writing on a special table cloth what we are thankful for. This one was a keeper, but has since been put on hold until we find a new tablecloth. We started a new one a few years ago, but we had a few guests who didn’t understand our special tradition and well, sharpies are permanent. Though it was nothing horrible, our guests’ inscriptions weren’t supportive of our values and the Hunter Code, so we retired that tablecloth. The problem is that we can’t find a tablecloth big enough to fit the table I built for 13 people.

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One last simple, and from what I hear popular tradition, is a thanksgiving puzzle that everyone works on throughout the day while visiting and enjoying each other. We choose a new puzzle every year. Some years the puzzle will last until Christmas, then other years it only lasts the day.

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Thanksgiving also starts the Christmas movies too. Our list has the traditional stop motion tv specials like Rudolph and Frosty. We also have a few others that we love , like, the Polar Express, Arthur’s Christmas, The Santa Clause Movies, Christmas Vacation, and The Grinch.  Our favorite traditional movies are White Christmas, Christmas Story, and Braveheart. Yes, Braveheart. Being of a Scottish heritage, we start the New Year off with this one, I honestly think this got on our list because it was the only movie on tv one New Year’s Day, and it was being played over and over again. So the next year, someone remembered that we had watched Braveheart, and decided it was a “new” tradition for us.

A few of our other traditions are cutting down a fresh tree as a family, and decorating it as a family too. Even our married kids come home to help decorate the tree. This can be tricky with everyone’s schedule, but it’s a tradition, so we make it happen. This is also the start of a huge rivalry in the clan. The issue is who puts the angel on the top of the tree. When the kids were little, I would lift them up, and they would place the angel on the top of the tree. The problem arose one year when we forgot who put the angel on the previous year. Everyone started arguing over whose turn it was. So now, Chrissy and I have to take pictures of who does the tree topper for evidence the next year when everyone starts arguing about whose turn it is. We were doing oldest to youngest, but that got messed up somewhere along the line. Even now, as adults, the kids bicker back and forth about who will get to put the angel on the tree until we go look at the old pictures.

One way we get everyone together during the Christmas season is the reading of the family Advent book. This is a sacred book that can only be opened and read and looked at during the Advent season. Now that the kids are older, instead of reading from the book every night, we just get together each Sunday evening leading up to Christmas. We have dinner and read the Advent book.  December 26th, the book is tied shut with a gold ribbon until the next year’s Advent. The book is unique in many ways, but the biggest thing is that each page has a different door on it and each door opens to reveal a part of the birth of Jesus Christ. The author and illustrator are a husband and wife, and the book truly is amazingly beautiful.

This is another thing where the kids still try to outwit each other because they all want to be the one who opens the Christmas Day door. They count who will read which door and as we each take a turn reading the doors; they try to get themselves in the order they think will increase their chances to open the Christmas door, the last door of the book. Now that we have added to the clan with daughters and grands, it’s even more fun to watch as they try to get to be the one to open the last door.

On Christmas Day, before any gifts are unwrapped or anything else, we take a little time to read the Advent Book all the way through, and I read Luke’s take on the birth of Christ from the Bible. Then we take time to pray. Then, and only then, can we start to open the gifts. We have been asked how we do gifts. With a family our size, gifts can be an expensive challenge. So, Chrissy and I came up with giving 3 smaller gifts, 1 large gift, and a stocking to each one. We decided on 4 gifts because of the 3 gifts brought by the Three Wise Men and given to Mary and Joseph in honor of the Christ child. The one larger gift is to remind us of the great gift of grace God gave us through His Son. The stockings are full of a variety of small gifts, just like the variety of gifts the Holy Spirit brings us when we accept Jesus as our Savior.

Another tradition that we think is fun is our Christmas Eve dinner tradition. I’m not sure when this started; I believe it was when we moved from Pennsylvania to go to school for ministry. With our families being so far away, we started some of these traditions to fill the void we felt and to give us something to look forward to. Holidays are hard when separated from extended family. For this tradition in particular, it came from one of the traditional movies we watch, “The Christmas Story.” It’s from the part after the family has their turkey stolen by the neighbor’s hounds. They end up in the only restaurant open on Christmas,  a Chinese restaurant. So, each Christmas Eve, after Christmas Eve services at church, we eat dinner at a Chinese restaurant. We have had so much fun with this tradition. Over the years, we have enjoyed being able to invite others along with us to take part in this fun tradition. We have shared in some great conversations and in building some amazing relationships. I believe the most we have had was around 26 people at one time taking part in this tradition.

After we are done with our Chinese feast, we head back to our home for the reading of the Advent book, as well as another fun tradition that the kids came up with. As they got older they wanted to buy each other gifts, but we really didn’t have the money to let each of them shop for each other, so they came up with what they call Secret Santa. We draw names on Thanksgiving Day, and on Christmas Eve, we give our gifts to whose names we drew. The kids would use money they earned, as well as Chrissy and I helping a little, so they could get their special gift.

These are just a few of our favorite traditions we have that are close to our family’s hearts and help make us who we are. Each year, Chrissy and I think through what we do and decide which traditions we will make more of a priority. We also try to see if there are any new things we want to add to the list.

This year we added two fun games to the list that seemed to go well and were fun. But we will have to wait and see if they will stand the test of time in the Hunter clan.

I would love to hear some of the fun traditions that your families have; we may want to borrow them!

 

 

Trains, Flames, and Automobiles

 

The other day Chrissy and I wanted to grab something to eat. We had heard that a new restaurant was opening that was owned by the same person who owned another restaurant that had closed a while back, that we absolutely loved.  The place that closed had great food at a reasonable price. We loved the atmosphere there, as well as the décor. Sometimes there are just those places that immediately whisk you back in time to earlier years when life seemed a little easier. These places flood you with good memories. That is a big reason I liked this place… it had a cozy home feel to it. The place settings were mismatched, but really nice. It was like someone went to your grandparent’s house and bought a few of their place settings, then went to someone else’s grandparents, and did the same thing over and over until they had a huge collection of place settings.

 

The other cool thing was the mismatched cloth napkins at each place setting. Never the same, but always nice and clean. There’s just something about having a cloth napkin at meal time that makes things feel special.

The biggest thing that we loved was the floor. The floor was covered with old vintage magazine pages sealed with a clear coat protectant. It was the coolest thing. It may have been a bit feminine, but I was good with it, because to drew my mind back to my grandmother’s house. Living so far from family, it was a nice place to have a cup of coffee and a homemade sweet treat like my mom would make from one of my grandmother’s recipes. It was quiet most times, so I could think and plan things that I needed to. It was always a great meeting place too, especially for a date with my sweetheart.

So, when this placed closed, it was very sad. It left a big hole for a while in my repertoire of hangout places and in our small community.

When I heard that this new place was opening in the next town over, I was super excited! I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that the food would be great. Recently, we were able to go for a late breakfast.

When we entered the place, which we had been in before when it was another coffee shop, we both were pleasantly surprised.

The old establishment that occupied this building before was nice, but seemed a little dark. It was okay, but definitely not my favorite.

Now seeing what the new owners did, it was great! It took a few months for them to open, but I had heard it was partly because of redoing the floors. It was clean and friendly from the time we entered to the time we checked out.

We were welcomed by amazing magazine-page floors with a food theme, which then transitioned the dining area into railway magazine pages.

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Now, if I’m going to be honest I didn’t notice that they were railway magazines at first. What I did notice was a picture on the wall that was familiar to me. When Chrissy and I went on our first cruise, as a last-minute excursion, we chose to go on an amazing train ride known as the White Passage.

Side Note: This was when I got to see an American Black Bear and her cub in the wild. The Chinese man that spotted her, now that was a hoot for sure! He was pointing and yelling in English with the Chinese accent, “Beer! Beer over dare!” If we were on a boat, we would have tipped over with the sudden shift of weight. He was so very excited.

The Picture in this little restaurant reminded me of the Yukon Railway…the train company that carried us through the passage. After a little digging, I found it was not the same one as in the picture. Great Northern Railway and Yukon had similar logos.

But, as I looked around it all came together– the name of the new establishment “The Coffee Depot,” the train and railway décor, not to mention that the little gem is situated next to busy train tracks, where almost every hour you hear the horn of a locomotive and feel the rumble as it passes through Syracuse.

Looking around the dining area made think of my parents at Christmas time. Chrissy and I got to talking about how every year my dad set up a train track in our house. Some years it was huge, and other years it was small. Ever since I can remember, my parents had a platform set up.

My dad has a love for model trains. And every year, it would take him weeks before Christmas to plan and set up this display.

This was always a big deal, and no matter what, this display had to be done before Christmas.

My parents would decorate the display with a little town that they had created and the focus was the train station in the town.

My dad would construct the base and get the ground laid, some years it was green like grass, while other years it was snow. He would carefully pour this tiny black gravel for roads, and put miniature lights up from underneath the wood to light the shoebox building that my parents had made with great detail. Dad had some scale structures called Plasticville, but they were very expensive, so they only had a few of those to start.  They even had street lights that lit up the roads at night.

Then they would build a paper mache mountain, with a wax waterfall that had variant blue colors of water running down to a pond. The mountain also had a tunnel that the train could pass through.

One year, my parents wanted to get trailing pine and green moss for the platform, so we went for a hike up the mountain we lived on. We found some, brought it back and constructed a green mountain with live moss.

Side Note: It was never a good day if the train jumped the track in the tunnel. Most times this was due to unsupervised little hands as the conductor.

The Lionel train was my dad’s baby. He always took special care of the old engine and caboose. Every year, we would make a trip to one of the most fascinating stores… English’s Train Shoppe. This place had every train you could think of on display.There were so many that they even had them hanging from the ceiling. The best part was that they always had most of them running. I absolutely loved the trip to this place. This is where my dad would get supplies and have the engine serviced. This was also the place where we would get the corrugated red brick paper that would run around the sides of the platform to hide all the wires underneath the town.

He would finish the display off with little people figures and matchbox cars. The cars were special because this was something we both were enthusiastic about. He had ones from when he was a boy, then he would add new ones that were mine.

The older I got the more I enjoyed the platform and looked forward to helping with it. The older I got, the ornerier I got too. One year I un-repentantly started a tradition. I created an incident with some of the matchbox cars.

Side Note: We always had matchbox cars, never hot wheels. It was like a rival team or something I really don’t know why, but dad only liked the matchbox cars. I remember him saying “I don’t want any of that Hot Wheels Sh*t on my platform!” We really didn’t do sports, so I guess we did miniature car companies?

So, this one year, I took some of the cars and created a fender bender scene. I had two cars crashed, and a gas tanker truck flipped on its side. I pulled out the fire trucks from the fire station and the ambulance too, and I placed them at the scene of the accident. I did think about setting the truck on fire but luckily I realized that could be a very bad thing. Besides, I wanted to see how long it would take my dad to notice this little eye sore in his pleasant, peaceful town.

One thing, I haven’t mentioned was that the platform was sacred. No one could touch it after it was finished– it was a piece of fine art. So, when he finally noticed the destruction I created, he became almost unglued! It was so funny that I had to repeat it again and again over the years. Now it’s one of those things that my dad puts on there himself. Perhaps, it’s just a reminder to him of the fun, silly things I did while growing up.

A few years back, I received a very special gift that I treasure. My dad got me a Lionel train set, so I could continue the train tradition in our family. I don’t know that I have done the best job of doing that as a dad, but I want to see if I can do better as a Popz for my grands.

I love thinking about these special moments, they remind me of the love we shared as a family growing up. The platform was a yearly connecting point for the family, but seemed to be even more special to dad and me. I hope to have that same connection with things with my kids and the grands too!

Lastly, The Coffee Depot’s food was great, as well as the trip down memory lane!

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Family Force Five Christmas Pageant

One day we’d all sat down for supper, when Tori looked at me and said, “Dad? I need your help.” I said “Okay, with what?” She continued, “Well, Family Force Five is having a contest… and I want to enter.” Ben piped up in the most taunting voice he could muster, “She wants to meet Soul Glow Activator! She’s in love!” Tori quickly snapped back, “No I’m not!”

I interrupted, “Okay, settle down! Tori, what’s this all about? What do you need to do, and how do you need me to help?”

Tori stated to explain, “Well… I need to make a video showing that I’m their biggest fan.” She started to get excited, as she continued, “When they come to our area on their Christmas tour, they will choose two videos from those who live in the area of the concert.” The faster she talked, the louder she got as the pitch of her voice went higher and higher. “You and a friend get to go to the concert for free and go backstage to meet everyone in the band!” She was raising out of her seat. With wide eyes, she proclaimed “Then you get to go on stage to help with a song! I HAVE TO WIN!”

She had everyone at the table laughing about how excited she got.

I said, “Okay, settle down now. What did you have in mind? She unfolded her plan to show that she was a huge FF5 fan. She said, “I was planning to interview people them while they say that I’m their biggest fan!”

I said “Like who?”

“The kids at youth group. I was also thinking that I could have footage of me inviting people on the street to the concert. I was thinking that you could help me make flyers and get some video shots of me posting them in stores. What do you think, will it work, will you help?”

Ben said, “You’re crazy!”

I said, “Let’s think about this, you need to have some sort of flow for your video. After supper, we sat and came up with an idea of all the video shots we would need. In addition to the interviews and the flyers, we thought she could have a FF5 contest of some sort. So, we decided to have a praise guitar contest. This was a Christian music version of guitar hero. I also suggested that we do a music video with one of their songs.

Tori loved all the ideas. We had about a month to get everything done, edited, and submitted. So, we had a lot to do and only a little time to get it done. Tori worked on getting flyers distributed for her contest and lined up interviews with some of her friends. She asked if I would help plan out the music video.

For the storyline, we thought we could have our family receive an anonymous gift on the porch of a FF5 party in a box. We would have instruments, shutter shades, and iconic green FF5 Christmas pageant bowties. Everyone would be dressed conveniently in a red shirt, and we would have a concert on the front lawn of our house after receiving the box.

The funny part was that our family was working as the custodian crew at the church, so we were working very long hours, and we wouldn’t get finished until around 8pm or later. This meant we could only shoot this music video at night. I thought I would borrow a few bright spinning lights from my ministry and a snow machine as well. We decorated the front of the house with lights and presents. I had an inflatable nativity set; we put printouts of the bands faces on some the nativity people to be funny. We also spelled out FF5 on the roof of our ranch style house so it could be seen. I used my halogen shop lights to light the yard while filming, and they did a pretty good job lighting up the whole front of the house. We also played the song so with us lip synching. The craziest part was that we did all this around 9pm.

Everyone was involved Tori, the boys, and even Chrissy! We had so much fun creating this video. We had the lights flashing and rotating lights that sent beams of light all over the place in the yard with loud music playing. We didn’t have real snow yet, but the snow machine gave a great effect of snow falling. Silas tried to make snow angels, but was not too successful with the fake snow. It was a wonder that the neighbors didn’t call the police, but they knew we were always doing something crazy at our house. It was almost normal for the people driving by to see us out in the yard with blow-up guitars dancing around acting like we were putting on a concert.

There was one last fun part we wanted to put in. The boys thought it would be funny if we included a shot of Tori somehow falling off the roof while putting up lights.

Tori and Jonah went up on the roof acting like they were decorating the house for a concert. We planned that I would interrupt them with a decoration that I got for the video. Tori would move to the edge of the roof, pretending that she was getting upset because the decoration wasn’t big enough for her to win the contest. As she flailed around on the edge of the roof, she would fall from the roof, then we would rush to her side. She would then would look up in pain and whimper that Family Force 5 was worth it.

I had made a stuffed dummy for fun things like pranks and stunts for some of our dumb videos. His name is “Ted,” actually “Dead Ted,” because well… he was always meeting an unfortunate demise in our pranks

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For the falling off the roof scene, we dressed Ted in clothes to match Tori’s clothes. Then we would throw Ted off the roof. When we shot the ground scene of Tori talking, we would switch Ted with Tori. With careful editing, it actually worked great

We posted our video to YouTube and waited for a response from the band.

Side note: The video is still up on YouTube. Here is the address to watch it: Tori’s FF5 Christmas Video

A few very nervous, but hopeful weeks went by, and then we received an email stating that Tori was one of the winners!

When I showed her the email, she nearly blew a gasket!

Not only did Tori enter, but so did Ben’s girlfriend at the time, and she was the second winner.

The hard part for Tori was to choose who to take to the concert as her guest. She was allowed to bring one person. Naturally, I helped a great deal with the video, but I wasn’t not able to go because of my work schedule. So, Tori had a hard choice to make, but she did make a great choice. She picked her mom.

The night of the concert came. Tori and Chrissy went, so did Ben and his girlfriend. As the story goes, they got to meet the band backstage and helped onstage with multiple numbers. One song was “The Baby,” and Chrissy loves to tell everyone that she was almost killed on stage by a band member, named Na-daddy, who was spinning around like a tornado, while playing his guitar. He nearly smashed into Chrissy as she was concentrating on holding up a baby doll for the song at the right times.

The sad part was that Tori didn’t get to talk to the guys much, because one of the members of the band, Fatty, had been admitted to the hospital right before the show for kidney failure. , the band was in a hurry to get to the hospital after the show.

Still, this Christmas was another one that went down in the Hunter Clan’s history book as a interesting Christmas–definitely one that will always be remembered as a Fun Family Christmas.

One thing we always tried to hold to and teach the kids was that we work hard AND we play hard. When one of the family tries for something, we all encourage and support to the best of our abilities. Success for one of us is success for all of us.

 

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The Christmas Code

I sat there, half asleep on the couch, as the kids excitedly prepared for the day’s festivities. I found myself, coffee mug in hand, staring at a pile of Christmas gifts, thinking, “What did I do to get us in this situation?” Yes, it was Christmas morning. The tree was decorated, as well as the house. This year, Chrissy had the foresight to wrap almost all the presents in advance, which made things easier, but definitely not great. You see, Chrissy was 30 minutes away, laying in a hospital bed, fighting for her life.

Here I was at home, with our kids and Chrissy’s parents, who had arrived in their big RV the night before. Just thinking how is it that I’m in a place where I may lose my wife, best friend, lover once more?

Let me back up and start from the beginning.

It was in the beginning of December 2004 when it all started. Recently, we had received dental benefits with my compensation package at church, so we were on a dentistry kick. Getting everyone’s teeth looked at and fixed, cleaned, you know the drill. Chrissy was in for a simple cleaning, being new to all this dentistry stuff, we really had no clue of things you should be careful of. One such thing is that if you have a heart murmur, you should be medicated prior to dental work. Most dentists will ask you this, and then make sure you have what you need prior to the dental work. Chrissy has a heart murmur, and well, she should have had an antibiotic before her teeth were cleaned. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Chrissy had her teeth cleaned, and everything seemed to be fine, for several days afterwards. That was until she started running a fever; we thought she had gotten the flu. She got sick and then she would seem to gain her strength, only to relapse. Finally, it got worse. Chrissy had a fever and started getting a rash. So, we went to the local convenient care because we had not yet established a family doctor. We had just moved to Chicagoland the year before.

We went to the immediate care, and the doctor who saw her said it was just the flu, not to worry, and get some rest. So, we went back home. A  few days passed, and she still had not fully recovered. Then she started to complain of a crushing pain in her chest. This really scared me. She also started to break out in hives.

We thought this must be an allergic reaction to something. We went back through everything she ate, and if we changed anything like soap or detergents, anything we could think of and the answer was no, so we headed out to the convenient care again.

This time, different doctor. Chrissy was short of breath and on the verge of a panic attack because of not knowing what was going on. She still had a fever and when they went to take x-rays of her chest, she passed out for a few seconds. After all that she tried to explain everything that she was feeling, but the doctor concluded that it had to be a allergy to something.

Side Note: I was not able to go back with her because I was on kid duty in the waiting room.

The doctor prescribed some meds and sent us on our way. Chrissy felt like they thought she was crazy. We got her on the meds and saw some improvement.

Somehow, we managed to Christmas shop, attend work parties, and go to church. Chrissy and I also decided while wrapping presents that it would be a smashing idea if we used a secret code system on the Christmas tags instead of names.

This year, we had not only gotten better insurance, I had also received a nice pay raise, and we were so excited that we could buy some nice presents that the kids really wanted. This was going to be a very special year.

We did have one huge dilemma; we had a peeker in our family. You know the kid who likes to look at their gifts before Christmas and guess what they were. Oh, Ben is a peeker, and a good one at that. He would shake and squeeze things. He had even been known to unwrap things and rewrap them.  If we would hide the presents, he would find them. He could never keep it a secret either, he had to let his sister and brothers know what he did. He was so proud of himself.

So, this year we came up with a diabolical plan. Looking back, I think Chrissy was having some sort of delusion from the fever or side effect to the medications she was taking because this was just a crazy plan. Actually, it was a genius plan.

We thought we’ll code the presents and hide them in the garage. That is exactly what we did. We would wrap the presents. Chrissy would get out the highly secret code key and label the presents, and I would take them to the hiding place in the locked garage.

This code thing really was genius! Somehow each code was different so there was no telling which present would go to who without Chrissy and the key. This was a brilliant plan for sure! We would have our sneaking peeker foiled this year!

Then Christmas week was here, and Chrissy still had not gotten fully better. I was in charge of all the kid’s ministry Christmas services, all 6 of them. We had 2 on what we call Christmas Eve-Eve, and then 4 on the actual Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve morning, we got up, and Chrissy’s body was absolutely covered with hives. She had a high temperature, the shortness of breath and the crushing chest pain. So, I decided to call a doctor I had recently seen and luckily was able to make an appointment for her that day. We arrive at the doctor’s office, and they got us in quickly. The doctor looked at her and told us that she needed to be admitted to the hospital, and that this was very serious. He gave us orders for blood work and told us to go now and they would be calling the hospital to let them know we were coming.

We got to the hospital and they admitted her and had the blood work done and started her on a course of penicillin. Her fever had spiked to 104. My love was white as fresh fallen snow. They hooked her up to all kinds of monitors. They said that they were doing all they could to make her comfortable. When the Doctor finally came in he told us that she had sepsis of the blood and that the next 24 hours would be the most critical. Not the words you wanted to hear. I remember praying as hard as I could.

I called to let my boss know that I would need to call off. I was then told that no one could fill for me, so I needed to be there. On top of that, Chrissy’s parents were on their way in, and I needed to take care of my four children. This was turning out to be the Christmas celebration from you know where.

I left Chrissy, got our kids around for Church, and headed off to work with them. After the last service, we rushed to the hospital to see Chrissy one last time for the night. She seemed to be doing better, but that was just my opinion– the Doctor had an opposing one. He said she seemed to be reacting well to the meds, but needed rest.

I remember Chrissy pulling me in close and whispering that she loved me and not to forget to get the train table put together for Silas and have the clown bike put together for Jonah. I said I would, and I told her not to worry.

At this time, I had not given any thought to the codes we put on all the presents. I was just trying to figure out how I could get the kids to wait for mommy to come home and see them unwrap the cool presents that we had picked out for them.

Presents are a big deal in our family, and there is a lot that goes into choosing the right gift for that receiver. This goes all the way down to how it’s wrapped and even sometimes how it is presented to the receiver.

Side Note: For some presents that are given to special people it takes months of preparation and orchestration, especially if it’s Chrissy giving the gift. She puts her whole heart into making it a positive memorable experience. I absolutely love this about her.

I got the kids home, did all our Christmas eve traditions, and put the kids to bed, As soon as I started to work in the garage on the last presents, in rolled the big RV with the in-laws. I tried to get them welcomed and settled, so I could finish up my projects. I do remember it being around 2 am when I finally crawled into bed and prayed one last payer for my love.

The next thing I knew was that I had four very excited kids bouncing on my bed wanting me to get up. I thought I could buy some time with having the kids go see Grammy and Pop in the RV. That didn’t take long. I was able to get a cup of coffee and get myself dressed.

Now this is where I started this post. With me sitting on the couch. My mind was overwhelmed with thoughts on what to do. I wanted Chrissy to be here to watch the kids open the gifts, but who knew when she would be home, it could be days or maybe even weeks.

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I told the kids to go ahead and open their stockings. This would give me time to seek wisdom from the in-laws. I then remembered the codes. Oh no, those terrific, horrible codes! I thought I got it! The Grandparents always bring tons of presents… I’ll just have the kids open the presents from them now, and then when Chrissy gets home,they can open ours. Brilliant!

So, I thought. But I was shot down by my mother-in-law, and told the kids needed to open our presents. I tried to convince them otherwise even reasoning that I would make the kids wait until I knew when Chrissy would be coming home. That was when the guilt trip started, and I totally lost all strength to fight.

I set up the video camera, and away we went. It was a disaster.  The biggest mistake I can remember is that everyone was opening each other’s gifts, and Ben opened up Tori’s American Girl Doll. Which seemed so funny to everyone, but me and I’m sure to my wife later when she found out. I believe the dog’s present was even messed up.

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Afterwards, I was told that when Chrissy got out of the hospital, the kids could open the presents that the grands brought.  I was so frustrated!

I told the kids to get ready; we were going to see mommy. We got to the hospital and they got to see Chrissy. She looked tons better, but still was super weak. The doctor told us that she was lucky to be with us. They also said she needed much rest and care.

We left the hospital and stopped by a Churches Chicken– one of the only places open on Christmas to get a take-home meal which was our Christmas dinner.

Side Note: We never ate Churches Chicken because of a horrible shooting that took place in one of the restaurants, so Chrissy would never ever go there. She refused to.

So, the next day we went back to the hospital and the Doctor said Chrissy should be in there a few more days. Chrissy’s mom asked the doctor why, in a challenging way. She argued with him that Chrissy would be much better at home with her family. After much banter, he told Chrissy that she could sign herself out against doctor’s orders and go home if she wanted to.

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Chrissy’s mom convinced her that would be the best thing to do.

So, she signed herself out and we took her home.

By now the news that the kids had opened everything we had gotten them sunk in. This was a hard thing for us both as we watch the kids tear into the presents that were brought from Pennsylvania. We tried to make the best of it, joking about the clothes that were always too small for me or the strange presents that one of the kid would get that only someone who didn’t really know our kids would get them.

The next day the RV pulled out of the drive, and was off to Pennsylvania again. Leaving our family to care for each other and hopefully give Chrissy the rest she needed.

Unknown to us, but this was the start of a new battle for Chrissy. This sickness did much damage that in the years to come, we would slowly uncover really how bad it was. This was the start of anxiety and depression, as well as a few other issues that still to this day are challenges for my wife.

We now look back and cherish this year and will never forget how blessed we are to have Chrissy with us to celebrate yet another Christmas.

Unexpected Night Visitors

I have been thinking about what I wanted share next. I have a few posts lined up, but I’m not ready to put them down yet. So this week, with all the kids and teachers going back to school, and some off to college for the first time, I thought I would share one of the many experiences that we had when we were in college.

First thing you need to know is that when I finally did decide on what I thought God was telling me to do with my life, I was a bit older than the traditional college student. So, I was designated as a non-traditional student.

Chrissy and I had 3 kids when we went back to school full time. That’s right, it wasn’t just me, it was both of us who went back to school. We both had started college a few years earlier, and I did go to school before we were married. I was an advertising art major, and I focused on photography and color and design. Then I came to the conclusion that I really didn’t want to be in school. So, I sought out my photography professor and asked him what I needed to do to start my own studio. He gave me some advice, and I was off.

Now Chrissy, she started in on studying early childhood education a little while after we were married. After some time, she decided that this was not what she wanted to do. Even though she enjoyed it, she felt that it just wasn’t the right time to be in school. So, she put it on hold.

That is until I felt the Lord telling me that He wanted me to be a pastor. When God says go, you need to go. So, we answered the call and went to school. I was about 26, and Chrissy was 22. We started our journey at a college that wasn’t a good fit for us. The next fall we transferred to another school better suited for us.

We were officially students of Lincoln Christian College-East Coast. It was a satellite school located in Bel Air, Maryland. The main campus was located in Lincoln, Illinois, which is now called Lincoln Christian University.

Chrissy and I both enrolled as full-time students. Our campus and student body was very small, but we had great faculty.

Chrissy and I lived in an apartment across the road from the men’s dormitory. The apartment building, we lived in also housed the girl’s dorm and two faculty apartments. The girl’s dorm was basically just another apartment above our apartment. And even though the school was small, it was situated on a really cool campus.

The campus sat on an old southern plantation that had been renovated to house a school. It was called Eastern Christian College back in the day before it became Lincoln-East Coast. It had a gym, 2 classrooms, and offices– it even still had the huge plantation mansion that we called Old Main. The office building was at the opposite end of the campus from our apartment. It had a Christian school meeting in it as well, and a small book store. This building also housed two more apartments at the very end of the building on the upper floor. Those apartments were numbered 1 and 2. Which was ironic, because we lived in apartment 2 also.

Side Note: Our apartment building, way back when it was a plantation, our little living quarters, was once the chicken coop. The  girls’ dorm apartment was #1, and our apartment was #2, then two staff apartments on the other end were numbered 3 and 4.

Back then, we had just started to scratch the surface of something called the Internet. We had a computer in our apartment; this was when we were still using something called dial-up. Our computer would use a modem to dial a number to connect to the Internet through the phone lines in the apartment, then hopefully connect, if there weren’t too many people using that server.

We also had a land line home phone. It was really confusing trying to get the phone and internet installed because the buildings were so old and the wiring was all messed up. One line that they had marked apartment 1 was actually apartment 3. It was crazy! Now, you may be thinking, what does that have to do with anything? You will understand in a bit.

The students on campus love to pull all kinds of fun pranks on each other. We did all kids of funny things. At one time, some of the boys decided to prank one of the girls by splitting apart Oreos and sticking them all over her little white car. It was pretty funny at first, but when they were removed each cookie left a round dot from the oils in the filling on the car. Overnight, the car became speckled.

This is why I was not surprised when Chrissy woke me up in the middle of the night saying, “Someone is outside our window,”

It was a school night when this all happened. Nothing really out of the ordinary. Chrissy and I got the kids to bed; Tori had her own room, Ben and Jonah shared a room. I’m sure we had just worked on some homework, watched some TV, and then went off to bed.

Everything was fine, that is until I abruptly felt a hard smack across my chest that woke me up from a dead sleep. I woke to find my wife grabbing me and frantically whispering in a scared voice. “Butch I think someone is outside our window. The head of our bed was in the middle of two windows against the wall. So, I lay there absolutely still as I intently listened for what she had heard. It was so quiet, I could hear my heart pounding, and Chrissy breathing quickly. Then I heard voices outside too. I sprung out of bed, grabbed some jeans and pulled them on when I heard someone pounding on the door. Then a deep loud voice said “Open up! It’s the police!”

“What the heck?” I asked myself. Could this be some kind of prank?

Chrissy had on a very short and silky nightie that had a lacy V-neck. I moved to the door quickly as Chrissy peeked abound the bedroom door to see what was going on. I flipped the lights on and opened the door. I really expected to see some of the boys from the dorm across the way.

To my surprise, there stood 3 of Harford county’s finest in uniform.

They said, “Sir, we received a 911 call from apartment 2. Is this apartment 2? I said yes. They then continued by saying, “May we come in? The call received was a non-responsive call. We would like to check and make sure everything is okay.” I said, “Ok?” Then the one officer saw Chrissy in the bedroom door way. He said to Chrissy “Ma’am, can you please step out here?” She was totally embarrassed. She stepped out, and they started to question her. Then they asked, “Is there anyone else here?” We told them our kids were sleeping in their rooms, and they insisted on looking in on them. They checked the boys room first. This room looked like a cyclone had torn through it. As they shined their mag light on to the beds they could clearly see the boys fast asleep.

Then they moved to Tori’s room that was just off the kitchen.

Side Note: Tori liked to sneak into the kitchen at night and get leftovers out or other food and take it back into her room. We never knew what we would find in her bed or room. We would smell something funky or weird and instead of checking Jonah’s diaper, we checked Tori’s room for food.  Honestly, most times it was just Jonah’s pants though. LOL!

Also when Tori was little, she loved to wear dresses. She absolutely highly disliked pants or anything that covered her legs tightly. In fact, dresses were all she would wear; it was dresses or nothing literally. If she couldn’t have a dress on she had nothing on.

So, as the officers in their investigation of our apartment moved to her room, Chrissy looked at me and I at her, knowing that we may find a crazy situation in her room. I can only imagine what the expressions on our faces were like. Chrissy told me later that it was at this moment that she had visions of the child protective services coming to our door the next day to take our kids.

The officer opened the door and shined the light around  her room that looked like Punky Brewster’s wardrobe room gone bad. I peered I with the officer, just praying that Tori would have something on. When his light rested on the little body of my daughter she was in her sleeping position that I still kid her about.

Side Note: Tori would sleep on her belly all scrunched up with her knees tucked under her with her butt up in the air. It was the cutest thing.

So the light stopped on her sleeping in her normal position butt up in the air. The only thing she had on was a head band that she had made in Sunday school that looked like a lion’s mane. That was it, nothing else. She was naked as a jaybird. The cop chuckled and turned about and said to the others “We’re all good here.” I was at a point of embarrassment that there are no words to describe. I looked at Chrissy and slowly shook my head, at that she knew tori had done something.

I was just glad he didn’t say to the others, “Dudes, come over here, you have got to see this!” The officers seemed to be satisfied with their investigation. As they walked to the front door, they told us that they were sorry to disturb us and again mentioned that there was a 911 call from apartment 2. Then they asked if there were other apartments on campus? We told them that there were 3 other apartments in this building, but there is another building with more apartments down the hill. So, they thanked us for letting them in, and they left.

After they left, I showed Chrissy what the cop was laughing at in Tori’s room. She was still in the same position with the lion’s mane. We stood there laughing at the situation. After covering our girl and removing her lion headdress, we then turned to each other, and agreed this would be one of those nights that we would not forget.

The next day we found out that in the office building down the hill there was another apartment number 2; the person who lived in that apartment had a phone that malfunctioned and somehow called 911 in the middle of the night. I still don’t understand how it happened. The police got the two apartments mixed up and ended up at our home. So, we were the lucky ones who received a visit in the middle of the night.

My take-away is that sometimes you may be the victim of someone else’s emergency, so the best thing to do is try to be cooperative. Chrissy’s take-away was, make sure you have a housecoat close by for those times when you have visitors in the middle of the night.

 

When The Wheels Come Off

This week marks that it has been 4 years ago that Chrissy and I officially welcomed into our family a new daughter. This past week was the anniversary of my oldest son (Ben) getting married to Brandy, who just happens to be one of the best things that has happened to this family. Good things come in small packages is an understatement when you are talking about Brandy. Now, when you put our fun-size Brandy together with our big, gentle Ben you have a pretty great package. They may look a bit funny dancing, or even standing together, but they are a terrific couple put together by God.

I remember the week before the wedding pretty well. Brandy was not hard to please with what she wanted for the wedding. She was definitely not a bridezilla! Chrissy and I have done big events most of our married lives. Together, we have turned some near impossible places into fun, magical venues. God has wired us in such a way that we are creative, but sensible. I’m creative and Chrissy is the detail person. You could say we’re like mac ‘n cheese. She’s the mac, and I’m the cheesy one!

Anyway, the kids wanted to have an outdoor wedding, and it had to have a camo theme. So, we did our best to get an idea of what they wanted, then we went to work.

Chrissy and Brandy’s mom (Toni) and Brandy went cake shopping to find the perfect wedding cake. They ended up having a traditional round cake with chocolate icing it was decorated as a fall wooded scene with a little toy deer for the topper. Then, they had a sheet cake with a big buck cake graphic on it.

Along with all the camo that was going on in this wedding, Brandy wanted to have a country flair to the celebration. So, Chrissy and I took some old pier sections that I had laying around, and we made a walk-way that led to an alter area. We borrowed a floral arch to use in the altar area, and we decorated it with ribbon and green ivy. Chrissy placed an old wooden chair on the on the side of the alter that held a distressed vintage sign that read “With my whole heart, for my whole life”.  On the aisle walk-way, along the pier, we made posts that mason jars could hang from, holding fresh cut wild flowers. Then we lined the walkway with smaller mason jars holding candles. For some of the seating, we used bales of hay, that we covered with material for seats. We found a very pretty battery operated imitation crystal chandelier at a local store and hung that up over the pier walkway. We borrowed some cool Edison-like clear, round bulb Christmas lights and strung them from the trees to give the yard a bit of a glow when the sun went down.

Side note: After having the lights in the trees for the wedding, we returned them, and the yard looked so bare. So, I went out and bought some strings of lights like them for the yard. I never would have thought how a few strings of lights could make a yard look so great in the summer time.

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Chrissy and I thought it would be fun to put out some board games and cards on tables for people to play as they enjoyed the reception and catching up with each other. So, looking back on how we turned our yard into an open-air chapel for this day, I’d say it was pretty amazing.

The reason it turned out so great was because we had some amazing people help us pull this day off. Our family was surrounded by some very special people who supported us and cared enough to help make this important day one that we all would look back on and cherish. Those who helped will always hold a special place in my heart.

Now, the week leading up to this day, well… that was horse of another color! Chrissy and I were scrambling to get everything done for the big day. The yard needed to be perfect, the walk-way needed power washed, lights needed hung, food needed to be bought, as well as the all the dinnerware and everything else that goes into making a wedding day fantastic.

We were heading into the home stretch. It was the Thursday night before the wedding. We decided to make one last trip to Walmart for the last-minute things we needed. We loaded up in my powder blue F150 Club Cab truck with a full-size bed. This vehicle made transporting large amounts of supplies a breeze. I had a few white plastic chairs in the bed when we left for the store. I let them in the bed because I had to clean them, and I didn’t want to get them mixed up with the other chairs I had already cleaned.

Off we went to Goshen, Indiana to the Super Walmart, about 16 miles from our house. I took my normal bumpy, windy route to get there. Once we reached our destination I parked the truck, and we divided to conquer our shopping list. When we were finished gathering everything we needed, we loaded the bed of the truck, and what we didn’t want out in the back, we loaded the back of the cab with. We had a lot of stuff and had just spent a bunch of money. We were loaded and ready to head back home. Chrissy the kids, and I jumped in the truck and headed back home.

We pulled out from Walmart onto Route 33. This is a very busy two-lane road, lots of traffic. By this time it was around 7:30 pm, right around dusk. We got out of the really busy area and through the first major intersection. At this point the road curves to the right, and we were going around 50 miles an hour when all of a sudden we heard an awful noise. Then, horrified, we saw a big wheel rolling off the side of the road ahead of us.

It took a few seconds for this to sink in to my head that the tire speeding way ahead of us, heading towards an office building, a window to be exact; was the front right wheel from my truck. I would like to say we were so smart that everyone shifted their weight to the left and we balanced out the truck. You know like you see in the car stunt shows, when cars drive on two wheels. Yeah, that was not us. It would have been awesome though!

I remember telling myself to slowly move off the road. As I just got on the berm of the road, the right front side of the truck dropped to the ground and made a horrible noise. I brought the truck to a stop, all the while watching our wheel race towards this window. It hit a bump just enough to redirect it to fly by the building, thereby miraculously missing the big window it was headed for. The wheel finally slowed down, and about 150 yards ahead of us, it slowly dropped over, wobbling until it came to rest on the ground. The funny thing is that it stopped just short of crashing into a newly manufactured home sitting in a storage lot.

I got out of the truck and went to the other side to evaluate the damage. Chrissy tried to get out of her door, but it was jammed. I pulled hard on the door from the outside, and forcefully opened the door, bending the front fender even more than it was from the wheel coming off. I was not a happy Hunter. We just spent all this money on the wedding, and bam! The truck falls apart! I had just had the truck serviced a few weeks earlier and the tires rotated.

Side note: Many months later I found out that the truck had special lug nuts that locked on keeping this from happening. There was even a recall for it. When the service center had rotated the tires, they didn’t  put the right lugs back on the truck.

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Silas retrieved the wheel as I made a call for a tow truck. Chrissy called Ben and asked him to come get us all, telling him to be sure to have room for all the stuff.

There wasn’t much I could do. At that point, I had a choice. I could be mad and let this eat me up, or I could ask one of my favorite questions that I don’t always like to answer. Will this matter in a day, a week, or a month from now? I asked the question, and the answer was like most things…No, it really won’t matter that much, at least that is what I thought, until I got the bill for the repairs. LOL!

Waiting for Ben and the tow truck, I grabbed one of the chairs from the bed of the truck and sat down to get my head on straight and to correct my stink’n think’n. Leaning back on two legs of the chair against my broke-down truck,  I started to replay the event that just happened over in my mind just to see if I could have done anything differently.

Doing this, I came to the conclusion that this was out of my control, and I did everything that I could have. Then, it occurred to me what a blessing we had just received. Yes, the situation was bad, but boy, it could have been disastrous for us! It could have been the left wheel that came off. If that had happened, the wheel could have gone into on-coming traffic and caused a bigger accident or even killed someone. It also occurred to me that being a rear-driven vehicle, when the truck dropped, it could have had so much momentum that it could have spun us around into traffic or even flipped over, which it didn’t do!

As I sat there, my kids laughed at me for sitting in my chair, taking pictures (that no one can seem to find) of me sitting, just relaxing beside a 3-wheeled truck.

How amazing it is when these things happen to us– what could have been a very horrible ending turns out to be just an inconvenience. It amazes me that we can look at things like this, and say that we were just lucky or it was a coincidence. I have to say that situations like this are times when we are shown that we have the favor of God. Now, I also have to admit that God’s favor is hard to understand, especially when we don’t like things that happen, or we don’t understand why things happen the way they do. Believe me, I have had my share of those times also, and someday perhaps, I will be granted an audience with the Most High who might give me answers, but until then, I will have to remember that He is the one who created everything including me, therefore His reasons must be good.

The lesson I learned is this: don’t let the little things of life steal the things that matter the most in life, like the people you when or the special events in life. We have a choice to choose how we respond to what life throws us the truck wheels start coming off. We get to choose our attitude. Take a moment, get a check-up from the neck up, and make the wise choice!

The rollback tow truck came and got our truck.  We somehow loaded everything, including all of us into Ben’s vehicle. It was a very tight squeeze, but we made it. The next day, we prepped for the big day of the wedding. The celebration was a success, and all who attended had a good time.

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.