Sunday, October 30, 2005

Benny in his Guatemalan hat.

It's fun rediscovering movies that I liked in the 80's. Last night The Karate Kid was on the tube. At some level every guy can relate to Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), whether being bullied and picked on, trying to impress girls, or just trying to fit in.

My favorite part is when Mr Miyagi uses work around the house as a way to teach The Kid about developing, learning and maturing. To him it's stupid. Paint the Fence. Paint the House. Sand the Deck. Wax On/Wax Off (insert 8th grade joke here). Daniel was frustrated because at the end of the day he only saw how he felt. Sore. Sore muscles and being peeved for doing nothing but labor (how is this going to help my karate?). That was until Mr Miyagi connected the dots between his goals of karate and maturity to the physical labor. The internal evidence. The lightbulb suddenly went on. There was purpose to his unglorious and repetitious labor.

I don't want to be a karate champion, but realize that attaining goals in life requires repitition and commitment. This stands true whether I want to be the best dad, a better teacher, more Christlike, businessman, husband, friend...Today, as a dad I feel like Daniel did when he realized his work was paying off. Tomorrow might be a different story at the office. But today It's a great feeling. Oh yeah...I also liked the part when he kicked the mean guy in the face to win the tournament.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

I have been trying to find time time to balance the checkbook, go over work, and do the usual chores that seem hard to accomblish these days. First things first we had to watch a bit of Sooner football. Here's a pic.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I remember teaching the book of Job in a class at Golden, and marveling at God's direct words to Job. We are not always able to objectively look at our lives and answer the why's and what's of the storm that goes on within and around us. Oh to have God open his voice to us and tell us events that formed and worked together to shape where we are. Sometimes I feel like a child trying to fly a jumbo jet, than trying to figure out life. This feeling hit me the other afternoon when we were eating at an nice restaurant in Guatemala City. I looked at G and Benny and just cried. I felt like Job-knowing that God is in control, but needing a good talkin' to. During this entire process over the years I sometimes doubted that getting our Benny would happen. God set the stars in the sky, and the universe spinning because He is in control. I didn't quite understand the "big picture" at the time, but looking back I now see God working in our lives leading up to this point. Geri's fear of flying (ruling out China), moving to MO (our mover had used Dillon Int'l twice). These and countless other strands have woven our lives into a beautiful tapestry-compliments of our Creator.

Here are some things learned from Guatemala:

1. If you bargain for prices, don't bargain too hard. The vendors work hard for very little.
2. Don't just stand there admiring a baby boy between diaper changes. The waterworks are spectacular. That's OK, it was on Geri's side of the bed.
3. Benny is "Gordo". This is how the Guatemalans described him. We agree.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

And now for a shocking development. Geri is upstairs taking a nap with Benny.

We have been blessed to travel the world over, but this trip eclipses the others in an infinite way. It is a great feeling having a son and getting to know the funny little habits and mannerisms that he has. Interestingly, he seems the same as the boy we imagined in the 6 months of pictures. Benny has a funny way he points his fingers, he has a funny little laugh complete with cooo's and ahhhh's and grrrrr's. He even sucks his bottom lip almost sideways, just like some of his pictures. I am now seeing another dimension that God blesses parents with.

We have talked with, and met many adoptive families on this trip. For each family this has been a long and emotional process, but all agree that the heartbreak along the way just dissipated with the first look at their child. We are among those. Of course my emotional high was somewhat tempered with my first "real" diaper change yesterday in Antigua. Shocking. I give myself a D on efficiency, and an A for not gagging. My hats off to Geri on this category.

While in Antigua, which is a verrry beautiful city, we did some shopping and sight seeing with our guide, Edgar, and another couple from McKinney, TX. They just picked up Joseph. Word to the wise, never go to the bathroom by yourself in a strange place. I walked into a bathroom at the chicken place we went for lunch. My suspicions were aroused when there were 3 guys and 1 kid not using the restroom, but just hanging around. They were looking for someone to buy their gold, silver and chicklets. No matter the country, I have this invisible bullseye on my forehead I guess.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Gotcha Day

4am came early yesterday morning. We have taken dozens of flights and had numerous journeys in our marriage, but none quite like this.

The first leg of the flight took us through Houston. After an hours layover we hopped onboard to Guatemala. The pilot said our flightplan was amended to skirt around the hurricane currently going through Mexico. As Geri was watching the inflight movie Monster In Law, I was listening to the IPod and thinking about...we'll I really had a tough time concentrating. My soul wanted to burst and flood out, so I sat there listening to Elton John with misty eyes.

In my excitement before we landed, I whipped out the video camera and started filming Guatemala City. That was until the militant flight attendant made me put it away. This is all probably caught on tape.

Once we landed, we were herded through a very lax customs dept. They pretty much just stamped our passport and sent us on our way. Walking out of the airport was a sight to behold. It was packed with locals. The interesting thing is they were not loud and respected your personal space. The traditional Mayan dress is absolutely beautiful and packed with colors. We then found our shuttle to the Radisson and took off to check in.

We arrived at the hotel and immediately met Edgar, our translator and guide for the next few days. He is a kind man who spent 10 years in California. We have waited a long time to be parents, but parenthood came very quickly. Before we had a chance to check in, in walked the foster mother, her grandson, and Benny! We cried. To ease the transition, Geri and I went up to the room by ourselves while they changed Benny in the lobby. Once again we hugged and cried. We were a family. It was as though an anchor dropped from my heart and firmly rested on a sun drenched sandbar. It felt good and right.

Once we pulled ourselves together and gathered the presents, we went down to meet them. From the get go, Benny felt perfect in our arms. He took to us like a gull takes to the wind. It is as if God answered our prayers for a laid back boy. He is certainly Chillin Like Dillon, and absolutely easy going. We spent the next few hours going over questions, and taking them to lunch. Benny was a trooper. The foster mothers grandson looked and acted remarkably like Mark Shaffer from CO.

Last night was great. It was recommended that because he slept with the foster mother, we should start out sleeping with him. This is what we did. He had been sleeping from 8 to 6am. He is taking after Geri. With the exception of 45 minutes last night, he slept from 8 to almost 8am. He has a funny Coooo and Ahhhhh when he gets tired. Here are a few other observations. He has a gentle personality like Gabrielle, and has stinky feet like Abby/Carly. He is going to fit in nicely.

I need to get back to check on my new family. Of course they are both napping. Once again, thank you for your prayers, cards, gifts, words of encouragement...God is great.

Friday, October 21, 2005

We'll see everyone when we get back.... and then there were 3

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Come Monday we are hoping to hear when we are able to travel to Guatemala. At this point, the earliest case scenario to pick Benny up will be next weekend. We are excited and appreciate the cards, prayers, emails and calls. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.

It was great talking with Geo the other night. We were like kids trying to balance watching the Cards and maintaining a conversation. This has been a good week of touching base with good friends like Chris, Jimmy, Aaron, Mark S., Barry, Jason, Wib...still waiting to catch up with Bennys Uncle. I am mindful to keep his Mom in prayers. She is going through a challenging time with her health. I am also thinking of Zach. Today is his 3rd anniversary at gaining his citizenship in Heaven. He is surely missed down here, but his Grandpa is probably enjoying Zach's company up there. They better be smiling down on the Cards-we are needing it given the score right now.

On a very bright note, some new friends of ours (Thanks to Barry/Jana) just got a referral from Guatemala. They will be getting a beautiful baby girl! Congrats Tim and Shari.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I can't believe it's another Wednesday. Time to gear up to teach the kids tonight. It has been encouraging to read and teach on Hebrews 11. What I try to do with these kids is take these "characters" and make them into real living, breathing people to talk about. After all, can't we all relate to someone that faces rejection because they are doing what is right and not neccessarily easy? (Noah's neighbors probably thought he was crazy as a loon for building that big contraption).

The heroes in Heb 11 were far from perfect. They had triumphs and tragedies in their lives. Just like us. Above all they lived with faith (11:13). I can certainly relate to this. I can also relate to Hebrews 12:1. Am I the best husband I can be? No (I'm sure G will agree). Do I get tangled up with pride, anger, greed...yes. Do I have faith in Christ? Yes. Do I have hope? Absolutely. I have faith, and am continually encouraged by good people around me.

Just like I would ask the kids in class--Are you are surrounding yourself with a good cloud of faithful friends?

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Great Saturday

I grew up in a paternal family of mountain lovers. The unspoken credo recognized there is "pretty", and there is "beautiful" landscape. To experience the latter, you must head westward for 14 hours, into the dusty and desolate mountains of Colorado. Granted it is beautiful there, but this philosophy skewed my thinking throughout the years. Only now am I discovering the true beauty of my home state.

Missouri does not have huge dominating peaks, but it has a majesty of rolling hills, impressive forests of trees, with rivers and lakes that are full of life. We did some exploring of our neck of the woods on Saturday afternoon. Missouri's "Wine Country" is partly located a short 1/2 hour drive out of town in Augusta. A beautiful and small town quite near the meandering banks of the Missouri River. This area has great hills, and a wonderful history dating back to Lewis & Clark. The spirit moved us, so we decided to explore while we still have the chance. Here is a picture of G hanging on a winery terrace outside of Augusta. We were in the middle of a feast consisting of sauerkraut & brats, cheese, and veggies. To top it off we washed it down with a vintage Diet Coke.

Yessir, that was a grand day. Beautiful wife, beautiful scenery, great food....beautiful life. We even cranked Elton John's "Benny And The Jets" on the drive out. Ain't life grand when you love where you live.

As the saying goes: You won't love where you are, if you didn't love where you came from. I came here from CO, via OK, via SW MO. Each great places to be. I certainly miss the tall mountains, but it's the Mountaintop experiences that I don't want to miss out on (whether at 10,000 feet or 740 feet in elevation).

I hope you're experiencing some of these mountaintop experiences in your life. Come to think about it-I experienced alot of those with my Dad and Uncles/Cousins out there in the dry and dusty mountains. Even on those long, flat stretches of road in between. It's nice to be able to appreciate where you come from, and simply enjoy the journey.

Friday, October 07, 2005


Always counterbalancing tough times are lighter moments in life. Here are some nice times from this week:

1. Taught class on Wednesday. Noah was our subject this week. We had some great discussions considering their age. There were ramblings of comparisons to the Titanic. These kids are stuck on that ship.

2. Picked up Avion for church. He is an awesome kid. I loaned him a sleeping bag for his first Boy Scout campout, and quelled his fears of coyotes and foxes attacking the group. It was fun to show him how to use a sleeping bag, and reassure him that it's container is a "stuff bag". To avoid frustration of neatly rolling up the bag and painstakingly trying to fit the bag in the duffel-JUST STUFF IT in there! His only rule was to take care of it, and call me on Monday to give me a report of his trip.

3. Saw G's former regional leader Geoff from CO. He came over last night to hang out and talk life/shop with G.

4. I have it in my mind to compete in a half marathon in the mtns of CO next August. Training started yesterday. I felt like that Ironman dude on the Gatorade commercial. He bonked 50 yards from the finish line. I bonked 50 yards from my house.

5. Remember Fast Times At Ridgemont High? I had to pick up a package at another office in my building. I think I walked in on a 50 year old version of "Brad Hamilton" (Judge Reinhold). Remember the scene when Phoebe Cates walks in on him???? After the STL Cards game this summer, I thought the "Wierd Guy" encounters magically transferred to Mark. I guess not.


WE JUST GOT THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE----GERI JUST CALLED at 4pm-----WHIPPPEEE!!!! one more hurdle cleared

What about you. Any good moments this week?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

We are hoping to hear something from the Agency today. Simply put, we are tired of waiting and hearing about delays. This is very typical of families going through the adoption process. Despite this knowledge, each delay produces a sadness and raises our general level of anxiety. I guess in the end what we have is faith that God is in control-sometimes this is hard to see-but we have it.

That's all folks.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Public thanks to Brady W for coming up with the ticket. One of my goals is to have Benny's picture taken at Busch before they tear it down. Granted I don't think it is a particularly pretty stadium, but it still seems pretty nice. I guess STL wanted change for change sake.

My first venture into this stadium was at the 1982 World Series. Tickets came compliments of U.K. I would suspect his family took the tickets for an earlier game because it was a "sure thing". I sure am glad he managed to slide us the 7th game tickets.

Not having an abiding love for baseball at the time, I pretty much never thought about Cards baseball after that. I did have some great conversations about the Series with Mr. Tink (the longtime/greatly loved typing teacher at NHS). As a product of cable TV, I followed the Braves growing up. This was in itself a challenge because they sucked. More than once did I hear the joke as told by Wib:

Eric calling Atlanta for tickets: "What time is the game, tonight?"
Braves Ticket Office: "What time can you be here?"

I loved watching Dale Murphy, Claudell Washington, SId Bream, and a host of others being managed by Joe Torre. When we were living in CO, I had a casual interest in the Rockies. Going to a game at Coors Field was never about baseball. It was about eating and talking. My highlight at Coors Field was catching a game a few days after lasic surgery. I was amazed that the scoreboard was so crystal clear, and the mountains in the backdrop were completely in focus. Well, watching Randy Johnson pitch was another biggie.

Now that I have my wit and senses, I have fully converted into a late-blooming Cards fan. I love the team's history, and how STL truly rallies around the team. Going to the game is about The Game! This is one love affair I will share with Benny. He will be growing up cheering 3 teams with his daddy: The Cards, The Broncos, and The Sooners. The Rams can be his NFC team if he wants, since he already has his Stephen Jackson autographed football.

Here's to big kids hanging out in the dugouts, pop flys, and little kids watching the big kids play a little kids game.
Don't you love it when suprises come your way? I do. One suprise came in the form of a phone call Sunday morning. Some friends from out of town had an extra ticket to the final regular season game at Busch Stadium. When we got there I was dizzy with excitement! Literally. We were on the very top row at mid-left field. No nose bleeds, but we had plenty of jokes about them.

More about this, along with pictures soon.....

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Life Music

Sound Guy: "That was good....what do you call it?"
Drummer: ........."I Am Sparticus".

This is a bit of dialogue from That Thing You Do, a movie directed by Tom Hanks about a band whose wheels fall apart after scoring a one hit wonder. The drummer who just played his "I Am Sparticus" out of frustration, is in the now empty sound room. Despite the bands demise, he still had a passion for his craft. He simply had a passion for music. This is what I love about good music. It permits your soul to submit to emotions you feel from your heart.

Of course my definition of "good" music is subjective. I have been through some doozey crazes in musical flavor. Take for example my Steve Winwood depressive period in college. Man oh man, I thought that was some good music. It was good at the time-unless you were my roommates. Letting me listening to that was akin to giving whiskey to a drunk. Not beneficial. This plays on the simple logic that depressive music will not heal the depressive soul. I guess after the 93rd unwilling time listening to these collectively depressive songs, George and Bennys Uncle finally hit the wall and hid the "offensive" CD out of desperation. I appreciate that bold move of Tough Love. To this day I will not listen to the long-haired crooner. Oh, I went through Winwood Withdrawls at the time, and was pretty mad. Almost as mad as when they put pepper and Tobasco in my Skoal (another stupid habit I had acquired at the time).

Getting back to my original point of music, G and I were having a goofy conversation on what songs I would sing to Benny. I couldn't think of any except "Margaritaville". I was like a deer in the headlights. I wasn't firing on all cylinders with that easy question, and threw that stupid answer back to her. Of course when I asked her the same question, she triumphed in this contest mentioning Mary Had A Little Lamb among some great Godly songs. I gotta get with the program.

Music is such a trigger of emotion, I have spent a few minutes trying to weave important themes/times in my life that seem to be linked by the musical thread. Primarily I need to address Bruce Springsteen. In college, I loved it when Bennys Uncle would announce the next impending Bruce Cruise. It is no suprise that everyone involved in cruising around to Hungry Heart, The River, and all his other songs are still tight after all these years. It was a very bonding experience-with the exception of that night at Lake Hefner. For those not in the "know"-there were no drugs, alcohol, or anything like that. Just a bunch of stupid college buddies showing flashes of craziness.

Other noteables:

Singing with a happy heart from the church songbook in our storeroom/closet downstairs after I was baptized.
The singers at our wedding, even though I don't remember a thing-except background vocals-while watching G go down the aisle.
The CD Bennys Uncle made, that had exerpts from Shawshank Redemption. It helps me remember Zach & perspective.
The drummer at Jantsens funeral. One of the most powerful examples of musical emotion I have ever witnessed.
Listening to Otis Redding while walking the midnight surf at Cozumel. Solitary reflection on life.
Becky Kelley singing "Redeemer" at Easter services in 2004. Moved to tears. The best live song I have ever heard. God was present.
Bob Marley presiding over many years at the apres-ski Steamboat hottub.
Jimmy Buffett singing his kid-oriented songs. I also like Creed's "Lullaby". I'll be singing those to Benny.
Listening to John Denver. Growing up this propelled my dreams of CO. Leaving CO for STL, his music made me cry twice before hitting the state line. I hated the fact he died when we moved to Denver. Always wanted to see him at Red Rocks.
When I first heard DC Talk's "In The Light". Moved me to tears while working a youth retreat in the mountains.
Listening to The Big Chill soundtrack during a mountain thunderstorm, while camping outside of Salida.