Do you know the Author of this story?
If you do, then celebrate His birth not just today, but everyday – by telling His story to others.
If you don’t, then contact me – for the rest of the story.
The big event – our daughter’s wedding – is just a few days away. Looking back on the 10 months or so that I have been officially the Father of the Bride, I began to take stock of a few of the various roles I have filled:
Yes, Dear Respondent
Personal Shopper’s Assistant
Housekeeper in Training
With all of the above, my two favorite roles are:
Daddy – if I didn’t have a beautiful daughter, I wouldn’t be a FOB.
Husband – to be a father takes a wife, the mother of the bride. All the roles above may have been described by me, but Anita was an active participant in all of them.
..both of whom are a mixture of happy, sad, and tired.
3 days to go…
My father never worked a day in his life.
Do not misunderstand me: my father was a hard worker. He was born on the eve of the Great Depression, the youngest of six children. He grew up on the grounds of the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home, where his father was the stock keeper. He moved a couple of times before entering high school. Upon graduation, he entered the Army Air Corps and served until the fall of 1946. Upon returning home he worked in a factory for two years, when at age 22, he opened a Gulf Service Station with his brother. He continued to operate that gas station for the next 44 years, mostly by himself. The hours were long: 6 days a week, 12 hours a day.
He dealt with steaming hot cars in the summer, and worked through cold wet winters as well. His gas station opened up as a full-service station, and stayed that way for the entire 44 years. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, that means my father pumped the gas into the cars – and washed the windshields, and checked the oil in the engine, and sometimes checked the air in the tires. That’s for every car that pulled up to the gas pumps.
Looking back over my years at home, and in the years following my going off to college, starting a family, and all the way up until the close of the gas station upon his retirement in 1993, I realize now that my father never worked a day in his life.
No, he followed this advice: find something you like to do so much that you would gladly do it for nothing; then learn to do it so well that people are happy to pay you for it.
That’s what my father did: his passion for serving people by pumping their gas was his career.
Following your passion is the key to finding your potential. When a person doesn’t have passion, life can become pretty monotonous. Everything is a “have to” and nothing is a “want to.”
John Maxwell had this to say about passion:
Passion is an incredible asset for any person, but especially for leaders. It keeps us going when others quit. It becomes contagious and influences others to follow us. It pushes us through the toughest of times and gives us energy we did not know we possessed.
Passion fuels us in ways that the following assets can’t:
Passion is a real difference-maker.
For 44 years my father lived off of the energy that came from loving what he did and doing what he loved.
To most people, there is a big difference between work and play. Work is what they have to do to earn a living so that someday they can do what they want to do. Don’t live your life that way. Choose to do what you love and make the necessary adjustments to make it work in your life.
reflections following my father’s death, and revisited two years later as my mother begins a major transition in life
Pizza may not fit your definition of comfort food, but it comes close in our family.
A semi-tradition for many years in our family has been Friday Night Pizza and a movie, usually consisting of whatever local pizza store (almost always one of the national chains) had the best deal going on. On the same trip, we would go by the video store and pick up a DVD to watch.
Netflix and then Amazon Prime changed part of the equation, but the pizza part remained intact.
As the years went by and our family dwindled, pretty soon it was just Anita and I – functional empty nesters, as our youngest son was a full-time culinary student and worked in a restaurant, or was out with friends. Along with that change came a realization that there were a lot of pizza restaurants in and around Charlotte – 371 by my count on Urban Spoon in 2011. I pondered (and my wife Anita humored me): what if we go out for pizza on Friday nights, and try a different place every time?
I lead the Adams Family Pizza Quest, a weekly pursuit of the quintessential pizza. My family and I (well, mostly me; the rest just humor me) utilize a 5-slice rating system that measures menu selection, crust, base ingredients, toppings, overall pizza goodness and ambiance of the restaurant. I actually have a nerd version that has 35 points, but after a round of boos and garlic knots thrown in my direction I hastily retired it.
After almost three years of weekly excursions, only 1 pizza has earned 5 slices. That would be The Sicilian – Red sauce, sausage, cappicola, salami, oregano, basil, pecorino-romano and fontina – accompanied by an Italian Chopped Salad, from WaterStone Wood Fired Pizza in Lynchburg, VA. Anita and I stumbled on it by accident, walking downtown along the river.
Several others have earned 4 1/2 slices, many have earned 4, and a lot have earned 3. We’ve only encountered a few 2 slices, and in all honestly, not a single 1 slice rating (maybe we just naturally steered away from those joints).
Our favorite local pizza place is Zio’s Casual Italian off Providence Road. It was one of our early discoveries, earning a strong 4 3/4 slices; somehow we have found our way back there several times, taking friends who haven’t heard of it.
Other top restaurants are Mama Riccotta’s, Luisa’s Brick Oven, The Brickhouse Tavern, and Tony Sacco’s Coal Oven.
I could go on, but I won’t, as the Adams Family Pizza Quest comes to a close (sort of). After over 100 different visits in the greater Charlotte area, and a few across the country, my sense of adventure for pursuing the perfect pie has waned. Mind you, my taste for pizza hasn’t – I’m sure we will still be eating pizza on a regular basis.
But, it’s a new year, and time for new adventures.
Today my family and I mark a sobering moment as our son, an Airman in the U.S. Air Force, deploys for his first tour of duty overseas in a combat zone.
In his honor, we are now displaying this on our front door:
The Blue Star represents an immediate family member serving in the Armed Forces during any period of war or hostilities.
The Service Flag has a long and distinguished history. The banner was designed in 1917 by United States Army Captain Robert L. Queisser of the Fifth Ohio Infantry, in honor of his two sons who were serving in World War I. It was quickly adopted by the public and by government officials. On September 24, 1917, an Ohio congressman read into the Congressional Record:
The mayor of Cleveland, the Chamber of Commerce and the Governor of Ohio have adopted this service flag. The world should know of those who give so much for liberty. The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother – their children.
I’m grateful for my son’s service to our country. When he first talked with my wife and me about military service upon graduation from high school, we were affirming but also wanted him to get a college degree first. When he did, and revisited the question several years later, we encouraged him to move forward. We were proud parents at his graduation from Basic Training and remain so at every step of his career advancement. Realizing this is a necessary part of that advancement, we prayerfully send him on his way today.
I’m also humbled by the sacrifices his wife and daughters are making. As the daughter of an Air Force Colonel (retired), she is no stranger to these goodbyes and separations. As a wife and mother, though, it has to be different. She handles the responsibilities with tremendous patience and poise.
During the past few days, our conversations have been both light-hearted and serious. In the late night hours last night, I was reminded of my father’s graveside service and military traditions. As Americans, we have probably never disagreed more about things than we currently are – but we all need to remember why we have the opportunities we do – including disagreeing with one another.
I hope you will join me today – and everyday – in a prayer of safety for my son and the thousands of other members of the Armed Forces he is joining today as they stand in harm’s way for our freedoms.
Oh, by the way – those fireworks we are enjoying today…
Some thanks ought to go to one of my forefathers…
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more. You will think me transported with enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not.
John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776
You’ve seen it hundreds of times in spy movies, or read about it in a book. The hero, after fighting off dozens of bad guys, is finally knocked unconscious, awakening in a dimly lit, cold, dank dungeon. A truly evil face is staring at him as he regains consciousness. “You think you can resist us, but you will change your mind once we begin pulling out your nails, one by one.”
Okay, maybe a little heavy there.
For the last two weeks, I have been self-treating an ingrown toenail on my big toe. Over the past weekend, the pain began to override the every four hours of Advil, and my OTC meds weren’t making a dent. I called my doctor Monday morning to see if he would refer me to a specialist. “No problem,” his nurse said, “He does these all the time. We can see you tomorrow.”
With only a little trepidation (especially after almost passing out this morning after bumping my toe on the bedpost), I greeted my doctor and showed him the toe. With a sly grin that masked the truly evil person he is, he barely touched the toe and said “Does this hurt?” After coming down off the ceiling, I managed to nod. (The preceding sentence is just hyperbole – my doctor is a great guy, has been for the 17+ years I have known him, and furthermore, is my age. Somehow it is comforting to know your doctor really understands what’s going on in your middle-age body).
He then said, “That nail has got to come off so we can treat the whole problem, not just the pain. Are you game?” (Flashback to all those movies)
My reply? “As long as anesthesia is involved, and the end result is the pain going away, I’m good for whatever you recommend.”
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (I Corinthians 12:12-26)
It might have just been a pain in my big toe, but one thing led to another, and before long my whole body was involved:
Who knew what big problems a little toe could cause?
In a sense, that’s exactly what the Apostle Paul was talking about in the passage above.
The gathered believers are the Body of Christ, and like the human body, have different roles to play in a healthy Body. When everyone is doing their part, the Body is functioning as it was intended.
But when one part of the Body is not working as it was designed, the whole Body suffers.
God created each believer with as specific role and gifting. If you are not fulfilling that role and using your gift, the Body suffers.
What’s your role?
What’s your gift?
Are you contributing to a whole, healthy Body? Or is your absence causing the Body to suffer?
11 years and one week ago today we brought home a floppy eared, six-week old beagle.
Today, after a week of increasingly failing health and a night I don’t soon want to repeat, we buried Luke Skybarker in his favorite outdoors place, our backyard overlooking North Mecklenburg Park.
The story in-between those two sentences is some of what life is all about.
In 2001, as our youngest son Aaron approached his 9th birthday, we heard the words many parents regret: “I’m getting older now; I think I’m ready for more responsibility – like a dog. “
Somehow I equated more responsibility to helping around the house, maybe a neighborhood job to start a college fund. But to Aaron, responsibility = a dog. And being the softy parents that Anita and I are, we agreed. After a little research, we located someone in Lincoln County that had two litters that were just about ready to wean, and we had our pick.
With parental veto power firmly in check, we let Aaron pick a small male, the runt of the litter. There was also a female that Aaron passed over, because his choice “was quiet.”
Not for long.
Shortly after arriving at our house, our new pet demonstrated his “quietness” with the first of countless howls that beagles are known for. And so began the saga of Luke Skybarker as a part of our family.
The name Luke Skybarker is homage to our family’s (well, at least the guys in our family) intense fondness for all things Star Wars. Over the years, we have seen all the movies (on opening night in theaters, then countless times on DVD), acquired many LEGO sets of SW characters, read dozens of books about the series, and even dressed as SW characters at Halloween. So it’s no surprise that our howling new addition should be given the name Luke Skybarker.
After a short while, though, I was sure we had misnamed him. Due to his adorable cuteness but all puppy-like actions, we soon had a Bark Vader on our hands, because he definitely went over to the dark side.
Luke was actually an interior decorator, though we didn’t know it at first. Over a period of months, he: chewed up our couch legs and fabric; ate the bottom of several strips of wallpaper in the kitchen; chewed up several chair legs; ripped the carpet in several places, and ate big chunks out of the vinyl floor in the kitchen. I guess he operated on the “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” philosophy. We tolerated it, and over a period of time we replaced everything. So in a way I guess we owe some thanks to Luke for new hardwood floors, a new kitchen table and chairs, refinished walls in the kitchen, and so on.
It was one of those times when Luke began the first of many trips to a place he had a love/hate relationship with: LakeCross Veterinary Hospital. He met Dr. Donna on his first check-up, demonstrating that dogs can also have the white coat syndrome (and the staff doesn’t even wear white!). After one of his interior decorator attacks, AKA eating carpet, we decided to rip up all the carpet and put in laminate floors in most of the house. Shortly after we finished the project. Luke began acting strangely. He would act like he was in pain but we couldn’t pinpoint anything. At the vet, after a round of tests and examinations, Dr. Donna told us there was nothing physically wrong with Luke, but something was definitely causing his strange behavior. She asked us if we had made any changes in our home routine, and we mentioned the new floor. In her opinion, absent anything else, that was it: Luke was having a nervous reaction to the new floors. Personally I thought he was just missing the extra chew toys, but anyway he soon reverted back to normal.
Back to that responsibility thing – it didn’t last long (like I didn’t know it wouldn’t). And so I ended up with a new team member in my job (I worked out of a home office by then). As co-workers go, he was great most of the time. He rarely invaded my space (except for those seasons when the early morning sun tracked across my floor; he would follow it until it was no longer possible to soak up the sun). He was content to listen to an occasional rant about work without so much as a bark. As a sounding board, he always gave a paws up to my project ideas. I never had to worry about what to get him for parties – as long as it was bread, he was happy. I never had to worry about him taking over my job – it would have interfered with his sleep.
Somewhere along the way I had these visions of Luke being like the vet’s dog in “All Things Bright and Beautiful” – where the dog accompanied the vet on drives around town, etc. Early one Saturday morning, Luke accompanied me to the local farmer’s market to buy some veggies. After a fairly quiet time at the market, we left to go back home. Luke was sitting in the front seat of our van – until he dived out the window. Luckily, he had his chain on and we were not going too fast. I grabbed he chain just before it went out the window and hurriedly pulled over to the side of the road. With visions of the dog in National Lampoon’s “Vacation” movie in mind, I found a bloody Luke hanging by his collar. He had bounced off the front tire, tearing his right dew claw out and bleeding, but not in a lot of pain. When I came in the house cradling him with blood all over the place, everybody freaked. Off to the vet we went where he was bandaged up and given his own personal “collar of shame” to keep him from bothering the wound. So much for car trips…
Over the years, there would be many more trips to LakeCross. From Dr. Donna to Dr. Kay to Dr. Tom, all the vets and technicians and staff loved to have Luke Skybarker visit. He genuinely seemed to brighten their day, but I still haven’t figured out why. They loved him and fussed over him and gave him treats at every stop of the visit. About a year ago, Dr. Gretchen became our regular vet as much as possible. We began fighting a skin infection that soon became an indicator of Cushing’s Disease. All along the way, Dr. Gretchen tried so much to make Luke comfortable. We actually began to turn the corner with the Cushing’s but unfortunately it was something beyond our control that took Luke. Over the last week, he began having seizures that would cause him to fall over where he was. The X-rays yesterday confirmed the worst: a large mass around his heart and lungs, causing fluid buildup and other issues. Luke came home with us to see if he would last the weekend, but it was a very restless night (because of all our company, Anita & I were sleeping in the great room sofa bed, and Luke was right at our feet by the fireplace). Several times I thought he slipped away, but it was evident his breathing was becoming more labored and painful. After taking Jason, Jaime and Lucy to the airport, we returned to get Aaron and Amy and head to LakeCross one last time. As always, the staff could not have been kinder, and Dr. Kay eased Luke from a painful existence to peaceful rest.
We are now in a house that is much too quiet – no toenails clicking along those hardwood floors, no built-in vacuum to get up food spills, no dog alarm when the front doorbell rings, no cold nose on your hands or feet.
We miss Luke, but we will always have the stories…
We discovered early on that you should not come between Luke and his Oreo’s. While fixing lunches for the kids one day, Anita dropped a bag with some Oreos in it. Quicker that I had ever seen him move, Luke grabbed the bag before Anita could pick it up. When she tried to get it from him he snapped at her. From that point on, we were careful about dropping things, but when we did, we let Luke have them (unless it would hurt him, at which point it became a wrestling match with teeth and snarls).
Luke loved his food and would fight for it, but when it came to defending his territory, he was all bark (and howl) and no bite. We always said Luke was one of the pets burglars feared most because they would trip over him in the dark and wake us up. It seems that he saved his most ferocious barks for other dogs who dared walk down “his” sidewalk. He would let them know – loud and long – but never take it past the bark. While he hated other dogs, he loved cats. Most of the neighborhood cats soon realized he was no threat to them and learned to taunt and tease him on walks. Luke was never the wiser.
As other animals go, Luke was a squirrel watcher. Our large kitchen window has a ledge that was just the right height for Luke to rest his chin and watch the squirrels run and play outside. He never barked at them – even when one jumped off the tree by the window and clung to the window screen before scampering away. They seemed to know it to, because when we would walk out in the back yard, they would run and scamper, but never seemed to fear him. It’s like they knew…
Maybe they know now, too. Luke’s final resting place is in the thick of the trees in our back yard. Overhead, the squirrels run and play.
I think he would have liked that.