The High Calling Newsletter: A Review

I am confident that I am not the only Christian in America who has had the following scenario play out in their cubicle: In the waning hours of a long, grueling day at work, your eyes cannot seem to look away from the stack of marked up documents on the edge of your desk, their existence a reminder that you will be working over the weekend. Again. The only internal argument you can muster is the same one you have waged for years. “This can't be all there is. I am wasting my time here. I should be doing something more important with my life, something more noble. I need to find a job at a church or with a mission group. I need to be in full time ministry...'

The High Calling newsletter exists as a reminder to all of us wistful and frustrated worker drones that we are in full time ministry and our mission field is our workplace. They are a valuable resource to arm us for “battle”--in both obvious and unusual ways. Each article is short which is critical for people with little extra time. The subject matter runs from the practical to articles dealing with our wistful nature, allowing us to dream a little in the midst of the mundane. There is also a variety of writers, each with their own voice, that keeps the rhythm lively and staves off staleness. Each author is archived so, if you find someone you connect with, it is easy to find more of their essays. There is also variety in the method of disseminating the information with audio and video options. Adding transcripts and summaries is a welcome extra since it is not always practical to listen or watch.

More than anything the information is encouraging. The content comes from a place of understanding what the readers are dealing with, whether they are a CEO, supervisor or just entering the “secular” work force. There is no guarantee that every article will apply to your situation or your taste but perusing the content will give you plenty to think about and apply as you traverse your own office space mission field.

Disclaimer: I was compensated to provide an unbiased review of this product.


Time Out

I am taking a short break. Be back soon. I promise.


US: The Magic Blanket

[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)) and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

I have a blanket. It is actually a quilt, which, I suppose, is a sub-species in the blanket family. It was hand made by my grandmother on my dad's side, a person I always knew as Grandmother Colle. Not grandma or gramma or grannie or some other wacky name based off the poor pronunciation skills of an infant. Grandmother. What is odd about that is the woman who demanded that name was not formal by any stretch of the imagination. She was funny, cheated at cards and made every grandchild feel like they were her absolute favorite (to which we all say as an aside, “But I actually was her favorite”). She has been gone from us for several years but one thing she left for me was that blanket. She presented it to me my senior year of high school in 1977. It is big, six feet by five feet, solid tan across the back and the front has multiple 5” x 5” squares of different material. And it is laced with magic.

I took that quilt to college and it was part of my trousseau when I married Hope. It has survived a couple of dogs and three kids with only a few busted seams. After multiple washings, Hope had to add some blue yarn to keep the centers of each square tied down, but the splash of color adds some character. The quilt will keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter, which makes no sense but is a truth that can be attested to by anyone who has made contact with it. It has wrapped our children through naps, pity parties and time outs as well as hours of Winnie the Pooh, Barney and Power Rangers. There is no way to count the number of people who have curled up under that blanket and found themselves fighting a need for a nap. To this day the kids fight over who gets to use it while watching TV when they drop in for a visit. And it is the default choice when Hope watches her junk television shows (which grandmother would most certainly approve of).

I have no doubt that the kids have already discussed who will get grandmother's quilt when Hope and I are gone, even more so than the china or sterling silver place settings. It seems a little odd to hold some random material stitched together a long time ago in such high esteem but I think it has something to do with the fact that it represents a constant in our lives. It has been with us from the beginning and has not lost any of its appeal. My kids have no recollection of my grandmother. They don't, like me, look at buttered toast and have an urge to dip it in super sweet coffee or see a bottle of Barq's root beer and immediately think of boiled shrimp. But they feel a bond with her because she made their dad a blanket that has survived, like us, and is as much a part of our family as our last name. I'm pretty sure the magic woven into that quilt was love. 


Krista, my Sista

We were born three years apart, me first in September and her in October. Initially, she was a pest, constantly in my space, following me, mimicking me, oblivious to my desire to be left alone, at least occasionally. As we traversed childhood, we found more in common than not. She loved to play sports, excelling in softball and tennis, and we both grew strong on a steady diet of Frito pies and Chick-O-Stix at the dusty Texas ball fields. She got outnumbered when my brother was born but she more than held her own, proving her mettle consistently in the two-on-one battles. We shared dreams and concerns, especially when our little brother decided to use the encyclopedias for bedtime reading, worried that his blooming nerdiness would evaporate any Colle cool that we had created when he reached high school. We like to think we steered him toward a happy medium and made him the man he is today. (High five!)

High school brought about a lot of change and, with it, less time together—a move from Texas to Florida, my leaving home for college, marriages, kids, moving to different parts of the country and all the other life events that happen as we keep moving forward. And she has had her share of life events, testing that mettle that was forged so early. She was strong then and she is stronger now. She has survived, tenacious and brave, a great mom and a loyal wife.

Today she celebrates a birthday, a milestone, from the fours to the fives, and I have, as before, paved the way, letting her know that it’s okay to turn that corner. The water is warm and the chicken is boiled and we are all a little more appreciative of a quiet house and a smooth Bordeaux. Happy birthday, Krista my sista. I love you and am proud of you and I look forward to waving you through to the sixes and beyond. 


US: It’s Halloween, Hallelujah!

[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)) and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

Halloween ain’t what it used to be. When I was young, it ranked an easy third behind Christmas and Easter (and Easter is second only because I was raised in a Christian home and nothing comes before those two events—as it should be). Not only did we dress up and walk our neighborhoods, my dad, the Baptist minister, would go to great lengths to scare all the trick-or-treaters that dared ring our bell by dressing as Dracula—including full makeup and a cardboard box coffin--and shining a flashlight from under his chin for effect. He perfected the proper inflections in the phrase, “I vant to suck your blood.” Our church always had a haunted house run by the youth, one I was not allowed to enter even with Child of the Staff cred, because it was too scary. This was not a Hell House with a presentation of the gospel at the end, it was just chock full of scares and gross outs like every other haunted house in town. Bowls of “body parts,” chain saw wielding maniacs and lots of fake blood. I loved standing outside and hearing people scream and then watch them exit laughing.

But something changed in the time between my last neighborhood walk as a ghost and my first Halloween celebration with our own kids. The church, as one entity, rose up and revolted against the holiday. It was now in bad form to walk the neighborhood so we now had to walk through the mall and get candy from bored store employees. No longer was the hospital on call for medical help after a trip and fall in a bulky costume, but now they were offering free x-raying of everyone’s bag of candy. And if you didn’t want to go to the mall, then every church put on an alternative to Halloween, complete with games for the kids and enough candy to choke an elephant. Yes, it was safe but it also felt sterile (although the intentions were honorable).

But the real question was what to do with our kids when we, as parents, straddled both worlds? We understood where our church was coming from but we also wanted our kids to experience the special night of walking the neighborhood, ringing doorbells and shouting “trick or treat!” Initially we made the best of it, supporting the church and making some really cool costumes to help create a special night for our clueless kids. When attending Hallelujah Harvest at the church, the costumes had to be either Biblical or “non threatening.” One year William dressed as Goliath, complete with a wadded up masking tape rock on his forehead, a small trickle of blood added to push the envelope. Over the years the kids dressed as sheep, clowns and royalty. (Every year there were multiple Queen Esther costumes. Here is a question for your discussion groups: Why not Rahab?) Occasionally our kids won the costume contest, a source of pride for the kids and mom, the seamstress. And there was always some kid trying to skirt the rules, the most memorable being the middle school boy who showed up dressed as The Whore of Babylon. He didn't make it past the front door.

When the kids got a little older, we began splitting time, hitting up the church for “happy hour” and then joining a gathering at a friend's house and walking the neighborhood en mass. The window for Halloween is so short that before we knew it the kids were choosing to work the game booths at church instead of hitting up houses and all of the decision-making faded away. And standing at the food booth, dishing up slaw and chili dogs, I could appreciate how much fun the little ones were having in the church parking lot, jumping on inflated slides and engaging in cake walks, but I also knew that my house was one of the places the neighborhood kids had to skip, their parents muttering that we were probably at the mall. Or church. And it hurt a little, but it wasn't enough pain that a Snickers mini couldn't heal.


US: Tape Head

[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)) and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

We began expanding our family in 1986. At that time, portable video cameras were available, affordable and a necessity as we prepared for the arrival of our first child. We were excited and clueless about what the actual birth day would involve and were pretty sure it would be nothing like it was explained to us in birthing classes provided by the hospital. So to cover all of our bases, the first event we filmed with our new camera was a trial run of Hope going into labor, being led to the car and then leaving the house for the hospital. My dad was the videographer and, even though Hope and I displayed some promising, albeit raw, acting talent, the continuous laughing and voice over of my dad giving us direction gave away the inauthentic effort.

Fortunately, the actual birth day was successful and my dad was once again available to tape my reports from the birthing room and capture the first announcement that William Jacob Colle IV had arrived. And that was the last day that I was not behind the camera for the next 26 years.

Our first camera was big, many times larger than the portable video cameras and smart phones that people shoot with today. I had to balance the camera on my shoulder, peer through the eyepiece and try to keep the picture in focus which was almost impossible since the early cameras liked to lock in on everything but the intended subject matter. Nothing like watching your baby take its first, blurry steps while the latest episode of Knott’s Landing is clearly seen in the background on TV.

Since the media used was VHS tapes, we had to tote the camera as well as a bag full of accessories including extra tapes and a wall charger in case the battery ran out before the event ended. And we taped everything. I recently went through all of our old tapes in order to transfer them to DVD and I was amazed and embarrassed by the amount of film burned on William lying on his stomach, trying to flip himself over. It was a riveting hour (and he never did manage to get to his back until tape three).

I was the official videographer for our family and my biggest fear throughout this time was that my children would have no idea what I actually looked like. That they would see an ad for a video camera and point and excitedly shout, “Da da.” The positive of shooting so much is that we were able to capture precious moments in time, events that we may remember but without near the clarity that a video will provide. First giggles and first steps. Discovering a leaf and feeling the grass between their toes. The joy of opening a gift and the struggle to use a spoon. Yes, we remember but getting a chance to watch it unfold before you once again is a gift. So, parents, video often and save those files for a rainy day. You will enjoy the trip, repeatedly.


US: Everybody Jump! Jump!

[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)) and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

Over the course of our 26 years of parenting, we have purchased many gifts. Some were meaningful but most were fads—slap bracelets and pogs, anyone?—destined for the bottom of a closet or an eventual trip to Goodwill. As a parent, you want to be able to create a memory, bring something into your children's lives that will have a lasting impression and one Christmas we did just that. When the kids were ten, eight and five, Hope came up with the idea that we purchase a trampoline for them for Christmas. It was a lot of work to purchase it and hide it from them for the weeks leading up to Christmas day, but as we gathered with our adult neighbors at midnight Christmas Eve, pooling our manual resources to put it together while everyone’s kids slept, it was clear this was going to be a hit.

We set it up in the front yard and, after they were directed to look outside Christmas morning, they screamed, ran out the door and didn't quit bouncing until lunch. The best thing about that purchase was it was never ignored from that point forward. We moved it to its permanent location on the side yard after a couple of days, established some rules—always with the rules—and, before the age of panic and litigation, we left them to test the limits of their imagination and cardiovascular stamina. No one ever got hurt although I do not know how that happened short of the Angel of the Trampoline working overtime. One day I was summoned to the side of the house so they could show me a new trick that had every kid in the neighborhood laughing so hard they were crying. When I saw William bounce Jordan so high he passed the soffits on the house, I had to add another rule about launching your brother into space, even though Jordan was laughing just as hard as everyone else. And I was concerned when they started running the sprinkler under the trampoline and wrestling, but, after monitoring things for a while, they seemed to be having too much fun to stop it.

All three kids enjoyed the trampoline in their own ways. William and Jordan used it as a battleground with their friends, bouncing each other, inventing games and one upping each other with tricks. Laura and her friends used it no less although their games involved holding hands, forming a bouncing circle and singing whatever new boy band song was popular that week. It was always nice to look into the yard and see them engaged and having fun outside.

The trampoline was more than a vehicle for bouncing and laughing, however. The kids spent many afternoons on their back, staring at the sky, dreaming and sharing secrets, enjoying a quiet place with friends away from the house. Laughing at the pictures in the afternoon clouds or picking out the constellations against a night sky. There were a few overnight sleepovers and at least one attempt to set up a tent on the wobbly surface. And there were counseling sessions, serious talks about life and girls and whatever else is going on in a kids life that calls for some one-on-one time with a parent.

There did come a time when the trampoline activity dwindled and there were long stretches when no one paid it much attention. The kids were busier and engaged in a lot of extra-curricular activities away from the house. Hope and I eventually decided to get rid of it so we passed it on to another family with young kids, hoping it brought them as much joy as it brought us. And for a few weeks after it vacated its spot in the backyard, friends were disappointed that we had packed it up, akin to getting rid of a family pet. We apologized but understood their dismay. It was time to move on from our bouncy phase but the memories of The Greatest Gift remain clear, even today. 


US: Mr. Thomas

[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)) and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

There are many times while plodding along the parenting path that outside influences intervene. Some are good and some are not. It is up to us, the parents, to weed out the things that may hinder and cultivate those that will help. When William was twelve, God sent someone to us that altered what we were as a family and was a tremendous help in bringing up our children. Roshad Thomas was involved with the youth group at our church and he took an interest in William when he entered middle school. It wasn't just William he was investing in, there were three other boys the same age he was focused on, but his interest in William intersected our lives in a profound way.

It started simple enough. Roshad would plan some time with William twice per week and they would talk. I felt good about it because, as I have mentioned before, middle school is evil and I welcomed help where I could get it. The planned meetings evolved into hanging out at the house and—Roshad being single, underemployed and hungry—eating dinner with us. Then he started spending the night and, eventually, became our oldest child. He more than held up his end of the bargain beyond the spiritual investment into all three children by helping Hope shuttle the kids all over town (we had three in three different schools) and being available to help us any way he could. We were investing in each other and were both benefiting. He was part of our family and we welcomed him, including at holidays and family events. Hope even yelled him at for leaving his socks on the counter. He was definitely one of our children.

But there was push back from others. Friends initially questioned Roshad's intent, wondering why a single youth leader would be so interested in young boys. Some of the Deep South prejudices reared as family member's questioned why we would allow a black man to become so integral a part of our family. At first we were bothered by all the whispers and mumbling, and then we re-evaluated, stopping a moment to make sure we hadn't missed a signal of alarm and caution. After that three-minute introspection, we got mad and resolved to deal with the push back and let them all know they were wrong. We invited Roshad to share his testimony at our home group and reveal his heart and why it was important for him to pour himself into the kids (and why it was important that he be a member of our intact, “normal” family). We calmly explained to family that Roshad was indeed a part of our family and that he was not going anywhere. And we let them know that, yes, Roshad and his entire family would be attending Thanksgiving at our house and they could come or not—just know his mom's mac and cheese could bring about world peace and it would be their loss. And, over time, people evolved and not only came to accept Roshad but they began to understand why he was a part of our family. Hope's mom, initially guarded but never hostile, grew to love him like one of her own. In her last weeks on earth, she enjoyed his visits and appreciated all he did for her grandchildren.

Now that our kids are older and carving out their own spaces in life, we don't see Roshad as much as we did. And that makes sense because he is off investing in some more middle school boys, prepping them for life and providing discipline and love. But we still hug in the church lobby, talk a little football and we'll grab a meal together on occasion to catch up on more important things. And he still calls me dad.


US: Dinner Rules!

[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)) and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

If you spend any time reading about the demise of the American family, one issue that is always broached is that we don't share the dinner table with each other anymore. It is symbolic of how busy we are—even when doing good things—that this once common event has eroded and fallen off our family radar. At the risk of sounding like a wistful old man, my childhood is full of memories around the dinner table, as was Hope's, so we naturally wanted to pass that on to our own kids. I say naturally because I don't think we ever had a discussion about it; it was assumed and we made it a priority. Obviously, this is easier when the kids are younger and their activities are confined to the neighbor's yards and the swing sets, but we also kept it going as long as we could once extracurricular interests evolved to the ball fields and church.

Eating together was a great opportunity to not only spend focused time together, but it allowed us to slowly work on table manners and expectations when sharing a meal with others. Saying, “Please pass the bread” and “Thank you” were taught and learned and allowed Hope and I to feel a little better about sending them out to the public, especially when we weren't around to glare and clear our throats. We also tried to keep a scheduled time to eat, usually around 6 p.m. That gave everyone plenty of time to get prepared for bed and have a snack before going to bed.

Ah, yes, the snack. One of our rules at the dinner table was that you had to, minimally, try everything on your plate in order to get a snack before bedtime. This seemed simple enough, but it was the cause of much drama and angst. This was when we discovered there were certain foods that certain kids refused to eat. Whether out of stubbornness or actual taste bud revulsion, Jordan would not eat green beans. This was problematic because Hope did her best to prepare food that they would eat and green beans tend to be a vegetable that is widely accepted in the childhood arena. The battle to get him to eat at least one—”at least try it!”—was exhausting and always ended with Jordan in his famous pose of defeat: elbow on the table, hand on forehead, eyes staring at his plate. Eventually we issued a writ of dispensation for him and allowed him to skip the beans but, in order to get a snack, he had to eat double of the other vegetable offered. It eased the drama and, as far as I know, he still won't eat green beans at 21 years old.

Laura brought her own drama to the snack situation. There were times that she patently refused to eat something on her plate. Sometimes it was the meat, sometimes the vegetables. There didn't seem to be a rhyme or reason so we tended to show her less grace. And she was a rock in her stubbornness. She learned early on that there were consequences for her actions and we were constantly amazed to see her fall on the sword of baked chicken and miss a trip to the yogurt shop. I guess there is something to be said for consistency, even if it occurs inconsistently.

But the drama and the sadness were completely overshadowed by all the positives of eating together. We laughed a lot. We talked about our day. We made fun of Laura looking at herself in the mirror (and eventually had to change her seat at the table to an obstructed view). We learned a lot about each other and grew as a family sitting around that table and we still relish the opportunity to all gather together now and share a meal and stories. We still laugh a lot and we still have to keep Laura away from the mirror but that is fine with me. It would be sad if nothing stayed the same.


US: Winken, Blinken and Nod

[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

I have never been a fan of taking a nap. Part of the reason is I don’t judge the length very well and end up sleeping too long. Then I wake up feeling like I was run over by a truck and it takes me an hour to adjust; it has never seemed worth it. Hope, on the other hand, feels that naps are a gift from God and it would be sinful to ignore that gift. And to her credit, she handles a nap well, waking up refreshed and happy. Of course, I am referring to adult naps and, as riveting as it may be to read about our nap habits, the point of this blog series is to share about how we chose to handle our children in this area. Let it be known the Queen of Naps ruled with an iron fist.

Every mom knows the importance of naps. When you have an infant, it is an opportunity to catch your breath and, possibly, catch up on your sleep. As the kids get older, the length of the naps may decrease but their importance actually increases. And this fact was never lost on Hope. She was a nap fanatic, establishing rules and consistency that the military would have deemed responsible. When they were still infants and sleeping in the crib, they would take a morning and afternoon nap. The morning nap would gradually start later and later until it went away entirely, melding into a two hour (plus) afternoon nap. If they woke up or started stirring around, she left them alone and, more often than not, they would fall back asleep for another hour.

The logic behind her insistence on naps was solid—she needed the time as much as they needed the rest. When they were two, they slept during naptime, a needed break between busyness and constant motion. As they got older, they began to balk at the naps so Hope adjusted her rules. She didn’t require them to sleep but they still had to stay in their bed, no games or toys, only books allowed. Of course, this generally led to the boys falling asleep, no matter how hard they tried to fight it. And just as sure as the boys would eventually pass out, it was equally sure that Laura would not. But the time was sacred. The day’s activities were planned around naptime and it was a rare event that superseded those couple of hours of rest.

As we have stated previously, Laura did not require as much sleep as the boys so naps were not her favorite time of day. But, to her credit, she made the most of it. She sang, read books to her dolls and acted out skits with her stuffed animals. Basically, she did the same thing during naptime that she would have done in the living room. But she logged in her required hour, just like the sleeping boys.

Even after they started spending the morning at preschool, Hope still required an hour of rest time every afternoon. Same rules and with little expectation of sleep. She used the time to finish laundry, start dinner or get the house picked up before the evening arrived because, once nap time ended, it was non-stop activity until bath and bed time. But Hope’s fondest memories about the nap times were not what she accomplished during, but what occurred after. As they slowly waddled out of their rooms, needing a few minutes to get their bearings, she loved the time snuggling with each of them on the sofa. Her babies stretched out, head in her lap and her rubbing an arm or lightly brushing their hair from their eyes, helping coax them into consciousness. And she is hoping those few minutes will be replicated with grandchildren one day. Odds are, by then, I will probably be taking naps with them. 


We pause now for this commercial interruption...

Occasionally I will let you all know that I have a few stories available for purchase through Amazon. They are listed below along with descriptions and links so, if you are interested, check them out and let me know what you think. 

Thanks for your interest and continued support of my little acreage in the digital plains. Now, go read! And come back on Friday when I continue the US Series and we talk about naps...

Note: When you purchase one of the stories, you can download and read it on the Kindle app on your computer or phone; you don’t have to own a physical Kindle. 

Back, Again
Length:  215 pages 
“Back, Again” is the story of a man who spent his life doing right and, at 45, finds the results wanting. He makes a radical decision in response to his disillusionment and turns his back on his life-long faith, shirking Christianity and denying the existence of God. This isn’t brought on by tragedy or some earth-shattering event; it’s a sober decision based on doubts and disappointments. On the surface, the story deals with the ramifications of his decision and the toll it takes on long-established relationships, mainly with his wife, children and parents. It also works on deeper levels. It’s a love story between Earl and Ellen. It’s a story of a man in search of himself and it’s a story of redemption.

Store: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0046A9SXA

Two Short Stories
Length: 20 pages
“Two Short Stories” is … well, two short stories. Truth in advertising is alive and well. The first story, “Save Me, Black Jesus,” is a sober look at the prospect of dying told through the eyes of a patient in a hospital. The second story, “Oh, Tanner Baum,” is a humorous look at selecting a Christmas tree told through the eyes of a young boy. The stories are so far apart in tone and concept that they cannot see each other even if they use binoculars. Which is why it makes perfect sense to bundle them together. Seriously. Stop staring at me…

Store: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0046H9I9C

Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!
Length: 106 pages
Adam Mahoney enjoyed a normal existence in a normal town, minding his normal business, okay with being normal. He wakes one morning to discover his new normal is a life that has never been lived, much less successfully navigated. Everything he has known and is comfortable with is taken away. Faced with unlimited possibilities, what will he choose? How will he respond when he knows that no one else could possibly be affected by any action he takes? Can any choice be labelled selfish when he's the last man standing on the face of the earth?

Store: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007V2SEXA


US: Name It and Claim It

The original William and Laura Colle

[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

It is easy to joke about what you might name your children before you actually bring them into existence. Once you are faced with the reality of adding another soul to the planet, the name game takes a serious turn. There are three ways to approach the task. One is to comb through baby naming books and cross reference names that sound good with names that have a deeper meaning, finally resting on the perfect moniker for your child based on star alignment and whatever the publisher could come up with for the 2012 edition. The other is to throw caution to the wind and go with a name that just feels right. The third option is to continue a family name and hope that the progeny doesn’t end up doing anything wacky and ruining 100 years of good deeds and impeccable character.

Hope and I started with the third option and eventually shifted to a hybrid of the second and third with Jordan (I guess that means there are four options). Since our children were born in the dark ages before weekly sonograms, we had no idea the gender of any of our children before they took their first breath. Not knowing added drama to the birth day but it also made for pretty generic interior designs for the nursery. Primary colors were dominant. My full name is William Jacob Colle III. My father is William Jacob Colle II. His father is not William Jacob Colle because the naming skipped a generation. My dad’s grandfather held that crown. Hope and I agreed early on that, if we had a boy, we would follow tradition and name him William Jacob Colle IV. I admit, when it gets past the third, the numbering gets into some strange territory. One of my cousins is a third and they call him Trace so my uncle asked if we were going to call our son Quattro. Although we never seriously considered that it did make us decide what we would call him, trying not to leave it to chance. My dad goes by Bill and I go by Jay so, to avoid any junior references, we decided to call our son William.

If we happened to have a girl for our first child, we were seriously considering calling her Kansas. This fell directly in the middle of option two because there was no reason whatsoever to do this other than it sounded cool. (We even had a middle name picked out based entirely on flow and cadence. Kansas Rochelle Colle. I still like it.) What doesn’t make sense is, by the time we were coming up with names for our second child, Kansas didn’t even make the cut. We decided to go with family names again and landed on Laura Jean if it happened to be a girl. The original Laura was married to William Jacob Colle the first and I have strong memories of visiting her house as a kid, not fully appreciating the opportunity to know my great grandmother (she lived to be 96), but now relishing the things I do remember about her. Jean is homage to Hope’s father, Gene Davis, which gave us a two-fer in the naming game. I think Hope was starting to sense a “Colle Naming Tsunami” and rushed in to get the Davis family in the mix. I also liked that I could call her LJ as a nickname, which, in reality, never really stuck outside of convenience in texting.

When it was time to name our third child, we were tired. Fortunately, we had a unique resource to pull from that helped spur us to a great solution. When we were expecting our first child, I ran a tongue-in-cheek contest in our Christmas card asking for people to help us name our baby. I included a loose paper ballot in our card with a form explaining the rules and a blank to submit a name. It was a joke so I was surprised when over 50 people mailed the form back to me with suggestions. Granted, 75% of them were ridiculous (and funny) but scattered throughout were some legitimate recommendations. One of them ended up being the name of our third child and it had the added bonus of being gender neutral. Whether a boy or a girl, our newest family member would be named Jordan Davis Colle. This is a complete hybrid of options two and three because the name Jordan is void of any historical precedence in our family and Davis is Hope’s maiden name. It may be difficult for any of you who know Jordan today to picture him as a girl, but there was a 50/50 chance it could have been. (Commence skinny jean jokes… now!)


Us: Perchance to Dream...

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Before we had children, Hope and I assumed our children would be awesome. What parent doesn’t? But thinking about raising a kid and actually engaging in the day-to-day tasks involved are never the same and reality tends to cause you to lower your expectations. Or at least massage the meaning of the word awesome. There are so many variables and areas that never occurred to us until they were staring us in the face. In that, we were like every other parent on the planet. One aspect that we assumed would be simple was putting the kids to bed. Yes, early on, it was easy because they would usually fall asleep in one of our laps and then you would lay them down in the crib, shut the door and wait for the next feeding. But when they got mobile and more aware was when things got interesting.

One thing Hope and I established early, which was different than a lot of our friends with children, was a set bedtime. This was important for a couple reasons, one being that they needed the sleep and were tired at eight p.m. and the other was that Hope and I were tired and needed them to be in bed by eight p.m. It allowed us to recharge our batteries and have an hour or two together. We also felt it was important to keep the kids to a schedule, our assumption being they felt some comfort in knowing that certain events happened at certain times. What we didn’t anticipate was the evolving routine of preparing for sleep.

As is common, the ebb and flow was dictated by the nature and personality of each child. William was a good soldier and was satisfied with one story, quick prayers, a hug, a kiss and an “I love you.” In fact, it was not uncommon for him to fall asleep during the story, which, hopefully, didn’t stunt his future prayer life. Laura, on the other hand, was a whirl of activity and processes. Between lining up baby dolls, getting the covers “just right” and agonizing over which story to read, she could wear us out. Add the fervent prayer time and it was a potential half hour of bed prep. Part of that was she was never sleepy, a constitution she absorbed from my DNA, and the other was she loved the attention. But we were strict and made her keep to the schedule. Since she and William are only 22 months apart, their bedtime was always the same so we had to take care of William first lest he be passed out before we were done with Laura’s rituals.

Jordan was also easy. As long as he had his thumb, he was content with a simple routine. The only issue with him was that he had to go to bed 30 minutes earlier than his brother and sister and that would annoy him. But it annoyed William and Laura even more when he got to stay up with them for one reason or the other, allowing Hope and I to do our part to continue the legacy of the privileged last child in the minds of the older siblings. And, honestly, it tends to be true, although I wouldn’t call it bestowing privileges on him so much as the parents are tired and, by the time you are wrangling full-time jobs and three kids, sometimes it is just easier to let things slide that you would never have done with the first (or even the second) child. I imagine there is enough information packed in that last sentence for its own blog post—duly noted.

Laura was also the queen of delaying going to sleep. She could not shut her brain off and relax so she would always make several trips out to the living room under the guise of needing to ask us a question. A typical conversation with her went like this:
Laura: “Can I ask you something?”
Us: “Sure, what do you need?”
Laura: (blank stare)
Us: “Go back to bed.”

My favorite response was one I learned from a comedian. Whenever any of the kids would wander out after being put to bed and inform us that they could not go to sleep, I would always respond with, “Yes, you can, I have seen you do it before,” to which there is no response and they would return to their room. I do not always recommend parenting via Def Comedy Jam but at least this one time, it worked for me.


Us: Laura’s Two Dads

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There are truisms in this life that cannot be argued against, regardless of race, nationality or creed. One of those truisms is there are major differences between raising girls and boys. I have been blessed to have been given the charge of two boys and one girl, with Laura landing in the middle of the pack. We did not know the sex of any of our children before they were born so when Laura arrived, we were thrilled, satisfied our little family was now wrapped in a tidy bow with one child of each gender. And since they were only 22 months apart, we were still fresh off William’s infancy and were confident about adding another kid to the mix. Yes, we were na├»ve and silly, but we did not know that. Yet.

The first thing I did was start praying a very specific prayer, one I began during our first pregnancy just in case God blessed us with a girl. I asked God to make her confident and secure and that she would lack nothing emotionally, deriving everything she needed from her two dads—the heavenly and earthly ones. That she would be so sure of who she was in Jesus that not just any guy could sweep her off her feet, but he would have to be special and make the earthly transition from me to him easy and fun. And God answered. She grew up bold and confident and never had a date until after college. (I am sure there were days she regretted I ever prayed that prayer.) Alas, getting from that birthing room to today has been quite a journey.

When she was young, we did the typical dad and daughter activities—tea parties with stuffed animals, dancing to 70's music and listening to her tell me about any and everything. I have vivid memories of picking her up from a birthday party and asking the simple question, “Did you have fun?” and spending the entire ride home listening to every minute detail of the party, non-stop, until we pulled into the garage at home. Several times I stopped to get gas and she insisted I roll the window down so she could continue to talk to me while I stood outside at the pump. I know that comes as a shock to anyone who knows her today (insert sarcastic eye roll here).

But it was when she entered middle school that our relationship took on a different air. In general, middle school is evil. The colliding of hormones and insecurities has the ability to cause a lot of damage and I was determined to do all I could to prepare her for battle. She was comfortable enough with me to ask questions as she crawled through the minefield that is sixth through eighth grade and I was determined to be honest and talk straight with her. If she was aggravated that certain girls were getting attention and she wasn't, I would dig a little deeper and find out that those girls tended to dress a bit different than Laura. I would then explain what the guys paying attention to them were actually thinking when looking at those girls (or any girl for that matter).  I am not sure she believed me at first, but it didn't take long for her to become convinced. It was also at this time that I came up with one of my more memorable bits of advice: Bottom line, you will stay out of a whole lot of trouble if you just keep your pants on. Yes, it was initially greeted with an embarrassed, “Daddy!” but it has lived in infamy ever since. And it worked.

We continued to have good conversations throughout high school, battling all the usual demons of body issues, motivation, mean girls and school. And all the while we talked about Jesus and church and life. And as she got older, a great thing happened: the spiritual talks began to dominate and the topics got deeper. After high school she traveled the world and we continued our conversations via instant chat messages, talking our way through questions and experiences, giving me opportunities to share my heart and to learn about hers.

Yes, we are a lot alike, but I don't think that is the only reason we are close. Women are a mystery created by a mysterious God but He does create a special bond between daughters and dads. I embraced that gift and, even though there has been a lot of work mixed in with the joy, I am honored to be a representative of God in her life and I can assure you I have received more from our relationship than her.