The Thumb Sucker





I look out my window into the back yard and see the tire swing and it reminds me…

My son stood at the end of the aisle and waited for his bride.  She would  be escorted by her father, who was having a difficult day.  I sympathized with him.   I had to give my daughter away to another young man waiting for her at the end of another aisle about six months ago.

As I stood there looking at my thumb-sucking-son-turned- young man,  waiting for his bride, and hoping my lovely wife would pick an emotion and stick with it for at least the next few minutes,  I thought about that tire swing in the back yard.

No, this is not a sappy story about me pushing my little son in the tire swing as the sun sets over the hill and having all those memories come roaring back.

That tire swing reminds me of all the selfish times raising my son when I wanted something for him that he  didn’t necessarily want.  You see, that tire swing was for pushing and swinging…just not the way you see in all those arthritis medicine ads.  It was for a batting drill or exercise that would make him into a major league hitter or at the very least a college recruit.   I had read an article about a very good major league baseball player whose father put up a tire swing in the back yard and had him swing his bat into that tire swing over and over and over.  It supposedly helped him develop a more powerful hitting stroke.

My son tried it one time, after much pleading I might add.  He handed me the bat after a few swings and said ,”Yeah this is great dad”.  I never saw him near that tire swing again.

I would like to say that tire swing was the only foray into my self-coaching/fantasy of Tiger-izing my son.  I have used gadgets and drills and exercises on my son in various sports that I’m sure would have been the next parenting self-help guarantee for the success of a child into the world of big time sports.  Only one thing was missing…a child that wanted to do the various drills, exercises, and gadgets.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed spending each of these moments with my son and daughter, who also was pushed by me to learn the ABC’s (Anything But Cheerleading).

I always felt as a parent, it was my job to expose both my son and daughter to things that would benefit them.  I exposed them to sports, music, arts, travel, and even stocks.  Now I am by no means an expert in any of these areas.  Sometimes my mistake was pushing them too hard.  I did learn however that there comes a time when the pushing needs to stop.  Usually it was when there came resistance.

Sports should always be enjoyable.  Music should always be enjoyable.  I realized  if my son or daughter loved something enough to want to continue to get better, they did not need me pushing them.  They needed me to encourage them or just simply give them a time to rest or a distraction.  Sometimes we parents put too much pressure on our kids to do something with their lives that we want and not necessarily what they want.

I even came to grips with my daughter being a cheerleader and even came to embrace the benefits of young girls performing as a team in front of a crowd.   However I never came to grips with the uniforms.

My son loved to participate in sports and he enjoyed playing many different sports and still does, but he found things in life that were more important to him.  And for that I am thankful and proud of him.

This is a picture of my son when he was about twenty-months old.  He sucked his thumb for comfort and it helped him deal with things that small children have to deal with.  I always loved this picture of him.

Two weekends ago, my son got married.  He married a loving, bright, beautiful young lady that is full of life.  She will be a wonderful wife and I am glad she is now a part of my life.

I am leaving the tire swing up…I can push the grandchildren in it when they come to visit, provided my arthritis is not acting up.

If  you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.


Girl with Red Bucket


The Vegas odds were against me.  There was much talk on the street of which I was not aware.

Would I leave a trail of salty tears and blubbering goo, akin to slug slime, down the center aisle of the church,  only to melt down at the altar and leave a crumpled pile of Joseph A. Bank black wool?

My only daughter got married this weekend.  It was a difficult time leading up to this event.  I kept having thoughts and memories of how I held her in the hospital the day she was born and could not let her go, how I had an overwhelming feeling of pride, joy, and happiness.  There was also a twinge of utter terror at the prospect of raising a daughter and being clueless of the responsibility of having another life dependent on me.

I was lucky.  Evidently my wife was a young girl and a teenage girl (a short time ago) and she was able to help me out with some of the girly stuff.  Funny, with a daughter, it seemed like I needed that help all the time.

I found out it is a difficult time for a father as he prepares to give away his daughter, especially his only daughter.  My emotions were so fragile that I felt like a teen age girl.

I thought about her as a child, seeing my wife pull the van in the driveway with her and I could barely see the top of her blond locks.  My wife would have her dressed so neatly to send her off to school and she would come home looking like she had been riding a Brahma bull in a whirlwind.

I remember one day dressing her for the day when my wife was gone.  My wife returned only to find that I had put her dress on backwards.  My daughter didn’t seem to mind.  My daughter was a cross between a tomboy and a Disney princess.  She loved to wear dresses but also liked to play sports and climb trees and roll around in the grass and dirt.  So I would let her wear dresses and then have her put sweat pants on under the dress.  I did not like all of the neighborhood seeing her underwear.  Of course my wife thought that I had departed for Crazy Town.

Fathers do many stupid things when it comes to their relationship with their daughters.  My wife says that is why they make so many comedies about fathers and daughters and the fathers usually are looking so foolish….art imitates life.

I could fill pages on pages with thoughts of my daughter and experiences with her and what each of them have meant to me but none of you would ever understand my relationship with my daughter. This is okay because I would not understand your relationship with your child either.  I just hope it is as special as mine as been with my daughter and son.

I took this picture of my daughter on a family vacation in Panama City Beach when she was about four years old and it has always been one of my favorites.

By the way, I defied the odds and never shed a tear during the wedding.  I was a rock, only because my daughter was so happy.  However, I about lost it when I gave her a kiss good-bye as she left the reception for her honeymoon.  I know my daughter’s husband (those words seem strange to write) will take good care of her and that is all a father could ask of his son-in-law.

After twenty-five years, I finally had to let her go.  Now I am crying, but the betting windows have closed.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my photos here.


Morgan County Courthouse at Christmas

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I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

As most everyone does at this time, I always look back on the current year and do some reflecting. It seems like this year has been a lot harder upon which to reflect.

I realize in all years there are difficulties, strife, and calamities. We lose people through the year that we are close to and remember them more at this time. We pray for those who are grieving and lonely and missing family members.

Now we as a nation mourn the loss of children, teachers, and one mother who tried to raise a tormented boy into adulthood and hoping, one day, he would be able to function in society. It seems as though they have replaced, in our thoughts, the previous senseless deaths at the hands of other demented souls in Oregon, Colorado, and places that don’t make the front pages and 24 hour news cycles. While it is hard, we should mourn for those who pulled the trigger, and somehow hoping, they had no idea what they were doing.

Here in West Liberty, Kentucky we are still feeling the effects of a tornado that devastated us and while we are making progress, we see reminders everywhere and think of the families that had ones they love taken away. The folks in the northeast also are going through a similar and more recent experience.

However, while we reflect on Christmases of the past, there is really only one Christmas that should be foremost on our mind and that is the first Christmas. A loving God entered into His creation He cherished so dearly. He did not wait for all of humanity to come to Him. He came to us.

I took this photo of the Morgan County Courthouse last Christmas. I know the courthouse will one day be just as beautiful as it was in this photo.

May your Christmas be filled with love and peace. May those who lost loved ones this year have fond memories and those memories will somehow give them comfort and joy. May we be filled with the wonder and awe of those Bethlehem shepherds. And may the world come to know the loving God who came in the form of a little baby and showed the world how much He loves us.

Merry Christmas.

If you like this photo, you can see more here.

Natural Bridge in Autumn

Natural Bridge State Park has always been a special place for me.  By the throngs of people walking the trails on this beautiful late autumn day, it looks like it is special for a lot of other folks, too.

Natural Bridge State Park is in Slade, KY, amidst the Red River Gorge in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Powell County.  In the fall of the year it is almost awe-inspiring sitting on the bridge and looking out over the cliffs rising up from the fiery colored forest.

My wife and I had to sit on the bridge because we were exhausted from the half mile hike up the trail and I mean UP the trail.   The trail seemed so much steeper since the last time I climbed up to the bridge ten years ago.   The trail climbs up through a forest of pine, spruce, rhododendrons, and some hardwood trees.   No matter how high you climb, you seem to have a sub-species view from the forest floor.  I have been to this beautiful park all of my life and in each of the seasons.  It never gets old for me.

I remember going up to the bridge as a small boy with my family.  I remember one summer when my mom played the organ every Saturday night in the lodge dining room.  My friends’ dad was the park manager at that time and we spent every Saturday running the trails.  It was a great summer for a twelve or thirteen year old boy.

Later when my wife had all  the mothering and wife-ing she could take for the time being and needed a break, she would gently urge the children and me to seek refuge elsewhere for the day,  I would take the kids on the forty-five minute drive to Natural Bridge.  They used up much of their stored energy hiking the trails to the bridge and afterward we would eat in the lodge dining room.

I took this shot from across the chasm on Battleship Rock.  It was probably the last warm Sunday afternoon of fall.  I was thinking of all the changes that I have been through in my life as I sat there with my wife looking back across the gorge at the bridge, and I noticed the bridge hasn’t aged a bit.

If you like this photo, there are more here.

Young Girl in Haiti

Sometimes you just have to get off the depression couch and go outside and put your face in the sun and thank God you are alive. That is what I am doing today.  This photo always makes me smile, like Snoopy dancing on top of Schroeder’s piano.

I got lucky when I took this picture.  I was in Haiti, driving with my group back to the airport when one of our members wanted to stop and get some kind of sugar product.  The rest of us had no clue what he was talking about or where we were, which was my normal state of mind in Haiti, but since he was Haitian and he seemed to like us, we did not fret about this stop. Also since there were ten of us riding in what was the equivalent of the back of a covered small pick-up, we welcomed the chance to pile out like clowns out of a Volkswagon.  We pulled into this mango grove in a rural area of western Haiti.

I saw some children playing so I grabbed my camera.  This little girl and her sister were in a makeshift classroom and I guess they were on a break since the “blancs” showed up.  I asked their mother if I could take pictures of them and she agreed.  After taking a few shots, and I might add they were more than willing to cooperate, one of my collegues wanted to get a shot of the blackboard to see if we could interpret the French writing.  My young model had a difference of opinion.  She did not want to leave the view of the camera…so I did what only I could do and kept taking pictures.  This was one of the shots and I loved it immediately.  It has a strange composition and her expression is so joyful.

Haiti is a difficult place to visit.  It is hard to see people living in poverty and unsanitary conditions.  However, I enjoyed the Haitian people and they taught me so much about being happy and joyful.  I think anyone who has a chance to go and visit Haiti, should.  I am not going to say it changed my life,  but it made me more aware of the plight of the rest of the world and the hardships that others go through in their day to day lives and how we Americans take so much for granted.  It helped me understand that Jesus loves all the world, not just Americans.  We all could learn a few things from the Haitian people.  I learned a lot from this young girl and she is still making me smile.

Incidentally, my one year of high school French was not near enough for my interpretation of the material on the board. Help me Mrs. Wells…

If you like this picture, you can see more here.