The Alpaca and the Potter (a Love Story) 24

Sea of Glass

Pardon me while I work on my rock-step

I get asked a lot, nowadays, “What happened to Biltrix?” which is not so hard to explain as the typical, “What’s a Biltrix?” I still get asked sometimes. The short answer, I’ve taken up ballroom dancing. The longer answer often raises the question, “What’s an alpaca?”

Allow me to explain…

Where did you meet this beautiful woman?

Ever been at a loss for words in a debate? It happened at Emory University during a debate coach training exercise (not an actual debate); and I wasn’t really at a loss for words. If I was, it was because of the one thought — the beautiful woman — on my mind. I’d fallen in love with her and that’s all I wanted to say.

For the exercise, I had 2 minutes to write down as much information about myself as I could on a yellow Post-It and 1 minute to read it out to a complete stranger, who was jotting everything down to interrogate me for another 3 minutes. After about 30 seconds into my spiel, when I had exhausted all the words I’d scribbled on my Post-It, I found myself in one of those eternal, five-second,  awkward moments of silence, thinking to myself, am “I going to say this?”

“I’m in love with a beautiful woman!” I said it!

Selfie Queen

“I find it hard to believe that the photography teacher can’t take a selfie…”

The interrogation that followed was all about this beautiful woman: “Where did you meet this beautiful woman?” “What is her name?” “Where is she now?”

She was in Puerto Rico at the time (while still present in my mind). Readers of Biltrix know her as the lovely Miss Alison Batley, and here’s how we met…

It began with an Alpaca

Being the strong believer in providence that I am, I have to say it did not begin with an alpaca. As with all things, it began in the Mind of God. Yes, even the alpaca and our meeting there were conceived long, long before the three of us (I’m including the alpaca in all this) conspired to become better acquainted.

Let me step back in time a bit to give some context. It started with the senior girl’s prank at Pinecrest Academy, where Alison and I were teaching: she was the art teacher; I was in the hiring process for the fall and substitute teaching at the time. Basically, the girls completely trashed the school to the extent of shutting it down for the first two periods one morning. Hence, the boys were told they had a choice: to up the ante when they did their senior prank or to graduate with their class. The boys were clever and chose both options. They decided to rent an alpaca. The rest, let us say, is our story.


I was never a huge fan of the selfie, until I met you!

As irony would have it, the day of the boys’ prank I was substituting for a class of senior girls. Taking advantage of their acute senioritis, I made them an offer they could not refuse. I invited them out to the lawn to see the alpaca. Lo and behold, the lovely Miss Batley noticed and came out to join us.

I thought to myself, it really isn’t too odd that Miss Batley and I somehow keep bumping into each other. We both went to daily Mass on campus to start our day before school. We caught each other’s eye in the halls and stairwells passing between classes. When I was scheduled to proctor an exam, she would mysteriously show up outside the secretary’s office at the precise moment I picked up the exams.

And it’s not like I didn’t know the alpaca was stationed on the lawn right below the art teacher’s window. Naturally, Miss Batley was bound to join us (in two shakes of an alpaca’s tail).

Nor did I think it would be unusual for me to take a selfie with the alpaca, when Miss Batley — a professional photographer —  appeared on the scene…

The alpaca was nervous and would not keep still. Clearly, I needed some help.

“I’m not good at selfies,” I confessed.

“Would you like me to take your picture?” she offered. We exchanged phones. She took my picture, and I hers. Roger, the alpaca, wasn’t fooled by any of this.

Months later, at the homecoming game, the young man charged with attending the alpaca told us what he thought when Alison asked me to take her picture: “I find it hard to believe that the photography teacher can’t take her own selfie…” to which we agreed, but we still had to thank him for taking part in God’s providence.

The senior girls, the young man, and Roger, the alpaca, all thought they observed the same thing. But this was no wanton flirtation. There was more madness to my method than meets the eye…

The girls grumbled and complained when I invited them back up to their classroom (as I figured they would). “But,” I said, “I want to show you a video.” Grudgingly, they… still hesitated to return to their room. So, to help move the lethargic teens, I invited the art teacher along. “I’m going to show the girls a video I made during my Holy Week Mission in New York City. Would you like to join us?”

As odd as this might seem, it all made perfect sense. After all, I was substitute teaching for a theology class, so my video on the Stations of the Cross would fit right in with their curriculum. And of course, how could the art teacher turn down the opportunity to critically view my videography with some of her own students? Even an alpaca can figure this one out.

From whence it began, Our Story continues…

All Alpaca Aside…

Bidding our farewell to Roger, the alpaca, we pranced up the stairs to the girls’ classroom to watch my video.

I’ll pick up the pace now to bring us up to date. Here’s part of the chain of events leading up to our engagement!

Alison showed great interest in my video (which became my excuse to share it with her by email 😉 ). Further emails ensued, naturally, and she naturally shared some of her artwork and reflections with me. Naturally, I offered to post some of her work on Biltrix — because we also do artsy stuff on Biltrix, you know. It was, of course, then natural to meet to talk more about Biltrix, which is how we got to know each other better. So without prolonging the inevitable any further, the natural thing for me to do was to ask her out on a date to a place I thought she would enjoy — The Mark of the Potter.

The Mark of the Potter

The Mark of the Potter is a pottery shop and gallery, a one-and-a-half hour drive through the North Georgia Mountains, a pretty nice place to take an art teacher, and a perfect spot for a picnic. It was a Friday, so I brought tuna sandwiches. None of this is coincidental.

It was Friday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. That morning, I had just posted “Hearts of Love” by Alison on Biltrix. Her post was fresh on my mind that day, especially since I helped her edit it.

On the drive up and back from the Mark of the Potter, as we were sharing stories, I realized how much the art she shared with me was a sharing of her intimate self, and how much we had in common, in our faith, our passions, and life experiences. I knew before I brought her home she was a woman after God’s heart, and mine. I understood we had the same vision in life, and I had never met, nor would I ever meet someone like this again.

At Homecoming Tailgate [Photo credit: Brian White of White Lake Studio]

The real mark of the Potter is the work of the Divine Artist on each of our souls, made in the God’s likeness. It is the actualization of a process that began from eternity in the Divine Mind, realized in the unfolding of time through his providence.

Not my plans, but yours, Lord, brought my beloved Alison into my life. It wasn’t any wild idea of mine or any beast named Roger that sparked our relationship. After all, you made the alpaca, so you’re the one who put Roger there in the first place. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you!!!

I believe God made Alison and me to know him, and love him, and serve him in this life, and to do this by knowing him better and more perfectly through the gift of ourselves to one another, and that it is his will that we always love and honor one another all the days of our life!

dance night

Dressed up for dancing’! (The original selfie: the self-timer)

And that’s why I’ve taken up ballroom dancing. We haven’t yet chosen the song for our first dance as Mr. and Mrs. Stone. Among the many songs that I think speak for my sentiments, I happen to like this one a lot, though…

Keep us in your prayers!

A Pearl of Great Price

And she knows how to take a selfie!


  1. Nice to FINALLY have you back, James!!! I’m here in Mexico as a dean of Apostolics and just stumbled across your new post in my Inbox… Many congratulations and count on my prayers for both of you. I would appreciate the same down here too… ¡Feliz Navidad y próspero Año Nuevo!

  2. Hi James!!!!! The blogosphere has missed you. As I read this and gazed at all the lovely pictures, the smile on my face got bigger and bigger. I am so happy for you and Alison. She is one lucky lady 🙂 🙂 🙂 God bless. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.

  3. Great story! Now I understand the alpaca thing. Also, a great song for your first dance at the reception. You know how big a Rod Stewart fan I am, and that is a fantastic song for the two of you. God bless you both. Dad

  4. beautiful story, James! praying for you two!
    (by the way, how do you know that the Apalca was really real?)

  5. Congratulations Alison and James! Two bright stars in the Catholic faith will shine more than twice as bright!
    – David and Nina Hancharik

  6. Congratulations to the happy couple! When you stopped posting, I wondered why. Glad that instead of trouble you had something better to do.

    Thank you for sharing the story.

  7. Reblogged this on Citizen Tom and commented:
    Biltrix is a blog I have enjoyed visiting over the years. In July 2014, new posts stopped appearing. Given the long silence, I wondered what had happened to the author. Turns out he was distracted and for a very good reason. Check out his latest post.

  8. Hi James and Alison.Congratulations.
    I’am not here for long time because my Mon death 6 month ago and for me is sad this news,Now and thanks Our Lord I to feel a little better.
    Please pray for and my brothers.
    Blessings and good luck.

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