I have been praying for God to open my eyes and show me the truth on a daily, and sometimes on a moment by moment, basis. I have begun to marvel at his creation, taking the time to truly look at people and see who God created them to be. I'm beginning to notice what color eyes they have, their smile, their joy or sadness, and their attitude -- in short, getting a brief glimpse of who they really are.

If you have never really taken the time to notice those around you, you should. It is remarkable how much you can notice in a short space of time.

As I feel led, I have begun sharing my insights with these people, and their reactions never cease to amaze me.

Why is it so rare to share these thoughts? Being able to share these moments with others is a privilege. It is horrific to me how many men and women fail to see how beautiful God created them to be. Lies completely blind those who believe them.

As I seek to model Christ's love to others and teach my children what love should look like, I am humbled. I am humbled at how hard it can be and how totally against my nature it is. Each moment we can share in another's life is one of the greatest gifts we can experience this side of Heaven. I am so thankful for the privilege of knowing people who are truly more amazing, beautiful, and talented than they may ever realize.

Posted by Crystal on December 29, 2007 at 10:51AM.

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Filed under Faith.

Throwing Rocks

Here's some proof that children don't need to have expensive stuff to be happy. I took my foster son to Upper Bidwell Park during our father-child bonding time yesterday. We spent about 45 minutes throwing rocks into the creek and walking around looking at the trees and such. He had a blast. My cost? $0.

Update: He was still asking me if we were going to throw rocks in the creek a month after we took this little excursion. Wow!

Posted by Greg on December 24, 2007 at 8:00AM.

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Move to New Server Complete (101 Things #94)

All of our web sites were previously hosted by a company called Virtuoso Net Solutions. Their customer service was horrible, so I made the decision to move to a new company. After careful research, I chose GuaranteedVPS for our new host. So far, I've been thrilled. The uptime has been fantastic, and the staff have been friendly and responsive.

I finished moving all of our web sites to the new server over the weekend, and I was able to cancel my account with Virtuoso on Monday.

Posted by Greg on December 19, 2007 at 11:00PM.

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The Answer to "Why?"

Many people have asked why I am a foster parent, why I have gone through so much and worked so hard to be a mom. I finally realized how to explain my answer to that question. Most people become parents because of what it will do for them: how exciting it will be to have a child, someone to love them, someone to care for, and the list goes on. I think I started there. I wanted to become a mommy for all of those sweet reasons; I wanted to experience those moments for me.

It was somewhere between the infertility, foster parenting, and the death of my twin daughters that part of me died. It took all of that for me to truly die to my desires for what parenting should look like and even my desire to be a parent. Somewhere along that line God began to teach me that being a parent isn't about me and my desires. It is about God working through me to help another person grow, to teach them the truth, to lift them up to my heavenly Father. It is about allowing God to use my children to change me. I learned how truly limited I am, and I started to learn a bit about truly trusting God and His will. I thought I trusted God, but I came to realize that what I had once considered trust was not truly trust at all.

So why do I continue to parent? It's because for the first time in my life I am truly submitted to the will of God. I feel God's pleasure as I pour myself out as an offering to His children. I work in a darkness few will understand in their spiritual lives, and I am called to fight for those who can't fight for themselves. I fall, cry, and feel weak and unable. That's perfect because then God can finally work. I have nothing more to give, so He gives it all. I am nothing more then a willing vessel. And I understand this may all seem trite but it is absolutely true: I serve these kids because of the intimacy with God that I receive for doing so.

Posted by Crystal on December 17, 2007 at 2:39PM.

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New Weekly Schedule (101 Things #2)

I've completed a weekly schedule. I even had my wife and daughter look at it, and they liked it. I tried very hard to balance family, business, and other tasks. I don't expect that my time will be spent exactly as I have it laid out in the schedule due to the craziness of life, but it should work very well as a guideline for managing my priorities.

Click here to

Posted by Greg on December 6, 2007 at 5:00PM.

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101 Things in 1001 Days

I've decided that it's time to set some goals for my life. I've heard time and time again that just the act of writing down specific goals makes it much more like that those goals get accomplished. It's also pretty popular online right now. (See DayZero for more details.)

So, here is my list of 101 things that I want to accomplish in the next 1001 days. That makes my deadline August 30, 2010. I've included personal as well as business goals. I'll post details and updates here on the Coates Place for personal goals and on the Divine Reflections Photography blog for business goals. (I'll also be posting the business portion of this list on the Divine Reflections site.)


Completed goals will be displayed in lavender

The List


001. Write and publish this list of goals [Dec 3, 2007]

002. Come up with a weekly schedule that will allow me to manage my time well enough to accomplish these goals [Dec 6, 2007]

003. Finish setting up the time management system detailed in Getting Things Done [I've finished reading the book, and I've implemented the system at work.]


004. Spend 15 minutes a day 5 times a week focused on God [189/706 – Read details]

005. Read 16 books that will help me get closer to God [1/16 – List of books read]

006. Write a book review for this site for each of the above books read [0/16]

007. Write in a journal every day for 1 month


008. Write 1 note, card, or letter a week and give it to my wife [52/138] – Read details]

009. Go on a date with my wife at least 1 time a week, even if that date is as simple as a walk around the block and a half hour conversation [64/141 – Read details]

010. Write a (hopefully) good poem for my wife [Jan 15, 2008 – Crystal liked it, so I guess that makes it good.]

011. Write my daughter at least 1 time a week while she is in residential treatment [37/49 – Read details]

012. Have bonding time with at least 1 of my children 1 time every week [50/139 – Read details]

013. Take a 2-night or longer backpacking trip with each of my 3 daughters Ariana (Emily is still too young, and Rachelle isn't around to take.)

014. Take the kids to Turtle Bay in Redding [Feb 7, 2009]

015. Take the kids to Lake Shasta Caverns

016. Take my teenage daughters Ariana on a trip to Mexico so she can see the city where they she was born

017. Take the girls to the Bidwell Mansion for a tour [January 14, 2009]

018. Play tennis with my daughter [Apr 6, 2008]

019. Play baseball (catch) with my daughter

020. Take a romantic vacation with my wife and only my wife [May 22-25 – Crystal and I spent a few days relaxing in South Lake Tahoe]

021. Finish designing the book of photos and stories from our 2007 summer road trip and order a copy [May 20, 2008]

Health and Fitness

022. Reach my goal weight of 180 pounds

023. Eliminate junk food from my diet, and keep it eliminated

024. Exercise 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes per day [495/709 – Read details]

025. Buy a weight bench and free weight set [Jan 10, 2008]

026. Cancel my parking pass at work (this will mean I'm in shape enough to ride my bike every day) [Mar 12, 2008]

027. Run a mile in 7 minutes, just like I could in college

028. Do a 100 mile bicycle ride


029. Finish unpacking from our move and organizing our home

030. Print and hang the pictures for our Foster Care photo wall, which will display a photo of each foster child that has lived in our home family photo wall.

031. With the exception of student loans and our car, become debt free

032. Build a $5000 emergency fund

033. Make a will

034. Grow a variety of herbs for use in our kitchen, and keep them alive for 1 entire summer [September 22, 2009]

035. Design and purchase our wedding album

Education, Culture, and Reading

036. Take a Wilderness First Aid course

037. Take a drawing course [May 18, 2010 – I took the basic drawing course offered at CSU, Chico]

038. Read 12 classic novels books. [3/12 – List of books read]

039. Attend a Second Saturday Art Walk

040. Go to a symphony concert

041. Go to a live musical [Feb 5, 2010]

Personal/Just for Fun

042. Have a professional massage

043. Go skinny dipping

Coates Place Website

044. Finish the old travel articles for this site

045. Automate the photo stream on the home page of this site [Dec 9, 2009]

Travel and Outdoors

046. Hike or mountain bike all of the trails in Upper Bidwell Park

047. Hike a trail in Castle Crags State Park

048. Hike to Bumpass Hell in Lassen National Park

049. Climb Lassen Peak

050. Tour the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield [Feb 18, 2008]

051. Visit King's Canyon/Sequoia National Park

052. Visit Death Valley National Park

053. Go to Santa Cruz

054. Visit North Carolina in the spring

055. Take a backpacking trip with Dad

056. Visit a state or Canadian province I haven't yet been to [Feb 28 - Mar 2, 2008Visited the Fishes in Colorado]

057. Get a passport

058. Visit a country that is not in North America

059. Learn to ski well enough to do a full run at Shasta without falling and with a clean stop at the end

060. Buy a canoe

061. Go snowshoeing

Business — Divine Reflections Photography

062. Replace our logo with one that is professionally designed

063. Catch up on copyright registrations

064. Register a trademark for our business name

065. Purchase business insurance policy [February 16, 2009]

066. Finish our business plan

067. Build our portrait business to the point that we are consistently shooting 1 portrait session per week

068. Read 16 books that will help me make our business better [3/16 – List of books read]

069. Write a book review for the business site of each of the above business books (I've decided to keep all book reviews together on this site.)

070. Add comments hosted on our server to the blog [Dec 20, 2007]

071. Update the galleries on our website with our new, better work [June 21, 2008 – We launched a completely new baby and child portrait brand including a website with a brand new gallery.]

072. Buy a high-end Nikon digital camera so that our low-light lifestyle portraits really sing [April 14, 2008]

073. Completely archive and catalog all film and digital business and all digital personal images

074. Take a trip to Chattanooga to see Amber and Nathan and observe how they run their business

075. Print and hang enough of our portrait images to make our living room and dining room client meeting room into an adequate client meeting area

076. Design and purchase a sample Baby's First Year album to show clients [April 14, 2008]

077. Take 3 week-long (5-day) trips that are specifically nature photography related

078. Print a portfolio of my nature images

079. Have my first solo gallery show

080. Create 50 book-quality images for my Bidwell Park project

081. Create 25 book-quality images of foster children for my foster child portrait project

082. Create 25 book-quality images for my Street Performer project

083. Take portraits of Nanny and Grandaddy [January 1, 2010]

084. Photograph Mossbrae Falls

085. Complete a 26 things project

086. Purchase and learn to use a large format camera [Dec 8, 2008 – Purchased a 4x5 camera]

087. License a rights-managed photo [Jan 14, 2010]

088. Attend the WPPI trade show

089. Attend at least 2 photography workshops, or take 2 photography classes, or do 1 of each

090. Attend an OSP event with Crystal [Feb 16-17, 2008 – Attended OSP West in Napa]

091. Give 6 framed nature prints to people who would enjoy them but wouldn't be able to afford to buy them [0/6]

092. Do at least 6 pro bono photo sessions for needy families [0/6]

Business — Coatesoft

093. Get Postfix and IMAP working on my new web server [April 9, 2008]

094. Finish moving all my websites to my new server [Dec 17, 2007]

095. Get a professionally designed logo for Coatesoft

096. Design and publish the Coatesoft Website

097. Finish my blog software (makes uploading/formatting photos in articles very easy)

098. Finish the beta version of Photo Business Plus

099. Find good beta testers for Photo Business Plus

100. Release version 1.0 of Photo Business Plus

The Big Dream™

101. Quit my job at CSU, Chico in order to work full time in our photography and software businesses.


Whew! This is going to be challenging and fun! I should add one final note: as a Christian, God can and probably will change some or all of these goals as He sees fit. So, pretend that there is a "God willing" after every one of these items.

Posted by Greg on December 3, 2007 at 8:00AM.

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A Morning in My Life

7:00 I awake to the sound of Bethany's cries.

7:01 I roll out of bed to attend to the screaming baby and remember I really have to use the bathroom.

7:02 Emily greets me while I am sitting on the potty. She explains that she needs to use it right then as well.

7:03 William and Emily are asking for "celeal" and Sesame Street as I am grabbing Bethany.

7:04 I am wishing I could go back to bed while the incessant chirping of Emily and William remind me that I can sleep when I die.

7:05 I realize that Bethany soaked through her diaper. I remember why I didn't like to wet myself as a kid.

7:06 I change Bethany as she and William and Emily are screaming for their breakfast. I threaten to go back to bed if they don't quiet down. Bethany decides she wasn't done going potty and that I needed a whole different type of shower.

7:07 I strip down to my underwear, grab cereal for the toddlers, get a bottle for the baby, and call for Ariana.

7:15 I have now called Ariana downstairs three times, and I start up the stairs. I arrive in her room just in time for her to come to her door. It takes her exactly 1 second to notice that I am not wearing my clothes, and she shrieks. I threaten to start dancing with her while I am in my underwear if she doesn't go and keep an eye on the kids while they eat. She immediately runs down the stairs.

7:18 I jump in the shower for a quick wash.

7:19 Emily has opened the shower door and is asking for a shower too. The water has already gotten her wet. I explain that she just got one, and I shut the door and call for Ariana again.

7:20 Ariana calls for Emily, and Emily tells me I am a mean mommy.

7:25 I finish my shower in time to hear William screaming as he walks up the stairs. I momentarily wonder if I really have to leave my bedroom.

7:28 I go downstairs, clean up breakfast, and head back upstairs to get the kids dressed.

7:30 I am ready for nap time, and then I remember that everyone has only been awake for 25 minutes. I start to dress Bethany but am interrupted when William takes a toy from Emily, and Emily smacks William. I tell Emily to go to time out while the baby crawls away. I grab the baby and quickly put an outfit on her. I place myself strategically at the door so that no one can escape. Then I hurriedly start to dress William who completely refuses to dress himself. I began my daily explanation of, "Yes, I will let you leave the house naked in the cold if you don't pull up your pants." He begins to scream. Emily explains to me that he indeed has a penis, which makes him a boy, and that she has a vagina, which makes her a girl. Bethany starts to laugh and begins to put the dog's tail in her mouth. I am wondering what I was thinking when I wanted to be a mom.

7:45 All the children are dressed. Emily announces that she is a good girl and needs a treat. William is still screaming about putting on his clothes, and Bethany is still determined to eat the dog.

7:50 Everyone is loaded in the car. William is still screaming about not having all of his clothes on. Emily is telling him he made a bad choice. Ariana is still not awake. We take Greg to work because the second car is broken.

8:10 Greg gets out of the car. Emily and William call out "Ow ow dada, you a hottie!" (All right. This is my fault. I did say this a couple times, but come on...) The college students walking by make a mental note to stock up on their birth control.

8:25 We arrive back home, Ariana and I unload the children, and everyone files into the house.

8:26 I turn on the TV to my favorite show. The kids are mesmerized by Elmo and the stupid yellow bird. I know I have exactly 33 minutes to take a deep breath and get a stiff drink.

9:00 I turn off the TV. I read 3 different stories, and then I read their favorite story 5 different times. I remind William to please call them "socks" and not "cocks" for the millionth time or so. Emily wants a snack, and William wants a movie and a snack. I explain that snack time is not until 10:30, and then I realize they can't tell time.

9:45 I play games, edit pictures, take phone calls, and change diapers.

10:30 It's snack time, which should be a wonderful time of eating. I dole out the apple slices and string cheese. I attend to Bethany and explain that the KIX are not to be thrown at mommy. Emily and William have decided that string cheese does indeed make great table art. I thank them for letting me know that they are done with snack. William and Emily begin to cry. Emily informs me that I did not make a good choice.

11:00 It's time to run a few errands. I am not sure what state of insanity I enter during this time, but the details are blocked out due to post traumatic stress disorder.

12:30 I prepare a nice healthy lunch, which is never what they desire. Emily informs me again that she needs a treat, and William decides that his lunch can be eaten in only 3 bites! I clean them up, and I excitedly announce it is my favorite time of the day, nap time.

Posted by Crystal on December 1, 2007 at 5:25PM.

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