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 more usual question I get asked, “What’s a Biltrix?”

The short answer, I’ve taken up ballroom dancing. The longer answer raises an even more peculiar 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. The reason I was at a loss for words was the beautiful woman I couldn’t get out of my mind. I’d fallen in love with her and that’s all I could think to say.

Meanwhile, 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. I finished reading my scribbled spiel 30 seconds into it, paused for another 5, and then blurted it out:

“… and I’m in love with a beautiful woman!”

Selfie Queen

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

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

Readers of Biltrix know her as the lovely Miss Alison Batley, and here’s how we met…

It began with an Alpaca

I’m a believer in providence. So, let me first say it did not begin with an alpaca. As a reminder, I did my doctoral dissertation on the Mind of God, which means I’m quite sure that’s where it all began, and I’ve got the evidence to back it up. In this temporal order, however, a good place to open the story is the prank that started it all.

It all began with the senior girl’s prank at Pinecrest Academy. It was such a prank, there hasn’t been one like it since — meaning there have been on pranks allowed at Pinecrest since, except for the boys prank that followed it. At the time, Alison was the single, young art teacher, and I was in the hiring process while substitute teaching on the side. As pranks go, the girls completely trashed the school to the extent of shutting it down for the first four hours of the day. I won’t get into the details — some of them gross.

The boys were then told they had a choice: they could either up the ante with a bigger prank or they could graduate with their class. Clever boys! They chose both options. They rented an alpaca. The rest is our story.


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

The day of the boys’ prank I was covering a theology 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. The lovely Miss Batley, who had a nicely timed planning period noticed our sojourn and came out to join us.

I remember thinking, Miss Batley and I somehow keep bumping into each other all over the high school. We saw each other at daily Mass before school each day. We caught each other’s eye in the halls and stairwells passing between classes. When I was scheduled to proctor an exam, she would pop up outside the secretary’s office at the precise moment I picked up the exams.

So I didn’t think it was too much of a coincidence when Miss Batley joined us on the lawn with the Alpaca, right out side the art room (in two shakes of an alpaca’s tail).

To be fair, I have to admit that I knew what I was doing when I pathetically tried to take a selfie with the alpaca — as the photography teacher appeared on the scene…

The alpaca was nervous and wouldn’t keep still. Clearly, I needed some help.

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


The girls didn’t seem to mind our wanton flirtation. The grumbling began when I invited them back up to their classroom. “But,” I said, “I want to show you a video.” And of course, as seniors late into the school year they couldn’t care less about a substitute teacher showing them a video. So to motivate 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. 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 how could the art teacher turn down the opportunity to critique some videography with 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 the alpaca, we she joined us to watch the video with the girls — who weren’t fooled by any of this either.

Long story short, here’s part of the chain of events leading up to our engagement!

Alison showed great interest in my video so we exchanged emails and I shared it with her. Further emails ensued and she shared some of her artwork and reflections with me. I thought “Hey! I’ve got this blog…” and offered to post some of her work on Biltrix (because we also do artsy stuff on Biltrix, you know). So we got together here and there to talk more about Biltrix, etc. 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.

So happens, It was not just any Friday but 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, since I helped with the editing.

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.

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, that it’s 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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