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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Heroes don't come around every day.



"And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you'll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you"

We all have those who we look up to in our life. It might be a mother, father, sister or brother; it also might be someone you've never met but for some reason they hit a real chord with you. 

Stepping outside the ordinary, and doing something that makes a person extraordinary, is what makes life interesting. One person's belief of greatness might be looked upon by another as no big deal. We see it in our everyday lives and often it is on a much larger playing field.

This past year has been one for the ages. We saw the passing of many individuals who we deemed as geniuses in their fields, sports teams rise up and perform amazing feats, politicians defying all odds to either be elected or walk out the door. Today's "Snap.Shot." is not going to discuss politics, I am way smarter than that. 

Heroes have been around for a long time. You can travel back to the Gods who are part of mythology—and new names that have popped up in recent days. Whoever they might be, they have stepped up and done something different that makes them stand out. 

Although we didn't lose him last year, it seems like only yesterday when Robin Williams decided it was not worth being around any longer. It was tragic, it was personal, it was something that rocked millions of lives. "If he only knew," some might ask. He did, he just had trouble—apparently—being someone that excelled above many others in his field and understanding. He did a lot right, some wrong, but all in all he defied the odds from the moment he stepped onto the major stage as "Mork from Ork," I miss him.

I think we are all looking into the future to see who is going to emerge and help deal with the fears many people have at this time. There's an unknown and unknown's can be scary. A year from now, I am hoping we can look back and say, "we learned and we moved forward." For us, it's the way it has to be.

The photo above was of my hero in life. It's my Dad's obituary. Although he is coming up on the 2 year anniversary of his passing, I can say with absolute certainty—with the way he raised and guided me, he has provided me with the "with the strength to carry on" no matter what comes my way.

Thanks for stopping by.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

There is no "Step" in becoming a parent.




"When a single mom goes out on a date with somebody new
It always winds up feeling more like a job interview
My momma used to wonder if she'd ever meet someone
Who wouldn't find out about me and then turn around and run."

Being a parent can be enough of a challenge; being the unknown person coming into a child's life is like walking a tight rope. You have to look straight ahead, not be distracted by what's going on around you, and pray that you will make it through to the other side. 

Welcome to being the dreaded, "STEP-PARENT."

When I first entered my two daughter's lives I was greeted like the plague. "Who is this guy? Why is he here? When is he leaving? I hate him." As they both know, after 15 years, I stayed!

Today as we look back, and we did this past weekend by watching video and telling stories,  we know that together we formed a family that was one. I have watched them grow, mature, and make me very proud. Under no circumstances do I ever call them "step" anything. They're mine, I raised them (with my wife of course) and I love them. Period. 

Was it all easy? Of course not, but nothing in life that's important comes without its challenges. Once you get beyond the uncertainty, it all comes together. My memories include being the one who gave the final push to a 5-year old and watched her ride her bike for the first time; with a big smile and some missing teeth, she was so proud to tell her Mom the news. (She was out somewhere—too bad, it was fantastic.) I was also there during the breakups, let downs, and moments they would like forget—like when our oldest went to babysit. What she didn't know was her Mom was watching her walk away from the house when she was to head to one house and turned and went to a friend's house. (She was grounded at the time and thought she could outsmart her.) Uh huh.

As one has graduated college, and the other has entered her "first year" (no longer called "Freshman") it's amazing to see how they have grown up. What's interesting is they don't feel that way about me—ahh, that's what being a Dad is all about.

The photo is of all 4 of our daughters, I also have my son and daughter from a previous marriage--they don't live in Chicago. As a Dad, whether biological or not, the only "step" I ever plan to take is to make sure they know they're loved and I will always step up to help in any way I can.


Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, January 16, 2017

When the Big Top came down.



"Off comes the make up
Off comes the clown's disguise 
The curtain's fallin' 
The music softly dies.
But I hope your smilin'
As you're filin' out the door
As they say in this biz
That's all there is, there isn't anymore.

For the last 15-plus years, in late November the circus came to town. The Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks left town for cities far and wide— and in came The Ringling Bros Circus to put on "The Greatest Show on Earth." It was not only a tradition in our family, it was "must do." 

As the kids got older their interest wained; there was only one person who went every year. That was me. I loved going and taking pictures of the performers. My favorite subjects were the trapeze artists who hung over head. Their form, grace and skill were amazing to watch.

But that's coming to a close.

This weekend we learned the show is over. Ringling Bros will be shutting down after 146 years. I am still in shock and am very thankful we went to the show this past year. Although it changed, there were no elephants in the show any longer; they introduced some unusual animals which I am sure were just needed replacements and could be trained. The weirdest…that would be the pigs. Yes, they had huge pigs in the performance. I can tell you, there was a vast difference in the performance and it felt very forced—they did not look too happy either.

And, the number of clowns were reduced this year. I suspect that part of it had to do with what took place this past Halloween when suddenly "creepy" found itself in the same mention as "clown."

A number of years ago I went to the Ringling Bros museum in Sarasota, FL—but that was not what I remembered most from the trip. It was when we drove by a dilapidated building that was boarded up and could easily have been in a horror movie. That's when I learned…this was the former residence of many of the performers in the circus during the off season. After all of these years, it still spooks me. 

A couple of years ago, guests were allowed to go down to meet the performers. What we experienced were some of the nicest people who really were happy we were there. They took photos, asked us how many times we had been to a performance, and much more. Even if they were told to act this way to guests, it felt very genuine.

But now it's part of our past. The animals will be placed in a sanctuary, the performers will need to find new employment, and a tradition that created memories for millions of American families, will call it a day. 

The photo above was taken several years ago. The performer had hair that stood straight up; a lot of dippty-doo I assure you. During the performance he came right by our seats and I saw that this was no wig, it was really his hair. He's lucky it didn't break off it was that stiff. So there goes a tradition, one that will be missed by our family and millions of others.I guess now the United Center will need to find an event of some sort to fill in the dates that were reserved for us fans—-the circus has left our town.


Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Home. Less.




"She calls out to the man on the street 
He can see she's been crying 
She's got blisters on the soles of her feet 
She can't walk but she's trying."

Living in a big city we sometimes ignore time and place. Whether it's an iPhone playing music or sending texts, we go to places well beyond our surroundings and ignore everything. This can be good for daydreaming and catching up on irrelevant chat, but for those who need our attention, good luck..

It's cold this time of year. Maybe not to the South or the West, but here in Mid-central America, we deal with whatever Mother Nature tosses our way. When we slip inside our warm cars, homes or beds, we feel the comfort we yearn for. But what about those who have no car, home, or bed? They're literally out in the cold.

I have never been displaced. There are times when I was not sure what was going to happen in my world, but I have never feared being homeless. To me that would be frightening of course—not as frightening as going to jail—but pretty darn close. I am not preparing for either, but when you do see those who are down on their luck, it's not a bad idea to "Thank your lucky stars" and also help where you can.

Recently, while I was walking through the city, I had a young couple come up to me and ask for money. They must have known I had just come from the bank. Something was odd about it, they didn't appear to be in need. I was not going to ask them to prove it, and of course the ATM I use only gives out $20 bills, so I looked at both of them and said, "Here you go." Their eyes almost came out of their sockets; the warmth inside me was like a radiator. I was happy to help.

Move forward less than one week and sure enough there they are again. They asked for some help, I had not been to the ATM, but I did say, "You may not remember me, but I gave you $20 on Friday of last week." The woman said, "Your that guy! You helped us get a meal at McDonald's that night." They would have had to be really hungry to spend that much at Mickey D's so I didn't ask. I explained that I didn't have any money (I really didn't) and they said, "We completely understand, you gave us our meal for the day." Can you imagine? I can't.

The photo above is of a couple who have been on Michigan Avenue recently. They stick out because he plays a pink violin and are sitting on cement. As it turns out, he is a very good musician, but just picked the wrong place to call home as it is too cold outside.

Thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Found.



"There was a time when I was alone
Nowhere to go and no place to call home
My only friend was the man in the moon
And even sometimes he would go away, too."

For any of the non-male readers out there you might find today's "Snap. Shot." to be either enlightening or boring. I guess it all depends on what you want to know and/or how well I write it. 

The term "Momma's Boy" is very real; sorry guys but I think the person writing this was most definitely in that column. When growing up, or at least for me, my Mom was the rock I turned to during the times when I was in need of a shoulder, ear or hug to get me through what I thought was an earth-shattering moment. 

When I was very young, it likely had to do when friends (or my brother) hurt my feelings, the sensitivity would come through. Or in one instance when I was playing in the woods near our house when a large branch fell on my head. It must have been more than a twig since the side of my head was scarlet after it fell to the ground and stitches followed.. News flash, I recovered quickly with a trip to the doctor but the scar does prove I'm telling the truth. 

Who did I run to? My Mom!

Move forward to my teen years and the pain was much more internal and branches fell by the wayside; I had to deal with what I  thought were unrecoverable broken hearts. Again, although painful and deep, I recovered. Once again I ran to the person who brought me into this world. 

The most painful time, and this is pretty darn personal, was when the "love of my life" (at least so I thought at the time) decided she was no longer “going to be the love in my life.” I remember meeting up with my Mom, who was doing laundry downstairs, and just breaking down. The pain was very real and left a wound I never thought I would heal. It did. But what, and how, my Mom dealt with this trauma allowed me to move forward. What did she do? She gave me a hug and said “You’ll make it through.”

My Mom passed away on November 18, 2009. She was someone who no matter how much of a pain in the butt I was, believed in me—-and I believed in her.

Mom, I miss you every day (you too Dad) and want to thank you again for making me who I am today. 

The photo above was taken at our local zoo. No that’s not my Mom, but with the look on my face, and the way I was digging in, it could be me with some hairy ape.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Seeing the light.



"Your good and gone keeps me up all night
Along with Songs In The Key Of Life
I'm either gonna get over you
Or I'm gonna blow out my ears
Yeah, you're out there now
Doin' God knows how, and I'm stuck here
Havin' a record year."

There are times when we don't know why something has happened; we look to the stars and pretty much say, "What's up?" The deafening silence in return pretty much says quietly, "You figure it out."

Thanks a lot.

Many people felt that 2016 could not get over with fast enough. There were many occurrences that happened which left us stumped. Whether it was a sudden death of someone notable/family member, the U.S. election that left people shaking their heads (and some were nodding with pleasure) or the hard to believe fact that yes, THE CHICAGO CUBS had actually done it. If you missed 2016 due to being on a spaceship, desert island or underground, you missed a doozy. 

Change and surprise happens, it takes time to grasp it, but in the end we all move forward and it fades into the past. Think about it, we've had situations where we never thought we would forget what had happened and today they're not even recalled or remembered. Remember when J-Lo was married to the background dance? I wonder if you remembered his name was "Casper." She probably didn't, but I did. (It was a few husband's ago for her so please forgive.)

But, when the light shines down with good news, and the clouds clear, we see our moods lighten and a real belief that what we had experienced was just a fluke. There are people, we all know them, who do not see the clouds clearing any time soon. It's really tough to see someone go through this,  and no matter how hard you try to paint a positive picture, you know the canvas is going to be dark for some time. You can just sense it.

As the new year has moved toward the middle of its first month, I am making a real effort to help people who need a shoulder. If for no other reason, it makes me feel better. Hopefully they feel the same.

The photo above was taken at a college basketball game. One of the girls is a friend of the family, and although she is, and was, a sensational player—she decided to hang up her Nike's. The light that shone above her that day seemed to say, "You have bigger and better plans ahead never give up." She won't. 


Thanks for stopping by. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cheeleader.




"When I need motivation
My one solution is my queen
'Cause she stay strong (yeah yeah)
She is always in my corner
Right there when I want her
All these other girls are tempting
But I'm empty when you're gone
And they say."

There are many people who come into your world and help you make it through your day, month and sometimes even life. Some are friends, family or even strangers who pop in when you least expect it. Today's "Snap.Shot." is not about cheerleaders who you find on the court or field, no these are the ones who cheer you on, guide you, and provide you with a sense of purpose.

Certainly at an early age the two people who were my "biggest cheerleaders" were my Mom and Dad. They guided me through the early years and never let go until the day they passed away. I will always view them as the most important people in my life. Period. 

But then suddenly something happens….you meet other people who actually believe in you. I had some teachers who, for some ridiculous reason, saw something in me. I am not trying to be modest here, but I have no idea why. I was a screw off and I say that with pride.

When I graduated college, I left right away and headed to the biggest city in the Midwest; my car was full of clothes, had no job, and America was smack dab in the middle of a recession. Lucky me. No actually, lucky me. The first person who hired me took a chance; he hired someone who had no experience, yet gave me an opportunity to be an advertising account executive. (Yes, all of 23 and an "executive." Uh huh…sure I was.) My boss was a like a grandfather to us all. There were many young people and he would gather us around in his office and talk—often times after 3 martinis. It was an adventure, but he took care of us all.

One day, about a year and a half later, I gave my resignation and moved on. It was to be the position I would stay at the longest and during the 26 years I was with the company, I had several people guide me and taking me under their wings. My mentor and I worked together for 7 years and suddenly he was gone—cancer took him away. I was lost. To this day I think of him and the impact he had on my career…what did we have in common? Well for one thing we both had the messiest offices. But he was the boss and that was okay. 

Since that time I have had many people who have helped guide me down my career path; some were good at it, some only did it for their own good. I am sure many of use have encountered both types. However, when you have someone who really cares bout your future, and makes every attempt to catch you when you are about to fall, that's when you know you're very fortunate—make sure you don't blow it. 

The photo above was taken at a recent college football game. For me, it once again demonstrates that no matter how much you think you can do it on your own, you will always need some one to hold you up just in case you happen to fall.


Thanks for stopping by.