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Sunday, December 27, 2015

For the birds.

"I'll spread my wings, and I'll learn how to fly
I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky
And I'll make a wish
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway."

I can not say for sure, but I would assume most of us have wondered what it would feel like to fly? I know I would. 

Sure, I have been on countless airplanes, a hot air balloon, and a helicopter, but the thought of it being just me above the ground...well, we all know, if we were meant to be air born, we would have wings. As far as I know, we don't.

A number of years ago, I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. Yes, it was many years ago, but it left a huge impression on me about life and the desire to be different. It was so long ago I don't remember all of the details, but in reading Mr. Bach's other books, I learned about freedom, love, and being someone you didn't expect yourself to be. (I think it all came to be when I rode an open cockpit stunt plane over the Pacific Ocean; I was terrified but felt free as I knew it was completely out of my own control.) Yes, that's probably as deep as I can go for those who are wondering.

When I was a boy, like many other boys, I wanted to be a pilot; this was before I wanted to be an ichthyologist--or commonly know in the tropical circles---a fish doctor. Spoiler alert---My Dad put the end to that once he heard what they made for a living. Or in this case, didn't make for a living. But flying to me was cool; when I was very young, my parents took our entire family on a plane down to Florida for vacation and the experience really stuck. Since I am not that strong in math, and I really would not have done well with all of the details of handling a plane, it's probably a pretty good thing I am in advertising.

But we all have our dreams. Some are very real and some just dreams. I am pretty good at option number two, but have also been fortunate to fulfill a few of the first ones. 

Recently, I went to COSTCO with one of my daughters. She had been begging us to let her go to iFLY---a simulated skydiving company. It may be simulated, but when you go there and watch, it's pretty darn real! So, as I was checking out, I had my daughter go and purchase a hot dog and drink ($1.50 how can you beat it?) and I purchased 3 vouchers for iFLY without her knowing. She knew the moment I bought them as she watched me from afar. She kept asking and finally I said, "I am not telling." 

The photo above is of one of our three daughters in flight. All three did it, Susan and I sat out. Even though I was not in the air, for some reason I had more motion sickness than anyone in our family. Susan thought it was because of the photos and how I was moving to catch the girls in action. Whatever it was, it confirmed for me--I was not meant to fly!

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Letting them know you were there.

"And all of a sudden goin' fishin'
Wasn't such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad
Well I, I finally read the good book
And I took a good long hard look
At what I'd do if I could do it all again."

For every trip to St. Louis, one stop I make every attempt to make, is to the cemetery where various family members now call home. Yes, I have written on this topic before, but during this time of the year,when the holidays are upon us, family matters.

A few weeks ago my brother and I went out to visit my parents and aunt and uncle. He said, “Do you want to see where our grandparents are buried?” Of course I did. So we ventured to the front of the cemetery and there was the stone that reminded me of where I got my height, weight and perhaps sense of humor. Actually, my grandfather was a very funny man. He was very thin and quite bald; I was concerned when I was a young adult that the genetics would not play in my favor, but something skipped and I have more than he did at my age.

When my grandfather was a young man, his hair was so thick they called him, “cabbage head.” In today’s terms that would be considered weird, but back then I guess they had yet to experience the internet and other ways to be make fun of people. (A good thing.) Although he lost his hair, the reference continued and was shortened to “Cab.” It stuck to the day he died.

My grandmother, who we called “Dena,” was right there next to him. Although she passed away after he did, I am sure they are play Canasta or some other card game on a regular basis with their friends who also reside a few plots down. It’s kind of crazy to think about where we live when we’re alive and then often stay in the same ‘hood when we pass on.

There is one stone in the cemetery I have looked for a number of times when I have visited but have yet to find. The writing reflects the man’s love of gambling. With a sense of humor and understanding, it reads, “I’d rather be in Vegas!” That to me is funny and permanent.

As we move from one year to the next, and having had my Dad pass away this year, it’s a time for me to reflect again on how much they gave me—and what I intend to pass on when it’s my turn. My parents were married for nearly 60 years. In today’s times, when people get married, Vegas would lay odds against this happening. I am so glad they beat those odds. (Perhaps the man who would “Rather be in Vegas” would take the bet—nice to know he would lose.)

The photo above is part of a Jewish tradition. When you visit a loved one, or friend, you leave a stone letting them know you were there. Thankfully I only need a few stones when I visit, but I know there will be a time when a small bag will be in my hand. I just hope it’s a long ways off.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, December 7, 2015

This moment.

"This magic moment

While your lips are close to mine

Will last forever

Forever til the end of time."

There are moments we remember and others we recall; memories are much more powerful than the casual occurrences that are implanted somewhere in the back of our minds. When they are caught on film, tape or a memory card, they are ones that last forever—but sometimes you have to deal with what you have and it ends up living in your head.

So many times I had wished I had caught the moment when it was happening with a camera. There were times when I wasn’t taking photographs (yes, this is a true story) and as I think back, I know they would have been really powerful photographs. Many years ago, there was a storm brewing over a farm when the clouds broke open to shower sunlight on a barn—dark skies surrounded the farm and only the barn was lit. It could have been in National Geographic, but now, it’s only a story that I can tell with nothing more than, “you should have seen it.”

There was also a time when I was on a plane and as it was preparing to land at O’Hare, we thought it might be our last flight—as in forever. Thankfully a pilot, who was also a passenger sitting behind me, went to the cockpit (they actually opened the door) and he was able to determine the landing gear was “probably down.” To do so, he went to the middle of the plane and lifted the carpet to reveal a hole in the belly. But it was the image of the flight attendants, the pilot, and all those sitting near the hole—looking down that made the picture. If I only had an iPhone it would be there, instead today it is nestled in my iMind.

Yesterday I went to Best Buy to buy another external hard drive; we use them to store the many photos we take. When I got home, I added up the number of units we have in our home and took a wild guess as to how many pictures must be in these little black and silver boxes. The number was staggering—best guess, at least 2-3 million photos. 

Unlike normal entries in “Snap. Shot.” I am going to discuss the photo above in the middle of the blog. This photo was taken Saturday night. It was not spur of the moment capture for either the soon to be fiancĂ© or myself. But for his girlfriend, her night was about to become magical. We had arranged this for more than six months; having discussed many locations, best settings, time of day, but as the weather changed, and leaves hit the ground, it became limited as to where the best place would be. As it turned out, it could not have been a better location to capture what will be the starting point for a very happy marriage.

Here’s the story…

I waited for nearly 2 hours in 30 degree weather; traffic made the timing difficult for our friends as they ventured into the city. There were secret texts going back and forth, and a last minute phone call that let me know, “they would be there in less than 5 minutes.” 

Was I nervous? You bet I was!

Sure enough, as I was making certain I was ready to “get this,” people started to congregate around the location. I had this vision of people walking right into the frame over and over again. Six months, several locations, and there was only one thing to do. I went up to these three young women who were standing nearby and told them what was about to happen. They were so excited you would have thought they were the ones about to get engaged. They agreed to make sure no one would block my vantage point and did a really good job of telling people to “move away.”

Then it happened. My friend went down on one knee, his girlfriend stood with her hands over her mouth, and suddenly they went from being girlfriend and boyfriend to engaged. (If love could be captured by a Trust Nikon camera—it happened during that moment.)

The photo above was one of more than 300 taken in a span of 10 minutes. Fate was on our side as an outdoor sign for a diamond company said it all—and unlike the barn, airplane flight and countless other misses, we got it and she said, “Yes!”

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Sisters and other people in your life.

“I got the first kiss and she'll get the last
She's got the future, I got the past
I got the class ring, she got the diamond and wedding band
I got the boy, she got the man.”

No matter which side of the aisle you fall on, when love goes bad, there’s nothing to do but wonder what if things had not gone in that direction? First loves are the ones that prove you have a heart—if it breaks sometime later, it again reconfirms it’s still there. 

But we move on; we have to. Regardless of what we believe at that moment, there is someone out there who can help you move on to the next level of happiness. I know it all too well…I am sure the readers of “Snap.Shot.” and others do as well. If not, reach out, push forward, and do what you have to do to bring your life into a better place.

When I think back, I look at the people who came into my life and “took residence” into a very vulnerable part of my body—my heart. It’s never easy to lend or give it to someone, especially in today’s world of “forever after” which means a lot of different things then it did at one point. But when you do, and they take good care of it, there is no better feeling.

I cannot say for sure, but it seems when couples hit their 40s, life seems to take on a different level. We are beyond school, often we have seen our children grow to a point where they don’t need us the way they once did (spoiler alert--they do, but they think they don’t) and we wonder what’s next on the horizon?

It seems at this point we are truly exposed again to the person we have spent many years with; for so many of our friends it’s better. It’s very painful to watch when it’s not.

No matter what lies in the future, looking backward at past romances is never the same of what is remembered. The heart that was loaned, and given to another human being, is still yours. I am so thankful I entrusted it with someone who takes care of it with love.

The photo above is of two of our daughters. Although they are technically “half sisters,” you can be assured, they don’t look at one another that way. Together, they not only have the past, but they have the future of caring about one another as being family and creating memories together.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


“Hey there, weird kid in your high-top shoes
Sitting in the back of the class; I was just like you
Always left out, never fit in
Owning that path you're walking in
Mr. Misunderstood, Mr. Misunderstood.”

If you grew up in a perfect world, where everything went your way, good for you. Most of us reading, “Snap. Shot.” did not!

Recently, like yesterday, I was talking with my best friend from high school. Yes, it’s been a long time since those days, but we talk frequently and even though we touch on topics which are more applicable to how we were back in high school, in the end who really cares? 

Somehow it came up that my friend recently met the cousin of our high school valedictorian; this kid was not only popular, but president of the class, friendly, smart, good looking, and no one, I mean no one disliked him. If they did, they would never have admitted it. What did he and I have in common? Absolutely nothing. Sure, I was quasi-intelligent, but I went to Mizzou and he went to Harvard. He paid very little for his education, and the only reason I did the same was because Mizzou was in-state and my parents paid for it. (It was very inexpensive compared to today’s ridiculous tuition rates.)

During my formative years, when others would study preparing themselves for the world, I perfected talking on the phone and driving with my 3 best friends on Olive Street Road in St. Louis. We were really good by the way!

Fortunately I made it to a place—probably against some odds—but it’s those who were lost and remain that way who we should worry about. There has been enough tragedy in the news recently; something drove them to the edge. 

Being left out,and taking a different path, is hard; but if you look at many of the people we look up to today, you will find many were truly “Misunderstood.” But what about those from long ago?  If you have been on Facebook or any other social media, you just might be surprised when you look to see what has become of those who were so fortunate so many years ago. Some have remained fortunate…and you can probably guess the other option for others. These were the influencers who molded us—funny how life takes a turn.

As we enter the holidays, watch some of the videos available online; there are many that reflect how a nice gesture brings about a very big difference. Making a difference in someone’s life, whether you know them or not, is something that can never be misunderstood.

The photo above was taken in Colorado this past fall—-it reminds me, when we all work together, no individual is all that different.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Touch.

“Between the darkness on the street
And the houses filling up with light
Between the stillness in my heart
And the roar of the approaching night
Somebody's calling after somebody
Somebody turns the corner out of sight
Looking for somebody
Somewhere in the night.”

This time of the year can be confusing; it’s a time when families get together for the happiest of occasions, yet there also many families who are apart—whether by physical or mental distance; what should be the time of joy, can go a number of different ways.

This year, we have a little bit of both, and some in-between. 

One of our daughters is 13 hours (several time zones) away; if it were not for the wonder of technology, we would have no idea how she was enjoying her time so far away from home. We now see her on our computers, iphones, and read her words through text. On the flip side, there are other members of our family, where mental distance has placed a wedge into the relationship. I really wish this was not the case—I will leave it at that. I suspect I am not the only who has this situation to deal with, but then again if I can’t handle my own dealings, I am not able to provide any suggestions.

Last year we broke, and started, a new tradition. We had Thanksgiving at a restaurant in Chicago. At first I didn’t know if it was a good idea, but this year when it came up as an option, I voiced my opinion—“Let’s do it again.” It was so easy—no dishes, no full-day of kitchen activities (not me, my wife)—now it has turned into a much easier day to spend with family. 

I have thought back on what it would have been like as a kid to have had Thanksgiving at a restaurant and I am not sure I would have had the same opinion. My Mom (whose 85th Birthday would have been celebrated today) was very proud to bring this tradition to our table. Now with my wife Susan, I am very happy she is open to a change. For her, she is like my Mom, and very proud of what she brings to her family. It’s okay, we can re-create the entire experience another time.

In order to get this through, I had to convince our youngest daughter that it would be just as enjoyable to go back to the city and enjoy. How did I bribe her? We are going on a carriage ride. It’s something she’s wanted to do for a long time, and it’s time we do it. (My other daughter is not going to do it, she is very allergic to horses—-guess I will not be on the ride and I am just fine with that!)

If I could turn back time, I would love to have the relationship back that has been damaged. Hopefully next Thanksgiving, I will be saying, “Thanks” for having it happen—for this time, it will be in my thoughts.

The photo above was taken on Michigan Avenue yesterday; it’s an advertisement in a bus shelter and when you touch the glass, one of the candles lights. It is very cool and representative of the season. Just like the candles, I am hoping if you reach out and touch, something good may come of it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Road Home.

“But still they lead me back
To the long winding road
You left me waiting here
A long long time ago
Don't leave me standing here
Lead me to your door"

As we age, and as far as I know we all do, we look backward, forward and from many different angles of what our life has laid out for us.

It's when you are 18 or so, you often hit the road of life. But there are many different roads to take.

Life on the business road may or may not turn out to be as glamorous you thought it might be; you fly, drive, swim (actually you don't swim) to the place you are visiting on a very temporary basis. For me, it’s usually a Midwestern town that is welcoming, yet still not home. To quote from the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” 

But what about when your old home is no longer your home, and you're not on a business trip or vacation? Change happens. When it does you have to be prepared for the awkwardness of a new bedroom, kitchen, toilet, everything---we recently went through this as we moved from one community to another.  Since moving, I have had to learn the roads to our home. Whereas I thought it would be easy, last weekend not only did I get lost, but had to use GPS to locate my home. Thanks to my iPhone all turned out well.

Recently, I read on Facebook where a friend of mine was doing something I had to go through when my Dad passed away. They sold their home they grew up in. Home for me was the trusted structure I had ever entered. It was safe, it was embedded in my mind as the place I would go to when I knew all was going to be okay. It no longer is part of who I am, and even though I was less than a half-mile away this past weekend, there was no way I was going to venture back. (It would have been too awkward as I no longer felt welcome.)

I know of a few people who continue to live in the home where they were raised. Some purchased it from their parents, and/or some have gone back home to live during a time of transition; whatever it is, I feel a bit of jealousy. Not from where I am today, but of what I miss when I think about the door I would enter and feel welcome. It’s a door I will never walk through again; I am just finding new doors to enter, and know I will always have the key to the past when I want to travel back in time. (But the ones I love, and security of where I grew up, is gone.)

A few weeks ago, one of our daughters walked out our door to a land far far away. She went to Southeast Asia for a “gap year.” If we had gap years when I was her age, I didn’t know about them. But one thing I do know, is she will walk through many doors and hopefully pick up memories. We have made sure, there is a family waiting for her when she returns home in the summer.

The photo above was taken in the middle of a road outside Vail, Colorado; yes I checked to make sure there were no cars or trucks coming down the highway, I just needed to see where the road would take me through my trusty Nikon. Funny, I still don’t know for sure.

Thanks for stopping by.