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This is a very personal post about love, life, fear, and loss. We live every day at risk of a loss, but it does no good to think about that. We take precautions, or we should, then we should be thankful for each day.

It’s been a tough couple of weeks, especially for people I care for. An old friend passed away. My neighbor’s twenty-two year-old son died tragically on Easter. And the granddaughter of very close friends was just found to have a form of leukemia. These things happen somewhere every day, but usually they are distant. It’s always difficult to hear about anyone’s death or sickness, but when it gets close to you, it becomes personal and it shakes you.

My old friend’s death was a loss, but it was not sad. He lived a full and very productive life having lived a mostly healthy 94 years. He was successful, a war hero, a man who put himself in harm’s way for his country and lived through it. He loved life and lived with gusto, although he too had to suffer the loss of his son at a young age, and the death of his wife a few years ago. Nevertheless, his life was to be celebrated.

It’s different when a young man dies just at the peak of living and at the doorstep of a life full of accomplishments and memories. His family is stricken forever. We will never understand. I pray there is a purpose to it all.

Then a young girl is faced with a battle that even the strongest of warriors would never want to experience. To see her and talk to her, you would never think this would be part of God's plan. She is smart, she is engaging, she is pretty, and she deserves all life can bring to her. She is also strong and has a very supportive family. And with today’s technology and treatment, I am certain she can beat this--but it won’t be easy for her and her family. 


Happiness fills the bulk of our lives when we realize what we have. We can’t be happy if we worry about things that will likely never happen. You can’t be fearful of an unknown event or prepare for sorrow because you can’t practice that--and you certainly shouldn’t expect bad things to happen. Instead, love those around you today, and live life to its fullest. 

I reflect on these realities because, for me, it is a time of celebration, sorrow, and hope. Celebration of a life lived well. Sorrow for a life lost way too soon. And hope for a young girl in a very tough battle. Anything can happen at any time to any of us. This is why you must enjoy, love, and appreciate what you have this moment because life is ephemeral--nothing lasts forever. What you do and say today is very important to those you love and that love you in return. I often forget that. We all do. 

We also can’t take away the shock and sorrow when someone close to us has to deal with a tragic or earth-shattering event--but we can give them support. Caring with true sincerity is one of the few things that can help someone face what is difficult to face.

As for me:
  • I accept with celebration the loss of an old friend.
  • I accept with deep sorrow the loss of a young man whose life was cut way too short.
  • I give all my prayers, hopes, support, and strong belief of recovery for my friends’ granddaughter! I am optimistic! It doesn't make much sense to be otherwise.

So you got a traffic ticket and lost your wallet all within 12 hours. Not the best day, but not a bad day--not really. Today and each day, I want my friends and family to know that I love them; and I will be there when they need me as I know they will be with me when I need them. This is something you can do also. 


Thanks for reading!


 
 
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Those of you have read Dale Carnegie will find this article to be familiar. There is a good reason for this. The six suggestions below are from Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. I’m taking the liberty of putting his ideas in the framework of parenting.

Too many mothers and fathers think they are good parents if their children like them. Nothing could be further from the truth!  Of course we want our children to like us, but it is more important that they respect us. You know kids can love parents without liking them, right? Not always getting their way will cause children to think like this. Do the right things for your kids by never taking the easy way out of a situation. They will love you even more when they realize you gave them good advice and wise mentoring at a time they didn’t think you were that smart.

Respect and influence as a parent comes about when you:

1.       Show genuine interest in them. Know their fears, joys, and interests. Know their friends. Check in on them often and ask how they are doing. Encourage them when they need a push and reign them if they going in the wrong direction. Let them know you care!

2.       Smile. When you smile, you are approachable. Parents should be always be approachable! Don’t be a grouch. Don’t take your aggravations out on your kids. Lighten up! Be fun to be around.

3.       Use their name. Address them by their preferred name. Don’t call them Robert if they like to be called Bobby. Never ever call them ‘stupid’ or ‘brat’! Be courteous with them. Saying, “Hey! Get over here!” does not sound respectful nor does it create cooperation. More preferable is saying, “Jimmy, can you come here a second?”

4.       Be a good listener. This is not only showing interest in them, it tells them they are important enough for your time. Every occasion your children speak, you are learning something about them. Try to see things from their point of view. If they are little, get down to their level. It’s not always easy to pay attention when you are busy. But do what you can to let them understand you are listening or will listen when you get home or finish a task.

5.       Talk about their interests. Ballet, baseball, school, friends—whatever their interests are is what will help you to communicate with them. When you ask them general questions, they may give one word answers, but specific questions about their interests may help to get the conversation going. Remember to encourage them to do their best in their endeavors and be a cheerleader.

6.       Make them feel important. Self-confidence comes from a feeling of belonging. When your kids feel important, it helps their self-esteem. They will feel important if you show interest in them and listen. But there is a fine line between allowing them to feel important and putting them on a pedestal. They shouldn’t be above anyone. Any signs of their nose in the air or chest puffed out too far and you may need to do an attitude adjustment.

A couple of other points not mentioned by Mr. Carnegie. Try to inform our kids of the rules, limits, and rewards, and always do what say you will do. This includes those promised rewards--and consequences if rules are broken. If you don’t, your children will lose respect for your authority and your influence will diminish. Of course, there are times things get out of your control and you cannot keep a promise. When this happens, be sure to explain the details to your child.
  • Tell your children right from wrong, and they will know right from wrong.
  • Tell them how, and they will know how.
  • Tell them where, and they can go there.
  • Tell them when, and they can do it then.
  • Tell them who, and they will know who. 
  • Tell them why, and they will do ‘it’ with confidence and enthusiasm.
  • Sometimes there’s not enough time, or it’s the wrong time to explain why this or that, but do it later.
Who, what, when, where, why. It’s the ‘why’ that is often forgotten. But the child that wants to know why is the child who is most likely to succeed. If answered honestly and convincingly, you will have a devoted follower.

There is much more to Dale Carnegie’s book. I highly suggest you read it--and have your children read it when they are in their late teens, early twenties. 


 
 
PictureKathy and me with 3 of our 4 grandchildren at the farmhouse
In my last post, “Five Obligations of the Best Parents” I mentioned those less than tangible things that loving and mentoring parents do for their children. The one obligation that I got the most feedback was ‘creating memories’. That took me somewhat by surprise, although I was happy to hear the sentiment. The feedback from readers mentioned some of their own memories and emphasized that it’s the simple things that really stuck with them.

Seven years ago I bought a 100+ year old farmhouse on three acres. I didn’t buy it as an investment nor did I need a hobby or have a gift for rehabbing. My wife Kathy and I had just found out that our first grandchild was on the way. I assumed more grandchildren were coming but it didn’t matter how many, I wanted all of them to have wonderful childhood memories. Kathy and I wanted to be a part of creating those memories.


Seven years later, we now have four grandchildren. The farmhouse now features a playhouse, a playset, a tire swing, a motorized kids’ tractor, with a tree house and more in the future. We have had reunions, birthdays, huge parties, bonfires, along with quiet moments with friends and family. My oldest granddaughter and her dad has planted apple trees together. She has had numerous playdates with friends. My two year old grandson constantly begs to go to ‘the farmhouse’ so he can ride my John Deere mower or visit the nearby creek. The two younger granddaughters will get to know the farmhouse better as they get older. They are only 18 months and ten days old, but I can already see them running around, having fun with each other!

My siblings and I did not have precious memories like these. Our memories were harsher and mostly forgotten. We did not have roots, or a father who cared about our well-being, nor did we have grandparents with the means to do what Kathy and I are doing for our grandchildren. I am passionate about giving them a happy childhood. Not a childhood free of rules and limits, but a childhood free of unnecessary fears and full of wonderful, loving experiences.

No, it’s not so simple to buy a farmhouse for creating memories. But for my grandchildren, their parents, and for Kathy and me, the happiest of memories we have had, and will have in the future, will be the simplest of acts—and they happen everywhere, not just at a farmhouse. Let me mention just a few  of the things most of us consider 'simply' wonderful. 

PictureFun at the farmhouse.
The Simple Moments

A picnic, playing catch, skipping rocks, watching airplanes land, buying nachos in the fourth inning, taking a hike in the woods, going to the train station, feeding ducks, watching monkeys at the zoo, sleeping in the back yard under the stars, Fourth of July fireworks, playing hide and seek, riding on grandpa’s shoulders, watching a blazing sunrise/sunset, stomping in a puddle, building a fort, running in the grass, having a snowball fight, jumping on the bed, watching tractors work, going fishing, popcorn at a matinee movie, tea parties, reading books together, watching dad perform magic tricks, seeing your mom dance, riding your bike, being cuddled, homemade waffles on Saturday morning, sharing an ice cream cone, spending a day alone with dad, being sung to by mom, cotton candy at the fair, building sandcastles on vacation, tire swings, ……..there is no end……


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Loving attention is the best memory of all--very inexpensive yet very valuable!

 
 
PictureHey Dad! Are you?
Duty, responsibility, job, obligation, commitment, promise, dedication, sacrifice--these are words that tie us to others. When someone is described within these terms, you really know most of what you really need to know of them. Of course if you don’t care to know them, then other characteristics come into play. You want your chef to be a good cook. You want your favorite football player to be a great athlete, or your surgeon to have skilled hands. But whether the person can sing, dance, run fast, or think brilliantly doesn’t really tell us what we need to know about them as friends--or as mothers or fathers.

There are responsibilities a parent is expected to do like feed, clothe, and shelter their children. The vast majority of parents do this without a second thought. But that is certainly not enough. Our children need love, support, and attention. Let’s go over five duties, responsibilities, jobs, and/or obligations parents have towards their children that are basic, but not always emphasized. These are commitments that must have a high priority. They are also promises, stated or not, that you must keep.

Create Memories

It is very important that one of your obligations is to create fond memories that will last for a lifetime. I once had the opinion that the last thing I would spend my money on was a vacation, my logic being that you would have nothing to show for it when it was over. But I couldn’t have been more wrong! Good memories bring experience, nostalgia, and depth to anyone’s life. A life without good memories is empty and vapid, a canvas of stick figures. When you create memories, the canvas of your children’s lives becomes alive with colors, style, and definition. Memories that you want to remember usually include family time together, moments of achievement, and fun.

Build Character

Young children are like clay and can be molded into something more wonderful than if left to fend for themselves. You want the clay to be supported with a tough inner structure. Parents have to work with what they are given, but they can always make the best of what they have to work with. This means they must teach guiding principles like honesty, a good work ethic, respect, and kindness to others. Children must be challenged and also be mentored through those challenges. Those who struggle to succeed are much stronger than those to whom things are given.

Teach Confidence

Although a few individuals appear to be naturally confident, almost all of us need to experience successes to learn the feeling of confidence. This is a trait most parents don’t think about improving in their children. It’s not difficult to do with a little imagination. Give them reachable challenges, and when they succeed, make the next challenge a little more difficult. These challenges are like lifting weights. Each success makes them stronger, and you do it gradually. Know their fears and find ways to address them. Helping children to erase their fears will be something they may appreciate above all others.

Be Protective

Protect your children, especially from danger! That includes situations and people. Being protective doesn’t mean they shouldn’t deal with adversity. Actually, allowing your children to work through things helps to protect them by teaching cooperation, instincts, and survival. Do protect them from bad influences or bad habits. Be strong and insist on certain principles to keep them out of dangerous situations or succumbing to peer pressure. Be in charge—be a leader and great example.

Give Comfort

The home is the place where kids should feel safe and at ease. It the place where failures can be understood and explained--where you give them the courage to try again. Parents should be the best cheerleaders your kids have. Encouragement, support, mentoring, love, and understanding are what parents can give to them better than anyone else, because you want them to succeed so much. Be aware, however, not to give your kids comfort for the wrong reasons. For instance, comforting your son for receiving a bad grade is not a good idea.

Summary

To be successful in these obligations as a parent, you must be a person of character, have good parenting skills, be consistent, and take the time necessary to do the right things for your kids. In short, you must be there and be involved in the important things in their lives. You are a provider, teacher, master communicator, judge, and most of all, an example to your children. Sometimes you will think they aren’t listening to you, but be assured, they are ALWAYS watching you!

These obligations are discussed in my book on Dadhood. Thanks for reading.



 
 
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For fifteen years I reflected on my childhood and fatherhood while looking for books on being a dad. Fortunately, Power Dads”, by Wayne Parker was not published until 2015 or I may never have written my book, “The Power of Dadhood. Not that our books are identical, but our approach to fatherhood is remarkably similar. Parker’s book was the one I was looking for but could never find.

There are many wonderful books on fatherhood. Many are written by pediatricians or psychologists which bring professional views and discussion on the topic. Others, by nonprofessionals--everyday dads, are often whimsical, anecdotal, clever, or funny. What I found in Power Dads, just as I attempted in my book on Dadhood, is a mentoring style that teaches without being technical. It is simple effective advice on being the best dad you can be. Wayne Parker knows fatherhood as the expert on that topic on About.com. I had been reading his advice for some time. You can find him at http://fatherhood.about.com/.

Power Dads is a wonderful book for all fathers! The basis of Wayne Parker’s book are ten principles all dads should understand and embrace. He then ties these principles to situations every involved father will face, but may not know how to handle. A very important chapter in my mind is ‘Ten Common Discipline Mistakes’. Every parent should read this chapter and live by it.

Parker explains that having principles and teaching respect and discipline is truly how you show your love. I also was impressed that Mr. Parker wrote about teaching your children patriotism and respect for their country. He tackles the topic of discussing sex in a very tender way based on the age of your children. He discusses the big picture also. Balancing, simplifying, and compartmentalizing your life as a dad and as an individual are clearly explained and emphasized. As one of his mentors, Parker incorporates many of the principles of Stephen R. Covey, who wrote “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and once said, "First you must understand, then you must be understood."

Wayne Parker understands the the power of fatherhood and along with that, he knows how to write to be understood. What a great gift Power Dads would be for any son, husband, nephew, grandson, etc. who is a father. If you are a dad reading this, buy it for yourself! But, of course, buy it as a companion to The Power of Dadhood. We aren’t in competition. We are partners in bringing fathers into the Dadhood stratosphere!


 
 
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The problem with men is that we never think we need any help. Directions? No! Dressing nicely? No help needed here. Reminders? Hey, I won’t forget next time. Go to the doctor? Naw, I’ll be okay (cough-cough). In fact, I’ll admit, the only thing I need help with is finding stuff in the refrigerator. I stare—but what I need never jumps out at me.

That’s the issue regarding convincing a man to read a book about being a better dad to a father who doesn’t think he needs any help. Men read books that expand their vocabulary on sports, guns, transportation (cars, trains, airplanes, etc.) and sometimes history, especially westerns and war. But ‘parenting books and fathers’ is not a combination of words you’ll find too often. On the other hand, a ‘parenting books and moms’ search would break the Internet!

Listen to what I have to say...You don’t know what you don’t know about parenting! There are tons of things about being a father that I don't know--and I wrote a book about fatherhood. To assume you’re the best you can be for your kids is cheating them.

Men do look for help on some things--hobbies or sports for instance. Men look for an edge in competition. We want to be the best in whatever we are involved in, that is, if we are competing with friends either formally or informally about a common interest. You could be a collector, hunter, runner, golfer, car guy, sports nut, or hobbyist and you will want to be respected for it. But when it comes to being a dad, you still want to be respected, but you don't care to work at it. It's not a competitive sport.

There isn’t any competition in Dadhood, nor should there be. You’re not competing as a father. That would be like a horse running a race by itself. You are it! Your kids have only one father and you should want to be the best one there is. Not the most likeable dad, nor the wittiest, nor the most athletic. You want to be the best at having principles, being consistent, being involved, loving, with lots of fun thrown in for good measure. Many, if not most fathers, think they are pretty good at dad stuff, and if they haven’t been involved too much lately, or not been consistent--they’ll get there, eventually. No you won’t! Not without a conscious effort, some admissions, and some guidance.

Let’s say there is a blog post on the Internet, the title of which is, “Nine Articles to Help You (Macho Man) Improve”. If statistics were kept for the most popular, or the most read articles, which of these articles would pique the interest of the most men?

  • Ten Kinds of Beer Steins
  • Less Strokes for Golf Folks
  • Archers Teach You How to Pull Strings
  • Seven Secrets to Bagging a Turkey
  • Fantasizing About Fantasy Football 
  • Hot Mods for Hot Rods
  • Makeup for Men is Okay—If It’s Camo!
  • Getting Dirty to Look Like You Were Hunting
  • How to be the Father Your Child Needs

I’m hoping the least popular would be either “Ten Kinds of Beer Steins” or “Makeup for Men…” But many men would pass on the ‘Father’ article for a couple reasons.

1)      It doesn’t sound interesting or sexy.
2)      You think you are a damn good dad already. 

There is third reason--you just don't care about being involved with your kids. I'm not sure what to say to the likes of you! 

Maybe parenting is a little duller than “Less Strokes for Golf Folks”, but it is WAY MORE IMPORTANT--even if your name is Tiger, “Stormin’ Norman”, or Vijay Singh!

Maybe you are a good dad and don't need a conversation on the topic. Don’t take that for granted. How do you know if you haven’t read, “Power Dads” by Wayne Parker, or "Critical Connection" by Andy Kerckhoff, or my book “The Power of Dadhood”, or many other books on the topic of dads and parenting? These books have principles you can think about or checklists to compare how you father. Don’t be afraid you will find out something you don’t want to know. Be excited that you can possibly, and likely, learn something new! Something that may help your children, the most important people on earth to you!

If men took parenting as seriously as they take sports or politics, and especially if they took parenting as seriously as mothers, the children in this world would be far better off.  Also, they would have learned from you and passed good parenting techniques on to your grandchildren!

A few generations of good moms and dads, and hey, we just might make the world a better place!

Come on, do it! Get better!


 
 
PictureApril, Michael, and Rachel
I took the liberty in my book “The Power of Dadhood” (yes, another reminder) to mention the little things my young children did that showed their love. I called them rewards but they were really gifts—the best ever! The rewards/gifts continue when your children thrive as adults. You don’t parent for rewards, you parent for your children’s success/happiness/contributions--whatever you choose to call it.

It’s my theory that when things are done right, the result turns out as you desire ~80% of the time. Similarly, when you do everything wrong, things can turn out okay anyway, ~20% of the time. But with those odds, I compassionately plea to do the right thing for your children. If you’re not sure what the right things are, read, ask, learn, and choose. Please understand, if your child has had issues with anything from friends to behavior to drugs, it doesn’t necessarily reflect upon you as a parent. The measure is where they might have been without you in their lives. Only you can really judge that!

It is clear that my children, now thriving adults, allowed me some credibility to write this book. Like me, they are not perfect by any means, but I couldn’t ask much more from them. I would like to tell you a little about each of them. Their successes do not involve riches, over-the-top accomplishments, or unique talents. They are just hard working, down-to-earth, good people. What more can any parent ask?

April:

April has blessed us in so many ways. She is gentle and always kind to everyone. I recall in high school a mentally challenged student who, ignored by most, was treated kindly by April. This girl became very enamored with April and followed her everywhere. It was sometimes awkward for her but April would never complain.

After dating him for years, April married the perfect guy for her, another Mike, who is a genius and a little quirky--but that is his charm. He’s the best dad ever and they are both constantly teaching and challenging our beautiful granddaughters.

April attended The University of Missouri on an academic scholarship. What parent doesn’t love that! She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the prestigious School of Journalism and she went on to get a Master’s Degree in Counseling. What continually impresses me is April’s professional presence and ability to talk to groups. After college, she was competitively selected to be a ‘Hot Dogger’ for the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. Through that job, she appeared on a national TV show in a segment on different ways to prepare hot dogs. She was simply at home and at ease and did a wonderful job on TV. I haven’t yet figured out where she got that talent.

Today April balances being a mom and work. She is a student counselor at a major university helping young people to maximize their education and future employment. It was April that was key to the fact I have authored a book. It was her direction and guidance that helped me organize my thoughts and notes into something readable. I can’t thank her enough for getting me through this project with her direction and encouragement.

Michael:

Michael, as he likes to be called, (I’m the only one that calls him Mike) is my only son. He’s quiet, strong, and has very loyal friends--even though he rarely talks--maybe that’s why. Still single in his mid-thirties, he has the potential to be a great dad someday. His nieces and nephew adore him.

Mike never was a big fan of school. He is a hands-on kind of guy. When he was a little boy, he would follow me around wanting to help whether it was mowing, fixing something, or working on my 1978 MGB. He went to college as it was understood all would do in our family. A few times he wanted to quit school and we asked him to hang in there. Finally we decided, after much pleading, that if college wasn’t for him, we weren’t going to force him to graduate. We told Mike that he could quit if he thought that was best for him. It was tough for us to tell him this and we waited to see what he would do. What he did was continue on until he graduated. We never heard another complaint. The day he graduated was celebrated heartily by the entire family.

Maybe because I was an Air Force pilot, Mike was interested in flying himself. He joined Air Force ROTC in college. Because he is a hands-on guy, he didn’t like the aspect of a desk job, which can happen after a few years of Air Force pilot duty. He asked if I, specifically, would mind him quitting Air Force ROTC. I agreed but admit I was disappointed. I had envisioned him flying F-22 fighters or B-2 bombers. After graduation from college Mike enlisted in the Army, but he had a plan. After two years as a helicopter mechanic, he was chosen for the Army Warrant Officer program to become an Army helicopter pilot. For those of you that don’t know, the Warrant Officer program is for experts in certain fields which allows them to do that job their entire career. That means Mike won’t ever have to be saddled with a desk job. He will fly his entire career.

Mike has now flown helicopters for 12 years and has served in Germany, Kosovo, Iraq, Egypt (his first flying assignment), Washington D.C. (flying dignitaries), Afghanistan, Hawaii, Ft. Campbell KY, and back to Afghanistan in a couple of weeks. In his first tour in Afghanistan, Mike was a medivac helicopter pilot and was decorated for risking his life to save his fellow soldiers. I couldn’t be prouder of him!

Rachel:

Rachel is our youngest and as a child was our feistiest. Rachel has always been full of life and a real people person. Rachel’s favorite phrase is “fun!” For as long as I can remember, Rachel wanted to be a mom. I thought she’d be married in her early twenties--but she never found the right guy. No worries, Rachel had ball as she dated, worked, and hung out with group of friends who continue to be her friends for life.

In her late twenties she met Kevin. Kevin had also been looking for the right person. Both had started to think they would never find someone but they found each other at the right time. They married three years ago and have a two year old who is boy all the way through, my tractor buddy! As I write this, Rachel is nine months pregnant with a little girl. We can’t wait to hold our fourth grandchild! I am very impressed with Rachel and Kevin as parents. They work so well together and are so loving. As a bonus, Kevin is quiet like my son, a sports guy too. We connect on this and many levels. A great person all the way through!

Rachel is an Occupational Therapist. With her people skills and compassion, this is the perfect occupation for her! Her specialty is brain injuries and beyond working with the patients, Rachel helps families get through very difficult times. Many of those families become her friends and they want to keep up with her after recovery.

Rachel raises the energy level wherever she goes. The other day I met her at a bank for a business transaction. When I got there, she was conversing with the bank staff like they were old friends. That’s how she is. She’s natural and real. And of my three kids, she is the most critical of me, as perfect as I am (wink-wink). She keeps me on my toes.

Summary

If you read my book you’ll see I don’t write about how to fix other than the simple issues your children may experience. I concentrated on something I believe is more important, that is, what you can do to minimize any potential issues by being loving, involved and nurturing--because it’s healthier and easier to prevent problems than to correct them. My siblings and I witnessed a lack of caring and nurturing from our father. He did nothing to help us find our way and we all suffered for it in different ways. I know the advice, encouragement, and tools I discuss in my book will help any father to help his children.

PS. The Power of Dadhood is currently being delivered earlier than advertised by Amazon. If you haven't already, you will receive your copy soon!


 
 
I've been back from Italy for five days. Still exhausted. Unpacking. Taxes are due. Been through 30 days of mail. Jet lag. Watched my grandson yesterday, along with granddaughter Rosie today, which Kathy and I were happy to do. Yard work needed on two houses and I've been working on my book release--coming April 28th. Soooo, I don't have a decent post ready for Dadhood. Yet I want to keep my blog schedule. 

Since this blog is sometimes written around photography, I am therefore going to tell you my 10 favorites of the photos I shot in Italy--and why I chose them. I'm sure most of you would have chosen some of the other 200+ photos published in this blog over my ten, and I'm happy about that! Please enjoy, and comments, good or constructive, are welcomed.

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Even with the Leaning Tower of Pisa and its Duomo to choose from, I chose this photo taken in Pisa as one of my favorites. I love the architecture, the colors, and the way the street curves. I took a similar photo in Nice, France that I really liked so when I saw this scene, I knew it had potential.


There are so many photos of the Leaning Tower, it is difficult to find something interesting that is new, especially those of all those folks holding it up. (Yes, I took some myself). On the other hand, not too many will take a photo of a Pisa thoroughfare, which I found more interesting because of its lack of notice by the "leaners".


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This may seem to be an unusual choice. The scenery is not beautiful. But I like two things about this photo.
 
1) The roof and railroad tracks converging on the left portion of the photo which, in turn, lead you to the one person in the photo.
2) The absence of any people except for the girl with her hair falling on her left side, large purse, and one bent knee. This photo captures a point in time in March of 2015 in Lucca, Italy and tells more of a story than being a picture of beauty.

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I had to choose a photo of Positano, on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. There were many photos that were equally pretty because this town is so photogenic.  This one shows the coastline, the beautiful mountainside homes and the wrought iron bench and fencing that frames the town. No talent is required for good photos on the Amalfi Coast!

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This may be my favorite photo that I took in Italy. It is from the town of Pienza in the province of Tuscany. First of all, my favorite landscape is tranquil, rolling green hills, not totally forested. This is Tuscany to a 'T'!

I had taken a photo of this same scene at midday but knew it would be even better near sunset. We left Pienza to tour more of the Tuscan countryside and returned before sunset.

This photo with the sun low to the west, lit up the olive trees and better defined the shape of the hills. The signature cypress trees put the exclamation point on the scene!    

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This is another photo of Tuscany taken at sunset. 

The road, lined with cypresses, leads to a small farm. The sun defines the crests of the hills. The scene stretches for miles from the nearby foliage to the distant mountains showing the depth and peacefulness of the area.

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This is The Church of St. Francis in Assisi Italy.  It is near the top of this mountaintop city. Also, this church is actually two complete churches, one on top of  the other. 

Many tourist never reach this level because of the climb and the mistake of only visiting the lower section of the building. I was lucky to find it.

I positioned myself so the sun was behind the bowed head of St. Francis. The horizon is distant and low, giving away the altitude of this beautiful church.

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No way could I pick a top ten photo of Italy and not include Cinque Terre! This is the first of two photos I chose from there, this being the second village from the south of five, named Manarola. I framed this shot from a low trail using an evergreen and interesting clouds 

The rock structure and the multi-colored homes make for a unique picturesque scene that can rarely be found anywhere in the world.

Another location where it is a challenge to take a bad photo!

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This is Vernazza, the middle of the five villages of Cinque Terra. 

I love this photo for the water, the boats, and all the colors.

The scene behind me was just as beautiful with magificent rock cliffs, lapping waters, and small waterfalls.



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One day after travelling, we spent a rainy day in Florence. The rain didn't deter many tourists from coming out. I had many photos of people with their multi-colored umbrellas walking the streets of Florence. I almost picked one of those umbrella photos as a top ten.

I settled, however, on this photo with no colorful umbrellas and few people. It has a feeling of a movie from the 40's, 50's, or 60's. 

The rain beautifully reflected the streetlights, which merge in the distance from both sides of the street.

A single lady holds her umbrella as she begins to cross the street. The two balls of light in the upper left corner balance the photo and can be found on the first building on the right as you walk onto the world famous Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno River. The cross on the right is green and signifies a 'farmacia' (pharmacy).

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This is the tenth and last photo, taken on my last day in Italy. I worked very hard to get this photo. First I  took the wrong bus on a very nasty morning and wasted a hour or more while hacking all day with a bad cough. I then found the correct route and waited 45 minutes in the rain for a bus. I had another issue which will remain mysterious.

But my delays paid off! Despite the forecast the clouds broke, they were dramatic, and the sun shone on Florence, including the Ponte Vecchio bridge, the Duomo, the tower of Palazzo Vecchio, the Arno River and much more. Taken from the Piazza Michelangelo, this is where many young men propose marriage to their chosen one. It is a classic scene and one of the few places where you can see the sky and mountains surrounding Florence. This is because of the narrow streets and many buildings in the city that obstruct those views.

As wonderful as this trip was, and despite how long we were there, we failed to make it to Venice, Lake Como, and the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. I can't imagine the beautiful photos that would have been possible in those locations. 

Thank you!
Mike

 
 
PictureSome of my family sent me photos of my printed book while I was in Italy.
Somewhere a little girl is twirling like a ballet dancer as her mom tells her how graceful she is. Her father left when she was two and she rarely asks about him. But she wonders if he is ever coming back to see her dance.

Sometime later, this young girl is becoming a young woman. Her father has been around sporadically but he has mostly ignored her and she longs for male attention. She wonders if she is worthy of male love.

Somewhere else a young teenaged boy is wondering what it takes to be a man. He wants to be respected but he doesn’t know how to get respect. Without any alternatives, he will listen to and follow someone who doesn’t care for his future like a nurturing father would. His own father is not involved in his life.

Everywhere, young girls are looking for the male attention they have never found and not knowing what true respectful attention is about. These maturing girls find young boys who want to show they are real men; their masculinity has to be proven. They charm these starving young girls just by their interest. What happens is inevitable.

The next generation, a little boy is growing up without his father. He has never known him and doesn’t know he is missing something very important in his life. He loves his mother so much, but she doesn’t have time to sign him up and take him to baseball games. She didn’t have a father either and really doesn’t understand these things. The boy she thought loved her, turned his back on her when he couldn’t face the responsibility of being a father. He didn’t know what to do because he never had a father himself.

What to do?

The only thing that will stop this expanding cycle of lost or abandoned parenting is an exceptional combination of a young man and woman. But they will need support and mentoring. There are fine organizations out there that try to intervene and help, and there are parents and grandparents who have lived this scene and try to keep it from repeating. I consider my book a tool to help them help the exceptional young men and women who want to improve their lives and the lives of their children.

Issues of the Present Father

But this cycle of absent fathers isn’t the only issue. Some men, who are seemingly responsible fathers, don’t know how to be real dads or don’t realize how impactful their fathering can be to their children’s welfare. They never really scrutinized themselves as fathers and are clueless to how much more effective they can be as dads, with just a slight change in attitude and a little enlightenment. I hope that my book will make them think about their fathering, understand the challenges, and learn the lessons that will match those challenges.

Suggestions

"The Power of Dadhood" can be read from front to back or as a reference to a particular issue.

  • The first thing a prospective father should read is Chapter 3, “To Be or Not to Be”.
  • The first thing a new father should read is Chapter 4, “The Social Implications of an Absent Father”
  • The first thing an experienced dad should read the ‘Dad’s Self-Inspection Checklist’ in the appendix.
Find someone who needs some advice and give this book to them!


Just four weeks to release!

Yes, the trip to Italy is over. It was beautiful and wonderful, but I'm happy to be home!


 
 
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This will be another break from fatherhood, Dadhood, parenting, etc.  After 23 days in Italy, we are returning in two days and I must get to work marketing my book. But the trip has been great and exhausting! I’ve logged 130+ miles walking and climbing in Italy. History here in Italy is beyond compare! There is so much to learn! But photography is my hobby and I loved the Amalfi Coast, the Tuscan countryside and finally…Cinque Terre!

The Cinque Terre, "The Five Lands", is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia and comprises five villages: Monterosso al MareVernazzaCorniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore , from north to south. My wife Kathy and I stayed in a very nice room in Manarola with a fantastic view as you will see in the photos. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, and cars cannot reach all these town from the outside. 

The towns were built in coves where, naturally, water flows from streams down from the mountains. Walking streets were built over the streams and you can hear rushing water in most areas of Manarola, Venazza, and Riomaggiore. Houses were built on solid rock and those rugged mountainsides that have soil are terraced for growing grapes, olives, lemons, etc.

The variation of house colors is due to the fact that while fishermen were doing their jobs just offshore, they wanted to be able to see their house easily. This way, they could make sure their wives were still home doing the wifely duties (or so it is said). Most of the families in the five villages made money by catching the fish and selling them in the small port villages. Fish was also their main source of food. Today, tourism is their bread and butter (pane and burro).

These days the towns are connected by trains along with the trails. The ride on the train from one town to the other may take from ninety seconds to three minutes. There is not much to see on the trains in Cinque Terre because they travel through tunnels. If you hike along the coast, when they are not closed due to landslides, you can walk between towns in a short amount of time. If you hike over the mountains, it can take five hours, sweat, and lots of steps to go to all five villages!

My hike from RIomaggiore to Manarola took me an hour and twenty minutes with breaks for breathing and taking photos. My iPhone health app said I climbed 86 floors and I think it was a mile or two. In a day and a half, we visited four of the towns, missing Corniglia, but I did see it from the trail (photos) and I visited the train station late one night when I was coming back to Manarola from Riomaggiore. I missed Manarola because the stop came so quickly and the train stopped shortly in a pitch black tunnel (a standard procedure, the entire train is too long). After 20 minutes in Corniglia, I made my way back to Manarola on the next train back.

I hope you enjoy the photos. It’s a very beautiful place!! Bellissimo!

Cinque Terre, Italy