Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fresh set of eyes

In the work environment when we struggle with a problem sometimes the best solution is to get a "fresh set of eyes".  When we've stared at a problem for days, months or even years with little to no progress, a new perspective from someone else may be just the thing we need to get over the hump.

When it comes to achieving joy in our lives we may feel like our problems just perpetuate, that there's no real solution in sight.  Why am I not really happy with my life?  What can I do to get the kind of life I want?  No matter what we try or what we indulge, there's still that nagging emptiness that we just can't seem to fill.  I bet most of us will reach out to a close friend or that one family member who may be able to provide us all the answers, a new perspective if you will.  But how often are we frustrated when that go-to person can't make any more sense of our lives than we can?

As a child I saw the world in a particular way.  All things were fresh and new, as if they had never happened to anyone before.  The joy and excitement found in life's adventures filled me up and sustained me through my childhood.  But as I grew into adulthood it was easy to become disenchanted with life.  The same old same old didn't do it any more.  It was easy for me to fall into that trap of trying to grasp that next big thrill in order to fill some perceived hole in my life.

But along came fatherhood.  As a new father many of the same things I experienced as a child I now had the opportunity to see through the eyes of my daughter.  Disneyland, Christmas, days at the beach or the park - they all brought back distinct memories for me as a child.  But when I had the chance to experience them all over again through the eyes of my daughter it brought a whole new unique experience for me, a different, more fulfilling joy than I ever experienced as a kid.  Maybe it was maturity but most folks that know me would laugh at that conclusion.  I believe God opened my mind and my heart to see, "with new eyes", the life I was actually blessed with.  

Now with the arrival of my second grandson I'm experiencing the thrill of life all over again through the eyes of my two precious little boys.  Seeing my oldest grandson play with an empty box, pushing race cars across the floor, or just tossing a ball have filled me with an incomprehensible joy because I'm seeing life through his eyes.  The joy I feel is his joy in experiencing all things new.

Perhaps that's the trick.  Maybe we just need to put a fresh set of eyes on the life that's being experienced by the ones we love.  I'm not going to say I'm an old guy but I am old enough to know I've been around the block a few times and that REAL joy isn't necessarily found in my own personal pursuits but in the adventures of my little grandsons.

So this Thanksgiving season I wish to say that I'm so incredibly grateful and so incredibly blessed that I've been given new eyes to see the beauty and joy that's in this world.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Pursuit...

Mighty strange times we live in, huh?  First the Cubs win the World Series, and now a reality TV star has been elected President.  When the Chinese came up with the proverb, “May you live in interesting times”, I don’t think they could’ve imagined this. 

So, what’s next?  I tell ya I’m at a loss as how to process this.  If you’ve read any of my blogs you’ll know I’m pretty up front about things and can be a bit “TMI” at times.  So what I’m about to share is just my observations and thoughts on current events here in the US of A.  The honest truth is I’m conflicted, disappointed and very much concerned over the welfare of this once great country.

First things first, I didn’t vote for the Donald.  Now before anyone gets twisted in one direction or the other hear me out.  The only reason I voted for the other candidate is simple – from the sage advice of Michael Corleone, “Keep your friends close and keep your enemies closer.”  Right or wrong I figured that Clinton was a known entity.  Reprehensible in so many ways – honesty, integrity, moral character, you name it.  But it was my, perhaps naive, belief that someone like her in office could be contained by other elements of government.  I even entertained the idea that she would eventually get impeached and that I was really only voting for the Vice Presidential candidates. 

I suspect most Clinton supporters will rant about how horrible things will now become, that Armageddon is at hand and our dogs and children are no longer safe and male bosses will go back to slapping their female secretaries on the ass.  To them I say, “What did you expect?”  Plain and simple, Trump is a freak show on wheels.  But you have to ask yourself a question, what has happened that the natural, most logical course of action by the majority of the people of this country was to elect an ego-maniacal, self-serving, unqualified sycophant?  How bad have things become that electing Trump made sense?

I will say “we” have become so delusional over the last eight years about the condition of this country.  We had a black President, yes, I’m pointing out color, who convinced many of us that he was going to bring the country back together, that it was all about inclusion and harmony among all.  But these past eight years have been nothing but divisiveness, segregation and finger pointing.  Just look at last night’s election reporting.  It blew me away how the media focused almost entirely on the color, gender and intelligence of the American voters.  If you have two people with opposing views on a topic and you start by labeling them by their color, gender, orientation or whatever, the issue has now taken a back seat.  Through the manipulation by the media these voters will look across the table at each other, not seeing a person, but rather a black, Hispanic, white, male, female or whatever label that’s been applied.  To point out that women without college education were voting for Trump was one of several ways the very liberal media created bias among the population.  Should anyone really care who voted for whom?  I personally don’t.  So why the need to make that discrimination?

Although I’m not a fan of Trump I will say that I believe he’ll bring back some form of accountability.  Being a business man and understanding that performance is what affects the bottom line I think he has the potential to force people, businesses and government to step up and take accountability.  Last night’s election was a tremendous backlash over the way this country has been run over the last eight years.  We would do well to keep that in mind.  Now is not the time to finger point or make idle threats.  It’s time we all get involved in our communities and live righteous, upstanding lives.  Stop looking for handouts.  Stop seeking favor because you’re different or feel entitled.  Own your own condition and stop blaming others for your lot in life.  YOU are responsible for you. 

The only thing this government is responsible for providing us is life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness.  Many have tried to remove that word “pursuit”.  But we create our own happiness.  It is not given to us.  Until you learn that and embrace that you will continue to live a miserable, self-centered life.  Remember, the strength, character and will of this country was founded in that word “pursuit”.   If you honestly believe that the world is coming to an end, that there’s no future to be had for any of us I suggest you at least do this – pursue integrity, righteousness, compassion, service, honesty, good will and above all, love.  If we are really going to “make this country great again”, we have to start from the bottom up.    


Just my two cents.



Image provided by lifesitenews.com

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Right Tool for the Right Job - Sleeklens Presets and Brushes

Hey my fellow photogs!

Wanted to share with you a great new set of tools that I think you should add to your post-production work flows.  The good people at Sleeklens have an amazing offering of Lightroom and Photoshop presets and brushes that will really bring some snap to your photos and help you elevate your photography skills to the next level.  They have a wide range of packages of LR and PS presets and brushes geared towards all types of photography and techniques such as portraits, landscapes, products, textures, moods, seasons and affects.

I've had the opportunity to use their "Through the Woods" workflow for LR and I can honestly say I've found my new set of favorite tools.  Wow!  The wide range of presets, from the dramatic to the serene, are simply fantastic.  I know the challenge for many of us landscape photographers is capturing the "feeling" we have when we photograph landscapes.  The extensive preset options available in this package really makes it easy to find that perfect preset that brings out exactly what we are trying to capture.  The supporting adjustment brushes give the photographer so much flexibility when it comes to fine tuning an image.  This is really one of the best collection of post-production tools I've ever had the privilege to use.

Getting down to basics - the cost?  MORE than reasonable.  Installation and use?  About as easy as it can get.  I really encourage all of you to visit Sleeklens and check out all their product offerings.  You won't be disappointment.  See my before and after photos below.

https://sleeklens.com/product/landscape-lightroom-presets/

https://sleeklens.com/product-category/lightroom-presets

https://sleeklens.com/product/professional-photo-editing-service/



Friday, October 7, 2016

It's Inevitable, Part 2...

This was a post from my "Guten 365" blog back in 2012.  I've made a few modifications and updated to mark the times.  Certainly this is not a comprehensive list.  Feel free to add as you see fit.

  1. When you're running late, you'll hit every traffic light.
  2. A piece of toast or open faced peanut butter sandwich will always fall face down.
  3. Your transmission will fail shortly after you receive an unexpected bonus from work.
  4. Your phone will go off mute just as you're baby talkin' to your dog or yelling at your kids.
  5. A person with 30+ items, a checkbook and no understanding of the concept of exchanging money for goods will step in the express checkout line in front of you.
  6. Your car will need gas as you're late for an engagement.
  7. The one time your team is on TV they lose horribly.
  8. For you photographers, while in the middle of Photoshop-ing a highly complicated retouching project that you spent four hours on, your computer will suddenly crash.
  9. While creating your patented turkey and cheese sandwich you discover there is no cheese. 
  10. The day you feel like being lazy and making it a "movie day", all you can find on TV are Lindsay Lohan or Hillary Duff movies, or Swamp People marathons.
  11. When you're hoping to get their voice mail, they pick up.
  12. When you need them to pick up, you get their voice mail.
  13. When you're surrounded by a bunch of people, with no means of escape, the chili you had for lunch will kick in. 
  14. The day you decide to take a vacation day from work, an office emergency will require you to come in.
  15. On the day of your big social event, a zit the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro will appear on your face.
  16. The restaurant you've been Jones-ing to go to will be closed for renovations the night of your big, romantic evening.
  17. After a long week and you're heading home from work on a Friday and you need some rockin', pick me up tunes, the only songs playing on the radio are songs by Air Supply, Coldplay, Oasis or Rush.
  18. Your absolute, most favorite shirt will get a stain.
  19. When you DESPERATELY need toilet paper there will be none.
  20. Of the 60 days of record heat and dryness, the day you plan a barbeque is the one day it rains.
  21. The toner cartridge of your printer will run out when you have to print a report for your boss.
  22. That item you've spent months saving for and finally bought will be on sale the day after you bought it.
  23. Your pants button will pop off as you're frantically getting ready for work.
  24. Smoke alarm batteries will die in the middle of the night ("CHIRP, CHIRP, CHIRP!!")
  25. Your baby's diaper will explode as you're heading out the door.
  26. The biggest, widest person imaginable will be assigned the seat next to you on the airplane.
  27. The drunk person will always have the room next to yours.
  28. The car that refuses to drive the speed limit nor move over will eventually kick up that one, tiny rock that nicks your windshield.
  29. The post office clerk will put up the sign "Use Next Counter" just when it's your turn.
  30. Your boss will call a meeting on a Friday afternoon.
    The bottom line is, when you need something to be this way, life will almost always conspire against you to make it that way, or so it seems.

    Monday, July 4, 2016

    It's OUR fight...

    Right about now most people are up and prepping for a day of celebration that'll consist of mass quantities of eating, drinking, games and fireworks.  Facebook is already getting slammed with posts wishing everyone a safe and happy 4th as well as a call to remember our service men and women who are out there protecting the freedoms we enjoy.  But there's one thing that's missing, something far more important and critical to the reason why we celebrate this day in the first place.

    I'll say it right now - we've lost the meaning of the 4th of July.  I'm not talking about those street interviews where idiot teens and 20 somethings have no idea what the 4th of July means.  I mean collectively we've failed to see the importance of this date.  Somehow we've gotten to the point where we feel we're fulfilling our patriotic duty by merely posting photos of the American flag or saying thank you to our military personnel.  Our freedoms are not just ensured by those who put themselves in harms way.  Our freedoms are guaranteed by ALL of us.

    When I was commissioned in the United States Army I gave an oath to protect the Constitution from all enemies, foreign AND domestic.  We are so fortunate that some of our men and women are willing to don the uniform, pick up a gun and fight and die for our freedoms against foreign enemies.  As United States citizens we are obligated to pick up the fight here at home against the domestic enemies that threaten our way of life.  I'm not just talking about the radicalized rag heads or the self-absorbed discontented who go on shooting rampages in order to get their 15 minutes of fame.  I'm talking about those enemies that are willfully destroying our opportunities to purse life, liberty and happiness.

    A Christian really can't call themselves a Christian unless they thoroughly read and study the bible and practice it's virtues.  Similarly a United States citizen can't call themselves a citizen unless they read, study and practice the obligations set forth in our Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address.  Over two hundred years ago a bunch of folks on the east coast decided enough was enough and took over their country from a tyrannical government hell bent on exploiting and oppressing it's people.  I fear in some ways we're being faced with a similar situation.  We have a president that is clearly more concerned about the interest and well being of those people determined to destroy the safety and well being of this country.  Most all of the elected individuals we've put our trust into are nothing more than self-serving, petty, immature children that feel compelled to indulge in their wants and desires at the expense of the people they are suppose to serve.  Throwing temper tantrums and sit-ins, blocking legislation that would help citizens because someone else proposed it, shutting down government that's led to citizens losing their jobs, all because they got their egos bruised - is this truly government of the people, by the people and for the people?

    Folks we have a responsibility to fight agains those who seek to oppress us.  It's time we stood up to Washington and our so called leaders and say enough is enough.  We need to stop this mob mentality that just goes with popular opinion, as determined by the media.  We need to force our elected officials to force change.  We need to put a leash on our congressmen and women as well as our president.  We need to put people in office who aren't afraid to take a stand even if it offends someone.  And as American we need to accept the responsibility of fighting for and demanding this freedom.  It's no one else's fight but our own.

    So for this 4th of July take a moment to not only
    say thank you to a vet or knock back a few beers, but take the time to reflect on what it means to be an American and the responsibilities we ALL have in maintaining this country as it was intended.  Our freedoms are not the responsibility of someone else.  Freedom is something we all must fight for against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

    Thursday, December 31, 2015

    Resolve


    We're just hours away from closing the books on another year.  Many of us will be making new year resolutions to bring about a better life and a greater sense of accomplishment but the unfortunate reality is that many of those resolutions will fail.  Not for a lack of desire, mind you, but rather because deep down we really don't believe we can do them.

    Many resolutions are pretty common and tangible - lose weight, run a 10K or marathon, eat better, read more.  Nothing wrong with any of those.  But as we all know the most frustrating thing about new year resolutions is that more often than not we don't achieve them and as the end of the year rolls around there's that little pang of guilt and sadness that eats away at our spirit.

    So why do so many resolutions fail?  I think the problem lies more within our hearts and minds rather than our resolve.  In life you really can't accomplish anything unless your heart and mind are fully committed to the task.  In the pursuit of happiness our heart and the mind are the two greatest assets we have but they are also our biggest obstacles.   On the one hand they can drive our passions but just as equally they slam the brakes on us whenever we consider taking on something new.

    Opening our minds and hearts to new possibilities is the first step in achieving joy in our lives.  The images of ourselves that we've created or our perceptions of the world must be completely challenged.  We need to take into serious question who we are and what we think the world is all about.  That's not always easy.  Over the years our insecurities have created our perceptions and we wear those perceptions like a worm blanket on a cold night.  Younger people are shackled by an image they're trying to maintain.  Older folks are trying to avoid yet another situation that more than likely will end in failure.

    We don't pursue our dreams because we've convinced ourselves we aren't good enough or smart enough and more importantly we hold onto false truths about who we are.  For 2016 I would resolve to challenge any previous "truths" you might have about yourself and your world.  Forget what others might think of you or what you think of yourself.  Allow your heart and  your mind to be open to ALL possibilities.

    When you start understanding what's really true and what's really important to you then any goals you might set for yourself will be far easier to achieve.  Your mind, body and spirit will finally be in harmony and you will see that life is an adventure rather than a sentence.  No matter how long you've walked this earth, no matter what your life experiences may have been, I believe pure joy is available for everyone who reads this because the joy already exists within YOU!

    Happy New Year my friends!


    Friday, July 3, 2015

    The 4th...

    The 4th of July... watermelons, barbecues, fireworks and John Philips Sousa.  It's the one day of the year we are truly proud to be an American.  Unfortunately we spend the next 364 days apologizing for it.

    It seems the older I get the more melancholy I become over the state of our once great nation.  We have fallen so far from what the country once stood for.  Even the most conservative our of founding fathers would be appalled to see how we've butchered their dream of a free and democratic society.  We've willingly enslaved ourselves to a big, invasive government and somehow we seem surprised by it.  We expect our local governments to fulfill our every whim and desire and if they won't do it we  gladly run to daddy in D.C. to give us what we want.  We fail to accept the axiom, "there's no such thing as a free lunch."  The more we expect big government to provide for us the more we surrender our personal liberties.  The more we invite the government into personal lives the more we allow them to legislate our behaviors.  Perhaps we viewed the recent decision by the Supreme Court regarding the status of marriage as a great social victory but we failed to see the real tragedy.   Once again, we the ignorant mob, have helped to make big government even bigger and one more nail has been hammered into the coffin of state's rights.  I couldn't care less about who marries whom.  Live and let live.  I do care that once again we've surrendered our ability to govern ourselves to a collection of self-serving minions who have no business in my backyard or my heart.

    I'll be honest I haven't done a study about the types of legislation instituted over the years but I'd bet even money that more and more current legislation stems from hurt feelings rather than addressing the needs of our communities.  Instead of legislating over taxes, commerce, and community we are now trying to legislate morality and behavior.  We've diluded ourselves into thinking that new laws will change old beliefs.  Removing a flag will not change the minds of hateful people.  Just because something is legal doesn't make it right.  Conversely just becomes something is made illegal doesn't make it necessarily wrong.  We're no longer governed by reason but by opinion.  Common sense has taken a back seat to what's popular.  Our moral compass is set by Fox News and People Magazine and this great ship called the United States if foundering.

    We conveniently use our Constitution to justify one thing but ignore it when we want to do something else.  We're governed by opinion rather than reason.  Today all it takes is a few misguided zealots and a less than ethical news agency to turn something insignificant into a perceived national crisis
    .  We allowed the actions of one sick, demented individual to turn a rather benign piece of cloth into one of the most despised images since the swastika.  Displaying the old Confederate battle flag is now tantamount to a hate crime but singing songs that spew lyrics promoting racism, murder, rape and drug use is considered an exercise of our right to freedom of expression.  We rage against someone for burning the American flag out of protest but we have no problem turning that same flag into a rainbow.  The criteria for determining what is or isn't acceptable is determined by the changing winds of opinion.

    Recently we had a guest pastor speak at our church.  He was from Uganda and gave a very spirited sermon.  To be clear it was actually a scolding in every sense of the word.  The funny thing was, I wasn't offended.  The man was spot on.  How far we have fallen from a moral perspective was made very apparent when brought to light by an outsider.  Other countries use to see the United States as a strong, morally upright country always ready to come to the rescue of the suffering and oppressed.  No one really respects us any more.  We're snooty, pretentious, self-serving and entitled.  We've become the Las Vegas of the world.  Sure, folks love to come here to party but we're like the girl every guy wants to screw but would never consider marrying.

    We have turned our backs not just on morality but more importantly, responsibility.  Parents today are raising monsters who are no longer accountable for their actions.  Poor grades are the result of bad teaching.  Poor behavior is played off as self-expression.  We serve nothing but ourselves.  We are accountable to no one but ourselves.  There is always someone or something else to blame.  It's never our fault.  The world is here for us.  Perhaps what John Kennedy meant to say was, "Ask not what you can do for your country.  Ask what your country can do for you."

    "All men are created equal...." "endowed by their Creator..." "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  Let's remember what it really means to be an American.