Thursday, November 30, 2017

birthday thoughts

    I’m not a thinker. I’m not a worrier. I have found that there is no use in my life for stress. I don’t hold grudges. I seem to find it pretty easy to forgive and forget and move on.

    I love people. I love to socialize. I know no strangers. I am blessed with many friends. I have the gift of gab. My wife will confirm all of these things if you ask.

    My friend Jack has an extreme talent for being able to write down words that fully express his life experiences. I wish I had his ability to express my thoughts the way he does.

    This is an attempt to share some thoughts that have been on my mind lately as this day marks the beginning of my 53rd year of sharing life with each of you.

    This day marks the one year anniversary of starting a new job and a new career after 32 years of working for newspapers as a photojournalist. I now work with a wonderful group of people at Duke Vascular Surgery as a staff assistant. Yep, its quite the career change. Not one that I dreamed of or ever even thought about until the opportunity crossed my path.

    I miss the daily grind of newspapers. I miss the people that I had the opportunity to interact with more. I am still new to the staff assistant gig, but hopefully one day I will be as good at it as I am with a camera.

    Tomorrow marks International World AIDS Day. This is important to me. For the longest time I didn’t really know why. My interest started in the late 80s or early 90s, not long after the disease started taking over so many lives. I never ended up doing the story ideas that I had at the time, but not for a lack of effort. There was, and still is today, such a stigma attached to the disease that it was hard to find anyone willing to let me tell their story.

    In 2005 I traveled to Kenya for two weeks photographing people with HIV/AIDS while working through the International Mission Board.

    All along I knew why I had this burning interest to photograph this horrible disease but my mind wouldn't allow it to come to the forefront. You see, I remember all too well a phone call that I received so many years ago from my friend Mark. Mark and I grew up in church youth group together while in middle school and early high school. We acted together in church plays and we hung out occasionally even though we went to different schools.

    I don’t remember the exact year, but Mark moved to Georgia, I think around our sophomore year. We kept in touch with an occasional visit but mostly on the phone. We kept in touch for years. But then we lost touch at some point. I would do searches every now and then trying to track him down. He was often on my mind and I would get aggravated not being able to find a phone number or address to get in touch with him.

    Oh yeah, the phone call. I remember Mark telling me that he had been pretty sick for a while. He said “they think I might have hepatitis from eating some bad shrimp.” We talked several times after this particular phone conversation but he would always skirt the question when I would ask how he was feeling. He never let on just how sick he really was.

    In 2013, I managed to track down Mark’s sister through Facebook and she broke the news to me that Mark lost his battle with AIDS in 2001.

    I knew all along. Mark never said it but I knew. It's one of those things that your mind blocks out.

    I can’t explain it, but there are certain people in my life that cross my mind often. Mark is one of those people. I really do miss him and regret that I wasn't able to spend time with him when he was sick.

    There were several other people that I was going to write about, but I think I will keep this kind of simple. One thing I learned as a journalist is to keep the reader interested and keep the story to the point.

    It is odd for me to write a blog entry without any photos. I have a few pictures of Mark, but mostly on slides. The prints I do have I can’t put my hands on right now but if I don’t finish this post I will not get any sleep tonight. I was actually already in bed but the tears motivated me to get back up and jot down a few words (apparently 756 words at this point, lol).

    I will end with one photo. It is a photo of my daughter’s arm. Her tattoo was done in my handwriting at her request. Romans 5:3 holds a lot of meaning for both of us on several different levels. It is a verse that we live by.

    I try to live this life knowing that no matter what I go through, God is watching over me and protecting me. I also know without a doubt that each of you was put in my life for a reason and that it is no accident or coincidence, but part of God’s plan. This I am very thankful for.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

project homelss connect

During the three years that I was unemployed I had the opportunity to join with the fine folks at Hidden Voices to work on a pretty cool portrait project. Once a year, at Project Homeless Connect in Orange County, Hidden Voices had a booth set up and we would provide photo portraits of the homeless and less fortunate members of our community.

This was a great project that I really enjoyed doing each year. I found it very rewarding to be able to put a smile on the faces of some whom didn’t seem to have much to smile about. I remember distinctly one gentleman telling me that he had not seen his mother in ten years and would love to send her a picture of himself. Some of the pictures that I made were of moms and their young children, many of which who had not had any professional pictures taken since the tots were born.

Since I went back to work again fulltime a couple of years ago, I haven’t been able to work with Hidden Voices during the Project Homeless Connect event each October. So, this year, I sent a note to my buddy Jock Lauterer, the master of community journalism at UNC-CH. I wanted to continue this fine tradition of providing this service during this year’s event in Durham. So, I am partnering with the Durham Voice and will be at this year’s event on Friday, Oct. 10.

The Durham Voice is a community based newspaper and online project that involves journalism students from both N.C. Central University and UNC-Chapel Hill. The Voice mainly covers Northeast Central Durham, but also covers social issues that effect us all. I will be working with the students, who will do the photography and collect short narratives from the people photographed with the results running as a photo essay in the Voice. I am really excited to see us not only provide a service during the event, but also be able to take it to the next level. Can’t wait!

Thursday, June 7, 2012


I have been thinking a lot lately about people who have had an impact on my life. There are way to many to name them all, but I think I will talk about a couple of them.

Kayla Paige Radack. I never met Kayla, but I think about her nearly every day. At age 16, Kayla tragically lost her life in a car accident right in front of the neighborhood where I live. There is a memorial erected where the accident took place, and I pass by it every single day. When I see the wooden cross, I think about the accident. I was not working on the day she died, but I happened by the accident shortly after it happened and grabbed my camera and took several photos before realizing how serious the injuries were. The accident didn’t have an immediate impact on me, but when I was assigned to photograph student reaction at her school, I was touched by her friends who mourned in the school parking lot around her assigned parking space. I remember candles and I remember hugs… many hugs and tears. I also think of Kayla’s brother Kyle as I photographed him on the side of the road mourning at the accident site. This was not an easy picture to take, as a matter of fact it was quite hard to photograph him as he pulled his shirt up to his face wiping his tears. Even harder was the task to have to approach him to find out who he was.

Now, this post isn’t about how hard it is to photograph situations that no one wants to ever have to witness in their lifetime. The point is that Kayla has had an impact on my life even though I never met her. But, I’m not the only person she has had an impact on.  Many, many people are impacted each year by Kayla. Most of them never met Kayla. Her family and friends started something called Kayla’s Closet, a place where girls in need can come and pick out a prom dress for FREE. What a cool idea and a great way to pass along Kayla's giving spirit. I know there are many many young women who have been impacted by Kayla through this awesome endeavor. There is also an endowed scholarship in Kayla’s name. And I was recently reminded yet again about the special qualities Kayla possessed. I listened to her name announced and the award given in her honor during the annual awards banquet for the Riverside Lacrosse team. Her commitment to the lacrosse team, where she volunteered as the lead statistician, is honored every year with an award given to a player with similar qualities.

Phillip Garrett. Phillip was several years younger then me when he decided to take his own life. It was the year after I graduated high school and I was working at High Point Photo Supply. I remember getting the call from my mom while I was at work. She told me the news. I was numb. To this day I have never been able to understand why he took his life. At the time, it seemed Phillip had a pretty good life. I don’t know what went wrong. I wish I had noticed. I wish I had been able to ask him the question that has burned in my brain for almost 30 years. I wish I could have asked him back then how I could help. I wish I could have had an impact on Phillip and that he was still with us today. Phillip has had a huge impact on me for the last 30 years.

I have been wanting to write this post for several weeks now. Its ironic that I finally got around to it on the three year anniversary of the day my friend David Turner left his tired and diseased body behind to join his Savior in Heaven. I only knew David for a few months. David and I became friends while I was documenting his life as he lived with stage IV lymphoma. I almost used the word “struggled” with lymphoma. But, for Big Dave, if he was struggling, he tried not to show it. David was strong. Not super human strong, but strong in spirit. You see, even though David knew he was going to die from the cancer that had taken over his body, he was fine with that fact. David knew he had a purpose here on Earth. He told me so. In his last couple of months, in his last couple of weeks, David started a web site and started what is now referred to as Big Dave’s Big Gift, or the David Turner Lymphoma Foundation. David wanted to help families with kids in a similar situation to his own. David selflessly spent a great deal of time, even while he was in hospice, making sure what he was starting would be carried on after he was gone. David was only 25 years old. David has had a huge impact on my life. So much so, that we now both have the same tattoo on our left wrists, “V:III”. Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” I thank God for David’s perseverance, his character and the hope he displayed every day.

Here is my hope and my challenge to you, each and every one of you that read this. IMPACT. Have an impact on someone else’s life. There are so many things you can do to make a difference in this world. But, most importantly, do NOT wait to make a difference. Dedicate yourself now to helping others, sharing your skills or just being a friend to that person that looks like they could use a friend. There are so many ways you can have an impact on others. Use your time wisely. Make a difference.

I really wish I had the opportunity to meet Kayla, and even though I only knew David for a few months, it feels like a lifetime. And though Phillip has had an impact on my life, I wish I could roll back the clock and have an impact on his.

Friday, April 13, 2012

barnard, nc

These were taken in Barnard. Its a quiet place located on the banks of the French Broad River just upstream from Hot Springs. Not much to see in Barnard, the main area of interest is that there is a nice put-in for rafters and kayakers. Like the two previous posts, these photos were made in October on our way back from camping. We stopped and talked to a really nice gentleman who was sitting out in front of the building with his dog. After talking to him for a while and getting some history of the place we were unable to convince him to let us photograph him. I did sneak a picture of him when it started raining and he scrambled to put away his small tractor that he painted to look like a John Deere. He seemed to take a lot of pride in his tractor and a riding lawn mower that he had fixed up with some interesting attachments. I liked both the bowling trophy topper and the safety tips on the antlers that he mounted to the front of the mower. This was a great trip!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

fall color

This is the second post from my October trip to the mountains with an old friend and hiking buddy. When we got back to the car it was still raining, but not very hard at that point. We decided to cruise the back roads looking for interesting photo subjects and fall color. These pictures, simply put, are fall color in the NC mountains near Hot Springs. I think the rain actually added to the color saturation. Oh ya, the pic of the turkeys was made as they ran through the valley just below where we were taking pictures of pretty leaves. And this barn was right on the side of the road. It was covered with really cool rusty old license plates. Some of them were pretty darn old!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

max patch

Back in October and buddy and I finally got together, after months of planning, and hit the trail to do a little backpacking and picture taking in Western North Carolina. We got a pretty late start on hiking, but made it to the top of Max Patch Mountain, a bald, located on the Appalachian Trail. We got our tents set up and made a few pictures before the sun set and the full moon rose. We decided to camp in the woods below the summit since there was a threat of storms coming through the area. This is the same place where a woman died after being struck by lightning 16 months earlier. We set alarms to check out the sunrise, but the clouds decided to make it pretty un-photogenic. Slept in, and then made a few more pictures of the fall color before the rain started. Since there was some thunder accompanying the rain, we took the short way back to the car and explored a couple of nearby areas. Max Patch is an easy trail hike and a must see if you are in a hiking mood and in the Asheville/Hot Springs area. Check it out!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

guardian angels

Webster’s defines Guardian Angel as an angel believed to have special care of a particular individual.

I believe I have several guardian angels. You see, the last couple of years, money and gift cards have mysteriously shown up on my door step, both figuratively and literally. I am so blessed to have people looking out for my wellbeing. I just really can’t explain how thankful I am for the wonderful people who have blessed me both by their prayers and financially.

This Christmas we had several guardian angels looking out for us. I hope you are reading this right now and that you know how sincere my gratitude is. One gift was hand delivered on behalf of an anonymous giver. Thank you so much! Another gift I found on the way out the door on Christmas morning. This very generous financial gift was surrounded by a bunch of nuts and candy. I have to say, this was quite a surprise and extremely generous. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

I think my guardian angels have been watching for quite a while. A couple of years ago, I racked up a very large medical bill at a local hospital, that I as very worried about how I was going to pay. At first, when the bills stopped coming, I thought the hospital had made a mistake. But, after thinking about it, I think there was an angel who may have paid my bill on my behalf. I don’t know this for sure, but hospitals rarely make mistakes in favor of the patients. So, if you are out there and read this, please know how thankful I am for your help!

After thinking about it, I guess I am a somewhat proud person who doesn’t like to ask for help. When I got laid off from the newspaper in May 2009, it took me a couple of months to start collecting unemployment, partially because I didn’t fully understand the process, but also because I felt like it would be a handout, which I wasn’t interested in. I feel differently now, I understand that in the 25 years I worked previous to that, I earned the right to collect unemployment. I also understand that without it the last two years, my family would not have been able to fully pay bills.

I have been blessed to be able to do a fair amount of freelance photography the last couple of years, which has financially helped out a lot, but still not enough to pay all the bills. I recently just started a part-time job with about 20 hours a week, which will help, but with my unemployment running out in the next couple of weeks, I will be back to square one again, needing a full-time job.

There have been numerous angels who have given us gift cards as well. I even found one under my windshield wiper one year. I don’t know who you angels are, but thank you so much for looking after me and my family. Please know that we are very blessed to be on the receiving end of your generosity.

I wish I had the ability to be able to bless others financially the way I have been blessed. Hopefully one day we will be back in the position to be a guardian angel for someone else, but in the meantime, I know there are many of you out there who are looking after us. Thank you!