My journey to becoming a mindful photographer

December 10, 2021

My first camera was included in this family picture.

My adventure with photography began in the fifth grade when I bought my first camera. Somehow the world looked more enchanting through the viewfinder of my Kodak Brownie. After shooting a roll of film, I’d take it to the corner drugstore to be sent off for developing and printing. Then, I’d have to wait several days for the black-and-white prints to be delivered so I could actually see what I’d shot.

In college, I took photography classes where I learned about f-stops, film speeds, and apertures. We developed our film in dark rooms that reeked of horrible-smelling chemicals. Then, under the red safelights, we would make prints, achieving various effects by manually dodging and burning the light as it shone through the negatives onto the photographic paper.

I learned the mechanics of taking pictures, but I wanted more. I wanted to understand lighting, composition, and perspective. I yearned to experience photography as a creative form of artistic expression.

After college, I sporadically shot photos to document events such as a volcano erupting, U.S. presidents campaigning, and babies being born. But somewhere along the way, I lost my focus and I only took pictures on obligatory occasions such as birthdays, graduations, and family reunions.

Everything changed, though, when a doctor informed me that I had melanoma. He showed me pictures of a large, well-developed tumor growing on the retina inside my eye. Within days, I was in Boston receiving treatment from a team of highly-specialized doctors, led by a world-renowned ophthalmologist from the Harvard Medical School. Over time, my treatments were successful and today I am cancer-free. But the disease took its toll. I lost the sight in my left eye.

As I adjusted to my new reality, I made an important discovery. As my eyesight gradually faded, my vision actually increased.

With the vision that remained in my one good eye, I began seeing things I’d previously taken for granted. I discovered incredible beauty that had always surrounded me, though “hidden” in plain sight.

My passion for photography was rekindled as I discovered extraordinary beauty in seemingly ordinary places. My photography hobby helped me to become more aware, more mindful, and more grateful of the wonderful world in which we live.

Today, I enjoy sharing my photos with others – not to impress anyone with my creative abilities – but rather to spark the creative spirit deep within each of us. I hope to inspire others to discover and appreciate the beauty that abundantly surrounds us.




Finding beauty “hidden” in plain sight

August 17, 2021

As a photographer, I’m tempted to think my best shots can be found in new or distant locations. Yet my creativity is cultivated when I look for hidden beauty in familiar places.

In locations where I’ve been countless times, I could easily shoot another photo cliche. Instead, I return to familiar places (such as this fountain) with a commitment to discover something I’ve never seen before.

Within the ordinary, I can always find something extraordinary. And I can always discover beauty “hidden” in plain sight.




Words of consolation for a lonely, leafless tree

December 12, 2020

Just weeks ago you glowed with vibrant autumn splendor. But now everyone’s attention has turned to other trees, namely those adorned with bright holiday lights.

Remember, though, that “for everything there is a season.” This is your season of dormancy, a time for rest, recovery, and healing.

Then, in spring, new life will again burst forth and birds will sing from your branches.

In summer, picnickers will again sit in your shade as sailboats float gently by.

And in fall, photographers will again admire your vibrant colors as they capture your breathtaking beauty.

But for now, be patient. Stand tall. And know that brighter, warmer days lie ahead.



Things I’ve learned in a political pandemic year

September 29, 2020

In 2020 I’ve had plenty of time to think about the pandemic, politics, natural disasters, and human rights. In the process, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and specifically how I react to others.

Three months ago I blocked a long-time friend on Facebook because he continued to post political propaganda that I viewed as negative, divisive, and verifiably false. In the ensuing weeks, I did a lot of introspection, looking within myself and examining my reactions to what others post online. I discovered some important truths about myself, including the reality that:

  • I’m not as tolerant as I once thought I was.
  • I’m not as forgiving as I hope to be.
  • I do more talking than listening.
  • Good friendships are based upon much more than agreement on political issues.

So, I sent my old friend a new request to connect. He accepted, but immediately sent a private message asking, “Did you friend me on purpose? If so, I’ll do my best to be worthy of your friendship.”




The best is yet to come!

November 22, 2018

As I approach a career transition, I am inspired by a rustic, wooden sign on the wall above my favorite chair. It reads, “And to think, some of life’s best stories haven’t even begun.”

When looking back on my career accomplishments, I am filled with a deep sense of satisfaction. I’ve been fortunate to be part of several stellar teams, and I”m grateful for the talented people I’ve met along the way. I’m also thankful for the teamwork that has allowed us to make a difference in the lives of so many people.

Sometimes it is tempting to rest upon one’s laurels. But I quickly brush away those thoughts because they conflict with my long-held belief that my best days are yet to come.

I fondly remember the good old days, and I also eagerly anticipate all that the future holds. Yet, I prefer to live in neither the past nor the future. I purposefully choose to focus on the vast abundance that surrounds me today. I am mindful of the countless blessings and opportunities that sometimes I’ve taken for granted.

As Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

My past holds few regrets. The present is a gift to be experienced to its fullest. And the future is filled with abundant opportunities.

The best is yet to come! Today, though, I pause to express my deepest gratitude to God, family, friends, and coworkers for enriching my life.



The Evolution of My Blogging Adventures

January 7, 2016

One of my favorite Instagram photos shows the downtown skyline of Kansas City. You can find more of my pictures and follow me at

One of my favorite Instagram photos shows the downtown skyline of Kansas City. You can find more of my pictures and follow me at

After five years of blogging, I took an extended break from posting on this site. It was not a deliberate decision. It just happened.

During this time I still blogged, but I shifted from a verbal to a visual format, migrating from this WordPress platform to Instagram.

Upon reflection, I’ve identified reasons why I found myself sharing my pictures rather than my words. Those reasons include:

  1. Better engagement. When I began blogging, I thought this would be a good way to connect and converse with others. Perhaps it was my writing style, but I found myself posting monologues rather than engaging in conversations. In retrospect, I realize that most people are like me – they are more naturally drawn to colorful pictures than to columns of gray type.
  2. Too snarky. I realized my blog posts were starting to have an edge of cynicism and sarcasm. At work, I was enduring wave after wave of reorganizations that left most of us confused and disoriented. Many of my unpublished posts were written during this time of chaos. Those unshared writings were my attempt to make sense of what was happening. While they were cathartic, they were best left confined to the pages of my private journal rather than being shared publicly in a blog.
  3. Creative expression. The seemingly-endless corporate restructuring slowly sapped much of my creative energy. In this world, we each have a unique voice that gives us something to share with others. On a personal level, I felt compelled to expand my options for doing that. Photography provided a creative outlet that gave me renewed energy and purpose. Instagram provided a much-needed platform for my creative expression.
  4. Positive optimism. As my Instagram adventure progressed, I found myself focusing on the beauty in the world surrounding me. I discovered that within the ordinary I could always find something extraordinary. I’ve long believed that whatever one focuses on will expand. I chose to focus on the beauty surrounding me, and the more I looked for it, the more of it I found.
  5. Connecting, not dividing. Photography transcends the barriers of language, geography, politics, religion and other divisive elements in our world. Words are too easily used as weapons to divide and destroy. For me, sharing photos provided a way to unite and to build bridges where fences had once been erected.

Writing and photography are not mutually exclusive. I will keep writing, and I also will keep snapping pictures. In the weeks and months ahead, I anticipate finding the appropriate balance between both.

The renowned photographer Henri Cartier-Besson once said, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” If a picture is worth a thousand words, then, by my math, I believe that my first 10 million words will be my worst. I’ll keep plodding along, though.



What Do You Stand For? Against?

November 4, 2014

This political season, I’ve heard too many candidates talk about what they are fighting against. Too few describe what they’re running for.

In sports, I always prefer to be with fans who cheer for their team rather than against an opponent. One demonstrates good sportsmanship, whereas the other results in a demoralizing drain on energy.

I prefer to be around religious people who strive for enlightenment rather than ranting against darkness.

I prefer to be protected by a police force that works for law and order, rather than merely fighting against crime.

I prefer being with friends who are quick to give a compliment for someone’s benefit rather than engaging in malicious gossip against other people.

I prefer having colleagues who work for fulfilling the company’s mission rather than sniping against inane policies and procedures.

When we decide to be either for or against something, we are actually determining whether we will tap into positive energy that builds, or into negative energy that destroys. Granted, when someone stands for something, he or she usually is against the antithesis of what they are for. The corollary, though, is not always true. People can be against something without knowing what are actually for.

What do you stand for? What do you stand against? Your answers will define who you are as a friend, as a professional and even as a person.


Do You First Notice How We’re Alike? Or Different?

October 14, 2014

When you first meet someone, what do you first notice?

Do you see ways we are different? Or do you focus on things we share in common?

Earlier in life, I tended to see first the differences between others and myself. With maturity and experience, though, I’ve learned instinctively to look at those things which make us alike. Life is so much better that way. Here’s why:

Advantages of focusing on commonalities

  1. Collaboration. Instead of thinking win-lose, I am able to begin visualizing partnerships where we can create synergy. Through collaboration, we all come out ahead and are able to create something none of us could have achieved on our own.
  2. Confidence. When I refrain from needless comparisons, I am able to recognize and celebrate strengths and competencies wherever they are found—in me or in someone else. The non-competitive stance makes me more secure in who I uniquely am, allowing others to feel more confident in their interactions with me.
  3. Growth. I’m walking along the same “life path” as others, though perhaps we are at different places along the way. Our shared journey creates opportunities where we can learn from each other. We can encourage each other through the difficult times. We can grow together and reach new horizons.

Disadvantages of focusing on differences

  1. Isolation. The more I focus on the divisions that separate us, the higher the walls become between me and the rest of the world. It would become very lonely to be incarcerated inside those walls.
  2. Competition. Seeing differences in others prompts us to make value judgments. We constantly evaluate which one of us is better, smarter, richer or stronger. We inevitably compete for superiority.
  3. Inferiority. When we notice differences first, we operate from a deeper sense of insecurity and inferiority. The more we compare ourselves with others, the more inadequate we tend to feel.

A favorite quote comes from the late Maya Angelou who said, “In minor ways we differ, in major we are alike.”

I choose to focus on the major areas of our shared life experiences. I will also notice and celebrate the minor areas of difference where we are diverse and unique. Those differences, when shared, strengthen everyone.


Every Act of Creation Is First an Act of Destruction

October 1, 2014

Creating something new usually requires us to let go of something old. As Pablo Picasso said, “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”

Transitions are painful because they destroy the status quo, pushing us beyond our comfort zones. Times of change are most excruciating for those most deeply vested in the old way of doing things.

New Growth

“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” – Pablo Picasso

Like many companies, my employer (the American Red Cross) is undergoing yet another major, national reorganization. The details have yet to be finalized, but one this is certain: Things will change. Dramatically!

We are in that phase of the creative process focusing on “destruction” (to use Picasso’s word). Within a few weeks, however, we should learn the details of the “act of creation.”

Uncertainty abounds. The winds of change continue to howl around us. Though I’m uncertain of many things, of this I am certain: Those who thrive in the new reality will be those who embrace Picasso’s wisdom. They will understand that something is being destroyed so something new can be created.

Not everything makes sense, but I’ll sort through the confusion and figure out how to succeed in this new reality. As I move forward, I’ll keep reminding myself of what Henry Miller, the American author, once said: “Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.”

The futurist Alvin Toffler paralleled Picasso’s sentiment when he said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”


I Took a Sabbatical

September 30, 2014

I took a sabbatical from blogging. Actually, I never quit writing. I just quit posting.

My Journal

“We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.” – Cecil Day Lewis

When I began blogging more than half a decade ago, I gave myself permission to post when I had something to share, and to refrain when I did not. That has worked well for me. Now that I’ve returned to blogging, I’ll still adhere to that rule.

I often write my unedited thoughts in a private journal where they can incubate. Journaling helps me to sort things out, especially during times of transition and confusion. At least ninety percent of my writing is done only for me. I write to understand, and therefore I’m usually the exclusive audience. Although I am a professional communicator, only a small fraction of my writing is shared with others.

In a noisy, cluttered world, we sometimes need to be comfortable with our own solitude and silence. In a fast-paced society that demands immediate results and constant production, we sometimes need to stop and catch our breath.

We need sabbaticals to replenish our energy. We need downtime to incubate ideas. We need periods of silence to nourish creativity that would otherwise wither in the arid atmosphere that permeates where we live and work.


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