Remembering Evelyn

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Mum

Mum

Saturday marked the one year anniversary of my mother Evelyn’s passing. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her.  When I wake up in the morning, I can remember her voice and the countless messages she would leave on my answering machine checking in on me. During times when she had no phone, she would drop all of her coins into a phone box located down the hill, it was a phone box I would eventually drive past with my wife when we came over to visit. That’s how she was. She had a heart of gold and would give you her last penny if she loved you.

We saw many sides of Evelyn in her final years. I am choosing to remember her laugh, and those wonderful phone calls where she had such wisdom for me. I’m learning to stand on my own now.

It’s been a difficult year

I’ve fallen off the wagon taking care of my health. For a while there I was doing good, but news of Mum’s death threw me into a spiral of recklessness.  I became very isolated, comforting myself with food. For months I thought about dying in the same manner she died. I thought about death a lot. I thought about the big machine of the medical system and how we can all get pulled into it, but eventually realized Evelyn was in very good hands in her native Ireland, probably much better hands than I would be here in the United States. Work was something I used as a diversion and so I kept busy through 2016 and now well into 2017.

While this was going on Stephani was fighting her own battle, taking care of her ailing Grandmother who late last year fell and injured her leg, losing mobility.  She spent considerable time these past few years visiting Nana, taking care of her, and it has been such an incredible challenge for her.

The sun brings a new opportunity to heal

I wake early every day, prioritizing exercise and immersing myself in a good podcast or audio book. We’ve been ordering Blue Apron dinners and eating healthier.  We are both feeling happier and healthier. Dad and I recently reconnected and it has been nice speaking with him again. I hope to convince my brother that blood is thicker than water.

I’m learning that life isn’t about what you have, it’s who you have in your life, and how you spend your time enjoying it.  I will live the remainder of my days honoring my Mum and living a life she could never have.  She paid a great price to give it to me.

 

 

A video snapshot from Santa Monica

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Video cameras enable us to tell wonderful stories, and this is a simple story of a day off in Santa Monica.

Walking along the 3rd Street Promenade people watching is one of my favorite things to do on a day off. In my case it was during Christmas break. I took along the Canon DSLR to take some snapshots. Stephani bought me a variable ND filter which I needed to get the hang of in bright sunlight, except, it was mostly gloomy. So I got my DJI OSMO video camera out, and tested out the new Z-Axis attachment, notice how smooth the video clips are. It is practically impossible to take shaky video with this.

In all, I walked around for about 3 hours.  I love Santa Monica.

If you like my videos, you can stay informed when I post new ones by subscribing to my YouTube Channel.

2016 – A year like no other

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It’s been quite a terrible year. I’m sitting reflecting on the year that just passed drinking coffee, having a think about what 2016 dealt and what 2017 might hold.

A body in decline

Things had not been going well for my Mum these past few years. At the start of the year I noticed that the words in her vocabulary had started to become limited and our interactions by Skype phone had become weekly check-in’s to make sure she was keeping warm, that the care givers were visiting her, and that she was using the electric fire in her bedroom, the appliance we had installed, but that she felt was too costly to run. She had recovered from a nasty chest infection a few years prior that landed her in the emergency room and in recovery for close to a month.  But now her memory was failing her as she tried to remember Stephani’s name and sometimes even mine.  Her greatest challenge in the end was her fight against Cancer and COPD, which would again land her in the hospital, this time from a broken hip. She was trying to switch off or turn on electricity to a power strip next to her television, and toppled over, breaking her hip.

This month I have been remembering what it was like for Mum near the end of her life. Gasping for every breath. Shouting at the nurses. Being sedated. Staring off into space for hours at a time as I sat at her bedside making small talk, repeating questions I knew she had answered an hour or so before. My job was to keep her in good spirits by bringing up the good times. I’d say my Mum had a relatively happy life once she met my Father, but the marriage was not easy. We moved around quite a bit as Dad made the leap from lorry driver to antique dealer to U.S. immigrant, taking us along for the ride of our lives. She developed a dependency on alcohol during my teen years, and this only seemed to amplify her inner sadness and feelings of low self esteem. I remember coming home finding her drunk and crying often.  She had a very sad streak in her personality. But the sad streak was a gift too because she wrote some lovely poetry. I know I inherited this from her.

Self awareness

This year I have spent a lot of time self analyzing my own traits and trying to develop more self awareness. I know that I have the sad streak. I know where it came from, the challenge is managing it and living with it. This month I have been sad a lot.  Some days it has been hard to get out of bed.  Some days it has been hard to smile because it will be the first Christmas I will not be able to Skype Mum and talk about the good old days. I think what’s different compared to three or four years ago, is that I am able to recognize when I am sad and I know that the feeling will pass in time, so I get on with my work and move forward.

Death

This year we lost so many great and talented artists.  David Bowie, Prince, Greg Lake to name a few. David Bowie knew he was dying and decided to look death in the face and laugh, leaving us a beautiful thank you card in his “Blackstar” album.  Prince passed away from complications related to a dependency on opiates, something thousands of fans found hard to accept, and Greg Lake, from Emerson, Lake and Palmer passed way at 69 after a long battle with Cancer. Only recently have I started to appreciate Greg’s music, even wonderful 80’s rock anthems like “Heat of the Moment” which he sang with his band, ASIA, and ELP’s “From the beginning”, which I love to play on the guitar occasionally.   Greg wrote a beautiful Christmas song called “I believe in Father Christmas” and I think this one song will be his swan song, remembered and sung for years to come.

I hope Joe Biden continues to work on President Obama’s Cancer Moon Shot project to cure cancer. It is taking so many victims. But after the election, and seeing the kind of administration we will have near term, my hope for lofty, aspirational ideas like curing cancer are slowly fading with each cabinet appointment.

I hope 2017 is a much better year than this one.  I can’t wait till 2016 is over, so we can move forward as a country, and as individuals in whatever battle we are waging personally.

Good health and happiness to all of my friends in 2017.  Your friendship means more than any of you know.

 

Remember to Never Forget

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Fifteen years ago today I woke up to the sound of the today show, sitting in bed drinking coffee with my then Fiancé Stephani. I remember watching them break away from their current story to lower Manhattan where a fire was reported at the World Trade Center, and minutes later we saw a second plane fly into the building.  We sat there in utter disbelief at what we were seeing.

All I wanted at that moment was to hug Stephani and keep the frightening World from coming into our home. Every day from that moment on would be a blessing for us. We have our lives, nobody can hurt us, can they? Could they hurt us? Why do they want to hurt us?  We did not understand.

I had lost my job a few months before this, laid off as the tech sector underwent a tumultuous time. Things were bad. I couldn’t find work, I was depressed, and now this. Whatever this is, I wasn’t sure. But I remember staying glued to the television for most of the day hypnotized by the footage of the twin towers burning. Our country was under attack, things would never be the same.

I remember the images of people hanging out of the windows in the building, some were starting to jump out and fall to the ground. I remember thinking what an awful death. The desperation. Those firemen and first responders running into the building not knowing it was about to come down on top of them. All of those families losing their loved ones all at the same time. The magnitude of the attack was incomprehensible.

In the afternoon I had an appointment to meet in Anaheim with a woman I did business with in my prior job. It was an interview to see if we could work together on a contractor basis from what I recall.  I remember getting dressed for the interview and not wanting to go, but forced myself to drive to Anaheim.  When I arrived for the interview, both of us were very preoccupied with the events taking place on on the east coast and decided to reschedule the meeting. I had this overwhelming desire to be at home in my condo watching what was happening.

I’ve never really understood why some people hate America so much. This country has given me a rich life of experiences and opportunities. Why would someone want to destroy that? I still can’t wrap my head around it. I know it had a lot to do with military bases in Saudi Arabia and politics. I just have never been able to understand why they hate us enough to take their own lives and the lives of innocent passengers.

About a month after September 11th Stephani and I got married. It was a wonderful day. Our friend Andy played the bagpipes for us. Andy passed away a few years ago. My Mother couldn’t make it to the wedding, we were so sad she missed it, and now she has gone too. We are all going to be gone some day. We must make the most of our lives, fill them with rich joyous experiences, because we only have so much time here. We should never live in fear because doing so would mean that those who wish to terrorize us have won. I am so lucky to live in a country where I can work and enjoy life.

Fifteen years later I have a better understanding of why the attacks happened. But the World is a sadder place. We are safer sure, but the fighting rages on around the World. On September 11, 2001 we were one country, one people, but I can’t say that today with the bitter political divisions as we head into election season, one candidate running on fear tactics and the other representing the status quo.   I can only hope for better days and peace as we remember those lost. I am sure they would want us to hope for peace.

 

What I would tell my 25 year old self

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Well it’s April 27th, my Birthday. I’m sitting in the kitchen having a coffee, flipping through Facebook smiling. It’s been a hectic few months at work, and there’s been health trouble for my Mum in Belfast. But other than that, life is great.

When I was 25 I was a very worried guy. I worried about everything. Whether I would be able to pay my bills, if I would find a good job, if I would become famous and if I would ever find love.  It was all one big ball of worry.  When I was in elementary school, one of my   Teachers noted on my report card “Gary is a worrier”.  He must have been in tune with what was bothering me, worry has been at the root of my being ever since I was a child.

As a grown man I can see the error of my ways. Worry will get you nowhere. At 25 I had been in the United States for 8 years. I had just got my green card, and my first “real” job as a van driver for Inacomp.  I was in a band and would write songs in my spare time. Listening to those songs today I cringe, because the worry came out in my writing. I was 25 in a new country with nothing but opportunity before me, yet my mind was preoccupied with worry.

If I could take a trip in time back to my 25 year old self I would look him in the eyes and promise him that life will turn out just fine.  To stop worrying about things. Stop taking everything so seriously. I would tell him to insist on better healthcare for that ear infection and save that hearing in the left ear.

At work I fumbled through life fueled by worry.  I’d tell my 25 year old self about the joy of sitting still, and the joy of taking a walk and looking after one’s self. I’d tell him that rejection will happen, some people will fall out of love with you, but there will be moments of clarity down the road when it will all make sense, and your best friend will be sitting on a park bench right next to you.

It’s a happy birthday indeed. I am a man who is finally becoming self aware. I know where this worry came from, it’s in my DNA, it’s how I was wired. But I am learning to accept it and live a life of purpose, seeking work that challenges me and new friends who understand me.

Face to Face with a Victim of Gun Violence

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Source: Bigpromoter, Pixabay

As we normally do on Sunday afternoon, Stephani and I stopped in to our local grocery store to pick up some food and supplies for the week. As we were checking out I could hear Stephani strike up a conversation with Maureen our checker. I’ve seen Maureen before, a quiet, kind woman. Today she seemed a little sad.

Not hearing everything they were conversing over above the background noise I moved the items from the shopping cart onto the moving conveyor, tossing our canvas bags on top and putting up the next divider for the person behind us.

Maureen was talking about an item the last customer bought. She mentioned “Seal Beach” and on today’s copy of the daily paper, the Orange County Register, the cover featured a courtroom image of Scott Dekraai. Scott was a former tug boat captain who in 2007 gunned down his ex-wife and seven other people at the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach. It was the worst mass shooting in Orange County history. Dekraai went to Salon Meritage looking for and targeting his ex-wife Michele Fornier, Maureen’s sister. Today, in addition to scanning cans of peas, pasta, fruit, bread, beer and whatever else Huntington Beach had on the shopping list, Maureen was scanning copies of the Orange County Register featuring the face of her sister’s killer.

I am not sure if she had any alternative to working today, but if I were her boss, I would have gladly given her the day off.

We told her we remembered that awful day as if it was yesterday. It was horrible. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have lived through that experience, losing your sister to a monster like that. Just terrible.

It made me remember that each one of us is fighting our own very personal sadness each and every day. For Maureen, it is trying to get over the loss of her sister, greeting customers with a smile as they wait in line, consumed with their own lives, thumbing their mobile phones, missing out on an opportunity to cheer up perhaps the saddest person in the room, the person right in front of them.

Crowdfunding Effort Draws Foo Fighters to Cesena, Italy

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rockin1000

Work ethic, passion and creativity creates the perfect viral storm for Italian rock fans.

To call Fabio Zaffagnini a fan of the Foo Fighters would be a huge understatement. I would say he’s their biggest fan because this week social media blew up over a video he created powered by a movement of Italian rockers and a crowdfunding campaign –Rockin 1000 with a goal of assembling 1000 musicians to play “Learn To Fly” and personally invite Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters to play a concert in Cesena, Italy.

In the video we can see a massive band consisting of drummers’ bass players’ guitarists’ and singers,  1000 in all who convened on an Italian field in May of 2014 with two goals, 1) break the Guinness World Record for the number of people on a single stage, and 2) make a personal plea to the Foo Fighters.

When I watched the video this morning I found it strangely moving. Being a musician myself and also a fan of the Foo Fighters I found myself becoming moved to tears by the conviction and passion displayed by the Italians. I can only imagine what Dave Grohl and the rest of his band thought of this creative achievement.

Work Ethic

Let’s talk about Dave Grohl’s work ethic for a second. A few months ago he fell off stage in Gothenburg, Sweden and broke his leg. He was temporarily hospitalized while the audience in the stadium waited for word on his condition. Rather than taking a powder, Grohl asked his roadies to set up a chair and support his leg which was by then in a cast so he could continue the show and finish the performance for the fans. What does that tell you about work ethic? It not only speaks volumes for his love of rock ‘n roll, but also his dedication to Foo Fighters fans, it also says a lot about his professionalism in finishing what he started. I’ve long admired Dave Grohl for his work ethic, he really does work hard at his craft, and he truly lives the dream.

But while we are talking about Dave Grohl’s work ethic we can’t ignore the tremendous commitment and organization it took to pull off this social media spectacle. The crowdfunding campaign raised over €44,000. It was filmed professionally and edited for maximum impact, every detail including crowd volume control was planned out, you’ll notice in the video at the end how Fabio Zaffagnini can speak while the crowd listens in perfect silence while he makes his appeal directly to the band. Try doing that with thousands of people in an open field. Not easy.

High Production Value

The logistics for this video were amazing. For one, how do 1000 musicians keep perfect time? In the video you can see the conductor but immediately below him on the riser you can see lights pulsing to the beat of the song so all could play in perfect time. Most of the musicians have microphones and real instruments plugged in, it must’ve sounded awesome. A drone took spectacular aerial footage, GoPro cameras were mounted in front of the conductor and in several vantage points. And the close-ups of the crowd having the time of their lives brought the whole thing to life. It was authentic and real, and it was AWESOME.

The Response and Pay Off

Word of the video spread fast. It was published two days ago on July 30th and has already received over 12 million views on YouTube alone. It wasn’t long before Dave Grohl himself sat down with his phone to record a short statement for Rockin 1000 and the people of Cesena, Italy.

 

Hello Cesena. It’s David. Hi.

I am sorry I don’t speak Italian, just a bit, a bit.

This video, was good! Super nice. Thank you so much.

We’re coming, I swear. We’ll see each other soon.

Thank you so much. I love you.

Ciao.

The world of crowdfunding is making amazing things happen around the world. New products are being developed, breakthroughs in science are happening, creative endeavors like this one are becoming a reality, dreams are coming true. Fabio Zaffagnini made his dream come true through crowdfunding and the Internet. These are amazing times my friends.

Testing something out

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I’ve been playing around with Slate, a new iPad app from Adobe.  Here we test to see whether I can take a story I created and published on their platform, and embed it into my blog.

My Story

Rainy Sunday Clouds

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So it has been raining here off and on, chilly too, and with the rain comes some big gray puffy clouds, so I headed to a spot nearby to capture some of this in a time lapse video.

I am using a Cinetics AXIS360 Pro glide track, which triggers a photograph every couple of seconds. I let it run for about 15 minutes to generate about 16 or 17 seconds of very puffy clouds. After I was done I simply imported the images to Adobe Premiere as a sequence and mixed the footage with some other clips shot on the iPhone.   The rain shut me down early unfortunately, so I retreated to a nearby cafe.