After only a few weeks in our household, Sophie firmly established herself as the Alpha Dog. Clemmi, our Labradoodle, tries her best to pretend that Sophie doesn’t exist.
But Billy, our Australian shepherd, is extremely protective of her.
They bonded immediately.
Christmas is always memorable when there’s a new puppy in the house, and Christmas 2009 really proved that point! On December 20 we got the first big snow of the year, assuring that Pennsylvania would have a white Christmas. Sophie wasted no time in finding out what snow was all about.
Every time Sophie would venture out in the snow, Billy was there to watch over her.
As usual, we headed to Deep Creek to spend Christmas with our kids. Sophie didn’t mind the trip at all. The last two years Garrett County has missed out on a white Christmas, so we were thrilled to find several feet of snow on the ground, and even more snow fell on Christmas Day.
Here’s the lake from our deck on Christmas Day.
Sophie made herself right at home . . .
. . . and she had no trouble keeping up with the big dogs.
And she definitely made a big hit with our grandson Lucas.
When we learned that another snowstorm might hit Deep Creek on New Year’s Day, we decided to head back to Pennsylvania on New Year’s Eve. By the time we had the house shut down, Jim’s van and my car packed, a patchy fog was rolling in, so I decided to take a scenic detour to grab some winter scenes, starting with a few views of the fog-shrouded the lake.
I decided to head north to scenic Route 40, and I came across this pretty farmstead on the road to the tiny town of Accident.
By the time I hit Route 40, the fog was really thick.
I stopped off at the historic Castleman’s River Bridge near Grantsville. When it was built in 1813, this 80 foot span was the largest stone arch in America. It was a really beautiful scene!
The nearby Spruce Forrest artisan’s village also looked great in the snow.
Toward the end of my trip, I caught sight of an Amish buggy about to cross over the Interstate, so I grabbed the camera and made this shot through the windshield. The symbolism seemed perfect for New Year’s Eve: The crossing of old and new.
May you and your family have a happy and healthy 2010!
On our second visit we returned to the breathtaking Dingle Peninsula, which captivated us on our short, two-day stay in 2003. I stopped by the Dingle Record Shop to pick up some CDs and asked about any live pub sessions that evening, and I was delighted to learn that a well-respected Irish singer-songwriter, one Kieran Goss, would be playing an informal session in a church building undergoing renovation. Kieran was looking for audience feedback on songs he was considering for an upcoming CD that would be recorded in the U.S.
So at dusk we found our way to St. James Church, and I got my first listen to Kieran’s wonderful songs. I’m writing about this now because while surfing for some Celtic songs this evening, I came across a YouTube video posted in late September. It shows Kieran in a 2008 performance singing my favorite of his many compositions, “Reasons to Leave,” the song that made me an instant fan that memorable night in Dingle Town.
I play “Reasons to Leave” again and again, and I still find it remarkable that the song’s opening four-line stanza so perfectly sums up why I feel the way I do about Ireland:
Ireland's a dream
Of hope for what the day will bring.
The land and the sea
Is what I've come to trust.
And yet the context in which Kieran wrote this poetic gem is so different from mine: I am drawn to Ireland as a visitor; I come to this rejuvenating land and sea to slow down the pace of my world, to visit with wonderful Irish friends, and to bring myself back to the pure love of photography. But Kieran writes about the soul-wrenching dilemma that so many generations of Irish citizens have faced in deciding whether to eek out a living in their beguiling country during impossible economic times or to leave their home and family in search of a better future.
Loving Ireland the way I do, it’s enormously sad to contemplate having to face such a devastating decision. When I’m searching online for videos of Irish musicians, I read the comments of Irish expatriates in Australia, the UK, Canada, America, and elsewhere, who plainly express their longing for home; many say they are not quite sure where they belong, and the music is a healing bridge to their past.
In discussing the genesis of the song, Kieran explained that some of his 15 siblings made the hard decision to immigrate, and he writes about the emotional conflict of their urging him to do the same, in the face of his compulsion to remain in Ireland:
All that I am
Is telling me I should not go.
And all that I know
Is they're telling me I must.
At the heart of this soulful song, Kieran quantifies his dilemma in terms of reasons to leave and reasons to stay:
Reasons to leave
Are money and finding better work.
Reasons to stay
Are music and love.
Reasons to leave
Are fortune and fame for what it's worth.
The reason to stay
Is heaven on earth.
Kieran’s decision to stay in Ireland has led to a solid career, with devoted fans like me around the world. I visit his website often in hopes that I can catch a concert, either in Ireland or at home. You can sample some of Kieran’s music at this website link or on iTunes. If you love James Taylor, I bet you will love Kieran Goss. But first, watch his “Reasons to Leave” video below. To me it is a treasured reminder of a magical evening that truly was heaven on earth.
I hate feeling gloomy at Christmastime, but it’s hard not to. It’s now obvious that Congress is giving us a most unwelcome Christmas gift in the form of their massive health-insurance reform bill—even though the bill itself will be largely unknown to the Congressmen themselves, and completely unknown to the public and press. And just in time for an “historic” Christmas Eve vote, that is likely to go down in political history as one of the most cynical political maneuvers of all time . . . one that could possibly foment a grass-roots citizen revolt. I suspect life is about to be made as miserable for Democrats and Republicans as the past four months have been for concerned citizens, especially business people. This is not what I had expected to be contemplating over the 2009 holiday season: Last Christmas, I truly believed that by now we would be seeing a resilient private sector leading the way to economic recovery; that’s before I figured out how irrelevant the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration believe business people are to the country’s fiscal health. They really BELIEVE that more government is the answer.
The vote will be historic all right: The more than 3,000 pages of legislation promulgated by the House and Senate does make clear that the “reform” will represent the largest expansion of government since the New Deal; its more than 100 new regulatory agencies that will stand between you and your doctor are just the beginning. And this massive overhaul of one-sixth of the American economy (by the same folks who can’t balance a budget) will be done without the support of a citizen majority, which will either further poison the political well or hasten the revolt against the legislators who have made such a colossal hash of an issue that Americans want to be resolved in a common-sense manner.
I don’t know any business person who doesn’t want to see reform in our health delivery system that will allow portability, cover pre-existing conditions, and reduce costs so that individuals and government units can pay for reasonable coverage. Yet decade after decade government illustrates that its bullying cannot reduce prices, but the free-market can. However, free-market solutions are impossible when government controls insurance commissions and won’t allow competition across state lines; when government actually discourages tort reform; when government says it wants to hold down fraud and abuse that even IT admits is rampant in the bureaucracies it created, but then sees only more bureaucracies as the medicine to prevent it; when the Federal government refuses to implement the good-delivery models that some states have achieved on their own.
So I fear it will be a very blue Christmas for the business sector and for Americans who wish to retain their economic, social, and personal rights to health care centered squarely on an unfettered doctor-patient relationship. Even Mother Nature and 15 inches of snow couldn’t bust up the Congressional Cut-and-Paste Club that is determined to pass SOMETHING since the President has said that he will sign ANYTHING. Do it quickly, while the country is preoccupied with the holidays and digging out from under the snow!
This will be a victory for the ages—if you are to believe the tele-prompters—because America has been waiting for this since the 1940s. Hmm. If my parents and theirs could hear that fractured view of history, they would be laughing, then spinning, in their graves. This country’s inexorable march to socialized medicine was a subject of their great concern for most of my growing-up years, because my family had first-hand experience with government-run health care: We all spent many hours sitting in military dispensaries waiting to see a corpsman or nurse. Because I was prone to pneumonia as a child, my parents would pay out-of-pocket for a civilian doctor when I got sick, rather than subject me to the rationed care of our free “single-payer system.” And they did the same for my grandmother, who lived a wonderfully productive life into her mid-nineties, free from fear that advancing age might foreclose sensible medical options.
To cause this amount of national dismay in the name of cost savings, is what galls me the most: Press and politicians alike have conveniently overlooked the phony-baloney math that undergirds this sham: ObamaCare requires FOUR YEARS of tax collections before the first year of “restructured benefits” (costs) kick in. How convenient: You get to run your new business with four years of revenues to make sure your first year in business will be “revenue neutral.” Oh yes, the cost-curve will “bend down” after that, they say. Right. Just like all the other innovative government programs whose upward-bending cost curves could turn hard-core Pollyannas into teeth-grinding poly-cynics. It is simply stunning that this bill requires 4 years of taxes to pay for 7 years of mandates. Once you understand this bizarre calculus, you understand the we’re dealing with a house of cards built on a massive ponzi scheme: Bernie Madoff Goes to Washington.
PPA TAKES A STAND
I’m very pleased to see that PPA has weighed in to tell the Senate that their bill is not good for photographers or other businesses. And they are encouraging all of us to contact our represesntatives. Please do. Even if they don’t listen. Keep it up; if you don’t raise your voice you’ll never be heard. To read PPA’s statement, click here. PPA’s language was a lot kinder than mine would have been, but I’m really proud that my association is taking a stand when so many other organizations with constituencies that will be hurt by this legislation have either been paid off or are too fearful of Federal power to speak their mind.
The saddest thing of all for me this Christmas is seeing heartbreaking story-after-story of the hard times so many families are enduring because of joblessness, and knowing that their only hope for better times ahead can be provided to them not by bigger government, which serves to put the breaks on free enterprise, but rather by the private sector, which is the creative engine of job growth. It simply IS. Government can tinker around the edges, but it cannot create a robust and “real” economy. As they always do, businesses that are weathering this economic downturn are doing so by making the hard decisions and creating the out-of-the-box actions that government, by its very nature, finds impossible to manage, largely because its ranks are dominated by unions that demand wage and benefit increases, even in the face of a fiscal crisis and at times when the business sector obligingly downsizes, reinvents itself, and pulls its own weight so that government can hitch a ride. No big news here.
But there is something very new at the heart of this story, and for me it’s pretty chilling: Historically, government has respected and encouraged the unique roll the business sector has played in restarting the U.S. economy during hard times. But the table below made me wake up to why the Obama administration has been so indifferent to and even hostile toward the private sector. It points strongly to the unprecedented lack of private sector experience in the Obama cabinet and goes a long way to explain why the administration thought it could placate the business community with a one-day “Jobs Summit” attended by some big-business political allies, union bosses, academics, mayors, and non-profit representatives, while denying access to the three major advocates for business owners: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Foundation for Independent Businesses, and the National Association of Manufacturers. What a charade! They weren’t invited because they oppose the pending health care legislation. In the end, ideology trumped job creation, and the Great Recession has just become even harder to reverse. The chart below speaks volumes.
And as we near Christmas Eve, word is now leaking out about the sleazy backroom deals that Harry Reid cut to literally—LITERALLY—buy the votes of recalcitrant Senators: A veritable holiday tableau of what the public hates most about politicians, brought to you by the folks who promised change in business-as-usual Washington. Give me a break.
I’ve started my 2010 Christmas list a bit early: I’m keeping a list of the breathtaking deals that were cut to make this 2009 devastating “present” to the American people possible. I’m hoping that as fellow citizens see exactly how business is being conducted in Washington, some of the fine folks who sold out their constituents will find a way to put some coal (or other fossil fuel) in their stockings next November. Perhaps I’ll post something about this next year.
In the meantime, I’m heading for a family holiday in Deep Creek, and as it should be in this glorious season, I’m taking a most welcome time out from the real world.
Have you heard about the FREE December 28 Websummit? It’s Sarah Petty’s latest educational extravaganza that will feature 14 hours of education from 28 super-successful photographers offering their best ideas for marketing and making money in 2010. What a great way to prepare for the new business year!
Best of all, Sarah’s Joy of Marketing organization has partnered with PPA Charities to use the Websummit as an opportunity to raise funds for Operation Smile, the incredible Norfolk, Virginia-based charity that provides the gift of surgery to precious children suffering from facial deformities. As a PPA Charities Trustee, I am thrilled that so many photographers will have the opportunity to learn about and donate to PPA Charities’ outreach on behalf of Operation Smile during this high-profile educational event! Over 10,000 professional photographers registered for Sarah's Master Photographers Free Marketing Telesummit in September, and she expects an even bigger audience for this great marketing event, which will help you jump start your business for 2010.
Sarah has set a goal to save the smiles of 100 children ($24,000) through the Websummit. It takes only $240 for Operation Smile's volunteer medical professionals to change the life of a child forever. What better way for photographers to give back to children in need!
What's more, The Joy of Marketing will match
Websummit donations up to $5,000!
So if you haven’t taken the opportunity to stand with your fellow photographers to really make a difference in the lives of deserving children, now’s the time to do so — when you register (for free) for the Joy to the World Marketing Websummit by clicking here.
Donations of $1 to $1,000 will be accepted. Before you register consider this: For a donation of $240, you can become a 2010 Operation Smile Studio, which proclaims to your clients that you are part of an international commitment by PPA Charities to support the life-changing work of Operation Smile. Why? Because it’s a privilege to be a photographer who makes a living by photographing the smiles of children and their proud families.
I’m extremely grateful to Sarah, and to other PPA leaders and educators this year for recognizing the power we have as an industry when we work together toward a single goal. So take a moment to listen to Sarah as she explains what’s happening at her Joy to the World Websummit set for December 28.
If you're not available on December 28, 2009, or want to get a head start on 2010 planning for your business, you can purchase the Adobe FLASH files of all 14 hours for $89 and receive access to the speaker presentations IMMEDIATELY. A pre-websummit special price of $59 is available until December 27. Just register before December 28, 2009, and you'll receive this special offer! To learn more about Sarah Petty's Joy of Marketing Websummit, click here.
Huge thanks and BIG SMILES to Sarah for her generosity in partnering with
PPA Charities in support of Operation Smile!
|There is nothing in my photographic career that has given me more satisfaction and joy as watching my fellow photographers reach out and support the work of Operation Smile, the charitable partner of PPA Charities. Because so many of us make our livings by photographing the smiles of happy children and their proud families, it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate charity to support than Operation Smile, whose volunteer medical professionals and staff make it possible to transform the lives of children by repairing their smiles for as little as $240.|
Now Your Business Can Become an Operation Smile Studio!
This month PPA Charities began an initiative that will allow Operation Smile to provide hundreds more needy children with the gift of surgery each year: For a donation of only $240, you can become a 2010 Operation Smile Studio, which proclaims to your clients that you are part of an international commitment to transform the lives of these precious children and their families.
A $240 donation is well within the reach of every PPA studio: Simply donate $10 each for 24 sessions, and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you, personally, have profoundly improved the life of a deserving child.
It Really IS Good Business!
We all know that most well-qualified consumers prefer to do business with people who support worthy causes. But today, when the market is full of unprofessional wannabe photographers, being part of a high-profile international effort to help others serves to elevate your professional standing: This is your chance to show the world what talented, committed PPA photographers can do when they stand together to support such a worthy cause.
Please Donate by December 15!
When you contribute $240 by December 15, you will be listed as a 2010 Operation Smile Leadership Studio. What’s more, you’ll qualify for a $500 cash drawing at Imaging USA, and have a chance to win a life-changing experience: the opportunity to document an Operation Smile Medical Mission.
We still need 138 more Operation Smile Studios in order to meet our January 2010 donation goal of $70,000. I hope you will help to put us over the top!
To donate now, please click here.
You can watch our progress by becoming an Operation Smile Studio Facebook Fan. Just clickhere.
To view videos of Operation Smile at work, click here.
Learn more ways to help reach PPA Charities' $70,000 donation goal (and support Operation Smile and PPA Charities year-round) by visiting the PPACH website.