June 30, 2010

Steel Town


ere is another installment of the photos-from-the-past series. I hope it isn’t boring for everyone else, but I have really enjoyed seeing these photos again after a few years. The photos in this post are from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

A few years ago, my wife conducted support groups for adoptive families. Most people don’t realize the unique and difficult issues that many adoptive families deal with on a daily basis. These issues range from medical-related situations the adopted child may have to behavior fall-out from the adoption process to being ostracized from general society because the family makeup is different than the “norm.” The non-acceptance from others seems to be worse in the church than it is among the general public, which strikes me as odd since adoption is presented in the bible as the way we Christians are brought into the family of God.

The dome at the old Pittsburgh train depot

So Kim worked with the United Methodist Family Services under the faith based non-profit organization Adoptive Family Preservation. She conducted support groups to help folks navigate the often strange and complicated paths surrounding medical, education, and church integration of the adopted children. She attended IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings with parents who needed help through that process. She counseled families on how to figure out the needed lingo to communicate with doctors who are looking for code words rather than diagnosing the child on their own. And she counseled families on many other diverse issues.

Night view from the top of the Duquesne Incline
The stadium is lit for a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game

All this counseling and support required training. So Adoptive Family Preservation sent Kim to regular training sessions. And as a family-oriented group, they invited folks to attend these training seminars as whole families.

The training seminars in Pittsburgh were huge. Hundreds of counselors attended the training and the trainers offered myriad choices of topical training. It was an amazing week-long seminar.

Another view from the Incline

They also provided a camp-type atmosphere for the children, with events, games, touring, and all kinds of fun activities. That kept David busy for the week.

Kim and David kissing Pittsburgh goodbye

All this left me with the opportunity to walk all over Pittsburgh with my camera in hand. I found wonderful places, unique public art work, and some great restaurants, markets, and an amazing cheese shop. And our family found Pittsburgh to be a delightful city. David even became a solid Pittsburgh Steelers fan as a result of our visit. His bedroom is now decorated in Steelers memorabilia.


June 29, 2010

Blog Header - June 27, 2010

I took this photo at the recent Front Royal Celtic Festival. I just liked this woman’s western look, which seemed to totally not fit in with the theme of the festival. Of course, she was at the coffee shop and may not have intended to be a festival attendee at all. However, the camera on the table in front of her seems to indicate otherwise.

Baltimore Inner Harbor


have been going through some of my photos from the past four years or so and quite a few are jumping out at me and waving their hands for recognition. So I thought I’d post a few of them to the blog.

This first group is from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. That’s in Maryland, for any of you who are not familiar with the east coast of the United States. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor had fallen into disrepair a few decades ago and the city decided to fix it up as part of a community restoration project. The project also included the fabulous Camden Yards Stadium, home of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. Camden Yards is just a few blocks away from the Inner Harbor. The whole area is a wonderful place to visit now.

I loved the look of the large sailing vessels docked in the Harbor. I took this first photo to give context to the ship. It’s not often that you see a ship like this in front of an obvious cityscape.

Inner Harbor – Baltimore, Maryland
Another view of the Inner Harbor at night

As God has moved us around from place to place over the past few years, we have noticed that enjoyment of any locality is dependent upon your ability to notice what the place has to offer. Every location has its own unique beauty. Every location has its own history, legends, and stories. We just have to get out and find them.

One of the ships at night


June 27, 2010

Blast from the past


love photographs! I guess everyone probably already realizes that, so I’m not giving you a whole lot of new information here. But I was reminded of my love for photographs yesterday.

My work computer has run out of hard drive space, so yesterday I purchased an external hard drive and spent some time moving things over to that drive to free up space on my primary drive. Some of the things I moved were photos from recent years. As I moved the photos from Occoquan Bible Church (OBC) over the external drive, I noticed a few of my wife Kim. We attended OBC just before we moved to Lynchburg. In terms of activities and opportunities to forge friendships, OBC was the antithesis to the church we attended in Lynchburg. I have never seen such a busy church. There were always things happening, and the people involved took great efforts to do it all with quality and professionalism.

This photo of Kim is from the FestiFall event—a harvest festival of sorts that was first launched the year that the church moved into its first building. The intention of the event was to provide an opportunity for the people of the community to get to know our church’s people. They had pony rides, moon bounces, crafts, games, and loads of food—all free for the folks of the community.

I also found this photo of David and me from about the same time. This was at Prince William Park—the park where my sister got married. And we were visiting the park with my sister and her family when Kim took this picture of David and me.

Great stuff. And I’m glad I found these photos to remind me of those days.


June 25, 2010

Front Royal Annual Celtic Festival

Kim, at the festival

ow much can I say about how much we love Front Royal? A great number of very trying circumstances came together to prompt our move to Front Royal. We knew that God was in control, but we had no idea what a wonderful place he had in mind for our new home. We also had no idea that our son would one day want to wear a kilt. We’re waiting to find out the exact tartan for Kim’s ancestry. If we don’t find that, we may get David a Unity kilt for next year’s festival.

David, dressed in his Celtic battle gear

This past Saturday, Front Royal celebrated its 2nd Annual Celtic Festival, and it was another wonderful time. It seems that something is happening in Front Royal every weekend. The town puts on a great air show, canoe and kayaking events, historic battle reenactments, There are festivals for the changing of the seasons, to celebrate the local horse farms, berry farms, and vineyards. And this past weekend, the folks from Appalachia and Shenandoah gathered in Front Royal to celebrate their mutual Celtic heritage.

I have never really paid much attention to my own heritage—perhaps because much of it seems to be apocryphal, having been passed down via word-of-mouth and embellished by each new generation. And recent events surrounding immigrants who seem to not like our nation very much have given me a bad impression of those who hold firmly to their non-U.S. culture after they immigrate. But this event allowed me the opportunity to experience a different perspective on both of these things.

An interesting looking couple

First, my wife is of Scottish descent. So when we entered the festival and were asked what clan we are part of, she was able to answer with two family names. One man looked up the ancestral name “Hamilton” and gave us some information about the Hamilton clan. It gave a context to the festival that made it very enjoyable for our family.

Then, at the Calling of the Clans, representatives from some of the larger clans carried out their ancestral national flags and stood at attention in front of the town gazebo. On their far right was the American flag. After calling the clans, they read some amazing historical documents written by the Irish, the Scottish, and the Welsh leaders from years gone by. Then everyone saluted the American flag and sang the National Anthem. It was truly inspiring to see these folks who cling dearly to a national heritage they love joining together with American pride and proclaiming their commitment to this nation.

The Calling of the Clans

David got to dress in chain mail and a knight’s battle helmet and he got to hold quite a few long swords. We met a couple of falcon trainers and got to see their birds up close. We heard a lot of great Celtic music, we saw phenomenal Irish dancing. It was a thoroughly enjoyable event. And, once again, we were reminded of how grateful we are to God for bringing us to this wonderful town.


June 24, 2010

Blog Header - June 20, 2010

I took the photo for this blog header this past Saturday at the 2nd Annual Front Royal Celtic Festival. I’ll try to post a bit about this fun event soon. But for now, this falcon was one of the attendees—and he is totally awesome.

June 20, 2010

Blog Header - June 16, 2010

I took this photo at the wonderful retreat home of Thomas Jefferson—Poplar Forest, Virginia. The historic Poplar Forest puts on special events a few times each year and the woman in this photo is one of their regular period actors. She uses flax to make all kinds of things, including wigs.

Poplar Forest is a fantastic place, and it gives you a unique feel for Thomas Jefferson, one of our most amazing and inspiring founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson wrote most of the writings we are familiar with from this location, which was his home after he the public life of the U.S. presidency. It is located in Forest, Virginia, the next town over from Lynchburg, Virginia. We were frequent guests at Poplar Forest until we moved to Front Royal this past August. It is one of the things we miss from Lynchburg.

June 18, 2010

Friday - Music

Andreas Vollenweider

I’ve got to see you again! – Norah Jones


June 17, 2010

American by birth—Ignorant by choice


know this post has a somewhat provocative title. I’m not trying to cause trouble—just wanted to bring your attention to an interesting blog post. In “We are all born ignorant: I just didn’t stay that way,” Pastor Larry Jones answers an article written by an atheist, the title of which is “We are all born atheists: I just stayed that way.” I think he makes some good points.

Read the article here.


June 16, 2010

Blog Header - June 13, 2010

My blog headers are usually photos that I have taken, but this time I thought I’d share with you one of my muses—Steve Hanks.

Early in our marriage, my wife discovered a small art shop in old town Fredericksburg, Virginia. We lived nearby and began to frequent this wonderful little art gallery. Over the years we collected a good amount of paintings from some of our favorite artists. But our absolute favorite artist and the one whose paintings cover the walls of our home is Steve Hanks. His water color paintings boggle the mind for realism and for the beautiful portrayal of family life and private moments.

Steve’s water looks so real you expect the painting to get you wet if you were to touch it. The fur on the cats and dogs in his paintings looks so soft you can practically feel it with your eyes. The women in his paintings exude strength and confidence while at the same time showing a rare feminine vulnerability. And perhaps that is the reason I like Steve Hanks’ paintings of women so much. They remind me of my wife who has that strong feminine quality while at the same time being one of the strongest women I have ever met.

Hanks also uses lighting in a way that inspires my photography. He makes extensive use of backlighting—with long shadows falling from the surrounding trees through the foreground toward the viewer and the translucent fabrics picking up the brightness of that light. I have tried for many years to produce photos that evoke the same emotions as Hanks’ paintings evoke. I have a long way to go, but it’s a continual encouragement to my photographic vision and growth.

Steve Hank’s Gallery

June 15, 2010

Making an IMPACT


ever talk about your relationships or your job on a blog!

This seems to be the unwritten rule of blogging. In fact, it could be considered an actual (“literal”—to use an extremely overused and improperly used term) written rule, since there was a whole chapter dedicated to it in the blogging book I bought for my wife when she launched her blog. Apparently, many folks have gotten themselves into trouble by commenting on their public blogs about relationships with people they’re unhappy with or by discussing what has happened on their job.

I am now going to violate this rule. In fact, I’m feeling brazen today so I’ll violate it in both parts. Part 1: I love my wife. We’ve been married for almost a quarter of a century and I would not trade her for the world. But that’s not the purpose of this blog post. Part 2 (the actual purpose of this post): I am very proud of the firm I work for.

Waiting for the day to begin

I am employed as a graphic designer / photographer / desktop publisher by Deloitte & Touche, the largest Tax and Audit firm in the world. I have been with Deloitte for eight years now and have learned to greatly appreciate its culture.

For the purposes of this blog post I will focus on only one area of the Deloitte culture—volunteer community involvement. Deloitte & Touche encourages its employees from the partner level all the way through the firm to the staff level (where I reside) to get involved in our own communities—providing pro bono services unique to our skills or simply providing a strong back or an analytic mind to help our local communities thrive and prosper. This is a serious commitment at Deloitte & Touche. It even enters our personal mentoring and coaching sessions, which at most companies focus only on how to get ahead at work and how to benefit the company. Deloitte puts its money where its mouth is, in a manner of speaking.

Making care package greeting cards

In celebration of the firm’s commitment to community involvement and to draw the attention of our employees to this initiative, Deloitte sponsors IMPACT Day once every year. On this day Deloitte essentially shuts down our offices world wide and sends the employees out into their communities in groups. They dress us in Deloitte IMPACT Day shirts so we will be easily recognized and we help out at rehabilitation centers for the elderly, Boys and Girls clubs, emergency service organizations, homeless shelters, business leader cooperative centers, and on and on the list goes. It is a wonderful day and our employees return thoroughly excited about what they’ve done and about how committed Deloitte is to benefiting society.

Emergency Preparedness Roundtable Discussion

For the past two years I have been asked to photograph the Hub Event—a significant number of seminars and training sessions all centrally located in a large facility with many training rooms. Last year’s event was held in the Washington, D.C., Convention Center. This year’s event was in our new office just outside of D.C., in Rosslyn, Virginia. These events have held CPR training, computer literacy skills training, Emergency Preparedness coordination, help for the Capitol Area Food Bank, and many other laudable efforts. One large room each year holds myriad Deloitte employees around a huge table filled with custom card-making supplies. The Deloitte employees make hand-made cards that will be included in care packages built by another large group of Deloitte employees. We then send these care packages to high school students, wounded veterans, and others in need of encouragement.

Finished care package cards

Another room houses many Deloitte employees reading essay after essay for the Orphan Foundation of America. The winner of this essay will receive a full university scholarship to help them on their way as they leave the status of “ward of the state” and move into adulthood.

It is truly wonderful to see my fellow employees at Deloitte voluntarily making such a huge impact. And as the photographer I get to see more of it than most. And it swells my heart with pride that Deloitte & Touche does this.

Essay reading for the Orphan Foundation

Since this year began, I have posted a few times about the need to show “steadfast love and faithfulness.”

If you’re interested in reading any of those posts, here are a few: Discerning God’s Will | Biblical Success Manual | Sitting at the Feet of the Instructor | Whose Definition? | Biblical Success Manual II | Start With God. I should probably point out another aspect of Deloitte culture here: commitment to a diverse workplace. The afore-mentioned blogposts reflect my highly religious paradigm; Deloitte would not necessarily agree with everything I say in those posts. But they are committed to having folks of all different background, religious traditions, ethnicities, etc., working collaboratively for the mutual benefit of all of us. It’s a great culture and another thing I am proud of Deloitte for.

CEO Barry Salzburg and RMP Gary Tabach talking with a volunteer

IMPACT Day is a tangible example of a large firm committing its resources to show steadfast love (kindness) and faithfulness (dependability) to society.

Kudos to you Deloitte & Touche. I’m proud to be part of this firm!

Deloitte.com | IMPACT Day


June 13, 2010

Happy birthday, Kim - We love Front Royal


esterday was Kim’s birthday. Happy birthday, Kim! So we decided to take advantage of one of our town’s unique offerings—baseball.

If you were to walk straight through the woods behind our neighborhood (“as the crow flies”) you would come to a large playground, a pavilion with lots of picnic tables, a swimming pool, and a large baseball complex, including a wonderful baseball stadium. The front of the baseball stadium proclaims that this is the “Bing Crosby Stadium.” Quite a conversation starter when we take visitors around our town to see the sights.

The stadium was built in honor of Bing Crosby who visited the town of Front Royal when he was in the Washington, DC, area on business. The town was raising money for their Little League facilities and Bing Crosby donated a large sum of money to kick off the fund raising. Crosby, who was always a promoter of youth athletics, later made another very large donation to bring the needed funds into the town of Front Royal. This stadium was built in his honor due to that event and to his commitment to Little League athletics.

We have heard the sounds of the games from our bedroom window at night, but this was our first visit to one of the games, and it was a blast. The athletes were college-aged and played quite well. The Front Royal Cardinals were hosting the Rockbridge Rapids. It was a good night for the Cardinals who took the game 7-0.

Two concessioneers

The young kids (including David, who is not so young anymore) grouped at the end of the stands and ran out to retrieve any pop-up foul balls from the parking lot. If they turn the balls into the concession, they get a free snack. So the stadium employees don't have to scour the parking lot for balls after the game and the kids get to eat lots of sugar. A true win-win situation if there ever was one. And it kept David occupied throughout the game.

A cute little girl watching the game

Because this is not professional ball, the players do not get paid and are not provided with housing. We met one of the families that opens their house to a couple of players. And it was fun listening to the crowd cheering their favorite players on—often the players who stay at their house.

The experience reminded us of the Lynchburg Hillcats minor league games we loved attending so much while we were living in Lynchburg. The stadium is not as large, the stands not quite as full. And there is no mascot (we miss Southpaw). But we’re close enough to walk to the games, the people of Front Royal are a thoroughly enjoyable group of people to spend an evening with, and the game play was very good.

David, waiting for another pop-fly foul

We have been truly blessed to have been moved to this town in the Shenandoah Mountains. Kim’s birthday just gave us one more experience and one more reason to love this town.


June 12, 2010

Blog Header - June 9, 2010

The firm I work for has quite a few offices in downtown Washington, DC. The office I work in most often when I work downtown is located on the corner of 10th and G Streets. The light posts that line the streets outside this building have beautiful seasonal hanging flower baskets. I took this photo a few years ago in the spring, just as the flowers began to bloom.

June 10, 2010

Blog Header - June 6, 2010

When we lived in Lynchburg, we had a wonderful biking and walking trail very close to our house. It was wonderful and we took advantage of the trail on a regular basis. This photo is on the trail about halfway between our house and downtown Lynchburg. A high railroad bridge was directly above the camera in this picture, so this was a spot that we stopped at quite often while we were walking or biking along the trail. David would climb the hill to get a closer look at the train tracks and Kim and I would take photos down below.

The Blackwater Creek Trail is one of the things we really miss about Lynchburg.