Wednesday, April 10, 2019


Hello and welcome to my Blog!

I have established this as a means to keep Family and Friends informed about what the heck I am thinking/doing these days!  I also hope it might serve as a chronicle of sorts to my Daughter one day.
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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Cuckoo Clock


It has been a little over two years since I have posted here, or for that matter, really sat down and written much of anything!  Shame on me!!

The events and challenges that overtook our family during that time, simply overshadowed my desire to write.  Things have settled quite a bit and time has a way of pulling us along....and through...even the most difficult times, like a stubborn, faithful friend.

Recently, a good friend had some encouraging words for me, regarding some of my past blog posts.  Encouraging enough, to motivate me to shake the dust and cobwebs from the part of me that shares  anecdotes and simple stories.  Here is another.

From 1985 - 1988, I was in the U.S. Army, stationed in Berlin.  Sometime in 1987, I received a call from my parents.  This was as uncommon, as it was expensive!  I don't recall if it was my Mom or my Dad, but they wanted to let me know they were planning a vacation in Germany.  They wanted to visit me and at the same time, fulfill my Mom's lifelong dream of visiting Austria, (specifically Salzburg...where the movie, "The Sound of Music" had been filmed) and Germany, where my Mom hoped to visit the "Black Forest" and buy a "Cuckoo Clock".

The dates were established and it wasnt long before I found myself at Templehof Airport, greeting my parents!  Now, it bears noting that I come from a rather, well....lets just say, "stoic" family setting.  I was raised in a time and place, where Parents concerned themselves more with Parenting, and less with being your "friend".  It was quite normal and I assumed everyone's family was disciplined, stoic and ...Catholic!  I mention this because this would be the first time in my life that I would be speaking to my Parents, and spending time with them as a "sort of" responsible adult!

We enjoyed time at a variety of places while they visited, and my Mom fell in love with Salzburg, as did I.  In part because of the connection to my Mom's favorite movie, "The Sound Of Music".  However, one place and one event has stuck with me these 30 plus years later, more than any other.

We took an enchanting and picturesque train ride into the Black Forest, specifically to Triberg.  It is perhaps, the quintessential place to buy a traditional, hand carved cuckoo clock.  It is a breathtakingly pretty town, surrounded by the Black Forest in all directions.  The thick, dark woods reminds one of the Grimm Brothers fairy tale, "Hansel and Gretel!

While in Triberg, I recall talking to my Dad, at dinner I think....and conversing about something that had nothing to do with him being my Father, or me being his son.  We were just talking....two men, talking about...whatever, with each other.  I think he related a story from his youth, I admit, I dont recall.  At the time I did not really notice but later, as I was lying in bed going over the day, it struck me that for the first Dad had told me a story and just me. Not because I was in trouble, or because there was a lesson I needed to learn....not even because I was being "grounded" for some transgression!  He was just talking to me, like I was another man whose company he was enjoying.   It was the first time that had ever taken place...I was 25 years old.  It was a turning point for me, and I have never forgotten it.

The next day, we visited several "Cuckoo Clock" stores.  Now the word "store" is a bit of a misnomer, as some of these were half "workshop" and half "store".  At the time, there were still ACTUAL craftsman and wood carvers that would hand make cuckoo clocks.  My Mom was like a little girl in a candy shop.  She would bounce from clock to clock....a small clock here...a large clock there..."ohhhh look at this one"!..."it is much bigger"......"listen to how deep the cuckoo sings on this one"!  God knows how long we spent looking at clocks.  My Mom was in Cuckoo Heaven!  I then overheard my Mom and Dad talking about the prices. The prices of some of these hand carved, all wood clocks ranged from the hundreds to the tens of thousands of dollars!

Now I must pause here for a moment and explain something.  My family was frugal.  Not "Stingy" but rather the frugal that comes from a Dad working to support the 6 children that Mom was home taking care of every day.  "Powdered Milk"?  Yeah...We drank plenty of that.  Campbells Soup?  We thought that a grilled cheese sandwich and soup was almost like going out to dinner!  To be fair, we never went hungry (unless we went to bed without dinner because we had committed some terrible crime like talking back to Mom) and we did not live in poverty, but money was not wasted in our family. Money was required to provide for the family and there was usually little left for amenities.  We drove used cars, wore our cousins' "hand me down clothes"...and our family lived paycheck to paycheck.

So, when I overheard my Mom and Dad talking about the cost of some of these clocks, I was shocked when I heard my Dad say to my Mom, "you pick what you like, don't worry about the cost"....I was floored!   And, it was not my Father being flippant...I could tell he meant it.  I wasn't the only one floored.  My Mom stared back almost in disbelief...and I saw at that moment, a look in each of their eyes...that I had never  seen before.

My Mom eventually settled on a clock.  It was beautiful, larger than average, completely hand carved and it played two different Mozart when it struck the hour prior to noon, and one when it struck the hour after Noon. Little people would emerge and dance and twirl ...rotating just under the little cuckoo was beautiful...and it wasn't inexpensive.  When I watched my Mom select it from the hundreds of clocks, her blue eyes were bright and sparkling.  She was smiling like the little girl I saw running from clock to clock a while earlier.  I had never, ever, seen my Mom like this, and even writing about it is a powerful memory.

 My Mom Selecting her Cuckoo Clock  (Triberg, Germany 1987)

The clock was shipped back to their home to preclude it from being damaged, as we still had several more days to vacation and travel.  Me?  I was left carrying the three wooden encased weights that hang under the clock.  I dragged those weights around...all 21 lbs.....train station to train they would have cost a fortune to ship back to the USA.  To this day my Father laughs when he remembers me carrying and cursing the cuckoo clock weights!:)

From what I hear, my Mom LOVED and enjoyed that cuckoo Dad, well, it sometimes drove him crazy!

My Mom passed away 5 years later, succumbing to cancer.   I was fortunate enough to make it home about 2 days before she passed.  I was able to hug my Mom, and whisper that I loved she lay on the couch....under the "tick tock" of that same cuckoo clock...the night she left us.

Years later, my Dad would give the cuckoo clock to me saying, "I know what it means to you".  It has hung prominently in our living room ever since.  It gets cleaned, repaired..whatever it takes to make sure it continues to keep time and play the familiar melodies at the top of each hour.  And it serves as a bittersweet reminder of that "little girl I saw running from clock to clock" all those years Mom. 



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Catching Up

Our house.  New Roof, New Paint and decorated for Christmas!

I do not have a large following here at RazorSharpInsights, but those that do look in from time to time, might have noticed I have not posted for about 9 months!  There are a variety of reasons that I put my commentaries and pictorials on hold, but for the most part I have just been busy and preoccupied.

This year brought with it...a number of  choices, challenges and chores.  To say it has been the busiest year in recent memory would be an understatement!  I have decided to use some photos and captions, to quickly "catch you up" with what has been happening in my life!

My last Post was in March of this year.

In April, I took a few photos in and around Tacoma.  The purpose was larger than the posting of these three pics, but that is something to be discussed/Posted at a later date!

The first photo is of the Lighthouse at Browns Point.  The photo below it was taken from the Tacoma waterfront at sunset.  And the third photo was taken in Tacoma's Wapato Park.

In May, I tried my hand at taking a panoramic photo of Seattle from across Elliot Bay

Our daughter graduated from Clover Park Technical College in June!  Congratulations!

July brought with it the traditional, neighborhood fireworks, a closeup of a Dragonfly escaping the disorienting noise and flashes of July 4th, and our dog Bella, during an outing to the Dog Park!

About this time, I made a decision to retire this year. Those that know me, likely appreciate and understand my reasons.  I also scheduled a very long overdue Knee Replacement for September.  This would allow me to finish and enjoy a little vacation before being laid up for a couple months...and the recovery would take me into November, when I would retire. 

August saw me taking some vacation time!  I needed to get some chores accomplished and I had some planning to do.  The house needed some siding replaced, a new roof, windows repaired, some appliances replaced, new paint...the house would be 19 years old, and I wanted it prepared for retirement as well!!

I wanted to get a solid, 2nd car before retirement, as we were still driving our 15 year old Isuzu Rodeo!  I also wanted my wife to have a dependable and very nice car to do her "running around" in.  Since I had become very familiar with the E46 BMW's (1999-2005 3 Series) quirks and positives after maintaining my daughters E46... an "Orient Blue",  BMW 330i it is!  A set of wheels, a cooling system overhaul and some replacement pulleys and she was ready to go!

I took some time to attend the Air Show at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and snapped off a few photos from outside the Base. Represented below: Current, WWII and Korean War era aircraft.  See if you know what they are!!!  (No quiz...but fun) 

I would obtain a new "Portrait Lens" for my DSLR later in the month and I took an opportunity to use our grandson Landon as a test subject as he was walking towards me in the sunset lit garage!!  Below him, an unsuspecting Hummingbird.


I also bought a new Wide Angle lens for my DSLR...yes, it was a shopping spree!!!  First test subject????  The State Capitol Building at night!

September came quickly.  I squeezed in a camping trip with Sandi and Landon, to the Oregon Coast.  We enjoyed the beach, a visit to the Tillamook Cheese Factory, a day trip to Depot Bay where we saw plenty of whales, and even a late night stroll on Pacific Beach!

Sandi and I repaired and painted an old, oak bench I had given her for Mothers Day years ago.  It went from old fashioned to WOW!!!

Then there was surgery.  September 13th crept up quickly on me, as much as I tried not to think about it.  I have had a couple of "knee surgeries", but a complete knee replacement?!!  I was a bit apprehensive, but the day came and off I the wee hours of the morning to get it done.  Before I knew it, I was out of surgery and in a bit of a daze.  I looked down...yep, my leg was still there!  Seems it had went well.  From here out it would be an uncomfortable 4 weeks, (made bearable due to Sandi's efforts) then a couple months of some uncomfortable Physical Therapy.  Oh well.

October.  Halloween!!  We did a little pumpkin carving to help decorate the house for Trick or Treater's!

November 1st, I retired from my most recent profession. I say this because "retirement" is often associated with not working ever again!!  This will not be the case with me, though I am still not sure what I "want to do when I grow up".

I was ready to begin some light workouts to strengthen my new knee. When I plugged in/got on my trusty recumbent bike that I had so faithfully used over the past two years, it completely malfunctioned!  The screen blinked wildly, the speaker screeched out some strange sounding "beeps"....and after some investigating, I realized that the computer board was kaput.  I learned that it would not be cost effective to repair the bike, sooooooo off to the store I went!  I ended up buying a higher quality bike and had it setup in no time!  Gentle workouts commenced that day.

In December, Sandi, Veronica, Jesse (Friend from work) and I, traveled to Chicago to attend my Niece Erin's (and Tim's) wedding.  It was a beautiful ceremony and reception and it allowed me to reconnect with family in Chicago. (and everyone else that came!)  While we were only there for about 28 hours, we were glad we had made the trip!

From Chicago, we headed home to Michigan and took a few days to enjoy visiting with my brothers/sisters and my Dad and his wife.  I made sure that Jesse was able to experience some of the places I knew growing up, and gave him a brief tour of the area.  We visited my old neighborhoods to include the schools and church I grew up attending. St Lawrence Church is pictured below.

We also visited downtown include Hart Plaza, (note the sculpture of Joe Louis' fist)  the Detroit River, (across from which is Windsor, Ontario) the Maritime Sailors Cathedral, (yes, the one Gordon Lightfoot mentions in the song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald) Greek Town, Yates Cider Mill and we toured Hitsville USA, the birthplace of MOTOWN!

 I think Sandi, Veronica and Jesse understood my love of the "MoTown Sound" a little better, after standing/singing (we sang "My Girl" in Studio A) in the same house...the same studio...that Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, Diana Ross and the Supremes and so many other talented singers and songwriters had stood, sang and recorded some of the best music ever produced!.  There is NO music like the music that came out of that small house on West Grand Blvd., Detroit!

We took a short trip/detour to the 8 Mile and Woodward area of Detroit.  An area that has felt the sting of the failed economy of Detroit.  We drove past street after street of vacant, vandalized and burned out houses.  There were also plenty of large manufacturing buildings and auto plants that stood vacant and destroyed.  It was sad to see.

Before we knew it,  it was time to fly back home and start preparing for the Holidays.  We took off and flew west into a beautiful sunset....hours later we were back in Seattle/Tacoma.

Thanksgiving came and went and before we knew it, Christmas was upon us!  We decided to get a large, 10 ft tall tree this year.  We wanted our tree to symbolize the great thankfulness and joy we felt this year.  It was a very busy, sometimes anxious...most times happy and grateful kind of year for me.  

So there you have it!  I want to wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year and I look forward to the adventures next year will bring!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Overnight In Seattle

 Recently, we decided to spend a night in a Seattle Hotel  that we had actually toured some 20 years ago...thinking we would stay there sometime during that 1996 summer.  At that time, we were relatively recently married and we were enjoying different romantic places to stay throughout the Northwest.  If I recall correctly, the places we were exploring were from a book titled "The 50 Most Romantic Places To Stay In The Northwest".  We stayed at the "Inn At Langley", "The Channel House", (in Depot Bay) "The Sorrento Hotel", (in Seattle) and the "Four Seasons River Inn" (in Leavenworth) just to name a few.

I recall that none of these places were cheap.  In fact, they were all quite exclusive and like most things, you get what you pay for!  So, when I called and booked our 1 night stay at the "Inn At The Market", a half block away from the Pike Place Market, I found myself wishing I was paying the 1996 rate!

We arrived early on a Sunday morning and were able to check in early.  We  loved the location of this place as everything that we would be visiting or doing, would be within walking distance of the hotel.  If you are spending the day in and around Pike Place or Post Alley, there is no better Hotel to stay in.  The bed was ridiculously comfortable, the room modern and spotless, and the bathroom was the nicest I had ever stepped into!   During the summer, the outside, 5th floor terrace gives a fantastic view of Pike Place and the entire Bay....looking all the way across to Alki.

 View from our room

Later that afternoon our daughter and her boyfriend met up with us and hung out.  We all enjoyed some fresh market food...clam chowder, fresh crab, some french pastry's...good stuff!  I had planned on getting over to Alki Beach around sunset, to try to capture a night skyline photo of Seattle.  It was raining, but I had never photographed Seattle from Alki and I figured since we were so close, why not take 30 minutes and get a few photos!  We got into my daughter's car and drove to Alki, where I snapped off a few photos as the cloudy skies darkened over the Emerald City.

 Seattle skyline from Alki

We then spent 20 minutes trying to decide where to have dinner.  My daughter's boyfriend, Darren, said he had heard great things about an Italian place called "The Pink Door" near our hotel.  We all agreed we should give it a try and within about 20 minutes, we were back in the area of Post Alley, and walking into the restaurant thru it's pink door!  We enjoyed a truly fantastic meal at this highly regarded Italian restaurant.  Fresh pasta, fantastic sauces, Limoncello...perfect little doughnut things with a hazelnut dipping sauce for dessert...amazing!  We congratulated Darren on his highly successful recommendation!

My daughter and her boyfriend said goodbye and headed back home, as we walked back to our Hotel room.  It had been a very pleasant day, rain or not...and we still had the next morning to shop at the Market and pick up flowers...something Sandi never leaves Pike Place without!


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Winter "Paradise"

Driving up Mt Rainier

For some time, I had planned on taking some "winter" photos in the Cascade Mountains, and figured I would do some snowshoeing or hiking to get a less than "common" photo of Mt Rainier and the surrounding area.  When I told my wife of my plans, she said she had not been up to Mt Rainier in the winter for many years and wondered if she might tag along.  She advised me that she did not want to hike in "the cold snow", (She shivers just looking at a picture of snow) but would love to go along for the ride.  We decided to ask our daughter to come with us, and we made it a family trip!  So....snowshoeing was out!

We took our time driving through Orting and up into the Cascade Mountains where we enjoyed a sunny day and virtually dry roads all the way to the Paradise Visitors Center.  I wanted to catch Mt Rainier in the more interesting, evening light, but discovered that the road past Longmire would be closed at 5 pm!

As we made our way toward the top, we stopped and I hurriedly snapped off a few photos from a roadside Viewpoint I believe was "Glacier Vista Viewpoint"?  (Hike/climb up as high as you can opposite the view from where others simply snap pictures from...the extra 10 or 20 feet of elevation will really help your composition!)  The lighting was quite nice and the view was beautiful.  Back to the car!  Let's go!

 The drive to Paradise was a bit longer than any of us remembered (We hadn't been up there for about 15 years!) and we got to Paradise at around 4:45 pm.  I took a few more photos from an area just off the parking lot at Paradise and we took a bit of time to just enjoy the view of the majestic and snow covered Mt Rainier.

The time constraints prevented me from setting up a tripod and composing anything fancy or "unique", but Mt Rainier National Park is simply beautiful in the winter and getting a few good photos is hardly a challenge.

As the sun started to set, we headed down the mountain.  We stopped and snapped a few more photos but as we descended, we lost the glorious, snow laden branches of the Douglas Fir trees, and the otherwise heavy snow that we enjoyed at the higher altitudes.  We enjoyed the leisurely drive home and ended our day with dinner at a local sushi restaurant.

We had not been out for an extended "scenic drive" as a family for some time, and the consensus was a great day!  Below are a couple photos I took on our drive to..."Paradise"!

 Glacier Vista Viewpoint

  Paradise Visitors Center Area

Wednesday, February 17, 2016



So I haven't been much for writing the past few months.  Seems the Holidays and some of Life's twists and turns took me a bit off guard and before I knew it...2016!

I have been contemplative and at the same time, attempting to plan a few adventures and family travels for the coming year.  Through it all, I have thought much about my elderly In-Laws, and the care my wife has needed to provide them, and I have thought more about my own Father...all of whom faced significant challenges in 2015...Unfairly, I might add.

World events and society in general have left me confused, and less hopeful than I have been in the past.  Some days, when I put on my boots and head out the door for work, well...I just don't know.           

Over the past year or so, I have begun listening to my CD collection during my daily workouts.  Recently, while jamming to some STYX, a song snuck up on me and really struck a chord.  I will let it speak for itself.

Show Me The Way



Saturday, October 24, 2015

Senior Picture Shoot: Haley

I was asked if I would do some "Senior Pictures" for Haley, by her Grandmother.  When I first met with Haley to get a feel for who she was and what she had in mind, I remember her saying, "Well, I am a wrestler"!  What?!?!!

We talked for a while and she spoke of her fondness for her Grandmothers house and property, where she had spent so much time growing up.  We decided that we would spend a little time at her Grandmothers to capture her in the surroundings that she grew up with.  We talked about a few other possibilities, especially if it was raining.  As luck would have it, we never had to implement the "rain session" plans, but we were ready to!

Over the next week or so, Haley would send me a couple of pictures that she wanted to emulate.  One of these photos depicted a stern-faced High School football player, harshly lit, in a locker room.  It was a great photo and quite powerful in its effect.  She wondered if we could do something similar with her, in her wrestling gear.  I agreed that it was a dramatic photo and told her, "let's set it up"!

For our first session, I met with Haley at her school, with Sandi acting as my assistant.  We had obtained permission to use the girls locker room to take the photos and Haley made sure the coast was clear!  No fake back drops here!!

We shot a few dozen photos in the cramped space of the locker room, with me setting up the tripod and taking the photos from inside the showers!  The harsh, flash lighting was a bit tricky, but we got it done and I was happy with the pics that I reviewed on the camera's small LCD screen.

Now, Haley had been pretty casual in appearance when I first met her, and she looked pretty formidable in the locker room, giving me her "all business" look!  (I wanted her "I am going to pin you" face!)  When I met her at her Grandmother's place a couple weeks later to do some location portraits, and she came out of one of the bedrooms, I actually didn't recognize her for a few moments!  The confident, fit, competitive wrestler I had taken photos of, appeared to have transformed into a feminine and very beautiful lady!

We walked around the expansive property and captured a few photos in places that Haley was fond of, dodging a bit of rain in the process.

 I had a great time capturing a few different "sides" of Haley.  When taking "portraits", I try to capture my subject's character, or personality and often this is accomplished with impromptu, candid photos that capture the subject relaxed and being themselves.  Oftentimes they are not even looking at the camera! 

Here a a few of my favorites from her photo shoots, both planned and candid.