Back to School . . . For Teachers

I woke up feeling sad this morning. This is the first time in 25 years that I did not wake up with mixed feelings about returning to school. I did not have that feeling of loss as I looked back on the summer we had together as a family and think about all the fun and and amazing things we did. My morning cup of coffee was not mixed with wondering what the day would hold, the endless meetings I'd sit through, and the new faces I'd meet, encourage, and reassure that all will be well. My nearly debilitating anxiety would not get the better of me and, although I would hug and kiss my wife goodbye, I would not drop our daughter off at daycare. I would not pull into a packed parking lot, scan the crowd of talkative adults, and look for at least one familiar face. I would not find myself lost in thought over the lazy days spent fishing with Olive or going on an adventure to a potato chip factory. Nope, none of that.

Yet, I'm still in tears, confused by this new chapter in my life and trying to make sense out of what is still yet to come. The possibilities are endless, the excitement real, and the feelings of joy and happiness overwhelming at times. It's a journey unlike any I've gone on so far and very different from anything I've ever experienced. Life's perspective has broadened, but at the same time it's focus is as clear as day. There's so much I want to do and now there's time to do it.

I'm crying because I miss the people I worked with over the course of my career. I miss our laughter at the jokes we made with and at one another. I miss the tears we shared over stressful days full of mistakes and words said. I miss the knowing looks we exchanged across the table of yet another presentation about the same topic or the stifled moans when tasked with another duty or assignment. I miss the comradely associated with teachers. Of teachers who are made to wear a multitude of hats and are assigned a multitude of duties. Teaching is unlike any profession I know.

When I was stationed aboard an aircraft carrier the first thing taught is the flight deck is the most dangerous place in the world. While that may be so, I have concluded that teaching is the hardest job in the world. My hat goes off to you teachers, everywhere. Be strong, don't give up, and maintain a healthy sense of humor. Be passionate in all that you do, but not at the expense of your own health. Right the wrongs, fight for justice, and never allow injustice to go unchecked. It doesn't mater if it's kindergarten or high school, teach students what it it to be a good citizen, a responsible human, and a member of a greater good, a better cause, a collective society. Fight for the underdogs in your classroom, teach with compassion, and listen to your students with empathy. Teach with a sense of urgency, but do so by explaining to students the importance of what they are learning. Never believe for once that the students are not watching your every movement, listening to your every word, because they are watching and they are listening. Who you are and what you believe in are the real lessons the students will learn, regardless of the subject taught.

I miss the students I taught throughout my career as a teacher. More importantly, I miss what my students taught me over the years. They taught me the importance of patience, empathy, how to listen carefully, and many other life skills that I don't believe I would have learned otherwise.

As one colleague put it early on in my career, "We do what we do because it is for the students who come to school every day. We do it for them and not for us."

Releasing of the Crickets

Olive is a collector of many odds and ends, but bugs are perhaps her favorite collectable. During the summer months when there are lots and lots of bugs, Olive is in her glory. The kind of bug does not matter. Lightening Bugs, Japanese Beetles, moths, butterflies, grasshoppers, crickets… she does not care.

Some of the bugs she catches wind up on her bulletin board with an insect pin stuck through their thorax, others get played with, and some get released.

Since moving to Wisconsin, Olive has been finding and catching a number of grasshoppers. Some of them we've used as fishing bait and others have become her pets. However, there comes a time when enough is enough and it's time to release the bug collection.

(Especially after a rogue grasshopper got out of the bug catcher and was found by Kim on a dining room chair.)

This is one of those times. Below is a five picture essay of Olive saying goodbye to the last of her 25+ grasshoppers. She released them from our second floor balcony, reassuring me that they survived the fall to the ground below.

Kids And Necessities

Thank you, Mary, for inviting me to take photographs at this year’s KAN!

Over the weekend my family and I drove up to Manitowoc to visit my mother-in-law and take photographs at the 16th annual KAN Cool for School school supply give-away event. Nearly 900 families made their way through Jefferson Elementary’s gymnasium. This important event allows children who may not otherwise be able to shop for their supplies to get as many as they can with the help of volunteers.

Each year, schools provide KAN with school supply lists. With donations from various groups and businesses, KAN volunteers purchase, organize, pack, and store the supplies students will need for the entire school year. In addition to school supplies, the organization provides students with winter wear items. At this year's event, families were given a $20 voucher to go towards the purchase of shoes for their children.

KAN is a non-profit organization made up of a number of different groups from the local community including the Golden K-Kiwanis, the Manitowoc Optimists Club, the Manitowoc Sunrise Rotary Club, St. James Episcopal Church, and the Salvation Army, to name just a few.

For more information or to make a donation visit the KAN website at or contact Deb Rhein at You can also visit them on their FaceBook page at KAN Cool for School.

Fly Fishing 101

Our local Orvis dealer offers free introductory fly fishing classes on a regular basis. So, with the encouragement of my wife, I took a fly fishing class. The Fly Fishing 101 class was held in the Orvis store (with the exception of the casting, which took place outside) and students were introduced to the very basics of the sport. We were shown how to tie two very basic knots, the double sugeon's knot and the simple clench knot. The former knot attaches the leader line to the fly line and the latter is used to tie the fly to the leader line. There's also a shorter fishing line called a tippet and it's used to extend the leader line. There are a near infinite number of flies categoriezed as a nymph, streamer, or dry fly. Flies are chosen based upon the time of year it is, the insects that are in season, one’s fishing location, or as our instructor put it, whatever the fish feel like eating….

…Needless to say, there's a lot to learn and a great deal of additional fly fishing gear to be had…

Once outfitted with all that's necessary to fly fish don't fall in…you'd sink and lose a lot of money. Don't worry, though, fly fishing typically takes place in scenic streams like those from Robert Redford's movie, A River Runs Through It minus the view of Brad Pitt. Besides, fly fisherman wear waders to wade the streams and stay dry. They also wear some pretty cool hats, which is my favorite clothing accoutrement.

The second class is Fly Fishing 201 where students are taken to a local stream, or in our case, a pond. Everyone is handed a rod and reel and then allowed to tie a fly to their leader line should they feel so confident. There's a brief review on how to cast a line and then everyone is turned lose to make a fool of him or herself. I ended up hooking my shirt and eventually losing my fly to the grassy lawn behind me. Still, I persevered and did not give up my dream of landing a big fish.

I did my best trying to recall what I had learned from the previous day, but failed miserably. Bear in mind that during the previous day's introductory class I practiced casting a line for maybe half an hour. Most fly fisherman spend a lifetime practicing this art and never succeed. There's a certain je ne sais quoi to finessing the fly line out and into the water all in one effortless motion.

Eventually, one of the instructors made his way over to me and after careful consideration of my technique relegated me to the empty grass where, and without a fly, (it got lost in the grass earlier, remember) he had me practice my casting. I really, really tried to do my best. I paid careful attention. I asked questions, and I even complimented the instructor on how easy he made it look. Perhaps it was due to my low casting aptitude, lack of a dry fly, or a crummy rod and reel, but I could not get the hang of fly fishing. Much to the instructor's chagrin, he eventually mumbled a few lines, shared some encouraging words, and slipped away towards another more gifted student. I think he had finally met his match when it came to patience and teaching even the most novice student how to cast a fly line. I sort of know how my former students felt when they didn't quite get something I was trying to teach like counting a set of objects.

I don't consider myself a fisherman, but I do enjoy fishing with Olive. We use live bait and I'm quite proud of my self-taught casting technique. There's little in the way of additional gear, but like any hobby, one could, can, and will invest heavily in things that are not always needed. We catch our fair share of fish, keep a few, and return the ones we don't need or want. Olive has her favorite Frozen themed fishing rod and tackle box and I have a friend's cast-off fishing pole and spinning reel. When we lived in our previous home the highlight of our fishing adventures was digging up worms in the garden. I think I'm too much of a minimalist when it comes to fishing. I have it my head that I am Nick Adams, the main character in Hemingway's short story, “Big Two-Hearted River”. I'm a simple man who simply likes to fish. (Not that Nick Adams was a simple man.)

Regardless, I enjoyed the experience and I can finally say I gave fly fishing a try. For now I'll enjoy and appreciate reading about the sport through the writings of Hemingway and dream about the fish I didn't catch. However, if my wife will allow it I might buy one of those cool looking fly fishing hats.

"He watched them holding themselves with their noses in the current, many trout in deep, fast moving water, slightly distorted as he watched far down through the glassy convex surface of the pool, its surface pushing and swelling smooth against the resistance of the log-driven piles of the bridge."


Enjoy some highlights of my humbling fly fishing experience. Please note that I was not “that guy” with a camera; all of these photos were taken with my phone, while still trying to be the best Fly Fisherman possible.

Bike MS: TOYOTA Best Dam Bike Tour 2019

I recently had the opportunity to take photographs for the local MS Society. Bike MS is a national event and its purpose is to raise money for MS research. This year’s three-day event in Wisconsin was sponsored by Toyota. Riders started the first leg of their journey in Pewaukee, rode to Whitewater, and then crossed the finish line in Madison. It was incredibly humbling to see the energy these riders put into training, raising money, and then biking for three days in rain or shine.

I took photographs on the last day of Bike MS. Here are just a few of the highlights including the friends and family who came out to cheer on their loved ones as they crossed the finish line!

The Rudolph Grotto Gardens

There’s even a small museum complete with the history and photographs of the Grotto.

My family and I recently spent time with my father-in-law and his wife in Wisconsin Rapids. They took us to an unusual place just outside of Rapids called the Rudolph Grotto Gardens (located in Rudolph, Wisconsin, of course). Every shrine and formation was hand built. The first one was started in 1927 by Father Wagner because of a promise he made to Mary. By 1928, a 12-year old boy by the name of Edmund Rybicki joined Father Rudolph and together they completed most of the shrines. It wasn’t until 1983 that the Grotto was completed. Today the Grotto is run by volunteers. To learn more about its history check out their website at The Rudolph Grotto Gardens.

The Grotto was built stone by stone. Many of them were brought to the Grotto from the farms throughout countryside.

There are dozens of shrines spread throughout the 5 acre gardens. This is one of the 14 stations of Christ.

Over a fifth of a mile long, the Wonder Cave was completely built by hand.

Throughout the cave there are 26 shrines. The Wonder Cave is modeled after the catacombs of Rome.

So long, Maryland . . .

From our old home to our new home, Wisconsin!

From our old home to our new home, Wisconsin!

So long Maryland!

After nearly 47 years of living in Frederick, MD my family and I have moved to Wisconsin.

Why Wisconsin? My wife's family lives here. We want our daughter to grow up near her cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Wisconsin is also a beautiful state. In the short amount of time we have lived here, I have discovered some breathtaking sights. I am continually adding to our list of places I would like to visit, and friends and family are constantly adding to that list with their favorite recommendations.

I retired from teaching (after 26 years) and decided it was time for a change, a huge change! I have taken a step back from my career as an educator, and, with the encouragement of my family and friends, I am pursuing a greater passion: Photography. With fewer distractions, I am able to consider what I want to do with my photography. There are projects I want to complete and new opportunities to explore. It's an exciting endeavor and one for which I am grateful. I look forward to exploring, photographing, and making new memories in our new home.

What are your favorite places to visit in Wisconsin? Do you have any special memories or traditions in Wisconsin? If you were to have photographs taken in Wisconsin where would you want to go and more importantly, why?

Instant Photography

What brings you happiness? For me it is looking at instant photos with my family that I’ve taken over the years. My wife and I decided to do some tidying up after watching several episodes of Marie Kondo on Netflix. We started in our office, which has gone untouched for nearly two years. I’m mostly to blame for the mess, but my wife was gracious enough to accept some of the responsibility as well.

First Snow Day of the Year! 1-14-2019

First Snow Day of the Year! 1-14-2019

While straightening things up, throwing out unused items, and starting a pile for our local Goodwill I came across a number of instant photos. For whatever reason I had not placed them in a photo album. Many of the photos are undated, but I can remember when and where I took them. A few of the images caught me off guard because they were taken so quickly, tucked away in my camera bag, brought home, and then forgotten. Photographs I didn’t think turned out so well at the time are now a treasure to me. It might be an over or underexposed photo of my children, but it’s the memory that matters. It might have been a walk from the swimming pool to the car, or a double exposure of someone doing something silly. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m glad I kept the photograph because I can remember the moment. I can almost remember my mood, and I can remember the mood of the others when I took the photograph. Looking through all of the instant pictures I’ve taken over the last seven to eight years is very cathartic. It’s a happy walk down a happy memory lane. It’s something I need, we all need, these days.

I’m grateful for instant film in spite of it’s cost. Although I take fewer of them today than I did years ago, I make sure that the ones I do take are meaningful to me. What about my readers? What memories would or do you record and when do you take the time to look back over them? Do forgotten memories come flooding back to you?

Being a Farmer

I’ve always dreamed of becoming a Farmer...sort of. I tend to romanticize what it would be like to wake up at the crack of dawn, feed the animals, milk the cows, collect chicken eggs, tend to the crops, and the myriad of jobs a farmer does to keep his farm running smoothly. However, after spending an hour watching and taking photographs of a friend who runs the family dairy farm, I realize that I do not have the wherewithal, stamina, focus, concentration, brains, and brawn it takes to own a farm.

While visiting Wisconsin, I asked my wife's close friend if I could spend some time taking photographs at her husband’s family-owned dairy farm. I was readily welcomed, with the caveat that I might be put to work. I secretly hoped I would be asked to work, and went so far as to look at overalls on Amazon. When I shared this secret with my wife I was met with a firm "no." (Don't worry, I saved them in my Amazon Wish List, should someone want to purchase them for me.)

Roselawns Farm is a multi-generational dairy farm run by Eric Otto and his brother. With well over 300 dairy cows and 200 acres of farmland, Eric and his family are kept busy, very busy, with all that it takes to run a farm. My respect for what farmers do to keep food on our tables has increased exponentially. Each and every day Eric, his brother, and their employees milk the cows at 6:00 am, 2:00 pm, and 9:00 pm. It's a process that takes between 5 and 6 hours per milking, eight cows at a time, 54,000 pounds of milk every other day. Think about that the next time you're in a hurry to pick up a gallon of milk!

Getting up early, I arrived to the farm around 6:00 am and met Eric along with several of the farmhands busy at work. The cool Wisconsin morning along with the smells of a working farm made my heart happy. Stepping into the darkness of the milking parlor, I was met by several stray cats that Eric was more than happy to send home with me. (I declined the offer, knowing my wife would have sent me to live at the farm.) Eric introduced me to the inner workings of dairy farming; his brain runs in overdrive. Eric tossed out facts and figures faster than I could wrap my head around. He knows every cow, how much milk they produce, how much feed they eat, how much feed the farm will need for the winter, and exactly how much feed there is stored in the farm's silos. It was an awe-inspiring experience for me, and one that left me feeling proud for this husband and father of two beautiful daughters. Eric is proud to be a Dairy Farmer and it shows in all that he does to keep Roselawns Farm producing milk for families everywhere.

While I was only at the farm for approximately two hours, I took as many photos as I could. Sadly, Eric shied away from the camera. Between now and the next time we visit I plan to talk him into a portrait. Eric did encourage me to take as many pictures of the cows as I wanted. What I find most interesting about cows are their curiosity. As I walked up and down the rows and rows of stalls, each one took notice of me. Several of them stopped what they were doing, which was chewing their cud, to investigate what I was doing. Although curious, they are also cautious. Why such an enormous creature would shy away from a human is funny to me. Cow number 505 (and pictured below) was perhaps the most curious. She, along with several other cows, followed me around the barn. I wonder how my wife would have felt if I would have tried to bring a cow home with me! 

Thank you again, Eric, for allowing me to interrupt your morning to learn more about what it takes to be a Farmer. Your knowledge of dairy farming goes beyond impressive to genius. We are grateful for all that you and Farmers everywhere do day in and day out! A special thank you goes to Krystel, Eric's wife, for making this photo session possible. While she denies being a Farmer, she is certainly a Farmer's wife. Given the hours that Eric works, it's not always easy, but her love and support is always there for him.

Do you own or work on a farm? Do you know someone who does? I would love to spend more time taking photographs with an agricultural theme. Feel free to contact me here or at My favorite time of the year is just around the corner, The Great Frederick Fair where Farmers from all around Frederick County show off their livestock and crops. I can't wait!

Sathya's Retirement

In order to exercise the brain, Sathya taught himself how to juggle. In this image he shows off his talent for friends and family.

I recently had the opportunity to photograph a retirement party for one of the smartest individuals I've met in a very long time. His name is Sathya and after 30 years of working for the Food and Drug Administration he's ready for new challenges. With a PhD in biology, Sathya plans to further his education by learning about the brain. His interest in neuroscience lead him to learn how to juggle. It's one of many ways that Sathya keeps his brain limber and ready for what is next in life.

Having the opportunity to photograph Sathya's family and friends was a true pleasure. I listened with great interest as his family and friends shared personal stories of how he has influenced their lives in one way or another. It was a touching moment as Sathya shared his thoughts and gratitude with everyone who attended. Thank you, Sathya, for enriching my life with your words of wisdom! Check out the rest of the photos here!

An exceptional man supported by his wonderful wife and best friend.

A very happy Sathya poses with his family. If was obvious in his words and actions how proud he is of everyone!