For Me, It’s You

My husband!

I am grateful for my husband. I am grateful for my children. I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for my friends. My job. My cats. The internet. Wifi. Gas in my car. My shoes and the shirt on my back.

Life is hard and can be exhausting and everybody needs something to change their focus when they are feeling off centre.

I always aim to do my best but I don’t always succeed. When I need a mood changer, I use music. My current anthem that I use for inspiration and a song by the California rockers, Train.   The song is the title track from their 2006 album, For Me, It’s You. The message of
the song is about paying it forward and sharing what you have.

My sister and my kids!

Give it if you’ve got it
Get it if you don’t

I love the message of this song and it reminds me to focus on what’s important.

My favourite lyric is

Give it to somebody that don’t have a thing
Ain’t got soft shoes to dance or a love song to sing – no
Get yourself on the right track
Let somebody ride your back for a while

Ireland, mom, Sharon and Rania.


That resonates so strongly with me. How many people have carried me to be where I am today? I could never thank them enough to the same measure that they helped me. I hope that I have had a similar impact on the people that are in my life.

I’ve seen Train perform live many times in Houston and they are an amazing live band. If you get the opportunity to see them, do it.

If you haven’t ever seen them live, here’s the next best thing. Enjoy, my friends!

30 Days of thanks 2012 – Day 1

Since I work at a web marketing / technology company the first thing you might expect me to be thankful for might be my iPhone, wireless internet EVERYWHERE, downloading 10 megs of data in less than a minute (as opposed to over an hour when I was a kid) and stuff like that. I’m taking a different approach.

I’m a blessed guy. I know this, and I’m very thankful for it. I wake up every day, my legs work, I can breathe without pain, I can see clearly, I have food to eat whenever I want (so says my scale), I’m employed, married to a gorgeous woman who is WAY out of my league and a nerd to boot, and so much more.

I realize that much of the world doesn’t enjoy the simple luxuries I take for granted. It’s a wonderful and fragile thing. That’s another thing I’m thankful for: the life I live and the things I enjoy are so accessible to me remain so. I’m thankful I was raised by and around people who instilled values in me that have helped me make the best decisions I can so that I am where I am today.

I have a Pastor friend who says “Anyone is capable of anything at anytime.” I like to keep this thought in the front of my mind because it helps me remember that I’m just a few bad decisions away from losing everything important to me. Which brings me to the one thing I’m most thankful for: Even though I don’t deserve it I’m thankful I’ve been given mercy and grace in my life so that I can try to be the best person I can and love people the best I know how.

Photo by Brian Potter

PlasmaCar Race Day

Every year the day before Thanksgiving we have a little tradition. We invite friends and family over to the Schipul office and we eat food and hang out… but more importantly…. WE RACE!

Watch this year’s recap video and…


Disclosure:   we are also honored to have the PlasmaCar Company as a client too – check out their site and buy some cars for your own rooftop racing adventures!

As nobody before you and nobody after

Amelia Earhart

The more one does and sees and feels, the more one is able to do and the more genuine may be one’s appreciation of fundamental things like home, and love, and understanding companionship.   ~Amelia Earhart

I am admittedly an odd duck with probably far too many random hobbies and a bizarre sense of adventure.   And by adventure, I mean everything from trying out that weird unidentified leafy veggie at the Asian grocer to flying glider and motorized planes to climbing a mountain in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Growing up, I idolized Amelia Earhart as only a young budding aviatrix could – she was fearless, passionate, hard working and totally unique.   She made waves in the male dominated aviation world all while rocking a unique fashion sense, supporting other gal fliers and being a mad publicity genius to boot.   My hero.

To me, Amelia’s legacy is that of pushing boundaries in everything you do and discovering the adventure of every moment of every day.   No matter the turbulence or how far away that landing strip might seem, “adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

What are we doing here? We’re reaching for the stars.   ~Christa McAuliffe

Get up and do something for someone else.

Smile :)Lately my mom has been telling me that I sound like my grandma. I guess I skipped a generation in the whole “turning into your parents” thing, but can I help it that my grandma is the smartest lady I’ve ever known? There are tons of books about how to be happy, how to get along with people, how to go on an epic journey to figure yourself out, and how to let go of your baggage. Even some from very wise people. These long-winded lessons   are all valuable, but I think my grandma’s book would be about two sentences long: “If you feel bad, get up, get dressed, and do something for someone else. Smile.”

I heard this all the time when I was growing up, especially during the most unenthusiastic moments of my teenage years.   My grandma was the youngest of eleven kids and had eight herself, so I doubt she’s ever had the time to feel bad or do much of anything just for herself. Growing up a little more modern, I had and took my share of opportunities to be selfish. I never consciously took her advice to heart, but it’s hard-wired into my brain anyways. It’s no accident that I became passionate about social justice, worked at a crisis hotline, volunteer all over the place, and always let people over into my lane.

That’s the cool thing about this lesson: it applies anywhere you take it. It probably won’t solve all your problems (that’s what all these other lessons are for), but it can change your perspective.   So much so that one day your mom is saying that you sound like your grandma, and that’s a compliment.

I also don’t think it’s an accident that more and more companies are living by mottos like “Don’t be evil” and “Do good.” The philosophy of being happy and successful, for individuals and businesses, pretty much boils down to that. Get up and do something for someone else. Smile.

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user: katerha.

Little Girls and Basketball

2009 Red Raiders

Tuesday night I begin my seventh season with Katy Youth Basketball. About 2400 kids and 240 volunteer coaches create a league that plays basketball from December to March. The non-profit organization is holding it’s 25th year as Katy’s largest basketball league.

My seven years have been devoted to teaching my daughters and their friends (ages 6 to 13) the art and sportsmanship behind basketball.

But for me, it isn’t about basketball. It is about being part of the community. It’s my way of leaving a positive impression on youngsters and their parents. It is something that we keep forever. It is endearing to hear a kid refer to you as “coach” even years later.

Sure we learn skills… but it is more about the kid that tenaciously works their way up to the “A” team after being a “B” teamer for years. It is about being a role model to children and parents even in tough situations. It is a playground for talking to someone candidly while still being positive and uplifting. And it is about having fun. I love to have the kids and parents interact in drills, it is how we build family.

So with seven years of basketball I have helped 40 or 50 kids grow. Children watch and learn from adults, so I see it as my stage to serve them. Since London (my youngest) is only three, I probably have several years left to teach.

Also, my word of advice to you coaches. I have never had parent issues (knock on wood) or altercations at a game like you see on TV. Personally, I think you get out what you put in. So, make sure your attitude and motivations are positive and you will get a devoted group of parents and have less problems.

And All You Touch and All You See Is All Your Life Will Ever Be

When I was around 12 years old I was given a Rockets jersey from my parents. And cried when I got it. I cried because we lived in Minnesota and my parents told me I could wear my new jersey at my new school, in our new house in Houston.

My entire 12 years had been spent in Minnesota and I hadn’t moved since I really started going to school and making friends. The thought of changing schools seemed like the end of the world and I had no idea what existed outside of our neighborhood in Woodburry. Moving to Houston was weird, new, and uncomfortable… as many good things tend to start. And like those same different, uncomfortable things tend to resolve, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I didn’t realize it then, but that was the start of an important life lesson for me. I’ve come to see more and more how important it is to experience new things in new places. While I’m not ready to up and move again just to go somewhere new, I do try to make the most of the places I get to go and not pass up opportunities that arise. Brooke and I have taken our fair share of trips lately and have done our best to make the most of our time in new cities and find ways to get off the beaten path.

Flying in to Washington, D.C. late the night before a wedding we were going to in Williamsburg, VA gave us a chance to spend a little time in our nation’s capital. Squeezing in a trip to Arlington National Cemetery was hard (and different for me since I’m a bit uncomfortable around cemeteries) but it gave Brooke the chance to see her grandmother’s picture in a memorial to the women nurses of WWII and gave me a chance to wait around for my favorite picture from the trip. Totally worth it.

Getting up to take photos at the Houston Zoo at 7:00am on a Saturday was definitely difficult (and a bit uncomfortable), but ended up being a great experience. Watching a lion walk out to start his day and hearing and feeling his roar as a wake up call to the zoo was something to remember.

When taking a trip to New Orleans, it’s easy to stay around the center of town, eating and drinking with the tourists. With a little desire to do something different though, and a good list of recommendations from someone who knows better, you can experience New Orleans in a whole new way. Hand grenades on Bourbon Street and lunch at the Hard Rock are fine but a local beer at Cooter Brown’s and a night around a candle light piano at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar are the experiences I will remember.

The title of this post is from the Pink Floyd song Breathe. It can come off sort of negative at first, especially if you don’t share my same school of thought. To me though, it means that life is what you make it. It can be whatever you want it to be and is totally up to you and those experiences. It’s because I was forced to move from Minnesota and forced out of my comfort zone that I started to see how important new experiences are and probably why I interperate “Breathe” like I do. And for that, I am thankful.

homepage post photo courtesy of Dummications

Thankful for my Dad’s Leica M3

This post was very hard for me to write, as delegated to me by Katie, for her 30 days of thanks blog theme. Sometimes it takes someone like Katie to push us to put in writing what we know in our heart. And that was why this post was so hard.

Dad's Leica M3

I am thankful for many many things. First would have to be Rachel, my wife, in our 20th year of marriage. My 3 kids are a true blessing. I am thankful for the city Houston which I moved to after college with my then young family in hopes of finding a job. I am even thankful for people that hosed me over because I learned from those experiences, and got back up. I am thankful for my extended family and friends who have supported me in my crazy journey starting a company 13 years ago. I am thankful for the US Army, spending a lot of time in my formative years on bases in the US and Germany. And I can’t even begin to say how thankful I am for the people I get to work with. But all of those blessings are more than I can handle writing about right now. Instead I want to write about a camera.

I am thankful for my Dad’s Leica M3. You see, it wasn’t always this way. For years, the six of us kids were annoyed by my Father’s camera. I come from a family of hard workers and the story I was told was that my father got a fake ID at the age of 14 to take a job as a photographer for the Bridgeport Post. Growing up my Father always had a camera. So like all children, the six of us rebelled and went the other direction. We groaned when called for a family picture at Christmas, and gave him a hard time about it.

In college I didn’t even own a camera (I can hear the Facebook generation groaning) and there were no cell phones to snap pics either (yes, I am old as dirt apparently). We did buy disposable cameras occasionally to get pictures once we had children. But the device was to record an event, and the subject matter was the little people (who I thought then, and still think are AWESOME). I wanted to remember the moment. Running around the tree in the back yard in the middle of a terrible thunder storm just for fun. Laughing uncontrollably soaked to the bone and the dog staring at us like we had finally COMPLETELY lost it. That was what cameras were for, to record the event.

Then a funny thing happened. I was at the Emerging Technologies conference in 2006 in San Diego and went to visit family just north of the city. We stopped by a winery and I took a photo of a kid kicking a football using a little Nikon Coolpix S1. This photo.

kicking a futbol in the vineyards

It’s not the most amazing photo. But it was the first time my brain said “hey, this is a cool image so try to capture it.” It was the first time I took an image for the sake of CREATING SOMETHING. And I liked it. It also helped that Flickr was talked about a lot that year at eTech and I found a community of photographers who loved to help.

Flickr, and that photo, made me finally realize why my Father enjoyed photography. Sure his snap shots were just like all the rest of our snap shots. Just that: snap shots. But occasionally he shot to create something beautiful. Then memories came back to me of helping him matt and crop (you did this with a paper cutter) images for a photography contest he had entered when I was a young man.

Because our company had a sizable American Express bill, in 2006 I got a Canon Digital Rebel XT using Amex points at no cost. Then the real photography journey began, and I found I really enjoyed it. I learned that a photographer’s job is to make people look good. Digital photography in particular is very forgiving and lets you take a few shots to be sure your subject is shown in the best possible way.

My Father didn’t talk a lot. I understand that now. When I was a young child he was enlisted and served proudly in Vietnam. We would always stop by the POW/MIA booth in DC. And his photos of  the memorial were the source of several award winning photos he took. I don’t have those photos, but I remember them. He went on to get a degree, go to Medical School, reenlist in the Army and eventually retire as an LTC. Then teach at OU and save lives as a Perinatologist. I can’t even begin to say how proud I am of my Father.

Later that year, in 2006, I took our family down to Dickens on the Strand in Galveston. After that we stopped by the beach and I took this photo of my three kids, which now has over 30,000 views on flickr.

running with the seagulls

Unfortunately I never got a chance to talk to my Father about photography. I started photography in 2006, at a time when he was teaching at a medical school in Dominica. The Islands are a long way away. He passed away suddenly a few days after the above photo was taken. He never saw it.

While in Dominica I found these photos on his last camera.

From Dominica



From Ireland

Ireland - from another's eyes


Those are his photos and I think the man had a great eye. He loved his Leica M3. And I had no idea what it was. All of those years.

What am I thankful for? I am thankful for many many wonderful people in my life. And I am very thankful for my amazing parents. And I am thankful my Mom entrusted me with my Dad’s Leica M3. Thank you Mom and Dad!

Live Everyday Like It Is PlasmaCar Race Day

PlasmaCar Race Day
Z-Man Ready for Race Day

My son Z-Man turns 7 today. SEVEN! Time moves so quickly with little ones. One of my goals in life is to stay as present as possible, to absorb each moment of life as it happens’ especially when it comes to family… especially when it comes to my guys.PlasmaCar Race DayZ-Man is such a great inspiration for living in the moment. He still lives in a world where magic happens’ where Santa is real. He is just now sorting out that Scooby-Doo is imagined and MythBusters is true.

Z-Man lives his life fully present and in the NOW. Things that are sad saturate him’ and then in 10 minutes’ something that’s funny tickles him to his funny bone. He lives with excitement for almost everything (the only thing that deflates his sails is putting away clean clothes.) He races to get the mail, zooms to brush teeth, zips out the door to go ride his bike. Everything is adventure’ everything is worth getting exciting about.

PlasmaCar Race Day
PlasmaCar Race Day

We have a Thanksgiving Day Tradition here at the Schipul Office. We munch, we mingle, we visit with family, and then… we race. We race PlasmaCars in the parking garage… younger and older… we race. And Z-Man, bless him, he believes we race every day. He has asked me at dinner, ‘Did you race the cars today?” He gets super excited when he comes to visit me at work and asks me every time, ‘Where are the racing cars?” As many times as I tell him we only race on Thanksgiving’ he has believed we race all the time.

Today… today is the day… today we race! And Z-Man has finally gotten it down that we don’t race every day. So today, he thinks we are racing just for his birthday! He popped his head into our dark room this morning before 5AM and quietly snuck back to his bed only to happily emerge at 6:23 exclaiming, ‘Today is my BIRTHDAY!”

Z-Man Racing

And I am inspired… what would it be like to live my life with that much excitement- to cherish each moment and the magic in it.

Z-Man teaches to me to live each day like its PlasmaCar Race Day.

Happy Birthday Son… you are blessing and a treasure and a joy.
My life is richer because you are in it.