Ancestry. coN

IMG_2764I’m sure you’ve seen the TV ads for ancestry.com where the people talk about how they thought they were one nationality but after having their heritage researched came to find out they were really another one or two altogether.

Watching those adds always made me wonder how so many people seemingly had no clue as to their family’s historical background/nationality. Was it that their family never talked about their history or passed down the family stories or history or were they in fact too ashamed of who they are, what happened or where they were from.

As I have come to find out over time I didn’t have to look further than my own family tree to get a hint of the truth of the matter.

Since as long as can remember my father drilled into we kids the supposed fact that our ancestors on his side came from England. As proof, he showed us a framed document from some heritage research group that not only said we were English but also that we were related to the Earl of Hayden and had noble blood in us.

Also framed was the supposed family crest and family credo of “Herm En Foy” (Firm in Faith).

As sort of the family black sheep, I didn’t inherit much from my parents but as the “man” in the family I was given that framed crest and letter which until recently I hung on the wall of our home.

I say until recently because my older sister recently did a dna analysis and found out we aren’t English at all but instead of Irish descent. It burns me to think of all of the St Patrick’s day celebrations and parties I missed out of because of it. Not that there was any harm in being English but heck, you are what you are.

From what my sister found out, our ancestors were not only Irish but supposedly of a lower class who toiled making buttons which from what she was told was the lowest class of workers way back when.

And the con by our parents didn’t stop there. Once, as children, we were drive out into the Pennsylvania countryside to the town of Birchrunsville and shown what was supposedly the family’s palatial estate where pictures were taken so we could all develop tham and frame a copy to hang on our walls proudly.

We were told that out grandfather who died long before we were born had owned the estate and that he was a prominent Philadelphia attorney. We later found the family never owned the estate and that our grandfather was actually a constable in that city and not an attorney.

These are only a few of the tales we were told not to mention the things we weren’t told about the family that were later discovered.

To me it’s both sad and disturbing that so many families like ours were deprived of knowing their actual heritage and family history due most likely to either embarrassment or shame.

In truth, most, if not all families, have some warts in their family history and in a way that’s only natural and makes for great story telling. As a writer I understand that not too many people want to read a novel where all of the characters have no flaws. The world simply isn’t like that and it certainly doesn’t make for good reading.

It’s also sad that children like me and my sisters were finally left wondering what to believe about our family and it’s history. That fact of the matter is, especially in this day and age with technology, the truth will come out sooner or later so why hide it in the first place.

Bottom line, we are who and what we are with all of our flaws and warts as well as our gifts and blessings and that’s ok and nothing to be ashamed of. So embrace it all and don’t feel the need to be ashamed or embarrassed by who and what you are, where you came from or what dark history lurks down in your family tree and you will most likely be a lot happier.

As for me, You’ll certainly see me wearing the green next St. Patties day.

In the interim have a great week and I hope to see you here again soon.

P.S. Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while but I needed to take a break from it and recharge my batteries so to speak.

Thanks.

Aloha, Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Would you still do it?

the-nonconformist-3Last night I once again watched the movie “Stranger Than Fiction”. The movie is really great and one I especially enjoy as a writer.

In the movie, Harold Frick, played by Will Farrell, starts hearing a narrators voice in his head pretty much narrating what he is doing/thinking as she types away on her novel. Unbeknownst to the author, Harold is actually real and what she writes about him is actually playing out in his life.

Finally realizing he isn’t really crazy, Harold tries to find out what is going on and eventually comes to find out he is unwittingly part of the authors novel and that she always kills off her hero/heroine. Harold finally meets up with the author and asks her not to kill him off. Undecided, she hands him a copy of her draft to read. The English professor Harold has sought help from (Dustin Hoffman), after reading her draft of the book convinces Harold he must die as the work is a masterpiece.

Harold eventually accepts his fate and tells the author he is willing to die and that he loves her novel. In the end, the author changes he mind and re-writes her ending even though she knows it lessens the greatness of her work. She does so because she just can not kill someone who is “so noble”.

As an author I have killed off a number of my characters (not the hero). Even though they are fictional, after spending so much time with them they almost become real. As such it is painful to kill them off even the dastardly ones.

But what if they were truly real? Could we kill them off even though we know that doing so makes for a great read and that not doing so could keep us from writing the next greatest American novel?

I know I couldn’t. The truth is, once we get to know someone our feelings about them will often change and generally for the better even if our opinion of the person was very poor before hand.

There was a musical group back in the sixties called Friend and Lover. Their cover song was “Reach out in the Darkness”. My favorite line in the song started out something like, “I knew a man that I did not care for, and then one day this man gave me a call. We sat and talked about things on our mind and now this man he is a friend of mine”.

I find that sentiment to be so true. We can never know enough about someone until we sit down and talk with them. It is so easy to pass judgement on people we don’t really know and to demonize them.

All too often I hear and read people’s remarks to the effect that “I wish that person would die” or “someone ought to kill that person”. Whether serious or not such comments are sad. Sure some people and their actions can definitely infuriate us, but I think what we should do is comment on the actions of the individual that we don’t like rather than demonizing the individual and to want them to die.

Bottom line, I absolutely couldn’t kill a character off if I knew they were real. It’s tough enough even when I know they aren’t.

Thanks for checking in this week, pray for peace and hope we all try to get closer to someone we have either become a stranger to or been too critical of.

Aloha, Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Presence

may 10 surf photo 2I am fortunate to currently be working at a surf shop in Jacksonville Beach, FL. For the enjoyment of our shops customers, we run various surfing videos throughout the day.

I was watching one yesterday when I came to realize the one thing those great surfers in the videos had in common. They all seemed to have a superb sense of presence. Call it locked in,  focused, in the zone or whatever but in the final analysis, besides being extremely gifted athletes who work diligently at their craft, the thing I believe that separates them from the rest of the crowd is their sense of presence.

And its not just great surfers who seem to have this quality but I believe it is so with all great athletes as well as great scientists, painters, actors, world leaders and many others.

It seems as though when they are doing what they do they are totally in the moment and fully focused and invested. All other distractions seem to be blocked and somehow don’t penetrate their consciousness. It’s like see the ball, be the ball, see the wave, be the wave. Because of these attributes, the surfers in the films seem to be in the best spot on the wave and time and again make the hairy drop in’s, make the right decision as to when to cut back or drive down the line and invariably get the best barrels of the day.

Somehow this doesn’t come easily for me. I’m not sure if its due to my having a attention deficit disorder or what but staying in total focus has always been a fleeting thing for me. When I write I can only do so for about an hour or two before I’m either drained or fidgety. The same goes when I’m painting or playing sports. I’ve always tended to be streaky in sports, at one moment totally focused and in the zone and the next minute lost in a cloud.

It’s when I am fully focused though, either when doing sports, art, writing or simply listening to a friend or enjoying a beautiful day or event that I seem to be the happiest.

The shot of me on the wave in the attached picture was one of the times recently where I was totally in the present and focused. There was a small swell in the water that morning with hardly any plus sets to be found. As I stared out to sea I saw this one nice set (well at least bigger than anything else that morning) wave rising on the outside and I didn’t want to miss it.

I paddled over to where it looked like it was going to peak and fortunately ended up in just the right spot. I was able to pop up quickly, snap the board into the curl just ahead of the collapsing lip and gain speed quickly. I pumped the board for more speed and later down the line managed to get covered up then make it back out onto the shoulder.

For that brief time I realized what it felt like to have presence. I was so focused that I didn’t notice the photographer on the beach shooting the sequence or worry about who was watching or if I was going to wipe out.

As I thought about the subject of presence further I realized that we would all do much better if we lived in each moment fully. I’m not just talking about sports but also about time spent with friends and family, in nature, at work and at play or whatever it is that we are doing. All too often we miss the best part of an experience because we are distracted by one thing or another or thinking about the next thing we are going to do.

With all  the cool things the new technology brings with it, it can also be a huge distraction that can take us away from the present and rob us of a potentially treasured moment.

My hope then is that we all create a better sense of presence for ourselves. Although it may not guarantee we make it onto a sports video or make us a world champion, at the same time it might help us to be better and happier individuals.

Thanks for checking in this week and I hope your coming one is a great one.

Aloha, Paul

Special thanks to my friend Eddie Pitts of the 911surfreport.com for the photo

 

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Is it fate that drives our destiny?

41exqf4mvl-_sx331_bo1204203200_1For my newly released novel I use the term Waves of Fate for my title which makes me ponder are we really bound by simple fate or do we drive our destiny through our every day actions.

The topic is certainly one that has been debated since the dawning of civilization and one that is not easily proven one way or the other.

In my follow up novel to my first one entitled “The Nonconformist”, my hero is dealt a number of heavy blows that seem to have come in waves. One of them alone could be cause to throw up ones hands and give up but how does one move on from so many so close together?

It would be easy to simply give up and feel doomed to the seemingly certain dismal fate and certainly many people do as a result of seemingly far less trials, tribulations and disappointments. One also has to ponder why one is it that some men and women do give up while others seem to be able to lift themselves up from the ashes and carry on and thrive.

Certainly faith seems to play a strong role but I believe it is also driven by an inner sense of strength and a belief that there is a silver lining laying just ahead if we keep pushing forward. I also believe it is easier to get past things with the love and support of family and friends who encourage and support us.

In my novel my hero Jon Lewis, after enduring his waves of difficulties, somehow, after sinking into despair, finds his inner strength and seemingly tempts the hands of fate in his quest to reconnect with a long lost surfing buddy, a half-sister and his Hawaiian friends including a potential former love interest.

It might be easy in the end to look back and say, “It was my fate that things ended up the way they did” but again I don’t believe we could ever say this with any degree of certainty. If Jon had done nothing and just accepted his fate would the outcome have been his fate and destiny? Or, did he create his destiny and fate through his moving forward and taking action?

I’m still not certain, but as for me I’d feel a lot better about whatever situation I find myself in knowing I didn’t throw up my hands and accept whatever and instead tried to create my destiny.

Thanks for checking in this week and my hope is that you, as the slogan went in the movie “Galaxy Quest”, “never give up, never surrender”. Take care and I hope to see you back here again soon.

Aloha, Paul

P.S. Please check out both of my novels at Amazon and Amazon Kindle where they are available for purchase. I also have copies available for those who are interested.

 

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A safe port in the storm

DSCI0006We tend to hold onto fond memories from our youth of special places and events. When remembering those things a smile generally comes to our face and we are often filled with a sense of well being and nostalgia.

It may be a place we visited on vacation, a family or friends home or simply a secret place that was ours alone.

For me, it was the old log cabin vacation cottage my grandparents owned for a time on Deep Creek Lake in Maryland which I recently painted to help hold onto the memory of the place and it’s importance in my life’s remembrances.

For me it was a safe port in the often violent storm that was our home growing up. With grandparents, aunts, uncles and assorted other guests in attendance, there were too many caring eyes on us for tensions within our family unit to boil over or to allow our parents to get away with the things they were allowed to with no one else present.

This allowed we kids to let  our guard and hair down and simply enjoy being kids. The same also seemed to be true for our parents who seemed to be on their best behavior during our infrequent but enjoyable visits.

As a child, the lake and time with relatives gave us countless activities to enjoy. There were cruises and fishing trips along the lake in our grandparents skiff and Chris Craft speedboat, family card games at night and time listening to the adults tell stories from their youth. There was great food cooked up by our beloved Aunt Ethel and for me there was the endless checker matches with my grandfather that I most enjoyed even though I never won against him even after he suffered his stroke.

My grandfather was a champion fly fisherman and tried his best to teach us how to fish properly. While I loved fishing with the him and the family I honestly sucked at it. I remember one time standing on their dock for what seemed  like an eternity without getting a single bite and then being completely humiliated when my younger sister walked out and as she was lowering her line a fish literally jumped out off the water and onto her hook. At the time I was demoralized by it but in later years it became one of the stories that was told and retold and eventually became only a funny memory for me.

That seems to be the way things go with such memories and places. In the end, we are only left with fond memories and nostalgia.

We all need such safe havens from the storms of our lives and it behooves us all to create such places for our children, grandchildren and relatives if at all possible. I know it’s easy at times to let bad memories take over our consciousness and to become angry and bitter. As such it helps to try and remember and hold onto the good memories also.

I believe that if we do we will all be a lot happier and healthier and there will be many more safe ports in this world.

Thanks for checking in this week. Take care and I wish you the best until next time.

Aloha, Paul

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Legen (wait for it) dary

may 10 surf photo 2I was a big fan of the TV show “How I met your mother” and remember Barney often saying legen (wait for it) dary when he was describing his sexual exploits.

We all often hear the word legendary used to describe people or occurrences and the word takes on an aura of it’s own. It is used for great athletes, political leaders (well at least some), scientists, actors, business leaders and on and on.

Some of those we tag with the legendary status might do legendary things over a long period of time, some would not be called legendary except for one great thing they did like Joan of Arc or Jack (the giant slayer). Some realize there status during their lifetimes and some only after they are gone and in retrospect when the world realizes the magnitude of what they did. There are also some who become legends simply because they lived long enough to become one.

Some are legendary on a universal basis and some only within a small group, kind of like the Barney Stinson character. There are also some of us are only legendary in our own minds.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I tend to diminish what I have accomplished based on what others have done especially within the areas that I am involved in whether it be surfing, art, business or whatever. I suppose that comes from my tendency to be more than a bit self-effacing and unwilling at times to give myself credit where credit is due. I’m sure I’m not alone though in that respect.

I certainly pondered the thought when I was writing my novels “The Nonconformist” and “The Waves of Fate”. My character Jon Lewis tended to always feel a bit in awe of his surfing buddies despite his own accomplishments. It was only after stepping back from it, looking back and truly listening to the praise of others that he finally realized the extent of his accomplishments and his place within the group, the bigger world and the sport.

The truth was, he was a great surfer in his own rite but more importantly an even better person due to his honesty, loyalty and love and devotion of others.

What I’ve come to realize is that you don’t have to be the best at something or given great acclaim or given the legendary tag to be of great value. It’s also not a sin to, from time to time, acknowledge your accomplishments and graciously accept what praise comes your way.

I accept that I’m no legend when it comes to my surfing, art, volunteering or business endeavors. That’s ok as I am becoming comfortable with where I am within those arenas and that alone is good enough for me. And who knows if I live long enough I just might become a legend by default.

Thanks for checking in this week and continue to be the living legend you are.

Aloha, Paul

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Editing the Warts of the Environment

DSCI0025It is said that both painters and novelists are allowed a certain degree of poetic license. In other words they can make things up.

In my novels I make up characters, events and even places that don’t exist or never happened. In my art I don’t leave in everything I see and sometimes add things in a scene that aren’t there. I call it editing out the warts and adding in some additional beauty.

Nature scenes are where this occurs the most for me. In the attached photo you don’t see the trash on the beach or in the water and the water looks clean and inviting.

Sometimes I have a difficult time doing this editing as I feel I’m “not keeping it real” but in the end, I paint how I see or better yet want to remember or see nature. I also understand that people rarely want to hang a painting on their wall that shows the trash along the beach, dead dolphins on the shore or a nuclear silo in the background.

While this would be the way to go in a photograph or documentary it’s simply not that pleasing to the eye.

The truth is, we want to remember and view nature in the manner it was meant to be enjoyed or how we remember it from our youth.

Whenever I go to various new locales I like to visit the state parks or wildlife and scenic preserves. (By the way, it’s amazing how few people I actually see in some of the preserves) I love to take in nature and look for scenes I can later paint.

To my chagrin, I am seeing a lot less of the nature I used to see in such preserves and a lot more warts.

As an example, this past week Kathy and I were in the Tarpon Springs, FL area for her work. While she was toiling in her meetings I took in the parks and preserves in the area. While the parks I visited were very nice, at the same time, after spending a great deal of time in them I noticed some disturbing things.

The first was the amount of trash that lined the waterways and walking paths. I also noticed the lack of shore birds that should have been present. I also noticed the low amount of fish that were in the lakes and tributaries and the brownish or greenish tint to the water (not the natural kind).

Along one of the tributaries I watched a lone fisherman cast his line over and over again without a single bite. At the lake I spoke with a man who had fished the area for eighteen years. The man told me the fishing had fallen off dramatically over the years. He said the bulkhead where he was fishing used to be lined from end to end with fisherman now there was only himself and his two companions present.

He also told me that the previous year the algae blooms were so bad that they had to skim the lake because they were clogging up propellers.

Within the park there are some beautiful Cyprus, Live Oaks and other native plants that lined the waterfront. As I walked along the walkway that goes out over the lake for a short ways I spotted a beautiful shorebird standing along the shore. Surrounding him was all sorts of trash. I intend to paint the scene but will have to edit out the warts.

The brochure for that lake illustrates people swimming, boating and waterskiing. I only saw a few boats out on the lake in what was a beautiful day, no one was swimming or waterskiing (no way I’d dive in there) and there were very few shore birds around and that’s probably because of the lack of fish.

I am not trying to pick on that area but unfortunately it is symptomatic of a lot of our beautiful state and country. I used to visit those same areas as a child and remember why people loved to come visit the area. There were tons of birds, fish and people swimming and boating.  Unfortunately it’s losing a lot of it’s appeal and it honestly makes me sad.

I don’t want to have to edit out the warts and add in the things I remember being around. I’d like to have future generations see nature at it’s best and future artists to be able to paint what they see. My hope is that we treasure such places by protecting them and doing whatever we can in our own way to do so.

Thanks for checking in. I hope you have a great week and I look forward to seeing you back here again next time.

Aloha. Paul

 

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