Posts Tagged ‘family’

Telling the Truth

October 12, 2010

When I was twenty two years old, I decided to read an entire set of encyclopedias. I was that guy.

I wish I could say I finished, but the truth is, I had randomly hand picked about half of them to keep in my car (yeah, I was that guy, too.) So with half in my small New York apartment, and the other half in the back of my silver Ford Escort station wagon, I just never got a good reading system going to finish the collection.

One night however, back then with a bottle of Merlot and hand-rolled cigarettes, while curled up with a hard-cover copy of A-B, I came across the name, Bobadilla, and the very interesting story accompanying it.

It was one of the first times I realized that I had been lied to in grade school. You know, deliberately speaking falsely is one thing, but in some cases, I believe intentional omission of facts is akin to lying.

And so we have Bobadilla.

The Cliff Notes version is Francisco de Bobadilla was hired by Spanish King Ferdinan and Queen Isabella to take over for good ole’ Chris Columbus across the way here in the New Land. In 1500, once Bobadilla got there (or here, rather) he confirmed reports that Columbus had been a cruel and dishonorable leader in the Americas, and was thus sent back to Spain in shackles and chains.

And while I don’t imagine anyone will rush to their dusty book shelves to read the rest of the story, they might read more online about how Christopher Columbus was arrested.

It’s insightful, especially for the generations who learned in school the story of Christopher Columbus the hero, who set out bravely in search of the New World, with his three mighty ships, The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Ma- OK, you know the plot, at least as we were told it in school.

Why do we uphold the tradition of telling our kids the sanitized versions of such historic tales, and then fail to follow up with the truth, the rest of the story, when they are older? Like the Native Americans and White Man sitting down to break bread, and be at peace, and live in harmony and be BFF’s. Oh, is that how it happened? I’m not so sure that’s the whole story.

I suppose it’s gotten better to some degree. My father’s generation was taught in school that the Red Man was nothing but a savage, beast-like man who scalped the innocent. Since then, history texts have undergone major restorations, to reflect the Native American’s naturally spiritual and peaceful ways, and the greed and plunder of their paler “visitors.”

Or on Valentine’s Day, which we learn is about love and cutting pink doilies and making cards when we are little – but then we are never set down in class at an older age and told about St. Valentine, one of many martyrs killed, for right or wrong, for what he believed in. That’s an important story, and a great lesson wasted. It’s a missed opportunity for a sixteen-year old student and a crucial question not asked: What would you defend until the end?

I just think telling our kids partial truths breeds confusion.

I’m not sure if it’s gotten better since I was in school, so I asked my six year son tonight what he learned about Christopher Columbus this year, and he said, “well, he only wanted gold and spices to get rich and someone else actually discovered America anyway.”

It’s a step in the right direction, I guess.

But it’s still a half truth, which is a gross inadequacy of our American education system.

I don’t propose to have a answer. But I have a question. How can we expect our kids to grow into responsible adults who speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, when we ourselves condone, and in some case even encourage, the glossing over of crucial points of life?

It’s a gap I hope all of us parents can shorten, together as we go.

The Devlin Family

February 28, 2010

I spent Saturday afternoon in the charming household of the Devlin family: Daren, Stace and their 15-month-old son, Tige.

Stace and I had worked it out in the weeks prior, for me to come to their house to photograph them. As handsome as all three are, I couldn’t resist.

I arrived at their home at 1:30 p.m. as they were just returning from spending the morning together over breakfast at a small restaurant, formerly a train dinning car. The Devlin’s are the kind of folks I really enjoy spending an afternoon with.

A very close family, good values, and great company.

Tige was a champ, to be sure – and an absolute joy to photograph.

So full of life and smiles.

Now, I’ve photographed a good deal of kids before.

But Tige is the kind of boy, with is good looks and patience, who just kind of handed me the photos.

“Here ya go, Mister, I’ll make it real easy for you.”

After watching Stace and Daren interact, it soon made sense to me why Tige was so pleasant and content.

His folks really love each other – and take care of other.

As I was setting up the gear, I looked over my shoulder to see Daren straightening up the living room, tidying the sofa, and making it look good for the photos.

Dressing the set, as we say in the industry.

I like Daren. In fact, after the shoot, once back in my own home, I took a page from his book and I tried to do a bit more tidying than I normally do.

Sometimes it’s good to see how other dads role, and borrow good habits from them.

And for those of you who have been reading the blog for a while, you know that I think the best thing a man can do for his kids is love their mother.

No doubt, Daren is in that camp.

There’s a lot of love in their house.

I’m enriched, having spent time with the Devlin’s and I’m inspired to see such such love flourish.

And I’m grateful to have had the chance to capture it in photographs.

Thank you, Daren, Stace and Tige, for a wonderful experience!

Feel free to visit Luke Pinneo Photography for more portraits of families, friends and children.

Photo Website launched … families first

January 24, 2010

I finally took the good advice of many families, friends and On Fatherhood readers. As of early last week, I launched the family-oriented Luke Pinneo Photography.

For those of you who wonder, “Hey … where did the commercially-sheened Luke Pinneo Photography site go?” I can tell you it’s being completely revamped, with galleries of new images and a professional writing portfolio being incorporated into it.

And as 99.9 percent of my photo mentors, and nearly all of the great seasoned photography gurus have always said: Find subject matter you can relate to.

So I’ve decided to really focus on families; bringing them together, encouraging them to have fun … and to smile.

I’ve always been a pushover for a good experience. More than that, I find the best experiences are the ones we give. Which is why as you’ll see on the Website, I’ve really concentrated on providing a fun and stress-free experience for families while creating cheerful pictures of them.

I mean after all, nobody wants more stress today.

Though most agree they like nice pictures of their family.

But besides making pictures, I’ve discovered  something really special happens while photographing families.

They’re on location at the beach or park.

They’re all dressed up. They look great.

It’s almost like a movie.

We’ve planned the day in advance so there’s no rush. No tension.

And for that morning, afternoon or evening – they’re all together.

They’re smiling. They’re happy.

They’re enjoying a rare family moment they might not have had otherwise.

And they’re having a good time.

At that point, the pictures make themselves.

I might need to add some light here or there, or change a lens, but nothing’s forced. It’s all very natural.

When Dad smiles at Mom or the teenage son cracks a genuine smile; these are real moments – and we’re making pictures out of them.

And for me, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world being invited into their lives for just a time, long enough to help them preserve it.

So if you get a chance, feel free to check out the gallery. And I hope you’ll think of me if you or anyone you know is thinking about having their photographs taken.

It would be alot of fun. I promise.

Humpday, Jan 20, 2010

January 20, 2010

A few tidbits to get us through the week …

In fact, now with the holidays behind us and months of grey winter in front of us, I’ve included a few links to help get us through more than just a week …

Thus begins the battle against the winter blues.

There comes a time, usually around this time of year, when no amount of Blue Ray or  Guitar Hero can cheer us up.

Of course, if we took the time to learn to play a real guitar, that’d be a different story. Then we could harness the blues, and channel them – like the 11 year old kid in the video below.

But in the meantime, here’s some activities, food and ancient wisdom to help ward off the seasonal doldrums.

  • Activities to Beat the Winter Blues – [ … As the short days and long nights of winter roll into Febraury, both parents and kids can start to feel bored by the old standbys for family entertainment …]
  • Food to Best the Winter Blues [ … Of the nearly two thirds of U.S. adults surveyed, 64 percent agree that they are filled with greater joy soaking up the summer sun, then bundling up in winter coats. Although the science is still relatively new, research has begun to reveal how mindful eaters can choose their fuel to help achieve or maintain a desired mental state.  Our moods are linked to the production or use of certain brain chemicals …]
  • Feng Shui to Beat the Winter Blues – [ … Winter’s colder temperatures and longer evenings bring the blues to many sun-worshippers. Fortunately, feng shui can mitigate the more chilling effects of the season. Even better, it can also accentuate the many positive aspects of winter …]

Enjoy the jumps! Come back and see us when you can …

Japan Trip 2009: Part One

July 24, 2009

yama
It’s hard being here.

That is, it’s hard trying to balance participating in every new experience my kids have in this strange and wonderful land, while at the same time trying to capture it in photos and notes.

I get that feeling every time we come here. Occupational hazard of a journalist I guess.

philo dinnerBut other than that, experiencing Japan from an insider’s view borders on bliss. This culture has spent centuries perfecting the art of making guests feel welcome – which I absolutely do.

Much of our time spent since I arrived has been in the home and company of my wife’s aunt who lives in Yamanishi.

It was about a half-day drive west from our home base in Chiba, where my wife’s immediate family lives. Kumi’s sister, Miwa, drove. In all, it was Miwa, her four-year-old son, Sora, Kumi, our two boys and I. Kumi’s dad drove separate.

map_japanFor reference, Chiba is on the east side of Japan’s largest island, Honshu. The city lies near Tokyo and I couldn’t tell you where one city ends and the other begins. It’s an urban sprawl unmatched by anything in the States – and is simply hard to imagine or describe. It’s like something out of a sci-fi flick, with buildings stacked upon buildings for as far as the eye can see – and a constant flux of people, cars, mopeds and bicycles.

But eventually, as we continued inland, the skyline of towering industrial development dispersed, faded and eventually gave way to a green and blue-grey backdrop of colossal mountains.

farmAlas, we had arrived in the countryside. Tokyo is something to see, for sure, but in my opinion, nothing compares to a drive through Japanese rural life. Mountains, hot springs, rivers, traditional Japanese homes and farming. It’s the only place I’ve ever known where the deeper I travel into, and the more lost I get, the more centered I feel.

Kumi’s aunt’s house sits inside the forest, along the bank of a gully. The house was once owned by an artist, who rented the house out to photographers as a studio. It was a deep and spacious place, with three levels, each like a stage with large curtains separating the levels. Around every corner, was something interesting and creative that the previous owner left behind. After we settled in, had dinner and were rested, the following day her dad and I took a hike into the woods and along the stream at the base of the gully.

hike

It was exhilarating.

I hiked alot as a kid, and hadn’t been up to me knees in a cold creek in years. And I admit, at three years shy of 60, Kumi’s dad is pretty hard to keep up with. Dad

He made it a point to tell me the water in the stream was from the mountains and that is was clean and OK to drink.

I hadn’t heard that in a long time.

Seems like everywhere I go these days, someone’s making a point to tell me the opposite.

The four days in Yamanashi was one activity after another. The Japanese can pack more activity into a single day than anyone I know. The secret to keeping up, I discovered, is to figure out the rhythm. It took me four visits to understand that. They have a saying in Japan: Deru kui wa utareru, (the nail that sticks out gets pounded down.) I come to interpret this to mean that Japan is like a giant structure, or machine, and everyone is part of it. It operates ever efficiently and flows like water. Anyone out of rhythm is like a cog out of place, and it throws the whole system off. That’s why the nail sticking out gets pounding down – not by force, but by momentum. It’s hard to explain – and like I said, I’m just now starting to understand it myself. It might be a few more visits before I can fully define it. I hope so – I hope to define it again and again. Because we could glean so much from that single concept in America … or as ironically called, the United States.

futonMy kids get it. They adapt better here than I do. I suppose that’s true of kids in general – with the exception of sleep. They say it takes one kids day of adjustment for every hour of time difference. So, if it’s 12 hours difference between America and Japan, that’s about 12 days till they’re adjusted to a new sleep schedule … or something like that.

One thing is certain – I no longer get pounded down here. I used to get exhausted when we’d come. Now, I eat when everybody else does. I shower at night like everybody else, I take my cues from others – and I go with the flow. There’s no room for abstract behavior here.

And, having previously tried, I realize how much I miss by trying to do things my own way.

The true beauty of this land is to observe and learn the rhythm, and to simply get in step with it. It’s wonderful. I’ve learned to anticipate what’s coming next. There is a time for everything here. Everything is taken care of if you can learn the rhythm, and allow yourself to trust it. The momentum flows toward a state of doing, toward achievement, arriving at comfort, and repeats day after day.

The hardest part about going back to America is looking for a similar rhythm where one just does not exist.

auntAfter a great visit in Yamanishi, we said good bye to Kumi’s aunt and headed back to Chiba.

A great thing about being in a foreign country with kids is that even long car rides are entertaining. Here, the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car, and they drive on the opposite side of the road. That makes it interesting enough. But everywhere we look, we see things that are unusual to us.

cuc

Here’s Sora, Kumi’s nephew, and one of our traveling companions, enjoying a cucumber on a stick. The kids absolutely loved these. The sell these and other fresh foods at the service stations along the expressway. Sure beats a bag of chips or Burger King (no offense, Flame-Broiled Whopper, you’re still my number one.)

Have you ever driven through a mountain for like 5 miles?

I hadn’t before, but they do it all the time here. tunnel back

Philo thought that was pretty cool. (yeah, me too.)tunnel

red road

Red roads. They have alot of red roads in Japan. You know, your riding along and the road just turns red for a while. That happens, right? I don’t know – it just seems cool to me.

bug bandThen there’s the bug band. This thing is great. It’s an elastic band held with Velcro, and the device on top emits small but safe amounts of nuclear radiation to deter bugs. Kidding. It’s actually the same chemical that’s in bug spray, diluted, and dispersed into the air by a small internal fan and has a little on/off switch. Keep the bugs away and let’s the kids feel like bug-thwarting superheros. And as you can see … the bugs here are no joke!

mushiYes, that is real and yes, they are everywhere. It’s pure irony. Everything here is small. Cars, roads, meals, coffee, people – everything but the bugs. Well, that’s not entirely true. Where the roads may be narrow, the minds of the Japanese are wide, and their hearts are big. It’s a culture built on respecting yourself and caring for others. My wife has a philosophy borrowed from her late grandfather: “Be strict to yourself, and kind to others.” As far as any common thread I see woven throughout this entire culture, that sums it up perfectly.

I bet he was a great man, her grandfather. He was a farmer. Loved bonsai. He died when she was young.

prayerEach time we visit the countryside, we make a trip through the vineyards and peach orchards he once tended, until we come upon his final resting place there among the mountains and cherry blossoms. We bring flowers, burn incense, bow our heads and silently wish him continued wellness in the afterlife. We gather water in traditional buckets, and pour it on the stone, cleansing it.

It’s really something, seeing my kids here, in this place that is genetically so much a part of them – a part I can only know from observation.

They are Japanese and I am not. I strive to understand the culture, but that is the best I can do. They however, have it in their blood.

ji-jiWhen I see my father-in-law playing with or holding my kids, I am reminded of the depth they have inside them. That they can belong to such two differing cultures, such alternate worlds – one built on principles of new-found freedom and independence and another steeped in deep meaningful tradition and service to others – is a privilege I am so proud to afford them. It’s a healthy blend I think, for the world they will someday face. Whether they choose a world in the east or west, in between or both, I think we’re setting them up with open minds.

Someday when I am gone, when and if someone ever comes to visit my stone to wish me well in the afterlife, whoever they are, if they too were raised to have an open mind and an appreciation for all kinds of people, places and things of this world, then I will indeed be eternally grateful.

More to come …

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