BEFORE I DIE…

By Terry Carter, Editor

I just finished watching a 6-minute video at Ted.com by New Orleans artist Connie Chang. If you are not aware, Ted.com is a popular website where sometimes inspiring, sometimes groundbreaking ideas are shared in short snippets. Many are calls to action.

Connie’s talk centered around a large chalkboard put up in a neighborhood with the beginning of a sentence and space for the community to fill in their personal answer. The introduction is: Before I Die, I Will…  The website for is http://www.BeforeIDie.cc

While the chalkboard allowed for one line of handwritten completion, many scrawled entries beyond the formal spacing. The canvas was filled in fewer than 24 hours. Now you can find “Before I Die…” walls in Houston and around the world.

In support of Connie’s idea to transform a rundown, abandoned home into a constructive location, I want to chip in my input. I am confident that it too will exceed the formal spacing allowed although it may not match the first signer Connie highlighted. That was a man dressed as a pirate, scribbling: “I want to be TRIED FOR PIRACY.”

Still, here is my personal list.

Before I die, I want to:

  1. Live my life fueled by hope, faith and love
  2. Inspire greatness through God’s will
  3. Show love, appreciation daily to my outstanding, wise and talented children
  4. Celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary with the only woman in my world
  5. Break 35 minutes in a 5K run — hopefully all downhill and with a gale force wind
  6. Write more than 25 books
  7. Play golf in the United Kingdom with Rory, Jordan and Tom Watson
  8. Financially support life-changing organizations like: Archway Academy, Cornerstone Recovery, the American Diabetes Association, The Bruce Lee Foundation and many more
  9. Contribute to world peace with my unique gifts
  10. Share positive family stories for my children to cherish and my grandchildren to adore hearing

Friends, my list is a bit extreme, I admit. But I have always dreamed of accomplishing great things. My wish for you is that you will join me in posting your “Before I Die” list. 

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HAPPINESS TO SHARE

By Terry Carter, Editor

As parents, tradition says we will adore our kids when they are very young, teach them when they are willing and withstand the rebellious years until they move on (not .org).

My wife and I are nearing our 29th wedding anniversary, and our offspring are fully sprung. That is, they all have their own lives and homes outside ours — and they are 21+ years old. None have children yet. So Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are just opportunities to give the parentals a hug one more time from their 20-something mindset, I imagine.

Just wait until you children arrive, my children. Then those holidays will mean more to you. With luck kindness and generosity will be key traits you teach your young ones. If so, the rewards are well received on all holidays. 

But tonight I mention traditional values like love. As my son celebrated his epic birthday this weekend, I already see a great man who is capable of achieving any goal — as all of our children are. Of course all parents think their kids are the greatest thing on Earth, and I signed up for that class three decades ago.

Children are what makes life most enjoyable. As they grow, they are curious about everything. They are happier than anyone, and they are so honest. Then comes the heredity: Children are adorable, funny and unique from their siblings. It is truly a gift from God to have three healthy, brilliant and beautiful/handsome and well-adjusted children in the world today. 

We are so thankful for their leadership, their compassion, their peace and their chosen paths in life. I doubt I could have selected any of their current journeys at birth, but I am consistently impressed by what they done and their ambitions for the future. One has lived in Hawaii for years after buying a 1-way ticket. One helps save lives each day and has participated in a national rally in Washington D.C. And another found her true love, married and has been to Paris for her honeymoon.

I write for a living. But these three tales of three outstanding young adults keep me filled with hopes and dreams every time I think of them. Grown children rarely are told that they are wonderful and a gift from God — but they certainly are.

I know I speak for all parents — even those who mumble or whisper their “I love you” when I say this to my children: You are loved, and love lasts forever. Greatness lies within you, and you are already on your path to a great mountain. Always aim high, dream big. 

Then pack for an exciting journey, for success is not reaching a picturesque destination. No, success is taking a worthwhile journey requiring personal growth, hard work, endurance, peace and faith. You will reach 100 destinations on the journey. Enjoy each step, each stopover and each barrier. Greatness is not handed to anyone. It arrives after the hard work, after the pain. You are great, and your greatness arrives from journeys and challenges. Face them and solve them. It’s part of the growing-up, being-independent thing we all deal with.

Happy birthday, Bobby. I’m so proud of you doing things your way.

LOVE IS WHAT MAKES LIFE WORTH LIVING

1 Corinthians 13:4-7: 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

By Terry Carter, Editor

To me, love is the eternal feeling we get when another person accepts us in totality for who we are — and who we can be. And no, your loved one doesn’t want to marry the status quo individual, who is still playing beer pong at age 60 as they did in college.

It may have worked at age 21, but you are wiser now. Right?

The challenge is the agape love so popular in church does not translate smoothly into the real world — without Major League discipline. I have heard many parents and spouses using the “I will love you if… ” phrase in an attempt to manipulate their loved one. Conditional love is  a cruel weapon centered around withholding love if the person making demands does not get his/her way. And it typically falls from the lips of someone who was hurt themselves or was threatened in a similar way as a youth.

Don’t be that person who says, “I don’t love you” for any reason. It’s an immature and selfish thought prompted by anger. While many people inspire rage, it’s better to let God work on them. Follow a better path, and you can be loved even when you make mistakes as we all do. And, no, I am not condoning cheating idiots who don’t deserve a second chance. Let common sense rule for the cheaters who don’t realize a good relationship when they have it.

Most of you have seen a parent chastising their “loved one” about some bad decision and concluding with a rant like this: I cannot believe you did that. If you love me, you better do what I want — or else! If you don’t, you will be sleeping in the backyard forever — you ungrateful, fat cow!

It’s the battle of the selfish children at that point. The biblical verse above defines a more mature, selfless view of love. And I and very thankful I only dive into this cesspool on very rare occasions when my blood sugar is below 60. For non-diabetics, I pray you never have to resort to such conditional threats.

If your lover truly loved you — and you knew it in your heart, mind and soul — unconditional love would be your only inspiration when speaking. It’s a shame we all thought  we were in love at age 12-16 when our brains had not yet conceived what makes love work. Fact is, most teenage guys think they are in love when any girl walks by. And teenage girls are not far behind. But that is not love. It’s a bit less long term.

Just proves that one sign of puberty does not a man nor a woman make. The maturity required to thrive as an adult male or female takes another 8-25 years to decipher. Many of us still have our child-like side intact — just in case a ball game or a temper tantrum breaks out.

On to signs of true love then. Is love truly patient and kind? Yes. Does love really meet all of the descriptions listed above? Yes. 

Do men and women meet those strict rules when they fall in love? Seldom. But it can be done if you follow My 6 Simple Rules of True Love:

  1. Remember,  you are always on a first date with your loved one — even if you have been together for 80 years. Show the courtesy, respect, interest in and admiration for that special person you did when you had to dress to impress and be on your best behavior. We know that won’t last all week, but it’s a good impression that counts first. After that, good taste can lead you elsewhere.
  2. Love is a verb. Show love in all of your actions. Don’t start a food fight, leave garbage on the floor and ignore the dirty dishes. Lighten their load by helping, easing their mind, and doing more than your share. Going the second mile was not a recommendation just for Jesus. It works miracles in marriages too.
  3. Be more powerful than you realize.  I remember hearing a tale of a woman whose  husband left her for another woman years before. The dedicated wife mourned in a unique way: She set out a plate, the best silver wear and glasses she had for 2 people each night — and ate dinner alone for more than 1,000 nights. She set out clean, pressed clothes for her long-gone husband, but he did not pick them up. Then one day, he arrived home about dinner time. He saw a shining plate, silver wear and a goblet, and a well-cooked meal, waiting for him next to his spouse. Pleasantly surprised, he entered the home, sat down and began to eat. He stayed because he was anticipated at home and welcomed when he arrived back. He never left again. With a vision of what you want to happen in your life, not even a deserting spouse can stop you from achieving your goal. Athletes visualize great plays, great shots. This woman visualized a happy husband eating dinner with her every night. It can be done.
  4. Dream big dreams. Make your days together special and memorable. I don’t mean just the first year either. Try dance classes together. Try skydiving. Try golf, tennis, snorkeling, different clothes, food, haircuts. Variety — even with the same person — strengthens relationships. And no one can say they are bored. 
  5. God gave us hope, faith and love to get us through the hard times. So hope for the best in your date, your relationship, your spouse. Have faith that God will grant you a life of adventure, character-building exercises and fun together. And love each other because every mountaintop and every valley is better when you arrive with someone you love. Enjoy each moment knowing that love is the absolute greatest gift you will know in this life. And thank God for that.
  6. Remember, most of all, your love will only be eternal if you make it so. Make it happen each moment and each day. And in 50 years, both of you will want to do it all over again. If you do it right, I promise you will want more time together. But it is a 2-way street, and both parties must be willing to go the second mile for each other. Fear, stubbornness and hatred cloud the purity of love. Clear a path and run toward each other — do not hide in your own inadequacies.

RESOLVE: FIND BEAUTY IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS 

By Terry Carter, Editor

What do you look for in a relationship? 

Appearance? Age? Financial status? A sense of humor? Maturity? Common Interests? Fitness? Some settle for the sex appeal and suffer crash-and-burn endings in short order. In the end, there are the immature fools who believe they are old enough to date — and there are the others who want to find a lasting, loving relationship. For the latter group, we can all learn from our relationships and our attitudes during those interactions. The former may not learn a thing.

I can safely say that everyone has beauty within and love to share with the right person. Your mission? Find and encourage their beautiful character to be revealed. But it’s not that easy, is it? If you have dated two people in your life, you know that is true.

While all of these traits listed aboved can be positives, your attitude is the primary key to finding a relationship that will last in today’s freelance, pre-nup dating era. Your attitude — and the other person’s attitude, of course. No individual can find a great relationship without the participation of a second interested party. It does take two to tango; one lonely person cannot create a healthy relationship by wanting it desperately.

Do you simply follow today’s declining moral values and date around for benefits? That may not be the intention of the majority of daters, however, it is the end game of many who date around. 

If you have not truly fallen head-over-heels in love with The One yet, take a better path to finding love if you are ready for a long-term relationship.

I suggest the following to improve your odds…

A Tribute To Life Magazine

Thank God for Life Magazine, Walter Mitty and Bob Gomel.

While it existed, Life Magazine was my favorite publication because it told history visually with dramatic images from amazing photographers like Houston’s Bob Gomel.

Now in his 80s, New York native Gomel is still an active and intrepid photographer. His images from the 1960s are iconic with personal and historic moments in the lives of Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles, President John F. Kennedy, Muhammed Ali and many others.

If you have seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty film with Ben Stiller and Sean Penn, you can probably imagine Gomel, a versatile, creative image master, as the philosophical, world-traveling Life cover photographer Sean O’Connell. If not, I’ll do it for you.

I am a photographer, but I have never worked for Time Life Publications. As an avid reader, however, I can attest to the impact each groundbreaking Life Magazine had on me. To me Gomel was one of Life’s best at capturing the quintessential moments that millions of readers thirsted for in the 1960s and 70s. I knew of him before meeting his son Cory Gomel in 1983.

Life photographers had a knack of gaining access and returning with images no one else could obtain. The reason, Gomel said, is Life photographers were told never to return with excuses.

I have met Bob Gomel one time at an open gallery showing his stark, black-and-white images here in Houston. Gomel strikes me as a stylish man who is smart, creative, capable of solving dilemmas and finding back doors to get the right photos if the occasion calls for it.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a film that honored the best efforts of Life Magazine personnel, including the traveled and war-weary photographers who brought this photography publication to life each week. Stiller’s love of photography, as well as a serious team working with the magazine archiver’s team, made this work.

From a personal level, I enjoyed the celebration of the hard working people who are behind the cameras and behind the scenes at such a publication. Like Ben Stiller’s lead character Walter, I imagined myself working at Life before its demise.

And after attending college with Electric Light Orchestra die hard fan Cory Gomel and eventually learning more about his father’s career, I believe a few elements of Sean Penn’s character ring true for Life’s real image kings like Bob Gomel.

It’s a happy memory for me to know that when Cory was very young, he tagged along with Bob on a photo shoot with boxing’s greatest heavyweight Ali. In the end, Cory wound up in a photo with Ali that was animated and humorous.

I have many great memories from college, but hearing Cory tell tales and playing his ELO music at deafening levels are among my favorites today. Little did anyone know I was destined to be a photographer at that time.

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Happy Birthday, Davey

My brother Dave is a special guy in many ways. And today we meet to celebrate his Aug. 1 birthday.
Dave has always led the league in humorous anecdotes and keen (aka awkward observations). He sees humor in nearly every event and lowers the tension in nearly any situation.
Dave is the middle brother of three sons my parents introduced and mentored on this planet. As the middle boy, you know he’s been through some crap in his life. He used to tease me, and I responded by knocking his front tooth out — not a very kind gesture, I must admit.
Dave also had a streak of bad luck when he was about 12. He slid into third base in our expansive back yard and broke the basement window with his big foot.
Shortly after that he pured a 5-iron through the Mr. and Mrs. Sobotta’s plate glass window surrounding their indoor swimming pool. Nice shot Dave. Mr. Sobotta kindly retrieved the TopFlite golf ball — from the bottom of his 10-foot deep pool.
Dave also had he misfortune to turn on a light switch in the middle of the night, only to find the suspended light above the bathroom sink fall into the sink and shatter it.
Beyond all of that, Dave has been a great man, a great brother, a great dad and far less trouble than I imagined when I was only 10 years old.
He has been a blessing in my life and many others. Thank you, Davey, for being my brother and for encouraging me to never give up.
Sorry about your back, the diabetes, all of the toes scars from Pancho the killer Chihuahua and for that hooked fairway wood that almost sliced you in half.
You have done great things, and from what I see, life continues to be improving daily for you and Charlene.20140803-131848-47928756.jpg20140803-152648-55608347.jpg