Top 15 Photos of 2015

Even though the calendar says we’re nearly two weeks into the new year, I still want to celebrate last year by participating in Ryan Avery’s top 15 photos of 2015 challenge. Honestly, it took me AT LEAST one week to narrow an entire year down to 15 photos. I was incredibly fortunate last year to have plenty of reasons to take pictures, and I have no doubt that this year will be just as great.

Here are my top photos of 2015:

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What happens when a childhood friend runs the Boston Marathon? You and three other friends go with him to cheer him on! Erik (in yellow), finished in the top 1,000 his first time running this event. Our trip the 2016 event is already booked! 

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My wife, Allison, and I enjoy supporting causes that we believe in! We participated in a benefit walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

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Many of our friends in northeast Ohio were shocked when they heard Allison and I had never eaten at Swensons, especially since we live only a few miles from one. Now, WE are shocked that it took us so long. Galley Boy and teezers is where it’s at! 

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Allison surprised me with Garth Brooks tickets for my birthday! Seeing him live is something I want to do since I was little. Luckily, his tour came through Cleveland! 

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In addition to the Garth concert, my mom, sisters, nieces and nephews visited us on my birthday weekend. I sure do love this crew! 

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My high school track/cross country coach retired at the end of the 2015 track season. Some of his past runners surprised him at the last meet! I’m glad I was able to be there! 

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My father-in-law introduced me to road cycling back in 2008. I look forward to the annual organized ride. In 2015 we spent a weekend biking 100+ miles of trails starting in the small town of Franklin, PA.  

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Allison created her photography business (Allison Ewing Photography) at the beginning of 2015. I surprised her with this cake (a replica of her camera) to celebrate before she shot her first wedding! A few close friends were able to join in, too! 

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We spotted these vehicles parked on a street in the Soho/Chinatown area of New York City. Being a lifelong Batman fan, I was very excited! What’s even better, I witnessed these cars in action as later that night the show “Gotham” was filming outside of our hotel! 

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Allison faced her fear and flew for the first time! Our flight, NYC to Akron was a great first flight for her. She made this face when she felt the nose o the plane lifting up. A proud moment for me! 

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This picture is easily one of my favorites. One of my best friends admiring some artwork at the Art Institute of Chicago. He justifies the wardrobe (not that is needs justification) by stating that we were heading to the beach afterward (and we did), but his shirt was complimented by plenty of other museum goers and staff before we left. 

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I was honored to stand and support one of my best friends as he got married! 

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My oldest niece is driving. OMG! She insisted that she drive us to Taco Bell for practice. I didn’t say no. Despite the fearful look on my face she did a great job! 

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My nephew, Kade, decided to wear his cape to the park. I think this picture should inspire others to always be brave and be themselves, no matter what others think. And that wearing an actual cape is always an option.

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Our dog, Bogart, absolutely loves me, and sometimes it drives Allison crazy. I snapped this photo after one morning after loading him into the car. At first, I didn’t think it was a big deal, but then Allison saw it and FELL IN LOVE! I believe it’s still the background photo on her phone. 

 

I hope your 2015 was as exciting as mine! Do you have 15 photos that you would like to share? Even though we’re into the new year, it’s not too late! I would love to see your highlights.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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The Good Stuff

In the midst of the turmoil and heartache that this world constantly endures, I want to do the best I can to help you stay grounded and focus on what’s positive. Let’s step back from the red coffee cup controversies, the political debates, the terrorist attacks, and anything else in mainstream media that generally makes you unhappy.

This picture makes me very happy.

This picture is something that makes me very happy.

This isn’t a  “how to stay positive” post, but instead is a “here’s what I do and you should too” post. I do my best to focus on what I like to call the good stuff. I don’t have a specific definition for the good stuff because it will be different for everybody, but I think you’ll understand by reading some of my examples.

My wife and I made a trip to Columbus, Ohio last weekend to visit family. The following list contains parts of the weekend that I consider to the good stuff.

  • The good stuff is not seeing my mom for two months and being greeted immediately with a hug, even if I have to bend down a little because she’s only 4’11”.
  • The good stuff is watching my photographer wife take special maternity photos for my sister.
  • The good stuff is entertaining my two nephews by making up a story about having to protect their aunt and mom from bad guys while the photos were being taken.
  • The good stuff is pretending to be superheroes with your nephews in order to protect the previously mentioned ladies. I was assigned Wolverine, while my almost three-year old nephew was (baby) Hulk, and my five-year old nephew was Thor. The only slightly confusing part is that Thor’s cape has a Superman symbol on it (see photo above).
  • The good stuff is my mom preparing a Thanksgiving-esque meal and properly setting the table because she knew I wouldn’t be there on actual Thanksgiving.
  • The good stuff is my youngest niece wanting me to flip her, tickle her, or allow her to “put me in jail.” The latter is bogus because she never reads me my rights of charges me with a crime!
  • The good stuff is my oldest niece learning how to drive and me being brave by letting her take me to Taco Bell.
  • The good stuff is playing a trivia game with your “older and wiser” sister to find out that she is indeed older….and wiser.
  • The good stuff is escalating one goofy comment to the point you find yourself in a “pee your pants” kind of laughing fit. This happens all of time with my family. You know it’s on when you see my mom crossing her legs.
  • The good stuff is leaving while knowing in my heart that they will all be waiting for us when we return.
My sister and her third boy.

My sister and her third boy.

She did a great job!

By the way, she did a great job!

The point I would like to make is that for every tragedy or disheartening news story you come across, there is plenty of “good stuff” in your life that you should be focusing on. Take some time to yourself to think about what’s going on around you that truly makes you happy, whether it’s a special person (or people), an accomplishment, or significant life event.

Please feel welcome to some of your good stuff with me! I would be happy to hear about other great things that are happening in this world.

Thanks for reading!

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Man’s Best Friend

Just about everyone who knows me and my wife has either heard about, seen a picture of, or even met our chocolate lab, Bogart. I have to apologize to my Instagram followers because it seems like I post more and more photos of him the deeper we get into autumn.

He loves Fall just as much as we do.

He loves fall just as much as we do.

As soon as you meet Bogart it’s clear that he LOVES people. I don’t think we’ve come across any type of person that he doesn’t like. He really wears his heart on his….tail? That thing wags and wags and has been known to knock items off of tables. What a lot of people likely don’t know is how we adopted Bogart. I could talk about this for at least an hour, but I’ll do my best to keep it short.

Back in 2010, a close friend of ours introduced us to 4 Paws for Ability, a nonprofit that trains and provides services dogs to children with disabilities. Our friend was fostering a dog and encouraged us to do the same. We were given three four-month old pups to choose from, and we chose Bogart. Over the next six months our mission was to socialize him, train him in basic obedience, and introduce him to many different environments and situations. It was easy to socialize a puppy that LOVES people. Obedience training was quite easy because he seemed advanced. And we both took him to various meetings and events, shopping, restaurants, etc. The only part about the fostering that I hated was that we had to give him back. I lied to myself when I said it’d be easy. No, Allison and I were crushed.

My wife, Allison, shortly after we picked him up from 4 Paws.

My wife, Allison, shortly after we picked him up from 4 Paws.

He was such a little guy.

He was such a little guy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast forward six more months and I was given a reason to believe in miracles. Due to Bogart having mild hip dysplasia (common in labs), we were given the first option to adopt him! He was unable to be a service dog because he wasn’t 100% healthy. We officially adopted him three days after we received notice that he was available.

He grew up too fast!

He grew up too fast!

 

There’s no doubt in my mind that Bogart would have been an excellent service dog. He’s the most loyal dog I’ve ever seen. Unless you have Pup-peroni. You’ll win if you have Pup-peroni. You can tell by looking into his eyes that there is no limit to his love and companionship. His only flaw MIGHT be that his snoring can compete with the local freight trains, but hey, I’ve been told that I’m a snorer, too. Like father, like son!

 

If you’re a dog person, I’m sure you can relate to the bond we have with Bogart. I want to leave you with a heartwarming story about a man who actually had his dog act as his best man during his wedding. This wasn’t just any dog, but it was his service dog. Justin Lansford is a U.S. Army veteran who was paired with golden retriever, Gabe, after being injured in Afghanistan by and IED back in 2012.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Wounded Veterans Make Cross-Country Motorcycle Ride

 

Eight wounded U.S. veterans took part in the Road Warrior Ride, a cross-county motorcycle ride put on by the Road Warrior Foundation. The Road Warrior Foundation is an organization that strives to give wounded veterans memorable adventures.

Each stop along the way was made a community event to raise awareness about the great strides these veterans have made before and since being injured. Co-founder of the Road Warrior Ride, Craig Anders, spoke on the difficulties injured veterans face by reliving his own experience. He said, “The hardest thing was finding my purpose in life (after being injured)…being able to go out and do things that made me feel free and independent of other people and to regain the self-esteem and sense of purpose I lost.”

The cycles ridden by the veterans this year were the Can-Am Spyder Roadster. Since some of the veterans riding this year have lost limbs, this three-wheeled motorcycle gives riders the ability to operate it without having to use their feet to shift or brake. The company that makes the Spyders, BRP, lent all the vehicles for free. BRP has raised over $100,000, which has gone to funding the Road Warrior Ride.

Photo courtesy of BRP.com

A group of riders gather around a Can-Am Spyder Roadster. Photo courtesy of brp.com.

The 2015 ride lasted eight days and covered more than 2,000 miles. Starting in Sherbrooke, Quebec, the Road Warrior Ride passed through many towns and cities along the east coast. Last year, the ride started in Seattle, Washington and ended in Tampa, Florida.

Rider Phillip Vaughn said about the ride, “I never thought I’d be doing something like this, ever.” Most of the riders have not before seen sights as beautiful as the ones on the Road Warrior Ride route. Their path included rides through the Mt. Washington Auto Road and the Kancamagus Highway. The planners of the route made sure to pick the most scenic route and avoided most major highways.

Photo courtesy of  Road Warrior Foundation

Riders and crew stop for a break along the scenic route. Photo courtesy of Road Warrior Foundation.

The Road Warrior Ride concluded in Key West, Florida on June 12, 2015. The riders who participated this year are Jesus Vasquez Jr., Patrick Wickens, Michael Bennett, Bobby Withers, Kathy Champion, Phillip Vaughn, Sammy Lugo, and Michael Paul.

John Ridlehoover

Contact: jridlehoover@vahomeloancenters.org

John is a professional writer at VA Home Loan Centers with experience writing for several different online publications. He has written on subjects ranging from political news to music and movie reviews. John earned his B.A. in Professional Writing at Lander University. Born in Angeles City, Philippines, he has lived in Japan, South Carolina, Alaska, and Washington. He currently lives in San Diego, Ca with his feisty Yorkie mix.

VA Home Loan Centers helps veterans, active duty military, and dependents receive their much deserved VA home loan benefits. In most states, property tax exemption is available for disabled veterans. To apply for a VA home loan, please visit www.vahomeloancenters.org.

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Guest blog featuring veterans this Thursday!

I’m excited to announce that Follow that Leader will feature its first guest blog this Thursday!

It’s no secret that I’m a huge supporter of the U.S. military and all the men and women who serve this country. In fact, my barber is a veteran, my car salesman is a veteran, and my wife and I recently hired a company to remodel our bathroom, which is of course owned and operated by veterans. In addition, I have childhood friends who serve and even coworkers who serve, or have served. Look back on my first Leader Spotlight that featured an active duty soldier!

The guest blog post is by John Ridlehoover, who is a writer for VA Home Loan Centers. John’s post will tell the story of eight veterans who made a cross-country motorcycle ride.

Be sure to check back on Thursday!

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Watch – TEDxColumbusWomen 2015

Back in May I had the opportunity to volunteer at TEDxColumbusWomen 2015 held at the Southern Theater in downtown Columbus, Ohio. My company is headquartered in nearby Dublin and offers financial and operational support to the event, along with other TEDxColumbus events.

If I’m going to be completely honest with you, I’ll admit that I thought the program might be extremely biased toward the female gender. Mostly “girl power” subjects, if you will. While I’m being honest, I’ll admit that I was completely wrong!

Each and every speaker (and entertainer) that took the stage was nothing short of remarkable and astounding. I quickly learned that many of the issues that were being presented didn’t only affect women, but instead affect people of all genders, races, age groups and just about any other demographic you can come up with. And there were two male presenters!

From transgender issues to sexual assault on college campuses, to why women are important in the tech industry, I’m confident that you will be blown away and probably enlightened by the material covered at TEDxColumbusWomen 2015.

Check out the YouTube playlist below! I know it’s summer, but I urge you to take some time to watch each video, and I challenge you to actually think about the topic and consider how it might affect you.

Oh, and if you’re a fan of Orange is the New Black, don’t miss Piper Kerman’s (Chapman) husband, Larry Smith, deliver a presentation about his Six Word project! Or just watch it because it’s totally awesome.

 

 

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Once a Coach, Always a Coach : Scott Thornberry

“This one is for you, coach!”


The quote above was shouted by a runner as he prepared for a race at a track meet I recently attended. But this wasn’t just any track meet. It was the last home meet for the season at my high school alma mater, and it was the last home meet for the coach as he is retiring after 36 years of service to the East Liverpool City School District.

I’m proud to say that I ran for coach Scott Thornberry during my time in high school; four years of track & field and 3 years of cross-country. I was also a student in his health and physical education classes. At certain times of the year it’s possible that I saw him more than my own parents!

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Coach Thornberry (aka T-Berry, Scott or simply coach) and his retirement was featured in the local newspaper (The Review), but I want to tell you about him from my point of view, a point of view that I’m sure is shared with many of the athletes he has coached.

  • Coach Thornberry is the sort of person who is always there. I mean physically ALWAYS there. I don’t recall ever having a substitute for his classes. He definitely never missed a practice or meet, and even at the meets it seemed like he was never hard to find. He somehow managed to cover the field events and running events, effortlessly. If you weren’t sure where he was you knew he’d be easy to spot because he would be dressed head to toe in Potter Blue, or if it was raining he would be wearing his yellow rain gear (or banana suit as some of us liked to call it).
  • He is the type of coach that made everybody feel that they belonged. It didn’t matter what your skill level was (that’s what practice was for). Every team member had an event to compete in come the day of a meet. I enjoyed the meets that didn’t have restrictions on relay teams. Sometimes we would have three or four teams competing. He always put his athletes first. You could tell that winning wasn’t everything (trust me, we lost our fair share of meets), but he was instead focused on the condition of his team and what was in our best interest. He never made it about himself.
  • Coach Thornberry is the type of coach that truly cares about the well-being of his athletes. He would make sure you warmed up and stretched before races. He would continuously ask how you were feeling during cross-country races. When I had severe shin splints he introduced me to bucket of ice. He would grab an athletic training textbook and say, “Here, look at the pictures. I’ll see you in 10 minutes.” I can also remember hearing him yell, “How ya feeling, Jas? Be strong now!” His words of encouragement pulled me through many races.

Attending his very last home meet is a memory I’ll always treasure. Being able to see him lead others the way he once lead me and my teammates was amazing. What bothers me is that I probably didn’t appreciate it as much back then as I do now. There was a moment during the meet while I was talking to his wife, Nanci. She noticed that an athlete and parent from the girls’ team was giving him a gift and thanking him. Nanci said, “that’s very nice, but he didn’t even coach her.” The only explanation I could give was that he had earned respect from everybody, because that’s how great of a leader he is and that’s how great of a coach he is.

Before I left the meet, I gave him a hug and said goodbye. I then looked at a group of runners standing nearby and told them to never forget what he has done each of them. I sure haven’t.

This one is for you, Coach. 


*If you were coached or are the parent of an athlete who was coached by Scott  Thornberry, I would be happy to hear your favorite story or memory. Please share!

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