FAMILY NEWS
 

Lonna was tested like never before this year, not only in her work, but in her care for her parents and also in her care for me. (More about that later.) Yet with all she's been through, she always manages a smile and a kind word. I could go on and on about her but I would only be repeating what I have said in previous year-end pages. Suffice it to say, I am a very lucky man.

While cleaning her parent's condo on a Friday afternoon, she decided to send me a video message from her phone. (This was an original idea and was done long before the Swiffer commercial.) Click on the her image at the right to see the message.

She loves "her boys", Koal and Kelso.
 
One evening, while trying to knit some Christmas scarves, Koal decided he needed some attention, so he jumped up on the bed and demanded she stop knitting by using head butts to her hands. In the process, Lonna decided to snap a picture of him with her cell phone. When I saw the picture, I almost couldn't believe it. The lighting is perfect and Koal looks like he's posing. It's probably one of the best iPhone pictures I've ever seen.
 
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"PAPOU"
 

Adam and Talya have been married for over a year. Adam has literally re-built the house they live in from new windows, to a new kitchen, to removing walls, to building a large deck, construction in the studio apartment and even building a dog house that is attached to their house with entry from the inside. Oh, and did I mention the 9 hole put-put golf course in the back yard? Seriously. Not kidding. And the reason for all these improvements?

Meet
VIENNA LYNNE KONTRAS

That's right. As of September 28, I officially became "Papou" (grandpa in Greek). To say I'm proud would be a monumental understatement. I know every family thinks their newborn son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter is the cutest kid since the e-Trade baby, but honestly, look at those eyes! Okay, I'm going to say it... she's the most beautiful baby I've ever seen! Adam and Talya have blessed our family in grand fashion.

 
Being the photographer and videographer that he is, Adam will make this young lady the most photographed and video taped person in Hollywood. If you're wondering how the name originated, please watch this video, which he did before she was born.
 
 
Click on the image below to read the actual text trail as the big event unfolded.
 
 
Here's just a few of many, many pictures with some of Adam's humor thrown in:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
That last picture really touches my heart. To see her listening and watching so intensely to Adam singing and playing guitar makes me tearful. Below is another video. Like I said...
 
 
Want to see more? Go to www.AdamKontras.com
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ANOTHER KONTRAS MOVES TO HOLLYWOOD
 

Adam's cousin, Jimmy, has moved to L.A. He is renting Adam's studio apartment so now there's another Kontras in North Hollywood. He was there for Vienna's birth. Jimmy's dad, Nick, was my first cousin who passed in January 2011, at the age of 56 from a rare form of skin cancer.

Jimmy's mother, Karen, and his sister, Kallie, came to visit him over the holidays. They decided to take in the sights, one of which was, of course, Disney World.

And what was Papou doing the same day Vienna was born? The same thing he was doing the day her father was born, 37 years earlier.
 
REFLECTION
1975
 
 
THESE GUYS LIVE
2012
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ONE MORE FAMILY MEMBER
We now have another wonderful daughter-in-law.
Kenny and Amy were married October 7th.
 
Rehearsal Dinner
 
 
 
The wedding was held outside, with the temperature in the low 60's, bordering on the hi 50's.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Amy still manages the Advance Auto Parts store in Delaware, Ohio and is still in school studying Cyber Forsensics. She hopes to be done in a couple of years. She should have no trouble finding work in this field. There is a big demand for the skills she's acquiring.

Kenny now works for Skinner Diesel. He is a fabricator of truck parts which usually involves lots of welding and he also works on trucks. But that's just his "day gig." In the evenings, he works on cars. He and Amy rent a home just west of Marysville, Ohio and a huge 10,000 sq. ft. garage is part of the deal. It is two stories high, has three lifts in it, heated and cooled, and has all the tools any mechanic could ever want. Currently he's working on the complete rebuild of an entire car.
Kenny's idea of a Father's Day invitation was this text:
 
"I'm taking u to lunch around one just so u know lol"
 
Not knowing what to expect, I was ready at 1:00pm. He asked if I had any particular place I wanted to go and I said it didn't matter to me.
 
BIG mistake.
 
"I know where we should go!" he said. We ended up at a place called the Tilted Kilt. This is basically "Hooters" with a Scottish theme. I had never even heard of this place. I was curious to know how Kenny learned about it, but knew not to ask. Some things a father is better off not knowing.
 
Our waitress was about Kenny's age and kept looking at him. I thought, 'Great. He's getting married in October and some scantily dressed waitress is going to hit on him.' Finally she said, "I know you from somewhere." 'Another line', I thought to myself. They went back and forth with possible scenarios: high school, middle school, church, etc. He was stumped but she finally remembered the connection. They both attended the same summer horse camp back when they were eleven years old! How she recognized Kenny after not seeing him for over a decade is beyond me. He certainly didn't recognize her!
 
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ANOTHER SINGER IN THE FAMILY
 

In the fall, our goddaughter, Meghan, came to my studio to record for the first time. I thought she would be nervous - she was not. I thought she would need several takes to get a decent track - she did not. Not only did she know exactly what she wanted to do, but she played piano and sang on two of the three tunes doing each of them in two takes. For the first tune, she used rhythm tracks and did it in one take. She is seventeen years old and a junior in high school. She performs with one of the choirs in the school and was chosen to be in the annual talent show, from among many talented students. She played the ukulele and sang for her audition. This young lady has a lot of confidence in her abilities. I was pleasantly surprised at how well she handled herself during her recording session.

Click on a title to hear the tunes:
NO ONE, SKYSCRAPER, SOMEONE LIKE YOU
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HANGIN' IN THERE
 

Dad is still doing well on his own. It's been over six years since mom passed. He has his routine: he gets up early, gets cleaned up and goes to visit with his friend, Nick, at the little restaurant his daughter-in-law owns on Columbus' west side. (Dad says he can't stand staying at home in the mornings - probably because for his entire working life, he ran restaurants and had to be there very early to prepare for the day.) Later in the day, he walks - sometimes two or three times in a day. He reads the sports section and watches soccer games (if they're on) and then the news. Because he lives so close to my brother David, if his grandchildren are in school, he helps out by picking them up after school and sometimes taking them for a treat He's pictured here with Meghan on her seventeenth birthday.

He went on vacation with David and his family this past summer to Florida. Another family member owns a condo that they used for a week. Pictured here are: (back row, left to right) our nephews Nick and Billy, then Dad and Meghan. (front row, left to right) Our sister-in-law Beth, brother David, our nephew Jacob (in front of David) and our nieces Gracie and Karly. Yup, David and Beth have SIX kids. I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

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WELCOME TO THE 60'S, BROTHER
My other brother, Nick, turned sixty in January. I was not able to attend the gathering so I don't know everyone in the picture, but in the bottom left-hand corner is Nick's wife of over 40 years, Janey. On her left is Nick, and to his left is their daughter, Andrea. In the back row at the far right is their other daughter, Stephanie.
 
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THE 21st CENTURY ARRIVES AT THE BLASI HOME
Lonna and I spent Christmas Eve visiting her parents. We decided that they should open the one gift that came from her sister and brother-in-law in Tennessee, her brother and sister-in-law in California and us. It was an iPad. I set it up about two weeks prior so that we could FaceTime with any family member that already owned either an iPad or iPhone. We finally contacted her niece, Angie, who was visiting her parents, Linda and Gary (Lonna's other sister and brother-in-law) in northeast Pennsylvania. It was about 9:30pm. Click here to see a short video clip of the fun they were having.
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THE REST OF THE STORY
 
YEAR SIX

I continue to work at American Commerce Insurance Company. We are making major headway promoting the MAPFRE brand throughout the country. Because the current Licensing Coordinator became a Marketing Rep, I've been asked to take over his duties assigning independent agencies and agents with our company. The job entails many details including contracts, credit checks, DOI filings and system applications. We have over 250 independent agencies and we're looking to add 100 more in 2013. I have a new work area that has far more privacy than my previous set-up.

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A FALLEN FRIEND

It's hard to believe that the youngest member of POWERLINE passed this year. He was only 45 years old. His energy and humor knew no boundaries. In rehearsals, he would make us laugh so much that we often didn't get anything done for the first hour. I saw him once in 2012 when he stopped in at one of TGL's (These Guys Live) gigs in Gahanna, OH. I think about him often and really miss seeing that smile and the great conversations we enjoyed.
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WHEW, IT WAS HOT!
I can't remember a time in my life that Columbus, Ohio experienced temps above 110 degrees, but it happened this summer. On July 6th, I walked to my car after work, got in, started it and saw this:
 
 
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WHEN LIFE THROWS YOU LEMONS...

"In the next eight to ten years, your heart's mitral valve will probably have to be replaced" he said. 

"Does that mean splitting my chest open?" 

"Yes. It's the only way to do the procedure." 

"Is it possible that it might not have to be replaced?"

"Not likely. We're seeing enough regurgitation of blood back into the left atrium that we know the valve will only become less efficient over the next several years and it will start causing some issues."
 
That was March, 2003. I had been diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse three years prior, but there were no symptoms other than an occassional flutter. I didn't even know what a mitral valve was.

 That was then - this is now.

The valve did get more frayed, which caused my "flutter" to become more severe, resulting in several bouts of atrial fibrillation from 2010 through the spring of 2012.

It was time to make a decision.

I could stay on anti-arrhythmic medications and blood thinners a little longer, some of which have serious side effects after even a year of use, or I could look into my options for getting the valve replaced. Thanks to Lonna's experience doing medical research for her parents' issues, she discovered a procedure pioneered by Dr. A. Marc Gillinov (pictured at the left) at the Cleveland Clinic, that could probably repair the valve, rather than replace it and do it without splitting my sternum. I was all in for that.

The procedure is called Robotically Assisted, Minimally Invasive, Mitral Valve Repair. We both did more research and spoke with doctors as well as someone at the clinic and everyone said that if that's the path we choose, Dr. Gillinov is the the only surgeon they would recommend. This was in June.

 

After my records were reviewed by Dr. Gillinov's team, we were told that I was a very good candidate for the surgery. We made the appointment for September 10, 2012 - the earliest we could get in. Obviously, this required some planning for both of us with our jobs, Lonna's parents' care, and for me with the band.

 

Because we learned so much about the doctor, the procedure and the recovery time, I was not concerned about the outcome or my ability to heal from the surgery. It's amazing how knowledge can put you at ease.

I'm pictured above the day after the surgery. Two band members from TGL (Michael Doctor and Paul Bernard) surprised me (Lonna already knew they were coming) by driving the two and a half hours to the clinic and presenting me with a stuffed animal (a pig, to be exact) that we named "Pinky." It was actually Michael Doctor's wife, Tracey, who sent it up with them for me.

I was released three days later (September 14th) to go home.

The next day, I was sitting with dad watching an Ohio State University football game.

 Sixteen days later, I was back on stage with TGL and eight more days later, back to work.

 

I know that having this procedure done now rather than later was the right thing to do. I was confident that those whose hands I put my life in were capable people who would keep me safe throughout the process. This is not to say that there weren't some bumps along the path, but I am blessed with a wife who stayed by my side through everything. In addition, the knowledge of what to expect and the understanding that the unexpected can also happen certainly helped to make everything go well.

I was able to experience (via FaceTime on my iPhone) the birth of our granddaughter on September 28th. I attended the wedding my youngest son on October 7th. The band only had to cancel two dates, but since these September cancellations happened in June, the buyers had plenty of time to book other acts to replace us. I am blessed beyond measure.

Dr. Gillinov is not only a world renown cardiovascular surgeon and pioneer in robotic surgery,
he is also the co-author of one of the best books on heart health.
My cousin, Denise, sent me one of the funniest "get well" cards after I returned home.
 
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I continue to perform with In Spirit at their "First Saturday Chant" each month. But unlike TGL, I'm playing percussion for the group, not keys. (The picture on the front of the flyer is me.) I have filled in on the keys when the regular keyboard player could not be there, which is always fun. The chant is primarily music with a meditation about 2/3 of the way through the hour. We perform approximately ten songs from all genres of music - some covers and some originals. The ministry also works with other churches and ministries to bring in name artists from all over the country, like grammy award winner Karen Taylor Good, Karen Drucker and Stowe Dailey Shockey.

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A SHORT RANT

When I saw this quote from John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John's Pizza, I shook my head in disbelief and disgust. All he's interested in is more profits, period.

 My parents were in the restaurant business for over 30 years. One resaurant they owned opened it's doors in June, 1968. 23 years later, when they sold, there were employees that were still there from the time the doors opened - almost unheard of in the restaurant business. My parents saw to it that their employees' needs were met. They gave them benefits, paid vacations, and when times were tough, they did not pay themselves in order to make sure their staff was taken care of. When times were good, the employees received bonuses because they understood that without employees, there is no business.

 John Schnatter is correct. There's no LEGAL obligation to pay employees more or give them bonuses. It's a MORAL obligation. He's clueless.

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WHAT A DIFFERENCE 60 DAYS CAN MAKE
Gov. Christie at the Republican National Convention
Gov. Christie after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey
(I couldn't have said it better.)
 
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A QUICK NOTE ABOUT THE 2012 ELECTION

Now that the election is over, I'm concerned. We need a strong two party system in order for our governemnt to work properly. The Republican Party is at a crossroads. They have done very poorly in two consecutive presidential elections and they may not be able to correct their path in time for the 2016 election. McCain lost big because he chose Sarah Palin to be his running mate. Romney, while getting more popular votes than McCain, was crushed in the Electoral College even with all the money coming in from the multi-billionaires to various super pacs. Bottom line, he was just a bad candidate. He alienated all the major voting blocks except uneducated white men. The adults in the party need to take it back from the kids. It needs to become a center-right party again. If not, they may cease to exist as a political force.

 
If Hilliary Clinton decides to run in 2016, she'll be rested and ready. There is no Republican that can beat her and no Democrat will challenge her in the primaries.
 
Here's one of the funniest cartoons I found from this year's election:
 
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DRAMA AND DIVA FREE

These Guys Live is now in it's sixth year. I have been with the group since September 30, 2011, as has Paul Bernard. It is an absolute pleasure to be a part of this band. There is a common respect among the members. Everyone has a great sense of humor and there simply is no friction, as hard as that may be to believe. We know we have something unique.

 

Performing at a company picnic in September.

 
 

Performing at KDB, Easton Town Center, March 30.

 
 
 

Papa Boo's, Buckeye Lake, Ohio in July.

 

You can learn all about us at www.TheseGuysLive.com. If you would like to be on our mailing list, please sign up at the site or e-mail me.

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Here's some of the best (and funniest) reasons to cruise FB.
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And my two favorites...
 
 
 
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CHRISTMAS DAY
We tried once again for a family portrait. Koal, who had just been exposed to catnip for the first time, was exhausted after rubbing himself in the stuff for thirty minutes and wanted nothing to do with the picture. Kelso was focused on the mantle, looking for his Christmas stocking full of treats. I have no idea what was going through my mind.
 
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Thanks for taking the time to read my 2012 page.
 
Have a great 2013!
 
Sincerely,