LONNA
 

As I have said in years past and no doubt will continue to say in the future, Lonna's ability to care for her parents, continue with a more-than-full-time job and still find time for us goes beyond earthly understanding. She can be exhausted and still find the energy to handle it all. Truly amazing.

On a more personal level, Lonna provides the balance in my life. She has a "sixth sense" that I don't have about many situations and that helps keep me centered.

The picture was taken in front of Sun Studio in Memphis, TN. More on that later.

 
 
ADAM, TALYA & VIENNA
 
 

Adam and Talya are now the parents of a one-year-old girl and are going to have their second child in January. They thought for sure that Vienna was going to receive a little sister. All the indications (or the lack thereof) were that our second grandchild was a girl. But then THIS showed up on the ultra-sound:

 
Adam did not hesitate to do a little bragging.
 
 
 
When Vienna was born, I was recovering from mitral valve heart surgery and we couldn't be there to meet her. This year, we can at least have one of us there shortly after Cameron Michael Kontras is born. He's scheduled to arrive on January 10th and I'm scheduled to arrive on January 31st. I can't wait to...
 
meet...
 
him...
 
uh...
 
well...
 
wait...
 
a...
 
minute...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(Click image to read texts)
 
Cameron Michael Kontras was born December 25, 2013 at 5:14pm PST. Talya and the baby are fine. Merry Christmas Cameron!
 

 

 
 
 
 
Lonna and I saw Cameron the next day via FaceTime with his eyes open.
 
 
 
 
Our family has a New Years birthday - my sister Renée -
and now a Christams birthday with Cameron.
 
 
 
Vienna enjoyed her first birthday on September 28th.
 
 
 
 
Eating cake is certainly a pleasant experience. Mud? Not so much.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I think I know where Vienna got her eyes. Let's hope she doesn't have Kontras ears.
 
 
 
KENNY & AMY
 

Kenny and Amy are doing well. Amy graduated from ITT Technical Institute with an Associates Degree in Network Systems Administration. She's finishing her Bachelor's Degree in Information Systems and Cyber Security online because she has a new job working as a paid IT Intern for American Municipal Power (a non-profit) on Windows 7 migration for all Westerville City laptops/desktops and setting up Bitlocker encryption on the new PCs. Kenny now works for IPS Motor Sports in Lewis Center, OH. He's become quite the high-end mechanic and fabricator. Kenny and Amy recently moved to a home in Columbus' north side so we are only about ten minutes apart.

Our next-door neighbor - the man who mentored Kenny through his teen years in auto mechanics - had some wonderful words about his "protégé".
 
 
 
 
STILL GOING STRONG
 

Dad is now 82 years old. He still enjoys walking (weather permitting), riding his stationary bike and of course, the OSU Buckeyes. Lonna and I took a "stacation" in August and during the first day of it, we took dad to "The Wilds" in Zanesville, OH. Dad has always loved watching animals in the wild on TV and now he's had the opportunity to see them up close. It was a great day for all of us. Here's some pics.
 
He still does a lot with my youngest brother, David, and his family.
 
Top row, left to right: Meghan, Gracie, Jacob, Carly. Bottom row, left to right: Beth, Billy, Dad, David, Nick and Beth's mom, Suzie.
 
 
"YOU TWO KINDA LOOK ALIKE"
 

 

We heard that for years growing up, but the two of us never thought so. Although... we were good lookin', weren't we?
 
My brother Nick, and his wife Janey, moved into their new condo in Blacklick, OH.
 
Janey works at Colerain School in Columbus, Ohio as an assistant to the teaching staff. Nick works for the Columbus Ohio Transit Authority in their Transportation Services for the Disabled department as a driver.
 
We join them for breakfast on occasion and visited them in their new condo in November.
 
Nick, whose sense of humor has not diminished at all over the years, left Lonna and me a little Christmas voice mail before we had a chance to look at our cell phones on Christmas Day. No, he was not drunk... I don't think... well... maybe...
Here's the whole family. Left to right: youngest daughter, Stephanie; wife, Janey; oldest daughter, Andrea; Nick
.
 
 
MR. & MRS. FUN
 

My sister, Renée and her husband, Aaron , continue as owners of the Retreat Salon and Day Spa* in Dublin, OH. They also work together as DJ's on the weekends, calling themselves "Mr. & Mrs. Fun" at Stephan's Lounge in Marysville, OH.

 

Some may remember Aaron & Renée before they were "Mr. & Mrs. Fun". They performed together in a band called The Other Side back in the 1990s. A Facebook post by a local publication revealed many pictures of the band. I thought this was a good promo shot. Left to right: Aaron Taylor, Renée Petikas, Jim Trevorro and Chuck Bolin.

*A Sad Sidenote: On January 7, 2014, I learned that after 30 years in the salon business and 15 years as owners, Renée and Aaron had to close their salon and day spa. The landlord wanted to raise the lease to an amount that the business could not sustain. I have no doubt they will bounce back from this and move forward into a new journey, but it is certainly an end of an era for our family.
 
THE UKULELE MAKES A COMEBACK
 
01
 
02
 

Our Goddaughter, Meghan, originally chose to play piano and sing in the talent show in January. After she learned that many other students were planning to do the same thing, she decided to be different. She received a ukulele for her birthday last year and by the time she hit the stage at the talent show, she was ready! Out of all the talented students in this show, which took well over two hours, she came in third!
She actually previewed the song at Christmas last year for Lonna and me.
 
At Easter dinner, everyone requested an encore.
 
 
 
 
 
COLUMBUS MEETS VIENNA
 
We were able to meet Vienna for the first time in March. She was such a joy! Adam & Talya did a great job with her sleeping schedule so that Lonna and I could still get enough rest each night since we were both working during their visit. Vienna made plenty of new friends throughout her ten days in Columbus. Lonna and I tried to get as many pictures as possible.
 
Left to right: Adam's Aunt Eileen, her daughters Elsa and Lila with Vienna
 
\
 
 
Vienna meets Kelso
 
 
My niece, Kallie
 
 
 
Kallie's mom, Karen
 
 
 
My Aunt Theo, Kallie's grandmother
 
 
 
 
 
My niece, Stephanie, in the background
 
 
Dad
 
 
 
Jeff & Jessica Jackson's daughter, Zoe (Jessica is Adam's ex-wife.)
 

 
Out of all the photos taken, these two by Lonna really stood out.
 
  
 
 FIRST STEPS
 
Thanks to FaceTime, I was able to record some of Vienna's first steps.
 
 
THANKSGIVING
 
We visited David and Beth's home for Thanksgiving. As usual, great food and company.
Top row, Left to right: Lonna, Renée, Dad, Meghan, Beth's mom, Suzie
In front: Jake (left) and Aaron.
 
 
Billy with his new girlfriend, Kirsten.
 
David with "the pups".
 
Dad was able to see his great granddaughter in LA, again via FaceTime.
 
 
 
CALIFORNIA COMES TO OHIO... FOR CHRISTMAS?
 
 Lonna's brother and his family, who live in Seal Beach, California, joined us for Christmas
at her parents' house in Marysville, Ohio.
 
Lou Blasi, Lonna's dad, on the left, and her brother David.
 
Jean Blasi, Lonna's mom, on the left and David's wife, Nancy.
 
David and Nancy's two daughters:
Abby Jean (age 12) on the left and Sara Rose (age 14).
 
Abby was determined to build a snowman, no matter how small.
 
Left to right: David, Abby, Sara and Nancy
 
 
 
We were invited to visit Lonna's sister and brother-in-law, Lissa and John Duston, at their home in Memphis, Tennessee for a few days in October. What a treat! Lissa, ever the event planner, arranged for us to do some fun things and still have plenty of time to relax and enjoy each others' company.
 
We toured Sun Studio, went to an intimate acoustic artists concert in the round at a local café, had lunch on Beale Street and saw the stage show, The Buddy Holly Story. (There's too many pictures to add to this page, so click here if you would like to see them.) In between all the planned activities, John and I found time to shoot pool on two different evenings while the wives enjoyed a dip in the hot tub. Sorry, no pics.
 
My name was a big hit during our visit, thanks to this character. Click on the photo to watch.
 
 
 
The last of the children of Nichola and Despina Kontras, my grandparents, passed in the fall. Bill Kontras was the oldest of all the children and lived the longest. His brothers, Gus and Jim both passed in the late 1980s and their sister Viola, my mother and the youngest of the four, passed in July, 2006. Their other sibling, Jennifer (Eugenia), passed in her twenties from an illness.

I have fond memories of growing up with my uncles and their families. We celebrated many holidays together during my childhood. The cousins - and there were quite a few - all got along well. Some stayed in touch long after they became adults with families of their own. These memories of the "Kontras Cousins" will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Note: My last name (and my brother Nick's) was changed back to our mother's maiden name in 1958 after divorcing our biological father. Click here for the whole story.

 
 
 

It's been said that time flies when you're having fun. That is certainly true for me as I finish my second year with In Spirit Ministries and the First Saturday Chant. To say that I am really enjoying this is an understatement. Joanne Blum and her husband, Joe Lambert, go out of their way to treat all of us involved with generosity and kindness.

Joe owns Sound Dog Studio in Dublin, Ohio where he records the In Spirit CDs and also provides CDs of the First Saturday Chant. In addition, he is an excellent painter. Feel free to visit his website.

 

 

 

 

 

We were blessed to have Eddie Watkins, Jr., former bassist for The Temptations, join us twice this year, in April and October. What a great, enthusiastic performer he is. So much energy! Listen to one of his best known songs, "When You Believe". Here's some video of us working with Eddie.
 

Joanne Blum has released her new book, "Here I Am, Lord! A Minister Reflects On Her Calling". This is a great read with many relatable stories of her life experiences. The book is available in print and Kindle versions at Amazon.com.

 
 
In Spirit Ministries released their Christmas CD in early December. I was delighted to contribute.
(Click on any title to listen to a song)
 
 
To purchase a copy of the CD, go to www.InSpiritMinistries.org
 
 
 
 
The Unity Spiritual Center in Delaware, Ohio, which now has Rev. Joanne Blum as their interim minister, asked me to play piano on the second Sunday of each month for their congregational songs as well as accompany the featured vocalist on that Sunday, whoever he or she might be. I wholeheartedly said yes. In November, I was also given the opportunity to not only be the pianist, but to perform as the featured vocalist as well. What a treat for me! It had been nearly five years since I performed as a soloist. The congregation jumped right in with hand clapping and singing. They made the morning so much fun!
 
Here's a real short video clip.
 
 
 
  
Doug and Cindy Smith were in Columbus and stopped by to visit with Lonna and me in late July. We put Smith' N' Kontras CDs in the boom box, grazed on sandwiches and finger foods and talked for hours. It was great to see them both again. No, Doug and I are not quitting our jobs and getting back together, as tempting as that may be.
 

Don't let that nice conservative photo fool you. Here they are 20 years ago.

 
 
 
 
I received a letter from an old high school friend.
 
 
 

Some of you reading this may not even know what projector slides look like.

I had the slides processed. They revealed photos I have never seen before. These were taken by Randy at the Brown Derby Restaurant and Lounge in Columbus, Ohio, May, 1976.

David Show lives in Nashville, Tennessee and is still performing. He plays in a group called Missy Garnett and the Two Dollar Pistols.

Pete Goldhardt lives in Columbus, Ohio and has been drumming with FLASHBACK for over 35 years.
 

I don't know if Dan Westbrock is performing or not, but I hope he is. He was a good guitarist and a very good vocalist.

I can't thank Randy enough for taking the time to send the letter and the slides. This was a great time in my life and seeing the pictures brought back wonderful memories!

In 2001, I was performing as a soloist. The other three members of the band showed up and sang a few tunes. This picture was taken by one of the wives. I inserted headshots of us to show what we looked like 26 years earlier.
 
 
 
 
 
 
AN OLD DOG CAN LEARN NEW TRICKS
I am in my seventh year at American Commerce Insurance Company which is being marketed under the brand name of MAPFRE Insurance. As I mentioned last year, my duties changed, drastically. I've gone from creating marketing materials like these...
 
...to working in this environment:
 

Yours truly is now the person in charge of licensing and appointing new independent agencies and agents to our company in seven states. Technically, I am still the executive assistant to the Senior VP of Marketing, but many of those duties have now been given to another person, who was brought on when I assumed my new role.

This new position has taken me away from my skill sets in marketing and taught me a whole new side to the insurance industry. I'm working in very large computer systems where entering agent information correctly is financially critical, not only for the agency, but for our company as well. In addition, I now work very closely with the marketing reps in the field and the agencies they represent. I also handle the contractual duties for these agencies.
 
 
 
What started out as a small project recording studio is now going to become my supplemental income in retirement. At least, that's the plan. I'm branching out into graphic design services, digitizing old video/audio and video production. You can learn more at www.sacolumbus.com.
 
 
This year, among many small projects, SA was honored to be chosen for a very large video production - the creation of the 100 Year Anniversary of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral DVD. The Historian and Archivist for the church, Diane Synadinos, and one of the Helenic Singers, Becky Regas, spent dozens of hours producing while SA handled the editing and musical production.The final video is one hour long with video clips and photos dating as far back as the 1920s. The DVD is included in the 100 Year Anniversary Book, written by Diane. If you are interested in purchasing the book, click here to print a copy of the order form.
 
Here is a short clip of excerpts from the DVD.
 ;
 
 
 
YOU CAN STILL ROCK IN AMERICA
(Even with Gray Hair)
These Guys Live is now in its seventh year. Not bad for a bunch of rockers whose youngest member is fifty years old. Some have asked, "How long do you guys think you'll do this?"
 
Well, when you... are given the opportunity to perform for big crowds,

receive favorable newspaper write-ups,
 
 
play lakeside venues with incredible sunsets,
 

are asked to perform live on the largest rock station in Central Ohio with a listening audience of 250,000 people, (Listen or watch. Please allow a minute for buffering.)

are asked to become the house band for that station - that same morning - and perform at all their public events starting with their 2013 New Years' Eve bash,

have managers that book you a year in advance,

 
have a wine named after you,
 
 
and everyone is in good health, who knows how long we'll do this? We can't see stopping in the foreseeable future, that's for sure.

Bottom line? We're having a great time.

 
 
 
 
 
  
 
I nearly defeated it in the early 1980s and then again in the late 1990s, but it always came back to kick my butt. I was extremely aware of its control over me and at times, it consumed me with self-doubt and embarrassment. I knew all the tricks, the ins and outs, for beating it. But after each victory, it would come back, making me forget the efforts I put into its demise. It has been a source of both joy and sorrow, which is probably why I kept allowing it to control me and at the same time, tried to maintain control of it. It made me feel good and bad, often within a few hours. It was truly a love-hate relationship with...
 
...my appetite.
 
It was time for a different approach. I had two issues to tackle. 1) Time of consumption; 2) Portions; Here are the lessons I applied in the process:

Lesson 1: It's not the lack of exercise that put the weight on
I was 17 years old when I graduated high school and I weighed 170-175 pounds. My activity level in my senior year was much the same as it is now. I sat at a desk nearly all day. Other than physical education twice a week for 30-40 minutes, I did not participate in any organized sports. I played music on the weekends.
 
So what changed? My eating habits.
 
Once I was out of high school, I started eating at night and skipping breakfast. Also, the food I ate when I was on my own, was not nearly as good for me as the food that was prepared by my mother and grandmother when I lived at home.

 Normal exercise is great for cardio-vascular health, muscle tone, etc., but you cannot rely primarily on exercise to lose weight and keep it off. The fact is, it takes a lot of exercise to burn even 200 calories which is less than an average candy bar.

Lesson 2: The first three letters in "diet" spell "die"
The Adkins Diet, the Scarsdale Diet, the Grapefruit Diet, the Popcorn Diet. Do any of these sound familiar? In one way or another, I tried them all. Although there were portions of these fad diets that worked, I always regained the weight. I also learned that there is a dangerous side to extensive, repeated dieting that can result in major health issues - some life threatening.

Lesson 3: Eat early in the day
That's when you need the fuel.
 
Lesson 4: Go to bed hungry
The longer the duration between your last meal and bedtime, the better. Your sleep is far more restful because your body is not "awake" trying to digest food.
 
Lesson 5: Certain foods help you lose weight - even in large quantities
This may not be true for you, but it is for me. Bananas, strawberries, grapes, almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, broccoli, carrots and cauliflower help me lose weight. In addition, they aid in digestion which also aids in weight loss. I still eat chicken - 4 to 5 times a week. I eat fish as often as I can and I eat beef regularly, but in small quantities. However, lessons 3 and 4 must be applied.
 

Lesson 6: If you eat something that is not good for you, then follow up with something that is
This little morsel of information does two things: 1) You get full faster because you are balancing the good with the bad; 2) You eat less of what is not good for you.

Lesson 7: Rapid weight loss is nearly always followed by even more rapid weight gain
This has been my experience. And in doing the research, I found this to be a very common phenomenon.

Back in the early 1980s, I exercised heavily, and I lost 74 pounds in 10 months (244 lbs to 170 lbs). In the Late 1990s, with the same amount of exercise, I lost 73 pounds in 10 months (250 lbs to 177 lbs). Both times, the weight came back because my daily routine changed. I finally peaked at 256 lbs in 2008. 

That's when I started making changes in my eating habits and not relying on exercise. So instead of losing 2-3 pounds a week, I started losing 1-2 pounds a month and keeping it off.
 
Lesson 8: Depriving yourself of foods you enjoy will not help you lose weight
What you will lose is your sanity. Have some pizza once in a while. A couple of donuts won't hurt you from time to time. A 2oz. bag of Fritos is a great snack. None of these foods affect weight loss, if you're intention is to lose the weight slowly. Again, lessons 3 and 4 must be applied.
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
As we get older, some of us need a little "nip and tuck" in the posterior. I mention this only because I know many people my age are reluctant to consider a hemorrhoidectomy. The procedure is very common and I'm very glad I went through with it. The final results far outweigh the pain during those first five days of recovery. I was back to work in ten days. A comical sidenote: After the procedure, the nurses kept asking me if I had produced any flatulence. I'm sure I had a puzzled look on my face so they informed me that, "You have to toot before you scoot."
 
 
 
 
Dr. Raul Weiss, my Electro-physiologist at the Ross Heart Hospital (OSU) handed me my "diploma" in September by saying, "You've graduated". It was my graduation from prescription blood thinning medicines to a single regular aspirin once a day. I am now completely prescription medicine free! So where's my cap and gown?
 
 
 
 
 
 
Our government needs an adult intervention by people who want the best for all our citizens, not just the top 2% wage earners. When money dictates the outcome of political elections, this cannot happen. What does happen is we elect silly, immature, arrogant and sometimes uneducated people that couldn't care less about governing. I'm tired of watching our president reach out time and again to appease these congressional "children" bickering from their "sandbox", and then be hamstrung by their lack of intellectual curiosity and desire to work with him.
 
It's not that he's a bad president. It's because - and I didn't want to believe this for the longest time - he's black. Apparently, there are still many people in this country - and in this congress - that believe it was okay for blacks to have helped build the Whitehouse, but it is not okay for them to live in it as President and First Lady. Why else would these people vote against the very bills they helped sponsor under President Bush? The Immigration Reform Act is just one example. This lack of maturity saddens me beyond measure. I've grown weary of the pettiness so I've decided not to watch these sandbox squabbles. If the parties involved start doing their job, I'll start paying attention, again.
 
Until we grow up as a nation, we will not progress.
 
 
 
Since 2003, Lonna and I dealt with my heart valve and irregular heartbeat issues. As I look back on the years, I remember noticing things like "heartburn" and "anxiety attacks" as far back as 2000. I didn't think much of these events because they came and went so quickly. But I realize now they were the early signs of Atrial Fibrillation and not at all what I thought. Now that all this has passed, my energy level is back up to where it was in 1999! Or as my brother Nick would say, I'm "celebrating the 34th anniversary of my 29th birthday" with great enthusiasm!
 
 
 
 
Yet another attempt at a family portrait. Kelso, who will be 11 years old in February, just wanted to sleep. Notice Lonna is holding his head up. Koal, who is going on 9 years old (also in February) wanted nothing to do with the picture, as usual. I had the job of setting the timer on the camera, scooping him up, and then sitting down quickly, trying to look relaxed and posed. But instead, I look like I want to sleep, too.
 
 
 
 
I leave you with this picture of Vienna at Disneyworld. Her father says she's flirting with Goofy. I say she's thinking, "You can't fool me, mister! I know who you are."
 
 
Thanks for taking the time to read my 2013 page.
  
Have a great 2014!
 
Sincerely,