As she continues to be her mother's primary caregiver, Lonna has discovered a new system for elderly care that far exceeds that of conventional assisted living and nursing home environments. It's called A Place to Call My Home. There are several "homes" around Columbus. It's a house with five bedrooms so only five people can live there at any given time. There are two full time aids that handle the needs for all five people, a ratio that does not exist in even the finest assisted living or nursing home facilities. The difference it has made in her mom's comfort and care is immeasurable.
Lonna also continues her work at Greenleaf Job Training Services as the Director of Business Development. She has been there over 10 years.
ADAM, TALYA, VIENNA & CAMERON
This year I had an opportunity to visit Adam, Talya and the grandkids in early December for 5 days. What was the "first" is that Kenny, my youngest son, traveled with me. Another "first" was this was his first ever experience with air travel. (More on that in the next segment.) Needless to say, it was certainly fun seeing how much Vienna and Cameron have "matured" in a year. Although we FaceTime several times throughout the year, it's nothing like being there and interacting with them.
Towards the end of our visit, Cam was not feeling well. He was coughing a lot and having trouble breathing, so on our final night, Talya took him to the emergency room while Adam stayed home with Vienna. Cam was admitted to the hospital late that night and stayed for about 48 hours. It appears that his has developed some allergies and combined with what appeared to be a common cold, the symptoms were wreaking havoc on his breathing. He had been hospitalized a week or so previous to this current visit for similar symptoms and after running some allergy tests, it was discovered he was allergic to their two dogs. So Adam and Talya had to do a complete scrubbing of the entire house and its contents, as well as remove all the carpeting. The dogs now live with Talya's mother. Truth-be-known, I think they might be enjoying the peace and quiet of their new home.
Vienna enjoyed her fourth birthday on September 28th.
Cameron enjoyed his third birthday on Christmas Day.
On a side note, a nice interview with Talya was done mid year.
As I mentioned above, Kenny experienced air travel for the first time this year. He was a bit nervous at first, but after the first leg of the trip to CA, he was fine. The second leg of the trip proved to be very uncomfortable because there was extremely cold air coming across our feet the entire 2+ hours of the flight. By the time we landed, it felt like we had walked in snow from Denver to Burbank. Both legs on the return trip went very well.
Because of the geographical distance between them, Adam has never really known Kenny as anything other than a kid brother. I can't explain in words how great it was to see them bond as two adults.
Another "first" is Kenny finally met his niece and nephew. I'm not sure they understand the relationship at their young ages, but it's a start. He and Cameron seemed to bond right away, but Vienna was a little more distant.
While we were out there, Kenny took advantage of the trip by going to see one of his biggest suppliers - Outfront Motor Sports. It was finally nice to put a face to the name and voice he has worked with for the last few years.
Kenny has a friend named Miranda that he has known for many years and she is a huge fan of Kat Von D, a famous tattoo artist that also has a TV show. Her tattoo shop in Hollywood is called High Voltage Tatoo. Miranda would have throttled Kenny had he not brought her back something from that shop, so we stopped in. This was a "first" for both of us.
Kenny is in his fourth year at Slow Motion Motor Sports. This year, it seems he's been busier than ever before. So much so, that I had to make sure he could travel to CA months in advance.
As a side project in 2017, he will be installing a new engine and manual transmission, along with all the fabrication required, into Adam's Delorean Time Machine. Once this is done and everything is working as it should, Adam's "Time Machine" will probably be the fastest Delorean in the world. 2017 could be a very exciting year for the Kontras Brothers.
Dad is "hangin' in there" as he often says. He continues to live with my brother David and his wife, Beth. We took him out to dinner on his 85th brthday in January.
Left to right: Carly, Jacob, Gracie, Me, Nick, Dad, Lonna, David, Beth, Meghan and Billy. (The guy in the back photobombed the picture so I have no idea who he is.)
Dad had the opportunity to visit his two sisters, Popi and Maria, and other relatives in Greece this summer, spending about three months on the island of Chios.
Towards the end of his stay, my nephew Billy, flew over and traveled back with him. Here he is pictured with Dad and Billy's cousin, Josh Kozoumis (far right).
Dad has very few health issues and still seems to be getting around fine. I don't know too many 85 year old individuals that would travel to Greece by themselves. He still enjoys Ohio State Football and I try to watch the games with him when my schedule permits.
THREE SISTERS AND THEIR HUSBANDS
This year marked the first time Lonna and her two sisters, Lissa and Linda, met at the same place for a vacation... with their husbands! We had a great time! The pictures tell the story of the four days in Memphis in October.
We toured the Mississippi on the Memphis Riverboat.
Left to right: Gary & Linda, Me & Lonna, Lissa & John
(Click on picture to see the rest of the pics)
I always thought Bass Pro Shops only sold fishing supplies. Boy was I wrong!
(Click on picture to see the rest of the pics)
You don't visit Memphis without going to Beale Street.
(Click on picture to see the rest of the pics)
I had the rare opportunity to drive John's vintage Porsche Turbo. What a car!
I couldn't resist wearing my "THESE GUYS LIVE" t-shirt for the pics.
Thanks to Lonna, our annual Christmas toast has a few laughs.
We had Christmas Dinner and New Years Day Dinner at our house this year. A huge first for us. Lonna did a great job preparing food and making everyone feel comfortable. Fortunately, her mom was able to join us for both meals. For Christmas, Lonna's sister Lissa, Lissa's husband John and their son Nicholas joined us. For New Years Day, her other sister Linda, and Linda's husband Gary, joined us.
I have now been with the In Spirit Band and In Spirit Ministries for five years. It continues to be one of the highlights of my life and once again, I must thank Joanne Blum and Joe Lambert for all they do to keep this project going. Below is a picture from one of our performances featuring singer-songwriter Jesse Power, second from left.
We had a member change this year. Jim Fuller, the bass guitarist, moved back to his home state of Wisconsin.
He was so kind as to give everyone in the band a fairwell card.
Playing bass for the band now is Steve Perakis, who is an exceptional talent with a great sense of humor.
I invite you to join us every first Saturday at 5:00pm for a wonderful hour of music with a short meditation midway through. In addition to the In Spirit Band, you will be treated to wonderful guest artists from all over the country. The First Saturday Chant is held at The First Unitarian Church, 93 W. Weisheimer Rd., Columbus, OH 43214.
One more thing about Joe and Joanne. They are two members of a four piece group called "The Bead People". This group has performed for many years in the Central Ohio area and are exceptional talents, both vocally and instrumentally. Their 60's era music is so refreshing and they certainly perform it well. Unfortunately, the bassist, Jim Fuller, (who was also the bassist for the In Spirit Band) has moved so now the group only performs when all four can get together.
In Spirit Ministries is a non-profit organization that is supported solely by donations.
I am now in my 4th year at Unity Church of Delaware, playing piano on the second Sunday of each month. Much like the In Spirit Band, this musical / spiritual experience has helped to keep spirituality active in my life.
This year, I want to mention three co-workers who have also become good friends. They are left to right: Rich O'Hara, John Gardner and Steve Reffitt.
Rich is the Central Region's comptroller, providing the financial reports and all the analytics that go with them. He's what I call the "Numbers Guy". He's been with the company for over 20 years.
John is the Facilities Manager for our building and has been with the company forů ready for this?
He is also one of the most helpful people I know, going way beyond his job description to do whatever he can to be of assistance.
Steve is the Manager of all four of the MAPFRE Insurance Branch offices in Ohio. Three of these offices are in the Columbus area and the fourth is in Westlake (Cleveland), OH. He's been with the company for about 4 years.
All of these men are very good at what they do. We enjoy great conversation and, as you can see, a good lunch once in a while.
I can't believe I'll be completing my 10th year at MAPFRE Insurance in September, 2017. It has certainly been an interesting journey inside Corporate America.
My first year assisting the new Senior VP / Regional Manager has gone well. He is very easy to work with and has given me a very nice workspace just outside his office.
In addition to assisting him, the previous Senior VP and a VP, I also handle the ordering, inventory and distribution for all the point of sale marketing materials for the entire seven state region and I manage the distribution of all Columbus Crew SC game tickets given to us by that organization as part of the deal made when MAPFRE Insurance purchased the naming rights to the stadium. People often ask when I'm going to retire now that I'm 66 years old. My plan is to work about three more years and retire somewhere around my birthday in 2019.
I worked on two large projects that took up nearly all of my time in the studio. One was a video project that, when completed early in 2017, will be nearly 1.5 hours long and the other is an analog to digital transfer project of many, many hours of video. This will hopefully be what I do (on a larger scale) for additional income once I'm retired. For more on what Studio Artists is about, click here.
TGL will be celebrating 10 years in late March, 2017. Statistically speaking, this is nearly impossible for a local band. 2016 proved to be more challenging for the band, but not because of any individual's personality or ego.
One of our lead guitarists, Paul Bernard, decided (after a great 5 years with TGL), that he wanted to form a new band with his son, Vince. (To see how well 15 year old Vince plays, click here.)
Below is a photo of Paul's last night with the band on August 20, 2016. There were absolutely no hard feelings about his departure, and he has been out to see us on more than one occasion.
Those of you that know the band's individual members may not recognize the person on the far left, so here's the story:
As a rule, having to change a guitarist in a successful local band is difficult, but not something that will break up the band. Finding a replacement for Paul was a challenge because we needed not only a very good guitarist, but also someone who could cover the 50+ vocal parts that Paul sang. We did find that person and I say more about him below.
Now, about the picture above: The really difficult challenge for TGL this year was after Paul gave his notice but before the new guitarist/vocalist was ready, we had to use substitute bass players while Rick Anderson, our bassist, had major surgery on August 3rd, with a recovery time that took much longer than anyone expected. So, while we were trying to get our new guitarist/vocalist ready to join us on stage by the end of August, we also had to find bassists to fill in for Rick. We were fortunate to have Alan Beavers, an excellent bassist with a very good local band, fill in on nearly all of our dates because his band was making a change in the lead singer position so they were not performing at the time. That is who you see on the far left in the picture above.
There were two dates Alan could not fill and we were able to have Shawn Pruden, another very good bassist, perform with us on those two dates. Shawn is pictured below, standing next to Mike Keller, in September. Through all of this, TGL never cancelled one date.
By mid October, Rick was able to come back to TGL, and the band was once again intact.
On to the present:
Our new guitartist/vocalist is Matt Venus, pictured above at the far left. We are very fortunate to have Matt in the band. He is not only an excellent guitarist (who also teaches guitar for a living) and a very good vocalist, but his personality blends perfectly with the rest of the members. We are thrilled he is a part of TGL and he is equally thrilled to be playing the music he has always wanted to play.
The picture below was taken in July, 2016, just after we decided Matt would make a great addition.
Left to right: Rick Anderson, Michael Doctor, Me, Matt Venus, Marty Brasington, Mike Keller.
HOW ABOUT THAT!
A local sportscaster named Jimmy Crum would say, "How about that, sports fans!" every time a remarkable play was made by one of the basketball Buckeyes. I thought it was a fitting title for this section.
No one expected Donald Trump to win the election. Not even Donald Trump.
Truth-be-told, I was not happy with any of the major candidates in this year's Presidential Election. I have respect for the office but I have very deep concerns about the person now holding that office.
Donald Trump is a performer, an entertainer. He knows how to market himself well. He is not a student of history and politics and most certainly does not appear to understand the hard work of being President of the United States. He wants to be in front of the cameras, but not take questions from the press. He enjoys grandiosity, even at the risk of making rash decisions without asking the advise of the people around him with years of experience in governing.
In the coming months and years, I believe that many of the standards of being President of the United States will be tested and so will we as citizens. Sometimes, as a country, we need these "tests" in order to re-evaluate our strengths and weaknesses.
We must also realize that there will always be change and that much of what we called "normal" even 10 years ago, no longer falls into that category. In fact, I'm not so sure there is a "normal" anymore.
The "concerns" I mention in the second paragraph have been discussed ad nauseam by pundits on every side of the political spectrum, so there is no need to reiterate all that blather.
But I will be paying close attention to the actions of our 45th President. I hope everyone does.
WHAT THE FUTURE COULD LOOK LIKE
This book was given to me by Lonna for my birthday. It's a book on the historical and human patterns of the United States and how they can easily be identified. Basically, we have been where we are now in this country at least three other times (in cycles of 80-85 years) in the last 240 years. It's a book that was published in 1998 and at that time, gave a remarkable insight into where our country was headed.
Now, nearly 20 years later, this book's prophetic teachings are nearly spot on and, according to the authors, the next 20 years will see some remarkable events unfold.
Once again, Lonna's sense of humor shines through. 'Nuff said.
(Click on picture to see the car)
Mike Keller, one of the founding members of These Guys Live, became a grandpa this year. Here he is with his grandson, Benjamin.
I discovered, completely by accident, that my son Adam, at age 14, found the personal journal I kept while I was on tour with Jesus Christ - Superstar. He actually wrote a note in the journal after he read the whole thing.
In addition to the personal journal, I also kept an informational binder with all the tour dates and the stage/equipment set-up.
This year's family portrait features both Kelso and Koal not looking at the camera. Perfect.
Inseparable... most of the time.
Thanks for taking the time to read and watch my year end page.
Have a great 2017!
ALL YEAR-END PAGES