LONNA

Lonna continues her work with OPENOnline. But the company was purchased by a larger company known as Universal Background Screening. Her work is basically the same, but with an increased focus on sales. The management style is far different than what she experienced before the purchase. She did experience an hourly reduction from 40 hours to 25 hours per week due to COVID. Fortunately, it only lasted from April 1st to May 1st. And also due to COVID, she now works from home. This arrangement may end up being permanent since everything she does is either online or on the phone. BTW: she's not complaining at all.

 

VIENNA, CAMERON, TALYA & ADAM

 

Vienna turned 8 years old September 28th and Cameron turned 7 years old Christmas Day. Above is a pic from our computer of the Zoom Birthday Party we held for Vienna. If you're wondering why the family is looking up, it's because they're viewing the Zoom on a 10 foot TV screen. No. Really.

Lonna and I "attended" via one of my PC monitors in the studio.

Cameron and Vienna "attend" school via Zoom, at home. Talya and Adam set up their "classroom".

Braver than I ever was at 6 years old, Cam "pops" out a loose tooth in a very unique way.

 

Vienna and Cam debuted in their very first movie this year, which can be seen on Amazon Prime. More about this later. (How's that for a teaser?)

 

KENNY, BROOKE, ALEENA & GRAYSON

www.KontrasPerformance.com is now in its second year of business. And, like many small businesses this year, it was hit hard by COVID and had to make a public announcement. Kenny has a small operation and has the abillity to do all the work himself, if it comes to that. Here's a few pictures of his work.

Brook continues to work at Loeb Electric's main office in the purchasing department. Her two children are Aleena (age 8) and Grayson (age 7, February 2020). Between Kenny's shop, her job and having to work with the kids at home due to COVID, the two have had limited time to be together, so they make the most of it when they can.

Brooke brought the kids by the house on Halloween but because of COVID, they stayed outside and later, we continued our Halloween tradition enjoying hot chocolate together via FB streaming.

I received a text from Kenny on December 12, 2020.

A little history: this train set was a Christmas present from my family in 1957. I kept it, expanding it from time to time. Then, when I needed the room in our basement for a recording studio, the train had to be put away. After asking Adam and Kenny if either one of them wanted the train set, Adam said he really didn't have room for it and Kenny said he'd take it, but wouldn't be able to set it up right away, again, because of no room. Kenny did manage to set it up briefly several years ago, to make sure he could get it running. Then, he surprised me with a text video that he had set it up this year. I added some historical video to his video.

 

 

 

DAD

It's hard to believe that Dad will be 90 years old January 17, 2021. He's doing well, and thankful everyday that his health is good. The family flew to Utah to visit one of David and Beth's sons, Billy, who lives and works there. Of the 3 kids, their three daughters were the only ones that could go. The two sons still in Columbus, Jacob and Nicholas, had to stay behind. These pics show how beautiful the area is.

Gracie & Carly

David, Carly, Billy, Dad & Meghan

Beth & David

Billy, Carly, Meghan & Gracie

David, Meghan & Dad

Picture taken Christmas Day. Left to right: Jacob, Billy, Nicholas (in back), Meghan with Rocky, Gracie with Maximus, Dad, Carly and David. Not pictured: Beth, David's wife.

 

Due to COVID, Dad and I with David's help, found a new way to watch Ohio State Football games.

 

 

HOW TO PARTY LIKE A ROCK STAR DURING A PANDEMIC

My sister Renée and her husband, Aaron, are in their second year owning and operating a bar in Hilliard, Ohio called RnR Bar & Grill. Like many other bars and restaurants, theirs was hit hard by COVID, but they are doing their best to keep the doors open. They created a great promotional video that shows them applying the CDC guidelines to reassure people that their venue is safe. In the video, Renée is the one cleaning the beer bottles and Aaron is the one with the beard singing at the end of the video.

 

 

BROTHER NICK

Nick and I stay in regular contact. Although we don't get together for lunch right now, that doesn't stop us from having a bite to eat while we FaceTime. I'm reasonably certain that smile on his face is probably alchohol induced, but I could be wrong.

Nick is now dating a woman named Linda Jarvis. She is very pleasant, and always has a smile on her face. She works for the Veterans Administration.

The two of them came to a These Guys Live outdoor event in July. Due to COVID restrictions, everyone had to stay just outside their cars.

 

 

A few of us from the In Spirit Band decided to due a couple of virtual videos since we could not get together to perform. It worked out well. The first video features Joe Lambert and me performing John Lennon's "Imagine" and the second is Joanne Blum, Joe Lambert, Jim Fuller (in Wisconsin), Joe Nelson and me performing "Little Bit 'O Soul", originally recorded by the Music Explosion.

 

 

 

I am now in my 8th year at Unity Church of Delaware. Normally, I would be playing piano on the second Sunday of each month, but due to COVID, all of our Sunday morning gatherings at the church have been curtailed.

If you are looking for a break from all of today's craziness, why not enjoy a half hour of music and message that will help put some balance in your life? Unity is still holding services via Facebook Live every Sunday morning at 10:30am, until we can once again be together. Joanne Blum and Joe Lambert provide the live stream from their home. Joanne handles the meditation, prayers and message, and she and Joe perform 2-3 songs together. Joe also handles all the technical aspects of the live stream so it's a very busy half hour for him!

Mr. & Mrs. Claus

Indivdual members of the church gather virtually. There's a women's and men's chat group that each meet about once a month. The subject matter is whatever anyone wants to share.

I was able to contribute to our annual Summer Music Festival which had to be done virtually this year. Normally, I'm performing with These Guys Live on these weekends and am not able to participate. But this year was different. I had a chance to submit a song for the show. With so much of daily life being absorbed by the infectiousness of COVID, I thought a positive song about good things that are contagious might be in order. I wrote and recorded "Contagious" back in April, although the final mix was not done until much later.

 

 

UNLIKELY FRIENDS

My three favorite co-workers from my years at MAPFRE Insurance were John Gardner, Rich O'Hara and Steve Reffitt. Each of us could not be more different than the other and could easily not get along, yet here we are, after nearly all of us are no longer working there. We managed to get together one more time before 2021.

 

SO CARD CLUB IS OUT?

Lonna and I are part of a Euchre / Eating / Drinking club that used to meet once a month before COVID. We rotated the location of each gathering, visiting each couples' house for the "event." Obviously, we haven't done this for quite a while now but I did learn about a card playing website that may bring this back: www.trickstercards.com

 

Smith 'N' Kontras was a duo that entertained for over five years from 1991 to 1996, until Doug decided to move to Nashviille to pursue a solo careeer. We were what was then called a "Power Duo" because we used electronic drums, even though everything else was performed live. We both enjoyed performing covers live but our big passion was writing and recording music. That is still true to this day. Click on our logo above to hear much more. Below is a recent original from Doug, just in time for Christmas.

 

 

 

My one year anniversary with the Gordon Flesch Company was June 10th. But prior to that, I moved my "desk" home on Monday, March 16th, after discussing my options with management as to how I wanted to continue to work under the new COVID restrictions. I set up in the SA studio.

On April 15th, I experienced my first (and hopefully only) furlough with the company this year. It lasted about two months. During this time, I was very fortunate to be able to receive unemployment compensation and federal aid. My biggest concern during this period was whether or not I would be brought back because I had only been with the company since June 10, 2019.

I thought about looking for another job, but finding new empoloyment during the pandemic would probably not yield any promising results since so many people in positions similar to mine were losing theirs. But fortunately, I was brought back to work, albeit in a different role initially, working with the Accounting Department. That lasted about six weeks. Then, August 1st, I was brought back to the Sales Team as the Sales Coordinator. To say the team was happy to see me back is an understatement. They had to rely on other Sales Coordinators around the country to help them. Those coordinators did a magnificent job keeping up with their own workload and assisting the Ohio Team. But they too, were happy to see me back. So my home office was set back up but my work-from-home attire has changed a little from my in-office attire.

Like all of us, I'm not sure what the future holds, but my hope is that I can continue to work from home even after the pandemic is under control. I find I'm much more productive in this environment. Lonna's office is upstairs so we rarely see each other during the workday, which allows us to really focus on our work. Plus, if there is some work that comes in late in the day that is urgent and needs to be done asap, I can come back down to my office in the early evening and finish it. And, I can avoid scenes like this driving to work in the morning. (BTW: No one was hurt.)

As with many sales companies, it's important to touch base with your sales team regularly. So, there are lots of virtual meetings. The first pic below is a meeting of nearly all of our sales team, which is probably one of the best in the city. This particular meeting, we were asked to wear a wig or hat and the person with the most votes won a prize.

Below is a photo of the very first GFC Town Hall Meeting ever. Because of the virtual nature of the times, the powers at be thought this would be a good way to communicate with all of the employees. After the run-through on the company's figures, the meeting was opened to a Q&A session. There were nearly 160 people on this call. Another Town Hall Meeting was held for those in the Central Time Zone the following day. This worked very well.

Lest you think we are all work and no play, here's a little Jib-Jab Christmas / New Years message from some of the Sales Team.

 

While on furlough, I dove into my audio recording software to learn more about it. Although I have a good working knowledge and am able to create the needed audio for any videos I produce, I wanted to really work with it much more, especially for my own personal creations.

For me, one of the best ways to learn is to apply the knowledge as it comes, so I decided to write and record a song for our Summer Concert Festival at church, knowing I had plenty of time to complete the project. "Contagious" was that song. Since the festival was virtual this year, I also created the video you saw above.

For the techies out there, this is the audio software I use:

And now for a shameless plug: If you are looking to digitize analog audio and VHS tapes, or if you would like to have a video created around a family or work event, which could include videos of virtual meetings, or video that requires green screen techniques such as product promotions, or any other audio or video project that might be bigger than you might want to tackle, please visit us at: www.SAcolumbus.com. All of our services are discussed as well as prices and testimonials from customers. Okay, my shameless plug is over.

 

THIRTEEN YEARS AND COUNTING!

2020 marks TGL's 13th year on stage and my 9th year with the band. But this year marked a significant reduction of engagements due to COVID. Our last indoor gig was on March 8th. For all the gigs that were booked after the 8th, we either told the venue we didn't think it was safe to perform, or the venue decided to cease live entertainment that creates the desire to dance. As a way to show to our followers that we were following CDC Guidelines, we created a Public Service Announcement about COVID.

 

It was during this time that Matt Venus, one of our guitarists, decided to get out of the music business, and pursue a career in HVAC repair. So TGL became a five piece band at this point, which is how it was structured in the early days. Left to right: Mike Stigliano (Keys), Mike Keller (Guitar), Michael Doctor (Lead Vocals), Fletch Sears (Bass), and Joe Holton (Drums).

We did have a few outdoor gigs, but even those dried up after July. Here's video from July 3rd. Many of these events were either postponed and then cancelled or simply cancelled for 2020. Some have already booked us for 2021.

We did have one gig left on September 11th. We needed a space to review our show that was bigger than our regular studio rehearsal spot. It needed to have good outside air circulation and the ability for us to safely distance from each other. So, Lonna and I offered our garage for those few rehearsals. This is the same garage that was used by The Dubonnets back in the mid 1960s. That's why you see the name of the band and it's members painted on the wall behind Doc. Yes, Lonna and I own the house where I was raised. And yes, I got my butt spanked hard for letting the band members paint on the garage wall.

The above membership is changing. Both Alan and Jim decided they wanted to go in a different direction. So we started looking for new members.

A MICHAELS MEETING

The three "Michaels", Michael Keller (Guitar), Michael Doctor (Lead Vocals) and I met often via FaceTime due to COVID. This particular meeting was held to discuss the status of the drummer/vocalist search. As with all TGL meetings, a little humor at Doc's expense is a must.

 

The final confirmation of our new bassist / vocalist occurred the next day. We are very excited to announce that the talented Flint Vasher is a member of These Guys Live as of December 18, 2020.

We had our first meeting with Flint on December 21, 2020. It went VERY well.

We may be on the cusp of having our new drummer as well, but the audition isn't until late January. TGL promises to have a very fresh sound with some new material from different genres of music along with the music that drew so many to the band originally. We're looking forward to seeing everyone again!

 

 

SEPTUAGENARIAN

Okay, I had no idea what it meant either. But I found out.

 

As you might have noticed from the video, I think very highly of Barack and Michelle Obama. I know he was not a perfect president, no president is. But I also know that good character and the ability to empathize are critically important for good leadership, and the Obamas have both. So when Lonna gave me this book for my birthday, I was speechless. I've started reading it, and so far, it is a great exercise in humility. More of our elected leaders would do well to learn this trait.

"...pin back his ears."

The book has many touching personal anticdotes along with his improbable rise to the Presidency. In the page below, when he was a US Senator, Barack took his children, Malia and Sasha, to the Lincoln Park Zoo one afternoon. Wearing sunglasses and ball caps, he did not think they would be recognized. That only lasted a half hour.

NOTE: "Mike" is Mike Signatore, who was a volunteer on Obama's senatorial campaign, and stayed on as a part-time driver for the newly elected senator. He became like another family member.

"...a non-stop colonoscopy."

Obama's decision to run for President did not come easily. In a conversation with Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod, he details how both of them tried to describe the difficulties of a political campaign of this magnitude.

Even if you are not a fan of the former President, I would recommend this book to you. It is heart-felt, almost to a fault, and very revealing.

 

 

ONE OF OUR FAVORITE EATERIES

Lonna and I enjoy excellent food, in a great environment, with quiet music in the background to add to the mood. Due to COVID, we were able to spend a few dinners at our favorite eatery.

When I met Lonna and for the first several years of our marriage, she really didn't like to cook. But now, with her new plant-based diet, she's been experimenting with different recipes and has come up with some great meals.

No, I'm not plant-based. Although, I think she's not-so-secretly working on it.

 

A FAMILY THAT ZOOM'S TOGETHER...

Lonna's nephew organized an Easter Sunday Zoom Chat with her entire family. Not an easy task when you consider they live in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, Tennessee, Ohio and California.

 

 

Our grandkids debuted in Adam's new documentary, "Meeting MichaeL", which can be seen on Amazon Prime. Being the proud grandfather ("Papou" in Greek) that I am, I had to pull a few clips for bragging rights.

 

If you are a basketball fan and especially, a Michael Jordan fan, this film is for you. There is footage that has never been seen by anyone prior to its release.

 

INTERNATIONAL NORMALIZED RATIO

For millions of us in this country, our "INR" is a part of our daily life. We experience occasional Atrial Fibrilation. We have to stay "theraputic" by keeping our INR between 2.0 and 3.0, so we can be cardioverted if necessary. We take a blood thinner to achieve this goal. (For me, it's Warfarin) Seems simple enough, but the truth is, what we eat drastically affects this ratio. I found a personal solution for this issue that keeps my INR between 1.9 and 2.2 consistently, each time I have it checked, which is about once every 5-6 weeks. (My doctor prefers that it stays on the low end of the spectrum.)

Most of us prefer variety in our daily diet. But for me, eating the same thing, in the same quantities each day, with very few exceptions, is a sacrifice worth making to keep the worry out of whether or not my blood is either too thin, which is very dangerous, or too thick, which means I'm not theraputic and could not be cardioverted in an emergency.

Here's video of the meal I prepare (x7) for each day of the week and the rest of my daily intake everyday.

You're curious, aren't you? Come on... you know you are.

 

Add to the above lots of fluids like decaf black tea, water and some decaf coffee. This is also my secret for maintaining my weight, which fluctuates from 166-168 lbs on a weekly basis. Since 2010, I've lost, and maintained a loss of, 90 lbs. I did not rush the process as in attempts previous to 2010. I took my time, losing about 10 lbs a year. Want to know more? Please feel free to email me at: mkontras@aol.com.

 

GHOST TOWN

The streets looked a little different in April. Normally very busy roads were nearly deserted. Here's some examples. This is the intersection of Morse Road and Cleveland Ave on Columbus' north side. It is one of the top 5 busiest intersections in the city. The pic was taken at 10:00am.

A couple more pics on Morse Road.

This is rush hour (8:15am) at Morse Road and High Street. Again, a normally very busy intersection.

The sign at the neighborhood elementary school. The pic was taken in December. Who knew?

Because people were not driving nearly as much, gas prices dropped dramatically. This pic was taken April 25th in Marysville, Ohio.

 

BATS IN THE ATTIC

As if 2020 didn't already give us enough to deal with, we discovered we had bats in our attic. (Insert joke here.) You can't make this shit up.

 

A WALK IN THE HOOD

Daily walks with Lonna have become the norm this year. It's a time for us to catch up on our work day, discuss the future, etc. On occasion, we are visited by some "friends".

 

 

OUTSIDE THE HOOD

We also walk in one of the many parks in and around Columbus. Here's a couple pics from Highbanks Metro Park.

 

DANCING IN THE HOOD

What do you do when you can't hold your Jazzersize Class indoors? You hold it outdoors!

 

 

WORKDAY NAP

 

OUR COUNTRY SUFFERED NEEDLESSLY THIS YEAR. HERE'S WHY.

 

WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

We say we love America, but do we know what that really means?

Do we love the America that believes in "...liberty and justice for all..." and has a statue inviting immigrants, engraved with "Give me your tired, your poor... your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."? Or, do we love only our version of America - the "white" one - even if it is not reality?

America is always evolving. You can either embrace its evolution or become a part of the ever-shrinking segment of the population that will eventually, over several generations, become extinct. While it is true that every generation is limited by what it knows, it is also true that each generation gains more knowledge, understanding, and awareness than the one previous to it. This is the evolution of America. I choose to embrace that evolution. I hope my children and grand children do the same. To fight it, to try to maintain the status quo, or to try to go back in time, is an exercise in futlity.

My question to those who won't embrace the evolution is why? Why are you fighting so hard to maintain "your" America?

I believe it's fear. And fear begets anger, which is the catalyst for the actions we saw by far too many people these past few years. From our President, to other elected leaders, to publically armed civilians, to a few police officers, to those who simply refuse to let go of the past, the anger we witnessed only diminishes America. It does not strengthen it. Anger reveals that some of you are easily manipulated by words that feed your fear - truth be damned.

One of the most alarming examples of this, is people actually believing that scientists, doctors, scholars, historians, legal experts, economists and journalists who have devoted their entire lives to their profession - many receiving mutliple awards - were intentionally deceiving you while believing that one man, with a history of fraud and exhaustively documented lying, was the only person telling you the truth.

One weak, scared, man verses thousands of the best minds in our country and around the world.

How does that make sense?

Anyone?

This country was not built on fear. It was built on hope, guts and perseverance by pioneers, abolitionists, suffragists, immigrants and civil rights workers. And the construction is not done. America will always be moving closer to "...a more perfect union.". We may never get there, but nothing and no one can permanently stop the movement.

If you call yourself an American, then your heritage is either Native American, Slave, Refugee or Immigrant. Period. There is no "white" heritage. If you call yourself an American, then be an American. Help your country evolve like those Americans that came before you. The fear you have about your neighbor being Black, or Hispanic, or Asian, or Middle Eastern, or Gay, is not founded in reality. It is False Evidence Appearing Real.

So, what are you afraid of?

 

 

 

 

A random picture taken through the screen door in the back of their house. The best of friends.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read and watch my year end page.

Have a great 2021!

ALL YEAR-END PAGES