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“Please be Safe!”

Technology is a wonderful thing…here I am in Jerusalem, several thousand miles and a few times zones east of home, and yet I can “chat” with my Mom through a virtual connection. We chatted for a while this morning and at the end of our conversation she typed “please be safe”.

I get it! Every mother wants her children to be safe. So many others have also typed those words in emails, Facebook posts and more. I absolutely appreciate everyone’s concern…but here’s the interesting thing…I feel safer here in Jerusalem than I do walking the streets of Center City Philadelphia!

I know, I’m in the Middle East and the news from this region is tumultuous at best. I get it. However, having watched and read Israeli news for the past several days, I can tell you that there has been more violence reported in New York City than there has been here in Jerusalem. Yesterday we returned from our excursion through the city and turned on the news to headlines of a mass shooting at the Empire State Building. My local South Jersey news is filled with similar stories every day…Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, is a war zone! Yet, when I say to someone that I’m heading into Philly for dinner, nobody ever says “be safe”.

On Thursday we ate lunch lunch at a nice open air cafe called Roladin. As we sat, an Israeli IDF soldier came walking in to eat with his family. This would have been essentially nondescript except for the fact that he was armed with a 9mm hand gun on his belt and a Tavor automatic assault rifle slung over his shoulder. This is not unusual, and frankly makes me feel more safe than any local police force in the US!

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The fact is that there are more important issues at stake here, and the street violence that takes place at home just doesn’t seem to exist. Yes, there is the constant background story of unrest in the middle east. Will the Israelis strike out against the threats coming from Iran? Perhaps, but if they do, it creates a global problem that could just as easily impact the east coast of the USA as it could impact central Israel. More importantly, no sense of increased situational awareness on my part can do anything to keep me from harms way should something like that occur.

Please understand, I’m not trying to minimize anyone’s concern for me and my family…those thoughts are greatly appreciated. But it is interesting perspective when you consider the every day relative risk that we don’t think twice about when we head into Manhattan or Philadelphia for an evening out with friends…I’ll take the Western Wall over the Empire State Building any day.

Today we explored the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. Even from a Jewish perspective it’s completely fascinating. As it relates to what I’ve said above, this City is the religious epicenter of the planet. Perhaps it’s this religious base that helps maintain some of the sanity even though it is also the root cause of the conflict. To me, it is a never ending and amazing juxtaposition of ethics and morals. It’s been going on for thousands of years, and will likely continue for equally as long.

As we walked along the Via Dellarosa, which is the path Jesus took as he carried the cross to to spot of his crucifiction, we came across a tiny passage that led to some steps. The boys were hesitant to head off the beaten path, but I’ve watched enough shows on the Travel Channel to know that it’s off that path where one finds the best stuff. That proved to be true today. We came out into a small courtyard filled with tiny green doors. Who knows where they lead, but as you will see below, they made for some interesting photographs!

It’s rest time now. We’re heading out to a very cool show tonight at King David’s Citadel!

To anyone exploring a major US city today – please be safe! Enjoy some of my photos from today’s exploration.

The View from our apartment

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    Cool T-shirt! The red Hebrew letters spell Sponge Bob!
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SPECIAL EDITION: An important thing happened here!

I was thinking about the fact that a dreidel, in America, has the 4 Hebrew letters nun (נ), shin (ש), gimmel (ג), and hay (ה). They stand for the phrase “nas gadol hayah sham”, or “a great miracle happened there”. Here in Israel, the shin would be replaced with the letter po (פ) and it would mean “a great miracle happened here”. Simplified, the miracle refers to the Chanukah story in which the oil in the great temple burned for 8 nights when only expected to last one. That temple has since been destroyed. It stood atop the Temple Mount here in Jerusalem, currently home to the Islamic Dome of the Rock. The land surrounding that site was supported by huge walls, the western of which is now known as the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall, or the Kotel. That will be the location of Ryan’s bar mitzvah on Monday.

While not all of them are miracles, important things still happen there (or here, depending on your geographic location). Each day at the Kotel, thousands of people stuff the walls cracks and crevasses with tiny folded notes of prayer. It is thought that this place is the closest place that one can get to God, and so leaving one’s personal prayers and pleas in this wall will more likely result in their being answered. Whatever your belief, this is an awe inspiring place to be. It’s a holy place, and to be able to stand at its base and know all that it represents in our tumultuous history is in some respects miraculous in itself.

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Today, an important thing happened here! There are now three tiny notes within the cracks of the wall asking for help for two important people and one important group of people. While I won’t necessarily reveal what is written on those notes, I want to tell their stories so that you can also keep them in your thoughts and prayers…in deference to a certain sister-in-law (I have 5 of them, so you’ll just have to figure it out) who called me verbose in an email this morning, I’ll be as brief as I can!

First, the group. I want everyone who is a part of my enormous family of those impacted by Type 1 Diabetes that I have asked for help! All the miles that I ride my bike, all the walks and galas, all the money raised may still not be enough without a little Divine intervention!

Second, Barbara Beitch, or Doctor Beitch as she’s known to those of us who are fortunate enough to have been taught by her, is my high school biology teacher. Dr. Beitch was extremely influential on me as I grew up, and will always be an incredibly important people in my life as a result. Tragically, over the pasts few years she has experienced more loss than most of us would want to imagine. Dr. Beitch’s first loss came more than a decade ago, when her daughter Debbie passed away. Her husband Irwin, also known as Dr. Beitch, passed away just a few years ago. Then, on August 5 Ricky, her son and a long-ago friend of mine, died suddenly at the age of 47.

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Last, but certainly not least is Uncle Barry….this one’s really hard! Barry Lang is Rachel’s uncle and ranks among the two funniest people that I have ever met in my life (Robin Williams is the other). More importantly, though, he is a most genuinely loving people and would do anything for any of us at any time! What Barry lacks in height, he more than makes up for in heart! He is truly a mensch! Over the past twenty years I have shared many experiences with Uncle Barry that I will never forget. Sadly, his battle with cancer may come to an end very soon, and I am compelled, while in this holy land, to leave a request on his behalf within the spaces of the wall as well. This note I’m choosing to share. Not the content…that’s between me and the Wall…but the placement, because I would like him and his family to see that we left it here for him! We all love you Uncle Barry!

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Three important things happened here today! That was our purpose and agenda. In completing that mission, we wandered the main streets and back ally ways of Jerusalem…he are a few more images that I captured along the way.

Look! I’m in a photograph! It’s proof that I did actually travel with my family…and I have to say that it’s a good looking family!

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Herb is looking quite chic with his murse!

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In the United States we have garbage can, recycle bins and dumpsters. In a land constantly under threat of attack, they have bomb receptacles instead! At least the historical society ensured that it was painted to blend with the surrounding landmarks of importance. This was seen just outside the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcre.

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Why the heck would anyone intentionally get boogers on their flute? I can honestly say two things about this…first, I have never seen this done before. Second, he was quite good!

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Greetings from Eretz Yisrael (The Land of Israel)

Well, we made it! It’s been a long day but we got to Israel, got settled into our apartment, and actually had an action packed first day! The fact that we are all still standing amazes me! Personally, I woke up at 03:30 AM on the morning of Wednesday August 22 and have been up ever since…as I write this it is 7:45 PM on Thursday August 23!

For some odd reason, this trip has started off remarkably smoothly. We were all packed and ready to go 24 hours in advance. We did not forget anything (of consequence, that is). Please understand that this is so far out of the norm for us. I’ll admit that I’m not a great traveler. I get easily stressed and it usually starts a week or so before we leave. That didn’t seem to happen this time, so we were off with a great start!

The flight was long! 9 hours 35 minutes and my movies in the seat back in front of me froze about half way through the flight. That said, we made it unscathed and arrived at Ben Gurion Airport at about 06:30 local time.

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Our apartment for the next week is awesome! As I write this I am sitting on the balcony listening to a concert playing off in the distance…somewhere toward the walls of the Old City. After we got settled,me went and found a place for lunch…nobody slept on the airplane, some were all extremely tired…Jake perhaps more than anyone!

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After lunch it was crash time…for some of us anyway…Rachel and her parents fell hard asleep, some took the boys to the pool here in the apartment building. After swimming for a few hours and realizing that we need to stay awake a few hours more, it was off to the Old City where we wandered the streets for a few hours, got some dinner and ice cream and then headed home.

There are a few noteworthy photos from our stroll. First, we all fell in love with the SPOVEL! It is the perfect utensil with which one should eat ice cream. It’s the size of a spoon, but shaped like a shovel! I’m not sure why these haven’t made their way across the pond to the USA.

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Second, please recall that I live in South Jersey, where our local farmers (that’s why it’s called the Garden State folks) grow the best sweet corn I’ve ever tasted. With that in mind, I have to say that tonight is the first time I have encountered a Corn on the cob vendor outside of the Burlington County Farm Fair! I will guess that his corn doesn’t match up to well with my hometown favorite. What I found most striking, however, is the tremendous contrast in color between the vivid yellow corn and the rest of the drab, beige surroundings of the Old City wall!

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Finally, I love walking the ally ways of the Old City markets. The colors, the smells (good and nasty!), the pushy vendors, and the amazing people watching! Check out the wonderful smiles on the women in the foreground as they try on various brightly colored scarves.

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As we walked back to the apartment, the streets were less full and we took our time, enjoying the cool, pleasant evening air. We’re all getting ready to hit the sack…I’m not sure what we have in store for ourselves tomorrow, but I know I’ll enjoy filling you afterwards! Here are a few more parting shots for the evening!

Shalom!

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10 extra credit points to anyone who can identify this famous landmark!

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We’re Heading Back: Israel 2012

It is with deeply mixed emotions that I write the first entry in the 2012 edition of my Journey to Israel blog. For any of you who may want to see the photos and read the thoughts that I shared two years ago, you can find it here: Israel Journey 2010

Why mixed emotions? Rachel, Matt, Ryan, Jake, my parents-in-law, and I are returning to Israel tomorrow to celebrate the bar mitzvah of my son Ryan. This is, in many respects, a Jewish parent’s dream! A little more than a year ago, as we started to plan the festivities related to this right of passage, Ryan declared that he wanted to become bar mitzvah in Jerusalem. We discussed this with him to make sure that he understood that we could not do both! He could not have this wonderful (and costly!) trip to Israel and also have a big blow out bar mitzvah like he is accustomed here in NJ. We asked him to think about it, and he did.

About 30 seconds later, Ryan declared that his preference was to return to Israel and read Torah at the Kotel, or Western Wall as you might know it.

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He read there once before. At the age of 10 he read Torah as a part of the ceremony we held in honor of the b’nai mitzvot of his brother, Matt, and cousin, Noah. He did a remarkably beautiful job reciting the small passage that he had taught himself…and apparently it made quite an impact on him and his sense of Judaism.

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So off we go. But wait…what about my parents, and my brothers, and Rachel’s siblings? What about Ryan’s 15 first cousins? What about the numerous close friends and other family members with whom we would have found great joy in celebration?

Here’s what I have come to realize. At the heart of it all, this is not about how I feel. It’s not about any of those important people in our lives who will feel disappointment in missing this occasion. It’s not about the money or the party after the service. At the core of it all, it’s about the fact that this young man feels so passionate about becoming bar mitzvah in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, that he is willing to sacrifice those celebrations for the opportunity to bond with the deepest roots of his heritage. How could we say no?

I had a feeling this would happen! In 2010, we were in Israel for three weeks. We stayed in a small village in Northern Israel near Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee or Kinneret), called Yav Ne’el. We lived in a very nice rental home and used it as home base for daily excursions around the country.

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One day I realized that Ryan had been wearing a Yarmulke (kippa) each of the previous several days, and as I noticed him placing it upon his head as we prepared to leave the house for the day I told him he didn’t need to feel obligated to wear it. “I know, Dad” he told me. “But it just feels right if I do!”

So, as much as I know that those who could not join us will miss this, and as much as I will clearly miss them, how could we deny this opportunity to Ryan? It will admittedly feel odd to be at my son’s bar mitzvah service without my parents, my brothers, Rachel’s siblings and their families, and others who are truly meaningful in my life. However, I am confident that we are giving my son a gift that will remain inside of him for eternity, and do so hoping that he will pass that gift along to my grandchildren some day as well! I hope, if that happens, that I will once again return to Israel to join them.

Stay tuned over the next 9 days, and join me and my family and we continue this journey. We are all extremely excited and have been looking forward to this trip for quite some time! I’m know that there will be many thoughts and photographs to share along the way…they will range from personal, to political, to religious, and more. Upon our return, those thoughts and images will be turned into a book that I will give to Ryan so that he will have a permanent record of his Dad’s perspective on this important journey!


From generation to generation!

It was the summer of 2010. My oldest son Matthew had turned 13 and completed his right of passage to Jewish adulthood by becoming bar mitzvah in our synagogue here in South Jersey. That was the first half of his journey, as he would soon thereafter read Torah at the Kotel, or Western Wall, in Jerusalem later that summer. My son Ryan, now almost 13 prepares to return to that same spot in Jerusalem where he will read Torah in just a few weeks from now.
Matt is my oldest and therefore my first son to have completed this journey. At the time I felt as though there is no way it could ever get better than the feeling I had watching him and listening to him as he developed from boy to young man right before my eyes.

Fast forward a few years…the journey begins again, and I have to say that I am experiencing the exact same emotions and thoughts…it’s déjà vous all over again as my middle son Ryan has officially started this journey of his own.
Why officially? He’s been studying (and I must say extremely well!) for months. He has mastered his service, his torah, his D’var Torah (speech reflective of what he has learned in studying Torah), and more. So why has his journey officially begun? To understand that, I have to bring you back 31 years. When I was taking this journey, my dad started what I have now passed along to the next generation…and hope that my sons do the same…we say l’dor v’dor…from generation to generation.

Every young bar mitzvah student requires a few items before the big day arrives, namely a yarmulke, a Tallit (prayer shawl) and Teffilin. When I was 12 years old and preparing to become Bar Mitvah (which in Hebrew literally means son of the commandments) my dad took me on a pilgrimage. We loaded ourselves in the car and headed to Yankee Stadium!

Okay – important clarification for any of you who have come to know me as the consummate Boston sports fan – I grew up in Southern Connecticut where sports allegiances are evenly split between Boston and New York. My dad was and remains a New York sports fan. In addition, 1981 Yankees had a roster that included some of the all time great players and personalities of baseball history…Goose Gossage, Tommy John, Lou Pinella, Bucky Dent, Reggie Jackson and more. We went to a double header…I have no idea who they played…I just know that I’ll never forget the double header at Yankee Stadium with my dad!

Before the game, however, we went to Manhattan’s East Side where pickle barrels on the street, kosher delis and judaica shoppes were abundant. We went into a shoppe where an older man with a skull cap, thick white beard, and heavy eastern European accent helped us pick out the Tallit and yarmulke that I would wear in synagogue on my big day.

At the time, to me, this part of the day was just an errand. It was something we needed to do just like we needed to buy my suit and get some new shoes. It was watching Reggie Jackson come to home plate that was more important to me at the time!

Fast forward to the spring of 2010. There was no way that my son Matt would take his journey to becoming bar mitzvah without first taking a journey to a baseball game and judaica shoppe with his dad…and of course his grandfather! Given our allegiances to Boston sports, we made the trek from South Jersey to Fenway Park and the judaica shoppes of Brookline, Massachusetts. I venture to guess that it was a trio Matt will never forget.

Now it’s Ryan’s turn. We’re here in Boston again and he’s loving every minute of it. He’s an avid soccer fan, so the New England Revolution was the sporting choice of the trip. This morning we will head to Brookline with my dad and we will get Ryan the items he will need for his Jewish life.

Here’s the more important task for today – we will hopefully instill in Ryan the desire to make this pilgrimage 30 years from now with one of his children. The religious aspect is important, and shouldn’t be diminished. However, the simple tradition is far more important…l’dor v’dor…from generation to generation…it’s simply good stuff!

Stay tuned to this blog…it will continue with stories and photos from our upcoming journey to Israel…we can’t wait and hope you’ll enjoy coming along with us…


Family

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word Family as a group of people united by a common affiliation or characteristics.

That definition holds a significant meaning for me and for my “family”. Using its most basic interpretation my family is defined by the following:

  • My beautiful, loving, patient, and devoted wife (who doubles as my best friend!!)
  • Three amazing children (it’s hard for me to resist insert bragging here!!!)
  • My wonderful parents who helped guide me to becoming the man that I am today
  • Two incredible brothers
  • A mother-in-law and father-in-law who love me as one of their own
  • Seven brothers and sisters-in-law (you could delete the “in-law” part…they all feel like siblings to me!!)
  • And fifteen nieces and nephews that would make any uncle proud every day!!

For better or for worse my life expands that definition, as I have a much larger family. At times I feel fortunate to be a part of this extended family. Other times I rue the day that we adopted each other into our respective lives. I know personally many members of this family, yet there are many others with whom I am united by our common affiliation yet I may never meet. Every day I hear about people who have become the newest members of this family, but who may not yet even realize that they are a part of something much larger than themselves and may or may not know that this family is there to support them. I have a love/hate relationship with this family; these are the family of people impacted by Type 1 Diabetes…all 3 million (and growing every day) of them!!!

There are some amazing kids (and parents) in this family whom I have come to know and love over the past 7 years since Jake was diagnosed. There are kids like my sons Jake and Matt, my mom (yup…she’s just a big kid), my sister-in-law Anne, and Cousin Zack, as well as Emily (actually two Emily’s), Chloe, Matt P, Avery, Aidan, Nate (whom I have come to know from all the way in Texas), McKenna, Evie, Ian, Kerri, Brian,  Mike and Joe…I could go on and on…but this family tree is just far too big.

Like all families, this one gathers from time to time. We have events like Galas, Walks, Golf Tournaments, Support Groups, committee meetings, and many more family reunions for various important reasons…whether we like it or not!! When my nuclear family meets, we discuss how the kids are doing in school, vacation plans, sports, and politics. It’s usually light hearted and focuses on the wonderful things that we all share.

When my extended family meets, however, we are focused on topics such as which model insulin pump is the best on market, whether or not insurance covers continuous glucose monitors, when the FDA will approve the closed loop artificial pancreas, and our latest experiences in area hospital emergency departments and pediatric intensive care units.

I am reminded of a saying: one can choose his friends, but one cannot choose his family. Well, I hope to prove that adage is wrong and outdated so that I can choose to no longer be a member of this family…that’s why I work tirelessly with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to help raise the funds needed by the world’s leading researchers to identify better treatments for today, and a cure for my kids tomorrow!! That’s why I am participating in this year’s JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes in Lake Tahoe on September 11. Click here if you would like to help by making a donation: http://www2.jdrf.org/goto/teamkasper

You see if we raise enough money to fund enough research, we will find that cure for my family.

When that happens we will have another gathering…another family reunion. At that reunion we will celebrate our significant accomplishment. More importantly, at the end of that reunion, an announcement will be made to let everyone know that our family will be disbanding and there will be no more reunions!

We’ll still gather from time to time, but it won’t be the same. We’ll talk about sports, politics, vacations, and kids accomplishments in school. It will be light hearted because none of us will go home to put our kids to bed wondering whether or not they will wake up the next morning.

Our family will be defined as being a group of people united by victory over Type 1 Diabetes!


Training for a Cure

Yesterday marked an important milestone…in exactly 8 weeks, on Sunday September 11, Rachel and I will be riding in the 2011 JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes. On that day we will pedal the 78 miles around the circumference of Lake Tahoe along with groups of other folks riding for the same cause. My training for this started several weeks ago, and I must say that my physical conditioning has gotten noticeably better along the way.

Yesterday, as a part of my training, I participated in the American Cancer Society Bike-a-thon here in South Jersey. Along with thousands of other riders who were helping to raise money and raise awareness for this important cause, I rode the 50 mile route…I started by myself, but after the first 15 miles I met up with some friends from my neighborhood with whom I ride during the week…that’s when it got really got fun!! We rode the next 30 miles at an average speed of 21 mph!!! I had no idea I could do that…felt like a Tour de France cycling star!!! Being a 40-something year old guy who just got back on a bike, I thought that this was a tremendous accomplishment!

Ryan took this photo of me as I crossed the finish at the 2011 ACS Bike-a-thon. The little green hat is Jake coming to give me a big hug!!

Why is this so important?? Why have we decided to to a bike ride this year?? Jake and Matt must live with Type 1 Diabetes every day, and until we find a cure, I will need to teach them at least two important things. First, they need to stay physically fit. By getting myself off of the couch and back into the saddle, I set a good example for them by making healthy living a priority. Second, and probably more importantly, by accomplishing things that I did not think were possible, I show them that they WILL be able to overcome the challenges put in front of them. Since I started my training rides in May, I have personally logged nearly 500 miles (about the distance from Washington DC to Boston!!!), and I will keep plugging away every day so that ultimately I can climb the mountain passes at Lake Tahoe and successfully complete this personal challenge that seemed a far reach just a few months ago. As that relates to our battle against T1D, we must keep traveling the road toward beating this disease one mile at a time, and eventually we will win the race for the cure!!

To that end, I still need your help! Our fundraising goal is set at $15,000 and we are almost there. Please help me in one of a few ways…first, please click or copy this link ( http://www2.jdrf.org/goto/teamkasper ) and make a donation today!! Every penny counts and we appreciate any contribution no matter how large or small. Second, if you already have made a donation (for which we are very grateful!), please forward this note, share it on your FB wall, tweet it, or email it to your contact list so that others see that you have a friend in need of their help. I think you would be shocked to find out how many of your friends and extended family have some connection to this disease, and they just may be willing to help get us to our goal. Third, come out and help support our team!! The South Jersey JDRF riders who are training this summer for the Ride to Cure Diabetes would love to grow our group. If you are a cyclist, a beginner or a seasoned pro, come out for a training ride with us…just let me know your interested and I’ll make sure we add you to our list.

In exactly two months, Rachel and I will conquer the Tour de Tahoe and hopefully we will be $15,000 closer to conquering Type 1 Diabetes. I know we can accomplish both goals!!


Lori and Tommy’s Wedding

I first met Lori and Tommy on a blustery day in Philadelphia when we did their engagement shots. A few months later and they have tied the knot! Congratulations to this wonderful couple…I wish them a long life together filled with health, happiness, and prosperity!

Here are just a few shots for them to peek at before they leave for their honeymoon!


Unfinished Business

Last night (Saturday April 9, 2011) was the JDRF Black Tie Gala to raise money to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. The of the Gala was “Unfinished Business”, as we will have unfinished business until we find a cure. Here is a picture that I took (it was used as the cover the of program book) of many of our kids who have Type 1 Diabetes with our Gala sponsor Brian Radwell.

I was honored to have been asked to provide the evenings Fund-a-Cure speech (see entire text below). As I spoke the photos that are imbedded below were projected on several large screens and monitors throughout the ball room. Immediately after my speech an auctioneer began asking the room to raise their hands if they can donate a certain amount….he started high ($25,000) and worked his way down to $100…in about 15 minutes we raised over $100,000 through generous donations of the 350 people sitting in the room….AMAZING!!! Below is a copy of my speech. If it moves you…if you feel like you want to help…please feel free to contribute by making a donation to the JDRF Ride for the Cure ( http://www2.jdrf.org/goto/teamkasper) that Rachel and I are doing in September. Our personal goal is to raise $10,000 and I think we can make it with a little help. Thanks so much!!

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Good evening. First and foremost, as a dad of two kids with Type 1 Diabetes and a member of the JDRF South Jersey Chapter Board of Directors, I want to thank you all for coming out tonight to help us in our mission to fund the cure for type 1 diabetes. As I look out across the room, I see several hundred of my friends and family all gathered to accomplish the same mission. I use the word family because, as I am sure all of you know, we all can relate to one another and the challenges we face on a daily basis in a way that non D families cannot imagine.

I have always believed that there is a silver lining in every dark cloud, and a reason behind everything that occurs. To that end, I am thrilled to have gotten to know each and every one of the members of this extended family, and have grown relationships with many of the people in this room that I know will last a life-time…that’s the silver lining. On the other hand, I have to be perfectly honest…I am dreadfully sorry that we ever had to meet!

We have all heard the saying that you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family. I guess none of us had the choice to join this family. My mission is to prove that saying wrong by working tirelessly to fund the research needed to find a cure for type 1 diabetes so that we can all divorce ourselves from the clan. While I love you all, I just don’t want to be a part of this family any more! I want out…but I do want to be invited to the reunion. I want our outstanding Gala Chairs, the Petcoves and the Mogells, to begin planning a reunion gala so that this family can get together and reminisce about the trials and tribulations of what we used to go through before our kids, mothers, sisters, brothers and all 3 million Americans were cured! I want you to think about how you can help get us there through your generosity and support tonight. I want you to think about how truly important it is to all of us to find the cure!

Since family is my theme this evening, I want to give you a snapshot of the Kasper family…we don’t have a white picket fence or a cat or a dog, but aside from that we are the typical family living the American dream. When our nuclear family gathers we spend time comparing notes about work, we debate politics, and we talk sports. We also compare pump settings, count carbs, brag about our new glucometers, and wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning to check blood sugars. You see when my family gets together we have a group of type 1 diabetics that include 2 young boys, their grandmother, their aunt and their cousin…it really is a family affair.

But what is the impact? How has this shaped our lives? Why is so important to find a cure?

The bottom line is that life with type 1 diabetes, especially for these kids, just plainly stinks. It’s not easy…there’s one challenge after another. For example, whether it’s making a seven year old diabetic or a thirty-seven year old non-diabetic school room mom understand the importance of diet, it’s clearly a challenge. My seven year old will say something as innocent as, “but I only ate a small candy bar” when his blood sugar is 400, or the room mom at school who will say something like “he can eat anything at the party as long as I don’t put sugar on it”, life is a battle of managing normalcy with good diabetes health. Until we find a cure that battle will cause me to wake up every night, as I have for the past 7 years, to check my sons’ blood sugars, or to simply look in and make sure that they are still breathing and not in a hypoglycemic coma.

What about from the kids’ perspective? We are, after all, a family and their input matters? How do we know how they feel about it? One day, I set out to determine just that. First I approached Jake, who was 5 at the time, and asked him to tell me one word that described what it was like for him to live with diabetes.

He quickly and simply said, “Brave!” Having been diagnosed at the age of 13 months, he has essentially known no other way of life, but has been on the receiving end of needles and syringes ever since. He knows he has diabetes. He knows he needs to check his blood sugar. He knows he needs insulin. But at the time he was only 5 and doesn’t truly understand what all that means…he only knows he needs to be brave!

When I got done with Jake, Matt was my next target. He and Ryan (who is my middle son and does not have diabetes) were at the kitchen table. Matt is shy and reserved about expressing his feelings…typical pre-teen!! He was hesitant to engage in this exercise, but I kept pushing. In the mean-time, Ryan interrupted and was told to wait just a minute until I was done with Matt. The discussion ensued…Ryan interrupted several more times, and each time was told to wait with an increasing tone of sternness. Finally Matt said to me “it’s difficult.” I told him I knew it was difficult, but if he could just try to think of a word I would leave him alone.

“no Dad, that’s my word. My life is difficult”…from the mouth of a 10 year old kid!

So I was done focusing on Matt and Jake. I got what I needed. My goal had been reached. I was able to describe in one word and with a photograph, how diabetes had touched the lives of two of my sons. It seems that they are always the focus. At meal time its blood sugar checks and boluses. Family activities are interrupted because of emergency site changes. Plans are altered or cancelled because of ketones and sick day rules…all because of diabetes, and in Ryan’s young mind all because of his brothers….Oh, wait, I almost forgot. What about Ryan? He had wanted to say something while I was focused on Jake and Matt. Finally I gave him his turn. “I wanted to tell you my word,” he said.

“I wanted to tell you that diabetes makes me feel Invisible!”

This is very important to me, and I hope it is to you as well. The fact is that there are 3 million Americans living with type 1 diabetes. If the experience of my family is any indication of the impact of that, it means that there are 7.5 million people living in families with diabetes who are impacted as well. I would never presume to compare the impact of those who live with the diagnosis to that of those who live with the diagnosed, but the reality is that this disease has had a profound effect on all of us, and we all need to find a cure. We need to find a way that when Ryan asks, as he gets ready to go to bed, when it will happen to him that I can say it won’t…we found a cure, we discovered how to prevent, we were successful and we can protect you!

As I am sure you expect, I will end this speech with a plea to open your wallets and pocket books and contribute as much as you can to help fund the cure. Before I do that, however, I want to tell you one more story that illustrates the fact that this disease impacts every aspect of family life.

The kids decided that they wanted to play Sorry. I thought okay, that’s fun enough, and doesn’t last all afternoon the way monopoly does. Rachel was reading a book (if you can still call it a book when all one does is scroll from page to page on the Kindle), I was available, and it’s a game for four players….perfect!! Well, not exactly. One of the things my kids like to do most is NOT put stuff away when they are done playing. As it relates to this story, that means that there are no green Sorry pieces left.
“That’s okay Dad”, Jake said. “I know what we can use!” Off he went toward what we refer to in our home as “The Cabinet,” where we have a veritable pharmacy of diabetes supplies. Within moments he returned with four cone shaped objects, just the right size to substitute as a Sorry game piece. It did not strike me at first, but as I got my first turn I quickly realized that the pieces he had provided were, in fact, packaged needles for the insulin injector pen.

Diabetes has, in large part, impacted every aspect of our lives. About this, Rachel and I are very sorry! We’re sorry that two of our boys have to grow up with the daily complexities of life with diabetes. We’re sorry that my middle son wonders whether he will ever become diabetic, feeling invisible while he wonders. We’re sorry that, perhaps, something we did or something we genetically passed on has caused this to happen…on a daily basis we are sorry!

That day, without even missing a beat and without realizing how NOT normal this is, my six year old resorted to using insulin injection supplies to play a board game … not just any board game … a game of Sorry!

How ironic is that!

Please donate. Please give generously. Please help us raise the funds needed to enable the researchers around the world find a cure so that next year you’ll be invited to that reunion rather than another fund-a-cure Gala and that we’re all not sorry that we didn’t give more sooner!!

Thank you.

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Shout out to my Peeps!

It’s that time of year that I must give a shout out to my peeps!! Here’s the story –

Spring is in the air!! For some, the first sign of the fact that spring has arrived is marked with the return of Daylight Savings Time…you know, that annual ritual during which we push our clocks ahead one hour, change the batteries in our smoke detectors, and spend about a week walking around like zombies trying to recover from that lost hour of sleep. For others, it’s the fact that the daffodils pop up through last season’s mulch and start to add a little bit of bright green and yellow color to the otherwise drab road-sides which are scattered with piles of the fall’s decaying leaves that did not get picked up before winter’s first snowfall.

There are other signs of spring as well. In New England, the sugar maples are bursting with sap. The steam from the roof pipes and sweet smell from the maple sugar houses are a tell tale sign that spring is here. The first Robin that lands on the rail of the back yard deck, the wiggling tad poles in the neighborhood pond, and the swollen buds on the flowering pear trees are all natures tip off that spring is just around the corner!

I love all of those things, and frankly spend all winter waiting to get my camera and get out to document this year’s coming of spring. However, there are two other transformations that happen right around this time of year, one of which is my absolute favorite.

Each year in the earliest part of spring, the supermarket shelves transform into two distinctly separate ethnic sections that cry out with the change of season. On the one set of shelves, the grocer overstocks the boxes of Matzoh, jars of gefilte fish, containers of egg kichels, and a smorgasbord of kosher for Passover staples. As odd as it may seem, I love that!! The fact is that most of this food is just too gross, too plainly nasty to ever eat at any other time of the year. However, I actually look forward to stocking up on my horseradish and gefilte fish. I can’t wait to fry up some matzoh brie for breakfast (click the underlined link if you have no idea what that is!!), complete with cinnamon sugar or strawberry jelly. I long for a heaping bowl of matzoh ball soup with crunchy egg kichels floating on top. I also look forward to the fact that Passover lasts for only eight days and I can go back to eating normal food before terribly long!!

The second set of shelves, as you may now have guessed, contains the brightly colored, highly fattening, and mouth watering foods associated with Easter!! Who wouldn’t look forward to all of the chocolate goodness – regardless of whether its shaped like a bunny or an egg! I mention the Passover stuff first, strictly out of loyalty to my Jewish heritage. However, out of all of this stuff, it’s the peeps that I look forward to the most!!

I’m not sure why this is. Among all of my early childhood memories is the fact that my mom would always buy each of us a small box of the marshmallowy, sugary, gooey, little yellow chicks each year. To this day, my wife will surprise me at some point between now and Easter with my very own box of peeps to enjoy. I savor them…I eat one a day…heads always bitten off first…and make them last as long as possible. I like the yellow ones best. I only eat them at this time of year and when I do I know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, spring has arrived!!


A Cup. Some Cereal. No Nuts.

If you are, or ever were, a parent of small children then you may have experienced the following phenomenon.

It’s a busy hectic morning. Mom and Dad are both scrambling to get ready for work, make lunches for three kids and get them out the door, respond to a couple or personal email before the work day begins, clean the kitchen after breakfast so it’s not a total mess upon returning home for dinner, sign the permission slip that was due yesterday and is just now being presented as the school bus pulls in front of the house, get the garbage and recycles out to the curb, grab a few bites of a bagel in order to sustain until lunch, and get to work in time for the first meeting of the day. Sound familiar?

Add to this the constant barrage of questions that come from all angles and I know my response…tune out and go on autopilot!

When that happens I generally go into one of two modes: “yes” mode or “no” mode. I honestly make an effort to avoid “no” mode. One child psychologist, I call her mom, once counciled me that “no” is the easiest word for a parent to say.  The reality is that most requests are benign and the answer, albeit requiring some effort on a parents’ part, could be “yes”. The further reality is that the “no” response only serves to get the kids upset and elicit a response such as “you never let me do what I want.

Unfortunately, sometimes when one makes the effort to engage the “yes” mode, one falls into the trap of saying “yes” without really listening to the question at hand. I’m referring to the dismissive “yes” when the word comes from one’s mouth, but the meaning behind it is really something like “if it means you will leave me alone, then go ahead and do what you want!” Still sound familiar? You’re lying if it doesn’t!

Words of advice: start listening and understand that there is a difference between listening and hearing. We all hear the noise that is around us all the time. Human physiology makes that a passive process. However, if we truly actively listen we can distinguish between that which is noise, and that which is truly meaningful! This lesson was reinforced this morning when I responded blindly to a question amid the barrage of noise. I heard the question, but did not listen to the specific words that were asked.

I heard “Dad, can I have some cereal in a cup?” That seems benign enough and I was in “yes” mode. “Sure, you can take a little,” I responded quickly.

Apparently the key word amid the noise to which I should have paid greater attention was the word “my”. In this context there is a huge difference between the words “a cup”, which I interpret as one of the many kid cups that we have in the cabinet, and “my cup”.  You see, we don’t have assigned drinking cups in our home. Therefore, the possessive “my” cup should have immediately clued me in to the one specific cup that is his, and his alone!


Stepping up the pace

Rachel and I have decided to participate in the 2011 JDRF Ride for the Cure at the Tour de Tahoe. Please let me tell you why.

For the past several years my family has been involved in the Walk for the Cure. The Walk is the main event in JDRF‘s efforts to raise money to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. Well, there is still no cure, and as a result 2 of my three sons must do many things every day that other kids their age don’t have to worry about.

  • My two sons still need to check their blood sugar multiple times every day.
  • They continue to be hooked up to continuous glucose monitors.
  • They get needle sticks to change those insulin pump sites every three days.
  • They go to the school nurse to have their blood sugar checked when other kids go right to gym or lunch.
  • They sit on the sidelines of the lacrosse game because their blood sugar bottomed out even though it’s their shift to play.
  • They watch other kids eat all of the things that they truly desire but know would be very bad for them to eat.
  • They have to remember to never leave the house without their “kits”…the supplies that the require to take everywhere they go.
  • They trade in their Halloween candy.
  • They wear medical identification everywhere they go…or at least they’re supposed to….(Matt, are you wearing an ID today???).
  • They add up every carbohydrate for every meal and snack they eat.
  • They end up in the hospital when they get a routine stomach bug.
  • They get woken up in the middle of the night, sometimes more than once, to have their blood sugar checked and they’re tired the next day because of it.
  • They have parents who have not slept through the night since the day of their diagnosis.
  • They have a brother who wonders whether or not some day he will become diabetic.

They have to do all of this, and more, in order to avoid immediate life threatening emergencies and/or long term co-morbidities of T1D such as heart disease, blindness, neuropathy, and kidney disease.

I’m tired of waiting for the cure…I’m tired of walking…it’s time to step up the pace!!

To those of you who know me, it’s no secret that I need to work on getting myself into better physical shape –  that is not an invitation for snide remarks in reply – You’ll see that I’ll handle that on my own shortly if you keep reading. It’s also no secret that Rachel and I have worked tirelessly to raise money to help cure Type 1 Diabetes. So, it seems that an opportunity to put the two together is the perfect combination!! This year our South Jersey JDRF Walk takes place on a weekend that we will be in Boston celebrating the Bat Mitzvah of one of our cousins. Although we won’t be here for our Walk this year, Rachel and I feel strongly that we need to continue our efforts in funding the research that will come up with a cure for our sons. At the same time we acknowledge that the training regimen for the walk does not accomplish my goal of losing weight and improving fitness.  So in an effort to continue our JDRF fund raising efforts, and in the interest of transforming my abdominal keg back into a six pack, we have decided to step up the pace of both our exercise routine and our fund raising.

Yesterday we registered to participate in the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes in Lake Tahoe in September. We will be riding the 72 mile circumference of Lake Tahoe with lots of others who have the same goal. As we train over the next few months, and as we ride through the High Sierras, we’ll be focusing on that long list of stuff that my kids need to do, and hope that it inspires us to pedal our way through the ride to help cure Type 1 Diabetes.

What can you do to help? Well, if you’re up for one of the most scenic bike rides in all of the United States and want to help raise money for a great cause, then click this link to sign up and join us.

If you’re not that ambitious, but you are feeling generous, then please feel free to click in this link (http://www2.jdrf.org/goto/teamkasper) and make a donation to help support our cause….we would truly appreciate the support!

I know that riding 72 miles in the Sierra Nevada mountains won’t be easy. But it’s nothing compared to the feat that my kids, and everyone else with T1D, accomplish every day in beating this disease. I know we can beat it for good, and I’m not gonna stop trying until we do!


Happy Valentine’s Day

For those of you who read my previous post…which seems like it was so long ago…I wanted to follow up, as I mentioned that I had already started planning my Valentine 2011. So, today is Valentine’s Day, and the photo below is what I created for my wonderful wife….I love you Rachel!!!

Did you all come up with a creative way to express yourself, or did you once again resort to commercialism? Try it next year…I think you’ll be pleased with the results!!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!!!


I Don’t Like Greeting Cards, but I Love My Wife!

Chanukah is a distant memory. Christmas 2010 has come and gone, and we have all recovered from our 2011 New Year celebrations. In the world of retail America that means only one thing…the stores are already decked out with the pink and red decoration of Valentine’s Day! I noticed this during my recent trip to the grocery store, where the aisles are already stocked with heart shaped boxes of chocolates and the shelves of cards are now dominated by mushy expressions of love and requests to “be my valentine”.

It caused me to think.

In the Edmond Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac, Christian relied on the eloquence and assistance of Cryano to express his love to the woman of his dreams. In the movie Roxanne, based on that famed play and titled after its heroine, Chris McConnell needed that same help from his Fire Chief, C.D. Bales (played by Steve Martin). The play will go down in history as one of the classics, and the 1987 movie, in my opinion, was hilarious. I am a huge Steve Martin fan!!

Stepping outside of the Broadway lights and Hollywood sign, life in 2011 seems to be not much different. When Valentine’s Day comes around millions of people throughout the world rely on today’s real life version of Cyrano and C.D. Bales; The greeting card! Beginning in 1910, Joyce C. Hall began helping others express their feelings when he launched the Hallmark Company (known as Hall Brothers until 1928). Since then the company has evolved, and the chain of Hallmark stores is actually filled with a variety of festive home decorations and a candy case to die for…in general it fills a perfect niche market. However, as someone who holds himself out as a romantic, I don’t like Hallmark cards!

I do, however love my wife. I’m not ashamed to state that here on the world wide web (do we even use that term any more? I’ll have to ask Al Gore), and I also enjoy figuring out creative and personal ways to express that to her (evidenced by photos in today’s blog). I don’t mean to imply that it’s always easy. It’s not. The fact is that the expression must be a combination of words and actions…the actions cannot be underestimated and must be sustained over time, but my purpose today is to focus on those occasions when the words are important…like Valentine’s Day. Finding the right words is often a challenge, but meeting that challenge helps to sustain the foundation of the relationship. Meeting that challenge forces one to think about one’s feelings and to strategize about the most effective and meaningful way to express them. As challenging as it may be, I can earnestly say that each year I try!

Frankly, Hallmark has taken the romance out of the love affair. It has become all to easy for us to simply run to the store, pick out a card, sign it, stuff it in an envelope, stick it in the top of a bouquet of flowers and present it as a testament of our love and devotion. Where’s the challenge in that? More importantly, where is the creativity, inspiration, and personalization that should be the true expression of our feelings?

So on this Valentine’s Day 2011 I issue a challenge to all of you, and you have 29 days within which it must be completed. Don’t buy a card! Don’t succumb to the American way of life dictated by the path of least resistance and the convenience store! Don’t be lazy! Be creative. Be proactive. Be personal. Be inspired. You’ve now seen some of my past expressions. Now it’s your turn. Create something unique for your loved one on Valentine’s Day…I already have my plan in the works for this year!


New Images for the New Year

1-1-11

That was yesterday’s date…January 1, 2011. What a cool way to be able to numerically describe the new year (and by the way,  it’s NOT “New Years”…it makes me nuts when people say that…it’s only one year that is new, therefore the “s” at the end can be left off!!).

It deserves a toast: May 2011 be a year filled with health, happiness and prosperity. May creativity and creative opportunity abound!

2011 is new year with new beginnings and, I am sure, new challenges. But with the coming of the new year, reflections of the year gone by give one the opportunity to remember the important things that make us so lucky in life. With respect specifically to photography, already the new year has given me the opportunity to reflect and remember.

Over the past year or so, my photography has taken me down the path of people. Whether weddings, engagements, babies and kids, or family portraits my work has been focused on the human world. I love that work and truly love some of the remarkable images that I have captured. I am grateful for the people who have chosen to include me in their lives and allowed me to help document their moments “on film” (or, using today’s technology, in pixels).

Yesterday, my sons and I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to meet my parents, my brother and sister-in-law and their kids at Longwood Gardens in Kennet Square, Pennsylvania. Longwood is a most beautiful place with acre after acre of manicured and sculpted formal gardens and an indoor conservatory filled with acres of flowers of all types, sizes, shapes and colors. In reflecting on why I love photography and began shooting seriously several years ago, I remember that my love of floral photography is the root (pardon the pun) of it all. So I am pleased that the start of my 2011 included the opportunity to get back to my photographic roots (am I using the pun too much?) and fill my memory card (formerly a roll of film) with the wonders that Mother Natures bestows upon us. Below are a few of my favorite images from yesterday’s adventure at Longwood Gardens.

Upon further reflection, I also thought I would share with you a random handful of my favorite images (specifically not including images of my own children) from throughout 2010. There are so many that I really like…it would be impossible to include them all. The images below each have a particular significance in my life, even though they may be images of others. I hope you enjoy! By the way –  feel free to take the time to leave a comment if any of these are included in your favorites from 2010!

That’s Philadelphia above and Boston below.

Here’s looking forward to a wonderful 2011 documented through digital imagery!


Happy New Year and Hats

Happy New Year! I hope that 2011 brings health, happiness, and prosperity to everyone who follows Scott Kasper Photography (and even to those who don’t – may they see the error in their ways!). Below is the final installment of Hats from Mount Snow, Vermont. I hope you enjoyed this little project…It was quite a challenge seeking out these hats and capturing them without the knowledge of the wearer. I have another personal project in mind (aside from any work that I may do for clients) for 2011…you’ll just have to stay tuned to find out what it is!!

Before I leave you with the hats…one more New Year message…back in 1996 I made a New Year resolution that I have been able to maintain now for 15 years. That resolution was that I will no longer, ever again, for all eternity make any New Year Resolutions. So far so good….I hope you are equally successful in whatever your New Year resolution may be. Now, on to the hats…


Happy New Year Everyone!!


Hats of Mount Snow

The “Vermont House” as the boys call it overlooks the Mount Snow ski area in West Dover, Vermont. This evening we were treated to a special surprise – the staff at the mounted did a torch-light parade down the mountain followed by fire works. For the photogs who follow my blogging, these were each taken using a tripod, a 135 mm lens, ISO 100, f/22 and 15 seconds.  Unfortunately some trees between the house and the mountain got in the way of the torch-light parade.

Before all of that, I spent some time during the day capturing a few more of Mount Snow’s most interesting hats…check them out…I am related to two of the subjects from today’s parade of hats….do you know which they are? Please feel free to leave comments about which are your favorite from today.

Stay Tuned…more hats to follow over the next few days!!


Hats off to Tubing!

We love being in Vermont – it’s our retreat from the hustle and bustle of civilization in New Jersey! During the summer and fall we come here simply to relax and get away from our otherwise crazy existence. In the spring we avoid it at all costs, as once the snow melts there is nothing else but mud and the bugs that come out are the size of a Volkswagen!

During the winter, it is truly a wonderland!! As you saw in my last blog entry, the boys just love to ski. As you may know, our kids are on the shorter side…not always a wonderful thing, but when it comes to skiing it certainly has its advantages. Until this year, for example, we have been able to get away with stretching the truth…Jake has been “under 5” for several years now, making the cost of a skiing expedition closer to affordable. Unfortunately, we are beyond that now…he’s just growing up too fast and there is no doubt that Matt and Ryan are over 5…so what to do?

Well, we can’t ski every day….I’d have to get two more jobs just to pay for our week’s worth of lift tickets!!  What about tubing…that looks like fun….lo and behold, it’s affordable as well. So yesterday while Rachel went into town to do some food shopping, it was off the the tubing hill with Jake and Ryan….and my camera!

The corral of tubes was just bursting at the seems waiting for kids to come and play!

Jake couldn’t wait to get going!!

The two of them probably took 20 runs and had a blast!!

As the day went on the run got faster and faster. The crew put out rubberized mats to slow the tubes at the end of the run.

While I was watching the boys, I couldn’t help but notice that there are some crazy hats out there this year!! Fortunately I had decided to bring one of my telephoto zoom lenses, so I was able to capture a bunch of candid images of people unaware that I was taking their picture….here are a bunch of my favorites…I think I’m going to go back to the mountain just to hang out and get more photos of crazy hats…stay tuned….I may have an upcoming blog dedicated just to hats! After you check them out please leave a comment and vote for your favorite.

That last hat has a special story attached. As you saw in my previous blog entry, Jake was skiing like a demon. The day did not stat out all that well. His timidity caused a few difficult runs. Rachel was with him by herself and told me that it was quite a chore to get him to ski without clinging to her. They had to go into the lodge and when they did he saw this hat with the pompom. Immediately he went into beg mode and made it very clear that he wanted the hat. Rachel agreed that he could have it as a reward when he completes an entire run, from top to bottom, without her help. She was optimistic that he would complete this challenge successfully….by the end of our week. She had not anticipated that he would do it the very first run after lunch!!

So…Hat’s off to you Jake!! Congratulations on officially becoming a skier!! Now if only you would get rid of your training wheels and ride your bike!!


Christmas BBQ Dinner

I’ll address today’s title in a moment….first, I want to wish everyone to whom it applies a very Merry Christmas!! I hope that you had a wonderful holiday today and that your upcoming new year is one filled with health, happiness, and prosperity!!

Now…back to the title…That’s right…We had BBQ for Christmas dinner and it was awesome! I must say it was a bit of a deviation from Christmas dinners past….those have typically consisted of take-out Chinese food. Honestly that would have been the case this evening as well, but the one and only Chinese restaurant here in Vermont’s Deerfield Valley was completely booked. I’m guessing that just like us, most of the other Jewish families from Connecticut, New York and New Jersey who made the trek up here yesterday also decided to eat at First Wok tonight….we were just too slow! That said, our Christmas dinner catered by Hebrew National was a fantastic culmination of an awesome day of skiing!!

While I don’t have any photos of the burgers, franks, beans, kraut, slaw, pickles, and buns, I do have a bunch of photos from today’s Mt. Snow excursion. We’ll likely ski several more days while we’re here, but today brought perfect weather so along with all my other ski gear, I donned my backpack and skied with my camera…enjoy!!

Happy Holiday’s once again…in the words of a writer much more talented and famous that I will ever be….Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!


A Great Miracle Happened There

Well, tonight was the last night of Chanukah…and I would be remiss if I didn’t add just a few photos and a few comments about this wonderful festival of lights. As the popular kids song goes, “one for each night, they shed a sweet light to remind us a days long ago….”

This next image is fun! It may not be a photographic masterpiece, but I must say that it’s wonderful for a few reasons.

If you haven’t figured it out, it’s a dreidel surrounded by Skittles and Reece’s pieces. So why is that so special. Well, most dreidels in the US have four Hebrew letters (Nun, Gimel, He, Shin) that begin each of the words of the sentence Nes Gadol Haya Sham, or “a great miracle happened there”. “There” refers to the Land of Israel and the site of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, where the great miracle of Chanukah took place. When we traveled to Israel this summer we bought a few dreidels and brought them home with us. Since the miracle of lights happened in Israel, it would make sense, therefore, that the letters on a dreidel purchased in Israel would symbolize that the great miracle happened “here”. The letter Peh that appears on the dreidel in the picture above is the first letter in the word “Po” which completes the sentence Nes Gadol Haya Po, or “A great miracle happened here”.

Why the Skittles and Reece’s Pieces? Well, in our house we need to be creative when it comes to certain food related traditions. Dreidel is a game that we typically play to win chocolate coins, or gelt. It’s a bit like poker…everyone antes up by placing candy coins in the middle of the table before each spin. The letter on the dreidel that lands facing up dictates the spin’s outcome:

  • Nun – get nothing
  • Gimel – wins the whole pot
  • He – wins half the pot
  • Shin (or Pe) – put one in

Imagine the piles of chocolate that the lucky dreidel spinner can walk away with!! However, when one’s kids are forced to be carbohydrate conscious it becomes easier and more fun when the loot they win in the annual dreidel competition are less than 1 carb each…fun holiday tradition that can be diabetes friendly…it doesn’t get much cooler than that!

Happy Chanukah everyone!!!


Letter to Boards of Education

Dear Boards of Education:

I am the parent of three school aged children, two of whom have Type 1 Diabetes and I want to take a moment to educate you about a growing concern that I have about the health and well being of the students in your classrooms. Perhaps you don’t know, but November has been designated as National Diabetes Month, and November 14 was World Diabetes Day. The designation of this month is based upon some staggering statistics that, in my opinion, are not being taken seriously by our educational system – the place that our children spend the vast majority of their waking hours – and you are helping the problem grow worse.

According to statistics published by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the American Diabetes Association there are currently an estimated 18.2 million people in the US who suffer from Diabetes…that’s 6.3% of the total population. Further, they estimate that in the next 15 years another 44 million people will be diagnosed. Of those, as many as 3 million have Type 1 diabetes and more than 15,000 kids will become newly diagnosed in 2011…that’s one out of every 500 children under the age of 18. Among those 3 million kids are two of my three sons, Matt and Jake…and they’re in your schools!

So why am I picking on the schools? To be honest, I am perplexed and I need your help. In 2003, New Jersey (where I live) launched its Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids Campaign. Among the standards set in that campaign are the following:

  • Foods of minimal nutritional value may not be served, sold or given out as free promotion anywhere on school property before the end of the school day.
  • All forms of candy may not be served, sold or given out as free promotion anywhere on school property before the end of the school day.

To any parent concerned about the health of their children, these standards ought to seem reasonable. However, for some reason nobody is paying attention and I want to know why. So, I have a few questions:

1. Why are my children allowed to spend their lunch money on candy, ice cream and soda, all of which are prominently displayed and sold in my children’s school cafeterias?

When my kids are at home they don’t get to have these things as routines snacks. They are reserved for special occasions and are not part of the daily diet. In fact, my kids love when we have freshly cut fruit and veggies on the table when they get home. I wonder whether our society would solve the ever-expanding (pardon the pun) problem of childhood obesity if these choices were systematically eliminated from their lunchroom options. If the school took a stand and eliminated 100% of this stuff, what would be the harm, and who would have the gumption to actually complain about it? The life a a kid with Type 1 Diabetes revolves around so many factors…candy and treats at school should not be one of them!

2. Why does nearly every day need to be a “special day” in the classroom, where parents are permitted to send in cupcakes, cake, brownies, candy and other  “treats” that have little or no nutritional value?

I’m not sure about you, but I see no need for my child to have cake and brownies at morning snack time, followed by a Pepsi and an ice cream taco in the lunch cafeteria an hour later. When I was a kid, we exchanged Valentines Day cards with our classmates and I would come home with a stack of notes asking, “Will you be my valentine?” My kids, on the other hand, came home with a bag of candy (contents shown in the photo below) that weighed nearly 2 pounds last February…it’s just not necessary! I must say that we are fortunate this year, because Jake’s teacher gets it and the junk in the classroom has been toned down.

Note to school systems: Please don’t call parents and complain that our children are hyperactive and out of control in the early afternoon and then seem sleepy and aloof by the end of the day when you have just provided them a week’s worth of sugar to rev their engines shortly after which they crash…it’s the system’s fault, not ours and not the kids!!

3. Why have seven (7) years gone by and no significant changes have been made based upon the aforementioned Healthy Kids recommendations?

It seems odd to me that my children learn about the Food Pyramid in health class, yet in the very building where they are taught about the relative nutritional value of their food choices, they are able to make every bad choice that just about any kid would make when their parents aren’t around. How ironic that my kid could take a test in health class and potentially get it wrong, when the poor food choice behaviors are being reinforced by the schools at lunch…right before that test.

Please understand, making these changes will not cure the Type 1 Diabetes that impacts my children…I know that. I’m also not blaming the schools for my kids’ disease. However, it is a huge, yet preventable, problem when my son has a blood sugar of 500 at the end of the day – which may easily have impacted his performance in the classroom – because he bought an ice cream and did not take any insulin to cover it. You see, Matt is a teenager and given a little freedom he does not always follow the rules and we do not know that he has done stuff like this until we download his pump and ultimately find that his HbA1c has gone from 7 to nearly 10 (yup…embarrassed to say that happened last year)!!!. That’s why we need your leadership and your help!

So, in honor of Diabetes Month and World Diabetes Day, I am asking you to please help make our schools a healthier place for our children. Please pay attention to the 2003 recommendations. Please help my kids avoid having the long-term complications of a life with Diabetes that include heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, neuro-vascular disease, and more. Please become a partner with parents in educating and reinforcing healthy life-styles by fostering them in your buildings every day. If you can help me do that, I’ll stop picking on the school systems! Thank you.

Sincerely,

Scott Kasper, on behalf of many concerned parents

Oh – by the way – if you’re a concerned parent feel free to share a link to this entry with whomever you think might listen!!


Sneak Peek

Here’s a sneak peek at yesterday’s photo session…

Yesterday was an awesome fall day…from a photographer’s perspective there could have been a few more clouds in the sky to help soften the light, but it was indeed gorgeous weather. It was the perfect day for me to meet with this wonderful family for the second year in a row. We had been talking about shooting in Philly somewhere but that didn’t work out. As it turns out, the kids really wanted to head back to the same place we did this last year, so we met at the Smithville Mansion at Smithville State Park in Burlington County….it’s a very cool place for photos!

We had some funny moments during our session. Apparently the humidity was very low and there was a significant amount of static electricity in the air. Now, those of you who know me know that with even the smallest amount of static, my hair is totally unmanageable and stands straight on end….apparently this little girl had the exact same problem!!

It was great working with these kids again….Its amazing how fast kids grow up in just one year!! I’m already looking forward to next year!


Lori and Tommy

Check out this preview of a great couple!! I met them for engagement shots in Philly yesterday.  It was a bit of a challenge fighting the tourists for some of the shots we wanted, but we got what we needed as we walked the City a bit. We had a great time, and I look forward to the wedding in April!!

Congrats Lori and Tommy – you guys are awesome!!

The Happy Couple!!

 

I was told it was love at first sight.

 

Fun in the park behind the Art Museum

 

Walking right down the middle of the Ben Franklin Parkway!!


New England Guy

It has been stated that you can take a guy out of New England, but you can never take New England out of the guy.

While I’m not exactly sure who said that, other than me, I can tell you that this time of year, more than any other, is when this rings most true. According to the calendar, September 22 is the autumnal equinox, ringing in the first full day of fall. To me, however, now that October is here autumn is in full swing. It is during the month of October that the days become noticeably shorter…it’s dark when I leave the house in the morning and my car’s headlights automatically illuminate during the drive home…the temperatures become cooler and less humid, the neighbors plant their chrysanthemums, the Halloween decorations begin to appear everywhere, the leaves start to slowly change from green to vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds, and we get to photograph our kids picking apples.

This will be my sixth autumn living in South Jersey, and while there are certainly pockets of fall foliage, the NJ Pinelands tend to be more dominated with a canopy of green that either stays through the winter or turns brown and sheds to the thick bed of needles beneath which Tony Soprano and his henchmen have been alleged to leave their victims. The bottom line is that it ain’t New England.

I like living in South Jersey. We have Philly pretzels, hoagies, water ice (go figure that one out), and cheese steaks to die for. We have Philadelphia, Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore. We have thriving urban culture surrounded by bucolic farmland that produces the world’s best tomatoes. We have, if you’re so inclined, the Eagles, the Phillies, the Sixers and the Flyers (If not so inclined, the wonder of satellite TV still lets us root for the Pats, the Red Sox, the Celtics and the Bruins). What we don’t have, however, is New England fall foliage.

As much as I like living in South Jersey, I miss living in New England. Don’t misunderstand…I’m very content and don’t have any regrets having moved here at all…especially now that I can watch the Pats on the NFL Sunday Ticket channels. However, I miss driving around rotaries rather than jug handles or traffic circles. I miss heading out to Revere Beach (pronounced Reevee-ah) to get fried clams and chowdah at Kelly’s Roast Beef (open 24 hours every day except Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day). I miss Fenway Franks and sausages on Yawkey Way. I miss Jim Plunket on Thursday nights at the Purple Shamrock. I miss getting ice cream at Kimball’s and picking pumpkins at Arena Farms in Concord.

Most of all, however, I miss the rolling hills and mountain sides filled with the earthy yet brilliant colors of fall in New England.

I guess having lived in New England for almost 40 years I took for granted the Monet-like masterpiece of nature that surrounded me every day. There were always experiences with “leaf peepers” behind whom a normal 10 minute drive through the Massachusetts countryside would take an hour. But now I understand why they would do it…come to New England to simply drive and look at leaves….now I get it!!

I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve traveled in the majority of the lower 48 states and Hawaii. I’ve been to Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Canada and the Middle East. I’ve hiked some of the grandest National Parks that our great country has to offer. But most of all I’m fortunate to have grown up and lived right in the middle of a gem that seems to only last for a few weeks…I miss that gem…I miss October in New England.

If you haven’t, you should try it…perhaps you’ll come away wishing that you, too, were a New England guy!!