Friday, December 26, 2008
My eldest daughter, Aimee, and her husband Ryan, hosted Christmas at their place this year. It was a great change of pace and they are great hosts. My hat is off to them for their wonderful hospitality. It was the best Christmas I've had in awhile. Hope your's was great too.
Monday, December 22, 2008
At our office Christmas party last week, after I had commented that this has been a bad year for me, my boss was quick to point out that it had actually been a good year (what the hell was I thinking anyway?). Let me see, I finished law school, I passed the bar, got a job, my daughter got married to a very nice guy and I have a wonderful family. Those are all undoubtedly good things. On the bad side, I watched my mother succumb to cancer and die an agonizing death and I am perpetually afraid that in my job as an attorney I am going to make a big mistake and hurt a client (read: cost them a bunch of money). Maybe he's right. Maybe I'm right (I tend to think I am, but, again, what the hell do I know?). We'll just agree that it was a tumultuous year. I was lucky to have friends and family to see me through the hard times, and for that I am thankful and wish everyone in my orbit happy holidays and a great 2009.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Since 1981, I've had a bet with one of my best friends, Dan White. Dan, is a Mizzou grad. I am a KU grad. We met while working at the Kansas City Star as photographers. The bet is for a rib dinner and it is based on the KU-Mizzou football game. The person whose school loses--in my case, KU the past two years--buys the other person a rib dinner. Well, I just paid off my debt for 2007 last weekend, and have been square with Dan for a week. I fear that at about 3pm today, I'll be on the hook for another rib dinner. You'd think that a school with Mark Mangino as coach would not allow me to lose on the bet. He would probably need to be a beneficiary, and that would be more than I could afford. In hopes of sending positive BBQ mojo to KU today, I post a few images from a recent year in which I was the one enjoying the BBQ, not paying for it.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
On New Years' Eve, Teresa and I often look back over the last year and marvel at what has happened, both good and bad, to our family. We're usually surprised by what's happened in the previous 365 days and would not have predicted much of it. That's what makes the past 6 months so difficult. Just about everything that's happened, we expected to happen. However, that doesn't make any of the changes any easier to swallow.
Just 6 short months ago, Aimee and I graduated from KU Law School. That was really no surprise, although there were plenty of times in the previous three years that I doubted that I would make it. Not because I wasn't smart enough. I was just tired of school and wanted to get back to real life. Teresa kept pushing me and I got through it. I also knew my mother was ill with cancer and would probably not make it to Christmas this year. She never even made it to Aimee's wedding in September. She died exactly two months after law school graduation and 11 days before the Kansas Bar Exam.
Aimee and I took that exam in July. We both passed and started jobs as attorneys. She and Ryan got married. I guess the only thing we didn't see was the economy going into the crapper. Six short months ago, I was a law student with an ailing mother. My daughter was about to get married. I owned one home. Today, I am an attorney (it still sounds strange to say that), my daughter is married (she's an attorney too) and has moved out, and I now own two homes--mine and my mother's. Things are much more complicated now. I'm not sure I like it, although there's not a lot I can do about it.
Even though all these milestones and tragedies were largely expected, that doesn't make adjusting to them any easier. When I sit back this New Years's Eve and ruminate on the year that is passing away, I'll say thanks for all the good things, shed some tears for the tragedies, and pray to God that 2009 is boring as hell. God knows I need some boredom along about now and that's what I'll be praying for.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
It was a great weekend for the entire family. In addition to Aimee and I being sworn into the Kansas Bar and swilling champagne well before noon on Friday, we added a new member to the family on Saturday.
Ryan Walkiewicz married our oldest daughter Aimee at Danforth Chapel. They met in law school and even though she vowed never to date a law student, they are now married and living in KC.
We're elated she picked such a great guy (to go with our other great son-in-law, Alan Martinez), although as a Red Sox fan, I'm not entirely sold on Aimee's pink Cub's hat (Ryan is from Chicago via Portland and Boston). When we all gather at the dining room table now, instead of me being outnumbered 4-1 by women, the score is now women 4, guys 3 (Alan, Ryan and I). If you toss in the two cats and Kelsey's boyfriend, it's 6-4, guys on top. I'll post Eli Reichman's wedding pictures when they become available.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
The results are in, and miracle of miracles, I passed the Kansas Bar Exam. I didn't think it was possible after all we'd been through this summer. I really didn't study the last 3 weeks before the exam. It's all very surreal right now. I just regret that my mother isn't here to share the news with. There will be plenty of wonderful moments in our lives and they will seem a little less sweet without her. This was certainly one of them.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
The past month has been a mixture of mourning and waiting. It's really been an emotional grind. The bar exam results for Kansas are not yet out. Apparently, the folks in Topeka "got a late start" grading them this year, or at least that's the third-hand rumor I heard. Maybe they just lost them. After being in newspapers for 20 years, the seeming lack of respect for deadlines endemic to the legal profession is quite galling and it gives the profession a black eye in my opinion. When/if I receive the results, I'll know what I'll be doing professionally. At least for now. Until then, the waiting continues.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Here's to hoping that August 2008 will be better than July 2008. Lord knows everyone in the Richardson/Martinez/Walkiewicz family needs it. Thanks to everyone for their love and support. Wilma would have been very happy. I thank God everyday that I was fortunate enough to have her as my mom.
Monday, July 28, 2008
In 1984, my father was on his deathbed and I made him a promise. Or more accurately, he asked me to do something and I agreed. I mean, how can you say no to your dying father? He asked me to stay in Lawrence and watch over my mom as long as she lived. I agreed. I was bound by that promise for the last 24 years.
Over the years, as I passed up opportunities to live and work elsewhere, I often regretted making that promise. Not because I didn't love my mother (I do-- a lot), but because I felt as if I was being pulled down by an anchor. I felt as if I was drowning. As an only child, I had no siblings to rely on. Thank God for my wife Teresa. Her help and support made it possible for me to keep my promise.
In fact, that promise is one of the reasons I went to law school. I needed to find a different way to support myself without leaving Lawrence. Or at least I thought I did. I was actually feeling like I was imprisoned and confined by Lawrence and I needed new intellectual challenges.
After awhile, I began to think that maybe the "promise" was something I'd conjured up in my own imagination; an excuse to take the safe path and not blaze a new trail for me and my family. A few days after my mom's death, an aunt told me how proud she was of living up to the promise I'd made. I'd forgotten that she was in the room when I made the promise. I wasn't imagining the promise.
Today, the promise I made has been fulfilled. But instead of feeling that I am no longer under anchor, I feel as if I've lost my mooring. I feel as if I've been cast adrift. I don't feel free; I feel lost.
Wrapped up in all of this is the Kansas Bar Exam. I am sitting for that exam tomorrow and Wednesday. It all seems so ridiculous and insignificant today. Maybe I'll feel differently in a week or a month. Maybe I won't. There's just too much uncertainty right now. But one thing is certain--I am again at a crossroads in my life. And to be honest, I don't know what path I will choose, what direction I will sail. My mooring is gone and I'm not sure where the tides will take me.
Friday, July 18, 2008
My mother died this morning, so when I got home from the hospital, I Googled her. Her name is Wilma Richardson. I found a single entry matching "my" Wilma Richardson. And that single entry was as the grandparent of one of my daughters, not for something she did directly (although she has been a mighty influence on all three of my daughters). Just Google any celebrity and you'll find literally millions of entries about stuff that is absolutely inconsequential. For instance, Britney Spears has about 91 million entries on the World Wide Web. There's probably not much about Ms. Spears's life that is unknown. Further, in the grand scheme of things, there's probably not much that is really of any real consequence. I mean, who really gives a rat's ass about whether she or K-Fed get custody of their children? Or as someone once said, "two billion Chinese couldn't care less." The world's lack of knowledge about someone who lived a quiet life centered around family and friends for three quarters of a century needs to be remedied.
My mom was born in the midst of the Great Depression in a tiny Kansas town. She was one of eight children. They were poor, but they didn't complain. They just worked. She was forced to quit school after her junior year of high school when her father got sick and she had to help support the family. She married my father in Raton, N.M. in 1954. I was born in 1960. After I was born, she worked a variety of jobs from nurse's aide to a floor coordinator in a large grocery store. She was widowed the last 24 years of her life. She's lived in the same small house for the past 40 years. But despite all her ordinariness, two things stand out about my mom.
First, she was one of the most unassuming people I have ever known. She always told you what she thought, even if you didn't like it. She was brutally honest. She didn't put on airs. She didn't dress or talk fancy. In fact, as I was going through her closet looking for clothes while she was in the hospital this week, I discovered a bunch of new clothing purchased by friends and relatives during her recent battle with lung cancer. She had never worn any of it. She was always more comfortable in pair of khakis and a golf shirt. She wasn't about to change now.
But her simple and unassuming ways pale in comparison to what I've witnessed the past 9 months. She was diagnosed with small cell carcinoma in her lungs. By the time doctors discovered the tumor, it was more than 8 centimeters. She opted for chemotherapy. The first four rounds worked--the tumors began to shrink. But then this insidious monster began marching back in force. She tried a second, then a third round of chemo. The cancer kept growing. She had two goals: see my daughter, Aimee, and I graduate from law school on May 18th, 2008, and attend Aimee's wedding on September 27th. She fought it as hard as I've ever seen anyone fight anything. She made it to our law school hooding. She was choked with emotion when she gave me a hug after my hooding. I had to be careful when I hugged her. I was afraid I'd break her frail body.
Finally, after 9 months of fighting, she decided to suspend chemotherapy. That was on July 7th. By July 12th, she was in the hospital. It was clear that she wasn't going to meet her second goal of attending Aimee's wedding. What I witnessed over the next six days took my breath away. She fought the cancer and its effects on her failing body like a tough old alley cat. By this point, the cancer had spread to her spine and brain. She was in excruciating pain. She was perpetually nauseated. However, she just kept fighting. Right up until 4:25 a.m. this morning, when what little lung capacity she had left was spent. And even when I thought she had drawn her last, she was still valiantly fighting for one final precious ration of oxygen so she could get one last glimpse at her beloved family surrounding her deathbed. I hope that as she left this world, she wasn't too disappointed with the five of us (Teresa, my daughters and I) as we sobbed at the loss of this brave, strong, simple soul.
The pain we feel now is unbearable, but in time, I know it will soften. While we'll never forget the excruiating agony of her death to lung cancer, we'll also never forget her honesty, bravery and valor. After what I saw over the past 9 months (she NEVER complained once about the ravages of cancer and chemotherapy), I now know what "toughness" and "love" truly mean. She exhibited a toughness I have never before witnessed and she didn't do it for herself. She did it out of love for her family. She didn't want to disappoint anyone. She didn't want to let anyone down. Trust me Mom, you didn't disappoint anyone. We loved you all the more for your bravery.
Hopefully others who never got a chance to meet my mom (she was described as a "force of nature" by one of my friends), will happen across this blog and take some inspiration from her battle and her toughness. We need a lot more Wilmas in the world and a lot fewer Britneys.
I love you Mom. I am sorry for all the times I never said it. However, you will always be an inspiration to the five of us in the room this morning who had a front row seat to a monumental struggle. We saw you battle cancer and saw cancer blink.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I am now at the halfway point of my bar exam preparation. As I struggle to review all the first year classes, I am also struggling to figure out who I am, and what I will be when this is all over. Photograpy has defined my life since 1975. I worked in newspapers for nearly 20 years and then ran my own business. I've been immersed in law for nearly 3 years--first as a student, then as a law clerk or intern. Where do I go from here? After the bar, I am supposed to start a job with a great local firm, but I am still fighting the urge to make pictures professionally. I don't know where this will lead in the end, but it is an interesting choice and struggle. Anyone care to weigh in on all of this?
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
After a sputtering start last week, bar exam prep began in earnest this week. I started with Criminal Law. I enjoyed criminal law when I was at the DA's office, but I didn't like it much in law school. I think it was because I didn't like the instructor. He wanted to spend too much time talking about how a retributivist would view punishment compared to the views of a utilitarian. Unless I'm going to be writing criminal code, I'm not sure it matters. Just tell me what the elements of arson are. I then structure my questioning and evidence to prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) the elements of the crime. Anyway, this instructor had a depraved heart who made it painful to come to class. In spite of this, I made it to every one of the crim law classes except the day Aimee passed out and smacked her head on the sink in her apartment (she had walking pneumonia). As a 1L , I was just too afraid to miss class. You never know when that will be the day that the prof. hands out the answers to the final. Well, tomorrow it's criminal procedure all over again. That means it's time to reacquaint myself with the Amendments 4 through 6, 8 and 14.
Monday, May 19, 2008
As I ponder the final hurdle in this journey--the bar exam--it's worth remembering yesterday's festivities. It was an amazing day. As I walked to the stage to be hooded, it was wonderful to be accompanied by my giddy daughter. I was surprised that we received an ovation for being the first father-daughter combination to graduate from KU Law in the same class. And then to stand on stage on watch her be hooded was priceless. I won't ever forget the day and all the emotions it produced. I guess the only downside to all of this is reading a story about us in the Topeka Capital-Journal this morning. At the end of the online version, the first comment is a lawyer joke. I guess I've gone from being a member of one hated profession--the media--to the member of another. People hate lawyers, until they need one. No matter. It was still a great day for our family. I will never forget it.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Saturday, April 5, 2008
As March Madness melted into April and the Final 4, anyone who knew anything about my previous professional life (covering Kansas basketball almost exclusively for nine seasons, 250 games home and away, and 6 Final Fours since 1986, as well as photographing KU games since at least 1977) asked several questions. I last covered the big dance in 2003 (a loss to Syracuse in the championship in pre-Katrina New Orleans). But, I came across my pictures from KU's loss to Maryland in the semifinals from 2002, and I wanted to share a few of my favorites from that night in Atlanta as well as my recollections about the Final 4 and covering sports.
Favorite Final 4 memory? After finishing covering practices in 1986 in Dallas, being asked by CBS to play in a pick up game to take the shine off the floor. I got to throw down a couple of dunks on the Reunion Arena floor in Dallas.
Second favorite Final 4 memory? Covering KU-OU in the 1988 finals. It felt like a Big 8 Tournament game (after all, it was in Kemper) until the final time out when it hit me that this was for the national championship. Access to the post game celebration was much better then--you could rush out onto the floor when the buzzer sounded to capture the jubilation. I still see myself, at least my chest, wearing a magent and navy striped polo short on the fringe of KU's clebration scrum when it is replayed ad nauseum during the tournament.
Least favorite Final 4 memory? Watching Archie Marshall limp off the floor with KU's chance for the crown against Duke in 1986.
Weirdest Final 4 memory? The NCAA allows SI only one set of strobes in the arena. SI sends 6 photographers. Many of them are in high perches with long lenses. They follow the action as "drones," but their cameras are rigged to fire only when the primary photographer on the floors fires his camera. It must be torture to follow focus and NOT be able to pull the trigger on a good picture. I stood next to one of these drone photographers and the monologue was x-rated and damned funny.
What's it like covering a Final 4? You're swallowed by a pack of know-it-all east and west coast sportswriters and TV types. The access is completely controlled by the NCAA. You cover a team all season, hoem and away and because you're not SI, you get a terrible position on the floor. Any emotion from the end of the chanpionship game is drained by the NCAA's management of the "celebration" for the benefit of TV. So, in the end, you pretty much have the same pictures as every other photographer, especially if you work for a newspaper. TV and big magazines get better access. Your bosses are continually asking if you have a picture of something they saw on TV (not stopping to think about the fact that TV has a jillion cameras at the event and you are by yourself and the NCAA won't let you put up a remote camera unless you are wire service or SI) or in a competitor's newspaper, fearful that they've been "beaten" because your pictures are not the same as their's.
Did I wish I was in San Antonio for the Final 4? No, not really. They are fun, but a lot of work. I've never been able to watch a KU Final 4 game without a camera in front of my face.
What do you miss most about not covering Kansas Basketball? Eating great food in great restaurants with someone else (my employer) picking up the tab. I love Mi Tierra's in San Antonio (Larry Brown told me about it when he was coaching the Spurs).
What do you miss least? Airline travel with cameras and the inane questions by sports writers and their almost universal lack of knowledge about anything outside of sports. For example, while traveling to a KU basketball game in Austin several years ago, I was in line at the ticket counter and noticed I was standing next to the singer/songwriter Shawn Colvin. I struck up a conversation, talked about how much I like her music and how she loves living in Austin. The 4 sportswriters I was traveling with overheard me telling a non-sportswriter I had been talking to Shawn Colvin. The sportswriter responded by asking me if Shawn was the prep standout from some Texas high school. Another asked me who Shawn played for. Come on.
In the end, it was lot of fun, albeit meaningless fun. I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything, but I'm glad that chapter in my life is closed.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Last night, I was standing outside grilling as it began to snow, I thought about spring. While this winter may have been normal, to me at least, it has gone on longer than normal and been harsher than winters we've had in awhile. I really need a 60 degree day soon. Until then, I offer a few spring images from the KU campus to warm you.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
I found this old church in Santa Fe. The attraction is a wooden stairway with no visible means of support. I, however, found the religious statues in the station of the cross much more interesting. When I was last in Ireland, I was fascinated by these sorts of things in Irish cemeteries. This particular statute reminded me of those I'd seen in Ireland.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Monday, February 4, 2008
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
I've been preparing for a trial competition in Albuquerque, so no time to shoot. However, all this cold weather made me remember some frosty mornings in Killorglin. I'll try to shoot some pics in NM, so stay posted, but in the meantime, check out my friend Eli Reichman's blog: www.eliphoto.blogspot.com for a great travel piece.