Saturday, October 29, 2016

Fall Photoshoot

In the waning days of fall... before the winter winds blow and the snow falls, we FINALLY got a family photoshoot.

I say FINALLY because I'm always convinced I can shoot one myself and Suzi is convinced that I can't. It's very difficult for me to not DIY it... I mean, I'm a shooter at heart. I love taking pictures. I've got all the gear. All we have to do is set up the camera and I'll fire it off with a remote.


So... So not right. For anyone who's struggled to get a selfie framed just right, you know my frustration. The back and forth to the camera for "just one more shot; if you can tilt your head this way..." Those endeavors usually end in tears. And Cooper's not too happy, either.

Take it from experience... It just doesn't work to do your own shoots.

And so finally one of us (specifically Suzi) said, "I've scheduled a photoshoot." To my surprise, it was great. I had to completely disconnect all creative thought and let Erin White make the calls. She met us at a spot she scouted before, she brought props and provided direction. In 30 minutes we had our shoot done and less than a week later, Erin sent the digital copies of our pictures.

Easy Peasy...

So here's
my quickie review:
Erin's is a classically-trained, part-time shooter (meaning she's got a day job) with an eye for light-hearted creative flair. She'll quickly connect with her client and work fast to get your product turned around. Pricing is very reasonable. Two thumbs up!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

We Make Traffic Stops, too...

In Suzi's position at MACC, she gets to work with a number of very cool people and the industries they teach; from nursing to welding to IT to electronics and robots. She also supports LETC.

Each semester, the Law Enforcement Training Academy takes 20 or so folks from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels, puts them through 700+ hours of training and, once they pass the state of Missouri's Peace Officer Standards & Training exam, spits out work-ready police officers, Granted, there's still a lot of on-the-job training that happens and that amount varies from department to department.

LETC works closely with area police departments to make sure their curriculum matches the needs of the communities in which these officers will be serving. They also want community members to understand the complicated jobs officers shoulder every day. And that's how Suzi and I ended up on the front page of the local paper doing "traffic stops" in the parking lot.

Over the past two weeks, we've spent time in a Moberly PD cruiser, doing ride-alongs with officers on assignment and in the classroom doing simulations. Read the story for more details... but I can tell you now, we don't appreciate our officers enough.

I know, this is a sensitive subject right now in social and mainstream media. American officers are under unbelievable scrutiny for the ill-advised actions of some, the mistakes of others, and the simple misunderstanding of the public about what these officers deal with on a daily basis.

In our scenarios, we approached the vehicles with no idea of what we would encounter. It mirrored my experience in the cruiser, as well. Each traffic stop was a complete unknown, was this individual going to cooperate or try to assault us? The officer I rode along with was much more concerned with the safety of the drivers he stopped than with punitive consequences he could dole out. Excessive speed makes it harder for you to stop in an emergency. Wearing that seatbelt will save your life.  Each request for information was not an inquisition, but a check to see if bad guys were out on the street. Simple cooperation led to an easy conversation and quick resolution, with everyone safely on their way.

After Suzi went through the paces, it was my turn to wear the utility belt, step out of the vehicle and into a simulated traffic stop. All I was supposed to find out was why they had driven off without paying for gas. Their car and plate matched the description I received. So, was it mistake? Did they think their card worked at the pump? I asked for license and registration; confirmed the car's owner was in front of me and tried to ignore the driver recording my every action with his phone. I soon became concerned with a pile of clothes in the backseat that seemed to move. Who else was in the car?  Did they pose a threat to me? Am I about to die out here?

Suddenly, a routine stop became chaotic. The driver had told me he was alone. When I challenged him, asking what was in the backseat, the back door burst open and hooded male leaped from the vehicle, racing off into the darkness. Where should my attention be? On the driver who was still recording me? Or on the runner, who had now disappeared? I requested back up, trying to search the area around me, but keep my eye on the driver and question him.  And then the scenario changed completely:

"Hey, does this thing have 4-wheel drive?"

The hooded figure had returned and was standing behind me at my unlocked vehicle's door!

Do I pull my weapon? Where was backup? How much more confusion could my mind contain? Thankfully, at that moment, the trainers called off the scenario and we began to debrief. I had only been onscene for two minutes.

What I'm discovering is that there are a dizzying array of scenarios, statutes, training options, and concerns swirling through the officer's head at any given moment. As one officer related, one moment you could be casually driving through a neighborhood waving a kids and then next be on a loose dog call or headed to a robbery in progress. While this may be some of the job's appeal, each day, each hour, each moment holds a completely new or different circumstance. The officer has to maintain that "Ready" position for 12 hours.

Sometimes, you're just "letting the car do the talking." In other words, law enforcement just being seen in an area can be enough of a deterrent to crime. You're also waiting for the bad guys to become active. Contrary to what may be some folks' perspective, the law is very tight on what an office can do proactively; it's mostly a reactive position; someone speeds, they're stopped; break into house, get arrested.  I'm finding that we as community members are more responsible for the proactive work to keeping our city safe. Neighbors looking out for each other. Families working out internal problems and asking for help early before a domestic issue becomes a 911 call.

I'm surprised at the level of communication the officers want with community members, as well.  The more we know about their job, the better we understand how to interact with them. I've found myself driving more intentionally over the past week because I don't want them wasting their time on something stupid I've done.  At the end of the shift, the officers have punched their card to keep us safe for the same reason we all go to work; everyone wants to just get home and spend time with their families.

And I appreciate that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Branding Yourself

After visiting a friend's house a few weeks ago, I got a text that their daughter had pointed to a bottle on the counter and said, "Look, Scott left something here."

It was not my bottle... it was her mom's bottle.

Know why she thought it was mine?

Branding, baby...


See, I've been carrying a reusable bottle (usually stocked with some variation of sweet tea) for years; starting back when we were living in Prague in 2004-05.  At first, I was all about SIGG bottles, but then I switched to Kleen Kanteen and there's an entry about that.

Now, it's ubiquitous. Just over 4 years later, we've got... (please hold while I run downstairs to count them)... 17 of them. And that doesn't count my fave white one I left at TSA in STL on my way to somewhere. Insulated, non-insulated, caps, lids, growlers to bottles to canisters... Kleen Kanteen is our bottle of choice. We've even had them vinyl-wrapped for when we travel (thanks to Russ at AD&B).

So, as long as that little girl's been alive, she's seen me with a Kleen Kanteen. Here's the kicker, we don't have the same color or size of her mom's Kanteen. BUT, it's got the logo. And that's what she saw.

And that's all it took to connect that bottle to me.

As soon as I got her text, I immediately thought, "If Kleen Kanteen's my bottle brand, what else am I branding myself as?"

We all have personalities; a brand identity, be they loud or quiet, that we project. It's how we react to the world around us. So, what's your brand? Is it brash, polite, helpful, selfish, open, closed, the list could on and on. Certainly, the shrinks will tell us that our identity varies from what we think we are to what others perceive us as.

Now I'm gonna preach for a minute to the Christians.  What are you projecting on the walls of the lives around you? Are you reflecting His love and compassion or do you simply see the exterior issues and grievances and shut off that Light? Our personality is hardwired, but how we use those innate traits to display His Brand to those around us is a choice we make daily. (Check out Jesus' command about our own cross in Luke 9:23.) The first time the term Christian was used was in Antioch in Acts 11. Our brand name originated because there was distinct connection made by the people of that city to how the followers of Christ acted.

What's your brand of Christianity saying about your Jesus? And is it strong enough that someone else can recognize it?