Sunday, May 6, 2018

Vote Ryan Smith 2018

Why vote for Ryan Smith? Isn’t he like ‘the rest of them’?

Absolutely not. He is so far better than the rest of them. Ryan Smith is extraordinary and he deserves to be your next Hopatcong Borough Council member.

Ryan Smith is the proverbial best neighbor. He is seeking, helpful, and a great listener. He is a go-getter, a doer, a problem solver, and someone who works for Everyman/woman, not ever in it for himself.

Why am I an authority on Ryan Smith? He’s been my husband for 25 years and my forever love for 32 years.

I’ve been a front row observer of Ryan’s character, actions, and motivations for over three decades and can attest that there is no one better for Hopatcong than Ryan Smith.

As a teenager Ryan was active in the Boy Scouts earning his Life Scout rank, all of the merit badges necessary to earn an Eagle Scout, and worked tirelessly on a positive community service project any Eagle Scout candidate would have been heartily congratulated for taking on and completing. Unfortunately, a SNAFU resulted in Ryan NOT earning his Eagle Scout rank. No adult went to bat for him. Ryan finished his childhood career as a Life Scout.

Most would have turned their back on the program that turned its back on them. Not Ryan. Ryan always spoke positively about the Boy Scouts of America program and told me from Day One that whether or not God blessed him with sons, he would volunteer for BSA so he could do for others what others had selflessly done for him.

As luck and God’s blessing would have it, we have two sons and Ryan has been as good as his word and better. He’s mentored boys and adult leaders good-naturedly and steadily, never wavering from answering questions, guiding, leading, mentoring, and encouraging.

“Everything cool I ever learned, I learned in Boy Scouts,” Ryan has said throughout his life. And Ryan can do just about ANYTHING.

Ryan has earned all of his college degrees as an adult. While holding a full time job, raising a young family, and being a positive member of the community, Ryan earned two bachelor degrees and one master’s. As difficult as those years were, Ryan never gave up, never stopped, and always put 100% of himself into all aspects of his academic and non-academic lives.

As a Professional Engineer and Professional Land-Surveyor – an uncommon dual license – Ryan has always been the man who can understand/fix/communicate/draw/problem-solve anything that came to his desk. He is invaluable.

Recently, Ryan was appointed to the Hopatcong Land Use Board and has shared his expertise at the community level. This is a volunteer post that takes hours of his time per month. He does it proudly and pours over the work that needs his attention.

Now Ryan wants to serve you and me as a Hopatcong Borough Council member. His unbiased approach to problem-solving is so necessary. His vision for a better tomorrow for Hopatcong can become a reality if we – you and I – vote him into office.

Please, take a sign, post it on your property, share his information card, share this post, and let people far and wide in Hopatcong know that Ryan Smith is the right person for the job.

Please vote Ryan Smith for Hopatcong Borough Council on Tuesday, June 5th in the Republican Primary. It’s the best decision you can make for Hopatcong.

Thank you.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Four C's of Dale Earnhardt By: Candice Smith

Dale Earnhardt 4 Cs 1
Seventeen years after Dale Earnhardt died I still remember him fondly daily, but especially on his birthday.
For those who never saw Earnhardt drive or be interviewed in their lifetime I’d like to explain, if possible, why Earnhardt’s mystique remains so potent so long after his departure.
As I pondered the question myself I came up with the Four C’s of Earnhardt, just like the 4 C’s of buying a diamond!
Because that’s what Earnhardt was, a diamond. Sometimes he was one in the rough, but in the later years Earnhardt was dazzling, rare, unique, and most precious.
And now, without further ado, are the Four C’s of Dale Earnhardt.
Charisma. A few definitions of the word charisma come from and are the following:
  1. Theology. a divinely conferred gift or power.
  2. a spiritual power or personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people.
  3. the special virtue of an office, function, position, etc., that confers or is thought to confer on the person holding it an unusual ability for leadership, worthiness of veneration, or the like.
Dale Earnhardt 4 Cs5Earnhardt most certainly exuded charisma and definitely seemed to have been conferred a gift or power. His influence is so strong it has long outlasted his life on Earth. He was a leader and was and still is revered among a great many.
In addition, Earnhardt was a marketer’s dream. Tall, statuesque, strong physique, and with that ever-present signature mustache and twinkle in his eye, Earnhardt had that special something that led people to not only trust him but to like him, really like him.
People wanted to stand in a room with Earnhardt, be at his side when he was telling a story, and be the one he was hunting, fishing, boating, or partying. They wanted to wear what he wore, drive what he drove, fly his flag, and wear something with his colors, number, and signature.
Dale Earnhardt 4 Cs2
Clever. In the world of NASCAR or racing of any kind, you have to be most clever to make a career. Earnhardt not only made a career but created an Empire for the Earnhardts.Dale Earnhardt 4 Cs3
Whether it was owning his signature and marketing it on everything from playing cards to nice jackets and everything in between, or grooming his son Dale Jr. to be in the same business, Earnhardt showed he was the cleverest in the garage.
Calculating. No doubt about it, Earnhardt was always figuring out how to use his racecar to win. That was the goal each and every week. I never remember Earnhardt talking about points unless his team was fixing the car in the garage and he was telling a reporter they were trying to get it back on the track to make up some points.
Dale Earnhardt 4 Cs4
Earnhardt was about winning and doing anything and everything in his power to do so. He would scheme to find a way to use his car and his intimidation to his benefit.
Winning was important to Earnhardt. Winning poles, winning races, and, of course, winning championships, drove Earnhardt to stay focused and determined.
He finally won at the Daytona 500.
And, on the last day of his life, Earnhardt was calculating how to put his DEI drivers into Victory Lane at the Great American Race.
Character.  Earnhardt was, without a doubt, a character in the NASCAR community, in the world of sports, and simply in the universe. He was well-known, respected, feared, loved, and cherished by his family, friends, competitors, and fans.
There are some who still might malign the man’s actions on the track, but usually that’s because they rooted for the driver Earnhardt beat that week.
But the fact that Earnhardt’s memory is so palpable to so many, his claim on their hearts so strong and pure, proves that his character was and is immeasurable.
Many who knew him say that when Earnhardt put his arm around your shoulder you knew you were in for something – counseling, advice, constructive criticism, or maybe a joke or a good word.
If Earnhardt was mad at you, you were certain to make it right as soon as possible. The only thing more intimidating than The Intimidator was when The Intimidator had a beef with you.
But Earnhardt had a huge capacity for love, a reputation for true friendship, and modeled hard work paying off in spades.
Earnhardt’s character was unquestionably the reason folks from all around, from all walks of life, looked up to and cheered Earnhardt’s No. 3.

Dale Earnhardt 4 Cs6

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Wear the Swimsuit

The other day I was spending my lunch with my favorite ladies at my new place of work. We have shared all kinds of conversations in the past few months and we have become fast friends. The topic of swimming came up and one of the lovely women at our table said she wouldn't don a swimsuit so it was a non-topic for her. This made me sad.

My whole life I have spent swimming. I cannot remember a time I didn't know how to swim and I know I was always happiest in the water. My mother, too, loves to swim. She scoured the stores for beautiful swimsuits to wear in what is now considered a "plus-size". She has had hundreds in my lifetime. No matter what her size she'd find lovely suits, sexy suits, colorful suits to wear so she could swim.

As a child I always had a bigger frame than a lot of my peers. But I didn't care, I loved to swim and so I put on my swim suit and lived in the water. As a teen, when body image was most acute, I mindlessly put on swimsuits - some one piece, occasionally a two piece encouraged by my then boyfriend/now husband.

Candice and husband Ryan
when they were teens

As my body morphed and evolved through pregnancies, childbirth, and, yes, weight gain in middle age, I had different feelings about my form, but I have always, always, always put on the swimsuit.

I read once that mothers stopped being in the pictures taken of their children and with the family. They became the always-photographer so they could step out of the frame. Consequently, children grew up without their mothers in memories captured on film. It saddened me.

When I got my first flip phone with camera I started taking "Selfies", the word that has a terrible connotation. Once I got my first iPhone, the selfies became far more numerous.

It wasn't about being stuck up, vain, or crass, it was about seeing myself and forcing myself to accept and love me. Every time I do a "selfie" photo shoot I pour over the pictures and force myself to choose ones to post that make me happy. I post them to teach myself to accept the me of now, flaws and all. It's not easy, still.

A few summers ago I saw a news story about a woman who was plus-sized like me, but who wore a swimsuit, took pictures of herself, and posted them on social media with the hashtag #WeartheSwimsuit. She, in essence, was trying to love herself in the here and now so she could have fun and be present with her children. Boy, did that resonate with me.

So, since then, I, too, have taken pictures of myself in my swimsuit and posted on social media with the hashtag #WeartheSwimsuit. Like my other "selfies", it still takes me a while to find ones that I like and I can tolerate sharing with the world, but I do it. It's my gift to me and ultimately to my children that I accept me and I am a participant in my/our lives.

Hearing this beautiful, thinner, younger woman at  my lunch table lament that she wasn't ever going to wear a swimsuit makes me sad because I know the feeling. We are bombarded - women and men - in society with what we are supposed to look like. It's crap.

What I did was follow women on social media I want to emulate and who make me happy to see their form. Ashley Graham is a favorite of mine. She's the first plus-size model to win the coveted cover of the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition a few years back. She's modeled for plus-size store Lane Bryant, and now has her own fashion line for full-figured women.

When you see images of smart, sexy people with a form similar to your own, you stop hating on yourself so much.

If posting my pictures on social media helps another woman, or man, feel better about themselves and gives them courage to be themselves, then I'm pleased, But I'm doing this for me and my family.

Life is happening now. We aren't born with termination dates so I have no idea how long I have. I'm going to continue to live in the moment, post my selfies, #WeartheSwimsuit, and continue to learn to love and accept myself because if I can't love me, no one can.

Cheers to us, no matter our size, our hair type, or our flaws. Let's simply embrace and celebrate our fabulous qualities!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

And Still We Remember By: Candice Smith

Time stood still.
No one moved or breathed.
No one believed that The Intimidator was mortal.
Certainly he’d walk away from what looked initially like an innocuous hit into the wall.
This was Daytona, the track that Earnhardt won consistently at and even had captured a 500 victory three years previously.
A collective gasp was heard.
Hearts sunk.
Mourning began.
A line was drawn – events that happened before February 18, 2001 and after.
The day Dale Earnhardt died.
Accidents happen, but he’d always walked away able to race the next time.
Lives forever changed that fateful day.
Healing began.
Dale Earnhardt will never be forgotten.
His indelible mark is as palpable today as it was then.
Perhaps more.
Then Earnhardt had as many detractors as fans. Fans would boo, jeer, and argue what a terrible competitor he was. A cheat, some would say, or a thug on the race track. Fans of Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip, and many other drivers couldn’t stand Earnhardt.
But when he was gone the enormity of Earnhardt’s death reverberated across NASCAR Nation and beyond.
Dale Earnhardt 4 Cs2
Flags still fly proudly with the “No. 3” and Dale Earnhardt signature. His fans – ardent, loyal, passionate – still remember.
He was so much more than a NASCAR star.
Dale Earnhardt 4 Cs4
Earnhardt was a sports icon, a business entrepreneur, a  farmer, a sponsor’s dream, a winning driver, a champion who tied King Richard Petty’s seven championships.
Earnhardt was a jokester, a fierce competitor, and a loyal friend.
He was a husband, business partner, hunter, and a father.
His legacy has made him immortal.
The name Earnhardt will forever be associated with racing – NASCAR –  and a host of positive things in the world as his family’s reach is constantly expanding.
Seventeen years later and the landscape has changed immensely.
The one thing that has not changed is the allegiance shown by Earnhardt fans. There are endless stories of how Earnhardt touched their lives.
Others have entire rooms filled with Earnhardt memorabilia.
What every one of those fans has in common is their love, admiration, and adulation of Dale Earnhardt.
Seventeen years on, as much that has changed, the Earnhardt fans stay the same.
Dale Earnhardt 4 Cs5

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Happy Birthday, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver adds another candle to his birthday cake today; he turns 43 years old.

As an outsider looking in who has observed Dale Earnhardt Jr. for many years, it is an exciting time for him.

Introduced to the public as a boy – Dale Earnhardt’s boy – Dale Jr. was living in the shadow of his famous father.

Growing into a young man with driving talent, we watched as Dale Jr. raced hard and well and carved a name for himself with two NASCAR Busch Series championships and then with wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

His father’s strong arms were never far away. His influence was ever-present.

And then the unthinkable happened and Dale Jr. was left to live life without his father.

There were ups and downs. Successes and failures. High hopes and dashed dreams. A parting of the ways between Dale Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Incorporated was the start of a new chapter in Dale Jr.’s life.

More time elapsed with still more failures on the track than successes.

Finally a turning point occurred.

Solid finishes, consistency, a driver with focus, determination, and optimism.

Personally, Dale Jr. seemed happier than ever before. His smile was genuine, his shoulders not slumped in despair.

And then the 2014 season dawned at Daytona. Dale Jr. won the Great American race for the second time in his career – a feat even his father could never claim.

The win took enormous pressure off of the driver and team under the brand new Chase format as they had secured a spot after the first race of the season.

But Dale Jr. and his No. 88 team continued to work hard.

Two more wins followed, both at Pocono Raceway. I was fortunate to be at both races.

My vantage point in Victory Lane allowed me to see up close and personally the complete and utter joy that flowed from Dale Jr.

In June Dale Jr. shook hands with every crew member, took endless pictures, and conducted countless television and radio interviews. He was then escorted into the media center at Pocono Raceway and sat patiently and unhurriedly answering every question hurled at him.

Dale Jr. answered thoughtfully, spoke eloquently, and was so in the moment.  At the same time he was calm, present, and so very happy.

In his return to Pocono Raceway in August there was a zest and confidence that Dale Jr. exuded. Perhaps it was bravado or simply a guy having fun, but it was different than I’d seen him in the past.

A sweep of Pocono capped Dale Jr.’s summer and showed the other drivers in the series and Dale Jr.’s fans and detractors that he was, indeed, a true competitor and, in fact, the real deal.

Of course, the unfailingly loyal fans of Dale Jr. – Junior Nation – have always known that to be true.

I asked Dale Jr. a question in August 2014 that made him reveal a bit about his personal life. I asked him what his Simple Joys were.

Dale Jr. mentioned Amy first.

Amy Reimann has been Dale Jr.’s companion for several years and seems to truly make him happy and content. On New Year's Eve 2016 they officially wed. 

He also mentioned beer and Redskin football.

For a week following Pocono and my question, any time Dale Jr. was interviewed the Simple Joy question was re-asked. He changed his answer slightly, but it was the response he gave me on the spot that shows how deeply happy – joyful – Dale Jr. is in life.

The 2015 season saw Dale Jr. take home three more wins. But luck hasn't been on the side of the No. 88 team. Winless in both 2016 and currently in 2017, Dale Jr. will have to be satisfied with whatever circumstances ends his 19 years in NASCAR's top series. He has a long list of accomplishments, wins, and Favorite Driver honors to bolster his ego.

Regardless, Dale Jr. is on top of the world. With personal life, career, family fulfilling him, Dale Jr. needn’t win a Cup to be successful.

Now Dale Jr. looks ahead to a new chapter in his ever-evolving life.

Dale Jr. will become a NASCAR broadcaster on NBC.
This is footage of Dale Jr. guest-broadcasting for Fox.

At 43 Dale Jr. seems to have figured out what's important in his life, how to re-invent himself, and continue to be the unparalleled ambassador for the sport in which he's lived his entire life.

Happy Birthday, Dale Jr. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Spyro Gyra

Spyro Gyra members 2017 (from l-r)
Julio Fernandez, guitar
Jay Beckenstein, saxophone
Lee Pearson, drums
Scott Ambush, bass guitar
Tom Schuman, piano (off camera)

Spyro Gyra made its way to my neck of the woods last night, again. It was the second time I’d seen them in concert and they were as good if not even better than the first time I was in their audience a few years ago.

from l-r
Scott Ambush, bass guitar
Tom Schuman, piano

When I listen to music I feel, see, hear, and emote. Words dance around my head. This time, equipped with a mini-notebook and pen, I wrote words while listening to the band play. I couldn’t stop; it flowed effortlessly from my hand. I was compelled, moved by their music and the intimacy of the venue.

Playing two at once!

Until you experience Spyro Gyra LIVE, these words will have to suffice as a ticket to the journey of their dynamic performances.  I invite you into my words from last night’s concert.


Washes over you
Parts of a whole
“Morning Dance”
“Wiggle Room”

Racer and Chief 187™

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thank You Hugh Hefner

What Hugh Hefner did for the Sexual Revolution was tantamount to what the Birth Control Pill did. His importance in creating modern-day sexual mores is unparalleled. Hefner’s passing is not the closing of a chapter, but an opportunity to reexamine his contributions to American society, America’s collective attitudes about sex, and his everlasting legacy.

With the first issue of Hefner’s Playboy magazine featuring Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe in all of her alluring, naked glory, America was shown that sexy could be classy. As “Playmates” grew in numbers, sexiness left the Hollywood realm in many cases and grew to include the “girl next door”. A woman who you could see at the grocery store or the college campus could be ogled in the pages of Playboy magazine.

Sexy was redefined by Hefner, his editors, and the people on his team. Sexy was no longer one trait, one type. It transcended such labels and became undefinable in traditional standards.

And Puritanical Americans were hungry for sexy. They longed to fantasize about beautiful women. And women longed to want to be seen as sexy without losing respect and power. In addition, Americans enjoyed reading well-researched, fascinating articles that dealt with all topics facing them.

Unlike other “girly magazines” on the market that one might be ashamed to be caught, Playboy magazine had a higher quality and class to it than its peers.

Countless men had stacks of Playboy magazines in storage. Whether in boxes, on the bookshelves, in bathrooms, on bedside tables, or carefully “preserved under the bed”, no one wanted to discard such treasure.

And because the women were beautiful, the articles insightful, and the magazine tasteful, women were more apt to look and enjoy Playboy magazine either alone or with their partners.

Playboy Clubs that dotted the country were full, lucrative businesses that catered to the fantasy life of many in a ‘realistic’ setting. Of course, the club had its day in the sun and then, when times changed, AIDs became a part of the daily lexicon, and the morality of the country had a pendulum shift, they became relics of a past age.

Hefner’s image, legendary parties, and Playboy lifestyle was hotly envied and greatly admired by many men. Yet his respect for women – yes, respect – made his decision to put his daughter in power of his empire a logical step. A man need not be the only one to steer Playboy. Women had become equals in the business of sexual fantasy.

Even when reality television replaced scripted programming, Hefner took center stage with his three girlfriends. He had a supporting role at best, but the point was, he was still a virile, vital player in the Playboy lifestyle he’d created.

When Playboy magazine announced they’d stop featuring naked women, it probably troubled and hurt Hefner. With the Internet full of “free porn”, the magazine did what it felt was a responsible move. But, it stunk because it ended a beautiful era.

Losing Hugh Hefner at 91 isn’t a tragedy. He’d lived a long, lucrative, enviable life where he lived by his rules, not society’s.

Throughout my life I’ve seen Playboy magazines and liked them.

Yes, I did.

In fact, I used to dream about one day modeling for Playboy, but perhaps I was a bit too “girl next door” and not enough Marilyn. However, it allowed me to see myself in myriad ways.

Because, sexy isn’t one thing. Sexy isn’t just a look but an attitude, a confidence. Thanks to Playboy and Hugh Hefner, I feel sexy at “middle age” and know that I can stay sexy for decades to come because he gave me permission and showed me how.

Godspeed, Hef, and thank you.