Sunrise Cloud Reflection – Orton Effect

Photo: Sunrise Cloud Reflection – OrtonThe morning sun dances on the winter storm clouds above the silhouetted tree line in Illinois – USA.. (Orton Effect, is a photography technique which blends two completely different photos of the same scene, resulting in a distinctive mix of high and low detail areas within the same photo.). Nature Landscape Art Photograph Copyright 2022 Frank J Casella 

The Chaos of Alias Email

Photo: The Walter Payton Center located at Halas Hall in Lake Forest IL, is the indoor practice facility used by The Chicago Bears Football Club. Copyright 2013 Frank J Casella.

I don’t know if it is a fad or becoming a trend, but the use of an alias email address it seems to be popular of late.

The word alias = a false name used to conceal one’s identity; an assumed name.

I know there are people who do important work where they need to remain anonymous to protect their life, but that I don’t think is most of us.

Growing up, my parents always taught us kids that if you can’t put your name on it then it doesn’t mean anything.

This is why my online accounts use some form of my name.

As much as most of us have one street address and one telephone number, I see the importance of having two email addresses: one for public use, and the other for private.

But then if the private gets into the wrong hands it easily then becomes public. …

So, then we come back full circle. I’ve been there, and it drives me nuts. … It’s like a dog chasing after its tail.

Just do your best to keep it simple, and learn to live with it.


Photo: Playgrounds – Copyright 2011 Frank J Casella.

I’ve heard it said that the world is our playground. Though, I’ve noticed that many times we can learn from a playground about how to live in the world.

The other day as I was taking the dog for a walk by the local playground, I couldn’t help but notice a young brother and sister being corrected by their parent about sharing a swing.

The older child said something to tease the young, causing the younger to slug the older. The parent corrected the younger about making a bad decision, yet didn’t correct the older, and asking the two to apologize to each other.

This incident made me wonder how these two children will behave when they grow up, and what the world would be like without forgiveness.

Then the answer came to just look around me. How many people have shared their life experiences with me, where there wouldn’t be an issue if they’d jut say “I’m Sorry” and forgive.

So, it seems that saying “I’m Sorry” is a key to making life easier as we play in the playground of life.

Legacy – How Do You Want To Be Remembered

Legacy – How do you want to be remembered – Color Nature Photograph Copyright 2019 Frank J Casella

These are the words that came across my computer this week, and what I’ve been pondering since.

Many of us go through life taking for granted the short time we have on earth to make our mark, I suspect. Others of us make profound statements with our life. Most of us, I believe, carry on family for another generation.

My life mission is to share hope and God’s love in the world. That doesn’t seem to be profound on the surface of things but, if you think about it, many people today live without hope and don’t know or see how God works in our lives. People need examples of goodness and hope.

It would be great for many of us if our legacy where to build a skyscraper, or a great work of art, or invent a disease curing drug, or like Thomas Edison with the light bulb. But the more noble legacy is to get others, especially our family, to Heaven. That can have an impact three generations deep!

So, after we die there may be things we did in this world that may be remembered, but what is more important I think is the people who help others because of how we have helped them. Our name may not be on it, but it will be in God’s book of Christian service.

Bird Dancing On The Line

Photo: Bird Dancing on the Line – Animal Photograph Copyright 2008 Frank J Casella.

A Pigeon scurries back and forth over the yellow safety line on a train platform in Chicago, Illinois – USA

In life, there are times when we need to draw the line if nothing else than for our own health and safety.

Whether it’s the noise of the news media, or the internet in general, or politics, it’s important to know where we stand or we’ll fall for anything.

We build strong character and peace of mind when we stay on our side of the line that we draw for ourselves.

Making Good Decisions

Photo: Yesterday’s Sky – The winter sky presents a colorful pallet and silhouette for trees in Midwest America- Copyright 2017 Frank J Casella.

The best way to make good decisions is to learn from past good decisions.

That when faced with making a decision, we either react or we respond.

Either way, you can’t fail, because you either succeed or you learn.

As the late Zig Ziglar says, ‘Failure is an event, not a person, yesterday ended last night”.

And the late Henry Ford says, “Failure is an opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”.

The one thing I have found in making a good decision, is to spend time in the quiet if you can, and not listen to outside influences or make up your mind by how you will be accepted.

Rather, listen to your inner voice, that usually is suppressed by all the noise around you.

Good decision makers, become good leaders, by saying what they mean then mean what they say, and sticking to it.

It is not about being popular, but having others best interest in mind, even if it costs you personally.

If you have the privilege to make decisions, then make good decisions, because then history will be kind to you.

Lost In The Fog

Square Photograph – Lost In The Fog – Copyright 2016 Frank J Casella. A classic black and white of silhouetted trees and branches amongst the foggy morning. Just like working through our struggles in life can help us to find answers to our problems, and make it all worth it, the most significant struggle may very well be one that, years latter, we look back as a turning point in our life or relationships.

Where Is Your Faith

Photo: Where Is Your Faith – Landscape Photography Copyright 2018 Frank J Casella

Having faith sometimes is like looking into the clouds and seeing nothing, and yet other times like seeing colors in the sky.

There are circumstances where we have lack of faith, and other times where our faith has saved us.

The important thing, I think, is to learn from each what either didn’t work or what did. So that we can do better tomorrow.

Our purpose on earth, to those of us who believe, is to bring hope to the poor in spirit, and thus foster our own poverty through living out our faith.

Email Lists and Tracking

I think that if this tree could only talk, the tales it would have to tell. …. look all its structure and growth . … and the twists and turns of the branches. One purpose of trees is to give us air to breath and are just plain beautiful in every stage .. which makes the world a better place to live. Photo: Through The Years – Copyright 2016 Frank J Casella.

The branches of the tree in this picture reminds me of the winding of the information on the internet. I can only imagine all the directions our emails are going back and forth. And how keeping track of it all might be confusing if you think long enough about it.

There seems to be much talk these days about Big Tech and Surveillance Capitalism. Where in short your data online is not as private as you may think, and how this is abusing the freedom of the internet (true freedom I think is to use your ability to do the right thing).

Another aspect of this is the mailing lists or newsletters we subscribe to with our email address. Many of these emails you get into your inbox use what is called spy pixels. It has to do with open rates and deliverability.

In fact, Apple is now allowing these to be blocked on the iPhone, and DuckDuckGo now does this through their Android bowser app. What this means is that when I send a newsletter out to my mailing list, will I get a true stat as to the click opens and links click on?

Then the thought came to me that the mailing list providers allow senders like me to do the same thing that Big Tech is doing. To add to this, even if the email list service allows you to turn off this tracking (only a few do this) it is said they still have access to click data to “prevent abuse”

I think this is what is going to make RSS shine now more than ever, unless you can find a list service that lets you truly turn off tracking. So, for this blog I have decided to go back to my first thoughts and no longer use a mailing list. I’m not selling anything.

The Messages In Our Lives

Photo: The Messages In Our Lives – Copyright 2017 Frank J Casella

How we respond to others has a huge impact on the world.

How we treat others makes a huge impact on how they see the world around them.

The messages in our lives shared through experiences and examples, though subtle, speak and teach louder than words ever can.

Email And Mental Health

Ice patters on black pavement juxtaposed with shadow patterns from the morning sunlight. Although this may look difficult to walk on, it is something beautiful to look at. Likewise, the challenges or struggles we face in life can strengthen us, because it is how God brings beauty to our lives. Photo: Sunlight Shadows on Ice – Abstract – Copyright 2016 Frank J Casella.

I have noticed recently more and more that people are talking about how overwhelmed they are with their email inbox and the need to make it more digestible. We know that social media has an effect on our mental health, with the algorithms and all, but we forget that email can have the same effect, for one, with the spam hitting our inbox and sorting through it all.

In fact, many people don’t realize that email is the original social media. For example, I have contact groups set up and send updates to these contacts short of a social media post. Then those who wish to respond do so either direct or reply all. So, just like social media works to absorb all your attention, we can spend equal time in the email inbox.

The other thing is with the unified inbox of having several email addresses in one account. This way you can keep together both business and personal communications, for example. But now with all the noise in the inbox, many are seeking to change their email setup, to login to separate email accounts for each area of their lives.

This can also be very useful for your security, because it reduces the risk of identity fraud and your data being compromised in the event that one of your accounts is hacked. I have shared before how your email address today is like what your street address used to be. Not as many people ring the doorbell at my street address these days but, when they did, I only answered the door if it was someone that I knew.

I do the same with email today, I have an auto responder set up to reply to addresses not in my contact list. It thanks the sender for contacting me. I then only respond if I have something to say. This makes a tremendous difference in my mental health, because it keeps my email time constructive and manageable.

Late Fall Nature Silhouette

What I like, and what made me click the shutter of the camera, was not only the formation of this tree, but the juxtaposition between the TV antenna on the house and the tree branches. Photo: Late Fall Nature Silhouette – Copyright 2021 Frank J Casella

Basketball Is Really A Numbers Game

Photo ‘Basketball Is Really A Numbers Game‘ Copyright 2017 Frank J Casella

Player count; jersey number, score board, player stats, and how few actually play the sport professionally. Basketball, like any sports, and a part of life, is all about numbers.

Then, if you actually get to play pro ball, your name and skill become celebrity, only to the extent how your numbers stack up to make money for the industry … and business relationships.

As we grow up. sports activities bring with it many lessons about life. It also has a secret way to teach us about communication, relationships, numbers, and business.

Bold Colors Down The Trail

Photo: Bold Colors Down The Trail Reds, Brown, Golds, and Greens highlight the Fall colored trees against the bright blue sky at Homewood Izaak Walton Preserve in Illinois. I especially like the shadow play on the trail leading to the joy of Autumn. You wonder if when we get to Heaven if we’ll be lead down a path such as this. Copyright 2020 Frank J Casella

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

Photo: Blessed Art The Poor In Spirit – Copyright 2017 Frank J Casella

In America, we live in a culture that says more is better, but is this a lie?

We all have our stuff packed away in the basements of our homes, sometimes extending to storage sheds that we pay to put our stuff.

And, no matter our social rank, the more stuff we have, whether possessions or in our head, the more we get distracted from the true meaning of life.

Recently I went through my stuff, with the mindset that if I die tomorrow what of it will end in the trash. It turned out most of it. I haven’t touched this stuff in years …

The poor in spirit: in the Old Testament, the poor are those who are without material possessions and whose confidence is in God, who recognized their complete dependence on God.

Do you allow yourselves to become attached to your possessions? What came with this for me was a form of spiritual poverty, as small as it was …

When we are free from stuff, we free ourselves from distraction. God’s will is that we depend on Him, what more could you want?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Mt. 5:3

Should Artists or Nonprofits Use A Domain Name?

Photo: The Joy of Art and Story – People admire the Art collection at the Union League Club in Chicago, Illinois – Copyright 2014 Frank J Casella.

It is said that if you want to be successful as an artist or nonprofit that you should have your own website and domain name to establish credibility. I think this can also be said for freelancers or bootstrapers. Lets take a new look at this. …

As an independent artist myself, I have noticed many artist to be transacting business without a domain name or their own website, even though if you ask an artist guru to help you with marketing they will tell you otherwise. There are now a number of platforms who will facilitate your art business so that you can concentrate more on creating art and getting your audience (your distribution) to the platform.

The key here I think is that you focus on one of several platforms that you use to be your embassy or base, and use the other platforms for products or artwork that better fits there than from your base. Also it is important to guard your distribution, mainly your email list. And you don’t need your own domain name as long as your name (personal or business) is in the URL of the subdomain of each platform.

Likewise, as a co-founder of a nonprofit, I find the same holds true if you are a nonprofit or freelancer, where I think it is more important to design any landing pages, like for a mailing list subscription page or a donation page, to have the same look and feel of your main platform. I find many nonprofits and freelancers using blogging or email list providers that employ a freemium business model to be successful.

In talking with many people in my circles on their experiences, the common response is that people just want to see your stuff, what you can do for them, and the impact of the important work you do. I’m told the use of URL addresses from free email or subdomains from freemium sites has no effect, especially if they have used custom sites and domains in the past. Content and presentation is most important.

So I hope this helps answer your questions about using a domain name or your own website if you are a nonprofit or artist. As long as your work has impact, and is distinctive and unique, then you should be fine.

Falling Leaves Green Grass – Abstract

A Fall leaf in the grass that illustrates the perfection of what God has created, to enjoy this beauty while on earth, in addition to His creating our lives. Although the leaf has flaws and scars, it still brings much beauty into the world for the short time of one season, just as our lives our short lived. Copyright 2019 Frank J Casella

Privacy, Security, and the Web

Photo: ‘Protection‘ – A man walks with a woman under an umbrella on a rainy Chicago city street – Photograph Copyright 2008 Frank J Casella

There is much talk these days with digital communications about privacy and security, because there seems to be much confusion mostly on what Big Tech is doing with it.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, known for inventing the internet navigation system known as the World Wide Web, has a mission which seems to be working toward a world in which users are in control, and empowered by large amounts of data, private, shared, and public.

Sir Tim is also an advisor to both social networking site MeWe and Email provider Protonmail, to name two. Both if these platforms use the Freemium business model, where the main features are accessible to all, and premium features available at added cost. Both are very private and very secure.

My take on this is, your website or blog should be open for all to be educated and informed, and your personal life should be private if you so choose. And the other aspect of security, for instance, the Vivaldi business model that this blog is hosted on – as they say the unnecessary collection of data is dangerous and has no place in your browser. And the same goes with their blog and webmail services.

So, all this to say, I think, privacy and security is something that should be by default, and not something you have to pay for.

Why Networking is Important

Photo: Autumn Pine – A square artistic photograph of the changing colors of a pine tree at Autumn in Midwest America – Square Color Photograph Copyright 2019 Frank J Casella

Why balancing your relationships online and offline is important in life, and how it can create more and positive impact.

On my social media channels I usually don’t post a picture directly, like many other artists do, along with sales jargon or a call to action. Rather, I share a blog post with the picture, or some copy that tells about the details of the subject photographed. In other words, social media, I think, as Seth Godin says, is used when something is working, not a tactic that causes it to work.

This blog, for example, is another platform that helps much with (my) networking, as well as a place that fosters the big fish theory: By engaging with the smallest viable audience, you gain the reputation and trust you need to move to ever bigger audiences. People usually know, like, and trust who they have developed relationships with.

And this is what I do on social media (presently on MeWe and GETTR), by just engaging in conversations and not worry about what happens next.

The best way I know to explain this is from when I was the executive director for my local Chamber of Commerce until a few years ago, how we’d have events for members to develop relationships and network, and how many of them saw this as opportunity to hand out their business cards to talk about what they do.

However, the members who created the most business were interested in the mission of the Chamber and helped out with the different committees, not worrying about what’s in it for them. Because when you get to working with other people on projects for the community, you get to know them as well.

So, when networking either online or off line, it is best to just give of yourself and your interests for the benefit of others. Do not worry about what you get out of it.

That when you develop relationships others get to know you, they start talking to others about the person that you are, and the quality of your talents. What happens then is word spreads about what you do and how you help people.

Yes, this can take weeks or years. However, you probably know more people who are spending years on social media and at social events who are not making any difference with relationships or sales.

Compare this to the big fish who spend years concentrating on each person in front of them, in the moment, and making a positive difference in the lives of others, helping solve their problems.

The Climate of Our Lives

Photo: Autumn Leaves and Raindrops – Raindrop patterns on a Autumn leaf – Image processed in-camera Copyright 2019 Frank J Casella

“Prayer is to our soul what rain is to the soil. Fertilize the soil ever so richly, it will remain barren unless fed by frequent rains.”

~ Saint John Vianney

There has been a lot of talk lately, even from the pope, about global warming. How some say the climate change is in a state of emergency, and how others have a different opinion. Though both sides of the camp agree that the earth is warming up, and that it is best to be nice to it, global warming or not.

As much as all of this is important, I think the state of emergency in America is not as much about the climate of our environment, but more about the climate of our lives. We need to invest more time in the silence of listening to our own voice instead of others, say, on social media and the like, and being an positive example to others in our lives.

More specifically, American’s need to all do a better job at embracing the Constitution and the Ten Commandments. Many people today in our culture have made themselves their own God, we turn to each other for answers that only God can provide. And if you watch the news or social media with a keen eye, you will see there are movements like pro-abortion, gay pride, or gun control to name a few, who are just a small group of the masses making it look like everyone agrees.

It goes back to the saying the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The business model of social networks has replaced the simple act of being in community. The solution I think is how we often place people and things before God, often without realizing it. We put our happiness into the hands of other people – our spouse, our friends, or our children, or co-workers, the government.

Yet, this always falls flat because another person can never fulfill the deepest desires of our hearts. No matter how much you love your spouse or children. When we have God at the center of our lives and every relationship, those human relationships will be right-ordered and bring even more joy to our lives.

A priest I know said that he often wil tell new couples that he is helping to prepare for marriage, “Your future spouse cannot fulfill your deepest desires. Only God can.” Put God first in your individual lives and in your marriage and then your love will be taken to a new level. As each of you grows closer to Jesus, you will grow closer to one another.

If you talk to the people in prison ministry, they will tell you most inmates, and mass shooters, come from a home where they didn’t have a father as a positive influence in their lives. Too many of us depend on the government to solve our problems, like creating a law so everyone can have a gun, instead of doing the deep work of loving through example those in our lives on how to do the right thing. Instead we have sports figures creating confusion about how to (not) respect the American flag and kneeling for the Cross.

The fiber of our country, and the Constitution, is to embrace the Judeo – Christian beliefs. When we choose to not rule out the Ten Commandments, by living them, all else will fall into place. Yes we can have freedom of religion, after we don’t rule out the beliefs that founded this country. Again, the reason everything is falling apart is because the ones making all the noise lack structure, and don’t respect the structure already in place.

As much as you hear about the latest scandal in the Catholic church, people are flocking to the church all over the world because they lack structure in their lives. The Catholic Mass and the Catholic Sacraments provide structure. One priest abuse is too many, but you would think the whole church is full of abusive priests, when it is a small, small group. I would suspect about the same percentage of parents who abuse their own children.

This all goes back to how we need to have a heart for others before ourselves, and to seek the causes of the problems in our in our own lives and work to correct it. We need a return to making prayer, and dependence on God, as the foundation of our being. If you talk with people who work in hospice or cancer, they will attest to the positive difference, and healing experience, from people who have prayer in their lives.

Let us start by praying for our country, and for our world, every morning when we wake up to a new day, please pray for me, and know that I am praying for all of you.

My post here today is a bit longer than usual, so sorry for the rant. I just think this needs to be said. This is my opinion, and I don’t mean that I have all the answers.

Keep Your Focus

Photo: Weeds – Square Sepia Photograph Copyright 2019 Frank J Casella – Note: This image has intentional soft focus.

Sometimes weeds are beautiful to look at, other times can grow so much when not cut back they can choke out flowers and other landscape growing around them.

In life, weeds are the distractions and noise that keep us from doing the deep work that we are called to do.

In our spiritual lives, weeds are the things that keep us from God. When you give God the place to speak, He has a lot to say.

All of this to say, that we need weeds in our lives to help us keep our focus, and the fastest way to success is to replace bad habits with good ones.