Creative Non-Fiction ~ Rosary Beads, a Dog Collar & the Normal Girl

A Catholic Nun just tried to sell me Pittsburgh Steelers Rosary beads! How in the hell did I get to a place where that does not seem strange to me?

Just prior to this experience I was sitting in a coffeehouse up the street from this shop. There I sat, writing down my thoughts while hoping to figure things out, which by the way I figured out nothing. I had a problem that I thought I could write my way towards a solution.  This rarely works. You think writing it down would help, but it seldom works...at least for me.

Keeping a journal is one of the most abnormal things one could possible do. You hear it all the time: write it down, write it down, journaling is good for you, it's self-therapy. You want to know what it really is? It's boring! You get to re-read how boring your life is.

Even when you go through periods or events that seem of super-duper-great-importance, they're not.  So go ahead and write it all down.  I have kept journals for the past seven years; re-reading it just makes me realize what a putz I actually am.

All that I have learned for certain is that after seven years of journaling I have the penmanship of a kindergartener and the spelling skills of a third grader and not one of the those smart kids who sits at the front of the class. My spelling skills are akin to the nose-picker-smelly kid who sits in the back. (Side not from wife/editor: this is true. 100% true.)

But, you want to know what is interesting? The stuff that happens right next to you as you're writing crap down in your journal.

There I sat: black coffee, vegan brownie, moleskin notebook open, pen in hand, a book on Zen turned to page 176 on the table top...I look the part. Yet I am unable to conceive any great or sub-ok thoughts of my own to solve my problem. So I do what every other wanna-be-coffeehouse-writer does: I start glancing around the room to see what the other coffee-houser’s are up to. Maybe I can steal some inspiration?

And there he sat.

A man most likely my age or slightly older than me sits to my left. On his table is a stack of notebooks piled four high.  A large sugary coffee drink topped off with a mound of whipped cream and jetting out of the whipped cream is a red straw that just happens to match his hair color. Yep, the dude had clown red dyed spots all over his skull with small pink highlights to offset the greying hairs coming out of his temples. This dude was weird.

Dyed red hair is one thing but when you accessorize it with a dog collar, a spiked black leather dog collar in fact, that opens up a whole new can of strange. And not hipster-or-punk-just-going-through-a-phase strange, but you just know that you will see this guy's face on the evening news someday strange.  And by the way, where do you keep your dog collar when you are not wearing it?  Does it go next to your shoes or your belts? Or maybe your ties? It's something that you wear around your neck, so yeah probably ties?  Or do you take it off when you get home and toss it in the same spot that you place your keys? Chances are you just toss it on your dresser next to your phone and spare change.

And black eye liner. As if a spiked dog collar and red spotted clown hair was not enough there was his black eye liner smudged into his aging crows feet.  To finish off the look was a black punk rock t-shirt that has been washed to the point where it's almost transparent in spots.  Do not let me forget to mention that he was at least thirty pounds thinner when this t-shirt actually fit him.

To end the description I am sitting next to a man who was most likely goth-punk before the goth-punk scene actually became a scene. Today he is the last surviving component of the post-punk-goth scene that died out in the early 1980’s...truly the last of the dead cultural cache sits less than four feet from me.

Then Normal Girl comes walking in and sits down with him. What-What-What????? Goth-punk-dog-collar-boy is hanging with her? Before she sits down she kisses him on the cheek than proceeds to start reading what is written down in his notebooks.

Ok, lots of things are bugging me here. First, she is normal. Seriously, everyday normal.  Gap ad, sidekick girl on a sitcom, best friend's hot sister normal. You get what I am saying. The whole point of why the goth-punk scene even started was because these guys could not get with the normal girls. Yet here she sits re-writing all the rules of the 80’s social norms. John Hughes must be rolling over in his grave.

Second, she is laughing out loud, and I mean loudly, to what is written down in the pages of his notebook.  I never let anybody read the pages of my journal and if they did they would not be laughing.  Maybe snickering about how dreadful my writing is but other than that there would be no emotion except maybe disgust.

I pack up my stuff and head out the door.  No answer to my problem. I walk. I walk down the street in no direction, just walking around.  Christian book store...I’ll go in there.

I opened the door to a used book store merged with a flee market of Christian paraphernalia.  It's a mecca of Jesus statues in all different shapes and sizes.

A kindly Nun sits in the front corner of the shop; her only purpose seems to be greeting shoppers.  She looks at me and says “Now, there's a man who knows what he's looking for.” Me: “Sorry Sister, I have no idea.”

I browse the store for the next fifteen minutes.  I feel obligated to spend some time searching for something that may interest me. The kindly Nun seemed so sure of herself that I knew what I was looking for.

I make my way back to the front door hoping to leave unnoticed. No such luck. The Nun stops me and asked: “Did you find it?” Me: “Does anybody ever find it, Sister?” We both give a small laugh, she gets me.

“Hey Sonny”, the Nun calls out to me: “How about some Pittsburgh Steelers Rosary beads? You have to have faith in them?”  Me: “Sorry Sister, my faith is not that strong. I’ll save my prayers for other things.” She places the Rosary beads back into her pocket.


My 1st Exhibit

Encore presents “Pittsburgh At Night” 
A photography exhibit by John Craig 

Join us for a memorable opening
Date: 11/16/12
Time: 7:30
Place: 502 West North Ave 
           PGH, PA 15212

The show is private and by invitation only for the members of “Encores”.  Encores is a Pittsburgh-based membership organization that focuses on networking, self-exploration and renewal of both personal and professional life. 

The exhibit will feature 15 to 20 portraits.



Current Reading: Sit Dow andShut Up by Brad Warner
Current Music: Little Moon by Grant Lee Phillips
Sounds: Keys typing and humming fan
Mood: Cloudy
Smells: Coffee & waffles
Temperature: 61 degrees
Thoughts: Small desires



I have always thought that I have been in search of simplicity, but no, I have been seeking elegance of systems. Now, elegance of systems is not a new techie buzz word, but a flow of how life and art combine into the balance of livable moments.

An easy example of elegance happened to me last week on a trail run.  I was on the Virginia Creeper trail, located on the White Top mountain, VA.

Beauty and simplicity surrounded me.

I ran along a dirt path that weaved in and out of fields of wildflowers, grazing farm land with horses and dense patches of deep forest.  It was one of those runs that you read about in magazines; one of those run that you say to yourself, I have to go there, do that run some day.

For me it was all a surprise as I had not idea what this run was going to be like or how speculator it would be to me.  And the best yet, to use the words "life-changing" would be wrong but it's the closest words I have to describe this experience of this moment of elegance.

Then I ran upon an old railroad truss bridge.  The track had been removed decades ago but the wood beams stood strong and preserved my passage over the creek bed below me. Before I could cross over I stood back and stared at the sight in front of me.  Wishing I had a camera in my hand to share this sight with you.  I will be going back in October of this year to create this shoot.

Here it was: elegance. Nature, man's handmade bride and time all working in harmony to give me this breathtaking moment.  All the systems of beauty and simplicity right there in front of me.  This is what I want to do, this is what I want to show the world but no camera, so I run along the trail waiting to discover what laid ahead.

When I came out of the forest and was talking with the locals about my experience and what I saw the first thing they told me was that they have hiked this trail for the better part of their lives and have not noticed the beauty of what I was sharing with them.

That conversation is what gave me the thought of “elegance of systems” in life.

Photography is the elegance of systems; seeing the beauty, with the ability to capture the exposure, to preserve time, to share the work with others. This is what I love about creating photos.

Art, Beauty & Truth



Ok, I have been a bad blogger; sorry about that.  For the past 7yrs I have been diligent in keeping this blog updated. If I was going to take time off I would let you know.

What have I been up to, you ask? I hope you're asking. I hope I still have readers left.

For the past 12 days I’ve left you hanging without explanation of what was going on. Here it is in one short word ~ Joy

I have been out traveling the roads doing random good deeds. Seriously, I have been spreading joy over four different states. I have spread joy in cities and on mountain tops. I have spread joy in small historic towns and vast suburbs with loop-dee-loop streets.  I have spread joy over expansive interstates, turnpikes and along gravelly roads.

If you yourself have felt exceedingly extra happy it is because I have randomly spread joy to your part of the world.  And if by chance you live on the west coast and have not felt the influx of extra joy in your life over these past 12 days, it is because I was not on the west coast.  It is with deep apologies that I ask my west coast readers to forgive me.  Maybe next year I’ll spread joy your way but no promises.

Joy spreading is an act of random possibilities; you just never know when the joy spreading bug may strike me.

I’ll be writing, sharing, teaching lots of new stuff here daily (almost daily).  My new theme for photography, business and life is “Elegance”. Been doing lots of thinking on this topic.


2013 Pittsburgh Photography Workshop | Beginner’s DSLR Workshop

Lear how to photograph like (This) or (This)

#1 Workshop - Photo 101
My annual weekend-after-the-Super-Bowl photography workshop.
This class is a “Beginners DSLR Photography”
Date: 2/10/13

Registration: (HERE)

#2 Our New Workshop ~ 
Glamour & Boudoir Portraiture Weekend Workshop

Photo 101 Beginners DSLR class
Date: March 1st

Working with natural light
Choosing locations for outdoor shooting
Getting what you want out of your clients
Watch a live photo shoot (with hair/makeup/wardrobe stylist and model)
Styling - hair make up and wardrobe
Date: March 2nd

Creating the experience
Marketing and Biz tips
Date: March 3rd

Registration (HERE)



Current Reading: Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner
Current Music: Blunderbuss by Jack White
Sounds: Birds, typing keys, refrigerator humming
Mood: Good
Smells: Toast
Temperature: High of 84 degrees
Thoughts: Keep your faith (but) question your beliefs


Inspire * Commit * Doubt

As of late I have been receiving e-mails about how my story has inspired people to commit to a healthier life. In all honesty it feels great to receive these notes of commitment.  Please keep them coming.

People are running races, biking the trails, starting advocacy work, eating plant-based diets...and I love it, I love it, I love it. I know this sounds new-agey but I believe it is a manifestation of the intentions that I have placed. Never thought my thoughts could create...well they do. I learned this in many different avenues of my life.  Prayer, purpose and effort will carry you far…but do not forget the hard work: intentions love sweat.

Last year when I had my coming-out-of-the-closet experience (so to speak) of telling the world that I was and have been living with a chronic disease for the past six plus years, at no time did I think it would lead me to what is happening all around me today.

My not telling the world was a heavy burden on my heart for too long.  Not once did I want people to look at me as the sick kid, never did I want my clients knowing that I had a disease, never did I want my daughter to think of her Dad as sickly… Never did I want the world seeing me as those close few did.

During a conversation with a Zen Chaplin, in which he out right told me it is nothing special having a disease, an internal extraordinary shift happened inside me. I had to question hard what for so long I held onto as a belief that I was doing the right thing. Damn that was difficult to hear, but deep inside I knew he was right.

One of the great thing about having a disease is the specialness that comes along with it.  Yeah, your sick most of the time and ok, you have to deal with pain or disabilities but hey, it also comes with the get-out-of-jail-free card that you can use anytime you want.  And we/I used it, all too often. And sometimes, just sometimes, it feels really good knowing that you are holding on to that card.

Little did I know it was nothing special telling the world, he was right.  Nobody cared or at least that’s what I thought at the time.  Nobody cared about the disease, but they did care about me and how I decided to live with the preternatural monkey on my back.

Today I run, bike, eat a plant-based diet, volunteer at a hospice center, meditate and do yoga. I have a wife, a daughter and a photography business that I share with my wife (honestly she does the bulk of the work, I mainly carry heavy things and look good).  I feel happy with the life that I have built alongside my wife...but it is nothing special; it’s only life.

After writing the paragraph like the one above my ego self destructs then reincarnates right in front of me and then proceeds to slap me in the face, all the while calling me an ass that I just listed the random stuff that I am into...nothing special is right, jackass.

This past year I have been battling my ego and my purpose on the topic of “who am I?”...and nobody cares who I am...very existential of me.

Last August I published a blog post titled: “Living life with the heart of a servant and the strength of a fighter”. Inside that I post I wrote “I want to be the Lance Armstrong of MS/DD. I want to start telling the world about how to be healthy while having a disease without a cure. Armstrong did this with cancer and a bike. I want to do this with MS/DD, a camera, a pen and my feet.” Receiving the e-mails over this past year has made me feel great about what I wrote a year ago.  I also reflect on the fact that I can do none of this for anybody but myself. I will never, nor should I, strive to be Lance Armstrong

Lesson learned ~ Who am I? I am this moment.

I found my spirt after searching for the majority of my life...I can always remember searching for my spirit but I can not recall ever losing it in the first place.  It’s an odd thing seeking something that was never lost in the first place.  Despite that fact, we all seem to seek after the magical bugger that we collectively call “spirit”.

My spirit, my connectedness to my place in this universe, was aloof.  I was looking in all the wrong places. Hence, it was not a “point of enlightenment” or “dark night of the soul” that brought me to this realization...it was my elbows. Yes, my elbows. What an inconsequential body part. You can’t ever really even see them without having to twist and tort your body in an uncomfortable way, but nonetheless these nubs on the back of my arms would turn out to be the awakening that I have been seeking.  How could elbows hold the answers to life’s question, you ask?

Sitting on my meditation cushion in the act of meditating poorly (in all truth most meditators meditate poorly. It’s long, boring and uncomfortable but yet we do it because all the Sages, Prophets and Oprah tell us it’s good to do...and it is) and an unimportant insignificant thought popped into my mind: and awareness that my elbows are always there and ever-present in the moment and all I had to do was notice them.

There is no moment that is special.  My elbows and chronic disease has taught me that.  Spirit is nothing special; it is simply noticing the moment that you are in.

There it was. That item that I never lost...my spirit showing me its original face. I smile back and then my shadow, my spirit and me all go outside holding hands for a smoothie...spirits love smoothies.

Lessened learned ~ Give up on your beliefs and question everything.

Along with a diagnosis of a chronic disease comes a new set of beliefs.  I have no idea how we get this new set of beliefs but all that I know for sure is that it happens somewhere between the doctors’ waiting rooms, standing in line at the pharmacy and doing Google searches. We are magically anointed with a new set of beliefs.

Doubt your beliefs...a lot of bad things happen due to beliefs.  Most evil is done all over the world due to extreme and confident beliefs.  Bigotry, racism, holy wars, terrorism and anti-anything is all done because of our beliefs.  Your beliefs can keep you sick.  A chronic disease does not mean that you have to live with an illness 100% of the time,

Keep your faith but question your beliefs.

Have faith in that nagging calling deep in your gut. That mystical rascal is holding onto some truth that is a perfect fit for you “right now” and in “this moment”.  But don’t forget the belief in doubt. Doubt will tell you to get off your ass and do something...and doing something is much better than sitting down on your beliefs.

Inspire yourself, commit to this moment.

(You may also like)

Radical Reversal: The History of my Future.


30 Seconds to Findability

(This article was written for the member's of Encores.  I wanted to share it with you)  
Thirty seconds is it… 30 seconds to a new client or 30 seconds to a failed business venture. 

Thirty seconds is how much time and effort somebody will put in when trying to find your business online. Thirty seconds of browsing time on Google...that is it.  If you are skilled enough to have your biz come up on page one of Google then the next 30 seconds are even more crucial…that is how long a person will scan your site making a judgement if they want to stay or click away.

Thirty seconds to findability and how a photograph could save your business.

How a photo can grow your biz.

Did you know that you can embed information about your business into a photo that only Google can read? Title, keywords, tags and descriptions are not only for text; you can use that same information embedded into the meta data of a photo.  What this means for you is that now your website findability has just doubled, allowing the Google Bots to read twice the amount of information...in-turn your search engine ranking has just improved.  Pretty cool, huh? And to’s a simple solution to improving your SEO (a.k.a. Findability).

How a photo can save your biz.

Who actually reads a website? We scan, we glance, we give it the quick once-over.  What we do not do is spend time drudging through text trying to discover if this is a place I want to be. What does your Google analytics tell you? I bet your bounce rate for first time visitors is 30 seconds or less.

If your message is not communicated in the the first 30 seconds then we click away leaving a lost client diving back into the Googleverse.

Thirty seconds: live or die. First impression is all you get; make it simple, impactful, and most off all be sure it communicates your purpose.  A photo can tell a story of a 1,000 words. Remember a 1,000 words of written text is the kiss of death for a biz site.


Good photos for small businesses are almost non-existent. Let me show you how a simple, clean and purposeful photo with three bullet points of text can communicate the “What/How/Why” of your business and all in 30 seconds.

Insanely usefully business tips….
* Double your meta data, double your findability
* A good photo will: define what you do, define what you do not do and most importantly it will communicate what you want to do for your new client.