Bells Are Ringing and Clowns Are … Laughing?

My grandma was no Clark Griswold in the outdoor Christmas Decorations Department.  Inside, though, she used to really go all out.  Well, at least she did before she moved to her condo.

She had a large mantle along the fireplace that she decorated every year.  She had Christmas trees, reindeer, a Santa sleigh, angels, and more.  On both sides of the fireplace, there were cement “pads” (really the only way I can think to describe them).  She usually placed a small Christmas tree on each side and surrounded them with more trinkets.  I know I had pictures of just the mantle somewhere, but can’t seem to find it. However, you get the basic idea from this cheesy photo of my brother and me.

One of the trinkets was a plastic mouse that had hair on the head.  The hair made it look like one of those toy trolls.  It never made sense to me as to why she always had that in there.  I asked her one year and she explained that she had been sick or in the hospital one time and my folks sent her some flowers or a plant or something … from me.  The mouse was part of the bouquet and she kept it.  Sadly, it is one of the things that have disappeared and no one knows where it went.

As years went by, many of the same decorations were there. Note the Mrs. Santa Clause to the right of the Millennium Falcon box below. It always seemed to be out. This particular year, there was a set of shelves next to the TV. On top of it was her manger scene (behind my brother on the left). The silver star lit up above the baby Jesus. This may have been the manger set my mom made in ceramics, I can’t be sure.

For as long as grandma was in her house on Huntington, every Christmas she would hang these melted plastic decorations up on the wall. These were very popular in the 1970’s I guess.  She had Santa in a sleigh being pulled by 9 reindeer….all Rudolph because that was all they made.

Those plastic decorations were something we had at our house, too.  I remember the snowman, the Christmas tree, waving Santa, and the wreath.  I did a search online and found that there were quite a bit of them. There were even some made for Thanksgiving and Easter.

In her front room, there was usually her big tree (eventually it was the ceramic one my mom made for her) right in the center of the front window and some garland around pictures.  There might have been a wreath on the door, too.  We didn’t go in this room much.  It was the “fancy” room.  Most of the breakable stuff was in there. Here are my grandparents in there around 1967-1968.

Bells and Clowns

I’m not sure what made me remember this particular decoration, but it was one of two very annoying things that grandma brought out every year. It was a simple, clear, red plastic bell that played music. It didn’t look anything like the bell in the video below.

I tried to search for it online and I found something similar to the one grandma had, but it isn’t THE one. Grandma’s was just a bell with a Christmas light inside of it that lit up in synch with the electronic music that was playing. I found this clip on YouTube which is almost the exact same music.

The missing holiday favorite from the clip is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Grandma’s bell played it and when it did the Christmas light inside blinked like it was a strobe light. It always made my grandma laugh. It made us laugh, too, the first couple times we heard it. After that it got annoying. She would turn it on and you’d have to listen to the first 7 or 8 carols before Rudolph played. When it did, she’d crack up. It was obnoxiously annoying.

The second annoying “decoration” she had was this scary looking clown doll. Now, what this clown had to do with Christmas I will never know. It wasn’t even dressed in Christmas colors.

This ugly thing would sit somewhere near the fire place among the rest of the decorations. Throughout each of our visits, grandma would walk over, pick it up and press the belly. Inside the clown was a “laugh box.” It would laugh for 20-30 seconds and it would crack my grandma up.

You can see the pure joy on her face in the above picture. To a degree, the laugh kind of reminded me of how my grandpa laughed, so maybe that is why she loved it so much. Every video I found on YouTube of the clown laughing, it sounds speeded up. I did, however find a video of just the laugh box and it plays at the speed my grandma’s clown laughed.

Imagine hearing that 4-5 times during an hour visit! I was always glad when that clown finally got put away!

As annoying as they were, I’d give anything to be able to go back to the days of that clown and that bell! So many Christmas memories involved my grandparents. Whether it was my mom’s folks …

… or my dad’s folks ….

I’d put up with those annoying sounds for however long I had to – just to have a few more minutes with them again!

Are We Creative Enough To Do This For a Month?

I swore up and down that I would never do the whole Elf on the Shelf thing.  Sometimes, however, circumstances make you go back on your word.

My mother-in-law sent home an Elf on the Shelf before Thanksgiving.  So now, we’re in it to win it.  Ok, we’ll do the best we can to make it happen!

The story (as I’ve heard it) behind this whole thing is that some kids wondered how Santa could know how kids were bad or good.  The answer?  He sends these “scouting” elves to the homes of children to watch them.  At bedtime, they go back to the North Pole and report to Santa.  They return before morning and find a different place to keep an eye on the children. The child cannot touch the elf, or it loses its magic and may not return.  This could easily get them on the naughty list! 

As a parent, it’s our job to find a creative place to place the elf every night.  You have no doubt seen many of the humorous things people have come up with.  Some are not very kid friendly.

The story says that once the child names their elf, they get their magic and officially become part of the family.  After some discussion Ella passed on Snowflake and instead decided on Twinkle (which has since become Twinkles).

A buddy of mine noted that from far away, you can’t really tell if the elf is a boy or a girl. Close up you can see ours is a girl.

And for those who still want to question it … it says she is a girl right on the box!

Anyway, we watched a short movie on Netflix with Ella and Andrew, read the book that told the story, and then they were off to bed. Day 1 was a simple one. Right above the fireplace on the mantle.

Twinkles and her snowman buddy

Day 2’s idea was found in the internet. We grabbed one of her mini Nana blankets to make it work. Twinkles camped out in the fridge.

Chilly, but elves are used to that, right?!

Sam worked the next night, so it was up to me to think of what to do. This may or may not have been influenced by an action movie or two. Twinkles was zip lining to the Christmas tree.

For day 4, I wanted to have her hanging from the ceiling fan, but the bucket/cup I put her in kept tipping and she’d fall out. Instead, I used the cup and hung her from the magnetic clip on the side door. It kinda looks like the hot air balloon ride went wrong and she crash landed on the clip.

This morning, on Facebook, my friends Matt and Tricia posted that they got an elf for their son. I immediately commented and told them I was glad that there would be someone I could steal ideas from!

The elf goes “home” Christmas Eve … feel free to share your ideas, too!! Kid friendly, of course.

Merry and Bright

Before Thanksgiving, there was a perfect 70 degree day.  That was the day I should have put the Christmas lights up outside.  I didn’t.  Thankfully, I took advantage of a breezy 50ish degree day and was outside rigging up the lights.

After I finished, the following conversation took place between my wife and me:

Sam: Uh, what’s that big bunch of wires wrapped to the post?

Me: So, there was a strand of lights where only half were lighting up. Those are the ones that didn’t light up!

Sam: That really looks bad

Me:. No one’s gonna see those from outside. Especially in the dark!!

Man logic. 

I was not about to go through bulb by bulb to check them.  (I actually swapped out the first bulb that was out, but when it didn’t work, I was done with that!). And I certainly wasn’t going to buy an entire new strand of lights!  I had already gone through the countless strands and replaced those bulbs that were physically broken.  That took enough of my time. 

So behind a post, there is a bunch of bulbs wrapped together … And out of site from anyone looking at it from the front.

These don’t work!

When all is said and done, it looks good at night!

Side porch.  Lit up and festive.

I really need to do more in the front of the house.  I always feel like it’s not enough.

Front porch

The ground was already hard, so I couldn’t get the stakes in for the large Christmas bulbs we usually put out.  So their absence already makes it look “half done.”

I really need to get a big ladder. We don’t have one. I’m sure I could probably borrow one from a neighbor, but I never ask. I would love to do up along the roof. Those icicle lights would probably look good and can’t be that hard to hang.

Maybe next year.

It’s Off To The North Pole!

Here is just another reason I love our neighborhood.

Our neighborhood has a Facebook page. We can all communicate with each other on it. This is the same page where I found out a neighbor needed their lawn mowed a while back. It is also the page that we found out about a neighbor girl was selling lemonade one hot summer day. It is such a neat way for us all to keep in touch.

Last week, a neighbor posted that “Santa’s mailbox” was up once again in her yard. Kids in the neighborhood could write their letters to Santa and drop them in the box. Our neighbor said that each letter would be answered by Old St. Nick!

Ella had me help her write her (and Andrew’s) letter. After I wrote the letter, she drew some pictures to include in the envelope. I addressed the envelope and we took a short walk to drop it off.

We were instructed to put in in a plastic bag, just in case it was wet outside. It was a short walk and she was always a few steps ahead of me!

It wasn’t long before we spotted the house and the mailbox.

I asked if she wanted me to help her, but she knew exactly what to do!

She did need a bit of help getting the door back on … It popped off as she was putting her envelope in it.

And just like that – her letter was set to go to the North Pole!

I am excited to see the response. Our neighbor said that ours was their first letter. We really have some amazing neighbors.

Any letter we got from Santa always looked like my dad’s handwriting! One year, we got a Santa letter from my grandma…..and my dad. I think they told us Santa has a lot of secretaries or something to get us to stop asking questions.

I can’t wait for her to get a response. I love the holidays!

Thanksgiving 2022 Recap

The holiday weekend is winding down and I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Ours was a good day filled with great food and family.

The day started with a quick game of hide and seek.

We watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The kids loved seeing Josh from Blue’s Clues and Bluey in the parade!

After breakfast, we prepared the deviled eggs to bring. Sam said she didn’t have paprika. She chuckled when I told her I never liked when my mom put it on the deviled eggs! Then we all started to get ready to go to Sam’s mom’s for dinner.

The loss of my sister-in-law, Grace, is still very fresh. It helped to have family together. There was a lot of love and great conversation throughout the day.

We had an amazing dinner, prepared by my mother-in-law: turkey, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese and so much more. There was no shortage of desserts either!

The Detroit Lions actually gave us a good game to watch, despite losing in the last 23 seconds. It would have been nice to see them win their fourth in a row.

I got to finally meet my newest niece, Arabella. She is a little cutie! She’s only a few months old, but she’s almost as big as Andrew!

I dropped the ball this year and didn’t really take many pictures. My sister in law snapped a candid of the family as we were leaving which I just love.

I love it because it is typical chaos. It looks like Sam is asking me something and I am oblivious. Ella is waving and Andrew is like, “can we just go home now?”

We came home and relaxed the rest of the night, just enjoying family time.

As I turned off the lights and headed off to bed, I reflected again o just how thankful I am for my wonderful family.

Holiday Recycling Project – The Year Without a Santa Claus

In December of 2019, I took part in The Happy Holidays Blogathon. For that event, I chose to write about one of my favorite holiday specials – The Year Without a Santa Claus. This special is obviously a favorite for many other people, too. I say that because every year since I posted it, it has been one of the Top 10 most read blogs on my site.

For new followers, here is a link to that original post:

Recently, on Facebook, I was able to connect with Rick Goldschmidt. He is the official historian and biographer of Rankin Bass productions. He has written quite a few books about some of the beloved holiday specials as well as a book about all of them. I am currently saving up some money to get the 20th Anniversary Edition of The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass.

In messaging back and forth, I saw that a soundtrack for The Year Without a Santa Claus was available. I received one from Rick with autographed photos of Snow Miser and Heat Miser. I popped the CD in my car and was blown away at the sound quality.

The great thing about this CD is that it not only includes the songs from the show, it also includes the background music. I loved every minute of it!! If you are a fan of this holiday special, you can inquire about getting a copy of the soundtrack, books, and more at the following website:

http://www.miserbros.com

Rick has been busy getting items out for Christmas, and I am sure that you can nab something for the Rankin/Bass fan on your Christmas list from the site.

Rick wrote a piece that is featured in the December issue of Remind magazine about Paul Coker Jr. Paul was the guy who designed some of the most memorable Rankin/Bass characters, including the Miser Brothers. It is on newsstands now and available for you to check out.

Thanks again, Rick, for the photos and soundtrack! Thanks for keeping the characters of these holiday specials alive for years to come!

Friday Photo Flashback

Time for another edition of the Friday Photo Flashback. Today, we go back to May of 1987 to the annual Band Banquet.

I stumbled on the above photo in a stack of pictures from my dad. I realize that the photo is a bit blurry, but if you look carefully, you will see that I have a conductor’s baton sticking in my shirt collar. This was just one of many things our band director, Tom Shaner, used to do.

If you are not familiar with the story, I blogged about it when Mr. Shaner passed away. Here is an excerpt from that blog:

My junior year of high school, the band officers were discussing the agenda for the annual Band Banquet. We needed one more speech, so I said I’d get up and do an imitation of Mr. Shaner. That night I was nervous. I got up and started my speech by saying “The longer you’re in band, the more Mr. Shaner starts to grow on you…” with that I ducked under the podium and threw on a bald cap. I then put a baton in the back of my shirt collar like he did. I “yelled” about how nobody practiced, talked about retiring and some of the other things he used to say. As the laughter died down, I realized I hadn’t written an “out”. I went on to thank Mr. Shaner for the many times he opened his office to listen to me talk about life, and issues I was dealing with. I don’t recall all I said, but I got pretty emotional and ended by telling him I loved him. He got up and we hugged. Somewhere I have a picture of that moment.

I actually found that photo, too!

Back to the first photo. We did our band banquets at this little VFW Hall every year. I remember the sound system being just awful. If you touched the microphone the wrong way, it became all static and no one could understand what you were saying. The set up for the banquet was pretty much the same every year. The officers all sat up front and each of us had a responsibility. Some gave out awards, others gave out letters, some introduced speakers, etc.

As I look at this photo, Joe is wearing sunglasses to my right. I can’t remember exactly why he was wearing them. He may have had his eyes dilated or something. To my left is our band president (who sadly just passed away unexpectedly) Ingrid. You really can’t see her, however, it looks like she is covering her face. I guess I’d like to think she’s covering her face saying to herself, “Oh my gosh, why did we let him talk!?” To her left is Ron, our second drum major. I love that he is cracking up in the picture. His laugh was so boisterous!

This is one of those times I wish I still had the video of this, or at least a panoramic picture of the officer’s table. There was a lot of laughter that year, and Mr. Shaner waited a full year to get me back. You can read about that and him here:

These two photos remind me of such a fun time. Those band banquets were such fun. After dinner and all of the awards and speeches, there was a live band that played music all night. There was plenty of dancing and many laughs. It was always a very special night for us.

Giving Thanks (Updated)

When I worked on the radio, we would often “recycle” bits. We would take something we had done in the past and “re-run” it, often updating it to be current. This blog is actually a recycling of an earlier Thanksgiving blog from three years ago, updated for 2022. I have gained many new followers over the past few years, all of this will be new to them. For those who have been with me from the beginning, I hope you don’t think I am being lazy. By recycling this, I am reminded of just how blessed I am!

Updated 2022

The blatant truth is that we should be thankful for everything in our lives. One of my favorite Bible verses is I Thessalonians 5: 18 which reads “In everything give thanks”. That means good things and bad things – and that’s sometimes hard to do! Believe me, I know from experience! Well, here goes…my list, in no particular order:

Things I am thankful for

My parents. Let’s face it, without them, I wouldn’t be here. I was blessed with a mother and father who raised me right. They supported decisions (good and bad) and were always there for me. Even though my mom is no longer here, her presence is ever-present. Dad is always around to talk music, old movies, and more. As with most holidays, he will be the first call I receive this morning. Laughing with him is always something I am thankful for. The kids always look forward to their Sunday morning video chat with Papa, too!

My wife. Without her, I wouldn’t be here either. She saved me and I am forever grateful. She came into my life at a very turbulent time – first as a friend, and then as someone much more than that. She made me smile and laugh during a time where there was little or no happiness. She cried with me and was a great support through very dark days. Thanks to her, I have found an unconditional love. I cannot imagine life without her, nor would I want to. She accepts me with all my faults and quirks. She makes me feel special. She makes me fall in love with her more each day. She completes me and I am thankful to have her in my life each and every second of the day.

We’ve experienced many changes over the last couple years. With the addition of our two kids, life is a bit more stressful and we’re a bit more tired. The “us” time has been lacking a lot. I need to make it a point to make more “us” time. I need to make sure that I don’t let all of the stresses in life make me forget how important she is to me. I need to step up – listen, love, and support her in ways that she truly needs.

My daughter, Ella. When I originally wrote this blog, she wasn’t even born yet. What a joy Ella is to have around. Her personality shines through now. It has been fun to watch her blossom into a toddler. She is so smart. Her imagination flourishes. I love sitting on the family room floor and “playing princesses” with her. I love watching Bubble Guppies with her. I could listen to her sing the songs from Frozen all day. She will forever have me wrapped around her finger! I’m so thankful for my princess.

My son, Andrew. He is the busiest baby I have ever had! Wow, do I wish I had his energy! Talk about a one track mind! He is forever grabbing for cell phones, TV remotes, and whatever toy Ella has. He was walking early and he hasn’t stopped. Now he is climbing all over the place. It is funny to see the relationship that he has with Ella. They truly love each other, but at the same time, they love to aggravate each other, too. It is rare to see him without a smile on his face. He’s a handful, but I wouldn’t change him for the world!

My sons, Dante’ and Dimitri. They could not be more different from each other. They both have their own talents. They remind me so much of my brother and I when we were growing up! They are creative. They are silly. They are loving. They are smart. They make me laugh and drive me crazy! I miss them when they are not with me and I love when we are together. I love to think back and remember the things they did as babies and I love to think about what they will do in the future. They make me proud of all their accomplishments. It is crazy to see how much they have grown. Dante’ is working hard and going to college, and Dimitri is in high school. I’m thankful for both of them.

My brother. Just like my sons, we couldn’t be more different. Growing up, we tormented each other! He has listened to me complain about life. He has offered advice on more than one occasion. He, in my opinion, is the more successful of the two of us! He has written – and published – books! He has made his way up the ladder at his job and is now a “big wig”. I am envious of him. Over the years, we’ve grown closer and are working separately (and together) on a project that will honor our mother. This project will only bring us closer – which I look forward to very much. Some of the stuff I have written for the project has been posted on this blog. There is still work to do, and it is slowly coming together. We really need to get together and see where we are at with things.

He has been an absolutely amazing Uncle to the kids. Ella just might have him wrapped around her finger, too. There always seems to be some package arriving for her or Andrew with Disney loot in it! Despite the miles, they kids love being able to video chat with him when they can.

My job. It’s really an amazing thing to help people. So many patients come in to our lab who are struggling with poor sleep, insomnia, apnea, narcolepsy, and other sleep disorders. To be able to offer advice, help them get therapy, and in some cases, save their life, it is pretty satisfying. I am lucky to have some pretty cool co-worker friends, too.

My education. For years, my mother begged me to go to college. She had sadly passed away before I finally enrolled in classes. I am grateful to have had some of the finest instructors and professors to guide me and teach me in my journey. Not only did I gain a degree, but I made many new friendships with classmates and teachers. I still hope to one day further my education.

My friends. Napoleon Hill said, “That man is rich indeed who had more friends than enemies…” I am truly a rich man! I am lucky enough to have made many friends throughout my life. Many of them I have known for over 40 years! So many good times! So many good memories! I am thankful for each of them!

My enemies. Yes, my enemies. First of all, they make me more appreciative and thankful for my friends! Second, they actually help me, too. How? Here is a great quote (I wish I knew who said it) “Your enemies evolve you at the core. They force you to defend and endure more than you thought possible.” Yes, my enemies may be full of hatred toward me. They may spread rumors about me. They may discredit me and bash me, but I am stronger because of their ignorance and loathing. Over the last few years, I have gained lots of strength!

My faith. It may not be important to you, but it is to me. I am thankful for God, His Word, His Son, and all that He has done for me. I am thankful for His unconditional love for me. No matter how many times I mess up, He is still there for me – loving me. That just amazes me.

Modern Medicine. We are blessed to live in a time where medical advances are curing diseases and saving lives! While there is a long way to go, and there are still many diseases that need a cure – we continue to make progress. I am thankful for the great minds who strive to find the answers, treatments, and cures. I hope to see cures for things like cancer in my lifetime.

Coffee. I was 12 when my grandpa introduced coffee to me (it was probably more cream and sugar than coffee, but I liked it.) Coffee has helped me through many overnight shifts on the radio, many 12 hour shifts in the sleep lab, and is just perfect to drink on a chilly autumn morning. I am also thankful for some of the wonderful flavors.

My country. I am thankful to live in the United States of America. I am thankful that we live in a country that allows us many freedoms. While I have not visited every state in the union, I can tell you that on a recent road trip, I was in awe of the beauty that I witnessed while driving. I am thankful and proud to be an American!

Cameras/Photographs/Videos. How many precious moments and memories have been captured by cameras? Without cameras how many things would be forgotten? Think about all of the historical pictures that have meant so much over the years. Now think about how looking at old family photos can immediately place you back in that exact moment with loved ones! Think about how awesome it is to watch an old home movie and hear the voices of loved ones who are no longer here. I am SO thankful for the memories that have been preserved for me on film.

I sometimes look like the crazy dad. I seem to always be taking pictures of the kids, but I do that because I want to remember these times. I don’t ever want them not to have pictures of themselves or their relatives.

Dreams and the ability to dream. I am thankful that every now and then, I will have a dream where I am once again talking with my mom or my grandparents. In the original blog, I mentioned that in my Facebook Memories for that day I mentioned a dream I had where I was hanging out with Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin – only in dreams!! The morning of the baby shower, I dreamed about my mom. Dreams are really interesting things!

My Past. Sometimes looking back at the past can be painful. Hindsight is 20/20, right? It’s always easy to look back and see the mistakes you have made and kick yourself for making them. I look at it another way – I am who I am today because of my past. The things that have happened to me along the way – both good and bad – are a part of who I am and have played a role in who I am today. Yes, I can look back and see people or events that disgust me, but without them – I’d be a very different person.

Air Conditioning/Heat. As someone who loves to go to museums and such, I always wondered how people got along without AC in the summertime or heat in the winter! I can’t imagine having to wake up in the middle of the night to add more wood to the fire or wood stove. I also can’t imagine working 8 hours a day in a place without AC! I am very thankful for those two modern-day conveniences!

Sunrises and Sunsets. One of my guilty pleasures is sitting and watching the sun come up or go down. When I lived on the west side of the state (Michigan), I was lucky enough to live right off the water. I would often go to the beach and just watch the sun set over the lake. It was majestic and beautiful! I am so thankful for these two simple things. Today, with my schedule, I tend to see more sunrises than sunsets.

Laughter/Humor. I love to laugh and I love the sound of laughter! I also love to make people laugh. I am so thankful for things that are funny and things that make me laugh. Charlie Chaplin said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” Milton Berle said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.” Another great quote is “Life is short. Spend it with people who make you laugh and feel loved.”

Music. I am thankful for music in SO many ways. Music, is one of those things that can evoke all kinds of emotions. A song, just like an old photograph, can take you back in time. In radio, we used to play what we called “Oh Wow” songs. Those songs that make you say, “Oh wow! I haven’t heard that in forever!” or “Oh wow! That reminds me of my senior prom!” Music is one of life’s great things! It can convey things with or without words. One of my favorite quotes, which is attributed to Hans Christian Anderson, is “Where words fail – music speaks.” SO True! I am thankful for some of the many music blogs I follow. They often remind me of some of those “Oh wow” songs!

The Kindness of Strangers. I have benefited from the kindness of strangers more times than I can count. We saw a brief surge of random acts of kindness when the movie “Pay It Forward” came out, and it is a shame that those acts have fizzled out. The world would be a better place if we took a moment and thought of others. There have been plenty of times where someone in front of me has bought my coffee at the drive-thru window, and I have returned the favor. I remember one time seeing an elderly gentleman eating alone in a restaurant. He never knew who I was, but I saw his World War II Veteran hat. I bought his meal and told the waitress to tell him that I thank him for his service. Random acts of kindness are not just something we can accept – they are something we can do.

Those who have served in the Armed Forces. We live in a free country because of the men and women who have served in the various branches of the military. I am thankful to each and every one of them. I know that our freedom came with a price and so many men and women paid the ultimate price for me – and you. Those that have served, no matter what branch and no matter if you were in battle or not, you are a hero! I am thankful for you and your service! I have friends and family who all served, and I am thankful for these heroes!

The Changing Seasons. Here in Michigan, I get to see them all! Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. The first snowfall is beautiful. Ice storms can be hell! Springtime showers and the grass turning green is a reminder of things becoming new again. Summertime is never long enough, but getting the chance to swim at the pool, golfing, and the smell of fresh-cut grass can always make me smile. Fall is my favorite season! This year we got hit with some early snow, so the joke is that Fall was the best “three days of the year”! The crisp cool air of autumn is perfect for bonfires. I’m sad to admit that we didn’t get to have any bonfires this year. The leaves changing colors makes for some spectacular rides on the highway. At any rate, I am thankful to get to experience each one of the seasons.

Spell Checker. Without this, I really don’t know what I would do! I remember all those spelling tests from school! The problem is, as I get older, I seem to have forgotten how to spell. Spell Check is one of those great features that got me through many a research paper in college. It can also be very helpful here in my blog. Of course, sometimes, you can misspell a word that is the correct spelling of another word, so it isn’t foolproof. I’m thankful for it anyway!

The often overlooked necessities. I could easily make these each an item on this list. I guess these are often things that are taken for granted. For example, my home. I am thankful to have a roof over my head to protect me from the elements. I am thankful for the clothes that I wear. I am thankful for fresh water and hot showers. Those two go together and, while it is often taken for granted, there are those who do not enjoy those simple things. I am thankful for electricity. While there are times I think it is cool to sit and read a book by candlelight because of a power outage, I’d rather have the light – and everything else that uses it. I am thankful for a good meal. Sometimes that meal may consist of a simple bowl of cereal, but the fact that I have food to eat is something that some people don’t have.

Bad Days. As much as we’d rather not have them, it is important to remember that when we have them, they remind us of just how awesome the good days are! I am thankful for bad days, but even more thankful for the good ones! I am also thankful that in the big picture – I have had more good ones than bad ones.

The Internet. It’s funny how we lived so long without it, yet we can’t really live without it today! I mean, without it, you wouldn’t be reading this! I am thankful for it and the good things associated with it. I am thankful to be able to connect with family and friends across the miles with social media. I am thankful that at any moment, I can open up Google and find an answer to a silly question. I am thankful that my kids and I can use it instead of encyclopedias to do research. So many things are at our fingertips because of the internet.

A good book/movie/TV show. I really enjoy being able to get lost in a good story. I love to read, but sadly don’t really get the time to do it as often as I’d like to. Same with a good movie. With movies, there are very few new movies that appeal to me. As most of you know, I prefer older films (you know, the ones that are so good some jerk in Hollywood decides to remake it and ruin it). I don’t need to see 20 minute sex scenes, car chases that are impossible to believe, blood and gore, or violence. I want a good story – and a good story is something that Hollywood has seemed to run out of. When it comes to TV, I rarely watch new shows. Most of them are “reality” based anyway and just garbage. I guess that’s why I am thankful for TV shows on DVD. Ok, last year, I kinda dissed on reality TV, and I should clarify that I mean talent shows, dance shows, and shows with singers in masks. To me, these are just a waste of my time.

My cat. There is no doubt that she is truly my cat. I know she doesn’t bug Sam like she does me. She takes every opportunity to come up by me when I am on the couch, a chair, or in bed. If they kids go to bed and I play my golf game, she is right next to me. She loves for me to pet her. As annoying as she can be, I really love her.

The five senses. I can’t imagine going through life not being able to see my children or my wife or some of the wonderful things I have already described. I can’t imagine not being able to smell fresh coffee brewing or my spaghetti sauce on the stove. I can’t imagine not hearing the sound of my children laughing. I can’t imagine not being able to taste a juicy steak. I can’t imagine not being able to feel a hug from my wife. I am SO thankful to have the ability to have all five senses!

Forgiveness. I am thankful for forgiveness. Sadly, it is one of those things that is rare today. It is, however, one of the great things taught in the Bible and throughout history. It is also one of the hardest things to do. I have trouble with it too on occasion. I am thankful that there are friends and family who have forgiven me for past transgressions.

Acceptance. I am thankful for those people in my life who accept me for who I am. They don’t try to change me. There may be things about me that they don’t like or agree with, but they love and accept me as I am. I try to do the same for others.

Encouragement. I would not be where am I today without the encouragement and support of others. It may have been the smallest gesture or a simple sentence in conversation, but the encouragement of others helped me to get through some tough stuff and I am thankful for that.

Change. This is hard for me to be thankful for, but I am. I have to be honest, I hate change! I am a creature of habit. When I lost 85 pounds, I did it primarily by eating the same meals every day. I do not like change, but I know it is important. There were many times over the last couple years that I had to step out of my comfort zone and accept it. I am thankful I did. Change is good – most of the time.

My Therapist. She, like many others, helped me to cope as life offered many challenges. She helped me sort out some feelings. She helped me to see things that I was completely unaware of. She helped me deal with the things involved in my divorce. She also is responsible for my blogs. I used to blog all the time, but was basically told that “no one wants to read that stuff”. I stopped writing. My therapist is the one who suggested keeping a journal. When I told her I used to blog, she asked why I stopped. When I told her why, she suggested starting back up. I told her I didn’t know what to write about. She basically said, “Write about whatever you want! It doesn’t matter if you are writing for others or writing for yourself. If you like to write – WRITE!” From the length of this blog – you can see that I like to write.

Facebook memories. This is a two-edged sword. It is a daily reminder or good things from the past, as well as times with people no longer in my life. I am thankful for it just the same. Many times it is a simple one liner I posted as a status, while other times it is my thoughts about my boys school events. Some pictures bring back good memories, while others bring back sad memories. I smile at the good ones and try to forget the bad ones, but again remind myself that I am who I am today because of the past.

I once believed that it was ok to let some of those memories pop up every year. However, now, I have found it is better to delete some of the past photos with people from the past. If my kids are in those photos, I leave them, but I have deleted quite a few pictures and posts that mention certain people. Why should I let that crap remind me of when I was miserable.

Pumpkin Pie with Cool Whip. Ok, so I finally had dessert while I was writing this. I love a good piece of pumpkin pie topped with Cool Whip.

YOU. Yep. I am thankful for YOU. You are reading this and I appreciate it. I am thankful for my followers and for those who read my stuff. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for following this blog.

What are YOU thankful for??

Holiday Thought –

Going through some folders today and came across an old “Show Prep” folder. It was full of stuff I used for the radio show when I was on the air. The headline read: “During the Holidays, You’ll Need a Break From Your Family After Just 4 Hours!”

The story went on to talk about how it takes about that long for family to get on your nerves: lack of privacy and family drama are to blame. On the bright side, 95% of the people in the survey agree that spending time with family during the holidays is important.

Our family has been through a lot this year. Here is something to think about as we get closer to the holidays….

When you are at that point where you “need a break” or that family member is “annoying you” or someone is telling the same story again – remember this: This may be the last holiday you have with them.

The holidays are generally a happy time for many of us. However, it can also be a very difficult time as we remember those family members who are no longer here to celebrate with us. What I wouldn’t give to have my mom or my grandparents here for one more holiday! I know my wife and her family will be thinking of Grace this holiday season. I have so many friends and relatives who have lost someone close to them in the past year. So let me offer up this:

Cherish every moment with those you love. Engage in conversations. Embrace the annoyances. Listen to that story one more time. Instead of running away from those moments and regretting it later, LIVE it and remember it for when those people are no longer here with us.

Gulp!

I had to take Andrew to have a Barium Swallow Test this week. It was yet another test tied to the laryngomalacia. Since he had his surgery, it seems like he is having trouble swallowing food and drink. If you’ve never had one of these, I don’t recommend them. I had one done some time ago and the barium is very thick and “chalky.”

Ella got to have a sleepover at Nana’s house the night before, because we had to be up early to be on the road. Andrew woke up in a good mood, and early enough where I was able to give him some milk before the drive. He was not supposed to have any food or drink three hours prior to the test. We were worried about him being hungry, but he slept the entire way down.

We were the only ones in the waiting room. Every time he heard someone at the registration desk, he’d walk over that way to see who was talking. It didn’t take long to get called back, and he was fairly calm.

When we walked into the testing room, I thought for sure he was going to begin to freak out. They had me sit him in a chair, which he was strapped into. They then pulled down the “camera/x-ray” machine along side of him. They made me put one of those x-ray vests on and I stood in front of him.

We were told to bring stuff for him to eat and drink, but they had an applesauce and crackers there for him. I had brought applesauce, fruit loops, and some other things for him. They mixed the barium with applesauce and I gave him a few spoons of that. Then we added fruit loops to it and he ate a bit more. Then they added some barium to his sippy cup and had him drink from it.

And just like that, the test was over. There was a doctor there monitoring things as the test was in progress. He told me that Andrew was not aspirating and all looked good. I was relieved. Since the test was over quicker than I anticipated, we walked to the food court and I bought us cookies!

Now that this test is over, we’ll probably have another sleep study done to see if the procedure helped with his sleep apnea. I’m hoping so!

As we head into the holiday season, I am excited to see what kind of mischief my two little elves will be causing …