2021 – What a Year!

At midnight tonight, we’ll start a brand new year – 2022. Some have compared a new year to a book. The book with 365 blank pages – one for each day – and said that the book is ours to write. There is truth to that.

As I looked back over my “book” entitled “2021,” I see that (despite the pandemic and all the crap that came with it) I really did have a good year. Bear with me, he’s the recap:

January

January started with some snow. It actually looks like we should be getting snow again this week. Ella absolutely loved being outside in the snow. It was fun to watch her try to figure out just what all the white stuff was. Today, when she sees it, she get’s excited and yells, “Snow! Snow!”

In mid-January, we scratched our heads and wondered just how Ella was 11 months old! I mean, it seemed like she was just born!

The pressure was on as we closed in on her first birthday. With Covid, we weren’t quite sure if we’d even be able to have a party for her.

February

As we got closer to Ella’s birthday, Sam was just not feeling right. 3 days before Ella’s birthday, we found out that baby #2 was on the way!

This took us both completely by surprise! There was great excitement all over again. The hardest part was keeping it a secret…

Ella’s first birthday was a fun and busy day. We ditched the pink blocks and marked the birthday with a HUGE number “1” balloon. This was followed by a trip to the Sea Life Aquarium, the Build a Bear place, and cake at Nana’s house.

We were glad to be able to get some professional “1st Birthday” pictures, too!

March

In March we got our first look at the baby we now know as Andrew/AJ and announced Ella’s promotion to big sister.

Ella also got her first haircut

March also consisted of many walks around the neighborhood and stops at the park.

April

Big brother, Dante’ turned 19 this month! Before that, Easter fell on my mom’s birthday. We got Ella all dressed up in her Easter dress, stopped at the cemetery to visit grandma on her birthday and then went to Nana’s for an Easter Egg hunt!

Ella is so very blessed to have wonderful people in her life. Aunt Margaret is one of them! (She will kill me for posting this picture, but I just love this!!) She and cousin Marissa came to visit and the highlight was watching them read books together.

We also found out the baby’s gender, but that wouldn’t be revealed until May.

May

Birthday’s have never really bothered me, mostly because I opt for the Jack Benny attitude and say that I am stuck at 39. However, in reality I turned 51. 30 was big. 40 was tough. 50 a bit hard to swallow. Over 50? Well…..I examine my own mortality every day.

The month started warm enough that Ella got to spend lots of time in her sandbox and pool.

We revealed that Ella was having a baby brother and got another look at him on an ultrasound.

Ella and I worked on a special project for Sam for Mother’s Day and we got to visit the Detroit Zoo.

May also brought Ella her first taste of corn on the cob!

June

My second oldest boy celebrated his 14th birthday in June. We got to spend Father’s Day together by visiting Crossroads Village. They had a Classic Car Show there and we walked the village and rode the train. It was such a great day with my kids!

It was SO hot that day!!! By the end of it all, Ella was physically exhausted. June was a hot month and we did get to get out and enjoy walks in the park and a day at the splash pad.

July

By July, Sam was 5 months pregnant and was so sick. The pregnancy was a rough one on her. The heat didn’t help things. Despite that, the middle of summer was packed full of amazing things and our family had loads of fun.

We celebrated America’s Birthday, Ella had her first visit to the public library and bowled for the first time, and we all visited the Saginaw Children’s Zoo.

August

As Summer drew to a close, we continued to squeeze as much into it as we could. I got to spend a perfect day doing a daddy daughter picnic, my name was finally on the board at the Corner Cone for a free ice cream, Ella spent lots of time drawing with crayons, and our stress levels were through the roof as we took Ella in for her ear tube surgery. We also got another peak at AJ and had a visit from my brother.

September

Fall! My favorite season of all. I was glad to be able to get together with Margaret, Walt and my buddy Chris at Margaret’s house. Since she’s already mad at the one picture I posted, I’ll just share the one she told me I could share. Hopefully, that makes things a little better….

We always love going to get pumpkins and decorating the front of the house for fall. Ella seemed to like it, too.

Ella and I also got to take one last trip to the Saginaw Zoo before it closed for the season. It was a great day for us, and Sam actually got to relax a bit.

October

We had been told more than once that there was a possibility that the baby would come before his due date. He held out almost until the date! Just two days before he was born, Ella and I got to go outside and enjoy the fall colors.

On October 11th, AJ entered the world. I watched in awe as my son was born and all the pride of being a daddy again filled my soul. We weren’t sure how Ella would handle it, but she welcomed him with open arms.

They still did not have a photographer at the hospital, so we went to JC Penney to have some newborn pictures taken. AJ looks spiffy in his outfit!

While this wasn’t Ella’s first Halloween, it was the first real Trick or Treating adventure for her. She was happy that big brother was there to walk with her. AJ was obviously way too young to attempt to go out this year.

November

Fall walks are among my favorites. I love looking at the colors. Ella and I took many fall walks and there were many instances where she’d just play in a pile of leaves! AJ kept us all busy and so it was just Ella and I making the trip to Bronner’s to get his ornament for the Christmas tree. We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving at home and got the house ready for Christmas.

December

The final month of the year brought many happy memories. Professional Christmas pictures, my annual reading of Dickens, AJ turned 2 months old, a visit from Papa and Grandma, Christmas Eve with my boys, Holiday lights at Crossroads, our first Christmas as a family of four, and the anticipation of a brand new year.

Blog highlights included my entries to the 2021 Song Draft, salutes to Soupy Sales, my grandpa, and Ernie Harwell, a guest blog from my pal Max, silly blogs about hats and Bernie Sanders’ mittens, fishing memories, my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, and a blog about an amazing cartoon Dog Dad.

There were many sad moments in 2021. I lost classmates and friends to cancer, heart disease, and of course, Covid. If the past two years have taught me anything, it is that life is precious and another day is not promised. You never know when it will be the “last picture,” the “last phone call,” or the “last visit.” It takes me make to that quote that my band director wrote on the grease board my senior year. I have quoted it many times. “Live every day as if it were your last. Someday, you’ll be right.”

Life is too short. Live. Laugh. Love.

As we welcome 2022, I pray that it is a good year for all of us. May we find it full of happiness and good health. May God bless you and yours in the upcoming year.

Get ready. The Book of 2022 awaits. Grab your pen and turn to page (January) 1.

Autumn in Michigan

The weather has been nice enough over the past two weeks for us to get out and really enjoy the fall weather! It’s been pleasantly warm with temps in the high 60’s and low 70’s. I’m glad, because this has allowed me to take Ella out for walks in the stroller through the neighborhood. At one house, the red leaves on the ground were so bright, I took her out of the stroller and let her play in the leaves.

After we got home, we both sat on the front lawn and watched the cars go by. She just loves to be outside! She loves to watch the squirrels, listen to the birds and wind chimes, and play in the grass.

This week Ella turned 8 months old! She has 4 teeth and two more popping through. She’s pretty much crawling like a champ and will no doubt be walking before we know it! To celebrate, we took her and her brother to the orchards to go pumpkin picking. I hope that this will remain an autumn tradition.

At the orchards, you can purchase pumpkins that are already picked, or you can take the hayride and pick your own from the pumpkin patch. Naturally, Ella needed to go on her first hayride, so we did that! She was SO tired when we went, but I was still able to get some amazing pictures. This one is my favorite from the hayride:

I love how she is cuddling with mom! She was loving the ride and the colors were just awesome. She wasn’t really sure what we were doing when we got out to the pumpkin patch. At one point, Sam made her sit on a pumpkin … she was unimpressed!

I love the way Ella looks at her brother. She lights up when she sees him. I have no doubt that she and him will have a strong relationship. After we got our pumpkins, there were quite a few pumpkins out in front of the orchard. I had Dimitri sit down among the pumpkins and then sat Ella next to him. While there are some really great pictures of them looking right at the camera, my favorite is probably the one below. She reached over and put her hand on him and they both are kind of looking at each other. A priceless moment!

I’m hoping that the weather cooperates in the next week or two, as I’m hoping to get both boys over and take some family pictures outside. Sam bought a cute outfit for Ella and shirts for everyone that match the polka dots on Ella’s outfit. I can’t wait to go out and get these pictures done!

Fall is my favorite season and I just love looking at the beauty of God’s creation! Happy Fall!

Tune Tuesday – Autumn Leaves

It’s been sometime since I’ve posted something for Tune Tuesday. With today being the first official day of Autumn, I wanted to post one of my favorite “seasonal” songs – Autumn Leaves. There have been many versions of the song, but I just love the way Nat King Cole does it. Nat released his vocal version of it in 1955 – the same year that pianist Roger Williams had an instrumental hit with the song.

I have written about Nat in the past. His voice is one of the most unique in all of pop music. The song is so beautiful, and yet so sad. The orchestral arrangement is hauntingly beautiful and Nat’s vocal compliments it perfectly.

Autumn Leaves

The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Tune Tuesday – Nat King Cole

 

nat_king_cole-studio_bw_4-c_capitol_photo_archives_0While driving into work this week, I heard part of a special on Sirius XM honoring Nat King Cole in honor of his 100th birthday.  The part that I heard was from a special done on WNEW radio in New York.  It was some DJ interviewing Nat, having him sing songs and play piano.  For Tune Tuesday, since his 100th birthday would have been March 17th, I thought I would share a few of my favorite Nat King Cole songs. I guess this blog should be titled Tune(s) Tuesday.

Before I post my favorites, let me say that Nat King Cole was truly one of the great voices in American music.  He was first known for being a jazz pianist (he had some classical training), and then began singing with the Nat King Cole Trio. His dad was a Baptist pastor and one of Nat’s early hits “Straighten Up and Fly Right” was inspired by one of his dad’s sermons.

In the 1950’s he became a solo performer and had many pop hits.  When Rock and Roll music came on the scene in the mid-1950’s, his career began to dwindle, but not for long.  He, like many, poked fun of Rock and Roll and often did a song in his live act called “Mr. Cole Won’t Rock and Roll”.  In the 60’s he reached the charts again with a couple hits.

He was the first African American performer to host his own TV Variety show in 1956. He had many stars on the show, but the lack of a national sponsor led to the demise of the show.  He appeared in movies Istanbul, China Gate, St. Louis Blues (playing blues legend WC Handy), and Cat Ballou (with Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin).

Nat was a very heavy smoker.  He often credited smoking for giving his voice the unique baritone sound that it had.  He even mentioned in the special I heard on Sirius XM how important it was to smoke, and even told the host that if smoked more, it would improve his singing voice.  Sadly, smoking is what led to his early death.  In 1964, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  It was only a few months after the diagnosis that he succumbed to the disease (February 15, 1965) at the very young age of 45.

0bf5bc097f33c250825823673984474e

Route 66 

With the Nat King Cole Trio – probably my favorite version of this song.

Answer Me My Love

Beautiful song about a guy who has lost his one and only.

Mona Lisa

Yes, it’s about the painting.

When I Fall In Love

WOW!  One of his best right here.  I could listen to this over and over

Autumn Leaves

One of those songs from Nat that you rarely get to hear.  It is really a wonderful arrangement and pretty song.

A Blossom Fell

My great uncle actually recorded this song when I was a kid at some local recording studio.  That was how I was introduced to this song.  I often think of him when I hear this song.

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

This one always reminds me of my days at Honey Radio.  We often played summer songs when the season changed and this was one of those songs.  It’s a feel good song – gotta love the banjo!

Smile 

A song that was written by the great Charlie Chaplin, this is one of those perfect songs.  Many have recorded this song, but Nat’s version remains the one that remains my favorite version.

L-O-V-E

Nat’s last recording.  It can be heard in many movie soundtracks and one of his best!

Nat had so many wonderful songs.  He was a talent that was taken from us much too soon.  Give a listen to his other hits Orange Colored Sky, Ramblin’ Rose, The Very Thought of You, I Love You for Sentimental Reasons, Unforgettable, and, of course, The Christmas Song.

Happy 100th Birthday, Nat!  Thanks for the music and melodies!