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

Winter Storm and Winter Songs

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According to the calendar, it is still officially Autumn.  There are still colored leaves on the trees here in Michigan.  Many people haven’t even started raking them yet.  This, however, may be the shortest Autumn I can remember as we were hit today with quite the winter storm!

snow

I guess we broke the record today for “most snowfall” on November 11th.  The record (for the Detroit area, anyway) was set back in 1984 – 4.1 inches.  That record was surpassed as early as 1pm today.  The snow continued to fall throughout the evening and made for one hell of a ride (3+ hours) into work!

The snow brings out a lot of anger in people.  People waste no time talking about how much they hate the snow.  “It’s too early,” they say.  It’s not like we haven’t had snow early in November before, we have.  As a matter of fact, it was one year ago I posted about it snowing on Facebook.  We’ve certainly seen snow as early as late October, too!  While I don’t necessarily like having to shovel it, or drive in it, I do like the snow.  I marvel at the beauty of it when it has first fallen on the ground.  Someone posted this on Facebook yesterday, and it is SO true:

“If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.”

Sometimes, in life, we need to look for the positives instead of focusing on the negatives.

At any rate, all the snow brought me back to a thought I had while writing a recent blog about Christmas music (Is It Too Early? – on November 2).  Some radio stations (both local and on Sirius XM) have started playing all Christmas music.  On my drive in, I was flipping around and stopped on the local station, because they were playing a song that would be considered a Christmas song, but actually worked because of the weather.

Here I am driving 30mph while the snow is falling, and Dean Martin’s “Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!” is playing.  It was the perfect song for the weather.  Which brings me back to the thought I had in the previous blog – why can’t stations play “winter” songs before Christmas, and after Christmas?  I compiled a list of songs that could certainly be played as just “winter hits”.

Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!

Winter Wonderland

Snowfall

Winter Weather

Snow

I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm

Marshmallow World

Song For A Winter’s Night

Snowbird

Hazy Shade of Winter

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Jingle Bells

There are SO many more.  Jingle Bell Rock could easily be a “winter song”.  Frosty the Snowman is a “winter song”.  Sleigh Ride is also a snowy “winter song”!  It doesn’t have to be Christmas for me to enjoy those songs.  Am I forgetting any?  What can YOU add to the list?

Too Early?

I should mention that my wife listens to Christmas music all year round.  AND she likes to be able to enjoy the decorations, so when we have our first snow, the tree goes up.  Yes, it is up and decorated…and the cats are already enjoying it.

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I guess I should make sure the snow blower starts when I get home ….

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Happy Thoughts

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I once heard someone say, “In a world of darkness – be the light.”   If I may alter that quote just a bit … “In a world of negativity – be the positive.”  You wouldn’t know it, but it has been a very challenging couple weeks for me.  I just have to keep reminding myself that “some people are just not happy unless they are trying to make others unhappy.”

Here are some things that made me happy this week:

Bless You Boys!

I was reminded that 35 years ago this week, the Detroit Tigers beat the San Diego Padres in the 1984 World Series.  Remembering that amazing season always brings a smile to my face.  In the final game, Kirk Gibson faced Goose Gossage.  There was some chatting at the mound because they couldn’t decide whether or not to walk him or pitch to him.  Gibby launched an amazing homerun off him!  I can still remember Vin Scully calling it by saying, “And there it goes!!!!”  Pandemonium!  I rewatched that video more than once this week!

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Autumn Leaves

The leaves are changing.  Fall is probably my favorite season.  It makes me think of high school homecoming parades and football games.  It makes me think of Alumni Band.  It makes me think of sitting around bonfires in hooded sweatshirts.  It makes me think of those last few weekends up north closing up the trailer for winter.  I love the beauty of autumn.  Here in Michigan, we have such wonderful fall colors.  I love to walk outside in the fall and just get lost in thought.  Fall makes me happy.

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Here’s Johnny!

This month Sirius XM Radio has a Johnny Carson channel (105) and they are playing old episodes of The Tonight Show.  I cannot even begin to tell you how much I am loving these!  Johnny was the best.  These dated monologues are still funny today!  Today, I laughed a little bit harder than I should have at one of the jokes.  He was talking about a previous joke he did about McDonalds.  He then asked “Have you ever been to the Beverly Hills (California) McDonalds?  They serve escargot there.  They call them, McSlugs!”

Listening to his reactions to when a joke bombs is just hilarious!  His banter with Ed and Doc is also very funny.  It’s been great to hear classic interviews with Mel Brooks, Eli Wallach, Buddy Hackett, Don Rickles and more!  It’s also been neat to hear some of the early stand up from Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Garry Shandling, and others.  He was a master – and he still makes me laugh.

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Baby Kicks

I have saved the best thing for last.  My wife is 22 weeks along now and she has been feeling our baby move.  Earlier in the week, she started to feel baby kicks.  We were lying in bed this week and she said the baby was kicking.  She placed my hand exactly where she was feeling them, and I felt her kick!  It was light, but it was there!

Baby’s-Kicks-During-Pregnancy

I don’t care how many times I feel it, it still amazes me!  My wife feels her move a whole lot more than me, so to feel this little “bump” against my palm makes me more and more excited for her arrival!  It gets more and more real as we get closer.  I get emotional thinking about it.  She’s going to be here soon!  We’ll be able to hold her and kiss her.  I’ve been creating my “Bedtime Song List” for her.  There are some favorites that I sang with my boys when they were babies, and I will be singing them for her too.  I probably need to start working on “Daddy’s Little Girl” and “My Special Angel” – songs that I obviously couldn’t sing to my boys!

February will be here before we know it – and I am sure there will be many stories to be shared about her here!

Final Thought

It really isn’t hard to find things that make you happy.  Look around – they are right there!  Find the happy & SMILE!

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Tune Tuesday – Ain’t No Sunshine

As summer quickly (and sadly) draws to a close, it got me to thinking about the one thing I’ll miss most about summer – sunshine. For those who live where the sun is always shining (or at least most of the time), you really cannot comprehend just how difficult the winter months in Michigan are. While I love Autumn, I miss the sunshine as we start to see it less and less.

The lack of sunshine that is on the horizon in the months ahead, made me think of this great R&B song from Bill Withers. It’s been covered by SO many people including Nancy Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Wynonna Judd and many more, but Bill Wither’s version is the gold standard! It can be found on his 1971 album “Just As I Am.”

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Bill wrote the song after being inspired while watching the movie The Days of Wine and Roses with Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon. He said in an interview that the characters Remick and Lemmon played: “They were both alcoholics who were alternately weak and strong. It’s like going back for seconds on rat poison. Sometimes you miss things that weren’t particularly good for you. It’s just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I’m not aware of.”

This was his first hit. He was in the navy for 9 years and after getting out, he worked in a factory making parts for airplanes. It was during this time that he met Booker T. Jones (of Booker and the MG’s). Booker brought in some amazing musicians (Donald “Duck” Dunn, Stephen Stills, and himself) to play on the track. Jones also produced the album.

One of the most recognizable parts of the song is where he repeats the words “I know” over and over and over. That was not they way he intended the song to be. he had hoped to write a verse to go there. Withers explained in an interview: “I wasn’t going to do that, then Booker T. said, ‘No, leave it like that.’ I was going to write something there, but there was a general consensus in the studio. It was an interesting thing because I’ve got all these guys that were already established, and I was working in the factory at the time. Graham Nash was sitting right in front of me, just offering his support. Stephen Stills was playing and there was Booker T. and Al Jackson and Donald Dunn – all of the MGs except Steve Cropper. They were all these people with all this experience and all these reputations, and I was this factory worker just sort of puttering around. So when their general feeling was, ‘Leave it like that,’ I left it like that.”

(Keith story: The first time I played this record at WKSG in Detroit, I was in the bathroom peeing when the “I know” part started repeating. I was standing at the urinal listening to the song over the speaker and I thought “the record is skipping!” I was playing this off a cart (which meant that it was already recorded and there was no way the song was skipping, unless it was recorded that way!). I remember running out of the bathroom and through the halls anyway …. by the time I got to the studio, the song was continuing ….skip free!)

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The song won the Grammy for Best R&B song in 1972 and went all the way to #3 on the charts. While English teachers must cringe when they hear the improper grammar (“ain’t no” instead of “isn’t any”), it worked in this song (and also Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough).

“Ain’t No Sunshine”

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
It’s not warm when she’s away
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And she’s always gone too long
Anytime she goes away

Wonder this time where she’s gone
Wonder if she’s gone to stay
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away

And I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know
Hey, I oughtta leave young thing alone
But ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
Only darkness every day
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away