A Not So Romantic Date

My wife and I have been anxiously waiting to be able to go out on a date. Our kids keep us pretty busy and they are always in tow. With Sam returning to work from maternity leave after the first of the year, we were running out of available days. We lined up Nana and Papa to watch the kids for the afternoon, and Monday, we finally got to spend some much needed “couple time.”

Did we go out to a fancy restaurant? No. Did we go to a movie? No. Did we go to a concert? No. But we got time together – and THAT was all that mattered.

We had decided that we were going to do lunch. We decided to go to this little sub place that we like. I asked if she wanted to go inside to eat. Neither one of us were real comfortable doing that. We thought about it, but we decided to just grab and go (The tables are too close together and other people would have their masks off to eat, etc…).

We were going to go to Barnes and Noble to look around after lunch, so we got our food and ate lunch in their parking lot. LOL – Romantic, right?! It was nice to just sit and talk as we ate. There were no kids crying or screaming from the back seat – it was just us. In all actuality, it was weird to not have them with us!

After lunch, we walked into Barnes and Noble and began to look around. We picked a great day to go as all the hardcovers were 50% off! I had two or three books that I have been wanting to get, so I looked for them. Naturally, they didn’t have them in the store. Same looked around and found some new books by some of her favorite authors, but decided against getting them.

She’s like me in that often times as you read a series (Stephanie Plum, Ben Kincaid, etc…) you feel like you’ve read the same story before. Sometimes, the next book in a series spends half of the book recapping the previous books so you know what is going on. Then, sometimes, even though it is not a series, books by the same author can just “feel” like the same thing over again. So she put back the books that she looked at.

So what did we do? We both went over the the kid section and started looking for books for the kids!! Here we are on a date, thinking that we’re going to get ourselves something, and we wind up getting stuff for the kids. As we walked out, we were like, “I can’t wait to read this to Ella! She is going to love this one!”

Afterward, we were off to our next exciting stop on “Date Day”….

Target! Really? Yes, really.

While I was out grocery shopping, Sam had me pick up a package of baby bottles. I sent her a picture of the ones that they had and we thought they were the ones that we currently use. Technically, they were, however the ones I bought had the wrong nipples on them. Sam looked to see if she could get the right ones on Amazon and she couldn’t. She said they had them at Target, so we made a stop there.

We walked over to the baby stuff and they didn’t have the right size nipples for the bottles. Go figure. We took advantage of being there and walked around. Sam had hoped to run up to the Carter’s store in Birch Run to get AJ some pants later that day, but she found some while we were at Target. Store number 2 and we get stuff for the kids again!

We debated going to the Christmas Tree Store, which we love, just to look around. Sam said we’d spent enough money and said if we went there, we’d put our account in the red (LOL!). Knowing that it was getting close to nap time for Ella, we decided to go back to Nana’s to get the kids.

It was nice to have some quality time with my wife. One thing I never tire of, is driving and holding her hand in mine. It was a little extra special on Monday. Next date night, I will need to do something a whole lot more elaborate! She deserves it!

Date Day Selfie

Where is My Christmas Spirit?

By the time this blog posts, it will be a mere 9 days till Christmas. Our tree has been up since Thanksgiving. I’ve been listening to Christmas music. I have read A Christmas Carol. I watched a few of the holiday specials. Christmas pictures are done. So where is my Christmas Spirit?

My wife, Sam, and I had this conversation earlier today. You would think that we’d be a little more “in the holiday spirit” with all that is going on, but something just doesn’t feel right. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think Sam offered up some pretty plausible reasons.

No Snow

Sure, we had a good snow already, but it is long gone. When I was getting ready for work this afternoon, it was 55 degrees out! We’ve had plenty of rain, but we’re missing some snow. I know some will tell me to shut up, as they can’t stand snow. That’s ok, but for me, there has to be a little bit of snow for it to feel like Christmas.

Missed Traditions

Ok, I’m going to blame Covid. Sam and I are just not comfortable going anywhere. Because of that, we put some of our traditions on hold this year. One we could probably have done, was visiting Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo.

We’ve been doing since we’ve been together. It’s always fun, but we want to make sure that the kids don’t get sick. It’s probably fine for Ella, but a bit too cold to have Andrew out there at night. Next year, we’ll be back there for sure!

Online Shopping

Outside of one or two things, all of our Christmas shopping was done online. I’m not one who loves shopping in crowds, but I do like to actually walk through the stores. Many times, I find the perfect gift by just walking and looking. To me, getting a gift that is unexpected is even more special than getting something you asked for. Thought actually went into it!

Shopping in General

I guess this is kind of a combination of “tradition” and “shopping.” There are quite a few places that Sam and I love to go to and just walk through.

  • The Christmas Tree Store is one of them. We found some really wonderful things for Ella’s room after she was born. We also love going there for holiday themed items.
  • Barnes and Nobel is another. We love walking through and checking out the new books. Now it’s even more fun because we can find the kids new books.
  • The Mall – ANY mall! Just going and walking the malls is always nice for us, even when we don’t have anything we HAVE to buy. (I guess we got to walk JC Penney while we waited for Christmas pictures recently, but it wasn’t like walking the whole mall.)

Again, Sam and I are just not comfortable yet being out among people. There are just too many people who don’t cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze. I was never a germaphobe, but recently, I feel like I’ve become one.

Maybe it isn’t too late….

I have a feeling that once I am sitting there watching my kids open gifts, their happiness will fill my heart and I will be overwhelmed with joy for them. I’m sure it will all work out … memories will be made. There will be many smiles. I just wish I felt it a bit more right now….

What the Dickens?

Last night I finished my yearly reading of A Christmas Carol. I have been reading it every year since junior high school. I blogged about that here:

As many times as I have read it, I sometimes feel like I read things I don’t remember. A few years back I purchased The Annotated Christmas Carol. Throughout the story, there are notes off to the side regarding things that Dickens has written about. Some notes are as simple as a definition of an archaic word, while other notes are more in depth. Some notes are fascinating as they compare things in the story to other stories that Dickens wrote. I highly recommend it!

Now that I have read the book again, I will begin to watch some of the various movies. Before I do that, however, I listen to Patrick Stewart’s one man performance of the story. I originally bought the cassettes of this, but I was able to find it at Barnes and Nobel on CD a few years back so I can still listen to it on my drive to work.

My next book is one that I had in my library many years ago, but lost it in a move. It took me a bit to find again, and I am glad to have it again. It’s been on my shelf for a few months, and now that we’re in the Christmas season, I will read it again.

I think we can all agree that Jesus Christ was not actually born on December 25th. As a matter of fact, a study of the Bible actually proves that He wasn’t. (He was probably born around October.) This book was one I stumbled on many years ago and I am excited to reread it.

I Miss Record Stores!

My first job was a paper route.  I delivered for both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.  I guess I was probably about 10 or 11.  Some of your customers paid the paper directly, but most of the time, you had to go door to door to “collect” for the week’s deliveries.

My dad decided since I was making money, I’d need to have a bank account to put the money in.  He went with me and I opened an account at Michigan National Bank.  I think he had hoped that I would put money in there and save it for when I needed a car or something.  The fact that the bank was basically in the parking lot of the Hoover Eleven shopping center, which was almost directly across from my paper route, was probably a bad idea!

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There were two stores in the shopping center that ended up with most of my money.  The first was Circus World, a long gone toy store where we bought the latest Star Wars toys, Matchbox cars, and toy guns.  The second store, and the one that got most of my money, was a record store called Harmony House.  Oh, Harmony House, how I miss you!!!

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When I had my paper route, Harmony House was located in the original wing of the shopping center.  I had a turntable in my bedroom and I would go and buy 12 inch LP’s, 45 singles, cassettes, and eventually CD’s.  Some of the music blogs I follow have often said, “You never forget the first album you bought with your own money.”  I can say that isn’t true.  I don’t remember mine.  I can tell you the ones I bought, but don’t remember my first.  This is probably because many of the albums my dad had ended up in my collection.

What I remember is walking in and there was a wall which had a pegboard on it.  On the pegboard, there were pockets which had the new 45 singles on it.  Each pocket contained about 20-30 45 records in it.  On the front of the pocket was the title of the song and the artist.  If you were to compare that wall to the Billboard chart, it was basically the Top 30 or 40 songs that were being played on the radio.  I remember buying “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen on 45.

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The above pic is not really what the wall in Harmony House looked like, but it gives you an idea.  Looking at the picture, it reminded me that I lost the adapter that you put on the turntable to be able to play 45’s.  With an LP album, there was a small hole in the middle of it that the spindle went through. In the above picture you can see that hole on the “Creepers” record.  The hole on a 45 was much bigger, as you can see in the majority of the 45’s shown in the picture.  It seems to me that I had about 50 of those yellow 45 adapters at home for my collection!  It snapped in the record so you could play it.

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The singles were often released in hopes that you’d buy the album when it came out.  I was buying albums from artists that my dad introduced to me like Roy Orbison, Elvis, and others.  If I had to take a good guess, I would imagine one of the first albums I ever bought was from the Beatles.  Probably Beatles 65 or Beatles VI – both of which I loved!  In elementary school we had a “Record of the Week” which each class voted on and we could all bring songs in for the class to vote on.  I remember bringing in a Beatles Album.

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I used to spend hours in Harmony House!  I remember that occasionally there would be a huge cardboard cut out of a local DJ (like Arthur P from WRIF) with a spot for 45’s.  It would be their “Pick of the Week”.   They had a listening station where you could put headphones on and listen to the 45’s and you could probably find me there 50% of my visit!  I used to love talking about music with the people who worked there and became good friends with them in doing so.  It was always cool to have one of them say, “If you like that … you will really like _____!”

Vinyl sales started to decline with the rise of cassette tapes and cassingles (a single song on a cassette).  I used to take a vinyl album and record it to cassette so I could play it on my Walkman.  Then, I just started buying albums on cassette.  I DO remember the first album I bought on cassette –

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Eventually, CDs became the way to get your music.  I remember when they first came out, they came in a HUGE box!  The CD would sit at the bottom of the packaging, and the top half of it was pretty much nothing.  Now, when you buy a CD, all you have to do is remove the cellophane around it – back then you had to crack open that huge box!

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Let me preface this by saying I realize that I am probably gonna sound like an old man here, but I hate the fact that more and more music is being delivered digitally.  That being said, I will say that in some cases it is great – like for DJing.  All my new music is downloadable and clean edits.  It does make that very easy.  However, I miss the days of listening to an entire album from start to finish.  I miss picking out the songs I hoped I would hear on the radio.  I miss comparing “notes” with other friends who bought the album to hear what songs were their favorites and why.

It seems that there is little interest in albums anymore.  Hell, back in the day, there was a radio format called “AOR” which stood for “album oriented rock” and you got to hear those cuts that weren’t being played anywhere else!  My Tune Tuesday blog this week about Dwight Yoakam was about a song that never played on the radio, but it is still a great song and one of my favorites!  Think about growing up – no doubt you have an album that you could put on and play it from start to finish and you loved every song!!  Right??

I guess one of the things I miss most about record stores, aside of the music that I bought, is talking with people about music.  I loved being able to talk to staff members about music that had just come out.  I remember talking to a guy at Harmony House all the time about the “Future Releases” that were coming out.  We’d look at the list each week and talk about it.  It was always a great conversation when an artist would do something “different” from what they normally did (Pat Benatar’s True Love album comes to mind).

I had the same experience later on with a place in Roseville called Record Time.  My buddy Ken was the manager of the Oldies Department there and would steer me toward great imports and hard to find songs.  I had so many rare and hard to find CDs in my collection because of him.  Even though our music preferences weren’t always the same – it was always great to share thoughts with him.

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The other great thing about a record store is bumping into other music lovers.  So many times I’d be looking at the back of an album and another customer would walk up and say, “That’s a great LP!”  Those random conversations could also lead to discovering new music too.

It is nice to see that vinyl records are making a comeback.  I think it’s crazy that they are trying to sell them for $30 an album, especially when you can get the CD for $15-$20!  There is something to be said about hearing a song on vinyl, though.  I don’t really even know how to describe it, maybe you can help me do that, but the best I can do is – it sounds “fuller” and more “real”.  I don’t know, maybe that’s just the old man in me….

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Today, I am forced to look for CDs (if I am buying any) at Walmart, FYE (which is slowly becoming non-existent), Barnes & Noble (which is usually WAY overpriced), or online.  It’s not the same.  If I am at Walmart, the guy next to me looking at CDs is really there to buy toilet paper, not there solely to buy music.  With the internet, we have instant access to album reviews, which can be useful if you know what you are looking for.  I miss hearing about something that I didn’t know about from a fellow music lover.  I miss walking into the record store and hearing something playing in the store and wondering “Wow!  I like that!  Who is this and how can I get it?!”

Thank goodness there are still a few stores around that sell used CD’s, records, and even movies.  Sadly, they are as close as we’ll come to Harmony House or Record Time.

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