Christmas 2021 Recap

Another Christmas has come and gone. I hope that you had a Christmas full of wonderful memories! This Christmas was full of a lot of joy for us, but there were some things that left me sad. I will attempt to recap and keep it as happy as possible. Many of my Facebook friends have already seen these pictures, but that’s ok.

Thursday, December 23

After working the night before, I slept for a couple hours and went and picked up my son. His brother was working that night and was coming up after work so we could celebrate Christmas Eve Morning together.

My dad and Rose came over that afternoon. Neither had met AJ yet, so it was extra special to have them here. When then walked in, Ella ran to them SO excited. She was so happy to see them. She loves them both so much!!

There is something that is so amazing to me to see my dad hold his grandchildren. There is a special light in his eyes. There are almost tears. It is so special. He always kisses them gently on the head and talks to them.

Dad and AJ

Ella was all about Grandma Rose that night! Grandma made her a Mickey and Minnie blanket, which she just loves. One of my favorite pictures from that day is the two of them snuggled up on the chair with her blanket.

Ella and Grandma Rose

My Dad, being the silly guy that he is, heard Ella saying some of the alphabet. He immediately thought of “Violent is the Word for Curly,” the Three Stooges short which features the “Swingin’ the Alphabet” song.

B A Bay, B E Bee, B I Bicky By …

So Dad had to sing it to her …

Dad’s chart was a bit off….

I was glad to get the chance to visit with them, and I am glad that three of his four grandchildren were there for him to see. Papa and Rose were very good to all my kids!

Dad and me – wish the lighting had been a bit better

Dad and Rose left around 7, and Dante’ called about 8 to say he’d gotten off work and was on his way. I was exhausted and was actually on my way to bed when he called. He asked me to stay awake, so I did. He came in and gave he the biggest hug. We had some leftover pizza, so I told him to dig in and not stay up too late!

As I crawled in bed, my heart was full.

Christmas Eve

I’m sure the day is coming when the kids will be up at like 4am to open presents! We were blessed that they didn’t wake up until after 8am! I had to laugh, though, because ever since we put the tree up, there has been a gate around it. It served two purposes. First, it kept that cat out of the tree and second, it kept Ella from pulling on the ornaments and the lights.

When she woke up and came out the the living room, she walked over the the tree and saw all the presents under the tree – and no gate. She literally just stood there – not really sure what to make of things.

Ella – perplexed

After a few minutes, Sam said it was time to go in and wake up the boys. They were already going to be leaving earlier than I thought (so Dante’ didn’t have to drive in the dark), so we wanted to get things going. We told Ella to go in and wake them up.

She ran into their room yelling, “Wake up, Bruh! Wake up, Bruh!” It was quite funny to watch my older boys stir in bed … all they wanted to do was stay asleep. Dante’ asked to sleep for another 30 minutes. I told him, “You’re sister isn’t going to wait 30 minutes and wants to open presents!” Against their wishes, they crawled out of bed and joined us in the living room.

Last year, we had to help Ella open her gifts. She wasn’t quite where she understood how to do it yet. This year, however, she was able to jump right in and rip open her gifts!

Ella – wearing the very cute PJ’s that Sam’s dad got for her

It’s neat to see how the various kids react to Christmas now. Dante is 19, so he’s very laid back. Dimitri is 14 and it depends on what he’s opening as to how excited or how much emotion he shows. Ella, she’s excited for everything. Andrew has no clue as to what is happening.

The boys

The boys are SO hard to buy for. They never seem to have any real ideas for me. Dante’ is kind of at the “gift card/money” stage. He’s happy with those. Dimitri really liked this golf game I had for the Xbox, so I made sure to get it for him to play at home.

Par for the course …

Ella, being the helpful big sister, helped open up AJ’s presents.

AJ watching sissy open gifts for him

Of course, I had to put together Ella’s basketball hoop, so she could slam dunk a few before dinner.

Two points!

After a hearty breakfast, the boys went into their room and played games for a while. Knowing that they were going to be leaving early, I made sure that dinner was done early. Keeping with my family tradition, I made ravioli with my homemade sauce. I made sure to send a jar home with the boys, as Dante’ loves it.

Personal note: I used a bit too much wine this time. I felt that it was sweeter than normal.

About 3, the boys had to leave to go home to their mom. Ella was napping when they left. When she woke up, I picked her up out of her crib and as we passed the boy’s room, she said “Bruh”? “Bruh”? It ripped my heart out. All she wanted to do was see her brothers! Sadly, I don’t think they really know how much she loves them and how important they are to her. This was the saddest moment of the entire weekend for me.

A Christmas Eve tradition for Sam and I has always been to do the Drive Through Holiday Lights display at Crossroads Village. For $10 a car, you get to drive through and see the many Christmas lights that they have on display. When the kids are older, we plan on going and doing the Christmas train ride, which is truly amazing, but for now, we just drove through.

When we arrived, we got Ella out of her car seat and let her sit on Sam’s lap as we drove through. She was so excited. As we got close to the lights, she’s yell, “Here we go, Mommy! Here we go, Daddy!” It was so cute. Sam made the comment that she loves seeing things through Ella’s eyes. This is so true! We’ve been through there every year, but this year was so much more exciting because of Ella!

Sleigh ride!

We thought about driving downtown Flint, which has some great lights, too. We decided against it, as it was getting late and the kids were tired. We went through out bedtime routine and got the kids to bed just in time for me to play Santa. I had a few things to put together so that they were ready for they kids when they woke up Christmas morning.

Christmas Day 2021

Sam wanted to be in the living room so she could record Ella seeing her presents, so I got her out of bed and asked Sam if she was ready. She said she was, so I sent Ella running into the living room. The video is priceless. The smile on her face is something I will never forget. We got her one of those Little People Jungle Rainforest things. It came with animals and makes noises and everything. It is HUGE and takes up a good part of the living room.

Here’s the monkey!

AJ’s Santa gift was a very cool floor chair. It allows him to sit up while on the floor and it’s a lot better than those Bumpo seats.

Sitting pretty

I love that both kids had “Santa” jammies for Christmas morning. Sam and I actually got matching PJ bottoms to wear that morning, too. AJ was wide awake and just taking in all the sights. I love this picture of him and Sam. What I love about it is that just above Sam’s right shoulder is a picture of Ella on her lap and in this picture AJ is on her lap.

One of Ella’s favorite gifts was a Leap Frog Tea Party set. The pot talks and it came with cups and cake.

Must be good tea!

I joked many times about having tea parties with my daughter. I am excited to say that we’ve had our first already and I am looking forward to the next one!

Yummy!!

It was daddy’s turn to help AJ open gifts. So I grabbed his stuff and we opened them up. I was as surprised as he was! LOL. Sam got him a very cool “Floor time” pillow with lights, sounds, and more.

Wow!! What’s this, daddy?

It made him like floor time a lot more….

Mesmerized

Before we all showered and got dressed to visit Sam’s folks, we attempted to take a family selfie. We have a camera that I could have set up with a timer and all, but with my cell phone, I could snap 5-6 pictures in the time it would take to get one on the camera. Good thing we went with the cell phone – because it only took us about 57 tries before we finally got this one.

Merry Christmas!

Since it was AJ’s first Christmas, we had to be sure to get a picture with him in his “First Christmas” outfit. Sam came up with the silly saying on the board and it made me chuckle!

Got him smiling and everything!

After the kids napped, we went to Sam’s folks for Christmas dinner. Sam’s mom put out an amazing spread with turkey, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and so much more. I’m not sure why we didn’t get any pictures while we were there, and I am sad that we didn’t. We are so grateful for them and enjoyed family time together.

After we got home and got the kids in bed, Sam and I crawled into bed. Before I drifted off to sleep, I thought back over the many memories that were made and thanked God for the many blessings that He has given me. I am truly a lucky man.

December 26

Having the Christmas tree up was driving Sam crazy. Not because it was up, but because we literally had to move Ella’s toys out of that corner of the room. All of her toys were moved in front of the fireplace and it just seemed like we were always tripping over them. Long before Christmas, it was clear that on the 26th, the tree was coming down!

I spent the morning taking down ornaments, unstringing Christmas lights, folding up stockings, and putting them all downstairs until next year. Before I finished, there was one picture we had meant to get of Ella that we hadn’t gotten. So I hurried out to the garage and got the props ready before Ella and I walked the neighborhood. Here is the picture we had hoped to get earlier in the season ….

Hauling her Christmas tree

It’s back to work tonight for me, at least for a couple days. Looking back over this holiday weekend makes me smile. There are so many wonderful memories forever saved in snapshots that I will look back on often. Life is good. I am blessed.

Expanding on an earlier Facebook post.

Vacation

I am on vacation.  I have the next week off and will have my sons all week.  I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to have them over.  I am hoping that the weather will cooperate and we’ll get to do some fun things this week.   This vacation could not have come at a better time.  I’m not sure why, but I just need the break.  I have so much that has been on my mind.

For example, Thursday was typical for me.  I slept for about 3-4 hours.  It is my day to switch from “midnight” mode to “days.”  Normally on Thursday, my head hits the pillow and I am asleep quickly.  That was not the case.  I actually broke my own rule (and what I tell all my patients about electronics before bed) and was surfing the web and reading stuff hoping to make myself tired – it didn’t work.

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I read once that if you can’t shut your mind off,  just jot all the thoughts down.  The thought process is that it can help free your mind of them.  I hoped that this would work and posted the following on Facebook.  In posting it here and re-reading it, I may or may not comment on these thoughts.  Some of them are repeat thoughts, some are not.  Here goes:

“Been here in bed since 10:30. Sam is already sleeping. The cats are both on the bed, too. Mind won’t shut off. Trying not to think about something that happened earlier that really just made me angry. Random thoughts/wishes:

* As much as I love to sit and write, I wish I could find a gig that paid me to do it.

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Comment:  The more I think on this, the more I wish I could do this!  I believe that you are always your own worst critic.  I have often wondered why anyone would even want to read what I write, yet, here you are.  I’m sure many authors have wondered if people would want to read their stuff too.  Writing is therapeutic for me.  Much like radio, I can take my observations and share them.  You won’t always agree with my thoughts or opinions, and that is OK with me.

* In talking to an old radio buddy, it makes me miss doing it full time (even though it has changed dramatically)

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Comment:  While I am not doing this full time, I need to acknowledge that I am very lucky to still be doing it part time.  Even if it is once a week, whether it is live or recorded, I still have my foot in the door and I get to “create” and “perform.” I still love it and radio will probably always be in my blood.

* I wish I could review music, bands, or movies and get paid for it. Neat to see some friends of mine doing it and having success with that!

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Comment:  I follow some blogs that write movie reviews.  I know they don’t get paid for that.  However, I have a friend who writes a lot of political stuff for websites and gets paid for that.  I also have a buddy who always seems to be out and about interviewing celebrities about their films for various news stations, TV and radio.  What a cool gig that has to be.  When I interviewed people on the radio I was always told I was a “good interviewer.” Maybe I am.  Pardon me while I digress and share two instances come to mind:

When I was at B95, Craig Morgan was scheduled to come by the studio.  At the time he had a minor hit, and some tunes that weren’t being played on the radio.  I was told by my boss to put him on the air for a few minutes, ask him about his new song, play it and move on.  I did my research, and there were a lot of things about Craig that I found interesting.  Yes, I was going to ask about his song, but there were other things I wanted to as about.  I asked about his military career, his family, and such.  Craig is a very funny guy.  He and I hit it off instantly.  We laughed a lot and had a bunch of fun. About 5 or 8 minutes into the interview, my boss went into the studio in the next room and stood in front of the window.  I thought he was gonna give me the “Wrap it up” signal because we were going longer than anticipated.  Instead, he gave me the “keep going – stretch it out” signal.

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I don’t recall how long the interview went, but it was FUN.  My boss said, “You just took a guy who no one was really familiar with, and made the listeners love him, because you related to him.  You asked questions that made him so real.  It was entertaining, and enjoyable.  That’s the best damn interview I have heard in a long time!”  The kudos I received were unexpected.

Also at B-95, Jewel came by the studio and I interviewed her on the air.  She had recorded a country album and was promoting it.  I did my research and prepped for her interview.  I found a lot of stuff that I could ask about.  Jewel was homeless for a time.  She lived in a van.  I wasn’t sure if that was a topic she would want to talk about.  When she arrived I asked her off air if there was anything that she didn’t want to talk about, she said to ask whatever I wanted to.  Naturally, I asked about her album.  I also asked about her family life and pop hits. I also asked about her being homeless, in which she shared some great stories about writing songs.

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One of the things I asked about was some Wizard of Oz TV special she did in the mid ’90’s.  She started chuckling and joked about it.  She asked “How did you find out about that?!” This led her to talk about some plays she was in in school and some other childhood memories.  She was so moved and excited to be talking about those things.  It was so cool for me to see how moved she was to remember those stories and it was great radio!

After Jewel left the station, about a half hour later, I got a call on my cell phone from the record rep who brought her to the station.  He said, “I wanted you to know that Jewel just told me that you were by far the best interview she has done on this radio tour!  She was blown away that you asked her about that Wizard of Oz thing!  She said she felt so comfortable talking to you and she really enjoyed herself.  She said you made her remember some great stories that she has never shared with anyone before.  Nice work, cowboy!”

Again, a high point in my radio career!

back to my original thought – I think it would be very cool to get the chance to hear an album before it hit stores, see a movie before it hits theaters, or read a book before it hits the shelves and then offer a review.

* It’s a shame when an entire team has to be punished because of a few others.

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On my hour drive to work each night, it is often the time I catch up with friends on the phone.  We talk about family, friends, and work.  In discussing work, there was this common theme.  Rather than dealing with employees individually and holding them accountable for whatever the issue was, bosses made a knee-jerk reaction and punished the entire staff for the issues of a few people.

I am not in a position of authority at my job.  I was a boss on more than one occasion.  Observations that I made as an employee, helped me to manage.  Managers motivate!  When employees are motivated, they will go above and beyond for you.  Many managers tend to demotivate.  Jay Trachman, one of my radio mentors, wrote an article geared toward radio managers, and it holds true for any manager, really.  It included things that managers do to demotivate, with or without knowledge of doing it.  They included:

  1. Ignoring employee ideas
  2. Setting unattainable goals and holding employees responsible for them
  3. Treating employees like children
  4. Ignoring that employees have lives outside of work
  5. Making rules for the entire staff because of the behavior of a few members
  6. Focusing on errors or mistakes, no matter how trivial (Incidentally, the facts show that when you dwell only on problem areas destroys the employee’s confidence and self-esteem makes the employee more error-prone!)

* I hate when an opportunity seems right, but no matter how many ways you try to make it work, you can’t.

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Comment:  Without going into detail, an opportunity presented itself.  It was one of those opportunities that doesn’t come around too often.  I took it all in.  Asked questions.  Weighed options.  Re-weighed options with different scenarios.  Crunched numbers.  Re-visited scenarios.  Made a pros and cons list (my wife swears by these!).  It was an opportunity that just was not something I could jump at.  I am ok with that, though, because, it doesn’t change anything I am already doing.  No big deal.

* I am hoping the scale shows a loss tomorrow at weigh in.

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Comment:  It did.  My total weight loss now is at 24 pounds!! I couldn’t be happier!  I was a bit worried because last Saturday I DJ’d a wedding and the dinner didn’t necessarily have the most healthy choices.  Oh, and they had a doughnut bar!  LOL.  I am determined to get back down to 199 (where I was about 20 years ago, and the last time I was on Weight Watchers).  The journey continues!

* I am not looking forward to a visit to the dentist tomorrow.

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Comment:  Uneventful cleaning.  No cavities, so I was happy with that!

* I wish I could do more voice over work.

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Comment:  I looked into a few voice over services, but most cost money to be a part of.  They also require you to do many auditions daily.  I could probably do this on my days off, but it is hard to do working midnights, and without a home studio (or the money to build a home studio)!

I am lucky to have the relationships I have with The American Way, Whitetail Journey, Modern Craft Wines, Fox 66, and RPM Auto Sales.  I would love to add a few more clients to that list.  If you know anyone looking, I can certainly send a voice sample to them.

* I probably could have wrote a blog instead of this. Maybe I will just copy and paste it….lol.

Comment:  That’s what I am doing!

* There is so much sadness in the Facebook feed this week. My heart goes out to my friends who have lost loved ones or have loved ones in the hospital.

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Comment:  Scrolling the Facebook news feed this week, I was saddened to read of some friends coping with the loss of someone special to them.  I also read of a dear friend who is now home with hospice care.  Some friends have been Facebook silent, but I am aware of some health struggles that are dealing with.

Many people state that they hate Facebook.  They say there are too many political arguments, opinions, etc.   I would agree, but I also utilize the “mute” button.  There are ways that you can unfollow those who post stuff you don’t want to see.  You remain friends, but you don’t see their stuff.  You can also post things while making sure that certain people can’t see it.

I happen to like Facebook.  It is a great way to keep up with friends.  I almost never forget a friend’s birthday! I always love the pictures of weddings, first and last days of school, band concerts, dance recitals, and the addition of new babies or grandbabies.  There are sad things, too.  The passing away of parents, prayer chains for those who are sick or suffering, or the loss of a pet.  Without Facebook, I’d never know these things. It can be a place to offer words of support, encouragement, or better yet, prompt you to reach out to your friend on the phone.

While I love social media, I also feel that it is important to reach out and actually talk to friends.  I have decided that I am going to try to do that more.  Yes, texting and messaging is easy, but you know what?  I want to hear your voice!

* I hate change. I am a man of routine. Sometimes, change is inevitable. Sometimes change is exciting.

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Comment: I take the same way to work every day.  I am a creature of habit.  One of the things that helps me stay focused on Weight Watchers is that I know the point values of meals.  I tend to find something I like, and will stick with that meal.  I have been eating a lot of veggies and fruits.  I am also eating a lot of salads.  However, to change things up we had turkey tacos last night.  Not going to lie, changing it up was exciting!  That’s right – I was excited for Tacos!!

* Guy on TV said to his gal, “I couldn’t be happier.” I think you can always be happier. Happiness can grow, much like love can grow. Each day I think I can’t love Sam any more than I do, but that love grows deeper. Happiness can grow too – that’s cool to me.

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Comment:  Just re-reading that made me smile.  Think about this – “Happiness is a habit – cultivate it” (Quite attributed to Elbert Hubbard)

* The wrong motivation can kill morale and desire to give their all for you.

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Comment: See above comments about punishing the entire team because of a few others.

* I wish I was an expert on something. With the recent talks I have done for conferences and small groups, I would totally love to do that for a living.

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Someone commented on the original Facebook post and said I should be a motivational speaker.  I don’t know that I’d go that far.  I have many obstacles of my own that I have yet to conquer.  I am not sure how motivating I can be.

I have always enjoyed doing career days at schools.  I think it would be cool to host classic movies at a theater.  I have no problem public speaking.  I thought about teaching a public speaking class at one of those community education night class type programs.  I don’t know, it’s a pipe dream perhaps.  I just think it could be a very fun thing to do and would be great to get out and meet people.

* Was hoping that by jotting this stuff here, I’d get sleepy … Maybe I should at least try to go to sleep.

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Comment:  I didn’t.

* Even with all of these random thoughts, one still remains true. I am one lucky man! I am blessed beyond measure.

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Comment:  The Bible says in I Thessalonians 5:18, “In EVERYTHING give thanks.”  What powerful instruction, and a very difficult thing to do! I have always tried to make this one of my “life mantras,” but some days are harder than others.  At one point in my life, nothing could make me feel better.  I was deep in that depression and suffering with so many feelings.  I was struggling bad.

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Today, however, I am a new man.  Those quotes that I always had in my mind are back and help keep me focused.  This one still remains difficult, because “everything” means “everything!”  In good times and bad times – give thanks!  What a challenge! Despite the fact that I had a variety of things (both good and bad) running through my head Thursday night, I remind myself of just how thankful I am to be alive!  I am thankful for my family.  I am thankful for my job.  I am thankful for my friends.  I am thankful for YOU.  Thanks for reading!

Now, I am off to enjoy my time off!

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