Making Spirits Bright

I saw a thing on Facebook that made me laugh.  It said, “It only snows in November because people decorate early for Christmas.” Blame me if you wish, but we needed to brighten things up over this way! 

There has been a lot going on in my life, some of which I have shared and some I have kept to myself. We’re all processing a variety of emotions. With the passing of my sister-in-law, there is an extra bit of sadness. Like the song says, “We need a little Christmas!” So we decided to put up the Christmas tree this weekend.

The older the kids get, the more fun this becomes. Andrew was just a couple months old last year, so he was especially excited to see the tree and the lights. He and Ella both “helped” handing me lights. They were both extra giddy.

I had the lights plugged in as I walked around the tree with them. That way I could make sure they were placed evenly and all areas has the proper amount of lights.

Andrew, as you know, is everywhere. He gets into everything! So we debated waiting until closer to Christmas to put ornaments on the tree. We also debated not putting any on at all. We did decide to put the tree topper on, and Andrew was the perfect helper!

My dad commented on a picture of the tree on Facebook. He said he was taking bets on who was going to know the tree down – Ella, Andrew, or the cat! For the record, the cat has yet to get near the tree, which is really odd.

We brought up the baby gate and set it around the tree. It’s the “look, but don’t touch” gate. The kids can still touch it, but the probability of the tree coming down is a lot less.

I decided that certain ornaments had to go up on the tree. As ridiculous as it looks, all the ornaments are on the tree from about a foot higher than the top of the baby gate and up to the top. In total, there are maybe 12-20 ornaments on there.

Every year, we got to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth to get an ornament that represents a big even from the year. We got one for our engagement, or marriage, the birth of both kids, etc. We went early this year and at the time, didn’t really have an “event” to get an ornament for. We opted instead for a plaque for the door with a snowman family on it.

When my sister-in-law, Grace, passed away I decided I was going to get Sam and her folks a memorial ornament for the tree. I had seen a few designs in the Bronner’s catalog, and chose this one.

I had hoped to save it until closer to Christmas to give it to Sam, but I can’t control my face. Let me explain.

I took the kids with me to Bronner’s on a day Sam was home sleeping. I kept the ornaments in my car so she wouldn’t see them. Then a day or two later, she was getting ready for work and said, “I was thinking about getting a Christmas ornament with Grace’s name on it for my mom.”

I must have stood there dumbfounded. My face obviously giving away that I had already done it. Instead of just saying, “That’s a great idea. We should do that.” I knew that she would just go and do it. So I walked out to the car and brought inside.

I’m glad it’s inside and I’m glad it is on the tree. Grace already has a special place in our hearts, and now she will have a special place on our tree every year.

If my tree being up brings snow your way, I’m sorry. We needed something help brighten the season, even if it is early.

Another thing I saw on Facebook this week said, “Don’t you just love it when the Christmas tree is the only light in the room?”

Yes. Yes, I do!

Christmas in September

To say that the past few days have been stressful is an understatement. There have been some very good moments and I tried to just take them all in. However, something was on my mind all weekend.

I’m not going to get into detail on that. I could, but I won’t. Let me just state that it is stress related to things outside of my home life. Read into that however you wish.

At any rate, after a particularly emotional and crappy Monday that was the culmination of all the things on my mind, I needed something – anything! My Monday evening walk with the kids helped. I was out in the neighborhood, counting squirrels, saying hello to our “puppy friends” and listening to AJ babble and Ella sing.

Sam knew the weekend and Monday had taken a toll on me. She never said it was her plan, but she suggested taking a trip to Bronner’s in Frankenmuth to look for our annual “ornament hunt.” Bronner’s is “The World’s Largest Christmas Store” and I have blogged about it before. You can read about that here:

We packed the family up in the car after Sam got home and we made the short drive there. It was the perfect day to go. Tuesday morning in September. Sure, there were people there, but not the normal crowd that is there. The sounds of Christmas music were playing through the outside speakers as we walked in.

(Johnny Mathis’ version of Marshmallow World was playing as I walked in. I found myself thinking that the Dean Martin version is FAR superior to this version. As a bonus, Dean’s version played before we left!)

I hadn’t thought about it but this was Andrew’s first trip to Bronner’s. He was in awe of all the lights and him and Ella were anxious to touch everything!!

Every year, we get an ornament that marks some big event that happened in the past year. We have an engagement ornament, a marriage ornament, a mother-to-be ornament, and two “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments. So what big event could we commemorate this year?

Neither one of us changed jobs. We didn’t get a new house or new car. Now that I think about it, the only big thing that happened this year was my vasectomy! I doubt they had an ornament for that, but then again, they have thousands of ornaments for just about every thing! They probably DO have something for that!!! Maybe I will call and ask …

Instead of an ornament, we got a snowman family plaque. You have probably seen what I am talking about. It has mom, dad, and snow-kids.

The one above is not the one we got, but it is similar. So we had them put our family name on it and then each of the snow kids had their name written on them. It came out really cute and we’ll either put it on the mantel or hang it on the main entry door.

Next year, Sam has said that she wants the kids to go and each pick out their own ornaments. I think that is a great idea and a good way to make it a tradition. We want them to have that experience and then every year when the holiday rolls around, they can look back on the ornaments and relive memories.

The kids were both getting a bit antsy, so as soon as the plaque was personalized, we headed out. We stopped for photo ops and walked outside. As we exited the building, there was a huge Santa Claus. Andrew saw it and began to point to it. It was a perfect (and frame worthy) photo.

It was just want I needed to get my mind off all that transpired over the past few days. A welcome distraction with those that I love.

One thing is for sure. Despite all the feelings that are churning around inside me, especially as I think about things, I think on the reasons why I keep going. The people who mean the most to me. I think of my wife and her never ending support and love. I think of my two older sons, and of course, the two little blessings who accompanied me on our trip to “Christmas in September” …

THEY are why I continue to do what I do. THEY are the reason I need to focus on getting healthy. THEY are the reason I am happy.

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.

Twas The Weekend Before Christmas …

Three more days until Christmas. I don’t even know where the time has gone, but the holiday is FAST approaching! This past weekend I was pretty busy, and at the same time there were plenty of wonderful family moments together.

After working four days and coming home, I feel like the kids have grown and are doing things that they weren’t just a day before. I’m not sure if it is the fact that he recognized my voice or my face, but AJ was smiling and babbling so much this weekend. Those baby smiles are exactly what I needed this weekend.

Saturday night, Ella and I were playing on the floor and Sam reminded me that I’d wanted to build a “fort.” So I pulled two chairs together and grabbed a comforter and tossed it over the chairs – instant “fort.” As a kid, I used to love when we’d sit in the fort and read books. Ella loved coming in … and going out. She was in and out and in and out. Believe me, it wasn’t easy to get her to stay still long enough to take a selfie…

This weekend we gave both kids a bath. Sam grabbed Ella and AJ’s bear PJ’s and gathered them up to read….

What book did we read first?? Well, of course, it had to be….

On Sunday, we placed a Meijer order for groceries. On Christmas Eve, it’s sort of been a tradition to have ravioli for dinner. Grandma always made them, and it is a tradition that I have tried to keep going. I refuse to use sauce in a jar for the holidays, so I made a list of everything I needed and spent the afternoon making sauce.

If you are new to this blog, let me explain. I have been trying to duplicate my grandma’s sauce for years. I have gotten close to doing so, and I have yet to master it. In doing so, I have kind of come up with my own sauce. I don’t tweak too much every time, because I don’t want to mess it up too much. This time around, there may be just a tad too much wine in it. Oh well….I will make a note of it and try again ….

While the sauce was cooking, Sam gathered up all the presents to wrap them as Ella took her afternoon nap. It’s always interesting to divide up the gifts. Ella and AJ will get TWO Christmases. We wake up Christmas Eve morning with my sons and open gifts, and then we wake up Christmas morning and open more. Sam bought some two sided wrapping paper from Sam’s Club. Being the smart woman that she is, she wrapped the gifts to open on Christmas Eve with one side and the Christmas Day gifts with the other side. She is brilliant!

After the sauce had simmered about 6 hours, Sam and I decided we’d take a short trip up to Frankenmuth to drive through town and look at Christmas lights. We put on the Christmas station, loaded the kids, and went for our drive. When the kids are a bit older, we want to go and just walk around town. We will definitely pile the kids into one of the horse drawn carriages and ride around town! For now, we just drove around.

We stopped at Bronner’s, which had all their lights outside lit up and it’s always neat to just drive through the parking lot. We weren’t the only ones who were doing it either. They have plenty of things around the parking lot that can be good for picture taking. I was afraid that Ella might run into the road/driveway that was by some of those, so instead, we went to a few that were well inside the lot. She loved it!

We had a feeling that winter time was going to drive Ella crazy! She loves to be outside. There is only so much that she can do in our house. We’ve been trying to limit her TV/Screen time, so she’s getting bored. Before I laid down for a nap before work, we grabbed her boots and coat and we went for a short walk around the neighborhood.

There is still a little bit of snow on the ground, but it will more than likely be gone by Christmas. We left without her gloves, so her hands got cold when she was picking up the snow. As we walked, she realized that we were at the house where her hound dog friend is usually outside during the summer. She kept asking where the doggy was, and I had to tell her it was probably too cold for her friend to be outside.

I was really surprised that she remembered the house!

When we got home, her hands and nose was a bit chilly, but she warmed up quick as mommy had lunch ready for her when we arrived.

There was a knock on the side door before I headed off to bed. The UPS man brought the kids a package from my brother. He had told me to watch for it. Inside were pajamas for AJ and a HUGE Daisy Duck stuffed animal for Ella. I had called him a week or so ago and told him that she was all about Daisy. She was so surprised when she saw it. I wish I had gotten pictures of her initial reaction. She had hands over her eyes and was so surprised. Then she grabbed it and hugged it!

It really was the cutest thing!!!

HA! I just looked at that picture and in it, you can totally see how I messed up hanging the stockings! Last year, we had 5 (Me, Sam, Dante’ Dimitri, and Ella). This year we added the small “My First Christmas” stocking for AJ. I use those 3M hooks to hang the socks. Somehow, I marked off 7 spots instead of 6, so there are three on one side of the fireplace and three on the other and a big space in the middle. URGH. I must have looked at it 5 times before I actually attached the hooks, but I never realized there were 7 spots! THAT is why I rarely build anything from scratch …

3 more days …. I’m looking forward to the holiday….

Gearing Up For The Holidays

I feel like I haven’t really blogged about “life” lately. I kinda feel like I haven’t really even had a minute to sit down and write. Between wacky schedules at work and an even wackier sleep schedule, writing has been a challenge. So here are some highlights from the past couple weeks….

Right after Halloween, Sirius XM radio launched a bunch of their holiday channels and the Christmas music was readily available.

I took advantage of a rare 60 degree November day and put up the outside Christmas lights. I know, I know, people think I am rushing the season. The truth is, I don’t like putting them up in the cold. They have been up for a couple weeks now, and the only time I have turned them on is to make sure they looked ok.

The side porch takes the most lights. I always check the strands before stringing them up to make sure they work. For some reason, one of the strands had a cluster of lights in the middle that didn’t light up. Both ends lit up, but not the ones in the middle. I went through and tested bulbs, but couldn’t find the problem. So I put them up anyway! I just made sure the unlit portion of the lights was covered by lights I knew worked!

We don’t do much to the front porch, though I’d like to. I got razzed about how I didn’t get up and string lights on the roof by some friends. I’ve never been a fan of heights, so, these are the highest my lights will go. Besides, I only have a three step ladder!

Baby Milestone

AJ celebrated being one month old a week or so ago. It is amazing to come home from work and see just how different he looks to me after only one day! He is much more alert and his sister just loves him! He is starting to take notice of a lot of things around him. Recently he discovered the mobile on his swing.

Holiday Tradition

Every year, we take a trip up the Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth (“The World’s Largest Christmas Store”) and get an ornament for the Christmas tree that represents a big event from the past year. Sam and I have one for our engagement, our first Christmas as husband and wife, when Sam was pregnant with Ella, Ella’s first Christmas, and now we needed to go and get one for AJ’s first Christmas.

Obviously, life at our house is pretty crazy with two little ones. We had planned to all go to Bronner’s as a family day trip. AJ was napping and Sam suggested that Ella and I go, since we knew exactly what we wanted. There is an ornament that is exactly like Ella’s except it is blue for a baby boy.

Finding the ornament took all of 5 minutes. The line to get it personalized was long and we stood in line for almost 30 minutes (Thank goodness I had the PBS app on my phone, so Ella didn’t lose her mind waiting!). I had pictures of Ella’s ornament and how they did hers, and we wanted AJ’s to be done the same way. Ella and I walked around a little bit while they worked on the ornament. There are plenty of photo ops throughout the store and outside.

It was close to lunch time, so we snapped a couple pictures, picked up the ornament, and drove home. I hope to be able to take a drive up there one night when the lights are all lit up and grab a couple pictures.

Later that day, I took advantage of nap time and brought the tree up from downstairs. We’ve been trying to decide where to put it this year. We’ve moved everything around in our living room two or three times due to the addition of Ella toys or furniture, so it was unclear where it would go. There is a little nook in our living room where we had moved a lot of her toys, easel, toybox, etc…. We decided to find somewhere else for those things and that the tree should go there.

So, the tree is up and the lights are on it. However, we will decorate it this weekend or next weekend. I did have some help with the lights as I put it up …

…and, of course, little brother had to get into the act …

I’m excited for the holidays this year. Ella is at the perfect age for unwrapping presents! It is going to be a fun holiday season ….

A Wave I Want NO Part Of (and other thoughts)

The Beach Boys sang the surfing hit “Catch a Wave” back in 1963. They were the kings of “surf rock” and their songs had a “happy” sound that made you wanna grab a surf board and head to the beach. Today, when we talk about waves, it has nothing to do with surfing. The wave I don’t want to catch is the second wave of Covid-19!

Covid-19 – Wave #2

Less than a week ago, I blogged about some co-workers and a former co-worker who all contracted Covid-19. The consensus among them all was that it was awful. One said they “wouldn’t wish this on their worst enemy!” The day after I posted that blog, we found our neighbor had it. He informed me today that his wife also has tested positive. One of the symptoms is a loss of taste or smell. He developed something weird – he says that all he can smell is cigarette smoke and that he has a burning in his nose and throat.

Yesterday, I found out the pastor who teaches my classes tested positive for Covid. He was actually in the hospital and was given what the doctor called “The Trump Treatment.” He was released from the hospital and said he was resting in his “man cave” in the basement isolated from his wife. He said that it was very fatiguing. The thing that he said bothered him the most was that his eyes bothered him when he read. For a pastor who loves to read, he found that most annoying. He posted on his Facebook today that his wife has also tested positive for Covid. He joked, “Well, at least we can hold hands again!”

Our Governor had a press conference last night stating that cases were rising again. Some things were shut down again, while some things remain open and will be reevaluated in three weeks. Hospitals are filling up fast and it looks like we are in the middle of the second wave. I am half expecting our lab to shut down again, which will not be good for us. We can’t live off unemployment and I’m not sure I can mentally handle the stress of being in a Labor Pool again!

I pray that we get past this sooner than later.

Our Ella

I can’t end this blog on a sour note, so I thought I’d share a few pictures from the weekend.

My wife comes up with the some of the coolest ideas for pictures. We were putting up the tree and had most of the lights on it. She ran to Ella’s room and grabbed the “First Christmas” blanket, and set her down with a strand of lights. It took a few shots, but this one came out pretty cool. I wish I had the app that lets you keep some color and put some of the picture in black and white. I just love the way that picture came out!

I mentioned last week that we had gone to Bronner’s in Frankenmuth to get Ella’s ornament. It made it on the tree, appropriately right next to the ornament Grandma Rose gave us (the baby shoes) when we mentioned we were having a girl.

Ella loves when we read her books. Sam got some books for free with rewards points and such on Amazon this week, so I read them to her last night before bed. They were still on the couch this morning when Sam came home from work. Sam started reading them to her. Realizing this was a moment I wanted to catch on film, I grabbed my phone and caught this amazing photo –

The book is called “Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada” by Jimmy Fallon. I love those two with all that I am! This picture fills my heart with such joy.

Thanks for reading! Stay Safe!! Avoid the “wave”!

Wednesday Worries and Thoughts

Covid-19

Am I the only one that starts to freak out if I get one of the symptoms related to Covid-19?!! Monday, I got one of the symptoms (I will refrain from saying which one, but I visited the bathroom often), and my first thought was “Please don’t let this be Covid!” I called in to work on Tuesday, and around the time we normally punch in, a co-worker texted me with one word: “Covid??” I told her I was freaking out about it, and she told me when she had a cough recently, she was doing the same thing! Needless to say, I didn’t have a fever, I was able to taste and smell coffee, and have recovered.

Recently, a co-worker from another lab, a former co-worker, and a co-worker from one of the radio stations I work at were all diagnosed with Covid. One of them works from home, so how she got it is anybody’s guess. My neighbor (who had asked earlier in the week if he could borrow my lawnmower – but never did) texted this morning to say he just got a positive Covid test. I hope he keeps it down at his house!

Looks like this is gonna be around for a while longer ….

Classes

Over the past few months, I have been reviewing an entire year of Bible classes that I took years ago. I am finally in the finally weeks of the last semester of that year. Once I finish reviewing those, I will enter the first semester of the second year, which is where I left off. I am beyond excited to continue these classes. I have found the time in God’s Word to be exactly what I needed. Reviewing the classes is taking time, and I am glad that I chose to review instead of jumping right back into the classes where I left off. There was so much information that I had forgotten, yet so much information that I remembered.

I’ve also found myself watching live streams of church services on Sundays when the baby naps. I am lucky to have met many pastors through Bible conferences, and other believers through mutual friends on Facebook. Many of their messages have been applicable to my daily life and have been helpful to me. It’s been a while, but I am glad to see some growth in my spiritual life.

9 Months!

Ella turned 9 months old on Tuesday. It’s hard to put into words just how much we adore her. With each new day, it seems she’s doing something new! She’s got 6 teeth, crawling, standing, and will be walking in no time. It’s already a challenge keeping up with her! LOL. If you look at her and pucker up like you are going to kiss her, she will lean in and give you a kiss. It’s my new favorite thing that she does!!

Every year, we head to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth and get a new ornament for the Christmas tree. We got one when we got engaged, we got one when we got married, we got one last year when we were expecting, and this year it was “Baby’s First Christmas.” I think that we’ll be putting up the tree this weekend. I can’t wait to tell her the story of her first visit to the store.

Incidentally, for those of you who don’t live in Michigan, this week was a great example of how we experience more than one season in a short time. We had great weather last week and right up to Tuesday (it was almost 80!). This morning, it was about 45 degrees and windy (which made it feel a whole lot colder). You’ll notice Ella wearing her warm sweats this morning in the picture below!

She was a bit tired as we walked through the store. We knew exactly what we needed, so we were in and out. The place was a zoo! We were thinking, “Who goes to Frankenmuth at 10am on a Wednesday?!” Obviously, a lot of people! Anyway, we had to document her first visit there…

Veteran’s Day

Lastly, I wanted to say thank you to all of my readers who have served in the armed forces! Whenever I am out anywhere and see someone wearing a hat that says “Veteran” or a branch of the military, I always say “Thank you.” I know that the freedoms we love in this country came at a cost. I thank every man and woman who have proudly wore the uniform and served out country. I am especially grateful to my dad (on the left) who served in the army , and my Uncle Tom (on the right) who served in the navy. They both served during the Vietnam War.

Thanks for reading!

Reflecting on 2019 …

innovation-summer-reading-ripple-effect-payments

As the year draws to a close, I have pondered about what I wanted to write about.  Some of the blogs I follow have posted “Year End” Top Ten lists featuring their 10 most read blogs of the year.  Others have written rants about the old year, and posted resolutions for the new year.  Yet another blogger posted a 50 question “Year End Reflection” post, where he answered questions about the old year and the new year.

It is often very easy to diss on the year as it draws to a close.  I do it often.  In the last week or so I have heard so many people talk about how awful 2019 was and how they cannot wait for the new year, so they can start fresh.  I used to do that, too.  Granted, I know many people who truly have endured a very bad year.  I know too many people whose parents have passed away, gone through a divorce, survived terrible accidents, lost their jobs, and many other things.  I can totally understand how looking back can be difficult.

I think it is often easier to focus on the bad things, because those are the things that tend to stay with you.  Personally, I made a list of some things that I recalled from the past year that could go onto the “bad things” list.  I then decided to make a list of all the good things.  Jotting down things from memory, it was no surprise that the good list outnumbered the bad.  To further the point, I grabbed my phone and went back through a year’s worth of pictures and was reminded of many other things that happened, which all ended up on the “good things” list.

Quick Review of My Year

In January, Sam and I went to the Detroit Opera House with my dad, Rose, and my cousin Dianne to see The Phantom of the Opera.  I had never seen it before and I loved it.  Since Sam talked me into seeing Wicked last year, I have come to appreciate some of these wonderful productions.

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In March, Sam and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary with a trip to Cleveland.  Many joked about the fact that we went to Ohio, and I can see how that might be funny.  We really had a great time at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a visit to The Christmas Story House.  As a bonus, we got to grab dinner with my brother while we were down there.

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April brought about a couple celebrations.  My son, Dante’ turned 17 and we had a small get together with his friends at our house.  It was quite a loud party with all of his friends there!  Then we celebrated Sam’s graduation on the west side of the state.  I still beam with pride at all she has accomplished!

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May was a busy month.  My nieces and nephew ran us ragged at Peppa Pig World, Dimitri was in good voice at his choir concert, and the boys and I went with my father-in-law, and brothers-in-law to the Three Stooges Festival in Redford.  I also celebrated another birthday, and Sam bought me the most amazing gift – a record player.  I have since enjoyed looking at used record stores for more vinyl to play on it.  That gift also led to Sam and I sharing our first dance together.

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Summer was very busy!  I got the chance to golf with my friends Matt and Shawn,  went to the zoo and the beach with the boys, went to carnivals, visited many ice cream places, played mini-golf, and had many bonfires!  In June, I spoke at a Sleep Conference in Detroit, we celebrated Dimitri’s Birthday,  Sam’s birthday, and she shared the news that we were expecting.  This is one of many favorite memories of the year!

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In July, we went to our OB/GYN and got the first glimpse of our baby.  At this point, we did not know the gender, and were calling her “Baby P”.  On August 30, we decided to go to a place near us that would be able to tell us the gender a bit earlier than our OB/GYN.  It was at this appointment that we found out we were having a girl.  This would be another of my favorite memories of the year.  In August, we also took Dante’ around town on the hottest day of the year to try to get some Senior pictures taken, and shared with my dad that he would soon be holding a granddaughter. It was also fun to have the boys go on a scavenger hunt to find out they were getting a sister!

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In September, I spent the day at a work conference called “The Power to Choose”, which was a truly wonderful experience.  There were many great speakers and I was so glad to be able to attend.  I walked away from this day with some great tools to use with patients and in life in general. On September 25, we got “official” confirmation from our OB/GYN, that Baby P was indeed a girl!

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My brother visited us in October, and Sam allowed me to take Baby Bump Picture #1.  Baby Bump Picture #2 came in November in front of the Christmas tree – a picture that I will treasure forever!  November was very busy as we were showered with love from family and friends at the baby shower.  We took our annual trip to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland and bought our yearly ornament for the Christmas tree.  We enjoyed the Christmas light display at the Detroit Zoo, and construction began on the baby’s bedroom/nursery.

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December brought my staff Christmas party, which was full of hearty laughter!  Sam and I attended our birthing classes, and I learned how to breathe (and hopefully not pass out).  We celebrated Christmas with the boys on Christmas Eve, spent time with Sam’s family Christmas Day, and celebrated with my dad and Rose over the weekend.  I have spent way too much time at work, due to where the holidays fell.  I have also been working some extra shifts at one radio station, and doing my normal shift at the other radio station.  In between all of that, we’ve been sanding and painting the new hallway and the baby’s room (only adding to the excitement of her arrival!).

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As I look back, I am inclined to quote Frank Sinatra and say “It was a VERY good year!” Have you taken the time to really look back at the things that happened over the last year?  One thing that I noticed about the “bad things” on my list was that I was surrounded by good friends, and family who helped me through those “bad” times.  That, in itself, takes a bad and makes it sort of good, right?

Frank Sinatra also sang, “Regrets?  I’ve had a few…”  One of the daily writing prompts for December asked “What is biggest regret of the past year?”  I would say stopping Weight Watchers.  I am in no way, shape, or form blaming Sam, but I gotta tell you…it’s hard to diet when you live with a pregnant person.  Yeah, I know, I should be able to control myself, but all too often, when I went out to get her something she was craving…I got something, too!  LOL.  I have already resolved to get “back on the wagon” after the first of the year!

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In closing, I hope that each one of my readers can look back over 2019, and find some really good times!  I hope you can recall happy memories.  I hope you can find the good that accompanied the bad.  I hope you can find the positives, and focus on those things.  2020 brings a new year, a new “book” if you will.  That “book” contains 365 pages and YOU are the author of each page.  I am looking forward to writing our books together.  Feel free to reach out if you ever need a friend – I am here!

May 2020 be a happy and healthy year!  May it be full of joy and happiness!  May it be full of friends and family!  May it be positively the best yet!

Thanks for reading!  Cheers!

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“Christmastown”

Friday, October 25 marked the 13th anniversary of my mother’s passing.  My brother came up from Ohio to spend the weekend in Michigan.  We got to see him a couple days, then he met up with his best friend, and then he stopped by and saw my dad.  He arrived in Michigan on the Thursday and spent the night at my house.  Thursday evening, Sam and I took him out to dinner at our favorite steak place.  Dinner was filled with good conversation and laughter.  Friday evening, I had to DJ a preschool Halloween Party, but we had plans for early in the day Friday.

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Growing up, we often visited Frankenmuth, MI.  “Little Bavaria” it is often called.  There is a lot of German Heritage in this town.  My grandmother (mom’s mom) was of German decent and Frankenmuth was a nice day trip.  We would go to the Bavarian Inn and have a chicken dinner.  My great aunt (grandma’s sister) always went to Zender’s across the street.  We travelled there often as kids.  One of my earliest memories was going to Frankenmuth and stopping at this country store and getting a dill pickle.  I also recall one trip where we got there, ate dinner, and walked outside to see it snowing like crazy!  I remember my grandma, grandpa, aunt, mom, dad, me and my brother all crammed into my grandpa’s Buick driving home on Southbound 75 doing about 3 miles an hour!  That was one scary drive!!

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Anyway, Friday, we took my brother to Frankenmuth (which is literally 5-10 minutes from my house now).  The last time he was there, he went with my dad.  I guess they walked around and hit some of the shops, but never went to one in particular – Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland – The World’s Largest Christmas Store.  My dad was never really a fan of that place, so we told Chris that we’d all go together.

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Sam and I go there every year and we buy an ornament for our Christmas tree.  It’s a tradition that she has had for a long time, and we have continued it.  When she bought the house, she bought a “new home” ornament.  When we got engaged, we bought an engagement ornament.  When we got married, we bought a marriage ornament.  This year, we needed to go and get our “baby on the way” ornament.  They will personalize your ornaments, too!  They literally have an ornament for everything!!

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People come from all over the country – and the world – to visit Bronner’s.  There are some very neat pictures of the many celebrities that have stopped in to check it out.  It really is a magical place.  Along with the thousands of ornaments, they have trees, stockings, and Christmas villages.  My mom used to have a village she set up every year, but I am not sure what happened to it.  This year, they had some Halloween villages (one from the Addams Family, one from the Munsters, and one from the Nightmare Before Christmas).  They have many pieces for the various villages, too (Peanuts, a Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, etc…)!  We spent about 3-4 hours walking through.

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They have many Precious Moments figurines, as well as others (like super heroes, Peanuts, Star Wars, Disney, and more).  And if you need a nutcracker – they have plenty!

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It really was a fun time walking through there.  Sam and I enjoy doing it, although this year was a bit rougher on her as she is 24 weeks pregnant!!

After our walk through Bronner’s, we grabbed lunch at one of my favorite places in Frankenmuth – The Frankenmuth Brewery.

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This was where Sam and I had one of our first dates.  We ate outside on the balcony overlooking the river.  I have always been a fan of craft beers and there are some favorites that are brewed here.  The Christmastown Ale is a personal favorite.  This time I chose the Pumpkin Chucker, which was very good, and in season.  It was made from pumpkins from one of the local pumpkin farms.  Great eats, good beer, and good times with family!

(If you plan to visit – be sure to grab some cheese at the Cheese Haus and shop at the River Place shops)

Despite being busy throughout most of the weekend, I am so glad that I was able to get a day with my brother and Sam.  I think what made it extra special was that we spent the day in Frankenmuth.  I have some great childhood memories there, I have had some very fun times with my sons there, Sam and I had our first real date there, AND I asked her to marry me while riding in a horse-drawn carriage there.  It’s a very special place for me.

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