Weekend Wrap-Up

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Because of my “real job” work schedule, I have Thursday-Saturdays off.  I have my sons three weekends a month, and I love that time with them.  One weekend a month, my wife get a “date” weekend.  This past weekend was that weekend.

Thursday

Thursday is usually a short day, because I work the night before.  I sleep late into the afternoon, and then begin the process of going from “midnight” mode to “daytime” mode.  Thursday night, Sam and I didn’t feel like cooking, so we went to our favorite restaurant for dinner.

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I LOVE Lucky’s!  Not surprising I am a “meat and potatoes” guy.  I usually get a Filet Mignon and baked potato.  Because I am currently on Weight Watchers, I opted for broccoli instead of the potato this time.  I also drank water, instead of beer.  The steak was cooked to perfection, as always.  I love when a steak is cooked and seasoned so right, you don’t need to put anything in it.  I always ask for steak sauce, but never use it.

Friday

Friday is “weigh in” day for me.  After the BIG meal the night before, I stepped on the scale hoping I had lost weight.  Happily, I was down 4 pounds and that took me to an overall milestone.

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What an amazing feeling to be down 31 pounds.  Years ago, when I first did Weight Watchers, I hit a 30 pound loss on the week of my 30th birthday.  I was a bit lighter then, but I am working toward being down to where I was the first time I did it.  The journey continues!

***

I am not ashamed to admit that I’ve been seeing a therapist since before my divorce.  I needed to have someone who was non-biased to talk to.  It was a decision that I am glad to have made.  She has helped me in so many ways.  I have learned much about myself, and gained many skills through our visits.  I had an appointment Friday morning.  She, once again, hit on something that really helped me.  I’ve been struggling with something outside of my home life and she helped put some things in perspective. Those moments are awesome.  It should help a lot moving forward.  It’s always a good thing to be able to talk to someone who sees things in a different way and can offer honest opinions and advice.

***

Sam had a practice exam she had to do for her final clinical class.  It was a three hour test that is helping her prepare for the actual test she needs to take for her new credentials.  While she worked on that, I finished the book I was reading.

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Can you imagine America without George Washington?  Me either!  Hell, he’s one of the first famous people you learn about in elementary school.  I went to elementary long before there was President’s Day.  When I was in school, we celebrated Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday in February.  Washington, the “Father of our Country”, was almost NOT.

This book is a work of non-fiction by one of my favorite authors, Brad Meltzer.  As a history buff, I was excited to read this.  This all takes place prior to the Revolutionary War, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and his presidency.  As a matter of fact, I was surprised at just how close to the start of the war and July 4, 1776 all this took place.

You get a really good picture as to what kind of man Washington was.  Through excerpts of his letters, you see the various struggles he faced and the stress he bore on his shoulders.  You really get a sense of the weight and pressure that was on him during this turbulent time in our nation’s history.  You also see the “birth” of counter-intelligence.  It’s a very good read.

Turn

The book takes place prior to the Revolutionary War primarily, but it does touch on the first few battles of it.  It mentions the “Culper Ring,” which was a group of spies that Washington used to gain information throughout the war.  AMC did a very cool series surrounding the Culper Ring in the series Turn, which I believe is still on Netflix. Ian Kahn played Washington in the series.

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I watched the entire series, but now that I have read this book, I think I am going to revisit it.

***

We spent part of the day grocery shopping and we made turkey burgers for dinner.  We then retired to the couch to relax.  The original plan was to watch a movie, but when we turned the TV on, the Tigers were on, so we watched the game.  It was their “Pink Out the Park” game.

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As you know, my mother and grandmother both died of breast cancer.  I wish I had known that it was “Pink Out” day.  If I had, I may have gotten tickets to the game.  I LOVE when professional sports supports a cause like this.

The Tigers lost (miserably, I might add).  Tiger fans are living through more of the “we are building” stage.  Basically, that means we’re going to suck for a few years.  Maybe, because of this, I haven’t really been watching or listening to a lot of games this year.  At any rate, the game was one of the first ones I really got to sit and listen to the broadcasters.

Matt and Kirk

Matt Shepard and Kirk Gibson were calling the game.  I was quite disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Gibby as a ball player, but as an announcer, he is boring and monotone.  If there wasn’t a game to watch, and it was just audio, I would have fallen asleep.  I guess I was lucky to have watched George Kell and Al Kaline call games on TV, and Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey call games on radio when I was growing up.

***

After the game was over, Sam and I tuned in for one of our favorite shows – Live PD.

Live PD

I have dissed “reality” shows before.  This, however, is not Survivor, the Bachelor, American Idol, America’s Got Talent, or those other shows about winning money or a bride.  This is real cops doing their job.  I LOVE this show!  There are some other variations of this show – Live Rescue and PD Cam – which are good too.  In my many years on the radio, I have interviewed police, fire, and rescue people before and I ALWAYS made sure to say “thank you.”  They are out there putting their lives on the line, saving lives, and keeping us safe.  Live PD is a guilty pleasure.

Host Dan Abrams has actually wrote a couple books I want to read: Lincoln’s Last Trial and Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense.  Definitely, two to add to my stack of books to read.

Saturday

Saturday started early, as usual, for me.  I have to be up early so I can get to the radio station to be on air at 9.

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I worked for the Moose years ago full time.  I left to take a morning show position.  I was so grateful to be asked to return part-time.  The staff hasn’t changed much since I left and it’s like returning home to family.  I truly enjoy being back there.

***

I woke up Saturday feeling like I might have a sinus infection.  This is never a good thing for me.  Upon feeling those symptoms, I need to act fast.  If I don’t, I wind up with vertigo.  Every time I have ever gotten vertigo, it has happened because of a sinus infection.  Unlike, Mel Brooks poking fun at it in High Anxiety…..

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…it’s not fun.  It is crippling!  The last time I had it, I couldn’t even sleep in a bed.  I had to sleep sitting up.  The dizziness is SO bad.  I swear, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.  You have no control over anything.  You can barely turn your head.  EVERY little movement can cause you dizziness.  It’s awful.

Because of this, Sam and I went to the Urgent Care and I got checked out.  Definitely the start of a sinus infection.  So they gave me some steroids to bring down the swelling, told me to up the Flonase and sent me on my way.  So far – so good.  Fingers crossed!

***

While we were filing the fridge Friday night after grocery shopping, Sam pulled out the package of bacon that was in there.  She looked at me and said, “You know….BLT’s sound really good.  We should do that for dinner tomorrow.” Behold the power of bacon!!

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So, we had BLT’s for dinner!  “You’re on a diet, though, Keith” you say?  Yes, indeed.  And Turkey bacon works just as well!  Sam had hers on bread and I had mine in a low carb wrap – BLT wraps are just as good!!

The Week Ahead …

I may have a Guest Blogger lined up in response to my earlier blog.  If you have a story about us you’d like to share, a favorite memory, or a story that one of my blogs reminded you of – I’d love to hear it.  Let me know.

It’s back to work for me, tonight, but I have a very important appointment to keep this week.  It can mean some big changes on the horizon.  It’s exciting.  If all goes well, I will be sharing the “breaking news” in the days ahead ….

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Until then … Have a great week.  See you Tuesday for Tune Tuesday.

 

The Comics

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While prepping for my weekend shift on the radio, I was going through some old prep to see if there was anything that I could recycle or update.  In that prep was a line about a paperboy delivering papers.  At first I laughed, because, are there even paperboys anymore?!  Second, does anyone read the paper physically today?  I mean, most newspapers are all online today – some of which you have to pay for!

I was a paperboy for both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.  I remember as a kid reading my horoscope, the Names and Faces column, Bob Talbert, and all about the Detroit Tigers.  The thing I loved about getting the paper was reading the comics page!  There were so many great comic strips over the years.  I could always count on a good laugh from some of my favorite characters.  Off the top of my head, here are just some of my favorite strips (past and present)…..

The Far Side

From 1980 to 1995, Gary Larson provided a daily laugh for me and so many others!  At one time, I owned all the books and every year I bought the wall calendar.  The cartoons are like a good movie, or TV show – you have seen it hundreds of times, but they are still funny!  I miss this comic so much!

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The Argyle Sweater

This is the closest thing to The Far Side that I have found.  I love how Scott Hilburn incorporates puns almost daily.  Since there is no more Far Side wall calendar, I get the Argyle Sweater one for 365 laughs a year!

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Peanuts

This seemed to be the first comic on every comics page for as long as I can remember.  Charles Schulz created some very memorable characters.  I related to Charlie Brown in so many ways growing up.

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Calvin and Hobbes

LONG before Toy Story showed us what toys do when we aren’t around, there was Calvin and Hobbes.  Calvin was a kid with a big imagination.  He had many adventures with his stuffed friend, Hobbes.  The strip only lasted 10 years (1985-1995), but still remains one of the best!

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Crankshaft

Ed Crankshaft was a former minor league baseball player for the Toledo Mud Hens, who now is a school bus driver.  One of the running gags was how he destroyed his neighbor’s mailbox on a daily basis.  At times, this strip had some serious story lines, and remains a favorite.

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Funky Winkerbean

Crankshaft was actually a “spin-off” of this strip.  One of the reasons I loved this strip so much, was that it would occasionally focus on Harry Dinkle, the band director and his marching band.  Our band director could be strict, but hardly as strict as Dinkle.  It was not uncommon for strips about band camp to appear the same week we were doing band camp in high school.  As a band geek, I loved this strip!

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Drabble

There are so many things I love about this comic by Kevin Fagan!  The relationship between the father (Ralph) and his son (Norman) reminds me so much of the relationship I have with my dad.  I can relate to the constant dieting struggles that Ralph endures.  There are funny story lines about their dog (Wally), their duck (Bob), and their cay (Oogie).  Ralph’s friend is named No-Neck!  This reminds me of my dad and my grandma – they had nick names for everyone!  The strip has been going since 1979 and Kevin is still drawing it!  GREAT strip that always makes me laugh!

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Overboard

Chip Dunham started drawing this in 1990.  How can you go wrong with a bunch of incompetent pirates?!  The adventures of Captain Crow and the crew of The Revenge range from battles with their enemy (the Green ship), golf, pet care (thanks to Louie, the captain’s dog), and gardening.  One of the things I love about this strip is the occasional breaking of the “fourth wall”.  Often, the “cartoonist” plays a character in the strip he is drawing….

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Foxtrot

Another great strip that follows a very funny family – the Fox’s.  Bill Amend began this strip in 1988 and up until December of 2006, it ran 7 days a week.  Since then, it’s been running only on Sundays.  Many of the funny situations involved their 3 kids, Peter, Paige, and Jason.

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Zits

I was almost 30 when this strip debuted in 1997, but found it very funny.  Jeremy is a teenager struggling with typical teenager stuff: girls, school, etc.  There were many times where I could picture myself in his shoes.

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Honorable Mentions

There were so many comics that I read each day.  The ones mentioned above are just a few favorites that I enjoyed.  Others include: The Wizard of ID, Mother Goose and Grimm, Garfield, Hagar the Horrible, Beetle Bailey, Pearls Before Swine, and BC.  I am sure there are more, but without using Google, these are the ones that came to mind immediately.

While I don’t get a newspaper on a daily basis anymore, when I do, I still go straight to the comics page.  What comics did you enjoy reading in the paper?

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The “Carlson” Boys of Summer

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I took the above picture while standing in my backyard before I left for work.  Baseball practice has begun for our school district.  I always enjoy watching the kids and coaches work on plays.  Today they spent some time working on fielding a bunt and throwing to first base. As I stood there and watched, I was reminded of a post that my friend Andy had posted on Facebook recently.  He said “I wanna go back to when my only problem was if we didn’t have enough guys to play all fields open for baseball.” Those were some of the BEST summer days! Pardon me, while I step back to when I was in elementary school…..

My love for the game.

I don’t really recall when I became interested in baseball, but I remember it always being a part of our summers.  If my dad was out washing the cars or doing yard work, the Detroit Tigers were always on the radio.  The voices of Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey made all the calls.  When we would visit my grandparents, we would often watch them on TV as George Kell and Al Kaline announced the game.  I have been a Tiger fan for as long as I can remember.

I don’t remember when I got my first baseball mitt.  I do remember buying my first baseball bat.  It was a wooden Louisville Slugger with George Brett’s signature on it.  I remember it because George and I were both born on May 15.  I remember using money from my paper route to buy it.  I eventually bought a second bat with Dave Whitfield’s signature on it.

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I remember struggling to throw the baseball.  That’s where dad came in.  If I have never thanked him, let me do so now.  Thanks, Pop, for always making time to go out and thrown the ball around.  He’d call balls and strikes as we played catch.  He would occasionally throw me his “submarine” pitch (which was kind of a side arm pitch like Dan Quisenberry).  We went to the library and I checked out a book that showed how to throw a fastball, slider, curveball, and more.  Dad showed me how to throw a knuckleball, which I STILL love to throw.

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“Carlson Field”

There were two ball diamonds at our elementary school.  One had a backstop and faced the school.  The other was kind of a makeshift diamond that had dirt patches from where kids had made bases.  There was no backstop, and it had ruts in the grass from where kids ran from base to base.  There was also a spot for home plate and the pitcher’s mound was hardly a mound.  This field faced the other diamond and the road.  This was usually the diamond we played at.

One of the downsides of playing at this diamond was that it was that the school was about 10-12 feet behind us.  If you popped a foul ball behind you, it ended up on the roof.  Whether the game continued depended on 1) whether you had someone who could climb up to the roof to fetch it or 2) if you had extra baseballs. A benefit of playing here was there was a little valve on the school that if you had a wrench, you could turn it and get water – perfect for hot days.

Teams of Many Players

I remember during the summer I would wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, grab my mitt, put it on the end of my bat, grab the baseballs, get on my bike and head to the school.  Along the way, I might knock on a few doors and pick up other players, but it was rarely necessary.  It was a standing appointment every day.  We’d all meet up at the school and pick teams.  We’d do the hands on the bat thing to see who was up to bat first.

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Depending on how many kids showed up, we’d have to alter the rules a bit.  Sometimes we had to have a designated pitcher. If we didn’t have enough fielders, right field was out (unless you had a left-handed batter).  Sometimes we had to go catcher-less.  Many times when there was no first baseman, the pitcher’s mound was “out”! Then there were times where we were so short, we’d have someone hit and run to his base while the person on third base came back in to bat again with the “ghost runner” on the base.  It didn’t matter – we’d find a way to play!  Even if there were only three guys – one would pitch, one would bat, and one would field.  We spent SO many hours playing ball!

Off the top of my head, I remember Jeff, Tom, Bill, Frank, Mike, Steve, Leo, John, Danny, Dave, Carl, Tomlin, Ed, Mike Smith, and so many others playing ball.  If Andy and his brothers Ray and Tommy, were home, they were always there too.  There was a wide range of ages, and we often let some of the younger kids play.  I am sure that my dad came up once or twice to pitch to us and “ump”.

Just like in professional ball, there were amazing catches, close plays at first, strike outs, arguments with umpires, and long drives to left field for home runs.  We often “called” the games like Ernie Harwell.  If we all had a dollar for every time we said or heard “Hey, batter, batter!  SWING”, we’d be debt free!  There were no uniforms, but you could bet that almost every one of us had a Tiger baseball cap on!

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Day after day, all summer long we played ball.  I wish I could remember more detailed stories of our baseball heroics, but most of them have been lost with time.  Perhaps some of the guys I mentioned (and tagged on Facebook) can recall a story or two I can add to this blog.  I do have one memory that I can recall as clear as day….

Big Mike

Mike lived across the street from us and was always up for baseball.  Mike was a big kid.  He had some power when he made contact with the ball, no doubt about it.  I do remember taking away a home run from him once.  At any rate, because of his size, he didn’t really run fast.  The distinct memory I have of him is this – if you were the catcher and Mike was running home, you had better hope to avoid him and get the tag on him. There were many catchers who caught a ball from the outfielder who stood in front of Mike as he charged home, only to get plowed and knocked on their ass!  Mike knew his body was like a Mack truck and was not afraid to use it!  If he could plow into you and make you drop the ball, he was all about that.  I learned that the hard way once!  I can’t remember how long it took me to catch my breath after he had knocked the wind out of me, but it seemed like eternity!!

Looking Back …

I am glad that I grew up at a time where kids actually wanted to play outside.  Today, trying to get my boys to go outside and play is a chore!  There is the Xbox and Wii U and games on their phones that make them want to stay inside.  It is sad.  Both of my son’s played T-ball and Baseball and I was lucky enough to coach each of them.  They never really chose to continue playing, but every once in a while, they’ll be happy to throw the ball around with their old man and that makes me feel young again.

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Part III – To the Aisle

One year ago, March 19, 2018, Sam and I were married. In the last 365 days, I have been blessed with the most wonderful partner! We have had some really amazing moments and our love for each other continues to grow with each passing day. After she said yes to my proposal, we began to plan the wedding. The plans that led up to it, changed quite often, as you will see.

We began to search for venues to host the event. We found a couple of really neat places. One of them was up in Clair. It was a very rustic looking hall and we thought we might do the ceremony and reception there. It would be a little hike for family and friends, and we took that into consideration. There was another place that looked nice too, it was small and they had packages were we could do a ceremony and brunch afterward. Then we looked at a barn which was also very nice. I have DJ’d a few “barn weddings” and they are always very nice. We both liked the idea of the “rustic” look.

We then began to plan a vacation for the two of us. We were talking about a trip to Florida. Sam had never been to a Detroit Tiger game and I had never been to Spring Training. We kind of built the trip around Spring Training. As we were doing this, the thought of getting married in Florida became something we talked more and more about. We would, of course, tell our folks. The original plan was to get married in Florida, and then come home and have a big back yard party. We would invite all of our friends and family, and at the party, we’d let everyone know we had gotten married. We planned to “renew” our vows again in front of everyone. I had a buddy of mine ready to DJ for us and everything. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were unable to do that.

I am, however, getting ahead of myself. Let me back track a bit. Once we decided to get married in Florida, we had to research all that needed to be done to be sure we were ready when we got there. We found out that in Florida, there were certain things that we had to do. One of those things was a pre-marriage class. We were able to do it online and we both found it very interesting and beneficial. We learned a lot more about each other and found we had things in common that hadn’t come up prior to this. Once we finished the class, we printed off our Certificates of Completion and filed them in our “Florida” folder.

Burma Shave

As I have mentioned in the previous blogs, Sam and I met because of the Sleep Program at Baker College. Two of the instructors, Christine and Michele, were instrumental in our getting together. No, they didn’t hook us up or anything like that. They did, however, suggest me as a tutor, which ultimately led to Sam and I becoming friends – and more. The entire time we had been dating, we kept it from them. At one point, one of them even told Sam that I “wasn’t her type”.

When we knew what the plan was, and knowing what key roles they both played in our getting together, we decided that they would be the first ones to know. We tried to think of a cool way to tell them and I came up with one. We’d be leaving for Florida on a Thursday. We’d arrive on Friday and planned on getting married Monday afternoon at the county courthouse. Each day they’d get an “update” from us in the style of Burma Shave signs.

For those who may not know what I am talking about Burma Shave was a cream that was used for shaving. They used to have poems along stretches of highways, including the world famous Route 66. As you drove you’d see the first line – then the next one – the next one – and so on. Here is a picture of what some of them looked like:

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They were very popular.

So, I wrote a little poem for each day, detailing our day’s events. In re-reading them in the messages we sent to Christine and Michele, I laughed and felt that they would be perfect for this blog. The only poem I actually sat and thought about was the one for when we had gotten hitched. The rest were written on the fly in a matter of minutes. The last one was really the one I put a lot of time into.

What I love about them is that they are really generic and in no way, shape, or form tip them off on anything until the final poem. I wrote to Christine and Michele the day before we left “Over the next 7 days – Sam and I have decided to treat you both to odes about our trip. I am sure that you will enjoy them, laugh and smile.” I hope you do as well.

Thursday, March 15th.

We left right after I got home from my midnight shift. Sam drove while I slept and then we switched off. Once we got in the car I sent this to Christine and Michele:

“As we drive, I’ve got nothing but time. Be prepared for a week full of rhyme. Nobody talks this way – it’s kind of dumb. Who the hell cares, Florida here we come!”

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Friday, March 16

“We have arrived all safe and sound. We see the palm trees lining the ground. 170 more miles to where we will stay. It feels damn good to be away. So here we go with day number one. We’re happy to be in the Florida sun.”

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We arrived at our hotel and we were pretty tired after that long drive! We did get the chance to relax a bit out by the pool. We relaxed and rested up for the remainder of the night. We were so tired, we spent our first evening having pizza delivered and eating it in bed.

Saturday, March 17

“The windows are down and we feel the breeze, as we drove past rows of palm trees. We headed out to Disney Springs and shopped. If I didn’t have her hand, Sam would never have stopped. Now it is off to enjoy a nice steak. We hope you enjoy these posts from our break.”

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We spent the day in Disney Springs and it was a lot of fun. I had no idea this place even existed. There were lots of things to see and I enjoyed some of the great stores, including the Lego store. Because of the reference to the steak, this must have been the night we went to Outback Steakhouse where a couple gave us a free “bloomin’ onion”!

Sunday, March 18

“Day three finds us among the beachers. Yet, here we sit thinking of our favorite teachers. I am wondering if Sam will ever learn, to wear sunscreen so she will not burn. I, too, worry about getting to red. Especially on the top of my head. The best rhyme is yet to come. We promise to tell you tomorrow by one.”

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We spent the day at St. Pete’s beach. It was truly an amazing day. What a joy to sit in the sun and talk to each other. We did indeed get sunburned. Sam was very red by the time we left the beach. We were both hurting a bit the next day. When we got back to the hotel, we sent one more poem.

“Are you sick of my poems I send you each day? I really hope not, there are more on the way. I’ll send you one more before your next class. Until then we’re getting sand out of our ass”.

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After we went to the beach, we came back to our hotel and asked about good local places to eat. The hotel recommended a tremendous Mexican restaurant. It was called Tapatio’s. We almost went somewhere else because the place was packed. I am glad we stayed because not only was the food delicious, they had a mariachi band that was playing while we were there. They were a lot of fun and they interacted with the customers and took requests. It was one of many great highlights!

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Monday, March 19 – Wedding Day.

We woke up very excited. I had never been more sure of anything in my life! We dressed and got ready to leave the hotel to head to the courthouse. I wore a maroon shirt and tie, and Sam had a beautiful white dress that she bought for the occasion. Sam is NOT a dress person at all, but we both wanted to dress up and make sure to get pictures at the courthouse.

There were a few people there before us. We filled out all of the appropriate paperwork and were asked if we wanted to get married there at the desk or in the back where they had a room they performed ceremonies. We chose to go to the back. They had a beautiful archway that we stood under. It was just Sam, me, and our officiant. It was a truly special moment. It was intimate and emotional. When we were pronounced man and wife, my heart was filled with a joy I cannot describe. I replay that first kiss over and over in my mind – it was so awesome.

Once we were “official”, we took our picture outside the courthouse with our marriage certificate. It was then time to send the final poem.

“Waking up to vacation day four, you asked for poems – get ready for more. We’ve posted some pics and lots of tags – time now to let the cat out of the bag. Sometimes a secret is very hard to keep. By the end of this rhyme we hope you don’t weep. Let me take a minute to calm all your fears. If you do cry, they will only be happy tears. ‘Happy’ is what you want us to be. That’s what we are, you can take it from me. Our trip to Florida will be over all too soon. But it’s not only a trip – it’s a honeymoon. I asked Sam way back in the fall, now this is where you may start to bawl. Remember when you said I wasn’t her type? Maybe you just got caught up in the hype. Did you see this coming? Probably not. Three more verses – that’s all I’ve got. It’s because of you two that both of us met, and no she’s not pregnant … at least not yet! We wish you were here, even though it might rain. Then we would have the entire “Collective Brain”! Today, I married the love of my life. She made me her husband, and I made her my wife!”

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We truly caught both of them by surprise! Both of them had no idea. We were able to keep the secret from a lot of people, but Christine and Michele were certainly the hardest to keep it from! We talked to them both so often, so many times we almost slipped about wedding plans, marriage classes, the proposal, and more! It was a relief to finally let them in on it – and to thank them for playing such a BIG role in our being together!! The love that we felt from both of them that day was just amazing! For me, it was extra special. Both of them had been such great friends and helped me through some of those very dark days. To have them rejoice for us – well, that just made the moment even more special.

We celebrated our wedding with a delicious steak dinner at the Texas Cattle Company. The food was truly amazing. We were gearing up for the Spring Training game the following day, so it was cool to see that they had Al Kaline and Willie Horton jerseys hanging inside the restaurant.

“Eagle Eye Hope”

There was one picture from early on in the trip that had people talking. The day we went to Disney Springs, Sam and I went to the Coca-Cola Store. They had the opportunity to get pictures taken with the Coke Polar Bear. I talked Sam into doing it and we are hugging the Polar Bear. Without realizing it, Sam’s left hand was front and center in the picture. She was wearing her engagement ring in it. Some of of friends noticed and starting talking among themselves and wondered what the deal was. One of our friends, Hope, who never holds back came right and and asked. She had taken a screen shot of the picture and circled Sam’s hand in bright yellow and sent it to me with the following “What’s with the ring on Sam’s finger??”

I responded by simply saying, “Of all of our friends – YOU would be the one to notice that!” Her reply was priceless: “OH MY GOD – Are you serious?!” She then told us she was crying she was so happy, and followed it with recorded voice messages of her crying and telling us how happy she was for us! All of this happened before we were even married. She messaged me the day before we got married. We eventually had to call her and listen to her cry. In all honesty, she’s probably gonna kill me because I shared this, but I want her to know that knowing how happy she was for us was one of many highlights of our trip!

Tuesday, March 20 – The Honeymoon Begins

We were both extremely excited to visit Joker Merchant Stadium. Of the entire trip, this was the only day that had called for rain. Prior to game time, it had rained a bit. As we arrived at the stadium, it was sprinkling and I was worried the game might happen. It cleared up and the game went on. I can’t recall for sure, but there was a big cloud burst around the 8th inning that had people scattering, and the heavy stuff didn’t happen until we were walking – well, running – to our car after the game.

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Because of the rain, I didn’t really get a good pic of the stadium. I went back the following day to get it, which explains the sunshine. One of the great things about our seats, was that we were right on the first base line and Miguel Cabrera was literally right in front of us. He is one of my favorite players and it was neat to watch him play.

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Wednesday, March 21

The last big thing we did while in Florida, was visit the Florida Aquarium. Sam loves penguins, and so I made sure that we also go to go back for the “Penguin Experience” We got to hold the penguins, and take pictures with them, and to see the smile on Sam’s face, it was worth every penny. She was in heaven. I was so happy I could make that happen for her.

We also took a Dolphin Cruise. It was very windy and they actually cancelled the rest of the cruises after ours was done. We did get to see some dolphins and we also got to see Tampa from all around the bay. One of my favorite souvenirs from the trip is the “otter” coffee mug I got from the aquarium. Every time I pour myself a cup of coffee in it, I am reminded of this very special day.

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Thursday, March 22 – Homeward Bound

Our trip was truly one that will never be forgotten. We left the state of Florida a married couple looking ahead to the future and our new life together. Little things that we had done hundreds of times before suddenly took on new meaning – holding hands in the car, kissing each other goodnight, etc… I don’t know how to explain it, but they meant more now that Sam and I were married.

The “Unfinished Song”

The morning after we arrived home, I woke from a dream. In the dream I heard a song. I had the melody, but never recorded it on my phone so I wouldn’t forget it. My fault. I did, however, write down the words I remembered. I had hoped that when we had our backyard party, I could play or sing this for Sam. She’s never seen this, and I never found the time to write any more to it.

They say that you find love when you least expect you will

That love can cure depression better than a pill.

I never really thought about it, but I believe it’s true

I’ve never felt this happiness, now I do because of you.

The Chorus I wrote, and the melody I forgot was this:

Only you can make me smile by standing by my side

Only you can make me feel these things way down deep inside

I never thought I could love like this before

But each and every day you make me want you more.

Is it a hit? Probably not. One day I should finish it, huh?

Looking back at 365 Days …

Over the past year, Sam and I have share some very special moments. We’ve taken road trips to Kentucky (to visit family), Tennessee (for a boat ride at the Opryland Hotel), Clare (to visit friends and grab a hamburger at the coolest hamburger joint), and Caseville (to revisit my childhood vacation spots). We enjoyed on stage performances of Wicked and Phantom of the Opera. We’ve had family fun at the Sloan Museum Dinosaur exhibit, the Saginaw Zoo, and a Great Lakes Loons baseball game. We hosted our annual 4th of July party (which was almost when we had our backyard wedding bash), and our first family Thanksgiving. We all went and took part in Beaumont Lights over the holidays and we added two silly cats (Moe and Maizey) to our lives.

The time I have spent with Sam is time that I treasure. She is on my mind from the moment I leave home until the moment I come home to her. She has been an constant support. Her love for me is something like I have never experienced. She is such a positive person and rejects negativity. She has brought about a change in me that has only made me strive to be a better man, a better father, a better husband, and a better friend. I do not have to pretend to be someone I am not. I am free to be myself and she loves me for all of my little quirks and more. She will send me texts that can bring me to tears because they come at a time when I least expect them, but really need them. She encourages me in ways that I cannot describe. She is a source of constant joy.

I have been blessed more than any man could imagine. From out of darkness came this woman who brought light. She brought friendship, she brought companionship, she brought love, and she brought bliss. I feel this complete contentment, joyfulness, exhilaration, ecstasy, and delight when I am with her. I thank God each and every day for the opportunity to love her and to be loved by her.

Happy first anniversary, Sam. There are not enough words for me to express all that you mean to me. I hope and pray to always be the man you need me to be. I once again promise to love you today, and for each day that follows for the rest of our “happily ever after”.

Thank you for being you. I love you.

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A Day At The Ballpark

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I am on vacation.  We decided to take a little trip down to Florida.  We built our vacation around the fact that the Detroit Tigers are playing spring training games.  Today we headed over to Joker Merchant stadium to see the boys of summer take on the New York Yankees.

Spring training is an exciting time.  We get to see a brand new team.  We see many young guys hoping to make it to the roster for the regular season.  Some will make it, some will not. In the air excitement for the season ahead.

One thing is for sure, the rich history of the Detroit Tigers is alive and well.  In the store, there were T-shirts with Alan Trammell’s name on the back, others had Al Kaline’s, and more had Willie Horton’s.  Famous Tigers of the past were on banners hanging from the ceilings.  The fans in the stands also had names from the past, too.  I gotta admit, it was awesome to see someone wearing a jersey with Sparky Anderson’s name and number on it.

Next to me a guy was talking about how hard it is to listen to the games on the radio because the late Ernie Harwell is not around to do them. He also was talking about how great the games were to watch and hear George Kell and Al Kaline do the play by play.  I remember listening to the Opening Day game in 1984.  Who knew that those guys were on their way to winning the World Series?!

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This is the first spring training game I have ever been to.  The rain got us a couple of times and they walked away with a win.  I don’t recall how they did in spring training in 1984, but I am sure that those fans who attended those “grapefruit league” games had that same hope that I had today.  I hope that a World Series Championship is ours at the end of the season.  I ran into a Yankees fan in line to get something to drink and he said, “Looks like you got a good team this year.”  I told him I heard the same about the Yankees.  He said, “I hope it’s the year for one of us.”  I agreed.

The 1984 Tigers were a well oiled machine!  Nobody could pull double plays like Trammell and Sweet Lou Whitaker. The pitching staff was one of a kind!  Jack Morris, Dan Petry, Milt Wilcox, and Dave Rozema were tremendous starters and Aurelio Lopez, Juan Berenguer, and Willie Hernandez were bullpen aces!  Lance Parrish, Kirk Gibson, Darrell Evens, Larry Herndon, Chet Lemon, and Tommy Brookens were household names!  What a team!!!

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Watching the game today, we were a few feet away from first base.  Watching Miguel Cabrera joke with Yankee players on base, the umps, and his team mates only made me like him more.  One can only hope that he will have another great year full of home runs, and key plays.  There were a lot of names I did not recognize, and who knows, maybe they will be household names, after the season is done.  I hope so.

A Tiger fan for life, in good seasons and bad, I hope this is THE year for the next World Series Championship.  Good luck, boys!  You looked good today.

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Music and my Grandparents

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As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I can take almost any song and connect it to a person in my life, a life event, or a time period in my life. Today, my iPod shuffle focuses on four very special people – my grandparents. What is interesting as I looked at the music, was that the list of songs for Grandpa D is the longest. Why is that interesting? As I stated in a blog entirely about him, he is the grandparent who was in my life for the shortest amount of time.

Grandpa D’s list consists of big band and country music. As stated in the previous blog, Willie Nelson’s Stardust album will forever be connected with him. September Song, Moonlight in Vermont, Stardust, All of Me, and Georgia on My Mind from that album bring back vivid memories of him. Willie Nelson, in general makes me think of him though. Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain, while I don’t think I ever heard him play it, makes me think of him. So does Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground or the amazing duet with Ray Charles, Seven Spanish Angels.

Grandpa died in 1981. In 1982, Willie Nelson released on of his biggest hits – Always On My Mind. I can recall the first time we heard it on the radio. We were driving in the car, the entire family, and it played. My mom started crying immediately. “Maybe I didn’t love you quite as often as I could have. Maybe I didn’t treat you quite as good as I should have. But you were always on my mind.” I remember mom saying that it was like grandpa sending a little message to us. I’ll always remember that.

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Grandpa liked classic country, too. So songs like Behind Closed Doors by Charlie Rich, Amanda by Waylon Jennings, I Believe In You by Don Williams, You Needed Me by Anne Murray, Colorado Cool-Aid by Johnny Paycheck, and Kiss an Angel Good Morning by Charlie Pride make me think of him too.

Grandma D’s list is shortest. I’m not sure why, but I don’t remember much of the stuff she listened to. I remember her clock radio at her house and it always seemed to be on a talk radio station or a news station. I do recall her listening to a few songs, though. Sentimental Journey is a Big Band Classic. I don’t recall if it was in a commercial or on a TV show, but I remember saying that she liked it.

Because we spent a lot of time in Caseville with Grandma, she listened to the same cassettes as everyone else. Johnny Paycheck’s Greatest Hits Volume II included the song Loving You Beats All I’ve Ever Seen, a wonderful ballad about a guy who has seen some of the most beautiful things in the world – but loving his woman beats it all hands down. I recall her liking that song.

The one she loved the most on that album, though, was Rhythm Guitar. As old as the song is, it still paints a picture of people today. “Nobody wants to play Rhythm Guitar behind Jesus. Everybody wants to be the lead singer in the band.” The rhythm guitar player in the group is there to hit the chords and keep the tempo. He is in the background while the lead guitar player has all the solos and such. Nobody wants to be in the background today. In a spiritual sense, Jesus is an example of how we should live our lives. Throughout the Bible, He gives instructions on what to do and not do. However, we as people, often disregard those rules and instructions because we’d rather be the lead singer and live by our rules. I remember that was in a nutshell how grandma explained that song’s meaning to me.

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Here, I would like to include my Aunt Jodi. She is only 4 years older than me. When I think of Grandma and Grandpa D, I think of her. There are songs that make me think of her and some of those great times in Caseville as well. The one that comes to mind immediately is Music Box Dance by Frank Mills. It was one of those instrumentals that you would hear on the radio all the time up there. It was a “current” (as we call it in radio) and it played like every three to four hours. She loved that song and we did too.

Another instrumental that makes me think of her is from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (who will be mentioned again in a second). We had their Greatest Hits album and they did a song called Zorba the Greek. It was a fun song that started out fast … then the song slowed WAY down……and gradually sped up to the original speed and finished. It was a fun song and I can remember dancing around the living room to it. When it was fast – we were crazy kids running and laughing. When it was slow – we were glad, because we caught our breath from running around at the beginning of the song.

Other songs that remind me of Jodi are Urgent by Foreigner and Ebony and Ivory by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. Those songs were on vinyl albums that she had. My grandpa had this big console record player. It was the one that had the lid that flipped up and the turntable was inside. I recall her listening to those as well as David or Shaun Cassidy on there. I am sure she had some other albums, but there is one more I recall….

The last song that makes me think of her is called “Soupy Wails”. Another instrumental from an album called “The Soupy Sales Show”. It’s basically the Soupy Sales TV show on record. All the characters are there with songs they wrote – White Fang, Black Tooth, Hippy, and Pookie. This song is played because the neighbor tells Soupy to cut out the singing so they play an instrumental. Great stuff!

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Grandma P’s list is a short one, but the songs on it generate powerful memories. A Taste of Honey was a song that was popular and recorded by a few artists. The version I am talking about was done by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Why does this make me think of her? Because Grandma loved the Detroit Tigers. I remember many Sundays going over and watching the game on TV after eating dinner. Most of the time, she had it on the radio. The voices of the great Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey called the games while we sat in the sun porch or outside. One of the sponsors of the game was the Honey Baked Ham Company. They always used that song in their commercials. Yeah, a long stretch….but it always reminds me of those ball games and Grandma.

Grandma loved Dean Martin. He was her favorite singer. One day we got into a discussion about other Italian singers and she mentions that she she never liked Tony Bennett. Can you imagine?! Here is a guy who is STILL making music today! He’s 90 and a musical ICON. His style was very different from Dean or Sinatra. She said once that she couldn’t stand “that pimple faced, no talent, wanna be”! It still makes me laugh to think about it. One day I went to a record store and bought a few Tony albums. The funnest part of our visits became hiding them in places where she might find them (on her pillow, in the fridge, on the kitchen lighting, in the bread box….). Sometimes we were there to catch her reaction, and sometimes it was a phone call saying she found it. Fun times.

The last song that reminds me of her is Lazy Mary by Lou Monte. Lou was an Italian singer and it is a tarantella type song that has some “risque” lyrics. It is a song that many singers have sung, but Lou had a hit with it. When I got married, I wanted a dance with my grandma. I chose Lazy Mary. I am sure that I wore her out dancing to such a fast song, but I can still remember the smile on her face during it. Priceless memory.

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Grandpa P’s list is mostly big band music. I remember him telling me that his favorite song was String of Pearls by Glenn Miller. While many people remember Glenn for In The Mood, I feel String of Pearls is one of his best. A couple other Glenn Miller songs that remind me of him are the classics Sunrise Serenade and the counterpart, Moonlight Serenade. Begin the Beguine by Artie Shaw, Ciribiribin by Harry James, and many other big band songs remind me of him, too.

The odd song on this list is one he never heard. It makes me think of him because a friend of mine, Allyson, bought me a CD for Christmas the year my grandpa died. She knew that I was close to him and said there was a song on there that I had to hear. She said to listen to the lyrics and think about him while listening. That song was If I Had Only Known by Reba McEntire.

If I had only known
It was the last walk in the rain
I’d keep you out for hours in the storm
I would hold your hand
Like a life line to my heart
Underneath the thunder we’d be warm
If I had only known
It was our last walk in the rain

If I had only known
I’d never hear your voice again
I’d memorize each thing you ever said
And on those lonely nights
I could think of them once more
Keep your words alive inside my head
If I had only known
I’d never hear your voice again

You were the treasure in my hand
You were the one who always stood beside me
So unaware I foolishly believed
That you would always be there
But then there came a day
And I turned my head and you slipped away

If I had only known
It was my last night by your side
I’d pray a miracle would stop the dawn
And when you’d smile at me
I would look into your eyes
And make sure you know my love
For you goes on and on
If I had only known
If I had only known
The love I would’ve shown
If I had only known

POWERFUL! Typing those lyrics bring tears to my eyes instantly! In truth, you could think about any loved one who has passed away when you hear this song. I do. The message is clear – treat every encounter with your loved ones as if it might be your last because you never know.

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Our band director, Mr. Shaner, used to write announcements on a grease board every day. At the end of them, he’d always have some quote to think about. One of them, in particular, I have NEVER forgotten. It plays in to what I just said:

“Live every day as if it were your last – someday, you’ll be right”.

Make every day count. Always tell someone you love them. Treasure ever moment you have with family. Life is too short. Make memories that will last long after those special people in your life are gone!