Hardly Prepared For The Real World

I have made it no secret that Math (Algebra in particular) is NOT my best subject. I did poorly in my high school algebra classes. Yes, I did pass the college Algebra classes I had to take, but it was harder than I could have imagined. It didn’t help that I hadn’t looked at an algebra problem in almost 30 years.

Luckily, my oldest son only needed my help a few times with his math stuff when he was in school. My middle son, on the other hand, brought home some really tough stuff from his summer school class last month. I really struggled to help him. I had my college books, my college notes, store bought aids, and even a friend who is good at math all at my disposal, but nothing really helped. He squeaked by … just barely.

I want to go on record stating that I never really had a problem with basic math. Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division and other basics like finding percentages, figuring out mileage, counting money and making change and balancing checkbooks were all things I did well with. Those basic things are still taught in school today, yet it doesn’t seem to be something people are retaining.

Case in Point:

Normally, before work I would make a pot of coffee and bring a cup with me in the car on my way in. Today, I forgot to make some, so I drove through the local Tim Horton’s to get one. Most of the time, I would just hand the person at the window my debit card and the transaction would be complete. Today that was not the case.

They are usually pretty quick at Timmy’s, but something seemed to be slowing the line today. There were two cars ahead of me. I saw them pass an iced coffee to the first car and they drove off. The car in front of me tendered their money and the wait began. Almost five minutes later, a hand reached out with their change and then passed out a small coffee cup.

I wondered if the customer was waiting because they had to brew a new pot of coffee. Or maybe they were changing cashiers and they were switching out the till. It just seemed weird that it took that long to get a cup of coffee (or tea or hot chocolate for that matter.) When I got the the window, things became clear.

It was obvious that the gal at the window was a new employee and in training. She was having a discussion with the manager before she even opened the window. Directly to her right was my coffee. It was ready to be handed to me as soon as the money changed hands. I was paying cash, so it shouldn’t be too difficult, right?? Wrong.

When she finally opened the window, she told me that I owed $2.85. I order the same thing every time, so I had $3.00 ready and handed it to her. She typed into the register what I handed her and she placed the three $1 bills in the tray with the others and stopped. She stood staring at the till.

My change was 15 cents. For some reason this seemed to stump that gal at the window. She looked at the till, then at her manager. The window was open, so I could hear their conversation. The manager said, “He gave you three dollars. You owe him 15 cents.” She stood there looking stumped. The manager pointed to each one of the compartments at the bottom of the drawer saying, “There you have 25, 10, 5 and 1.”

Is real money such a new thing to this gal? Has she never seen a dime before? The whole thing was like something out of the Twilight Zone! The manager literally told her “give him a dime and a nickel.” She could have given me a dime and five pennies, two nickels and five pennies, three nickels, or 15 pennies – I didn’t even care if I got my change! Honestly, I would have drove off without the change if they had handed me the coffee!

Finally, this gal delicately grabbed a dime and a nickel and handed it to me with my receipt. She told me to have a good day and stared at me. She obviously wondered why I hadn’t left yet. Her manager said, “I’m sure he would like the coffee he just ordered.” I’m not sure how much longer she stared at me, but eventually, the manager grabbed my coffee and handed it to her and she finally passed it out the window to me.

As I drove off, I looked at the 4 cars that were behind me wondering how much longer each of them would have to wait. I also wondered what kind of grades this 30 something year old gal got in high school math class ….

So much death …

For 5 days, I have opened my blog with every intention of writing. I have stared at the blank page, not really knowing what to write. How do I begin to even tackle what has been on my mind? I mean, I didn’t even tell my wife about it until just a couple days ago. I guess I didn’t realize just how much I was thinking about it until a couple weeks of constant dreams and a discussion with my therapist.

Maybe it is the “rising Covid numbers.” Maybe it is the fact that I am now required by work to get vaccinated or lose my job. Maybe it is the fact that death just seems a whole lot more common on my Facebook news feed. I’m not sure, but it seems like I am thinking a lot about it.

I have sleep apnea and wear my CPAP every night. That should allow me to sleep through the night without waking up every couple hours due to apnea. I have checked the CPAP app on my phone and according to it, I am not having enough apneas to wake me up, so why am I up every hour? It’s bad enough to constantly wake up, but when you lay there and fight to go back to sleep, it can be aggravating.

Even trying to fall asleep, my mind will not shut off. My prayers are interrupted with random thoughts. As I close my eyes, I begin to have bizarre thoughts. I find myself screaming inside my head “STOP THINKING ABOUT THAT!” I have tried those apps that play music and “talk” you to sleep. I have tried to put myself in my “happy place,” but my mind just doesn’t want to shut off.

In the past year, I have seen too many people pass away. Not all of them had Covid, but some did. Heart attack, sepsis, old age, cancer, and other illnesses have claimed the lives of friends, former teachers, and former co-workers. Just this week a friend from high school lost her life to Covid.

There is that old quote that says something about the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. A pastor friend of mine always says that the “death rate is still one apiece.” In the Bible, it reads: “ And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). In a book I was reading this week it said “You’re only one breath away from eternity.” All of those quotes are true.

I can’t even explain the uneasiness and anguish I have experienced over the past couple weeks. I’m not even sure why! Without getting theological or anything, I will say that I am not afraid of death, because I have settled that issue and know where I am going when I die. That may sound pompous, but I stand by my faith and trust that my Savior, Jesus Christ, died for me.

Despite the fact that I have peace with this, I have found myself laying in bed wondering about things. I have literally laid there with my eyes closed thinking about what I need to write down in a letter to my each of children should something happen or a love letter to my wife. What would I need to tell my dad or my brother? My mind races with these things for absolutely no reason.

As I look around at what is going on in the world, I see things happening that don’t sit well with me. I see such division. I see so much hate. I see (and feel) distrust for the government. There is way too much of the “I’m right! You’re wrong!” mentality. It makes me sad.

I have talked to people “for” and “against” the vaccine. So much uncertainty. I worry. I’m scared. I shouldn’t be, but I am. Is this where it all stems from? God only knows. God give me peace in the days and weeks ahead, please.

Be careful for nothing …

I needed to read this verse tonight. The Greek word translated “careful” in verse 6 is (μεριμνάω) merimnáō. It literally means “to be anxious” or “to be troubled with cares.” Anxious is defined: experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. So the verse is saying “Don’t be anxious about anything!” “Don’t be full of worry!” It is easier said than done sometimes.

I haven’t really said anything on here or really anywhere about this, but I think my anxiety level is starting to rise a bit too much. Ever get that feeling like things are closing in on you? Feel like you are surrounded by things that are just out of your control? That’s kind of where I am right now. I’ve been in this place before, and have been able to get it under control. It just feels like the things I was able to do to get them under control, aren’t helping like they did before.

Admittedly, there are things that I know contribute to this. Lack of sleep, for example. I am just not getting enough, and won’t be getting enough for some time. With a baby on the way, and a toddler, I’ll be grabbing sleep in little chunks for a while. What is bothersome to me about sleep is that instead of getting my usual 5-6 hours, I am waking up a lot, usually from weird dreams. Then my mind won’t shut off long enough about other things to let me fall back to sleep.

I made the choice some time ago to stop watching the news. This really helped eliminate much of the barrage of Covid stories that I was seeing. Covid and just the fear and uncertainty that came with it led to me having a breakdown a year ago. Staying away from those stories helped. However, my phone continues to “ding” throughout the day and night with Covid stories from Yahoo News and other apps. Then there is the constant stories that friends share on Facebook.

Let me put it this way, I can see why many people are choosing to leave Facebook. There is so much misinformation, countless arguments, and hatred within my newsfeed daily. I have muted or snoozed many people because of it. That doesn’t stop it, though. Any time a post mentions “Covid” or “Vaccine” there is a link that automatically shows up.

Then you have the fight between people who are pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine. This falls into the same category as whether you should wear a mask or not. It is amazing how polarizing this is. It is almost as polarizing as what we saw during the past few elections. Pro/Anti Trump. Pro/Anti Biden. There has always been divisions in our country, but it seems that it in society today, if someone disagrees with you, it leads to hatred and violence. I know way too many friendships that have been broken because of the failure to “agree to disagree”

I digress. If I am being honest, I am beginning to feel overwhelmed again. I know that I shouldn’t, yet I do. I need to take those verses and focus on them. I know that is where I will find peace.

Remember the opening of the Twilight Zone where all the things are spiraling around?

That is how I feel on a daily basis and it is taking my focus away from where it needs to be! I feel like I am surrounded by Covid and cancer and the deaths that they bring about. I feel like the vaccine is being talked about everywhere – whether the talk is good or bad. Then we have all the stuff that is going on in the Middle East, Earthquakes and natural disasters. I seem to have daily conversations with people about whether or not we are in the Biblical End Times. It is overwhelming.

THEN factor in that my wife and I are are expecting a baby and the pregnancy has had its share of scares and worry. Those worries outweigh ALL of the others. As mentioned in a pervious blog, those worries were put at ease to some degree with the latest ultrasound. However, we have 8 weeks left and I still have some concerns.

My mind is one big muddled mess at times.

I am struggling to remember things. I zone out during conversations for no reason at all. I can listen to something or read something over and over and not comprehend what I just heard/read. I’m scared about some things right now. I will spare you the details of that.

I’m hoping to dig myself out of the rut and get back to normal. I have the support of my wife and family. I have the support of my Christian friends. I have God on my side. I will do my best to “let go and let God.”

Thank you for allowing me to vent.

Hindsight Really is 2020 – A Recap

The saying goes, “Hindsight is 2020,” and many of us are rejoicing that 2020 is really truly behind us! I often wonder if you were to make a list of positives and negatives of the past year, would one outweigh the other? What about 10-15 years ago? Was that just as bad, but we only choose to remember the good things from that year? I don’t know the answers to those questions.

In talking with my youngest son this weekend, he was talking about the last year and listing all of the bad things from it. I told him that is really is easy to see the bad things, the negatives, or the sadness we experienced. I challenged him to try to find some positives among the negatives. As we drove back to my house, we were able to do that. I told him it isn’t always easy to find those positives, and sometimes there may not be any, but to always look for them.

December 31, 2019

As the world awaited 2020’s arrival there was great excitement. Many said, “This is going to be MY YEAR!” Others looked at the new year as a clean slate from 2019 (which they wanted to be over). I recalled the quote from country singer Brad Paisley, who said, “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book, write a good one.” We looked at 2020 as a year of happiness, recovery, new opportunities, new adventures, and so much more! 2020 had other plans.

2020

Looking back at 2020, the absolute high point was the birth of our daughter, Ella. NOTHING tops this moment! The blog announcing her birth was one of the most read of the year.

My first daughter. Daddy’s little girl. My wife, Sam, was just amazing throughout the delivery. It was the first time I had witnessed natural child birth and I was in awe of everything. My heart was overflowing with happiness. What a day!

This month, Sam and I were talking about what to do for her first birthday. With Covid, there is not a whole lot we can do. We are probably not going to throw the big party we wanted to, but we are working out plans for something special to mark the occasion.

Covid-19

I can’t even imagine if Ella had been born a few weeks later. By the time March arrived, the whole world was talking about Corona virus and Covid-19. Everything started to shut down in an attempt to “flatten the curve.” Our sleep labs closed and we were deployed to the hospital Labor Pool. During my time there, I heard stories and witnessed things I will sadly never forget. With a new baby at home, my constant worry was that I would bring it home to her. I eventually snapped. The doctor called it Acute Stress Disorder and she took me off work. I was out on FMLA for 6 weeks.

Finding the positive in a negative – I got to spend 6 weeks with my daughter. There are countries that allow both parents to stay home with their newborn child for a year when they are born. I wish the United Stated allowed that. There are so many wonderful moments that happen in that first year. It is a shame that we have to go back to work while our babies are still so young.

Another positive: As the curve flattened, I officiated my first wedding for my friend, Theresa from high school. To say I was nervous is an understatement, but all went well and I didn’t mess anything up too bad. It was nice to see other friends from high school at the wedding, too. It was a bit weird, as there were many masks in the crowd, but that had kind of become the “norm.”

Division and hate

2020 brought more division and more hate. There has always been division in politics, but it seems that both parties hatred for each other was over the top. I’ve heard a lot of mudslinging in ads, but the stuff being said was brutal. The politicians seem to have forgotten who they are supposed to be representing and working for – the people of the country!

Everyone was offended by everything in 2020. Social media was full of arguments, name calling, and much more. Really, the media just continued to “feed” the public and make everyone more angry than they were to begin with. Jim Morrison of the Doors once said, “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” Noam Chomsky takes it a little further:

I had to finally stop watching the news, and scroll past so many posts from friends. I couldn’t take it. It is totally ok for you to be passionate about your beliefs and your political stance. If it is different than my stance or beliefs, that’s ok, too. You and I can agree to disagree. I was saddened that so many friendships were broken because of the difference of opinion. Friendships that have lasted 30+ years ended because of this, and that breaks my heart. If only more people thought like Thomas Jefferson:

Blog Milestones and Hits and Misses

In 2020, I celebrated two years of blogging. I wrote my 300th blog. I still wrote many movie blogs and music blogs. The music blogs slowed as I started to neglect Tune Tuesday. I tried something new with Friday Movie Quotes, but that didn’t seem to go over too well, so I stopped. Most of my blogs were ramblings about my life and of course, my daughter.

The other blog that got a lot of views was my recent blog about the loss of my friend, and high school band director, Tom Shaner. I posted a link to this on my Facebook, and his daughter also shared it, so many people I didn’t even know read it. I received a private message from his brother who told me that he really appreciated my blog and how it enlightened him on the impact he had on his students. When I finished writing that blog, I didn’t think it did him any justice, but that private message proved otherwise.

Conclusion

As I look back on 2020, I see life’s “circle.” The high point of the year was the birth of my daughter, while the low point of the year was the passing of my friend, Tom. Life and death. A new life enters the world, while an old one leaves the world. Happiness and sadness. As life moves on, the circle continues. We see new births and new deaths.

A pastor once told me that birth is the beginning of death. You begin to die the moment you are born. There is truth to that. So as we look on the new “book” that is 2021, and we begin to write on the blank pages, let’s try to remember the words of actor Michael Landon:

Here’s to a Happy New Year for all of us!

Endings and Beginnings

“What feels like the end is often the beginning …”

I will be the first to admit that this blog is more appropriate for the end of the year. However, with the events of the past few days (which I will elaborate on in a future blog), it weighed on me to write these thoughts down.

2020 brought many things to an end. Sadly, the one thing that didn’t go away was Covid-19. The virus has forced many local and small businesses to shutter their doors forever. The virus cut short the lives of many Americans and people all around the world. It has also put many things in jeopardy of disappearing forever – going to a movie, free samples, touch screens in public, buffets, and even shaking hands.

While not official, I am pretty confident in saying that 2020 has forced the end of my radio career. Stations have their DJ’s broadcasting from home live or recording shows from home. I enjoyed doing it part time and it allowed me access to studios to do any free lance voice work that might some my way. I am sure that if I needed a studio, I could call and get into one (thanks to a few friends). I don’t do enough of it to warrant buying equipment to set up a studio at home. I have come to terms with this and will always look back on my days in radio fondly. I’m a pretty lucky guy to have worked with so many great people.

I am also sure that I am officially retiring from DJing parties and weddings. The equipment has become too heavy for me to lug in and out. The money people are willing to pay is much less than it used to be, and it has stopped being fun for me. There are some events that I would probably still enjoy doing, but those are the low paying gigs. At one time, I really enjoyed doing it, but it has become more like work.

With the end of things, come new beginnings. One up side of not working at the radio station on weekends is time with my kids and my family. Over the past few months, I have watched my daughter accomplish some firsts – and I am glad I didn’t have to miss them because I was working.

There was a time when I was working full time, working part time in radio, and doing DJ stuff on the side. I was never home. That may or may not have been intentional due to my home situation at the time. However, over the past 4 years, my life has changed drastically for the better. I like being home. I love being with my wife, my daughter, and my sons. I cannot wait to be home with them, even if it is just to sit on the couch and watch TV!

So as 2021 approaches, you and I are faced with 365 blank pages to write as we wish ….

I’m sure that the new year will bring challenges, especially since we will still be dealing with Covid-19, political unrest, division, and hatred. But with each blank page – we can make a choice to be positive, be happy, enjoy every minute, and count every blessing.

Weekend Wrap Up

Michigan weather has been just beautiful the past week or so. It looks like we’ll have one more nice day and the temps will drop. Saturday, while the baby was napping and my son was doing homework, I went out and cleaned up the leaves from the driveway. Later that afternoon, my kids and I got to get out and take a walk around the neighborhood. He enjoys pushing his sister in the stroller. It is a good time for us to just catch up.

I decided to take advantage of the weather and get the Christmas lights up. The more I thought about what I wrote in a recent blog, the more I was convinced that putting up the lights early would bring about some happiness in a year that has really sucked. My son and I strung all the lights out on the side porch. The nice temps made it easy to do and with him helping, it only took me half the time.

I got some of the decorations up out front, but I have a few bad strands that I need to check fuses on before I string them up. I am thinking of adding the strands of white LED lights that I had strung along the fence for our 4th of July party. I usually only put the lights along the rails on the porch, so it should be pretty easy.

After I dropped my son off and the baby woke up from her nap, we spent most of the day outside. We took our stroll through the neighborhood and walked a bit longer than normal. I had to laugh because when we got back home, she totally kicked her foot up like she was relaxing!

After our walk, we played in the leaves (until she tried to start eating them), played on the slide, sat on the trampoline, and then just sat in the grass. She was standing next to me in on the back lawn and I looked up and saw our shadows. For some reason, looking at them it hit me how fast she is growing up. I can’t believe she will be 9 months old tomorrow! The shadow was a reminder to enjoy every little moment like this…

Heavenly Jeopardy?

I have never read a bad thing about Alex Trebek. Every interview I watched of him, he always seemed like a wonderful man. With his passing, there has been an outpouring of wonderful tributes to him by celebrities all over the country. A friend pointed out that Trebek and the great Sean Connery passed away within a week of each other.

One of my favorite sketches on SNL was Celebrity Jeopardy. Will Ferrell played Alex Trebek and Darrell Hammond played Sean Connery. In the sketch, Connery has this unreal hatred for Trebek and always made countless jabs about Trebek’s mother. It was always a treat to see Norm MacDonald playing Burt Reynolds in these sketches.

I always waited to see how Connery would take a category and make it dirty – for example:

Real Category: Let It Snow. Connery asks for: Le Tits Now

Real Category: The Pen Is Mighter Connery asks about: The Penis Mightier

I truly hope that SNL doesn’t miss the opportunity to do some kind of tribute to Connery and Trebek this week. I can see a Heavenly round of Celebrity Jeopardy with Ferrell, Hammond, and MacDonald being very funny!

Same Old Lions

Sunday, I got to see bits and pieces of the Detroit Lions game. It was awful, as usual. I saw this on Facebook today, and had to share. I know that this is totally supposed to be more of a political jab, and I am not posting it to be political, I just thing it is pretty funny!

The Election

It was certainly great to hear that voter turnout was so good. Whether your candidate won or lost, if you voted, you did your part! Over the past couple decades, we’ve seen a lot of division. We’ve seen a lot of lost trust in the system and the government. With every election, I hope and pray that the elected officials will do something to bring us together. I may have posted this picture before, but I thought it was one of the most powerful that I had seen this year:

In 2016, after the election, I wrote something on Facebook. It came up in my Facebook Memories today. It is worth sharing:

Maybe we are family. Maybe we went to high school together. Maybe I went to college with you. Maybe we worked together. Maybe we bowled together. Maybe you and I like the same movies or music. Maybe we met at a conference.

However we met, however we know each other, you are here because you are my friend. You and I are Americans. We are citizens of the greatest country in the world. One of the great things about being an American is that we have the freedoms to believe what we want and vote for who we want. We don’t always have to agree. I say this because no matter where you stand as a Republican, Democrat, or Independent…..as a Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran nondenominationalist or Dispensationalist….. heterosexual or homosexual …..male or female…..employed or unemployed….union or nonunion…..I don’t care!!! You are my friend and I am glad you are my friend. You have the right and the freedom to believe what you want and voice your opinion. Knowing that we may not agree is ok with me. There are other things we have in common that led us to be friends. I haven’t deleted any friend or family member because of their vote, because of their faith, because of their sexual preference, or because of their job or financial status. Thank you for being my friend.

Life would be pretty boring if we were all the same! A quote from Andy Hargreaves came across my timeline today and I want to share: “If we were all on the same page, no one’s reading the whole book”!

So what if your candidate lost? So what? One of the first thing I learned as a kid was there are winners and losers in games and elections. So what do we do now? You take the words of a pastor friend of mine who reminded me that “The guy you voted for may not have won, but you should still pray for him.”

So that’s what I am going to do. Here are the Bible verses to back that up:

I Timothy 2: 1-3

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

God Bless America!