Birthday Recap

On Saturday, I celebrated birthday 51. I worked the night before, so I came home and literally went to bed. Sam and I had plans, so I wanted to get some sleep before we left.

Even before the clock struck midnight, my Facebook was blowing up with countless birthday wishes. When I woke up, there were over 300 wishes and more continued throughout the day. I always joke that without Facebook I might not remember somebody’s birthday. Remember when we used to put them on a calendar and actually made a phone call or sent a card to someone? Not that it bothers me, it is nice to be remembered.

Anyway, Friday night, my coworkers helped me celebrate with home made brownies and cannoli from my favorite Italian bakery (Tringali’s). Another co-worker bought me an instant ticket and it actually was a winner, which never happens. It wasn’t the $500,000, but enough to buy another lottery ticket…

Visit to the Zoo

Ella’s first trip to the Detroit Zoo. Had to get a picture by the famous fountain.

For Ella’s birthday, Aunt Margaret got her a year membership to the Detroit Zoo. The weather was going to be perfect, so we decided that we’d celebrate both our birthdays there! We almost weren’t able to go, because you have to reserve tickets in advance. There were only two times available on Saturday and I took the first available, which was 4:30pm. That only gave us an hour and a half to walk the zoo.

It actually worked out perfectly. We didn’t stand in line for the kangaroos (it was quite long), and we didn’t do the reptile house. Instead, we walked and saw the animals that were outside. We saw lions, tigers, giraffes, rhinos, monkeys, and the polar bear. Sadly, the penguin exhibit is closed for remodeling and the otters were off sleeping somewhere (those are Sam and my favorite animals).

Doesn’t that tiger look real?!

Every so often, we’d take Ella out of her stroller and tried to get her to walk with us. We tried holding her hand, but it wasn’t gonna happen. As soon as her feet hit the pavement, she was off like a shot! She was running everywhere. She was so excited to see other kids and other people. She just wanted to roam around! We got our exercise in chasing her around the zoo!

Sam had asked me what I wanted to do for dinner earlier in the week. Our favorite steak house is almost impossible to order a carry out from these days, so I thought we’d try Mexican food. After a few attempts, and getting a busy signal, I was at a loss. Then Sam reminded me of the Roadhouse up the street from us. They have the best burgers! That actually sounded really good, and I was excited to order. Sam was craving nachos, so she got an order from there (it probably could have fed 4 people – that thing was huge!). The burger itself was a treat, but I also decided that I’d splurge and get an order of fried pickles! Yummy!!!

Ella was exhausted by the time we got home and pretty much went straight to bed. Earlier in the day, she helped Sam make my birthday cake. She cracked the eggs and helped mix it all up. Because she went to bed, we never really got to sing Happy Birthday and I didn’t get to blow out the candles and make a wish. However, my wish had already come true that day – I got to spend my day with my two favorite girls!!

Social Media Spring Cleaning

I was forced to do a bit of clean up to one of my social media accounts today.

I am not really sure how I missed this one particular person when I went through the “followers” previously, but I did. This follower decided to make themselves known by commenting on a post I made. By doing so, I again went through the followers and deleted (and blocked) those who are full of hatred and negative energy.

I know that it is only a quick fix. I would not put it past you to create fake accounts with fake names and follow me that way. I wouldn’t put it past you to recruit others to spy for you. On Facebook and other social platforms, I can keep on blocking – and no doubt, you know about it. I am sure that once the block happened today, it was the talk of the day! One less connection to feed you things to gossip about. Don’t be hurt that I blocked you (and others before you). They were the first to block me as I recall.

At What Point Do You Move On?

That’s a good question. There are other questions that I can pose as well. Does your new man realize that you are probably spending more time on me and what I am doing than him? Are you that desperate to know what I am doing that you need to have your friends stalk my page? You claim that I am playing the “victim”, but isn’t what you have been doing for years? You have everything you ever wanted now. With all the time you spend focusing on me and my life, when will you ever open your eyes to enjoy what you have?

I have to believe that your friends, your man, and your family would be sick of hearing about me by now! Maybe they are just like you, however, and take joy in being miserable and making others miserable. You are the great manipulator. You have them all believing what you want them to believe. You have done no wrong in anything. You must control every situation and get what you want when you want it. You will do whatever you have to do or say to get people to believe you, stand with you, and buy into your narcissistic world.

Do yourself, your friends, and your family a favor – MOVE ON!

Misery loves company. It also must love jealousy, and toxicity. All I need in my life is my children and those who love me.

All 8 of those things should sound familiar to you – as you fit every single one of those things!

Take a look around your circle of “friends” or “family” for that matter – you love to talk about every one of them when they are not around. The backstabbing and gossip that happens to people who are not there is brutal and venomous! I wonder if they have any idea that you wear a different face when you are with them? You have to know that they do they same thing to you when you are not there. Each of you have two or more faces. Oh well, let them be the subject of your evil and selfish “game.”

Have a nice life ….

Oh, one more thing….

Professional help!

Happy 1st Birthday, Ella

My wife made the observation that last night we laid our 11 month old daughter down to bed for the last time. She woke up a one year old! She’s no longer our baby. She’s our toddler! My wife also noted that today she realized the truth in the old saying “The days are long, but the years are short.” It is hard to believe that it has been a year, already!

I posted this picture on Facebook today, and it is truly amazing to see how much she has changed and grown in a year.

Sam’s Facebook post really nailed it on the head:

“Ella, you are so strong willed. You are mischievous. You are bold and fearless. You are not afraid of new things or new people. It is even safe to say that you are boisterous and loud. You are already speaking up a storm. You are inquisitive. The only time you are quiet and still is when you are observing or are asleep. You are always alert – your eyes don’t stop moving and your head turns at every new noise. All it takes is watching someone do something and you are right there to copy it and do it by yourself. Ella, Keep being you! Because that is who we love dearly!”

One thing Sam and I chuckled about today was how easy the “monthly” pictures of Ella used to be to take. We could just lay her in the crib and snap a few. She is SO busy now, it is hard to get her to sit still for them! We were able to nab a couple this morning before heading out to celebrate.

Love her oufit – Miss One-Derful!

One of the hardest things to deal with over the past year has been Covid. Because of it, we spent most of our time at home. So many people STILL haven’t had the chance to meet Ella. Quarantine babies (and kids in general) have really had it difficult. The malls may be open, but the playscapes are closed. Playgrounds at the parks have been closed. Many of the interactive stuff at children’s museums are closed. There was NO WHERE to take her except on walks through the neighborhood and occasionally playing outside.

We decided to take her to the Sea Life Aquarium about an hour from us. Legoland is also there, but we figured we’d do something that didn’t require too much “touching.” We were the first in line and got to walk through the aquarium and look at all the cool fish and sea life. She really enjoyed it. There were a lot of fish to observe and the lighting inside was very cool. There was even a place where she could reach in and touch some of the sea life. It took about a half hour to go through, and she really loved it.

We walked the mall for a little bit after the aquarium visit and remembered that they have a Build A Bear there. For your birthday, you get to chose a bear and you pay whatever your age is. She she picked a bear, picked a heart to put in the bear, and walked out with a new stuffed friend for just $1.00! I have a feeling we’ll go back and get a birthday outfit for the bear in the future. For now, she seems pretty content with her new buddy.

Later this afternoon, our plans changed a bit. We were going to have cake here at the house, but we ended up going to Sam’s mom and dad’s for pizza and cake. Yes, I got emotional as I took pictures and everyone sang “Happy Birthday.” I think we all hoped that she would just rip into her cake, but she was rather reserved. She picked frosting off and ate that mostly. Someone eventually gave her a spoon and I think she ate a little cake, but it was mostly frosting. By the time she was done, she had as much frosting on her as the cake did.

It really was a perfect day.

So now, before I close, I need to say something to my baby girl:

My sweet Ella Bella –

Today, you turned one year old. Mommy and I have enjoyed every second of your life. We have watched you grow up so fast! It really seems like yesterday that we were waiting for you to arrive. Now, you are walking and saying words. In the past year, you have brought us so much joy and happiness.

I’m sure that you think daddy’s phone is always ready to take pictures of you, and you’re probably right. You very well may be the baby with the most pictures on Facebook! You have been a bright light in a very dark and scary time, sweetheart. A pandemic, political nonsense, violence, and hatred were prominent throughout the world during your first year. However, your smiling face brought smiles to so many people. I guess daddy thought I might be overdoing it with all the pictures of you I kept posting. You have no idea how many people have told me how YOU helped them get through these tough times! Your smile brought smiles. Thanks to social media, people you have never even met are watching you grow up, and smiling at the new things you are doing. You are loved by more people than you can imagine!! There is something extra special and magical about you. Your personality is one that brings happiness to everyone.

You are our miracle baby. There will never be enough words for me to tell you just how much I love you. I only wish that everyone could experience the joy that I feel when I walk into the house after work and you see me and scream with delight that “daddy is home!” I wish everyone would experience the thrill that I get when you wake up and I walk into your room to get you and you smile at me as you reach for me to pick you up.

Mommy and I were going back through pictures of you over the past year, and it is amazing to see how fast you have grown. With each picture, we relieved special moments and milestones. We laughed and cried. We thanked God for sending you to us. A year’s worth of memories and this is only the beginning. There will be many more milestones. There will be countless new things for you to learn. You will continue to be an amazing little girl. Mommy and daddy will be there every step of the way, cheering you on in whatever you do! We will help you accomplish what your heart desires.

We have so much to celebrate today, and there will be much more to celebrate in the future. Thank you for being my little love bug. Thank you for making daddy feel so loved. YOU are special and I love you so very much.

Happy First Birthday, Ella. May God continue to bless you today and always.

Love you forever –

Daddy.

A Smile Amid Chaos

All you had to do this week was turn on the news, check your social media page, or surf the internet to see the chaos going on in the world. As an American, it makes me sad to see the state of the country. The division within the country is just sickening. Abraham Lincoln quoted scripture when he said:

Facebook was full of friends who stated that they were leaving Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms to go to MeWe and Parler (whatever those are!). I utilize the “snooze/mute” and “unfollow” features so I don’t see a lot of the content that aggravates me. However, even taking advantage of those features, I still end up seeing things I don’t want to.

When I am feeling angry or upset at the world, politics, or whatever, I need only turn to the smile of my little girl…..

Ella is oblivious to all the craziness in the world. She loves playing with mommy and daddy. She watches Elmo and reads books. She chases the cat and gets into things she isn’t supposed to. She finds joy in simple things, like me making a stuffed dog “bark” at her.

She got to go outside and sit in the snow for the first time in her life. Even though she wasn’t quite used to the snowsuit and boots – she smiled at the peacefulness of a winter day!

Having her in my life is better than any medication a doctor can prescribe! I love my daily dose of Ella – her smile is contagious!

Keep Smiling!!

I’m Gonna Miss You, “Sir”

I’m still trying to process the loss of my friend, Tom Shaner. He passed away just before Christmas. He was my high school band director. He was more than just a friend to me (and many others). He was a mentor, a leader, a counselor, a cheerleader, a boss, a role model, an advisor, and at times, was like a second father to me.

I received word that he was in the hospital the week before Christmas. Due to Covid, no visitors were allowed. I found out afterward that he had been in ICU. Then his family announced that he was coming home to hospice care. Word came very quickly after that he had passed away. I am still in shock, as are many of his former students.

I had been watching the mailbox for a letter from him. He and I had exchanged e-mails recently and he said he was going to drop a note in the mail. I assumed that the note might be stuffed in the annual Christmas card from him. It never arrived.

My Facebook was filled with other band students remembering him. There were pictures of him and many stories, some I had heard before, some I had been in band to witness, and some I had never heard before. Those various memories from band students younger and older than me, were proof that we all shared many of the same wonderful experiences with him. They also were illustrations of the great impact that this one man had on students throughout his teaching career and far beyond.

From a previous blog:

One of the first blogs I wrote here was about the impact of teachers. I listed some of mine. Here is what I wrote about Mr. Shaner almost 3 years ago:

Mr. Shaner was my band director. If you are looking for my stance on Music Education in schools – here it is. “I LEARNED MORE TO PREPARE ME FOR LIFE FROM BAND CLASS THAN ANY OTHER CLASS IN SCHOOL”. There. I said it. I learned the importance of preparation. I learned the importance of punctuality. I learned the importance of practice. I learned the importance of team work. I learned the importance of organization. I learned the importance of patience. All of my time management skills came directly from band class. I learned about discipline and work ethic. I learned the importance of cooperation and respect. The list goes on and on. The lessons that I took from band class in itself can be an entire blog. (I can also add the importance of dedication, responsibility, self worth, dignity, and honor to this list!)

I recall one day in 9th grade, I was running late for school. I grabbed a pair of khaki pants from a basket that was in the laundry room. I walked into school and TS said “Hey, man, you know an iron can get those wrinkles out of your slacks”. Now some people might think this was mean. I didn’t take it that way. Instead, it made me aware of little things like looking good. It was a simple nudge to take an extra minute to dress right.

It was not odd for him to call someone in the office and ask if everything was ok if they looked like something was bothering them. Sometimes he would get wind of a situation someone was dealing with and he would be aware that there was a lesson in it for everyone. He would just tell some story in class with the lesson at the end and it did two things – it helped the person in the situation AND it helped the rest of us in case that situation ever popped up in our lives.

I remember one time Steve and I were goofing off during a rehearsal. It was the day before festival, so it was not the time to be fooling around. He stopped the band and asked us what was so funny. Because we did not have an answer he pointed to the door and said “Bye. I’ll see you after rehearsal”. We sat at the end of the hall and pondered how much trouble we were going to get into not only with him but with our folks. He sent Kelly, the band president down to the end of the hall to get us. He looked at us dead in the eye and said “I did not want you to go with us to festival tomorrow, but the band as a whole voted and said you should come”. He proceeded with the rehearsal. The following day, I was the first to arrive in the band room. He greeted me with a smile and I was completely confused. He was SO angry the day before. I asked if he had a second and he said to follow him to his office. He sat down and looked at me, like he had no idea why I was there. I apologized for my behavior the previous day and told him it would never happen again. He stared at me for a few seconds and got up quickly (which scared the hell out of me). He extended his hand and said, “It takes a lot of guts to admit when you are wrong. It takes a real man to apologize. Thank you for taking responsibility for your actions. I have a lot of respect for you.” He took it a step further and made sure the entire band knew what happened. He said he thought that they should know that I cared enough about them to apologize for my actions. Talk about respect? I have the utmost respect for that man and all of the lessons I still carry with me to this day. I am glad that we have remained in contact all these years later. He was a major influence in my life and in the lives of many students.

His Own Hashtag!

The one thing that showed up in almost every post about him on Facebook was how strict he was about being punctual. “If you’re on time – you’re late!” He always told us that! In other words, if rehearsal started at 4pm, you had better be in your seat with your instrument ready to play at 3:59pm (or earlier!). SO many people mentioned this in their posts. I chuckled and thought he would think it was great that the hashtag #ifyoureontimeyourelate was in almost all of these posts!

The Band Room

The band room represented a safe haven for most of us. It was like a family gathering place. Almost everyone hung out there before and after school. Most of us ate lunch there, too. We did homework there, we talked about life there, we laughed there, and we cried there. Many of us never used our lockers because we kept most of our stuff in the band room!

Mr. Shaner always had something playing over the speakers in the band room in the morning. Sometimes it was just the classical music station, while other times it was an album featuring artists like Maynard Ferguson and Doc Severinsen. I was introduced to so many great albums by hearing them in the band room.

Many student’s first stop was the band room every day. We’d drop our instruments off in the instrument storage room and walk over the the white grease board where Mr. Shaner wrote all the announcements. At the bottom of that board, he always had some quote. The one I remember most hits me a bit hard with his passing: “Live every day as if it were your last – someday, you’ll be right.”

In my senior year, I was the Band President. All the officers had mailboxes in his office. He would often write notes for all of us on Post It notes and stick them in our mailbox. Mine often read simply “See me”. Sometimes, the sticky note was stuck to some flyer or something and it would read “See me on this!” Every now and then, an officer would find a page from the Far Side calendar in their mailbox, just because.

I had a typing class my senior year. I hated it. I would get my work done early and I would sit there for the rest of the hour doing nothing. Eventually I’d as the teacher for a pass to go to the band room to work on stuff I needed to get done. This became a habit and one day I walked to his desk and before I could ask he said, “No. You may not have a pass to the band room.” I looked at him and said, “I was hoping you could give me a pass to the IMRC.” The teacher looked at me puzzled and I continued, “The Instrumental Music Rehearsal Center” (which was something Mr. Shaner had said in class that week). He wrote the pass and told me to beat it!

Band Class

While in school, I have many wonderful memories of band class and Mr. Shaner. I remember how he would tell us stories about the little old lady that he went to church with, which always made us laugh. Whenever one of his kids had a baby, he’d announce how his wife, Carol, “became a grandma again.” I remember how if there was a part of a song that didn’t sound right, he’d pull out the grade book and go down the line and make us all play individually – for a test grade. Then there was “the parting of the stands”, when he would step off the podium and go directly to whoever he needed to yell at.

When I was a junior, I wanted to be a band director (until I stumbled into radio). Mr. Shaner ran an after school Conducting Class for whoever wanted to be in it. It was part music theory and part conducting. Each of us in the class got to lead the band in a warm up chorale every day. I really enjoyed that. One class he asked each of us to bring a song to the class and explain why we liked it. I remember there being a lot of different types of music and his reaction to each was always enlightening.

The above picture was taken of him conducting the Jazz Band. We rehearsed after school and we got to play at Pep assemblies. Jazz Band was so much fun. It was just a small group of us, and he seemed to really have more fun with us. I remember one of the songs we played was Delta Dawn (the Tanya Tucker song). The sax section had the melody and the harmonies were just fantastic. I was given the solo on a song called “In a Sentimental Mood”. I was scared to play it but he was so encouraging and I remember not being so nervous after he talked to me.

At Christmas time, he would invite the band officers over for dinner or a movie. I remember how strange it felt to be at his house at first, but we were welcomed as friends and family. I can’t remember how many times we drove by his house honking our horns after graduation.

The “Radio” Preview?

At the end of my sophomore year, he had put an announcement on the grease board asking if someone wanted to help take songs from vinyl and transfer them to cassette so he could listen to them in the car. All the music publishing companies would send out record albums with demos of their music for the upcoming season. Band directors would listen to them and then order whatever songs they wanted. He needed someone to announce the title of the song before it played on the tape. That way, when he heard something he liked, he knew what the song title was. I volunteered to do it.

Naturally, before each song, I played DJ and if I knew something about the artist, I’d ad-lib something. I told jokes, and was just silly on them. He must have enjoyed it, because I did it for him the next two years. If we were recording something in class he’s say something like, “Hey, Golden Tones, why don’t you announce this for me.” I remember announcing Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo by saying, “Here’s a swinging little number called Mood Indigo.” Without missing a beat, he said “Shirley is gonna go around now saying ‘Hi! I’m Mood Indigo!”

He was so encouraging about my radio career. He’d listen when he could. He was always so supportive and interested in my radio job. He often talked about things he’d heard other DJ’s say. In an email he sent last year, he told me: “saw you in front of the microphone on Facebook this morning. I’m always pleased to see you doing what you always do so well.”

Open To All Ideas

He always seemed to want our ideas to come to fruition. It was tradition for the band officers to do a skit in front of the rest of the band. For our sketch, I thought it would be funny to have each officer step into the spotlight and lip sync to songs (this was long before lip sync battles were a thing). He gave the green light and we had a blast!

The skit that year led to us doing a lip sync contest. I asked Mr. Shaner if we could do it as a fund raiser. He was not really sure it would work, and he asked me many questions about it and how we were going to handle things before giving it the go ahead. He was willing to let me throw it together.

He called it Puttin’ On The Hits! We opened it up for everyone, but they had to audition. Someone did Time Warp from Rocky Horror (that won), someone else did Going Back to Cali, and me and my buddy, Steve, did the Ames Brothers Rag Mop. Prior to the show, ticket sales were low. We thought we were gonna cancel it because of that. However, the sales at the door that night sold out the show. We had a full house that night and it was a huge success.

Band Banquet Imitations

My Junior year, the officers were discussing the agenda for the annual Band Banquet. We needed one more speech, so I said I’d get up and do an imitation of Mr. Shaner. That night I was nervous. I got up and started my speech by saying “The longer you’re in band, the more Mr. Shaner starts to grow on you…” with that I ducked under the podium and threw on a bald cap. I then put a baton in the back of my shirt collar like he did. I “yelled” about how nobody practiced, talked about retiring and some other things. As the laughter died down, I realized I hadn’t written an “out”. I went on to thank Mr. Shaner for the many times he opened his office to listen to me talk about life, and issues I was dealing with. I don’t recall all I said, but I got pretty emotional and ended by telling him I loved him. He got up and we hugged. Somewhere I have a picture of that moment.

Remember, that happened my Junior year ….. so when my senior year arrived, he got me back good! I used to have the video of it, but I am not sure what happened to it …. so from memory, here’s what happened:

He always had a spot on the agenda to speak at the Band Banquet. So when it came time for his speech, I introduced him and sat down. He stood up and reached into a paper bag. He pulled out a wig and put it on. The entire hall erupted in laughter. He ran around the hall doing all kinds of gestures that I really hoped I had never done. At one point, he stopped at pointed to the custodian who cleaned our band room and yelled “Get outta here, Bill!” which was something we all yelled at him. By the time he got to the microphone, I was crying from laughing so hard. But he was far from done…..

He began to tell silly stories as me. One of them was “You know, Margaret is always asking me to come over and go to dinner or to the movies, but I tell her I’d rather play pinochle than do that!” (The guys and I would always play cards together, and Margaret was one of my best friends.) As the stories and laughs continued, he paused, said something about a costume change and turned with his back to the audience.

NOTE: Now, if you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know that we did a lot of TPing when I was in school. We had a group that went out called the TP Bandits……

He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a piece of toilet paper that he made into a mask and the laughter became ten times louder!

He looked absolutely ridiculous! It was the funniest thing I have ever sat through! My sides ached from laughing so hard!

The thing about Mr. Shaner was, he could take you from laughing like crazy to crying like a baby. Immediately after he took off the TP mask and wig, he spoke to us about the achievements of the year and offered up wisdom. I remember he mentioned how after graduation, friends will go separate ways. He said that you could go 30 years and when you met back up, could pick right up where you left off. Looking back at that now, I am lucky to have had his friendship 30 years after that night!

After his speech, I told him that was the worst impression of me I had ever seen!

After Graduation

I’m not going to lie, I hated graduating. I didn’t want to head out into the real world! I was comfortable in the band room. There was talk about an Alumni Band, and I was asked to head it up. I gathered all the addresses and we got it up and running. It, in itself, became a great way for all of us band “kids” to come back and hang out with Mr. Shaner. We marched in the homecoming parade every year and even played on the field once or twice. He was very supportive of the group. When he retired, there was an attempt to get folks together, but it was less successful. I truly believe that this had to do with the fact that he was not there to run rehearsals and chat with. There was always so much laughter and fun when we all got together, but without him, it was not the same.

I remember stopping by the band room one summer and he had lost a bunch of weight. He said he had been doing Weight Watchers. I had been struggling with weight for some time and I asked him about it. He was very encouraging and suggested I go. I remember losing 85 pounds and he cheered me all along the way!

One day, my girlfriend at the time and I went to see the Community Band play at one of the colleges. I was surprised to see Mr. Shaner playing his cornet in the band. There were many other concerts I attended and saw him play. It was always a treat for me. We often bumped into each other at shows. I remember seeing him at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra show, and at a Doc Severinsen show (among others).

Don’t Break Anything …

I can’t recall if it was before or after Christmas, but my son was about 1 or 2 years old. We had stopped by his house just to say hello. Their house was full of things on shelves that were breakable. I was so nervous with my son. Mrs. Shaner told my son to pick a gift from under the tree. He picked a book that came with a CD that he listened to often growing up. Mr. Shaner and I sat at his kitchen table talking. I kept wanting to get up because Mrs. Shaner was “entertaining” my son. He kept telling me, “Carol is keeping an eye on him. He’s fine.” Come to find out he was in their room jumping up and down on their bed ….. LOL

Hot Chocolate

I’d always mention getting together for coffee when we’d talk on the phone. He’d always say, I don’t do coffee, but I’ll meet you for hot chocolate. We did that often. In those times we were together, we’d talk about life, family, and the various things going on in our lives. There were so many times I’d walk into his office at school and say, “Do you have a minute?”, and we’d talk just like this. I always enjoyed his insights to things. He was so helpful when I was going through my divorce, offering some sage advice. He always helped me to see things just a bit differently.

Even in his last email to me he offered up encouraging words. He spoke of how much he enjoyed seeing my daughter in pictures on Facebook. He suggested a few books he thought I would enjoy and offered support about my bible classes. He was such a wonderful friend.

Some Closing Thoughts

Every once in a while, you meet someone who makes a huge impression on you. Tom Shaner was that man for me. He was more than just a teacher. As I stated, he was a mentor, a counselor, a leader, and a true friend. He taught me and so many other students life lessons that we have carried with us throughout our lives.

He led by example. He was almost always the first one to arrive to things and the last to leave. He was firm, yet caring. He was serious, yet funny. He showed us the importance of hard work. He showed us the importance of humor. He instilled in us pride for our organization and in our accomplishments. He made music and making music fun! The list goes on and on …

What an influence he was to hundreds of students over the years! I commented on someone’s Facebook post this week by saying that “no matter what year you graduated, no matter what section you played in, no matter what you ended up doing for a living, or where you ended up, we all had one common thread – Tom Shaner.”

He has been such a big part of my life, I am not sure where I would be without his guidance. I am forever grateful for the moments that I shared with him. I don’t know that I could ever put into words what a blessing he was to me. I am so thankful to have had him in my life.

He always said “If you’re on time, you’re late,” so I am going to assume that he was right on time for the heavenly concert that God needed an extra cornet for.

Thank you, Sir. You will be missed every day!

Portrait by Tom’s grandson, Evan.

What would you do?

If I were still doing radio full time, this would be a topic I’d talk about on the air. The radio guy in me still looks for those little things that happen around us and thinks of how you can use it on the air. We used to call these “phoners.” With a phoner, you have a situation or a story that you throw out to the listeners and ask them what they think about it. I guess it is almost like a poll. “What would you do?” kind of thing.

So here is my observation: two friends on Facebook this week were talking about how they were going through their pictures on Facebook and deleting photos that contained their exes. One was recently married and so she was deleting anything with an old boyfriend in them. Another was remarried and deleting pictures of his ex and former in laws.

As someone who went through a divorce and is now happily married, I completely understand how some of the pictures that come up in Facebook Memories can bring up bad memories. At the same time, you cannot deny that those events happened and that those people were a part of your life at that time. So what do you do? Do you go in and delete these photos completely? Do you just delete the ones of the people you want to forget?

When I was married to my ex, she made me get rid of my prom pictures (cause I ended up dating the gal I took for a while), and any pictures with a former girlfriend in it. As I have said in the past, I am who I am today because of the people and events of my past. I can’t change that. They are pictures of moments from the past. Does getting rid of them or deleting them matter?

I’m not on the radio anymore, so you’ll have to voice your opinion in the comment section here or on Facebook. What do you think? Delete or Keep?

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!

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!

A Great Fall Weekend!

This weekend marked the 14th anniversary of my mother’s passing. It was very much on my mind through the entire weekend. However, there were so many other things going on that there was more happiness than sadness.

My brother came into town from Ohio and got to meet his niece for the first time. We have done many video chats prior to this, so when he came in, she recognized him and the hit it off immediately. It was such a wonderful moment. I’m sure we took a gazillion pictures, but my favorite one, he actually made his Facebook Profile Picture:

Uncle Chris and Ella

My brother and I drove down and picked up Dimitri and we all piled into the van and went to Crossroads Village. They usually do a Haunted Train Ride for Halloween, but because of Covid-19 they are not running the train. Instead, they are doing a nightly drive through of the village. It is all decked out for Halloween. My brother caught some pictures. It was a very nice time.

At the end of the drive, every passenger in the car got a goodie bag. I had to laugh because Dimitri opened a candy necklace, took a bite and said it was gross. I remember loving them growing up. I tried it and it was a bit … chalky!

We then came home and it was pumpkin carving time! We went to the orchard last weekend. We picked pumpkins and didn’t get the chance to carve them, so we did it this weekend.

Dimitri carved a skeleton playing a trumpet. For Ella’s, we took a drill and drilled holes in it. It looks like polka dots when the candle is in it. She loved touching the pumpkin guts, which surprised all of us.

Ready to carve
Determined
Yay! Polka Dot Pumpkin!
The finished product

On Sunday, we met my friend Jennifer at the park to take some family photos. Everything fell into place for the session – Dante was not working, Dimitri was here, Sam was off work that night, and Jennifer was available. We were worried that Ella wasn’t going to last long, as she was a bit tired. She loves being outside and we ended up getting some really amazing pictures!

The plan is to get one of the family pictures made into a canvas to go with the canvas we have of us with the baby. I also plan on printing some to frame and hang in the hallway. There are plenty to chose from. I wish I had a cubicle or an office at work so I could frame some of them to look at while I work. Here are two of my absolute favorites:

My Beautiful Girls – my wife, Sam, and my daughter Ella
My Three Wonderful Children – Dimitri, Ella, and Dante’

Both of these will be framed!! Perfect photos!!

After the photo shoot, the boys and my brother and I went to the cemetery to visit my mom’s grave. Dante’ has such fond memories of her. Dimitri never got to meet her and it bothers him a lot. They both got very emotional. It was nice to have some time there with them.

Monday, Sam worked days, so she was home by afternoon. We took a drive and grabbed pumpkin spice latte’s from Starbucks. When we got home, we raked up a big pile of leaves. We put the baby in her winter coat and let her sit outside and play in the pile. Look at this cutie:

The temps are cooling down. There is already snow up north. I’m glad to have been able to enjoy such a wonderful fall weekend with family.