Well, well, well. Look who’s back…

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This is my first blog since May 18th. I guess this is the longest I have gone between blogs and many have sent private messages wondering if I am doing okay. My good buddy, Max, sent an email asking about me and it took me a while to write him back. Knowing I work in the medical field, and knowing how often I blog, he feared the worst. Needless to say, he was relieved to hear back from me. I figured if folks were worried if I was still around, I’d take some time to write.

It is not that I haven’t had stuff to write about, because I certainly have. I guess I was just having a hard time motivating myself to do so. It has been a very emotional month. So where do I even begin?

When I last wrote, I had just celebrated my 50th birthday. It seems that every time I hit a mile stone birthday, something happens to remind me I am getting older. This birthday, I found myself trying to read and really having difficulty seeing the words. I had Lasik surgery done years ago and I have had no real issues with my vision. I was told that the only thing that they couldn’t correct was if I needed reading glasses. I need to make an appointment to have my eyes checked, but until then, I am reading with these ridiculous readers on!

Speaking of birthdays, I feel bad because two very important ones came and went since I last blogged and they certainly both deserved a full blog. My wife celebrated at the beginning of the month and my youngest son officially became a teenager just a few days ago. Birthdays in quarantine suck. I didn’t get to really do anything for either of them! It will be a week or two before I see my son, so I am planning on doing something for him when he is back here with me.

I got Amazon gift cards from my mother and father-in-law, and from my dad. I decided I’d get some vinyl to play. One for laughs and one for music.

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You can’t go wrong with Frank Sinatra. They remixed his Nice and Easy album and I picked that up.

Next, I found an album I had years ago that is loaded with laughs from the great Soupy Sales.

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Graduation on the Internet

My oldest son graduated this year. You may have seen something about his school, as it made national news. They rented the Drive-in theater in town and showed all of the commencement speeches, staff speeches, and called out every graduate’s name (while showing their pictures) on the three big screens. Sadly, only one car per student was allowed, so Sam and I watched the live stream from home. It was certainly not the way I thought I would see my son graduate.

I emailed the principal and voiced how disappointed I was that only one car was allowed per student. Certainly there were more divorced parents than just me! I had hoped that he would return my email, but that didn’t happen. So, I cheered and cried when they read his name from my living room. He wore his cap and gown to the ceremony, but I haven’t gotten any pictures of him in them. I am hoping that he will come by with them so I can at least get one.

Back to Work

I returned to work two weeks ago. I really wasn’t sure I was ready to return, but the doc thought I’d be okay. The lab where I work is open, but only a few of the staff is back there. The rest are still working in a labor pool at jobs that they are assigned to. When I returned to work, that was where I went. The only bad thing is, the labor pool is going away and that means I will have to take a temporary lay off.

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The thing that scares me is wondering if they will ever call me back. I know of many people in radio who were told they were being laid off temporarily, only to have the companies eliminate those positions and terminate them. This is happening all over as many companies are doing whatever is necessary to keep their business alive. In the weekly trade magazine that comes our for just country radio stations, there is almost three pages of people LOOKING for jobs, while there is just a half page of stations looking to hire people.

Father’s Day

Father’s Day I was up early to meet my sons for breakfast. It was the first time we’d eaten in a restaurant since things opened back up. It was nice to see both of them together. Lately, I have only been seeing Dimitri, as Dante’ is now working and usually hanging with his friends. We had a nice breakfast and I enjoyed my time with them.

When I came home, Sam had Ella all dressed for Father’s Day.

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I received my Father’s Day/Birthday gift from Sam between my birthday and Father’s Day. She ordered me something that was made special for me. She had hoped it would be here by my birthday, but it took a few weeks to make. I was floored by this when it arrived. It was a book –

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She got to design how I looked, and how Ella looked. She said it was hard because her hair was still looking red some days and blonde on others. There were various stories to put in the book. She had Ella point and those were the ones that ended up in the book. She asked me to read it and I could barely make it through. It made me so emotional. It was the perfect gift and I will treasure it forever!!

My Baby Girl

The one thing that has been a plus though all of this is the time that I have gotten to spend with Ella. She brings me so much happiness. On nice days, we always try to take a walk around the neighborhood. She loves it! We look at the squirrels, listen to the birds, say hello to neighbors, and just enjoy the nice weather.

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We like to play with her toys on the floor, she likes to bounce in her jumpy seat, we nap together, and occasionally, we’ll watch Bubble Guppies together (she likes the music on that show).

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Sometimes, I will put on my Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra albums and we’ll sway and dance in the living room. Having this precious time with her has been a blessing. With the layoff, I will have more time with her and that will be the positive in a negative situation.

Classes

My DVD’s arrived for my Bible classes. I am currently re-watching the first year (the stuff that I had already done) and will continue with the new classes when I am finished. Just revisiting these classes has been very beneficial for me. I am glad that I decided to return.

I certainly feel like my spiritual life is moving in the right direction. I have a lot of peace right now, despite the uncertainty that lies ahead. I have faith that no matter what is ahead of me …. Every thing will be okay.

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With that being said, I guess that brings you up to date. I hope to not be so long between blogs. Thanks for reading!

Tune Tuesday – Vieni Sul Mar

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I wish I could speak Italian.  I have always wanted to learn.  I guess I always end up talking myself into believing that I can’t learn it.  The older I get, the less I can remember.  I also tell myself that I probably don’t have the time to learn it.  Then, there is the cost involved as many courses you can buy are quite pricey.  At any rate, I think the Italian language is just beautiful.

As a fan of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Lou Monte, there are many songs that they have done in which a lyric or two is sung completely in Italian (Lazy Mary, Volare, Come Back to Sorrento, etc…).  Bottom line, I don’t know what they are singing about, but I like the song, if that makes sense.  I don’t exactly recall how I came to know of Andrea Bocelli.  I don’t think someone said, “Hey!  Check this guy’s music out!”.  More than likely, I was sitting at home surfing channels and saw him on PBS.

At some point, I decided to buy an album of his on iTunes.  I chose Incanto.  I chose this one because I actually recognized one of the titles (Santa Lucia).  As I sat and listened to this album, there was one song that stood out for a couple of reasons: 1) I recognized it and 2) the arrangement was just beautiful.  The song is Vieni Sul Mar.

Funny story of how I recognized it – I saw it in a Three Stooges short.  In their 1945 short, Micro Phonies, Gino Corrado plays an Italian violinist and singer who sings this song at Mrs. Bixby’s party.  The Stooges, with Curly dressed as Senorita Cucaracha, sabotage his singing by flicking cherries into his mouth as he is singing it!

So my first exposure to the song is a humorous one, however, I’m glad I came to hear it in a non-humorous way.

The song is a Neapolitan waltz.  The melody is beautiful.  Andrea’s vocals are just amazing.  I totally get lost in the song.  I listened to this over and over and with each listen I grew more fond of the song – and, because I don’t speak Italian, I had no idea what it is about!

After a search of the internet, I found that Vieni Sul Mar means “Come to the Sea”.  I have to be honest, when you see the translation in English, it’s a bit disappointing.  I am not sure how accurate this translation is, but every time I read the English I think, “How can such a beautiful melody be about a drunk sailor!?”

So, give it a listen.  Enjoy the string arrangement, enjoy his vocals, and get lost in a beautiful melody.

Vieni Sul Mar (Italian)

Deh, ti desta fanciulla, la luna

spande un raggio si caro sul mar.

Vieni meco, t’aspetta la bruna.

Fida barca del tuo marinar.

Ma tu dormi, e non pensi al tuo fido.

Ma non dorme chi vive d’amor.

Io la notte a te volo, sul lido.

Ed il giorno a te volo col cor.

 

Vieni sul mar. Vieni a vogar.

Sentirai l’ebbrezza del tuo marinar.

 

Da quel giorno che t’ho conosciuta,

oh fanciulla di questo mio cuor.

Speme e pace per te ho perduto

perché t’amo d’un immenso amor.

Fra le belle, tu sei la più bella.

Fra le rose tu sei la più fin.

Tu del ciel sei brillante mia stella.

Ed in terra divina beltà.

 

Vieni sul mar. Vieni a vogar.

Sentirai l’ebbrezza del tuo marinar.

 

Addio dunque, riposa, e domani

quando l’alba a svegliarti verrà.

sopra lidi lontani lontani

l’infelice nocchiero sarà.

Ma tu dormi, e non pensi al tuo fido.

Ma non dorme chi vive d’amor.

Io la notte a te volo, sul lido.

Ed il giorno a te volo col cor.

 

Vieni sul mar. Vieni a vogar.

Sentirai l’ebbrezza del tuo marinar.

 

Vieni sul mar. Vieni a vogar.

Sentirai l’ebbrezza del tuo marinar.

 

Come To The Sea (English Translation)

Pray thee, awake maiden, the moon

spreads it’s ray over the dear sea.

Come with me, I wait for you brunette.

Trust in the boat of your sailor.

But you sleep, thinking not of your devoted one.

But they sleep not who live by love.

This night to you I fly, to the shore.

And in the day you fly with my heart.

 

Come to the sea. Come for a row.

Feel the intoxication of your sailor.

 

Since that day I have known,

oh maiden of this heart of mine.

Hope and peace for you I have lost

because I love you with a love so great.

Among the pretty ones, you are the prettiest.

Among the roses you are most fine.

Of the sky you are my bright star.

And on the earth beauty divine.

 

Come to the sea. Come for a row.

Feel the intoxication of your sailor.

 

Adio till later, rest, and tomorrow

when dawn will wake you,

over shores far, far away

the helmsman will be unhappy.

But you sleep, thinking not of your devoted one.

But they sleep not who live by love.

This night to you I fly, to the shore.

And in the day you fly with my heart.

 

Come to the sea. Come for a row.

Feel the intoxication of your sailor.

 

Come to the sea. Come for a row.

Feel the intoxication of your sailor

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Golden Gift

Outside of a wedding ring, I don’t know many men who wear a lot of jewelry (unless they are a rapper!).  I know a few guys who wear a chain around their neck or maybe a bracelet.  I don’t wear much jewelry, and up until a year or so ago, I only wore a ring.  Due to money issues in my first marriage, I ended up pawning a few gold charms I had, and eventually my wedding ring.  If I hadn’t put my foot down, I may have been forced to pawn a very special piece of jewelry.

In a recent blog, I posted a picture of my daughter on my chest.  In that picture, you can see a bit of a necklace that I began wearing again within the past few years.  This is the brief story of this golden gift that means quite a bit to me.

My grandmother had given me a chain with a cross on it when I was probably about 13 years old.  The chain ended up breaking because it was so thin, and she gave me another one.  One Christmas I had asked my parents for a trumpet charm to wear on that chain.  I wish I could remember the year, but that escapes me.  It may have been shortly after my grandpa died in 1981, but I’m not sure.

At any rate, I remember it being the last gift my mom handed me to open that year.  It was such a simple charm, but I loved it.  She told me she had it specially made for me.  She knew some jeweler who had made a ring or something for her and they did it.  I wore it all the time – until a few years after I got married.

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At some point during that relationship, I was told how silly it was to wear the necklace.  “You’re not even in band anymore.  That horn sits in the case collecting dust.  You look silly wearing that thing,” I was told.  So I took it off and it sat in my jewelry box for years.

Fast forward to a few years ago.  I was moving some stuff around at the house and my jewelry box fell and the stuff in it fell out.  As I picked up things like my class ring, my tie clips, tuxedo studs, I picked up my necklace.  I immediately thought of my mom and just how happy she was to give that charm to me.  So I put it on.  Sam said she’d never seen me wear it before and I told her why I stopped wearing it.  She told me she liked it and told me I should wear it anytime I wanted.  I haven’t taken it off since. I have actually had patients ask about it while I am working.  My nieces always ask about it (and try to play it) when I am holding them.  I am sure Ella will do the same when she gets bigger.  She will even occasionally grasp onto the chain when I am holding her today.

The only other piece of jewelry I would ever consider wearing is a pinky ring – after all, I am Italian.  Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra both wore matching pinky rings that Frank had made for them, a gesture that showed their love for each other.  I think it’d be cool to wear one.

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The chain and charm are one of two pieces of jewelry I wear every day.  The other is my wedding ring.  Each piece is a reminder of very special women in my life.  One promise I can make – you will never see me walking around with this ridiculous amount of jewelry on!

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Reflecting on 2019 …

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

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

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

Quick Review of My Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!  Cheers!

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The Challenge: #PayClassicsForward for Christmas

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A blog that I follow, Once Upon a Screen, posted a challenge that she has done for a few years now.  The idea is to share some of your favorite movies with others – by “paying classics forward”.  You can my friend, Aurora’s post from this year here:

The Challenge: #PayClassicsForward for Christmas

From the above link, you can also click on her posts from previous years.  She loosely follows the “format” of The 12 Days of Christmas.  Another buddy at Movie Movie Blog Blog II posted his here:

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What follows is my attempt to share some movie “classics” with you.  Perhaps you can check some out during your holiday break?  Here goes:

One AMAZING performance –

James Cagney as psychopath Cody Jarrett in White Heat.  He had given up playing gangsters a few years prior, but returns with this electrifying and mesmerizing performance in this film.  The ending is classic!!

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Two Musical Brothers –

Jake and Elwood Blues are on a “mission from God” to raise money to save an orphanage, but first, they need to put their band back together.  Based on two characters they did on Saturday Night Live, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, along with an amazing band, great cast, stellar cameos from legendary singers, and the Bluesmobile are a MUST see!

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Three Movie Trilogies

The Star Wars Original Trilogy.  Yes, I know that there are prequels and sequels, but the original trilogy (Episodes 4, 5, & 6) are required viewing for everyone!

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The Back to the Future Trilogy.  Time travel has never been so much fun! While I still feel that Part 3 could have had a better ending, I still love watching the adventures of Doc Brown, Marty McFly, and Biff Tannen.

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The Godfather Trilogy.  Movie perfection!  Godfather 1 & Godfather 2 are such masterful works!  While Godfather 3 was panned by many critics, I still find it to have some wonderful moments.

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Four Star General

George C. Scott won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of General George S. Patton.  I have always loved him as an actor, and his performance in this film is truly worthy of the award.

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Five Card Stud

I love a good western.  I could have had an entire list of westerns to suggest to readers (maybe that’s a future blog).  Five Card Stud stars two of my favorite actors, Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum.  I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s good stuff! Shuffle the cards….

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The Sixth Sense

I remember seeing this one in the theater. I remember exactly how blown away I was at the ending.  If you have never seen it, you need to!  Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment are terrific.  Still one of my favorites of all time.

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Seven “Hoods”

Robin and the 7 Hoods is one of two Rat Pack films on this list.  Take the story of Robin Hood and set it in 1920’s Chicago and you have a fun flick.  There are some great musical numbers, including a Sinatra classic, “My Kind of Town”.  Peter Falk is brilliant in this film, as is Bing Crosby.  Then, of course, you have Dean, Frank & Sammy!

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Favorite Eight film series.

The Harry Potter series.  Whether you are a child or an adult, this wonderful world of wizardry is very well done.  What makes it extra special is that the main characters are played by the same people throughout the entire series.  I saw the movies before I read the books.  My kids and I love watching these together.

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Nine Players

I’m talking baseball movies.  I’ll give you a drama and a comedy.  For laughs, Major League is my pick.  The all star cast includes Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, and Wesley Snipes! Bob Uecker as the Indians announcer is worth the watch!

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In the drama category, The Natural with Robert Redford is my suggestion.  Roy Hobbs and his bat “Wonderboy” lead the Knights to many victories in this wonderful film!  Wilford Brimley is great as the manager.  Watch for Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Barbara Hershey, and Robert Duvall as well!

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Ten Commandments

The Cecil B. DeMille epic is an amazing movie with a phenomenal all-star cast and pretty cool special effects for 1956!  Charlton Heston is Moses.

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Others in the cast include Vincent Price, Anne Baxter, Yvonne De Carlo, Yul Brynner, and Edward G. Robinson.

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Watch this.  “So let it be written.  So let it be done.”

Ocean’s Eleven

The original!  Not the George Clooney, Brad Pitt remake!  This is my second Rat Pack selection.  Sinatra is Danny Ocean, and him and his old military buddies are going to rob all the major casinos in Las Vegas.  I have always loved the ending of this film – so much is said (and felt) with nothing but silence and no dialogue.

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Twelve Angry Men

Henry Fonda leads an all-star cast of jurors who must decide whether a teen is guilty, sending him to a death sentence.  In the film, we see 12 very different personalities all trying to work together to come to a conclusion.  The clashing of these various personalities is what makes the film so brilliant.  Martin Balsam, Jack Klugman, Ed Begley, Jack Warden, and Lee J. Cobb all put in thrilling performances.

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Now it is your turn – pay it forward.  What movies are must sees for other film fans?  You have freedom to pick what you want and use your numbers how you wish.  Use my post and the examples of my friend as a guide.

 

 

Winter Storm and Winter Songs

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According to the calendar, it is still officially Autumn.  There are still colored leaves on the trees here in Michigan.  Many people haven’t even started raking them yet.  This, however, may be the shortest Autumn I can remember as we were hit today with quite the winter storm!

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I guess we broke the record today for “most snowfall” on November 11th.  The record (for the Detroit area, anyway) was set back in 1984 – 4.1 inches.  That record was surpassed as early as 1pm today.  The snow continued to fall throughout the evening and made for one hell of a ride (3+ hours) into work!

The snow brings out a lot of anger in people.  People waste no time talking about how much they hate the snow.  “It’s too early,” they say.  It’s not like we haven’t had snow early in November before, we have.  As a matter of fact, it was one year ago I posted about it snowing on Facebook.  We’ve certainly seen snow as early as late October, too!  While I don’t necessarily like having to shovel it, or drive in it, I do like the snow.  I marvel at the beauty of it when it has first fallen on the ground.  Someone posted this on Facebook yesterday, and it is SO true:

“If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in your life but still the same amount of snow.”

Sometimes, in life, we need to look for the positives instead of focusing on the negatives.

At any rate, all the snow brought me back to a thought I had while writing a recent blog about Christmas music (Is It Too Early? – on November 2).  Some radio stations (both local and on Sirius XM) have started playing all Christmas music.  On my drive in, I was flipping around and stopped on the local station, because they were playing a song that would be considered a Christmas song, but actually worked because of the weather.

Here I am driving 30mph while the snow is falling, and Dean Martin’s “Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!” is playing.  It was the perfect song for the weather.  Which brings me back to the thought I had in the previous blog – why can’t stations play “winter” songs before Christmas, and after Christmas?  I compiled a list of songs that could certainly be played as just “winter hits”.

Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!

Winter Wonderland

Snowfall

Winter Weather

Snow

I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm

Marshmallow World

Song For A Winter’s Night

Snowbird

Hazy Shade of Winter

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Jingle Bells

There are SO many more.  Jingle Bell Rock could easily be a “winter song”.  Frosty the Snowman is a “winter song”.  Sleigh Ride is also a snowy “winter song”!  It doesn’t have to be Christmas for me to enjoy those songs.  Am I forgetting any?  What can YOU add to the list?

Too Early?

I should mention that my wife listens to Christmas music all year round.  AND she likes to be able to enjoy the decorations, so when we have our first snow, the tree goes up.  Yes, it is up and decorated…and the cats are already enjoying it.

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I guess I should make sure the snow blower starts when I get home ….

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Back in Time?

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All writers get writer’s block.  I am hardly a “writer”, but sometimes stare at the blank page and wonder what to write about.  Since I began blogging, I have stumbled on blogs written by others who share some of the same interests as me.  I have followed blogs that feature movies, TV, music, nostalgia, positive thoughts & quotes, and more.  There have been many instances where I read another blog and an idea will pop into my head.  My friend Max and I tend to “borrow” ideas from each other often.

Many ideas I adapt from those blogs.  For this blog I am literally stealing the idea, and giving credit, and creating some rules for it.  The Anxious Teacher wrote a blog after watching Back to the Future III.  You can read it here:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/94480307/posts/2458827458

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What a great idea for a blog!  If you had a time machine – where would you travel?  As I thought about this, I wanted to limit myself to a few things.  First of all, because I have watched the Back to the Future movies, I know that if you go back and change something in the past – it will affect the future.  So Limit #1:  If I go back, I am simply there to observe.  Many of the things I thought I would like to go back and witness happened over a period of time, so Limit #2 – no real time limit.  Limit #3 – wherever I go, I will be dressed appropriately as to not raise suspicion.  I know, it’s silly, but it’s my blog and my rules.

I actually thought about adding what I would call the “Ebenezer Scrooge” element to this.  What is that?  Well, remember when Scrooge was transported into the past, present & future?  He could witness everything, but he could not interact with anyone.  Those events happened and the people were not aware he was even there.  Perhaps that would be the best thing, right?  That way, if I went back in time, I would not be tempted to change things.

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General times and places

As my blogger friend said, I think it would be very cool to visit the old west.  I have watched many westerns on TV and in the movies.  I have read many books set in the old west.  I think it would be pretty cool to walk through one of those western towns.  How cool would it be to visit the saloons, or the general store?  I think it would be cool to don a cool cowboy hat, boots & spurs and ride a horse to get from place to place.

I also think it would be cool to visit the ancient times and watch the building of the pyramids, or buildings like the coliseum.  Those historic buildings are still standing.  How awesome would it be to see just how they put them together?

As someone who has been a huge fan of the 1950’s, I would love to live a year or two in this decade.  It’s fun to see how the ’50s are portrayed in movies like Back to the Future, and I would love to see it in person.  I would love to hear the old radio stations playing those early rock and roll songs.  I would love to see those classic films in a theater.  I would love to have a meal at a real 50’s diner or drive a classic car!

I would love to visit the 1940’s, too!  The music of the great band leaders, the early music of Sinatra, and of course, those great old radio shows! Of course, World War II was going on, but it would be interesting to see how life in America was at that time.

Everyone wants to visit the future … that peaks my interest, but is it something I would do?  I don’t know.  I’d be tempted to come back to the present and use the information for personal gain, or to alter outcomes.   I’m not sure visiting the future would be something I’d want to do – unless I knew it was something specific I wouldn’t be able to see.

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General People of Interest

I would love to watch Beethoven or Bach (or any composer, really) writing and composing a piece of their music.

I would love to watch someone like Edgar Allen Poe or William Shakespeare writing a poem or story.

I would love to sit on a set and watch them shooting a Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy film.

I would love to be in the room where the First Continental Congress held meetings and watch men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others in action.

I would love to attend a taping of an old episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson or a taping of the Dean Martin Show.

I would love to be in the audience at a Rat Pack show in Chicago or Las Vegas.  Come on!  Dean, Frank and Sammy!!

I would love to be an extra in one of my favorite movies.

I would love to watch Elvis in the recording studio.

I would love to watch Thomas Edison working on the phonograph or the electric light.

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Specific Events

I would love to watch the moon landing (on TV or from space).

I would love to watch the first flight with the Wright Brothers.

I would love to see JFK’s inauguration.

I would love to see a Beatles concert.

I would love to see Lincoln deliver his Gettysburg Address.

I would love to witness the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I would love to witness the launch of Titanic on her maiden voyage.

I would love to be in the stands at Tiger Stadium at the final game of the 1984 World Series.

I would love to be in the crowd at 1985’s Live Aid concert.

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Personal Things

I know I put some limits on what can or cannot happen if I went back in time, but if there were no limits there are a few things I would like to do with that time machine.

I would love one more conversation with my mom.

I would love one more pinochle game with grandma and grandpa.

I would love one more Christmas Eve with grandma and grandpa.

I would love one more radio show with Rob.

I would love one more cribbage game with my grandpa.

I would love to play my trumpet in one more high school band concert.

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Just One Day

For whatever reason, writing this blog made me think of the Nat King Cole song, “That Sunday, That Summer”.  The lyrics of the song say:

“If I had to chose just one day, to last my whole life through, it would surely be that Sunday, the day that I met you.”

With a time machine, you could go back to one day.  You could pick the day.  You could relive whatever happened that day.  What day would that be?

I don’t know that I could pick just one.

What I do know is that there are plenty of days that I am looking forward to that haven’t happened yet – the birth of my daughter, the graduations of my sons, etc…. I am perfectly content moving forward and experiencing the days to come.

Here is sit, remembering the past – loving the present – and looking forward to the future.

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Getting Saucy … sort of

Frank Sinatra sang, “Regrets.  I’ve had a few….” One regret I have is waiting too long to ask my grandmother for recipes.  By the time I thought to do this, the beginnings of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia had begun to overcome her and it was too late.

It is not like we never tried to ask, because we did.  Our questions were often responded to with vague or generic answers.  The only thing I can duplicate pretty accurately, is my grandma’s breaded steak.  I can do this, because I watched her do it once.  It’s not hard.  You take the steak, dip it in olive oil, dip it in Italian bread crumbs and broil it.  Simple, right!?  She once walked me through how she made her chicken and gravy, but I have long forgotten how.

The one thing I have been trying to duplicate for years is her spaghetti sauce.  I have come close – very close – but it’s just not right, yet.  I have asked friends, and some family, and have tried to incorporate things in hopes that it would be “THE” missing ingredient….without any luck.  Granted, some of the suggestions have brought me closer, and each time I try something new, I am afraid I may mess it up more.

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One thing I DO know, is that grandma used sugar in her sauce.  I am told it is a Sicilian thing.  Whether or not to use sugar in your sauce is a heated topic among Italians.  Some people find it utterly disgusting.  Personally, I love a sauce that is a bit sweet.  I also know she used a lot of garlic.  She always used basil (“You have to use good, fresh basil!”) and a bay leaf.  Never oregano – she (and many Italian grandmas) used to say that you only used oregano for pizza sauce.

I also know that she always used Contadina products!

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I remember she had a pantry down in her basement that had literally HUNDREDS of cans of Contadina tomato sauce and tomato paste!  (We used to call her pantry Kroger because she also had rows of dish soap, canned vegetables, and other things down there.) When I first attempted to make the sauce, I knew I had to start with this.

I used my friend Christina’s grandma’s recipe as a basic guide.  I have expanded on it since my first attempt.  A cousin said that her grandma used to put a stick of butter in her pot of sauce.  Another cousin (and my aunt) both suggested a Bechamel sauce be added to thicken the sauce, which it did.  I thought my grandma used a little wine, so I tried that, too.

I have used ground beef, ground sausage, ground pork, and stewing beef in the sauce to see if that makes a difference.  To a degree it does, but I know grandma used to cook all of those in her sauce at times.  I have tried more seasoning and less seasoning, bullion cubes instead of salt, and white wine and red wine, but still come up short.

My radio buddy, Jim Bosh, is Italian and he has hosted dinner parties for holidays and such in the past.  His sauce (and meatballs) are about as close as I have tasted to my grandmas.  I can’t remember if I ever sat down with him and discussed making the sauce at length, but I know he has offered a suggestion or two.  I also remember him telling me that no matter how many times I try to make grandma’s sauce, there will always be one important thing missing – Grandma.

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Father’s Day Reflections -2019

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As Father’s Day approached, I found a few minutes to reflect.  In a world where you hear constantly about “deadbeat dads”, I am lucky enough to have a dad who played a HUGE part in my life in SO many ways.  I have blogged about his musical influences on me (Which you can read here: https://nostalgicitalian.com/2018/03/30/my-biggest-musical-influence-dad/) and wrote a blog for him on his birthday (which you can read here: https://nostalgicitalian.com/2018/11/01/birthday-tribute-to-fred/).  I was truly blessed with a great dad.

One of the hardest jobs in the world is being a parent, I’ll be the first to admit that.  I will also say, though, that while it is a difficult job, it is also one of the most amazing things a man can do! As I look at my two sons, I consider myself blessed.  Being a father is one of the most satisfying, frustrating, fulfilling, and life-affirming things I have ever done!  I have been a dad for almost 18 years, and as I thought about my boys, I began to make a list of the things I love about being a dad.  I thought I would share that list with you.  Perhaps you can add to it or relate to mine.

Things I Love About Being a Dad

  • Your kids think you know it all.
    • If I had a dollar for every time my kids have asked me a question about something…LOL.  Many times, you know the answer, but sometimes, they ask you something that throws you for a loop!  They truly believe you are the smartest person alive!
  • Playing catch.
    • One of my favorite memories of my dad and I was playing catch in front of our house. I remember the first time he threw his “submarine” pitch to me and how much my hand stung when it hit the mitt!  Throwing the ball around with my sons is something I will never get tired of doing!
  • Coaching – Sports.
    • I was lucky enough to coach both of my sons in T-ball and baseball.  I truly wish they had both continued to play ball, but as they grew older, they lost interest.  I also helped the coaches out when my oldest son was on the bowling team in middle school.  I loved watching them play soccer and taking them to the driving range to hit golf balls, too. I only got to really go fishing with them a couple times, but I hope that it happens more in the years ahead.
  • Throwing them around in the pool.
    • We lived at one place that had a huge pool.  One of the thing I never got tired of was picking the boys up and tossing them back into the water in the summer.  I also loved letting them push me in the pool, thinking they had surprised me, when all along I was waiting for them to do it.  My oldest is as big as me now, and he still wants me to throw him around!  Pool fun is always great as a dad!
  • Your kids think you are the strongest person!
    • I remember arm wrestling with my dad and being amazed at how strong he was.  I remember “helping” my dad move things and struggling with my end of it because it was so heavy.  Dad wasn’t phased at all, though.  As kids, we are always amazed at how strong dad is!
  • Rocking and singing them to sleep.
    • Whether it is at the beginning of the night or in the middle of the night, I never grew tired of rocking my kids to sleep.  Holding them with their head on my shoulder and singing Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra songs is forever etched in my memory!  The songs changed from son to son, but some remained the same.  I used to sing “Bouna Sera,” “On An Evening in Roma,” “Watching the World Go By,” “Vieni Su,” “Cruising Down the River,” and other songs.  I used to love when they would sing them to me, too!
  • You become aware of your bad habits.
    • My dad used to smoke.  He used to say, “Don’t ever let me catch you doing this!”  He eventually quit cold turkey, whether or not it was because of my brother and I, I don’t know.  I do know that you are extra cautious about doing things or saying things you don’t want your kids repeating.  My dad always tells the story of driving while I was in the car seat behind him  Someone cut him off and he yelled, “You stupid prick!” and I said, “What did those pricks do, daddy?!”  “Sticks – there were sticks in the road!” was his response.  HA!
  • Play time and using your imagination.
    • I remember my dad coming into the bedroom and pretending to be a bear while my brother and I were under the covers.  I remember him pretending to be a wrestler and bouncing us on the mattress.  I remember pretending that way with my sons, too.  I remember playing superheroes with towels tied around our necks for capes!  So much fun!!!
  • Embarrassing them.
    • This gets more fun as they get older.  My dad did it to me.  I do it with my kids.  Just recently, we were walking down the street to go to the city fair.  On the walk I started skipping and both kids were like, “Dad!  Stop it!”  This one car was playing some song with a really loud bass, so I started dancing.  Again, “Stop it!” When the petting zoo came into view I screamed, “Oooo!  Look at the baby goats” and started running toward them.  They were so embarrassed!  It’s what dads do!!
  • Introducing them to things from your childhood.
    • For me, dad introduced me to a lot of music and such.  For my sons, I shared movies and music, but thanks to technology, I was able to share with them the Atari 2600!  They had some retro Atari that was loaded with 200 games or something one Christmas.  My oldest loved it.  He was always playing Maze Craze!  We used to hit the thrift shops and I would love when there was some old toy from my childhood there!  Of course, I passed down the Three Stooges to them!  I also introduced them to the Classic Scooby Doo cartoons, Hong Kong Phooey, and the Muppets.
  • True and unconditional love.
    • It’s a mutual thing.  I have never felt such an unconditional love for someone or from someone, until I became a dad.  Holding each of my boys for the first time, you melt!  The love just gushes out from you.  It is an amazing thing.
  • Hearing “I love you” from them.
    • This kind of goes with the above item.  As if you can’t love them any more, the minute they tell you “I love you” is just an amazing, emotional, and wonderful thing that you will never forget.  I still have voicemails from both boys as toddlers on my phone.  I need to find a way to get them into an MP3 or something.  I never want to lose those!
  • Halloween
    • There were a few years I worked nights and missed out on taking them out trick or treating.  I was able to be at all of their Halloween parades at school.  I loved being able to help pick out costumes with them.  Pulling them around the neighborhood as babies was something very fun.
  • Gibberish talk.
    • As parents, we all do this. Especially when they are babies.  I wish I could remember all the things I said to my kids, I don’t.  I know there were gibberish phrases that I used for each boy, though.  I used to love saying them to make them smile.
  • Making them laugh.
    • My kids were always my best audience.  “Do it again, Daddy!”  There is nothing like making your child laugh.  Their laughter is like music!  Even as they grow up, I still love listening to them laugh.  They may not laugh at it everything like they used to, but that’s ok.  It’s still fun to make them laugh.
  • Roughhousing.
    • It’s a bit different now that they are older, and have the potential of kicking my butt!  I love when they want to rough house!  I remember my mom yelling at my dad, “Stop that rough housing!”  Why?!  It was fun for all of us!
  • Being silly.
    • Adulting sucks.  Sometimes, you just have to be silly!  Being a dad allows you to be silly.  Silly is good.  Sometimes, you have to break away from the serious and embrace the silly!
  • Letting them win.
    • Oh how many games of cribbage did my dad let me win?!  With Uno, he wasn’t so nice.  I think he used to love putting down that Draw 4 card – much like I do with my kids today!  Sure, I have let them win occasionally, and there is some satisfaction in watching him and his brother brag about how they beat dad at the game.  Every once in awhile, though, you gotta show them you can beat them at it too!
  • “Caving” at the store.
    • I don’t do this as much now, but I used to.  You know how it is – you go to the store and there is that “can we get this?” or “I need this!”  All too often, I would cave and buy whatever it was.  Now that they are older, they understand a bit more when you tell them you don’t have the money to buy that right now.  they younger they are, the easier it is for dads to cave!
  • Getting beat at video games.
    • I love spending time with my boys.  They love their video games.  They have this one called Super Smash Brothers.  I really don’t understand it, but the gist is that you are a character (there are many) and you beat each other up until someone wins.  They kept asking me to play, so I did.  They wiped the floor with me.  Both of them were laughing as they beat the snot out of my character.  I was just pushing buttons trying to make it hit or whatever.  All of a sudden, my character started to light up and did this crazy punch/kick thing!  My youngest said, “Dad, you figured out how to use the special!”  There was some special move – every character has one!  They just neglected to tell me about it and let me lose!  LOL!  Smart boys!!  I don’t care whether I win or not, I just enjoy the time with them.
  • Carrying them on my shoulders
    • I remember as a kid, loving when my dad carried me on his shoulders.  I used to hold on to his hair!  My boys did the same thing!  I would give anything to be able to carry my sons again on my shoulders.  I used to love walking through the store with them up there.  I loved taking walks in the park with them up there.  I wish I had more pictures of them up there.
  • Snuggling/Hugs
    • I have always been a hugger.  I love hugging my kids.  I miss the days of snuggling up next to them for a nap.  I miss holding them while we watch TV.  I remember many times trying to get up from the couch, trying not to wake them because they fell asleep.  Those moments are so special for a dad.  I love when they come up and hug me for no reason.  It is still an amazing thing.
  • “Pull my finger”
    • This is probably the one thing that is exclusive to dads.  Not many moms do this!  Farts, dads, and kids mean laughs.  It’s probably such a huge annoyance for moms.  Dads fart.  Kids laugh at farts.  I remember one time my friend and I were outside in the front yard playing with Matchbox cars.  Dad came home from work and as he was walking in the house he made the “finger gun” with his hand and “shot” it as he farted.  We still laugh about that!  The fart will always be a funny thing that dads and kids both laugh at together.
  • Looking at your relationship with your kids and being able to connect it to memories you shared with your dad.
    • Go back and read how many times I mention something I love about doing with my sons, and how many times I can connect them with something my dad and I shared!
  • The “bond” that is eternal.
    • There will never be anything that can come between me and my kids.  I love my sons with all that I am.  They are my flesh and blood and will forever be my little boys.
  • The firsts and lasts
    • Those firsts stay with you forever.  The first steps.  The first words.  The first day of school.  The first concert.  Both of my sons are still in school, but if social media is an indicator, the last day of school is just as emotional as the first!  Watching each of my sons get on the bus for the first time was very emotional for me.  Big days – big emotions.
  • Artwork
    • Back when I had an office at work, I used to have countless drawings that they did in school.  I used to have a macaroni bee that my oldest son made.  The noodles eventually broke on it.  I still have some paintings they did and the coffee mug coasters that each boy made me for Father’s Day in kindergarten or first grade.  Those little things hold special meaning for me.
  • Bedtime Stories
    • It starts as you reading to them.  I don’t know how many times I read “Goodnight Moon” or “I’m Thankful Each Day” to my sons, but I enjoyed it every time.  I am sure there were other books, too.  “Snowmen at Night” was a favorite, too.  I used to love when they would read to me!  I wish the video games weren’t so accessible, because I really wish they would find more time to read.  I loved when they would tell me about a story of book they read in school.
  • The emotions that they make me feel.
    • They make me proud.  They make me happy.  They make me cry (both happy and sad tears).  They make me worry.  They make me thankful.  They make me feel a never ending love for each of them.  I am not ashamed to admit how emotional I have gotten watching them in a play, a band concert, a baseball game, or during an awards ceremony.  God help me, when they graduate, get married, and have children – I can barely hold it together now!!

I am sure if I had a few more minutes, I could add many more items to this list.  Being a dad is the greatest thing I have ever had to do.  My sons have been tremendous blessings to me and fill my heart with joy and laughter.  I love them so much.  If and when I am blessed with another child, I will look forward to reliving some of the things mentioned and creating new memories with that child, because being a dad is one of the coolest, most special, and fulfilling things I have ever done, or will ever do in my lifetime.

Happy Father’s Day!

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“For the record …”

In keeping with my tradition of following Jack Benny’s example, today I celebrate the 10th anniversary of my 39th birthday.

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My wife is the best gift giver – hands down.  She picks up on things that I say in passing and turns it into an amazing gift.  She knows I love the Godfather and mafia related stuff.  For Christmas, she found the Godfather Notebook, which is a simply amazing book compiled of some of the novel, Francis Ford Coppola’s notes, and some very cool pictures.

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My dad and I were talking about how my grandpa used to use a cup and brush to lather up to shave one day.  For our anniversary, she bought me this sweet shaving set with razor, cup, brush, and more.  Truly a unique and wonderful gift!

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She topped both of those for my birthday. I guess one day my dad and I were talking about vinyl records.  I was talking about how I would sit in on the floor in our front room and listen to them.  I was raised listening to vinyl records – and just a few blogs ago talked about them!  As a kid, I had this red and white record player and played my records on it – if you’re old enough, you probably did too!

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My wife has a hard time keeping secrets.  She tried to give me hints:  “It’s something you were talking to your dad about.” That could be anything from music to TV to movies…you name it!!  “You were just talking about it.”  Again, no help.  I told her to stop trying to tell me or give me hints.  I told her I would wait until my birthday and see what it was.  She was obviously quite happy with whatever she was giving me and said, “It’s gonna be hard to beat this one…”

Over the weekend, my brother came up from Ohio for a visit.  He wanted to visit my mother’s grave for Mother’s Day.  I also had my sons for the weekend, so she decided that when I got home from work on Saturday, we were doing a small birthday celebration.  She got a cake, ice cream, and I had to open my present.

No doubt, you know what it is based on what I have written.  She had me open the album she got me first.  A perfect choice –

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A double album of Sinatra!  I have to be honest, it had been so long since I held an album, I thought it was a picture or something.  I mean, the cover art is beautiful and could easily be framed!  Then, I opened the main present –

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I’m not going to lie, I got emotional.  What an amazingly thoughtful gift!  I was speechless.  My brother captured the moment in pictures, but the angle makes me look awful, so I am not posting those pictures!  This machine is wonderful.  It has speakers on the front, a headphone jack to listen privately, the capability of recording to a USB device, and RCA outputs to play through my DJ equipment, if I am so inclined.

As I pulled the album out of the sleeve, I could feel my hands shaking.  I carefully put the album on the turntable and dropped the needle gently in the grooves……and there was Frank singing “One For My Baby”.  Wow.  The sounds of Sinatra on vinyl.  Only those who appreciate the sounds of music on vinyl can relate to what I was experiencing.  I probably could have sat in the corner with headphones on and spent the rest of the afternoon like that.  What a surreal experience.

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As I mentioned a bit ago, I had just blogged about missing record stores a few days ago.  You can read that blog here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2019/05/08/i-miss-record-stores/

She thought I was on to her when I posted that blog!  What a coincidence, huh?  What are the odds?  She literally had purchased the record player a few days earlier!

This weekend, she has more plans for me.  She let the cat out of the bag that we are celebrating my day throughout the weekend with more surprises.  She did let me in on one stop – we are going to make a trip to the record store, so I can purchase a few albums to listen to on my birthday present.

Thank you, baby, for your wonderful gift!  I love it and I love you more than I can say!! Thank you for making my birthday and my life so special!