“Christmastown”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Get the “funk” out!

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I am not going to lie, this past week has been a roller coaster of ups and downs.  Whether or not there was more bad than good this week, I really can’t say.  It “feels like” there was a bit more negatives, though, hence the “funk” I was in this morning. I am hoping that this blog will act as a “redirection” in my thinking.

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I read an article a long time ago that talked about the “five to one” rule.  I want to say that it was about relationships.  The basic thing presented in the article was that in order for a person to get over a single “negative”, there needed to be at least five “positives” to counteract it.

Recently, my therapist has had me do something similar.  Focus on the positives.  Think of five positives, or five things that make me happy.  Rather than just “think” about those things, I thought I would benefit from writing them out.  The following may be simply a positive, something that made me happy, or a mixture of both.

1. Waking up next to my love

After a particularly stressful early part of the week, my sleep was a bit messed up.  When this happens, I tend to wake up earlier than I intend to.  As I lay next to my wife, I found myself thinking about how lucky I am.  I watched her sleeping soundly and I found lost in thoughts about just how beautiful she is.  In my mind, verses of poetry started to come so fast, I had to grab a piece of paper to write them down.  I made sure to write them out and give them to her the next morning.

What an amazing blessing she has been to me!  I am so lucky that I get to kiss her goodnight and good morning every day!

2. Possibilities

My ex used to question why I had so many Facebook friends.  My friends on social media range from school friends to college friends, friends who work/worked in radio and television and friends who I met through working in radio.  Then there are friends from the record industry, author friends, and friends from the entertainment industry.  Then I have some co-workers and former co-workers and friends who share many of the same interests as me (movies, music, etc…).  The majority of them I have met personally, while some of them I may not have.

Many opportunities have come to be because of “who I know”.  I have continued to work for many high schools and middle schools DJing their dances because the teacher knows me.  I became the voice of Ronnie, the RPM Auto Sales Super Hero, because of my friend at Fox 66 who thought I’d be perfect to be his voice.  I landed a voice over gig on a national TV program because the host heard my voice on something I did for some friends.

This week, another possibility has presented itself to me.  Details are sketchy at this point and I don’t know too much about it.  A friend of mine passed along my name to someone and hopefully, this will be yet another one of those amazing things that I can attribute to “who I know”.  Stay Tuned…..

3. Family Time

The weather hasn’t always cooperated with us this summer.  Friday, however, was just perfect.  Sam and I decided to pack the boys in the car and head to the zoo.  There are a few small zoos close by (Saginaw and Frankenmuth), but she suggested the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing.  I had never been there before, and the boys had never been either.  It’s certainly not as large as the Detroit or Toledo Zoo, but it was still a very nice zoo.

Unlike the Detroit Zoo, there was plenty of shade.  Temperatures were not an issue, as it was sunny and 70 – perfect!  I can see where the shade would be especially nice on those 90 degree days!  What I really liked about this zoo was how close we were able to get to the animals.  When we walked in, there was a sign that said the Lions were not going to be outside.  They were, however, inside, and we could see them up close through glass.  It was awesome!  They are much bigger than I imagined.  When you see them from far away, you really don’t get to see just how big they are!

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We all had such a great time!

4. Radio Time

This week, I got to work at both radio stations.  Being in the studio makes me happy.  I get to be creative and talk with listeners.  Monday – Wednesday, I was on for George.  I got to do his all-request 80’s lunch show.  It’s always fun to see what the listeners want to hear. I love when they ask for those “forgotten favorites.”  Friday, I was on for Lisa.  She was out an an appearance and I was on air.

Today, I was live on the Moose.  “Moosin’ around” is often what I call it.  Today I got to catch up with a couple listeners who used to listen to me when I was here the first time years ago.  I think that’s how you know you’ve made an impact – they remember you.  They remembered a few of the silly bits I used to do when I was here before and it made me smile when the one listener reminded me of my “Accordion Awareness Month Updates!”

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Some say radio is a dying business – I say “only if you are doing it wrong!”

I miss it!!

5. Sam’s check up

The best moment of the week was going with Sam to her OB appointment.  It was just a check up, and she told me since I was running on little or no sleep that I should stay home and sleep.  I wasn’t about to do that.  I wanted to be there with her.  The doc was running a little behind, as he had to deliver a baby earlier in the day.  He came in, asked a few questions, discussed a few things, and then he let us hear the baby’s heartbeat. The baby’s heartbeat was a strong 159-160 bpm.  The doc looked at us and said, “If I had to guess, I’d say it’s a girl.”  It will be a few days before we find out for sure.

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The above is what the heart beat looks like on an ultrasound (this one is not ours, but I am going to ask for one of ours!!).  I don’t care how many times I hear it – the sound of the baby’s heartbeat makes me smile!  It never gets old!  Sam’s sister had a fetal doppler she let us borrow.  It will allow us to hear the baby’s heartbeat any time we want!  How cool is that?!

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So, writing this has helped me to feel better.  Now, I am going to listen to our baby’s heartbeat ….

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Part II – The Proposal

Yesterday’s blog was an emotional one to write.  I put some things in it that I had been quiet about for some time (depression, suicide, divorce, and unhappiness). It came as a surprise to many, and the wonderful words shared by friends on Facebook, and right here on my page meant more to me than you can imagine.  Thank you for reading, following, and your comments.

But, wait!  There’s more!  The story continues…..

When I ended my blog yesterday, I brought you to the place where I had come to realize what an amazing woman I had been blessed with.  As crazy as it sounds, so soon after a divorce, I knew that everything was right!  I did not want to lose this wonderful woman that had been placed in my life.  She had expressed to me that she was very happy as well.  There was no doubt that we had both fallen deeply in love with each other.

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I knew I wanted to be with her forever.  I wanted to propose and I wanted it to be something special.  I had bought a ring and had kept it hidden.  It was not your traditional “solitaire” diamond.  I liked it, but I kept wondering whether she would like it.  I finally caved and texted her sister and asked for her opinion.  She told me it was “perfect” and that it was exactly what Sam would like.

Now, I had to think of how to do it!

The Plan

Sam loves Disney movies.  In discussing movies, we discovered that we both loved the Disney/Pixar film, Up! (An amazing film, that is a MUST see).  The film begins by introducing us to Ellie and Carl.  They are adventurers!  Ellie even has An Adventure Book to record all of her adventures.  Ellie and Carl grow up, get married and the book plays a big part of the story.  In doing a search, I found the perfect way to deliver the ring!  I found a book that could be personalized and when you opened it up, the ring would be tied to a ribbon!

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It was PERFECT!  I ordered it with the understanding that it would take a few weeks to deliver.  I had made dinner reservations at a nice Italian place we had discovered quite by accident.  It technically wasn’t where we went for our first date, but we both really liked it, so I chose to go there to have dinner after she (hopefully) said “yes”.  We live close to Frankenmuth (home of the world’s largest Christmas store, for those who don’t live in Michigan), and I had arranged for a horse-drawn carriage ride.  The plan was to hand her our book and ask her while we were crossing the bridge in Frankenmuth.

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When the plan fails to come together, you improvise …

As that Saturday approached, I continued to watch the mail.  The book had not arrived yet.  I knew when I order it that I was cutting it close.  When the book didn’t arrive in the mail, because of our work schedules, I decided I didn’t want to wait a week.  I had the carriage reserved, I had reservations for dinner, I would proceed without the book.

We arrived in Frankenmuth and we began to walk toward the Bavarian Inn Restaurant (where the rides leave from).  Sam looked a bit confused, because I had already told her I had dinner plans in another city.  She must have thought we were going to eat there, until I walked up to the horse and carriage.  We climbed aboard and the ride began.  I began to thank her for how she changed my life.  We turned onto main street and approached the bridge.  I told her how happy she made me and how much I loved her.  As I struggled to try to get the ring box out of my pants pocket, I told her I could imagine my life without her in it.  Off in the distance, there was a slight rumble.  With the ring box now in my hand, my anxiety level was through the roof!  As we reached the point – it was time.  As I began to speak, from behind the carriage that rumble had become a load roar!  At the very moment I was about to ask Sam to marry me, this group of 20-50 bikers came roaring past us with a thunderous noise that made it impossible for us to hear each other!

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To this day, I am surprised that the noise didn’t startle the horse that pulled the carriage.  I don’t know, maybe it was deaf!  It had to be.  Honestly, that horse should have jumped and scurried and wrecked the carriage with us in it!  That didn’t happen, thankfully, but by the time the motorcycle gang from hell had passed us, we were over the bridge and the ride was just moments away from ending.  We were almost back to where we started.

All the momentum that I had built up to lead to that special moment was now long gone.  I think, to be funny, I said something along the lines of, “So, anyway ….”  and eventually popped the question before the horse and carriage had come to a stop.  She, of course said “yes”.  There were tears and my anxiety was no longer present, it had been replaced by overabundant joy!

We held hands almost the entire way down to the restaurant.  I think the only time we weren’t holding hand was when she was looking at the ring, now on her hand, smiling that wonderful smile of hers!  We had an amazing Italian dinner at Maggiano’s and we had an amazing day!!

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Now to plan the wedding

The only people we told right away were some family members.  Her folks knew, her sister at least knew it was coming, and My dad and Rose knew.  We chose to keep it secret from our friends and other family members until we decided when and where we were going to get married, and go from there.

With our first anniversary only two days away, that story will be next.

Oh, and that book showed up the Monday after our date!