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.

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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!

2 Years of Ramblings – A Reflection

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Two Years Old

Word Press informs me that this blog turned two years old yesterday!  Two years and the blogging continues….

I wrote a blog reflecting on one year and some feelings remain the same.  Rather than look back on the entire two years, I thought I would reflect on the last year, which had many milestones!  Over the past year, I have gained many more followers, so for those new followers, let me give you a brief look at why this blog exists two years later.

The beginnings

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When I began this blog, I really didn’t have any idea of what it would be.  In my head, I thought that I might blog about some things I liked.  I also knew I would probably write about some favorite memories.  I might also write tributes to important people in my life or just random thoughts to help me deal with emotions or life situations.

This blog was meant for me.  It was to be a “sort of” therapy for me.  I envisioned it as a way to keep track of thoughts, write down stories I didn’t want to forget, and occasionally just vent. I had often joked about writing an autobiography, and in a way, this blog has become “chapters”.

I never thought that anyone would actually want to read these blogs (unless, of course, the blog mentioned them)!  Yet, here I am over two years later and I have “followers” – people who actually make it a point to read this no matter what the topic.  It humbles me.

Looking Back

If I were to compare “year one” with “year two” I would say the blogs leaned a lot more happy.  They contained many happy moments.  Looking back, I see how I have grown and learned to deal with certain people, certain situations, and look at things more objectively.  I have learned to think before reacting.  I have learned to separate myself from those things that bring on stress and make me uncomfortable.  I have gotten more in touch with the person I want to be. Looking back, I see much more happiness.  Life has been very good to me over the last year.

Musical Blogs

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Much like last year, there were plenty of blogs about music.  I began to post a song every Tuesday that held some special meaning.  Maybe the song was prompted by a singer’s birthday or it was just something I heard on the radio.  I admit toward the end of the year, I neglected the Tune Tuesday feature a bit.  I hope to be a bit more consistent with it in the year ahead.  Last year’s songs ranged from Dean Martin to Hugh Laurie to the Muppets!  I look forward to this year’s selections.

Memories of the Past

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Nostalgic memories are often featured here.  Many of them stem from things I see that bring back memories.  Some writings stem from an idea I got from a fellow blogger.  Some of the topics from last year included the ice cream man, toys I remember from my childhood, breakfast cereals from my childhood, memories of band class, the Sunday comics I used to read, books I read as a child and to my boys, and the summer baseball games I played in the neighborhood.  There was also a blog about Muppets phased out of Sesame Street.

Guest Blogger

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I toyed with this idea, and my little brother stepped up to bat.  It was fun to tell him to write whatever he wanted to and see what he came up with.  I really like this idea, and I hope to get a few others to write occasional pieces for this blog.  I am very open to this idea.  Let me know if you would like to do this!  You could write about me, our friendship, or expand on something I have already written.

Friendship salutes

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This year I saluted my oldest and best friend on his birthday.  I also saluted three of my friends from school/band in one blog because they all celebrated birthdays in October. Remembering some of the funny radio stories that involved my co-host Stephanie was a blast for sure!  Some blogs were inspired by friends and their posts on Facebook.  Year three I am already planning some overdue friendship blogs.  Stay tuned!

Movies

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This year, I did a series on my favorite movies by decade.  The idea was to pick one favorite film from each year you have been alive.  I was born in 1970, so I did a blog for each decade (70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s).  I neglected to do 2010-2019, but now that we have entered the new decade, I will have to make sure to wrap that series up.  I really enjoy being able to write about my favorite films, and I found it a challenge to narrow it down to one each year.

Celebrities

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Last year I wrote about less celebrities than the year before.  I wrote about The Three Stooges, in a round about way, as I went with the boys to the Stooges Festival in Redford.  I devoted an entire blog to some of the very funny lines that Paul Lynde had from the Hollywood Squares.  The great Jack Benny got an much deserved blog on his birthday.  I also wrote about Elvis on the anniversary of his passing.  I believe that there are a few other celebrities who I could easily devote an entire blog to, I just wonder if folks would read it.

Television

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Along with movies and music, TV tends to be a topic I love to write about.  This year I wrote a blog about the classic 1966 Batman show.  I also wrote about my favorite TV shows of the 1950’s.  For Tune Tuesday, I picked Sanford and Son because of the theme song.  I really need to write about that show and some of my other favorites.  This year I blogged about the remake of All in the Family and The Jefferson’s which again brought me back to one of my original blogging ideas – “why must they remake everything!?”  I also had a chance to talk about one of my favorite Christmas TV specials this year.

Serious Topics

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While many blogs tend to focus on entertaining things, some blogs wind up being of a serious nature.  I am human.  I can’t be upbeat all the time.  I finally had the guts to write about the topic of divorce – just to see if I could do it. Death was also a topic.  I lost some close friends this year.  I also had friends of mine who lost loved ones.  Just this week alone, my buddy Chris lost his mom and a co-worker lost hers.  It’s a hard topic to write about, but I did.

Emotional Blogs

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As I look back over “year two”, there is no shortage of blogs that brought about strong emotions from me.  One of those stemmed from a photo shoot for my oldest son.  Senior pictures.  I still choke up as I think about him being a senior and graduating.  Speaking of graduation, my wife graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in April.  I felt so much pride for her as she walked that stage.  She did all the work, so why it was so emotional for me, I don’t know.  I sometimes think I can get too emotional.  Rest assured – there are more emotional blogs in the year ahead!

Rants

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The blog also consisted of many personal rants.  Some I have mentioned (TV and Movie remakes, missing Muppets, and such), but I also ranted (and whined) about having the “man cold”.  That blog brought about much teasing from friends!  I also ranted about how much I miss record stores (prompted by a record player I received for my birthday).  I know I have other “rant” topics in my blogging notebook.

A Love Story

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Sam and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary.  I chose to take the occasion of our anniversary to tell “our story”. The people who were close to us knew the story, but many didn’t.  As sort of a “love letter” to my wife, and as a way to tell just how our wonderful relationship began, I wrote a series of three blogs leading up to our anniversary.  Those blogs talked of how we met and became close friends, how we began dating and how I proposed, and then how we got married.  Those blogs were among my highest read last year.  A blog followed about our anniversary trip.  Sam makes me SO happy and I am sure there will be many more blogs about our amazing relationship.

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On Father’s Day, Sam told me that we were expecting a baby.  It was SO hard to NOT blog about that!!  We waited some time before spilling the beans with our big announcement.  A series of blogs about expecting a baby, then finding out we were having a girl, and finally sharing the name we had picked for her remain the most read blogs in the history of this blog!  The support from our friends and family has been SO amazing!  Sharing stories of the baby shower and 3D ultrasound pics has been a thrill.  We are closing in on the due date (February 16) and she can come anytime.  The nursery is ready and so are we! We anxiously await her arrival and with it, I will have plenty of things to share with you about being a dad again!

The Future

As I said last year – Not so long ago, I was told my someone once close to me to stop writing.  “Nobody wants to read about that crap!  It is a waste of time.  Stop trying to be creative. Nobody cares about what you like and don’t like!”  If I have learned anything from Facebook and this blog, it is that people do care!  People do like to read what I write!  In the end, I don’t really write for others, I write for myself.  The fact that other people read this blog and get some enjoyment out if it is a little bonus.

In future blogs, I will continue to write about things I love.  I will write about things that people want to know about.  I hope to do more Question and Answer blogs and I will continue to participate in Blogathons.  I want to write about how Autism played a role on my life, which I never seemed to get around to last year.  I also want to continue to write on movies and music. I will continue to write about things in my personal life (and how it is affected by the arrival of our beautiful daughter). I will continue to write – because I enjoy it.  The minute this is no longer satisfying and I feel that I have written all I can write … I will stop.  Until then, thank YOU for reading my “various ramblings”.  I appreciate you!

Happy 2nd Birthday!!

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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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Capturing Memories of Yesterday

In my last blog, I was ranting about making spaghetti sauce.  I hadn’t made it in awhile, and it was long overdue.  I was making it because we had friends over Saturday night.  Our friend Amy was bringing by the flash drive with the photos she took of Dante’ for senior pictures – session #1.  You can read about that emotional day here:

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Session #2 will happen as fall arrives, and we’re already mapping out the details of that.  I’m especially excited for that session as there will be a few locations that hold very special memories for both Dante’ and me.

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Amy, her husband Matt, her daughter (and Sam’s Goddaughter) Skyler, and her boyfriend “Po” were our guests for dinner.  I worked Friday on the sauce, tweaking a few things here and there.  I used that sauce for baked ravioli.  I make a big pot of sauce and throw whatever I am not using in jars and freeze it for future use.  I made sure to leave an extra jar out, because sometimes those ravioli will “soak up the sauce” in the oven.

Any time I make sauce, I am extra critical of it.  I took a leap of faith and tried something I had never done before.  There was no going back – this was the sauce that was going in the ravioli!  Personally, I could tell the difference in this batch.  I pressed the garlic instead of just chopping it up and putting it in (so it tasted less “garlicky”).  I also felt that it could have been a little sweeter (maybe not enough wine or sugar).

When every one arrived, I was nervous.  The sauce was good – but I was still running through the things I noticed in my mind.  I shouldn’t have been nervous at all!  They all loved it!  Skyler said that she could “drink it with a straw” it was so good.  In a Facebook post, Amy said: “As we took the first bite, it was clearly evident that the sauce is the BEST we have all ever tasted!”  She went on to write, “Well done, Chef Keith.  We could “taste” the passion, heart and soul you poured into our meal. You’ll find us all at the front of the line to purchase that sauce when you bottle it!”

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What an amazing thing to read!  I felt like I was reading an review for a 5-star restaurant! I am humbled and thankful that the meal was enjoyed by every one!  I made sure to send home a jar with them for future enjoyment (No label.  No charge!)

The Pictures

If you took the time to follow the link above, you are aware at how emotional I was the day that the pictures were taken (and I wasn’t even there for the whole day).  The weather that day was far from ideal.  It was 90 degrees, humidity was high, plenty of sun, and many of the pictures were taken during the hottest part of the day.  The fact that Dante’ made it as long as he did was a “win” in itself!  It was obvious by the time I arrived for the second half of the session that he was only good for a little while longer.

I was not with them while they snapped pictures by classic cars at a car show.  I was neat to see which cars Dante’ chose to pose by.  As we looked through the photos together, he rattled off the year, make and model of each car.  There were some taken at the park which were very nice.  I could tell which pictures were taken later.  Dante’ has a habit of messing up his hair, when he gets hot, so there were a couple shots I laughed at and asked him, “were you hot?”

We went to the park right around the corner from our house and snapped a few more pictures.  There were some that we took of him standing on this little bridge.  He is just kind of lost in thought, and those really stuck with me.  He’s always thinking.  He asks a lot of questions.  He is always looking stuff up on the internet and likes to share the “facts” and “figures” he learns about with others.  I’m not sure why those photos in particular stuck out to me.

I could post many shots here, but then again, I don’t want to share them all, so I am going to share just a couple of my favorites.

First, after the park, we came home and the boys gamed a bit.  We brought the boys out to the porch and she caught some shots of them just talking.  There is a great pic of the two of them clinking their glass and iced tea bottle together like they are making a toast or something.  One of my favorite shots, though is one of them laughing.  My boy’s laughter fills my heart.  I love when I can make them laugh.  I think I was doing some silly impression of a radio guy I worked with, which made them laugh out loud.  Check out this great shot:

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A day without laughter  – is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin

Dante’ is ALL about gaming!  He has a handful of games that he loves (on various gaming systems).  He has some very good friends who also love to game.  When these guys get together, the noise level doubles or triples!  LOL!  They are SO into the game!  Usually, they are playing a game called Super Smash Brothers (which I SUCK at!) and they are bouncing and jumping around all over the place (which is fun to watch)!  Skyler made a cool sign and Amy lined up some of his favorite games next to it.  While Dante’ played his game, she caught this amazing shot:

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“Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.” – Orrin Hatch

Finally, perhaps my favorite picture of all, is referred to in the blog I mentioned above.  Amy told me that she had taken the picture.  I just hadn’t seen it yet.  Skyler had bought a cute “gender friendly” outfit for our future baby.  She had it in a gift bag.  Also inside the gift bag was the picture of Dante’ and me in a frame.  Seeing it, brought about all the emotion of the day, which I held back – because I had to serve up the ravioli!  However, I have looked at it many times since Saturday, and well up with tears almost every time.  As I showed Dante’ the picture, he could hear the crack in my voice and asked again if I am crying.  He thinks it is funny that I am so emotional.  He will have plenty of laughs in the year ahead, because I know that there will be many tears in the months leading to his graduation!  Even though I am dressed like a bum, and my head needs shaving, I will treasure this picture forever:

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“There is no greater bond than the one between a father and a son – strong, unyielding, and everlasting.”

“A father and a son are bonded for life.  Even when a father never says it out loud, the son knows there is love.”

“Often, a father is proud when his son looks or behaves like him. It’s unclear why exactly  fathers are like this, but perhaps it’s a sign that they know they have done well raising their sons.”

“Sons always identify their fathers as their greatest heroes, while fathers always look at their sons as their greatest accomplishment.”

In her Facebook post, Amy said, “When I am entrusted to capture “A Memory of Yesterday” for some one to cherish for years to come, I pour my heart and soul into capturing the essence of who my subjects are.”

I would say that she did that perfectly.

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Emotional Day

It is still a year away, but it is becoming very real, very quickly.

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Last month, on the last day of school, my oldest called me and proudly announced, “I’m a senior, dad!”  It’s not like I didn’t think this time was coming, I knew it was.  I knew when I held him as a newborn baby that time was going to go quickly.  Life already moves quickly, and they say that when you have children, it moves a whole lot faster!  I would definitely agree!

First steps.  First words.  First day of pre-school.  First day of kindergarten.  First holiday program.  First day riding the bus.  First day of middle school.  First day of high school.  First band concert.  First awards ceremony.  How quickly these firsts fly by.  Next year, we begin to see the Last first day of school, the last final exams, and eventually, the last last day of school.

Today, we took my son, Dante’ out to have some senior pictures taken.  Times have certainly changed from when I had mine done. 31 years ago, they had the photographer set up in one of rooms in the school.  You made an appointment.  You got dressed up in a suit and tie and they put you in some ridiculous poses.  For those in sports, they may have posed with a football or basketball.  I had my trumpet with me in one pose.  They allowed you (for a fee) to pose with a friend.  I know that I have pictures with my friend Steve and Margaret.  You had to pose for one generic head shot (which would ultimately be your yearbook picture).  Most of the other poses were just awkward.  I have this one of me with the suit coat in my hand and over my shoulder – it looks so stupid!!

Our friend Amy came out and shot his pictures.  Prior to the shoot she was clear that the way we would get authentic pictures was to make sure he was dressed comfortably.  In other words, if he was not a suit and tie guy, then don’t force him to wear it.  She wanted to know his interests so we could get some shots of him being natural and relaxed.  We sort of mapped out a tentative plan and did as much as we could (knowing that he would probably get to a point where he’d be burned out).

Dante’ and his friends from school love old cars.  He has always amazed me as we drive around town.  He can point to a classic and give me the year, make and model of the car.  He loves them.  He’d been asking to go to a classic car show this summer and today, they had one in Flushing.  It was going on while I was on the air, so Sam met Amy and they took some shots near some of the cars of his choosing.  They also got some good pictures in the park where the car show was held.

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He also loves video games and arcades.  There was one in the mall near us, so that was the next stop.  Sadly, it was much different from the one that we had been at before.  Perhaps there were new owners, I don’t know, but it was more geared toward younger children.  I met the group at the mall after work and we looked at the rest of the agenda.  It was extremely hot and humid and we could see he was getting tired.

There is a park near us that has a creek, a bridge, and a trail.  We decided to go there and see what kind of pictures we could get there.  Dimitri had been out in the sun all day on Thursday and was still nursing a bad sunburn, so Sam took him home and I continued with Dante’.  We took quite a few shots there and I am excited to see them.

We walked down one of the trails and were looking for more opportunities for pictures.  Dante’ was walking ahead of me and I had a flashback.  One day the entire family was walking the trail by our old house.  He and Dimitri were walking in front of me holding hands (the picture is probably on my Facebook somewhere).  It was autumn, and the leaves were changing.  I told Dante’ that the trail reminded me of that.  Without hesitation, Amy told me and Dante’ to walk ahead of her and just talk.  For 5 minutes, I just walked and talked with my son.  Welling up with emotion, I put my arm around him and he did the same to me.  Amy snapped some pictures of us, and I am pretty excited to see them.  It was a very special moment.

There was talk of going to Crossroads Village and Downtown Flint, but it was obvious that he was getting close to being done.  Crossroads is a very special place for him because of his love for trains, and the fact that when he was 4, my mom spent the day with him at the Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine.  Downtown Flint would have been cool because there are so many cool photo opportunities.  Knowing that he was running on empty, we came back to the house.

At the house, Amy wanted to get some shots of him playing video games.  This was important to him.  He loves gaming and his senior pictures should show that.  Amy’s daughter, Skyler, made a very cool sign that was in the shots with his video games that read:  “High School – Game Over!” The sign sat next to a stack of his favorite games.

Dimitri wanted a picture of the two of them back to back playing games, so she made sure to get that one for him.  She then had the boys sit on the side porch in the rocking chairs and just talk to each other.  Nothing forced.  Just casual conversation between two brothers.  I am sure that these pictures will be awesome!

Finally, we had Dante’ standing on the front porch and we hoped to get some shots there.  I think we got one.  In a very bizarre weather change, in a matter of seconds, the wind picked up, there was a clap of thunder, and the clouds opened up and the rain came pouring down.  Dante’ went in the house and Sam and I stood on the porch chatting with Amy.  That was the end of the shoot and it went better than I expected.

Dante’ thanked Sam and gave her a hug thanking her for a fun day.  He had been so worked up about getting the pictures done.  I am guessing he probably thought it would mean him sitting and posing like they did for me.  His photo shoot, however, was a fun day looking at classic cars, going to the park, and gaming on camera.  He thanked me too, and every bit of the emotions hit me.  My voice cracked as I told him that I still couldn’t believe he was a senior.  He looked me in the eye and said, “Are you crying, dad?!”  Yes.  Yes, I was.

I went in the house and stood in the window looking at my senior with tears in my eyes.  There was the little boy who I sang to sleep each night with Dean Martin songs.  There was the boy who waved to me from the bus window on one of many first days of school.  There was the boy who was nonverbal and pointed at pictures to tell us what he wanted to eat.  There was the boy who stood close to the TV mesmerized by the “Blue Shadows” scene in The Three Amigos.  There was the boy who sang “Elmo’s World” with grandma as they watched Sesame Street.  There was the boy I coached with his baseball team.  There was the boy who played my trumpet in his first band concert.  There was the boy who I rushed to the hospital after his tonsillectomy because his stitches broke.  There was the boy who I cheered for when he learned to ride his bike without training wheels.  Each of those things brought dad to tears.  Now here is dad, crying again.  Where that boy stood – now stands a young man who towers over his dad.  That young man is about to experience the fastest school year of his life.

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I am sure that there are many more tears that will flow in the coming months.  I can’t help it. I will cry when I see the pictures that were taken today. I will cry at awards ceremonies.  I will cry at his commencement ceremony.  I will cry at his graduation party.  Those tears are mixed with sadness, joy, and pride.  This is a transition for him.  It signifies the end of school and childhood, and the beginning of adulthood.  After graduation, he plans to go to college and maybe do something with logistics, although he still occasionally talks about working with trains.  His future is bright and I will be cheering him on until I breathe my last breath.

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I will do the same for his brother.  He’s got 6 more years before he is a senior, but rest assured, I will shed tears of joy for him in the coming years, too!  I can only imagine the wonderful things he will be doing in the years ahead, and I look forward to praising him for all of his accomplishments!  He will continue to grow up quickly, just like his brother.  In 6 years, I am guessing I will be looking out a window through tears at him, too, recounting his milestones and memories.  It’s what dad’s do.

Pass the Kleenex – it’s gonna be a long year!

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A Memorable and Unique Gift

When I started writing my blog, I knew it would be a variety of personal stories, thoughts on music and movies, and blogs about whatever happened to be on my mind.  I wondered if I’d actually be able to write new material often enough to even keep a blog.  So, I signed up for “daily writing prompts” which come to my e-mail.  These can be good “thought starters,” but they are usually things like “write about a baseball player who is in a slump,” “Write a story using the following adjectives…,” and such.  This is more “creative” and “fiction” writing.  I’m sure if I really sat down and focused, I could probably do this, but I would rather write about things I know.

My brother got me a book of prompts that I like a bit more.  They are more personal.  I have gone through that book and have jotted the ones that I want to write about in the future in my “blog notebook.”  Occasionally, the daily e-mail will suggest a prompt that I have on my “future” list.  That happened today.  Today’s prompt:

“Write about a memorable and unique gift that was not given as a birthday or Christmas gift”

The Horn Mug

After I graduated high school, my parents threw me a graduation party.  I provided my parents with a list of people who I wanted to invite.  One of those people was my band director.  As I have stated in previous blogs, he was a great mentor to me throughout high school, and we have kept in touch since I graduated (31 years ago!). I invited him to the party, but he was unable to attend. He did, however, send a gift.

Growing up, I had read a lot of poetry, and was familiar with Rudyard Kipling.  I had read many of his poems, and was familiar with his poem “If.”  The card that accompanied the gift had Kipling’s poem on it.  I had never read it in the context of a graduate before, but as I did, it was even more meaningful.  Here it is:

If – Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; 
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
But make allowance for their doubting too; 
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise; 

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master; 
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim; 
If you can meet with triumph and disaster 
And treat those two impostors just the same; 
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken, 
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools; 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
To serve your turn long after they are gone, 
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”; 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, 
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch; 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; 
If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run– 
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, 
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

I opened the box that accompanied the card.  Inside was a pewter horn-shaped mug.  I had never seen anything like it before.  Inside the card, Tom wrote the many reasons why they enjoyed giving the mug as a gift.  He spoke of the various things that the horn stood for and things that it represented.  That, in itself, made it a very cool gift.  What made the gift so special to me was what was engraved on it.

I had seen the coolest shadow box one day.  I don’t remember where we were, but I told my mom that I wanted to get it and give it to my band director as a gift.  As I recall, it had musical notes on it and maybe a violin.  On the glass were the words “Where words fail – music speaks.”  Such a powerful quote!  I gave it to him toward the end of my senior year and included a note of thanks.

A few weeks later, I received his gift.  Engraved on the horn mug were the same words – “Where words fail – music speaks.”

It remains one of the most unique gifts I have ever received.

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31 years later and those words are just as powerful and the mug still is very special to me.

 

 

Tassles in the Air ….

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College is hard.  I know, I’ve done it.  Going to college while working two jobs (full and part time) is unheard of.  Yet, that is exactly what my wife did.  I don’t know how she kept it all straight!  She juggled her full time job, her part time job, planning birthday parties, running family to doctor’s appointments, planned holiday get togethers, kept the budget and made sure that all of our bills were paid on time, AND the rest of the every day things that happened in her life!  She did it.  Tomorrow, she will walk the stage at graduation with her Bachelor’s degree in Medical Case Management.  To say that I am proud is an understatement!

Let me back track and say that when we first met, she was doing much of the stuff I previously mentioned.  We met after I got my Associate’s degree and she was working on hers in the same program.  During that time, she was not only doing almost all of the things I mentioned, but she was also going through some health issues of her own and working in her own doctor’s appointments.  She was traveling to do speaking engagements, running marathons, and more!  I used to ask her how in the hell she did it.  Her reply was simply, “It has to be done.”

Before we started dating, it was clear that she was a very independent woman.  She took care of what needed to be done and was one of the most organized, level-headed, rational, and smartest women I had ever met.  She wasn’t going to let the world tell her what she could and couldn’t do and constantly put it in its place.  She was a self starter who saw deadlines as a challenge and over delivered every time.  I used to call her Wonder Woman.  I still do.  The things she has accomplished and will continue to accomplish leave me standing in awe.

Throughout the schooling that led her to this degree, I only heard her “stress” over one class – Statistics.  I have never taken this particular class, but I have many friends who have.  They told me all I need to know about it – it is one of the most difficult classes a student can take.  Factor in that she was taking this class online with a teacher who was very “hands off”, and you can imagine her stress level.  This was the only class I thought might “break” her.  She plugged away, went to videos online, read more, found tutorials on the web.  Her final grade in that class was still an A!  Wonder Woman once again triumphs over evil!

Through it all, I made sure to do what I could to make it a bit easier for her.  I cooked and cleaned when I could.  I made sure the house was quiet when she was taking exams or recording videos.  I proofread her papers and offered suggestions for conclusions.  I did all I could to support her and give her the time and space she needed to focus on school.

So, tomorrow, she will walk the stage and thousands of people will watch her receive her diploma.  To them, she is a name – another name that proceeds or follows their graduate.  To me, she is a tower of strength.  She is a prime example of determination and will power. She is a woman who accomplished what she set out to do – and no one was going to stand in her way.  She is the product of many hours of anxiety, studying, sweat, frustration, tears, hard work.  She is a picture of success.

Sam, this blog is a poor attempt at me trying to come up with the words to say how proud I am of you.  You continue to leave me watching in awe of all that you do.  As I look back and wonder just how you did it all, I can hear you saying back to me, “It had to be done.”  You will continue to grow and move up into positions of importance and authority.  Your future had always been bright, and this will only add to the possibilities ahead.

I am proud of you.  I am proud to be your husband.  I love you with all that I am.  Congratulations, my love!  You deserve to stand tall and be recognized for this amazing accomplishment!

Oh, and I will probably cry tomorrow.

ADDITION TO ABOVE POST:

She did it!  I held it together and didn’t cry.  Here she is newly graduated!

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