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:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2019/07/14/emotional-day/

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.

Dinner

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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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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25 Things

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One of the daily writing prompts I read today asked to list 25 Things I’ll Never Do.  I grabbed a piece of paper and thought, “This will be easy.”  It was a bit harder than I thought.  I jotted them down one by one and stopped at 25.  I didn’t go any further.  I am sure if I thought more, I could expand the list.  For now, here at the ones that hit me immediately:

I will never ______

  1. Stop loving my wife and children
  2. Smoke a cigarette
  3. Go bungee jumping
  4. Stop writing
  5. Lose my faith in God
  6. Be perfect
  7. Beat my kids at that stupid Super Smash Brothers game
  8. Get a piercing
  9. Stop saying “I Love You”
  10. Take for granted someone’s presence in my life
  11. Give up on dreams
  12. Stop listening to music
  13. Intentionally hurt someone I care about
  14. Go downhill skiing
  15. Stop watching the Three Stooges
  16. Apologize for who I am
  17. Stop hugging my family and friends
  18. Forget those who have passed away
  19. Stop reading
  20. Sky dive
  21. Understand people who enjoy making other people miserable
  22. Act “my age”
  23. Ride in a hot air balloon
  24. Stop trying to make people laugh
  25. Realize how truly lucky I am to be living my life

How about you?  Can you list 25?  10?

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“Life is better when you are laughing”

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A comedian’s job is to make people laugh.  Legendary comedian Milton Berle once said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”  Charlie Chaplin said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”  Victor Borge said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”  In a nutshell, laughter is an important part of a happy life.

According to a new survey, the average American laughs 8 times a day.  That seems a bit low to me, and I really hope that you are “over average”.  The survey has also compiled a list of answers to the question:  What makes us laugh?  Here are the Top 10 “universally funny things” that make us laugh.

10. Watching people trip or fall.

Let’s face it, this is always funny – unless it is you or me falling.  Pratfalls, slip and falls, etc…have been making people laugh since the silent films of the 1920’s.  Prior to YouTube and the internet, American’s Funniest Home Videos was loaded with people falling!  When people fall – people laugh.

9. Puns.

A pun, by definition, is a joke exploiting the different possible meaning of a word or the fact that there are words which sound alike but have different meanings.  When a banana goes to the doctor because it wasn’t peeling well … you have a pun.  I have a group of friends on Facebook who appreciate good puns.  We are forever posting “punny” things on each other’s Facebook page, or sending each other puns.  Often, a good pun is just what I need to start the day.

8. Bad photos of people.

I, for one, always find it funny to look at bad pictures of me.  Go ahead and pick up your high school yearbook and there are no shortage of bad photos that you can snicker at.  There are websites that you can find that offer you hours of entertainment by looking at bad mug shots, bad family photos, and people wearing wacky clothing.  http://www.peopleofwalmart.com is one of those websites.

7. People mispronouncing words.

As a radio guy, this is always funny to me!  I remember one day I had not read through a particular script before having to read it on the air.  Instead of saying “testosterone”, I pronounced it “test-ost-er-own-ee”….. it was like I was talking about some kind of pasta or something!  It was hilarious!  MANY old time radio comedies had people say things wrong on purpose to get laughs.  It was prominent on Amos and Andy, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Abbott and Costello.  Of course, those were scripted mispronounciations…..the ones that are not planned are even funnier.

6.  Knock Knock Jokes.

I have to admit, I find this interesting.  Outside of elementary school children, I don’t know of many folks telling knock knock jokes.  I guess they are still good enough to be in the Top 10.

5. Dad Jokes.

This can almost be included with number 9, because most dad jokes fall into the “pun” category.  A dad joke is typically a corny or predictable joke that are usually not very funny. As a matter of fact, the more unfunny, the better.  They are often told to get a groan out of the audience.

Example: I hate jokes about German sausages!  They’re the wurst!

4. Reality TV.

The fact that this is high on the list is kind of amazing to me.  Sure, there was a point where I could watch Duck Dynasty, and shows like that and laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of them, but not so much anymore.  Many reality shows are pure garbage today.  I don’t enjoy any of the “talent” shows anymore.  The only reality show I enjoy watching are shows like “Live PD”, which at times can still make me laugh.

3.  Memes and animal videos.

Why these two are lumped together, I don’t know.  Memes are like comic strips.  They can be very funny.  There are even apps that allow you to create your own memes.

Animal videos can be very funny – with or without narration.  There are no shortage of cat videos that will make you bust a gut on the internet.  One of my favorite animal videos is from some British show where they dub in voices for the animals! That’s funny stuff!

2.  Sitcoms on TV.

Here is where I agree and disagree at the same time.  To be fair, there are some very funny sitcoms on TV today, but many are just predictable and unfunny.  Much of the humor is crude and contrived.  There are some newer shows that made me laugh out loud consistently (like 30 Rock, That 70’s Show, The Office, and Arrested Development), but most of the current sitcoms are just not funny to me.  As old as they are, and as many times as I have seen them, shows like The Honeymooners, Sanford and Son,  and WKRP in Cincinnati still make me laugh out loud.

1. Things our kids say.

I couldn’t agree more!  I am actually glad that this tops the list.  My sons have said some of the funniest things (many of which I talked about on the radio).  I love the Facebook memories feed, because many times I am reminded of those things that they’ve said years later.  It doesn’t have to be your own kids, either.  Kids are always saying funny things (which is why there was a hit show called Kids Say the Darndest Things)!  The mind of a child and they way they look at the world and see things will always produce a laugh!

Your Turn

Ok, what makes you laugh?  I want to know.  Have a story to share about one of these ten things?  Was there something that you felt should have been in the Top 10, that wasn’t?  Let me hear about it!  Let’s share the laughter … the world needs lots of it!!