2021 – What a Year!

At midnight tonight, we’ll start a brand new year – 2022. Some have compared a new year to a book. The book with 365 blank pages – one for each day – and said that the book is ours to write. There is truth to that.

As I looked back over my “book” entitled “2021,” I see that (despite the pandemic and all the crap that came with it) I really did have a good year. Bear with me, he’s the recap:

January

January started with some snow. It actually looks like we should be getting snow again this week. Ella absolutely loved being outside in the snow. It was fun to watch her try to figure out just what all the white stuff was. Today, when she sees it, she get’s excited and yells, “Snow! Snow!”

In mid-January, we scratched our heads and wondered just how Ella was 11 months old! I mean, it seemed like she was just born!

The pressure was on as we closed in on her first birthday. With Covid, we weren’t quite sure if we’d even be able to have a party for her.

February

As we got closer to Ella’s birthday, Sam was just not feeling right. 3 days before Ella’s birthday, we found out that baby #2 was on the way!

This took us both completely by surprise! There was great excitement all over again. The hardest part was keeping it a secret…

Ella’s first birthday was a fun and busy day. We ditched the pink blocks and marked the birthday with a HUGE number “1” balloon. This was followed by a trip to the Sea Life Aquarium, the Build a Bear place, and cake at Nana’s house.

We were glad to be able to get some professional “1st Birthday” pictures, too!

March

In March we got our first look at the baby we now know as Andrew/AJ and announced Ella’s promotion to big sister.

Ella also got her first haircut

March also consisted of many walks around the neighborhood and stops at the park.

April

Big brother, Dante’ turned 19 this month! Before that, Easter fell on my mom’s birthday. We got Ella all dressed up in her Easter dress, stopped at the cemetery to visit grandma on her birthday and then went to Nana’s for an Easter Egg hunt!

Ella is so very blessed to have wonderful people in her life. Aunt Margaret is one of them! (She will kill me for posting this picture, but I just love this!!) She and cousin Marissa came to visit and the highlight was watching them read books together.

We also found out the baby’s gender, but that wouldn’t be revealed until May.

May

Birthday’s have never really bothered me, mostly because I opt for the Jack Benny attitude and say that I am stuck at 39. However, in reality I turned 51. 30 was big. 40 was tough. 50 a bit hard to swallow. Over 50? Well…..I examine my own mortality every day.

The month started warm enough that Ella got to spend lots of time in her sandbox and pool.

We revealed that Ella was having a baby brother and got another look at him on an ultrasound.

Ella and I worked on a special project for Sam for Mother’s Day and we got to visit the Detroit Zoo.

May also brought Ella her first taste of corn on the cob!

June

My second oldest boy celebrated his 14th birthday in June. We got to spend Father’s Day together by visiting Crossroads Village. They had a Classic Car Show there and we walked the village and rode the train. It was such a great day with my kids!

It was SO hot that day!!! By the end of it all, Ella was physically exhausted. June was a hot month and we did get to get out and enjoy walks in the park and a day at the splash pad.

July

By July, Sam was 5 months pregnant and was so sick. The pregnancy was a rough one on her. The heat didn’t help things. Despite that, the middle of summer was packed full of amazing things and our family had loads of fun.

We celebrated America’s Birthday, Ella had her first visit to the public library and bowled for the first time, and we all visited the Saginaw Children’s Zoo.

August

As Summer drew to a close, we continued to squeeze as much into it as we could. I got to spend a perfect day doing a daddy daughter picnic, my name was finally on the board at the Corner Cone for a free ice cream, Ella spent lots of time drawing with crayons, and our stress levels were through the roof as we took Ella in for her ear tube surgery. We also got another peak at AJ and had a visit from my brother.

September

Fall! My favorite season of all. I was glad to be able to get together with Margaret, Walt and my buddy Chris at Margaret’s house. Since she’s already mad at the one picture I posted, I’ll just share the one she told me I could share. Hopefully, that makes things a little better….

We always love going to get pumpkins and decorating the front of the house for fall. Ella seemed to like it, too.

Ella and I also got to take one last trip to the Saginaw Zoo before it closed for the season. It was a great day for us, and Sam actually got to relax a bit.

October

We had been told more than once that there was a possibility that the baby would come before his due date. He held out almost until the date! Just two days before he was born, Ella and I got to go outside and enjoy the fall colors.

On October 11th, AJ entered the world. I watched in awe as my son was born and all the pride of being a daddy again filled my soul. We weren’t sure how Ella would handle it, but she welcomed him with open arms.

They still did not have a photographer at the hospital, so we went to JC Penney to have some newborn pictures taken. AJ looks spiffy in his outfit!

While this wasn’t Ella’s first Halloween, it was the first real Trick or Treating adventure for her. She was happy that big brother was there to walk with her. AJ was obviously way too young to attempt to go out this year.

November

Fall walks are among my favorites. I love looking at the colors. Ella and I took many fall walks and there were many instances where she’d just play in a pile of leaves! AJ kept us all busy and so it was just Ella and I making the trip to Bronner’s to get his ornament for the Christmas tree. We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving at home and got the house ready for Christmas.

December

The final month of the year brought many happy memories. Professional Christmas pictures, my annual reading of Dickens, AJ turned 2 months old, a visit from Papa and Grandma, Christmas Eve with my boys, Holiday lights at Crossroads, our first Christmas as a family of four, and the anticipation of a brand new year.

Blog highlights included my entries to the 2021 Song Draft, salutes to Soupy Sales, my grandpa, and Ernie Harwell, a guest blog from my pal Max, silly blogs about hats and Bernie Sanders’ mittens, fishing memories, my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, and a blog about an amazing cartoon Dog Dad.

There were many sad moments in 2021. I lost classmates and friends to cancer, heart disease, and of course, Covid. If the past two years have taught me anything, it is that life is precious and another day is not promised. You never know when it will be the “last picture,” the “last phone call,” or the “last visit.” It takes me make to that quote that my band director wrote on the grease board my senior year. I have quoted it many times. “Live every day as if it were your last. Someday, you’ll be right.”

Life is too short. Live. Laugh. Love.

As we welcome 2022, I pray that it is a good year for all of us. May we find it full of happiness and good health. May God bless you and yours in the upcoming year.

Get ready. The Book of 2022 awaits. Grab your pen and turn to page (January) 1.

Emotional Weekend Recap

It is taking all that is in me to write a blog today. I don’t feel like writing. I’m numb today.

All weekend long I struggled with whether or not to proceed with something. It is something that has weighed very heavy on my heart. It is something that comes with risks no matter what I decided to do. I have spent three entire therapy sessions (one I scheduled purposely) discussing it with my therapist. No matter how much I talked about it, no matter how I looked at it, no matter what the pros and cons were, I still don’t feel like I was ready to make a decision. Based on previous blogs, you can probably figure out what I am talking about.

It doesn’t really even matter what it is. I wrestled to make a decision and now I am wrestling with the decision I made. I am literally numb. I am feeling many emotions today – fear, anger, sadness, uncertainty, worry, and so many more. As I stared at the computer screen, I wondered just what the hell I wanted to write about. So I grabbed my phone and looked back at some of the pictures from the weekend and figured maybe I should at least talk about the positives.

Positives

First of all, I got to spend the entire weekend with my wife and daughter. It was an extended weekend for my wife and I, and as a bonus we both got Tuesday off. We actually had time to sit on the couch and watch shows we had on the DVR, which is something we rarely get to do. Ella had us laughing a lot this weekend. Recently, Sam’s folks bought her an easel. It has a chalkboard, whiteboard, place for paper, etc… We thought that this would be great for her to draw on. We haven’t let her paint yet, but she can color on it and uses the chalkboard a lot. Up until now, the sidewalk chalk had to stay outside. Now she has it on the easel, which isn’t always a good thing ….

This probably won’t stop her from drawing on the furniture … but it was worth a try!

On Sunday, I got together with two of my close friends from high school – Margaret and Chris. It was probably a couple months ago that a picture of the three of us came up in Facebook Memories. I think it said the picture was taken 10 years ago! While I’ve gotten together with them separately since, it had been that long since we all got together. So we met at Margaret’s house and she had a cook out. The town was hopping because the peach festival was going on. I got their late, because I thought we were supposed to get together on Monday. No matter, we all got to sit around and chat, reminisce, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company. Before we wrapped up the day, I said we had to get another picture! I sent the picture to both of them, and each of us posted it on our pages. Margaret joked around and said to crop the picture more …. so I did….

Really a great picture of us ….

Sometimes, I have to do things just to take my mind off the crap that is on social media. I am so sick of the politics, hatred, and sadness that is often the subject of posts on Facebook. During conversation at Margaret’s, the topic turned to some silliness I have been posting. I did this last September, too. I know it is stupid, but it truly makes me laugh and I share to save my sanity.

One of the Three Stooges pages I follow on Facebook takes Shemp Howard’s picture and Photoshops them on other pictures. The can be movie stills, magazine covers, etc. They call the entire month of September – SHEMPtember! So every day this month, I find a silly pic from their page and post it. This remains one of my favorites, and I am sure my musical followers will get a good laugh from it, too….

The Shemptations!!!!!

30 days of stupidity? Yeah, probably. I’ll take the stupidity and enjoy the laugh over the other things I am feeling any day.

The rest of the weekend falls into the area that I’d rather not think about ….

I hope you had an enjoyable Labor Day Weekend.

The Always Fully Stocked Pantry

My friend Margaret posted this picture on my Facebook page today saying that it “reminds me of visiting grandma’s pantry!”:

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I totally laughed out loud at this picture!  The dude has a shopping cart!!!  I can totally relate to this!  My grandma’s pantry was literally a grocery store! Perhaps this is because she lived through the depression.  I really don’t know, but she was always bargain shopping.  I remember my dad taking her to three different grocery stores on the same day because of the different sales going on!  Coffee is on sale at Farmer Jack …..

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Toilet paper is on sale at A&P ….

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They have a sale on paper towel at Kroger ….

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The pantry

We rarely went into my grandma’s basement.  I don’t really recall why.  Perhaps that’s why I can only recall certain things about it.  I remember there being an extra stove down there, which she used for baking Christmas cookies.  I remember the washer and dryer and laundry area.  There was a huge freezer where she stored Wonder Bread, and meat.  I also remember a small area with peg board where my grandpa had some tools.  The one thing that I can remember vividly, is the pantry!

The pantry was directly under the stairs.  I think there was a sheet or a curtain that was used for a “door”.  In the middle of the pantry was a string that hung down from a light fixture that you pulled to turn on the light.  Once you turned on the light, you could see countless shelves, stocked fully of everything and anything!

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It was insane!  It was SO full, we used to call it “Kroger”! The above picture would be a fairly accurate comparison to my grandma’s pantry, except it was hardly as wide!  Looking at this picture made me chuckle, because as I look at it, I see many similar items that grandma had.  I see the countless boxes of noodles (which my grandma ALWAYS had).  I remember her having Prince noodles.

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There was a Prince facility close to our house (off of Groesbeck Highway, I think) which had a sign, which was a HUGE box of noodles.  On the back of it was their slogan “Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day!”

One thing that I see in the pantry pic that would NEVER be in grandma’s pantry is jarred spaghetti sauce!  As I have said in previous blogs, grandma made her sauce from scratch every Sunday!  So instead of the jars, there would be can after can of Contadina Sauce, Paste, and Puree.

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I remember there being hundreds of cans of Contadina!  Cans of all sizes lined the shelves of the pantry!!

I made more frequent visits to the pantry when I had moved to Ludington when I was 21.  I would come home every other weekend and see my folks, my girlfriend at the time, and my grandparents.  I always left with a box of stuff to take home.  She made sure I always had things I wouldn’t necessarily think about.  Things like dish soap.

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Always looking for the bargain, my grandma probably had the cheapest dish soap ever made!  It was this pink generic brand that hardly made a bubble when you washed with it!  The pantry was full of this!  It was so cheap that I think I used an entire bottle every two weeks!  I can’t describe the smell of it, but I’d know it immediately if I caught a whiff of it today!!

Another thing she always sent with me was bath soap – Lux to be exact.4d3cabc87712e9cd28271ecab52e7bd7

I think my entire family razzed her about this soap!  She didn’t care.  She was an advertiser’s dream client!  When I asked her why she bought so much, she told me “Movie stars use that!!”  She obviously had heard commercials and seen print ads featuring Loretta Young, Jean Simmons, and Natalie Wood!!

As far as I know, there were no Lux ads with men promoting it!

Another shelf was loaded up with Ketchup.  I’m sorry, Catsup.  I remember grandma using Del Monte for most of my childhood, but at some point, switched to Hunts or Heinz.

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Just what is the difference between Ketchup and Catsup anyway?!  We must have used a different brand at home, because I remember the ketchup at grandma’s house tasted different.  Maybe because (according to the picture above) Del Monte used PINEAPPLE to make it?!?

Another thing that was always in grandma’s pantry was Velvet peanut butter! It had three faces on the front and they all had names (kind of like Rice Krispies Snap, Crackle and Pop) Fresh, Pure, and Delicious.

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I remember grandma making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with crunchy Velvet and apple or strawberry jelly.  She always saved the glass jars that the peanut butter came in.  They became storage for things like screws and bolts for my grandpa, as he had them lining his workbench under the pegboard.

The other things I remember from the pantry were not kept on a shelf.  There was a little area off of the door where grandma kept her storage containers.  These would be the various containers that would eventually hold the numerous cookies that she would send home with us every year.

My favorite was always the Better Made Potato Chip Can.  She would place a layer of different cookies in it starting at the bottom.  One layer would be ice box cookies, next would be sugar cookies, next were sesame seed cookies, followed by oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip.  It seemed like a million cookies in that can, although it probably only held a little over 100.

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It’s truly amazing how something like a picture can bring back something you had totally forgotten about!  Thank you, Margaret, for the laugh and for allowing me to revisit grandma’s pantry, I mean, Kroger!  Until my next visit …. let me just turn off the light ….

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New Year – New Blog – A Recap

Hello and Happy New Year! I hope that this blog finds you well and that you had a fantastic holiday season! Wow, it’s 2020! For the next few months I will wonder whether to refer to it as “twenty twenty” or “two thousand twenty”! Which is correct?!?

One thing that was mentioned at work before the new year, and something I have seen posed on some local and national news feeds that is worth mentioning is that you should probably avoid abbreviating the new year on documents this year. When you abbreviate 1/3/20, keep in mind that someone can easily add 02, 17, or 10 to the end of it to make it 2002, 2017, or 2010. There’s my public service announcement for the year!

Sam and I were quite busy over the past 5 days! We have been in the process of taking our dining room and turning it into a nursery for the baby. We basically made a wall and a half wall, which created her nursery, a hallway, and added a wall in the kitchen. The dining room originally looked like this:

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The wall was erected just to the right of the light switch and ran right to the edge of the counter top you see in the lower right of the above picture. There was no wall in front of this part of the counter, so we built one to finish the room.

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December 31, 2019

On New Year’s Eve, my father-in-law came over to help me put up some of the final pieces of trim, and to put shiplap up in the kitchen. The original thought was that we would put up the shiplap and then paint it. However, when we saw it up, we liked the look of the wood as it was, so we will probably just stain it. We feel that it gives the kitchen a “cabin” feel. As a bonus, I was allowed to use table saws and a nail gun!

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By the time we finished, Sam and I ran out and grabbed some burgers and watched TV on the couch. Since we have been together, we have never been able to spend New Year’s Eve together, because she worked. Until this year, I’d call her at 11:55 pm, and tell her I loved her when the new year rang in. This year, it was just her and I on the couch, and we finally got to kiss at midnight. I felt like I was in high school again! I know it is something so simple, but it meant a lot to have her with me this year.

2020

This year I bounced from channel to channel. In year’s past, I always watched Dick Clark ring in the new year. As sad as it was to see him on the show after his stroke, it was still Dick Clark. New Year’s Eve and Dick Clark went hand in hand! Ryan Seacrest is everywhere, and while he may be a decent host, I always feel like they find annoying co-hosts to put with him. I don’t know who the gal was who co-hosted this year, but every time they cut to her, I felt like it I was dumber for having listened to her. I tried to watch Steve Harvey, who was also in Time Square, but everything seems forced with him. I found him even more annoying. Carson Daily was ok, but he was almost too relaxed. I bounced round and eventually stopped back on Seacrest for the ball drop. We kissed, and were probably in bed by 12:30am.

January 1, 2020

New Year’s Day, we met one of my oldest and dearest friends for lunch. Margaret and I have been friends since junior high. We are both Italian. My folks loved her, and her folks loved me. I think they probably both thought that we would date or something, but that never happened. We both went to a few dances together, but that was about as close to “dating” as it got. We were just really good friends and that made us both happy. We were officers in band together, we dressed up as twins for Twin Day, she and I both took a senior picture together, and spent many hours on the phone. She was/is one of my best friends!

When she had her daughter, Marissa, was born, she asked me to be her Godfather. I was honored to do it. When I got married the first time, sadly, I saw less and less of Margaret and my Goddaughter. Whenever I was supposed to get together with them, I was always informed that we couldn’t go or we had something to do with my exes family. After the divorce, Margaret was one of the first to reach out to me. She completely understood what was going on. I lost many years of our friendship, and I lost so many moments with my Goddaughter. After all of that, Margaret (and many other friends) had every right to just stop talking to me, but our friendship meant so much, that we have picked up where we left off.

When I attended my Goddaughter’s 21st birthday party, I pulled her aside and apologized for missing so many important things in her life. How do you explain that to someone? She didn’t bat an eye, told me she loved me and we all enjoyed a great evening! I remember driving home from her party crying my eyes out. It wasn’t fair to her that I missed so many things. It makes me angry to know that I missed so much, but I am also happy that I can try to make up for lost time with her!

We were going to see what Margaret and her husband, Walt, were doing on New Year’s Eve and found out she was working that night. So they met us at one of the nearby bars for lunch on New Year’s Day. It was a bit loud as the Michigan game was on. We enjoyed some amazing burgers, and enjoyed good conversation. There is always a lot of laughter when we get together, story telling with wild hand gestures (it is the Italian in us!) and usually some profanity! It was truly a wonderful afternoon. We hope to be able to do it more often!

During lunch, Margaret said something that struck a chord. It was something that made me sad, and happy at the same time. She said, “I have seen you more and talked to you more in the past two years, that the entire time you were married.” This made me sad, because of what I touched on early – a great friendship almost destroyed and the relationship between me and my Goddaughter all because of the stupidity of someone else. It made me happy to know that our friendship remains and will grow even stronger in the years ahead.

A few more things …

We spent the remainder of the week finishing up the nursery. My mother-in-law came over and helped paint. We had put a coat on the nursery and the hallway, but we needed another coat. We then had to touch up some spots and paint the door. We finished all of that today. Her room will have a book case, a glider, and, of course, her crib. My sister-in-law is bringing the crib this weekend.

Before I could build those things, there were a few other things we had on the agenda today. At 3pm, I picked the boys up for the weekend. I feel like it’s been forever since we saw them, especially when I got to see so little of them this month. For Christmas I had gotten them each a book from Barnes and Nobel – both of which were wrong. So we stopped at Barnes and Nobel to exchange them. Dante’ had also received a gift card from my aunt to B&N, so he got to look for a few things. In the end, they both got their books and were happy.

Hoping to see her

When we found out the gender of our baby, we went to a 3D ultrasound place. We were given a coupon to come back for a discounted rate to have another one done at 30 weeks. We came back and found that the baby was Frank breech and couldn’t really get any good pictures. So they rescheduled one for today. We left Barnes and Nobel and met Sam at the ultrasound place. The good news is that the baby had flipped out of the breech position. The bad news was that she was sleeping and not in a good place for us to see her. They gave Sam juice in hopes that the sugar would wake her up. She drank the juice and we even took a walk around outside. When we came back, we still couldn’t get a good picture of her face. They were, however, able to record her heartbeat for us.

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I thought Sam was going to throw up during it. The lady was really trying to get the baby to wake up. She kept rubbing Sam’s belly and poking and massaging her, but the baby would not move. We did get a semi-good profile shot. We also got to see that she has a lot of hair. We got a neat shot of her hand kind of making a fist, but NO good face picture. I admit, I was disappointed. I wanted to be able to take the 3D picture of her face and compare it with her birth picture like so many parents do, but I guess we just need to wait and see her beautiful face when she arrives.

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They did say that her head was moving down, a sign that the baby is getting ready to arrive. We saw on the internet that cats will tend to be more cuddly with a pregnant woman as the baby is nearing birth. Our one dumb cat has been VERY close to Sam lately, so maybe its happening sooner than we think….

We ordered a pizza for the boys and we all came home. I built the glider and book case and placed them in her room. It is all coming together, and it is getting more and more real as each day goes by.

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The paint is dry, but we want to wait a bit before putting up the wall decoration, which looks like this:

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Cute, huh? I love it!!!

Well, it is late and I need to be up to be on the radio tomorrow. I will wrap things up for now. Tomorrow will be another busy day! After the radio station, we have to go grocery shopping, make a few stops, build the crib and hopefully get a second to relax before heading back to work.

Oh, and somewhere over the next 24 hours, we need to find our book from our birthing class….because our “go bag” still looks like this:

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Happy New Year!

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