What’s in a name?

The title of this blog is a reference to a great quote by William Shakespeare:

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Based on Mr. Shakespeare’s quote, names really shouldn’t matter that much. I think many of us would disagree with him. I mean, a name is often the first thing we learn about a person, right? It is also one of the most common questions asked of expecting parents regarding their unborn child – “Do you have a name picked out?”, “Have you thought about names?”, “What are you going to name him/her?”

Can you see where this blog is going??

Weekend Recap

On Friday, my dad celebrated his birthday. My oldest son was at a friend’s house, so it was just me, Sam, and my youngest who drove down to visit him. Because of traffic, it took us a bit longer than expected to get there. When we walked in, I hugged him and wished him Happy Birthday. We all joined dad and Rose in the kitchen. I had found a neat book on Amos & Andy at a used book store and bought it for my dad, and gave it to him for his birthday.

Once we were all seated, Rose looked at me and said, “So what’s the baby’s name?” I chuckled and reminded her that we were not telling. She replied, “Well, it’s your dad’s birthday and it would be the perfect gift!” I chuckled again, and tried to change the subject. Sam reminded everyone that it was my idea not to tell anyone the name. Rose, then went on to say that she didn’t “see what the big secret was” or why we’d “want to keep it a secret”. I again, tried to not give in (even though Sam had said we should tell because we’ve been calling her by name and she was afraid to let it slip). Rose, however, didn’t want to let it go (which made me laugh even more, cause I wasn’t about to let the cat out of the bag).

At this point, Rose stated that she knew the name already anyway. So I asked her what she thought it was. So she says, with all the confidence in the world, “(First name)(Middle Name)”! Now I thought she might be able to guess one of them, but the fact that she picked out both of them – in order – caught me off guard! My face filter was non-existent! I was stunned. I looked at her and asked, “How did you know?!” Once she explained, I guess it really wasn’t that hard to figure out.

So, what’s our baby’s name, you ask?? You’ll know in a paragraph or two …

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Picking a name

You may recall that I mentioned in an earlier blog that our baby is a miracle. The chances of me having a baby were like 4%. Sam and I were actually leaving a doctor appointment and we were discussing baby names. We were not even expecting yet! I don’t even remember how the discussion started. If I know Sam, she probably said, “What about _____ if it’s a girl?”

At any rate, what I remember about this conversation was that we had a girl’s name picked out almost immediately. There was little discussion. The name was THE name. We both liked it. We loved the way it sounded. We both liked the reason behind it. That was that. We then began discussing boy names – because a boy was a possibility, too. Hell, there was also the possibility of twins!

Over the course of the next few weeks/months, the topic of a boy’s name kept coming up. We had a few that we liked, but none really stood out. When we found out that we were actually expecting, we went out and bought a baby name book – for boy names. We each had a different color highlighter and when a name we liked was mentioned we highlighted with the appropriate color. The ones with both colors would be considered if the baby was a boy.

(Side note: Sam is about nicknames. So she wanted the name to be one that could be shortened to a nickname.)

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I guess it was at this point that we heard about a place nearby that could tell the sex of the baby at 15 or 16 weeks old with an ultrasound. That’s when we went to find out. I think we both were leaning towards a girl, we both had a feeling it was a girl, and were both thrilled to find out that our baby was a girl! Now, I know that there were plenty of people who were told the baby was a girl and then found out it was a boy, so we waited a bit longer until the OB/GYN ALSO did an ultrasound and confirmed that we were indeed having a girl.

We decided to tell everyone that we were having a girl. Everyone, of course, has asked about the baby’s name. We had said that we were going to keep that secret until the baby arrived. Now at home, Sam and I refer to the baby by name when we were together. She will send texts to me that say “_______ is really kicking me tonight” or “_____ is doing flips in my belly” or “______ likes those cookies you made.”

As I mentioned before, Sam was worried that because we were both calling her by name (well, her nickname), that one of us would accidentally say the name in conversation. I told her that if that happened, we’d tackle the situation at that time. Neither one of us was expecting Rose to shout out the first and middle name this weekend. I didn’t think that I would lose my face filter and basically say, “Yep! That’s it!” Yet, that is what happened. So my dad, got a good birthday present!

This, of course, meant that we had to call Sam’s parents and tell them, too. Then we had to tell the boys. Then we had to tell her grandma (who’s been wanting to know since she found out Sam was pregnant). Then we told my aunts (my Aunt Linda also guessed the name correctly!), and Sam’s sisters. And now, here we are, spilling the beans here, and on Facebook.

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She’s got a name …

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Looking at it now, I guess it would be easy for people to figure out. Sam’s mom and my mom were both Pamela. (Sam’s mom may have been onto the name, as she texted me last week wanting to know my mom’s middle name!) My grandma’s (Dad’s mom) name was Rose, and Dad’s Rose is going to be her grandma, so Pamela Rose covers all her grandmas! It really is the perfect name and a wonderful tribute to four special ladies!

Remember that Sam likes nicknames. We are going to call her Ella.

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I truly think Dad was moved by the name, I think Rose was too. Dimitri was there and overheard the name, so he found out Friday, too. We let him tell Dante’ the name. Dante’ was overcome with emotion, knowing that his sister was going to be named for his grandma. It was a very special moment to see.

Sam knows how special this is for me, too. We have talked about the role that my mom must have played in this. “She handpicked her, knowing that we wanted a girl”, etc… For the anniversary of my mom’s passing, Sam had this made for Ella, and had me open it:

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Yes, I cried. It is perfect.

With each passing day our excitement grows in anticipation of Ella’s arrival. Each week, I go to the “Week by Week” pregnancy book to see what is going on with her. She’s always compared to a fruit or vegetable (This week your baby is the size of a pea, a plum, a lemon, a cantaloupe!). Sam always tells me when she is kicking and puts my hand on her belly so I can feel it too. Sam’s sister gave us one of those things that we can put on her belly to hear the heartbeat. I never seem to be able to find it, but Sam did this weekend. That sound is such an amazing thing to hear!!!

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Ella is due in February. As we continue to count down the days until she arrives, I cannot help but think about how blessed she will be. She is already loved by her mommy and daddy, her brothers, her grandparents, and aunts and uncles – and will be spoiled by all of us!

I cannot wait until she is here. I cannot wait to hold her. I cannot wait to sing to her. I cannot wait to see her showered in love and affection by her family. Until then, I’ll keep kissing and talking to Sam’s belly, singing to her, and letting her kick my hands.

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Back in Time?

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

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

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

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

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General times and places

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

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

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

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

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

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General People of Interest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I would love to watch Elvis in the recording studio.

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

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Specific Events

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

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

I would love to see JFK’s inauguration.

I would love to see a Beatles concert.

I would love to see Lincoln deliver his Gettysburg Address.

I would love to witness the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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

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

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

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Personal Things

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

I would love one more conversation with my mom.

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

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

I would love one more radio show with Rob.

I would love one more cribbage game with my grandpa.

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

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Just One Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Time. Life. Death. Ripples.

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The longest song I ever played on the air was Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie which is just over 18 minutes long.  We played this on the classic rock station (and sometimes on the oldies station) every Thanksgiving.  To those who love the song, it was the perfect length.  To those who hated the song, it went on too long.  Their feelings about the song depended on their perception of time.  (Incidentally, the shortest song I ever played on the radio was Her Majesty by the Beatles.  I think it clocks in at just over 20 seconds long.)

Time. I have found myself thinking a lot about time over the past month or so. I have had the word “time” written on my list of blog topics for a while, but have never felt that I am ready to blog about it.  In all honesty, I am still not ready, but I had to write something to clear my head.

There is no shortage of great quotes about time:

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst” – William Penn

“Time isn’t the main thing.  It’s the only thing” – Miles Davis

“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted” – John Lennon

“Lost time is never found again” – Benjamin Franklin

Time is one of those things that is constantly moving.  It moves second by second.  Hour by hour.  Day by day.  Year by year. The truth of the matter is that time is constant.  3 minutes is 3 minutes.  How one perceives that 3 minutes depends on the situation.  In some cases, 3 minutes can feel like 10 minutes. In others it can feel like just 1 minute.  Think of an 8 hour work day and compare it to 8 hours on vacation.  Vacation time is flying by while the clock at work moves slowly.

Earlier this month, Facebook was flooded with “First Day of School” pictures.  My friends posted pictures with captions that read: “Where did the time go?”, “Wasn’t she just in kindergarten?”, “How did he grow up so fast?”, and “Last First Day of School”.  I can relate to that last one as my oldest son started his Senior year this year.  My Facebook “Memories” feed has been full of my own kid’s “first day of school” pictures, and I, too, have wondered those same questions.

So why am I rambling about time??

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In my 49 years on this planet, I have lost many people close to me, many at a young age.  Some of them, I have blogged about: my mom (who was only 58),  my grandpa (mom’s dad, also 58), my radio buddy, Rob (only 56), and my Uncle Tom (just 68).  This week, I found out a good friend passed away unexpectedly at only 47 and another friend was basically told her days are numbered – she is 48.  I can’t imagine how time will proceed for her.

I understand that death is a part of life.  I am reminded of a quote from my psychology class that said, “The hardest part of losing someone isn’t having to say goodbye, but rather learning to live without them – always having to fill the void, the emptiness that’s left inside your heart when they go.”  This is so true.  Leo Buscaglia said, “Death is a challenge.  It tells us not to waste time.”  Also true.  Bruce Lee, who died at the young age of 32, said, “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.” 

I sit here staring at this computer screen and my thoughts are all over the place.  Is this blog about Time or Death?  I don’t know.  I guess they both tie together somehow in my mind.  I guess Life also ties in with them.  “Live every day as if it were your last. Someday, you’ll be right.” That quote, which I read on the band room announcement grease board 31 years ago, will always remain with me.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that those three things (life, death, and time) do all go together.  Looking back at the people I have quoted, they have all passed away, yet their words are still here making an impact.  I guess this proves the quote of another person who is no longer here.  The late author Terry Pratchett says this: “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.”  

I still talk about my mom – ripples.

I still tell stories about my Uncle Tom – ripples.

I still laugh along with Rob when I listen to our old shows – ripples.

Thinking of my buddy Rob, I remember ad-libbing a poem on the air about an upcoming station event.  He looked at me and his Elvis character voice he said to me, “Man! You’re a real Carl Sandburg today.”  It’s probably a coincidence that I have a Carl Sandburg quote about time to share:

“Time is the coin of your life.  It’s the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandburg

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As I re-read this blog, I realize that it is a jumbled mess of thoughts.  For that I apologize to anyone who has ever read my blog and said “You’re a good writer.”  Usually my blogs have a point to them, I am not sure this one does.  Hell, I don’t even have a title yet!  I really wish I had planned this out a little better.  Tell you what, for now, let’s say this blog is a “tease” to the “real” blog about “time” to come at a future date.  And as far as the point, or moral, or lesson?  Uh….how bout this….

Make good use of your time and live your life so that you will be forever causing ripples.

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Recurring Dreams

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As someone who works as a sleep technologist, I am often asked about dreams. Why do we dream? Can dreams really tell the future? What do dreams mean? The list of questions I get asked about dreams is a long one. There are many schools of thought about dreams. Take a psychology class and just the thoughts of famous psychologists alone could fill a book! The most common question I get asked about dreams is in regards to recurring dreams. “Do you ever have recurring dreams?” Yes. Yes, I do. “Why do we have those?” I have no idea. I wish I did.

I’ve never been one to put too much faith into “dream interpretation.” To me, it seems like it is often just someone’s opinion. Sometimes they make sense, but most of the time they just seem like some generic thing – like a horoscope. I may be wrong, and maybe there is something to it, but I really haven’t found it to be that way.

Recurring Dream #1

I have been having this one dream off and on for years, probably since I was about 10 years old. My brother and I are out in the backyard. Sometimes it is at our first house (at least I think that’s where it is), most of the time, however, we’re at my mom and dad’s. The old dog house that was there when we moved in is still in the back corner. The swing set is in the middle of the yard. It is no bigger than an average backyard.

While we are outside, the wind begins to pick up and dark clouds roll in. My mother will stick her head out the sliding glass door and call for us to come in because of storms. As I look up in the sky, a funnel cloud begins to form. (FYI: My grandmother told me all kinds of stories about tornadoes, which left me forever terrified of them) It is at this point that my brother and I begin to run toward the house. As we run, the yard begins to get bigger and bigger. It is like I am running and the house is moving farther and farther away.

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My brother is running behind me and I am holding his hand. I keep looking behind us as the funnel cloud begins to turn into a tornado. It is windier and we are fighting to get to the house. We get to the swing set and we are being pulled off the ground by the funnel. We are literally hanging on to the bars of the swing set so we won’t get sucked away by the tornado. My mom is screaming to us, but cannot get to us. As I lose my grip on the swing set – I wake up.

Recurring Dream #2

This is one that I have a bit more frequently than the tornado dream. I mentioned it on Facebook once and was surprised that I wasn’t the only one to have this kind of dream. This one is the “band dream.”

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While there are many variations of it, they are always very similar in nature: (1) I forgot my instrument at home and my band director is going down the line making every one play individually. (2) I have my instrument, but didn’t practice the piece and the band director is going down the line making everyone play individually. (3) I have my instrument, but don’t have my music folder. (4) I have my music folder and my instrument, but I suddenly cannot play the song we are working on.

The variations can also take place in different places: (1) Sometimes we are rehearsing in the band room. (2) Sometimes we are on stage at a concert. (3)Sometimes we are playing at band festival. (4) Sometimes we are on the football field and we are in marching band. (5) Sometimes we are marching in a parade.

Our band director was a man who I had great respect for. I think we all did. He was a good leader and taught us many lessons. He was strict and stern. You always tried to be prepared for class. Sometimes you weren’t and he knew it. I remember this one song that had a simple chromatic scale at the beginning of it. It was a fast tempo song, so if you didn’t practice it, you could easily blow it. We all started the song, started it again, and again until finally he pulled out the grade book and made every one of us play it. You either played it right and passed or played it wrong and failed. I failed it.

In the dream, all the old band classmates are there. I can’t really look at them and say what year it is. Many times its just all the people who were in band at one time or another. There is often things going on that are just weird – like bubbles coming out of clarinets or water coming out of the tuba. Many times we are rehearsing songs I remember playing while in band. Other times we are working up songs I have never heard. Sometimes famous people are in the dream rehearsing with us. There is no specific or common ending to the dream.

While this dream can often cause me to feel anxiety, I usually wake up from the “band dream” chuckling at the absurdity of what was in it. I also wake wishing that I could go back to those days when I still played well. I can barely make a sound on my trumpet today. I miss playing in band. It was, one of my favorite things about high school.

Sweet Dreams

I probably have one or two other recurring dreams, I just forgot them right now. I’ll remember them after I have them. I don’t know what makes me dream these same dreams. I don’t know what prompts them. I have always found dreams to be very cool. They can be very real! They can make you feel real emotions. Every once in awhile, they can be a little too real.

Other times, a dream, which you can’t explain, can make you look back at it and wonder. I had one of those too. When I was going through my divorce, I had a ton of stress. I woke up crying one night after having a dream. I dreamt my mom was talking to me. I was upset. She looked at me and said, “It’s going to be alright, honey. You are going to come out of this and things will be just fine.”

She was right!

What are your thoughts on dreams? I’d love to hear them.

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A Letter to Mom

Mother’s Day – 2019

Dear Mom,

Christopher and I met some time ago and mapped out a project to honor your memory. I have written a few things that will be included in it. Some of them have appeared here on my blog page. I’ve gone through pictures and have picked out favorites. I have other ideas as well, and eventually, we will produce and publish it.

The night Chris and I talked about this project, we exchanged ideas of what we could do. One of my favorite ideas he suggested was to write you a letter. You would think that it would be extremely easy to sit down and write to you, but this one simple idea has turned out to be the most difficult of them all! I have started letters to you more than once, but I cannot seem to be able to finish them. Today, I am going to write this! Through tears and pain, today, I will complete this letter!

Today will mark the 13th Mother’s Day that has passed since you passed away. I won’t even begin to pretend that it gets easier. It doesn’t – I wish you were here. I wish I could once again tell you in person, how grateful and how thankful I am that YOU were chosen to be my mother. I wish you knew how happy it made me growing up to know I was making you proud of me. You were my biggest cheerleader and there have been SO many times that I have needed you since you have been gone.

So many things have changed over the years. There have been countless times that I have wanted to call you. There have been so many times I needed to hear your voice. I have needed your guidance and advice more times than I can count. Before making big decisions, I have found myself asking, “What would mom say about this?” The longing to be able to share just one more conversation with you is ever present, and never seems to go away.

I have been told by so many people that you would be proud of me. I believe that. I graduated college, mom! All those times you told me to go to school and get a degree and I kept playing around on the radio … I’m sure it drove you crazy! Well, I now have that degree! I worked hard for it and earned it – knowing the whole time that it was what you and dad always wanted me to do. Even though you were not there physically, I felt you there in spirit. As I addressed the entire graduating class – I pictured you there, smiling and proud. When I mentioned you in my speech, it was the only time I thought I might break down.

You won’t believe this, but Dante’ is 17 now! He is in high school now! I don’t even know where the time went, mom! He’ll graduate next year! I remember you telling me how fast I grew up and how you couldn’t believe I was graduating…I completely know how you felt. He is quite the young man, mom. He is so friggin’ smart! He has made such an impact on his teachers and friends. They all talk of what a joy he is. He is polite and a gentleman. He is always going out of his way to help people by holding the door and things like that.

You’ll be happy to know that he wants to do something with trains when he graduates. I would venture a guess that it is probably because of that day you took him to the Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine! He STILL talks about that day. It is a memory that he will never forget – and neither will I. He misses you, too. He never lets me forget your birthday, Mother’s Day, or the anniversary of your passing. We have spent many hours at your grave sharing memories, laughing and crying. He always makes sure that we stop and get flowers for you, when we visit. He will never forget the love you showed him, and you remain one of the most special people in his life – you made quite the impact on him in 4 short years. Both of us are glad that we have so many pictures of you two together!

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Remember that day we were all together at dad’s? You were trying to sleep and Dante’ was running around being loud? You laughed and I asked you what was so funny. Do you remember your response? I do. “I hope when you have your next baby that it is another boy. That way, you will know just what kind of stuff you and your brother put your dad and I through!” Well, and I have my suspicions that you played a hand in this, your wish came true. Dimitri was born shortly after you left us.

Blonde hair and blue eyes – I know you’d have spoiled him just as much as you did Dante’! Yes, they fight with each other, just like Chris and I did! There are many times I yell back to them in the car and I can hear you saying the same thing to Chris and me! It’s pretty amazing to put pictures of Chris and me next to pictures of the two of them – it’s crazy how much they look like us! Dimitri loves to sing and is in choir. He’s in middle school now and he’s quite compassionate. He is SO competitive and gives his all and hates to lose! He plays video games and gets into them much like you got into playing that pinball game at the Dugout!

He is always telling us how much he wishes he could have met you. He hears stories from Dante’ and he gets sad. He knows what an amazing grandma you were and he wishes that he could have share some memories with you, like his brother. I wish that he could have, too. I think that’s the only disconnect I have from him. Dante and I can talk about you and the times you shared together, but Dimitri gets sad, because he missed out on that, and that makes me sad, too.

I had a very difficult time after you passed away. There was quite the roller coaster of emotions I had to deal with. I was in a deep state of grief, trying to cope with your death and at the same time, there was the joy of the birth of Dimitri. Factor in the stress of the loss of another radio job, depression, and a variety of other issues and you can guess how messed up I was. I was taking all kinds of medications, altering the dosage, adding new ones and changing to different ones in hopes of finding a way to cope and to be happy. All that did was make me someone I was not. There are times I do not even remember saying or doing things. It took me many years to get through it and to address the issues I was facing. This meant doing some things that took me out of my comfort zone. This meant facing some hard truths about me and where I was in life. This meant severing ties with things and people that were holding me back and forcing me into a whirlwind of unhappiness. It was not a good place for me – or anyone else close to me.

I am ashamed to admit that I thought of ending my life. The unhappiness and depression were very bad. With help from therapy, I was able to look at some things in my life and make a very difficult decision. Divorce was not easy. Coming out on the other side, the true colors of those who I thought cared about me began to show. Rumors and untruths continue to be spread in an attempt to discredit me and make me look bad. You, of all people, know that I am far from perfect. However, it hurt to see how quickly people took sides and believed so many lies. It is hard to not let that bother me, but I have gained some powerful tools through therapy and true friends that have helped. I have been able to move forward.

Mom, all you ever wanted for me was to be happy. I am SO happy today. What I wouldn’t give for you to meet my wife, Sam. She is amazing. She is beautiful. She doesn’t take any crap from anyone! She does what needs to be done and doesn’t make rash decisions. You would like her a lot. She is supportive, honest, responsible, and loves me. I love her more that I could ever explain to you. She is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. She is a true blessing to me. She loves Dad, Rose, and the boys, too. It is because of her, that I am where I am today. She was a lifesaver, mom. She asks about you often and loves to hear me tell stories about you. I want you to know that she is taking good care of your boy, and she is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Because of all that has transpired, and where I am now, my relationship with Dad and Chris are stronger than they’ve ever been. We speak often on the phone and I have seen them more over the past two years than I probably did through that first marriage. Sam will often ask, “Have you talked to your dad? Did you call your brother?” It’s pretty amazing. She knows how things were in the past, and refuses to let that continue. While I am glad to have those relationships thrive, it makes me sad that I missed SO many things with you during that time. I should have stood up more and made sure we spent more time with you – I regret that so very much. For that, I am sorry.

It hurts to look back and know what I could have and should have changed. Hindsight is 20/20. Oh, the things I would have done different! I would have called more, mom. I would have made more time to come visit. I would have told you I love you, every chance I got. The list of “should haves” “could haves” and “would haves” is SO long!!! There are things that I wish I would have wrote down or asked you. So many things that left with you that I can only wish that I had asked about.

Oh, and before I forget to mention it – thanks for your letter. We found them almost a year after you left us. It was probably the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. Here was a letter to me that you had written years before Dante’ was born. “Know that I love you” was the first thing you told me. I think it probably took me 20 minutes to compose myself after reading that line. My eyes are welling up with tears right now as I remember it. Thank you for that. I have it, along with the tissue I wiped your tears away with on your last night here and other things that remind me of you. I only wish that you had been able to write something to Dante’ – I know he would treasure that as much as he treasures the photo book you made him with those pictures from Thomas the Train.

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13 years gone and yet it still seems like yesterday. So many holidays without you. So many birthdays. 13 Mother’s Days. I hope that you always knew how much I loved you and still love you. I hope you know how much I miss you. I hope you know that even though there were things we didn’t see eye to eye on everything, I was glad that God chose to make you my mom.

Thank you, mom, for all you gave me. Thank you for the many days you stayed home with me when I was sick. Thank you for the hours of phone calls containing laughter and tears. Thanks for the memories that will live on in my heart and soul. Thank you for putting band aids on cuts and scrapes. Thank you for singing off key in the car. Thank you for being such a wonderful grandma. Thanks you for your wisdom. Thank you for understanding hugs. Thank you for telling dad things I told you not to tell him. Thanks for every single thing you did for me – there is probably not enough room on the internet to list them all. Most of all, thank you for being my mom. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I miss you and will forever love you.

“See you later”

Love always, your son,

Keith

7 mos with Mom

“My mind knows you are gone, but my heart will never be able to accept it.”

A Peak at Mom’s “Project”

Today would have been my mom’s 71st birthday. I wrote a very emotional blog about her last year and for new followers to this blog, you can read it here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2018/04/04/moms-70th/

The Project

Last year, my brother Chris told me that he wanted to create a project that would honor our mom. I have a list of things I am supposed to be doing for this project, and as I sit here remembering her today, I thought I would share one of the things I wrote for our project. I hope my brother doesn’t mind me sharing this here.

“S” Meals

“Just like mom used to make” is a phrase you hear often when someone tries something at a restaurant or when a restaurant is promoting their menu. Maybe YOUR mom cooked like that, but mine did not. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of meals that I would love for her to make for me today. I loved her Impossible Cheeseburger Pie, Meatloaf, and her amazing Tuna Noodle Casserole. I have an old cookbook she had, but I really have no idea how she tweaked those recipes.

Here’s the deal, it wasn’t that mom wasn’t a good cook, the issue was she didn’t change the menu too often. We had a joke in our house – Mom’s menu consisted of “S” meals. What is an “S” meal? Well, it’s just what you think it is – meals that start with the letter “S”. Now, it is a possibility that they were also called “S” meals because they were very simple to make, I don’t know. Here now, is a sampling of mom’s core menu items:

  1. Spaghetti. It was a staple at our house. No surprise, after all, we are Italian. Sadly, her sauce always came out of a jar and was almost always Ragu.
  2. Sausage. She would go to the store and buy one of those rings of Italian sausage and fry it up in one of those square electric fry pans.
  3. Sloppy Joes. Could this meal be any easier to make? Brown up some meat and throw in some Manwich!
  4. Soup and Sandwiches. Two S’s for the price of one! A “combination” “S” meal! This was a frequent meal at our place – usually closer to payday.
  5. Steak. Usually, it was fried up in the square fry pan I mentioned an item or two ago. As kids, we hardly ever ate steak. I’m not sure why we didn’t, maybe it was because a fried steak was almost always tough. Usually when this meal was served, my brother and I opted for the alternate “S” meal, Spaghetti-O’s!
  6. Subs. Let’s be real here – this is really just another form of a sandwich, but served on a roll instead of bread! (Side note: My dad used to make what he called “Flubby’s”, which was a take off of Tubby’s subs. It was ground hamburger, lettuce, tomato, and Italian dressing.)
  7. Swedish Meatballs. Sometimes we called this Sweet and Sour Meatballs or Waikiki Meatballs. As a kid, the taste of these made me want to throw up. As I have grown up, I am actually a big fan of sweet and sour meatballs and chicken. I’d probably like them now. I remember the recipe was on a recipe card, which is sadly long gone.
  8. Salad. Yes. Salad could be a meal at our house. She got a recipe from my great Aunt Lois I think. It was leaf lettuce, vinegar, and grilled bacon. It was actually very good. I may have to see if I can make it sometime.

In a nutshell, those were the meals. We look back on this memory often and laugh. I miss her very much and would give anything to sit and enjoy conversation, food and laughter with her.

One last dinner story

If my mom were still alive, she’d probably kill me for telling this story. This, however, is one of my favorite dinner time stories:

Every now and then, mom would make corned beef and cabbage. Most of the time she’d cook it up in the crockpot, and it would be very tender. There was one time, however, where the corned beef turned out very dry. As we ate it, we were all thinking it, but NO ONE had the courage to speak up and say anything, so naturally, I did. I will say up front that as I look back at it, I regret the way I handled it. It does make a great story, though.

I started by simply saying, “Does this seem a bit dry to anyone else?” This made my dad laugh almost instantly. When he started laughing, I figured this had opened the door for me and allowed me to keep making fun of the meal. I proceeded to do what The Three Stooges would do with something like this. I began to:

  • tug at my throat
  • act like I was choking
  • put one hand on my chin and the other on the top of my head and pretended to force my mouth up and down to make myself chew
  • slam my hands against my chest
  • pound at my shoulder blade like I was choking

All of these things made my dad laugh. They made my brother laugh. My mother, however, was not happy. You could see her getting more and more angry with each of my actions.

She finally threw down her fork and stormed off to her room and slammed the door. My dad, brother, and I all sat in silence at the table for some time. I think my dad went to make peace, but the damage was done. I didn’t understand at the time, and she even laughed about it later (much later). It hurt her very bad that day. I apologized for this more times than I can remember. I still feel bad about it today.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mom. I miss you and I love you. I would give anything in the world to have a piece of that dry corned beef with you right about now….

Monday Memory – Pranked

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It’s April Fool’s Day. In honor of this, I thought I would share a funny story in which I was the victim of a funny prank. It’s funny now, but at the time, I didn’t find it funny at all. My memory is a bit fuzzy on some of the details, but I am sure my friends will be more than happy to fill in details or correct me if I mess up details.

The TP Bandits

One of the highlights of my senior year of high school was going out toilet papering. We’d go to the store, buy 12-24 rolls of toilet paper and go out and hit some friend’s house. I don’t know how or why this became the “thing” to do, but we did it. If it was your birthday, you could almost count on your house being hit.

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There were groups that went out together: 1) The Cheerleaders, 2) The Jocks, 3) The Choir Kids, and 4) The Band Kids (and there were sometimes groups within the groups). We belonged to a sub-group of Band kids. We called our group The TP Bandits. There was never a doubt that we were the ones who hit your house. We had printed up (on a crappy dot matrix printer) signs that read “You have just been TP’d by the TP Bandits.” There was a cheesy and terrible graphic of two cowboys on it. We usually left it in the mailbox. I got a megaphone for Christmas one year, and it was not odd for us to yell something like “Love ya, Babes!” to whoever’s house we hit.

I am sure that Toilet Paper stocks went up that year. It was completely out of control! My dad would always wake up the next morning and come in to wake me up by saying something like, “So, your friends were here again last night. Looks like you’ve got some cleaning up to do!” Because we went out a lot, I got TP’d a lot. It was like that scene in The Godfather where Sonny is explaining how “they killed Luca, so we hit them back and killed ….” If you went out and TP’d – you could expect to get it back.

It wasn’t just houses, either. There were plenty of times where we TP’d cars. Many times, we’d do it when the friend was at work. My friend Diana always reminds me of the time we got her car while she was working at Frank’s Nursery. She’ll have to remind me, but I think she had left her car unlocked and I think we TP’d INSIDE it! I am almost positive I remember TPing around her rearview mirror.

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The Prank

As best as I can remember, we went to one of the colleges (I think it was CMU) to watch a football game. It was an optional trip and the whole reason we went was so we could watch the band’s half-time show. I don’t remember if it was something that you had to pay to go to, but that was probably the case. Because of that, I remember that not all of my friends were going on the trip. I would soon learn why.

I remember the buses turning into the parking lot at the high school (and here is where my friends may need to refresh my memory) and noticing something on my car. My memory is not clear here, but as I remember it, there were empty toilet paper rolls on my radio antenna (I do not think they had TP’d the car). It was at that moment that I knew that I was in for it when I got home.

I am not 100% positive on this, but I think my friend Joe was the mastermind of the whole thing. I remember getting in the car and heading home. As I turned onto my street, I could see the streams of TP waving from the tree in front of my house. The closer I got, the more I realized that it was MUCH more than that! The lawn was white – like it had been covered with a layer of snow. Branches were wrapped completely and so was the tree trunk. The front yard and back yard had been covered in toilet paper.

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As I drove by, there were friends sitting up on the roof awaiting my arrival. They were waving and smiling and I was furious! I called my mom from an ancient Nokia cell phone and she answered with a smile, “Hi, baby. Where are you?! You have guests here!” I remember asking if they had gone into my bedroom and she told me I’d have to come home to find out. I had lots of memorabilia in there and I was worried that something might get broke. I couldn’t believe that she had let them in my room.

Joe had asked my mother if they could come over while I was away to “decorate”. My mom must have thought this was a hilarious idea, because she let it happen. I am guessing if he had asked my dad, he would have told him to get lost along with some words of profanity. I am sure my mom probably helped string some toilet paper around, too that day!

When I finally got up the courage to return home, my friends were still up on the roof. There was one of those contruction barriers with the flashing light on it. They had painted it all white and in big black letters painted “Love Ya, Babes!” I am sure that Derek was solely responsible for that!

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I got out of my car and looked around as I walked into the house. I gotta tell you, it was a masterpiece! I was impressed at their work. It was beautiful. It was the kind of TP job you wish you had time to do! Word is that the police stopped at the house more than one time and my mom was right out there to tell them it was totally fine with her! I can only imagine the talk back at the police station that day.

The “piece de resistance” of the job was what they did to my bedroom. As I turned the corner to go into my room, I looked into my doorway and saw nothing but newpapers! There was literally a pile of newspaper coming out the door! They had blown up hundreds of balloons, laid those down first, and then crumbled up newspapers and put them in the room to make it look like they had filled the room floor to ceiling with newspapers!

As angry as I was at my mom for letting it happen, I smile about it now. That was the way she was. She knew that I had done more than my fair share of TPing around the city, and this was the ultimate payback! I am sure she was filled with excitement at the thought of having a bunch of the gang over to do it and probably laughed the entire time. That’s one of the reasons so many people loved her – she loved a good joke and this certainly was one!

I came to find out that more people were in on the joke than I thought. Even kids who were on the trip were aware that it was happening while we were there! I was the brunt of many jokes that following school day! I was red-faced, but not because of sunburn. I carried the embarrassment with me throughout the day. It seemed like every one, even those who weren’t in band, knew of the prank and were talking about how cool my mom was for letting it happen!

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It is the best prank that has ever been pulled on me to date – and it wasn’t even done on April Fool’s Day! For my friends who were there: What details did I leave out? For my friends who weren’t: What was the best prank ever pulled on you?

FYI – these pictures are NOT of the job they did. I’m sure someone has some, but I sadly, do not.