I’ve Been Yelling At Her For Days

Amazon Alexa Echo

For Christmas, my dad gave us an Amazon Alexa. I know many people have these and use them for a variety of things. On Christmas Day, I set it up and started to mess around with it.

The first issue I had was not being able to remember my Amazon password! I have the app and the password is saved, because I never end us remembering it. After trying about 35 different passwords, I finally just reset it and continued with the set up.

When you first start the thing, she starts telling you what to do. “Ask me to tell you a joke.” “I can help you get to work on time. Ask me about traffic.” “Ask me how long to cook a turkey.” “Ask me what the weather is like.” She just kept cranking out the commands!

Eventually, after messing with it a while, I got to where I kind of knew how to use it. I started asking Alexa questions about everything. Then, I started to ask her to play songs for Ella.

“Alexa. Play Baby Shark.” Boom! There it is. “Alexa. Play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Ta Da! It’s there. “Alexa. Play the theme song for Paw Patrol.” Instantly it is there. I think to myself, how nice this is. Now, almost two weeks later….. I am OVER asking Alexa for songs!

Ella loves it. If Alexa were to make a playlist based off what we’ve asked her to play, I could take it to a preschool class and PARTY!! Here requests include:

  • Baby Shark
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • The Alphabet Song
  • Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
  • Johnny, Johnny No Papa
  • Three Little Kittens
  • Five Little Speckled Frogs
  • There Were 10 in the Bed
  • Happy Birthday to You

I am sure there are more, but those are the ones that stick in my head. We can be sitting on the floor or on the couch reading books or watching TV and she’ll just look at me and say, “Row Row Row Your Boat?!” (or any of the other above songs).

“Alexa. Play Baby Shark …..again!” “Alexa! Play Twinkle Twinkle!” “ALEXA! Play the Itsy Bitsy Spider!!!!!”

When the song is over, Ella always looks at me and says, “Again? Again?! Please, Daddy, Again!”

I have a feeling, I will be hearing those songs in my sleep for a very long time!

Please help me when Alexa finally is able to understand her, because she will be playing toddler songs non-stop!!

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.

Christmas 2021 Recap

Another Christmas has come and gone. I hope that you had a Christmas full of wonderful memories! This Christmas was full of a lot of joy for us, but there were some things that left me sad. I will attempt to recap and keep it as happy as possible. Many of my Facebook friends have already seen these pictures, but that’s ok.

Thursday, December 23

After working the night before, I slept for a couple hours and went and picked up my son. His brother was working that night and was coming up after work so we could celebrate Christmas Eve Morning together.

My dad and Rose came over that afternoon. Neither had met AJ yet, so it was extra special to have them here. When then walked in, Ella ran to them SO excited. She was so happy to see them. She loves them both so much!!

There is something that is so amazing to me to see my dad hold his grandchildren. There is a special light in his eyes. There are almost tears. It is so special. He always kisses them gently on the head and talks to them.

Dad and AJ

Ella was all about Grandma Rose that night! Grandma made her a Mickey and Minnie blanket, which she just loves. One of my favorite pictures from that day is the two of them snuggled up on the chair with her blanket.

Ella and Grandma Rose

My Dad, being the silly guy that he is, heard Ella saying some of the alphabet. He immediately thought of “Violent is the Word for Curly,” the Three Stooges short which features the “Swingin’ the Alphabet” song.

B A Bay, B E Bee, B I Bicky By …

So Dad had to sing it to her …

Dad’s chart was a bit off….

I was glad to get the chance to visit with them, and I am glad that three of his four grandchildren were there for him to see. Papa and Rose were very good to all my kids!

Dad and me – wish the lighting had been a bit better

Dad and Rose left around 7, and Dante’ called about 8 to say he’d gotten off work and was on his way. I was exhausted and was actually on my way to bed when he called. He asked me to stay awake, so I did. He came in and gave he the biggest hug. We had some leftover pizza, so I told him to dig in and not stay up too late!

As I crawled in bed, my heart was full.

Christmas Eve

I’m sure the day is coming when the kids will be up at like 4am to open presents! We were blessed that they didn’t wake up until after 8am! I had to laugh, though, because ever since we put the tree up, there has been a gate around it. It served two purposes. First, it kept that cat out of the tree and second, it kept Ella from pulling on the ornaments and the lights.

When she woke up and came out the the living room, she walked over the the tree and saw all the presents under the tree – and no gate. She literally just stood there – not really sure what to make of things.

Ella – perplexed

After a few minutes, Sam said it was time to go in and wake up the boys. They were already going to be leaving earlier than I thought (so Dante’ didn’t have to drive in the dark), so we wanted to get things going. We told Ella to go in and wake them up.

She ran into their room yelling, “Wake up, Bruh! Wake up, Bruh!” It was quite funny to watch my older boys stir in bed … all they wanted to do was stay asleep. Dante’ asked to sleep for another 30 minutes. I told him, “You’re sister isn’t going to wait 30 minutes and wants to open presents!” Against their wishes, they crawled out of bed and joined us in the living room.

Last year, we had to help Ella open her gifts. She wasn’t quite where she understood how to do it yet. This year, however, she was able to jump right in and rip open her gifts!

Ella – wearing the very cute PJ’s that Sam’s dad got for her

It’s neat to see how the various kids react to Christmas now. Dante is 19, so he’s very laid back. Dimitri is 14 and it depends on what he’s opening as to how excited or how much emotion he shows. Ella, she’s excited for everything. Andrew has no clue as to what is happening.

The boys

The boys are SO hard to buy for. They never seem to have any real ideas for me. Dante’ is kind of at the “gift card/money” stage. He’s happy with those. Dimitri really liked this golf game I had for the Xbox, so I made sure to get it for him to play at home.

Par for the course …

Ella, being the helpful big sister, helped open up AJ’s presents.

AJ watching sissy open gifts for him

Of course, I had to put together Ella’s basketball hoop, so she could slam dunk a few before dinner.

Two points!

After a hearty breakfast, the boys went into their room and played games for a while. Knowing that they were going to be leaving early, I made sure that dinner was done early. Keeping with my family tradition, I made ravioli with my homemade sauce. I made sure to send a jar home with the boys, as Dante’ loves it.

Personal note: I used a bit too much wine this time. I felt that it was sweeter than normal.

About 3, the boys had to leave to go home to their mom. Ella was napping when they left. When she woke up, I picked her up out of her crib and as we passed the boy’s room, she said “Bruh”? “Bruh”? It ripped my heart out. All she wanted to do was see her brothers! Sadly, I don’t think they really know how much she loves them and how important they are to her. This was the saddest moment of the entire weekend for me.

A Christmas Eve tradition for Sam and I has always been to do the Drive Through Holiday Lights display at Crossroads Village. For $10 a car, you get to drive through and see the many Christmas lights that they have on display. When the kids are older, we plan on going and doing the Christmas train ride, which is truly amazing, but for now, we just drove through.

When we arrived, we got Ella out of her car seat and let her sit on Sam’s lap as we drove through. She was so excited. As we got close to the lights, she’s yell, “Here we go, Mommy! Here we go, Daddy!” It was so cute. Sam made the comment that she loves seeing things through Ella’s eyes. This is so true! We’ve been through there every year, but this year was so much more exciting because of Ella!

Sleigh ride!

We thought about driving downtown Flint, which has some great lights, too. We decided against it, as it was getting late and the kids were tired. We went through out bedtime routine and got the kids to bed just in time for me to play Santa. I had a few things to put together so that they were ready for they kids when they woke up Christmas morning.

Christmas Day 2021

Sam wanted to be in the living room so she could record Ella seeing her presents, so I got her out of bed and asked Sam if she was ready. She said she was, so I sent Ella running into the living room. The video is priceless. The smile on her face is something I will never forget. We got her one of those Little People Jungle Rainforest things. It came with animals and makes noises and everything. It is HUGE and takes up a good part of the living room.

Here’s the monkey!

AJ’s Santa gift was a very cool floor chair. It allows him to sit up while on the floor and it’s a lot better than those Bumpo seats.

Sitting pretty

I love that both kids had “Santa” jammies for Christmas morning. Sam and I actually got matching PJ bottoms to wear that morning, too. AJ was wide awake and just taking in all the sights. I love this picture of him and Sam. What I love about it is that just above Sam’s right shoulder is a picture of Ella on her lap and in this picture AJ is on her lap.

One of Ella’s favorite gifts was a Leap Frog Tea Party set. The pot talks and it came with cups and cake.

Must be good tea!

I joked many times about having tea parties with my daughter. I am excited to say that we’ve had our first already and I am looking forward to the next one!

Yummy!!

It was daddy’s turn to help AJ open gifts. So I grabbed his stuff and we opened them up. I was as surprised as he was! LOL. Sam got him a very cool “Floor time” pillow with lights, sounds, and more.

Wow!! What’s this, daddy?

It made him like floor time a lot more….

Mesmerized

Before we all showered and got dressed to visit Sam’s folks, we attempted to take a family selfie. We have a camera that I could have set up with a timer and all, but with my cell phone, I could snap 5-6 pictures in the time it would take to get one on the camera. Good thing we went with the cell phone – because it only took us about 57 tries before we finally got this one.

Merry Christmas!

Since it was AJ’s first Christmas, we had to be sure to get a picture with him in his “First Christmas” outfit. Sam came up with the silly saying on the board and it made me chuckle!

Got him smiling and everything!

After the kids napped, we went to Sam’s folks for Christmas dinner. Sam’s mom put out an amazing spread with turkey, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and so much more. I’m not sure why we didn’t get any pictures while we were there, and I am sad that we didn’t. We are so grateful for them and enjoyed family time together.

After we got home and got the kids in bed, Sam and I crawled into bed. Before I drifted off to sleep, I thought back over the many memories that were made and thanked God for the many blessings that He has given me. I am truly a lucky man.

December 26

Having the Christmas tree up was driving Sam crazy. Not because it was up, but because we literally had to move Ella’s toys out of that corner of the room. All of her toys were moved in front of the fireplace and it just seemed like we were always tripping over them. Long before Christmas, it was clear that on the 26th, the tree was coming down!

I spent the morning taking down ornaments, unstringing Christmas lights, folding up stockings, and putting them all downstairs until next year. Before I finished, there was one picture we had meant to get of Ella that we hadn’t gotten. So I hurried out to the garage and got the props ready before Ella and I walked the neighborhood. Here is the picture we had hoped to get earlier in the season ….

Hauling her Christmas tree

It’s back to work tonight for me, at least for a couple days. Looking back over this holiday weekend makes me smile. There are so many wonderful memories forever saved in snapshots that I will look back on often. Life is good. I am blessed.

Song Draft – Pick #1 – Mind Over Matter – Nolan Strong and the Diablos

This blog is part of the 2021 Song Draft hosted by Hanspostcard…. I have followed his blog, for some time and he always posts some great musical and movie stuff! His blog can be found here:

https://slicethelife.com/author/hanspostcard/

I’d like to thank Hans for allowing me to participate in the song draft (and Max for asking if I’d be interested).

In preparation for the draft, I went through years worth of Billboard charts, scanned my entire DJ library, and listened to all of the songs on my iPod (more than once). After going through a list of songs, I came up with my list. I have a few extras picked, just in case one of the other drafters pick one of mine.

My first draft choice is probably a song that many have never heard. I was born and raised in the Detroit area, and worked on the radio in Detroit for 10 years. Because of this, I decided to find a song that is not only a favorite, but showcases my hometown. The song is not a Motown song, but there certainly is a Motown connection to it that I hope you will find interesting.

When I first started at the radio station in 1988, my dad gave me a list of songs to put on cassette for him. They were almost all songs from his childhood that he couldn’t find in stores. While at the station, I searched for many of the songs on the list and heard them for the first time as I recorded them for my dad. The first song on the list was “Mind Over Matter” by Nolan Strong.

The Diablos with lead singer Nolan Strong was one of Detroit’s most successful early vocal groups. The group’s classic 1954 recording of “The Wind” would have probably been a national R&B hit were it not for spotty distribution by the tiny Fortune record label.

According to author David A. Carson, “In 1962 Fortune owner Devora Brown wrote a song expressly for Nolan Strong. Although only his name appeared on the label, the Diablos backed him up. ‘Mind Over Matter’ was an irresistible midtempo dance record full of sudden stops, starts, and vocal acrobatics, as Nolan sang about putting a hex on his girl to win her love.”

“Mind Over Matter” quickly shot to # 1 on the Detroit charts. Sheldon Brown, Devora’s son, remembered that Motown’s Berry Gordy was not pleased with Fortune suddenly having a # 1 record in his backyard. The story goes like this:

It’s early in the evening one day towards the end of September, 1962. The Temptations fourth single, “Paradise,” is being pressed up (along with a bunch of other new Motown records), ready for signing over to the distributors. The Motown rep who periodically comes to the pressing plant to check the print run notices stacks and stacks of boxes piled up in the corner, all full of seven inch singles.

The rep casually enquiring as to what’s going on, he’s informed that those boxes contain the complete inventory of the latest Fortune Records single, “Mind Over Matter” by Nolan Strong and the Diablos. The record was officially meant to have been released by now. It’s been getting some radio play, and indications across Detroit are that it’s going to be big. (For sure, the rep notes to himself, Berry Gordy Jr has remarked loudly and often how much he liked the record, and how he’d previously tried to sign Nolan Strong to Motown, with no success.) But some sort of organizational screw-up has meant that the distributors haven’t been able to get them out yet, so there they all are, still sitting in their boxes, still waiting to be taken away.

The Motown rep nods, makes his excuses, hurries out to a payphone and gets Berry Gordy on the line. Urgent, he says. Fortune Records has dropped the ball, he explains. The Nolan Strong record’s on the radio, but it’s not in the shops. Nobody can actually buy a copy. The rep doesn’t need to explain any further. Berry gets the point. Berry hangs up without a word. He’s got some calls of his own to make.

Gordy calls A&R. He calls the studio. He calls producer Clarence Paul. Got a top priority mission for you. Drop everything else you’re doing right now. Don’t care what group you cut it on. Just get me the damn record as soon as possible.

Within five days, Motown has its own cover version of Mind Over Matter recorded, pressed and in stores. That, in itself, it pretty amazing! What a turn around!!

A clip from the local paper shows how Motown tried to really capitalize on the fact that Nolan Strongs version was unavailable:

The story wouldn’t have a happy ending for Motown, as someone at Fortune got wind of the ploy and made sure the Nolan Strong record found its way into local stores, where – backed with Fortune’s undivided attention – it promptly flew off the shelves and became a regional chart-topper, squashing Motown’s competing version before it had had a chance to get started. But it’s illustrative of just how much could be achieved if Berry Gordy wanted it to happen badly enough.

The group Clarence Paul wound up recording Mind Over Matter were the Temptations, who (as noted above) already had a new single lined up; their record was due out on October 1st, and there was no point having two Temptations records out at once battling each other’s sales and damaging the group’s image. The quickly-recorded cover thus went out under an adopted name; enter “the Pirates”.

(The Gracenote CD database, and thus much of the Internet, insists that this group is actually white British novelty rockers Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, but that’s a bad mistake; these are the Temptations, under a stupid name, with Eddie Kendricks on lead).

Some people like the Temptations version better, however, there is something magical to the Nolan Strong version for me. Maybe it is the simplicity of it. I feel like his vocal is more solid than the Temps. Of course, maybe it is just because I never even knew that another version existed until a few years ago.

I’m not saying that the Temps version was bad, because it isn’t. Berry Gordy was an astute judge alright – and it came out as a decent single with a strong, driving groove, only to be denied a chart hit by the circumstances in which it came to be made. One cannot dent that the song is an important early record by one of Motown’s most important groups nonetheless.

As mentioned above, “Mind Over Matter” by Nolan Strong reached #1 locally around Detroit, but only made it to #112 nationally on Billboard. One of my favorite songs of all time!

According to author David A. Carson, “In 1962 Fortune owner Devora Brown wrote a song expressly for Nolan Strong. Although only his name appeared on the label, the Diablos backed him up. ‘Mind Over Matter’ was an irresistible midtempo dance record full of sudden stops, starts, and vocal acrobatics, as Nolan sang about putting a hex on his girl to win her love.”

“Mind Over Matter” quickly shot to # 1 on the Detroit charts. Sheldon Brown, Devora’s son, remembered that Berry Gordy was not pleased with Fortune suddenly having a # 1 record in his backyard. “Berry Gordy thought it was such a great record that he took the guys in the Temptations and they recorded a version of ‘Mind Over Matter’ as the Pirates for Motown, but Nolan Strong had the bigger hit.”

Mind Over Matter – Nolan Strong and the Diablos

My mind is made up ’cause you’re so cold
I want your love to have and to hold
I’ll have your love cause you are so fine
Mind over matter, gonna make you mine


And I believe that someone wants someone bad enough
The way I want you for you’re the one that I love
I’ll command all my powers to make you fall in line
Mind over matter, gonna make you mine

[Chorus]
I’ll put a spell on you, put a hex on you
I’ll make you love me too and I’ll be so nice to you
You have to fall ’cause I’ll be so dog gone kind
Mind over matter, gonna make you mine

(Instrumental Break)

I’ll put a spell on you, I’ll put a hex on you
I’ll make you love me too and I’ll be so nice to you
You have to fall ’cause I’ll be so dog gone kind
Mind over matter, gonna make you mine

Oh baby, so nice, ohh, you gotta be mine
Oh baby (fade out)

___

Here is the Temptations version, since it played so prominently in the story:

Thanks for reading – and listening!

What’s In A Name (Part 2)

When Sam told me we were expecting again, I was pretty sure the baby was a girl. As a matter of fact, I even had a dream about about it. I blogged about that here: https://nostalgicitalian.com/2021/04/23/and-the-baby-is-a/

This pregnancy has been difficult for Sam. She has been in a lot of pain. We found out that the reason for this is that the placenta is positioned anterior. Because of this, she has had a few extra ultrasounds to make sure everything is ok. While at her OB a couple weeks ago, he stated that while doing the ultrasound, he should be able to see the gender and asked if Sam wanted to know. Sam told him that we had already gone to the 3D place and found out the gender.

The doc told her that those places are right “about 50% of the time.” While he checked her, he really couldn’t tell for sure what the baby’s gender was. He even stated that there was certainly “a possibility” that it could be a girl. The reasoning was that the position of the placenta could have made it look like something it wasn’t.

This threw a big curve ball at us. What if the baby was a girl? We had already made the announcement that we were having a boy. We would have to wait and see. If it WAS a girl, we had a solid name picked out. Just like with Ella, it was a name we both agreed on almost immediately. The only thing that we hadn’t nailed down was a middle name, but we had our top choices all picked.

So we kept things quiet until this week. Sam went in for the 20 week ultrasound and we can confirm that the baby is indeed a boy. He is a very active boy (as Sam has been able to see in all the ultrasounds). Due to the placement of the placenta, however, it really limits how much Sam gets to feel him move. So with the confirmation of gender, we moved back to our list of Boy Names and had to nail one down!

We had a few names that really stood out. We went back and forth on a couple of them. We had one name that we really liked, but it was ruined by a story from a family member. There was another we liked and just really kept going back and forth with it. Finally, we came to a decision.

The baby’s name is …

Andrew Joseph to be exact.

Sam’s grandfather was Joseph, which is where the middle name comes from. Andrew was just a first name that we both liked. It works out great in the “nickname” department, too. We can call him Drew or “AJ”. I like AJ a lot!

There is lots of excitement and anticipation for his arrival. October seems a long way away, but at the same time, it will be here faster than we know it!

Funniest Observation of the Week.

Leave it to my dad! I called him to let him know the baby’s name before Sam posted it on Facebook. I loved to see his reaction. It was a few hours later that my dad commented on the post on Sam’s Facebook page. He observed that now I will have three sons and a daughter – just like Don Corleone in the Godfather!

David O’Keefe’s fantastic Godfather artwork!

Only my dad would have observed that!! That’s just one of the reasons I love him! Thanks Dad!

Nice Lids!

I rarely post two blogs in one day, however, my last post made me think about something – hats. The reason for this is the first line of the song “On the Sunny Side of the Street” (Grab your coat and get your hat ….)

I guess I have always appreciated a good hat. I wish that people would dress up like they used to. It seems like there was a time when folks would wear a nice suit and tie and always had a good hat to complete the ensemble. My dad had some pretty cool hats growing up…

My dad and cousin Diane.
My dad and grandpa looking swell! Dig that hat!

When I watch an old movie I always am impressed by the way some of the actors dressed. In the Rat Pack film “Robin and the Seven Hoods,” there is a scene where Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Bing Crosby sang a song called “Style.” Frank and Dean are singing about how Bing needs to dress better.

Anyway, there is a line in the song that says, “A hat’s not a hat till it’s tilted.” As I thought more on this, so many of the great actors wore hats and they always tilted them. I love that look! I always wanted to find a hat that I could wear titled and have it make me look good! The fedora seemed to be the choice of many stars ….

Cary Grant was always looking suave –

Cary Grant

Bogey and Cagney knew how to wear a hat!

James Cagney – Humphrey Bogart

Classic Gangster – Edward G. Robinson was almost always wearing a hat….

Edward G. Robinson

Al Pacino looked great in a fedora …

Al Pacino

Harrison Ford brought the fedora back to the screen as Indian Jones..

Even the great Curly Howard from the Three Stooges looks amazing in a hat!

Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra often recorded songs with their hats on …

Speaking of Dean Martin, the first line of his song “Bummin’ Around” says, “Got an old slouch hat ….” I wasn’t aware what a slouch hat was. I looked it up online and it was a sort of military hat. Google said, A slouch hat is a wide-brimmed felt or cloth hat most commonly worn as part of a military uniform, often, although not always, with a chinstrap. This picture came up.

slouch hat

I thought it was just a floppy hat, like Curly wore in Stooges films.

Curly

…or like Cagney wore ….

Cagney

Come to find out, those hats are called “newsboy hats.” The newsboy cap or newsie cap is a casual-wear cap similar in style to the flat cap. This is the hat that I always wear in the winter. Most people call it my “old man hat.” LOL

My daughter LOVES my hat!!

Wearing Daddy’s hat!

Maybe it is just the nostalgia lover in me, but I wish that I could pull off a nice suit, tie and hat and look as good as so many of the actors from the movies ….

9 Years Old For a Night

In my blog “A Special Visitor,” I wrote about Santa’s visit to my daughter, Ella. Santa is my friend Jan. It had been a while since we caught up, so after pictures, we chatted for a while. We were trying to figure out how long ago we had met. I can answer that with certainty now – it was 12 years ago. I know this because of something that came up in my Facebook Memories.

At one time, Facebook allowed you to write “Notes,” which were much like the blog option that was on My Space at the time. Tonight, back in 2008, I had one amazing night. Here is the contents of that Facebook note (with occasional elaboration from me in italics):

9 Years Old For a Night

(I’m not sure how I was made aware of the Proud Fathers class that was offered by the school district. My sons were 6 and 1 at the time, so I may have read about it at the daycare my son was going to. I remember that the flyer stated that the class was designed “to help strengthen the significant role that fathers and Very Important Males play in the successful development of their children. This program is open to all dads, grandfathers, uncles, and other Very Important Males.There is no handbook to parenting, and I thought this class would be extremely beneficial to me as a father. Jan was one of the many dads who was in the class and we hit it off immediately.)

Many of my friends, who are also My Space friends, know that I have been taking a class through the GISD called “Proud Fathers”. It is by far the best thing I have ever done. I have learned more about myself, my dad, and my kids in 8 weeks than you can possibly imagine. It is a state funded program, so it is free and is a 14 week class.

(It was interesting to look back at my childhood and how my father parented to see how that affected my parenting style. In one of the classes, there was a cartoon in the workbook. It was two guys standing in a driveway looking at two piles of boxes. The caption of the cartoon read, “They’re things my dad gave me. Some things I am going to keep and some things I’m going to throw away.The point of the cartoon was tied to an exercise. We listed the various things our father’s did when they parented. From that list, we kept certain things we liked about his parenting and got rid of the things we didn’t like. It was a fairly eye opening exercise.)

(Within the course, there was a day that was set aside for what they referred to as a “playshop” week. The week before, the fathers all threw around ideas on things we could do with our kids the following week. I remember all of us being excited as we began tossing around ideas. The more ideas came out, the more and more excited we got.)

Last week, we made plans for our “playshop” week, which was tonight. We had the parachute out and were bouncing balls off it, letting the kids run underneath it, and making the “mushroom”. We had a fishing game, where each child threw a line in (behind a big marker board) and someone from behind would attach something to the end, like a book or toy. We had kid bowling. We put our kids on one of those boards with the wheels on the bottom and pushed them into the pins (my idea).

But the best part of the night was the dodgeball game!

You can only imagine, the adults and the kids going at each other. It was a BLAST! The only difference with the way we played was you had to get hit three times before you were out. These kids were killing us dads! It was awesome! For a half hour we were all nine years old, doing our best to catch the balls hurled at us. Well, just like elementary school, I sucked! I was laughing to hard to care. I was amazed at the way these 6 year old kids were beaning me! We finally had to quit when someone hit the blinds in the back of the room and busted a few slats. We probably should have played it in the gym, but we figured a smaller room was safer.

Playing with your child – what a wonderful place the world would be if more parents did this! Dante’ and I bonded – especially when we were on the same team. Dimitri and I bonded when I drove him around on a tricycle made for an adult and child (Jan reminded me of this when he was at the house this weekend!). It was an awesome night. The joy that I experienced is something that I cannot wait to feel again. I may even have to schedule a play date…dodgeball anyone??

(Needless to say, it’s been 12 years since I played dodgeball. I really need to gather up a team to play!!)

When is the last time you played with your kids? If you can’t remember, boy are you missing out.

“Spending time with your children is one thing you will never regret”

Wednesday Worries and Thoughts

Covid-19

Am I the only one that starts to freak out if I get one of the symptoms related to Covid-19?!! Monday, I got one of the symptoms (I will refrain from saying which one, but I visited the bathroom often), and my first thought was “Please don’t let this be Covid!” I called in to work on Tuesday, and around the time we normally punch in, a co-worker texted me with one word: “Covid??” I told her I was freaking out about it, and she told me when she had a cough recently, she was doing the same thing! Needless to say, I didn’t have a fever, I was able to taste and smell coffee, and have recovered.

Recently, a co-worker from another lab, a former co-worker, and a co-worker from one of the radio stations I work at were all diagnosed with Covid. One of them works from home, so how she got it is anybody’s guess. My neighbor (who had asked earlier in the week if he could borrow my lawnmower – but never did) texted this morning to say he just got a positive Covid test. I hope he keeps it down at his house!

Looks like this is gonna be around for a while longer ….

Classes

Over the past few months, I have been reviewing an entire year of Bible classes that I took years ago. I am finally in the finally weeks of the last semester of that year. Once I finish reviewing those, I will enter the first semester of the second year, which is where I left off. I am beyond excited to continue these classes. I have found the time in God’s Word to be exactly what I needed. Reviewing the classes is taking time, and I am glad that I chose to review instead of jumping right back into the classes where I left off. There was so much information that I had forgotten, yet so much information that I remembered.

I’ve also found myself watching live streams of church services on Sundays when the baby naps. I am lucky to have met many pastors through Bible conferences, and other believers through mutual friends on Facebook. Many of their messages have been applicable to my daily life and have been helpful to me. It’s been a while, but I am glad to see some growth in my spiritual life.

9 Months!

Ella turned 9 months old on Tuesday. It’s hard to put into words just how much we adore her. With each new day, it seems she’s doing something new! She’s got 6 teeth, crawling, standing, and will be walking in no time. It’s already a challenge keeping up with her! LOL. If you look at her and pucker up like you are going to kiss her, she will lean in and give you a kiss. It’s my new favorite thing that she does!!

Every year, we head to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth and get a new ornament for the Christmas tree. We got one when we got engaged, we got one when we got married, we got one last year when we were expecting, and this year it was “Baby’s First Christmas.” I think that we’ll be putting up the tree this weekend. I can’t wait to tell her the story of her first visit to the store.

Incidentally, for those of you who don’t live in Michigan, this week was a great example of how we experience more than one season in a short time. We had great weather last week and right up to Tuesday (it was almost 80!). This morning, it was about 45 degrees and windy (which made it feel a whole lot colder). You’ll notice Ella wearing her warm sweats this morning in the picture below!

She was a bit tired as we walked through the store. We knew exactly what we needed, so we were in and out. The place was a zoo! We were thinking, “Who goes to Frankenmuth at 10am on a Wednesday?!” Obviously, a lot of people! Anyway, we had to document her first visit there…

Veteran’s Day

Lastly, I wanted to say thank you to all of my readers who have served in the armed forces! Whenever I am out anywhere and see someone wearing a hat that says “Veteran” or a branch of the military, I always say “Thank you.” I know that the freedoms we love in this country came at a cost. I thank every man and woman who have proudly wore the uniform and served out country. I am especially grateful to my dad (on the left) who served in the army , and my Uncle Tom (on the right) who served in the navy. They both served during the Vietnam War.

Thanks for reading!

“I Hate These Damn Stickers”

My wife reminded me of a funny story this afternoon before work.

A few days ago, she told me that she ordered a playhouse toy for Ella. As she gets older, she is getting bored with just chewing on the toys she has. So we decided to get her something that might keep her a bit more busy.

The above playhouse, can be put together in a square, like pictured above, or spread out. Anyway, it arrived today. When I woke up, the box was in the hallway, and I knew I wanted to put it together before she got home from Nana’s house. So I immediately went to work on it.

The thing that gets me about these toys is the gazillion steps it takes to put it together! There is always that 300 page instruction booklet with the bad pictures that are supposed to help you piece this thing together. Maybe it is just me, but I always find it extremely difficult to figure out which way a piece is supposed to face when I look at these pictures!

At any rate, I was practically done with it when Ella came home with Sam (who got her haircut today and looks as beautiful as ever). It was nice to actually be able to see her explore her playhouse before I left for work.

The one thing I didn’t do, was put the various stickers on it. Sam said that she would do it later tonight. When I talked with her after she got the baby down for bedtime, she said her OCD kicked in and it took her longer than she thought to put the stickers on. Hell, I’m glad she did it, because I literally have no patience for that!!

That is exactly what reminded me of a Christmas from my childhood. I think I was 10 or 11 and I had asked for the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars movies. I remember seeing the commercials for it and it was my “big” Christmas gift item. It was at the top of my list and mom and dad didn’t disappoint.

I remember being so impatient as I watched my dad put this huge thing together. By the time he had gotten it all together, he pulled out this big sheet of stickers (there may have even been more than one sheet). There were little stickers that went practically everywhere on the inside and outside of the ship.

Some of these stickers were so small and went into places that my dad’s hands barely fit! The combination of him struggling to get the stickers on right and me asking him “is it done, yet?” was probably enough to drive him crazy. At one point I just remember him yelling out, “I hate these damn stickers! You’d think for the money you pay for something like this, they’d find some idiot to put them on for you!”

THANKS to my brother, Christopher, for sending me this picture of dad putting it together!

Dad all duded up to assemble Christmas presents!

He was so frustrated, and there were plenty of stickers that were a little crooked. I knew better than to say anything to him, though! I learned to appreciate his patience when I had to start putting stickers on Lego sets for my sons when they were growing up!

I have a feeling that I will be building plenty of toys in the years ahead, and yes, struggling to get tiny stickers into small places. I will love every minute of it, though, because the look of joy on your child’s face when they see the finished product is one of the best things a dad can ever experience.

Fall Photo Shoot 2020

Maybe I need to add this shirt to my wardrobe …

Blog # 300!!

Another Milestone

Well, here it is – my 300th blog post. To be completely honest, I have a few more than 300, but some were kept private. So this is my 300th “published” blog. Over the past few blogs, I knew this milestone blog was coming, and wondered just how a blogger celebrates this kind of achievement. I found that most look back and reflect on stats.

I don’t know about doing that. Does it matter that the most popular day my blog is viewed is Thursday? Are you impressed that in the first 299 blogs I have written 64,488 words? Does it thrill you to know that each blog averages about 921 words? I highly doubt that means anything to you.

A Short Reflection

300 blogs. It is amazing to actually look back and see the wide variety of content that I covered since beginning this blog:

  • The blog is full of many posts about music – some about specific tunes (Tune Tuesday) and some filled with many songs.
  • There have been many blogs about television – whether it be actual shows or just theme songs.
  • I have also written many blogs about movies – some as part of blogathons hosted by other bloggers and some of my personal favorites.
  • There have been blogs about holidays from throughout the year – some contain specific memories and some are just general thoughts.
  • I have written special blogs to family and friends – my mom, my dad, my grandparents, my godfather, my kids, my wife, and my lifelong friends.
  • There have been no shortage of radio stories about listeners and coworkers.
  • Some blogs were just full of random thoughts and observations.
  • There were blogs about celebrities – some funny, some musical, some just for the hell of it.
  • I shared the love story of my wife and me.
  • I shared with family and friends the news on our miracle baby and blogged about the days that led up to her arrival.
  • Of course, after she was born, there have been many wonderful stories and things to share about her as she continues to grow up.
  • I was honored to have my brother write a guest blog for me (and hope to have more in the future).
  • I opened up about many personal things – my divorce, thoughts on suicide, the changes in my personal life, reflections on life and death, my faith, and so many other topics I kept to myself.
  • There have been some “Question and Answer” blogs that contained things asked of me by friends and family.

Looking back, I am impressed with myself. Who knew I had it in me?

New Connections

If you have a Facebook, you know that they will occasionally give you friend suggestions. They will offer up “People You May Know.” Many of those suggestions stem from mutual friends. There are people that pop up and I have 65 mutual friends with them because we went to the same high school together, or we both have the same radio friends, etc…

With this blog, we don’t have that feature. However, through searching things for things like movies, TV, music, and such, I have found many bloggers that share my interests. I follow quite a few blogs and continue to add more to my “read” list. Some of those bloggers offer up personal stuff like I do on occasion. Some respond with personal stories to my personal blogs. Through that, I feel like I know many of them.

Max is a good example of this. He has blogged about things I remember and vice versa. We also share many of the same musical tastes. He actually helped me set up the index on the side of the blog. Since doing that, more of my older blogs are being read than before. We swapped e-mails and eventually phone numbers. When I called him to talk about the index and creating some pages, it was like talking to someone I had known for years. How cool is that?

Lessons Learned

After 300 blogs, I think it is important to note some of the things I have learned since the beginning. If you are a new blogger, maybe some of my observations can be useful to you.

Even with spellcheck, I make mistakes. I found going back through some older blogs that there are some typos. Some are spelling mistakes, some are grammatical. My one radio buddy, who also works for a newspaper, told me I need an editor. He then proceeded to tell me I couldn’t afford him! I need to be better at proofreading.

There really is no way to know which blogs will be popular. I have written blogs that I think will get a great response, only to see that is not the case. At the same time, I have written blogs that I feel are just “ok” topics, and had a ton of hits on it. You never really know. It hurts your ego a bit when a blog you think is great is barely read, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

Keywords matter. I try to include as many “tags” as I can with each blog. I have found that this will ultimately lead to more followers and readers. My most read blog? It is about a scammer. I got an e-mail saying that someone noticed I spelled a word wrong and said I should download some app. With research, I found the app is actually something you want to avoid. The keyword “Scam” or “Scammer” has lead to many reading that blog and some even commenting saying that they got the same type of e-mail.

The personal blogs I wrote about suicide, divorce, staying positive, dealing with a narcissist, and depression led to many new people following this blog. Some went as far as to reach out and share their own stories about those things. You know, sometimes, it helps to know you aren’t the only one dealing with those issues.

Each blog represents a moment in time. It represents what I felt at a certain moment in time. Early on in my therapy, I was angered easily. I didn’t realize how certain things by certain people triggered it. I was not a pleasant person. Over time, I have learned to not let those things trigger anger. I have learned coping skills. I am a different person than who I was.

Think about your favorite TV show. Did you like it immediately? The first time I watched Seinfeld or Cheers, I was not impressed. Over time, I came to enjoy the shows more. At one moment in time, you may feel one way, and over time you can feel another way.

Many of my blogs are memories that I want to preserve for the future. Other blogs are about things I have observed. At the time, I felt a certain way about things – over time, my thoughts or feelings might change. It helps to keep that in perspective.

Write about what you are passionate about! Chances are if you are passionate about it, a reader will find it interesting. This same principle was suggested to me when I worked in radio. Share things that “make you feel!” Some readers love my musical blogs while some prefer my more personal ones. I am passionate about everything I write, however, not all things will appeal to everyone. Anyone who comes to this blog will see my love for all things entertainment, but also see my love for my family and my children!

Another principle from radio that translated to writing a blog is to simply “observe life.” Look around and take notice. A successful stand up comedian is one who observes little things, talks about it, and the audience says “Oh yeah! I have noticed that too!” George Carlin was a master observer! Take those things that you observe and relay them. You know the whole “which way should the toilet paper roll go on” thing was simply something that someone wondered about, right!?

I always loved the above Far Side Cartoon. It points out another lesson I have learned. Be yourself. You don’t have to agree with everything I write. That’s ok. You have a right to disagree with me. However, when I write, I’m going to be myself.

While it can sometimes feel like work, I find blogging to be fun. I enjoy writing. I also enjoy hearing from readers who comment on my blog. That’s as much fun as writing them.

There are some blogs that I just sit and write. Others (most of them), it takes time to plan out. Either way, I try to give myself time to think it through and get the flow. It takes time and sometimes, you have to MAKE time to write.

So there you have it ….

Blog #300. As a follower, I need to say thank you. I am truly glad that you are here. I always welcome your suggestions. How can I make this blog more enjoyable for you? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Please feel free to let me know. What do you like? What don’t you like? Feel free to suggest other blogs I might be interested in. Feel free to share this one with others.

Thank you so much for reading. Here is to the next 300 ….