Bells Are Ringing and Clowns Are … Laughing?

My grandma was no Clark Griswold in the outdoor Christmas Decorations Department.  Inside, though, she used to really go all out.  Well, at least she did before she moved to her condo.

She had a large mantle along the fireplace that she decorated every year.  She had Christmas trees, reindeer, a Santa sleigh, angels, and more.  On both sides of the fireplace, there were cement “pads” (really the only way I can think to describe them).  She usually placed a small Christmas tree on each side and surrounded them with more trinkets.  I know I had pictures of just the mantle somewhere, but can’t seem to find it. However, you get the basic idea from this cheesy photo of my brother and me.

One of the trinkets was a plastic mouse that had hair on the head.  The hair made it look like one of those toy trolls.  It never made sense to me as to why she always had that in there.  I asked her one year and she explained that she had been sick or in the hospital one time and my folks sent her some flowers or a plant or something … from me.  The mouse was part of the bouquet and she kept it.  Sadly, it is one of the things that have disappeared and no one knows where it went.

As years went by, many of the same decorations were there. Note the Mrs. Santa Clause to the right of the Millennium Falcon box below. It always seemed to be out. This particular year, there was a set of shelves next to the TV. On top of it was her manger scene (behind my brother on the left). The silver star lit up above the baby Jesus. This may have been the manger set my mom made in ceramics, I can’t be sure.

For as long as grandma was in her house on Huntington, every Christmas she would hang these melted plastic decorations up on the wall. These were very popular in the 1970’s I guess.  She had Santa in a sleigh being pulled by 9 reindeer….all Rudolph because that was all they made.

Those plastic decorations were something we had at our house, too.  I remember the snowman, the Christmas tree, waving Santa, and the wreath.  I did a search online and found that there were quite a bit of them. There were even some made for Thanksgiving and Easter.

In her front room, there was usually her big tree (eventually it was the ceramic one my mom made for her) right in the center of the front window and some garland around pictures.  There might have been a wreath on the door, too.  We didn’t go in this room much.  It was the “fancy” room.  Most of the breakable stuff was in there. Here are my grandparents in there around 1967-1968.

Bells and Clowns

I’m not sure what made me remember this particular decoration, but it was one of two very annoying things that grandma brought out every year. It was a simple, clear, red plastic bell that played music. It didn’t look anything like the bell in the video below.

I tried to search for it online and I found something similar to the one grandma had, but it isn’t THE one. Grandma’s was just a bell with a Christmas light inside of it that lit up in synch with the electronic music that was playing. I found this clip on YouTube which is almost the exact same music.

The missing holiday favorite from the clip is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Grandma’s bell played it and when it did the Christmas light inside blinked like it was a strobe light. It always made my grandma laugh. It made us laugh, too, the first couple times we heard it. After that it got annoying. She would turn it on and you’d have to listen to the first 7 or 8 carols before Rudolph played. When it did, she’d crack up. It was obnoxiously annoying.

The second annoying “decoration” she had was this scary looking clown doll. Now, what this clown had to do with Christmas I will never know. It wasn’t even dressed in Christmas colors.

This ugly thing would sit somewhere near the fire place among the rest of the decorations. Throughout each of our visits, grandma would walk over, pick it up and press the belly. Inside the clown was a “laugh box.” It would laugh for 20-30 seconds and it would crack my grandma up.

You can see the pure joy on her face in the above picture. To a degree, the laugh kind of reminded me of how my grandpa laughed, so maybe that is why she loved it so much. Every video I found on YouTube of the clown laughing, it sounds speeded up. I did, however find a video of just the laugh box and it plays at the speed my grandma’s clown laughed.

Imagine hearing that 4-5 times during an hour visit! I was always glad when that clown finally got put away!

As annoying as they were, I’d give anything to be able to go back to the days of that clown and that bell! So many Christmas memories involved my grandparents. Whether it was my mom’s folks …

… or my dad’s folks ….

I’d put up with those annoying sounds for however long I had to – just to have a few more minutes with them again!

Giving Thanks (Updated)

When I worked on the radio, we would often “recycle” bits. We would take something we had done in the past and “re-run” it, often updating it to be current. This blog is actually a recycling of an earlier Thanksgiving blog from three years ago, updated for 2022. I have gained many new followers over the past few years, all of this will be new to them. For those who have been with me from the beginning, I hope you don’t think I am being lazy. By recycling this, I am reminded of just how blessed I am!

Updated 2022

The blatant truth is that we should be thankful for everything in our lives. One of my favorite Bible verses is I Thessalonians 5: 18 which reads “In everything give thanks”. That means good things and bad things – and that’s sometimes hard to do! Believe me, I know from experience! Well, here goes…my list, in no particular order:

Things I am thankful for

My parents. Let’s face it, without them, I wouldn’t be here. I was blessed with a mother and father who raised me right. They supported decisions (good and bad) and were always there for me. Even though my mom is no longer here, her presence is ever-present. Dad is always around to talk music, old movies, and more. As with most holidays, he will be the first call I receive this morning. Laughing with him is always something I am thankful for. The kids always look forward to their Sunday morning video chat with Papa, too!

My wife. Without her, I wouldn’t be here either. She saved me and I am forever grateful. She came into my life at a very turbulent time – first as a friend, and then as someone much more than that. She made me smile and laugh during a time where there was little or no happiness. She cried with me and was a great support through very dark days. Thanks to her, I have found an unconditional love. I cannot imagine life without her, nor would I want to. She accepts me with all my faults and quirks. She makes me feel special. She makes me fall in love with her more each day. She completes me and I am thankful to have her in my life each and every second of the day.

We’ve experienced many changes over the last couple years. With the addition of our two kids, life is a bit more stressful and we’re a bit more tired. The “us” time has been lacking a lot. I need to make it a point to make more “us” time. I need to make sure that I don’t let all of the stresses in life make me forget how important she is to me. I need to step up – listen, love, and support her in ways that she truly needs.

My daughter, Ella. When I originally wrote this blog, she wasn’t even born yet. What a joy Ella is to have around. Her personality shines through now. It has been fun to watch her blossom into a toddler. She is so smart. Her imagination flourishes. I love sitting on the family room floor and “playing princesses” with her. I love watching Bubble Guppies with her. I could listen to her sing the songs from Frozen all day. She will forever have me wrapped around her finger! I’m so thankful for my princess.

My son, Andrew. He is the busiest baby I have ever had! Wow, do I wish I had his energy! Talk about a one track mind! He is forever grabbing for cell phones, TV remotes, and whatever toy Ella has. He was walking early and he hasn’t stopped. Now he is climbing all over the place. It is funny to see the relationship that he has with Ella. They truly love each other, but at the same time, they love to aggravate each other, too. It is rare to see him without a smile on his face. He’s a handful, but I wouldn’t change him for the world!

My sons, Dante’ and Dimitri. They could not be more different from each other. They both have their own talents. They remind me so much of my brother and I when we were growing up! They are creative. They are silly. They are loving. They are smart. They make me laugh and drive me crazy! I miss them when they are not with me and I love when we are together. I love to think back and remember the things they did as babies and I love to think about what they will do in the future. They make me proud of all their accomplishments. It is crazy to see how much they have grown. Dante’ is working hard and going to college, and Dimitri is in high school. I’m thankful for both of them.

My brother. Just like my sons, we couldn’t be more different. Growing up, we tormented each other! He has listened to me complain about life. He has offered advice on more than one occasion. He, in my opinion, is the more successful of the two of us! He has written – and published – books! He has made his way up the ladder at his job and is now a “big wig”. I am envious of him. Over the years, we’ve grown closer and are working separately (and together) on a project that will honor our mother. This project will only bring us closer – which I look forward to very much. Some of the stuff I have written for the project has been posted on this blog. There is still work to do, and it is slowly coming together. We really need to get together and see where we are at with things.

He has been an absolutely amazing Uncle to the kids. Ella just might have him wrapped around her finger, too. There always seems to be some package arriving for her or Andrew with Disney loot in it! Despite the miles, they kids love being able to video chat with him when they can.

My job. It’s really an amazing thing to help people. So many patients come in to our lab who are struggling with poor sleep, insomnia, apnea, narcolepsy, and other sleep disorders. To be able to offer advice, help them get therapy, and in some cases, save their life, it is pretty satisfying. I am lucky to have some pretty cool co-worker friends, too.

My education. For years, my mother begged me to go to college. She had sadly passed away before I finally enrolled in classes. I am grateful to have had some of the finest instructors and professors to guide me and teach me in my journey. Not only did I gain a degree, but I made many new friendships with classmates and teachers. I still hope to one day further my education.

My friends. Napoleon Hill said, “That man is rich indeed who had more friends than enemies…” I am truly a rich man! I am lucky enough to have made many friends throughout my life. Many of them I have known for over 40 years! So many good times! So many good memories! I am thankful for each of them!

My enemies. Yes, my enemies. First of all, they make me more appreciative and thankful for my friends! Second, they actually help me, too. How? Here is a great quote (I wish I knew who said it) “Your enemies evolve you at the core. They force you to defend and endure more than you thought possible.” Yes, my enemies may be full of hatred toward me. They may spread rumors about me. They may discredit me and bash me, but I am stronger because of their ignorance and loathing. Over the last few years, I have gained lots of strength!

My faith. It may not be important to you, but it is to me. I am thankful for God, His Word, His Son, and all that He has done for me. I am thankful for His unconditional love for me. No matter how many times I mess up, He is still there for me – loving me. That just amazes me.

Modern Medicine. We are blessed to live in a time where medical advances are curing diseases and saving lives! While there is a long way to go, and there are still many diseases that need a cure – we continue to make progress. I am thankful for the great minds who strive to find the answers, treatments, and cures. I hope to see cures for things like cancer in my lifetime.

Coffee. I was 12 when my grandpa introduced coffee to me (it was probably more cream and sugar than coffee, but I liked it.) Coffee has helped me through many overnight shifts on the radio, many 12 hour shifts in the sleep lab, and is just perfect to drink on a chilly autumn morning. I am also thankful for some of the wonderful flavors.

My country. I am thankful to live in the United States of America. I am thankful that we live in a country that allows us many freedoms. While I have not visited every state in the union, I can tell you that on a recent road trip, I was in awe of the beauty that I witnessed while driving. I am thankful and proud to be an American!

Cameras/Photographs/Videos. How many precious moments and memories have been captured by cameras? Without cameras how many things would be forgotten? Think about all of the historical pictures that have meant so much over the years. Now think about how looking at old family photos can immediately place you back in that exact moment with loved ones! Think about how awesome it is to watch an old home movie and hear the voices of loved ones who are no longer here. I am SO thankful for the memories that have been preserved for me on film.

I sometimes look like the crazy dad. I seem to always be taking pictures of the kids, but I do that because I want to remember these times. I don’t ever want them not to have pictures of themselves or their relatives.

Dreams and the ability to dream. I am thankful that every now and then, I will have a dream where I am once again talking with my mom or my grandparents. In the original blog, I mentioned that in my Facebook Memories for that day I mentioned a dream I had where I was hanging out with Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin – only in dreams!! The morning of the baby shower, I dreamed about my mom. Dreams are really interesting things!

My Past. Sometimes looking back at the past can be painful. Hindsight is 20/20, right? It’s always easy to look back and see the mistakes you have made and kick yourself for making them. I look at it another way – I am who I am today because of my past. The things that have happened to me along the way – both good and bad – are a part of who I am and have played a role in who I am today. Yes, I can look back and see people or events that disgust me, but without them – I’d be a very different person.

Air Conditioning/Heat. As someone who loves to go to museums and such, I always wondered how people got along without AC in the summertime or heat in the winter! I can’t imagine having to wake up in the middle of the night to add more wood to the fire or wood stove. I also can’t imagine working 8 hours a day in a place without AC! I am very thankful for those two modern-day conveniences!

Sunrises and Sunsets. One of my guilty pleasures is sitting and watching the sun come up or go down. When I lived on the west side of the state (Michigan), I was lucky enough to live right off the water. I would often go to the beach and just watch the sun set over the lake. It was majestic and beautiful! I am so thankful for these two simple things. Today, with my schedule, I tend to see more sunrises than sunsets.

Laughter/Humor. I love to laugh and I love the sound of laughter! I also love to make people laugh. I am so thankful for things that are funny and things that make me laugh. Charlie Chaplin said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” Milton Berle said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.” Another great quote is “Life is short. Spend it with people who make you laugh and feel loved.”

Music. I am thankful for music in SO many ways. Music, is one of those things that can evoke all kinds of emotions. A song, just like an old photograph, can take you back in time. In radio, we used to play what we called “Oh Wow” songs. Those songs that make you say, “Oh wow! I haven’t heard that in forever!” or “Oh wow! That reminds me of my senior prom!” Music is one of life’s great things! It can convey things with or without words. One of my favorite quotes, which is attributed to Hans Christian Anderson, is “Where words fail – music speaks.” SO True! I am thankful for some of the many music blogs I follow. They often remind me of some of those “Oh wow” songs!

The Kindness of Strangers. I have benefited from the kindness of strangers more times than I can count. We saw a brief surge of random acts of kindness when the movie “Pay It Forward” came out, and it is a shame that those acts have fizzled out. The world would be a better place if we took a moment and thought of others. There have been plenty of times where someone in front of me has bought my coffee at the drive-thru window, and I have returned the favor. I remember one time seeing an elderly gentleman eating alone in a restaurant. He never knew who I was, but I saw his World War II Veteran hat. I bought his meal and told the waitress to tell him that I thank him for his service. Random acts of kindness are not just something we can accept – they are something we can do.

Those who have served in the Armed Forces. We live in a free country because of the men and women who have served in the various branches of the military. I am thankful to each and every one of them. I know that our freedom came with a price and so many men and women paid the ultimate price for me – and you. Those that have served, no matter what branch and no matter if you were in battle or not, you are a hero! I am thankful for you and your service! I have friends and family who all served, and I am thankful for these heroes!

The Changing Seasons. Here in Michigan, I get to see them all! Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. The first snowfall is beautiful. Ice storms can be hell! Springtime showers and the grass turning green is a reminder of things becoming new again. Summertime is never long enough, but getting the chance to swim at the pool, golfing, and the smell of fresh-cut grass can always make me smile. Fall is my favorite season! This year we got hit with some early snow, so the joke is that Fall was the best “three days of the year”! The crisp cool air of autumn is perfect for bonfires. I’m sad to admit that we didn’t get to have any bonfires this year. The leaves changing colors makes for some spectacular rides on the highway. At any rate, I am thankful to get to experience each one of the seasons.

Spell Checker. Without this, I really don’t know what I would do! I remember all those spelling tests from school! The problem is, as I get older, I seem to have forgotten how to spell. Spell Check is one of those great features that got me through many a research paper in college. It can also be very helpful here in my blog. Of course, sometimes, you can misspell a word that is the correct spelling of another word, so it isn’t foolproof. I’m thankful for it anyway!

The often overlooked necessities. I could easily make these each an item on this list. I guess these are often things that are taken for granted. For example, my home. I am thankful to have a roof over my head to protect me from the elements. I am thankful for the clothes that I wear. I am thankful for fresh water and hot showers. Those two go together and, while it is often taken for granted, there are those who do not enjoy those simple things. I am thankful for electricity. While there are times I think it is cool to sit and read a book by candlelight because of a power outage, I’d rather have the light – and everything else that uses it. I am thankful for a good meal. Sometimes that meal may consist of a simple bowl of cereal, but the fact that I have food to eat is something that some people don’t have.

Bad Days. As much as we’d rather not have them, it is important to remember that when we have them, they remind us of just how awesome the good days are! I am thankful for bad days, but even more thankful for the good ones! I am also thankful that in the big picture – I have had more good ones than bad ones.

The Internet. It’s funny how we lived so long without it, yet we can’t really live without it today! I mean, without it, you wouldn’t be reading this! I am thankful for it and the good things associated with it. I am thankful to be able to connect with family and friends across the miles with social media. I am thankful that at any moment, I can open up Google and find an answer to a silly question. I am thankful that my kids and I can use it instead of encyclopedias to do research. So many things are at our fingertips because of the internet.

A good book/movie/TV show. I really enjoy being able to get lost in a good story. I love to read, but sadly don’t really get the time to do it as often as I’d like to. Same with a good movie. With movies, there are very few new movies that appeal to me. As most of you know, I prefer older films (you know, the ones that are so good some jerk in Hollywood decides to remake it and ruin it). I don’t need to see 20 minute sex scenes, car chases that are impossible to believe, blood and gore, or violence. I want a good story – and a good story is something that Hollywood has seemed to run out of. When it comes to TV, I rarely watch new shows. Most of them are “reality” based anyway and just garbage. I guess that’s why I am thankful for TV shows on DVD. Ok, last year, I kinda dissed on reality TV, and I should clarify that I mean talent shows, dance shows, and shows with singers in masks. To me, these are just a waste of my time.

My cat. There is no doubt that she is truly my cat. I know she doesn’t bug Sam like she does me. She takes every opportunity to come up by me when I am on the couch, a chair, or in bed. If they kids go to bed and I play my golf game, she is right next to me. She loves for me to pet her. As annoying as she can be, I really love her.

The five senses. I can’t imagine going through life not being able to see my children or my wife or some of the wonderful things I have already described. I can’t imagine not being able to smell fresh coffee brewing or my spaghetti sauce on the stove. I can’t imagine not hearing the sound of my children laughing. I can’t imagine not being able to taste a juicy steak. I can’t imagine not being able to feel a hug from my wife. I am SO thankful to have the ability to have all five senses!

Forgiveness. I am thankful for forgiveness. Sadly, it is one of those things that is rare today. It is, however, one of the great things taught in the Bible and throughout history. It is also one of the hardest things to do. I have trouble with it too on occasion. I am thankful that there are friends and family who have forgiven me for past transgressions.

Acceptance. I am thankful for those people in my life who accept me for who I am. They don’t try to change me. There may be things about me that they don’t like or agree with, but they love and accept me as I am. I try to do the same for others.

Encouragement. I would not be where am I today without the encouragement and support of others. It may have been the smallest gesture or a simple sentence in conversation, but the encouragement of others helped me to get through some tough stuff and I am thankful for that.

Change. This is hard for me to be thankful for, but I am. I have to be honest, I hate change! I am a creature of habit. When I lost 85 pounds, I did it primarily by eating the same meals every day. I do not like change, but I know it is important. There were many times over the last couple years that I had to step out of my comfort zone and accept it. I am thankful I did. Change is good – most of the time.

My Therapist. She, like many others, helped me to cope as life offered many challenges. She helped me sort out some feelings. She helped me to see things that I was completely unaware of. She helped me deal with the things involved in my divorce. She also is responsible for my blogs. I used to blog all the time, but was basically told that “no one wants to read that stuff”. I stopped writing. My therapist is the one who suggested keeping a journal. When I told her I used to blog, she asked why I stopped. When I told her why, she suggested starting back up. I told her I didn’t know what to write about. She basically said, “Write about whatever you want! It doesn’t matter if you are writing for others or writing for yourself. If you like to write – WRITE!” From the length of this blog – you can see that I like to write.

Facebook memories. This is a two-edged sword. It is a daily reminder or good things from the past, as well as times with people no longer in my life. I am thankful for it just the same. Many times it is a simple one liner I posted as a status, while other times it is my thoughts about my boys school events. Some pictures bring back good memories, while others bring back sad memories. I smile at the good ones and try to forget the bad ones, but again remind myself that I am who I am today because of the past.

I once believed that it was ok to let some of those memories pop up every year. However, now, I have found it is better to delete some of the past photos with people from the past. If my kids are in those photos, I leave them, but I have deleted quite a few pictures and posts that mention certain people. Why should I let that crap remind me of when I was miserable.

Pumpkin Pie with Cool Whip. Ok, so I finally had dessert while I was writing this. I love a good piece of pumpkin pie topped with Cool Whip.

YOU. Yep. I am thankful for YOU. You are reading this and I appreciate it. I am thankful for my followers and for those who read my stuff. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for following this blog.

What are YOU thankful for??

Throwback Thursday – Favorite Things

Today, Maggie from “From Cave Walls” is hosting Throwback Thursday. You can read her blog here:

https://fromcavewalls.wordpress.com/2022/09/01/throwback-thursday-54-raindrops-on-roses/

She wants to know about our favorite things while adolescents.  She says: Pick any period of your adolescence and think back to all your favorite things. Feel free to elaborate as much as you want.

This week’s prompt is: Favorite Things

Pick any period of your adolescence and think back to all your favorite things. Feel free to elaborate as much as you want.

I am going to go with a time when I was in elementary school.

Who was your favorite relative? Not to play favorites, but who was the person you connected with more than others? Aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent, or parent? Why were you closest to them?

I hate the thought of picking a favorite relative. I would say that I probably connected most with my dad’s dad. When my mom’s dad passed away, it was the first time I had ever lost someone to death. I realized that he wouldn’t be around forever, so I began recording his voice so I’d remember what he sounded like. The loss of one grandparent caused me to be closer with all my other grandparents.

What was your favorite TV show? Share a clip if you can find one.

I remember being in front of the TV to watch the Dukes of Hazzard.

What was your favorite book or favorite family story?

In fourth grade, I remember liking Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. The little brother, Fudges reminded me of my brother.

What was your favorite, song, record, or album. Feel free to share a YouTube video of it.

I never listened to what my friends listened to. Very rarely was I listening to new music. I was always listening to oldies or stuff my dad was playing for me. I listened to a lot of Beatles music.

Who was your favorite teacher at that age? What grade were you in and what subject did they teach?

Mrs. Gallop was my fourth grade teacher. She taught all the subjects that year. She was a lot of fun.

What was your favorite subject (not teacher) in school?

In elementary school? It was probably reading. I loved to read.

Who was your favorite (aka best) friend? What things did you do together?

Jeff. He still is my best friend. We spent a lot of time causing trouble. We made a lot of silly recordings on cassette, played video games, played with Star Wars figures, walked around the neighborhood, ate at Wendy’s, etc. It seemed like we were always together.

What was your favorite way to pass the time?

Reading or listening to music

What was your favorite holiday? How did you celebrate?

Christmas. We’d spend Christmas Eve at my dad’s folks and Christmas Day with my mom’s family.

What was your favorite toy or possession? Doll, camera, radio, bicycle?

I had a silver metal cap gun. It looked like a real cowboy gun. I used it when we played cops and robbers.

Bonus: What was your favorite adventure? Family trip, amusement park, field trip, or vacation perhaps.

I loved going to Caseville with our family, but our trips to Mackinaw and Kings Island stand out too.

Friday Photo Flashback

It is time for another installment of my Friday Photo Flashback. This week – a picture I didn’t even know I had.

It certainly is not a great picture of me, but it does bring back memories. The background seems dark and things behind us are hard to make out, but the people in it stir up good memories.

From left to right front row: me, Karen, and Joe. Back row: Margaret and Steve

The photo was taken at my high school graduation party. I only know this because of the clothes we are wearing (thanks to other photos from the party). It is a snapshot of an ending and new beginning for us – the end of school and the start of “real life.”

1988. The people in the photo were my best friends. Jeff would also be included in that group, and there is another photo of all of us together somewhere. The only thing that would make this a perfect snapshot of my life at that time would be Jeff in it.

I spent so much time with all of these people in high school. We always seemed to be together. it wasn’t always all of us, but you could almost be that I’d be with at least one of them!

Steve and I were practically inseparable. We spent hours in the car driving and listening to tapes I had made to “cruise” with. I’ve always said we were like Jackie Gleason and Art Carney – Ralph and Norton. I think we drove each other nuts at times, but we truly were great friends … And still are. The day was bittersweet for us because I believe the day after this photo was taken, Steve left for basic training.

Joe and I hung out almost as much, but he was always the better student and actually did his homework. A lot of the time he’d be doing that so it was just Steve and I out causing trouble. There were many times, however, that we’d all hope in the car and drive around wasting gas. I think of the three of us as the Three Amigos, or maybe the Three Stooges is more accurate. We all played cards (Pinochle) together for hours on end. Now we try to find time between our work schedules to schedule a golf outing together…

Margaret and I were as close as Steve and me. I love that she has her arm around me in this picture. We never dated – even though our folks wanted us to – but it was almost like we did. We loved each other, but never in a romantic kind of way We went to movies, dances, and dinner together and our friendship continues to this day. She is Aunt Margaret to my kids and they love her just as much as I do.

Margaret and I used to talk for hours on the phone when were in school. We still do. Both of us have long drives to work and we often chat while driving. We still vent, laugh and cry with each other. Ours truly is an amazing friendship.

Karen and I had probably just started dating when this picture was taken. She was the same age as my brother and a Freshman when I was a Senior. For some reason, she stood next to me in parade formation in marching band. It was weird because I played trumpet and she was a flute player. Not sure why we were next to each other, but it led to our relationship.

I always tried to make her laugh when we were in marching band. I usually did. As prom approached, I kind of jokingly asked if she’d want to go. She surprised me and said yes. I remember Joe and I got a limo and I think we both had top hats. I think both Karen and Joe’s date wore blue dresses. All my prom pictures are gone now, so it is hard to remember. I do have vivid memories of that night, but that is really all.

We dated for about 5 years total with a short break in there somewhere. Karen was my first love. She wasn’t my first girlfriend, but my first serious one. We had a lot of wonderful memories. She’s married now and a wonderful mother. She works hard in the medical field and I still hear from her sisters and also am friends with some of her family on Facebook. I recently DJ’d her sister’s wedding and saw her briefly. I was glad to get to say hello.

I have some wonderful memories of that graduation party. My dad gathered up members of the wedding band he had played with and they all set up and played music at the party. My Uncle Tom played drums on some songs and did some singing of old blues tunes. My cousins also joined in and played drums and guitar. It was so cool. Steve, Joe, Jeff and I all got up and sang Weird Al’s parody of La Bamba (Lasagna) like a bunch of fools.

Of course, I think of the many folks who were there, who are no longer here. My mom, my grandparents, my great grandma, my great Aunt, Steve’s dad, Joe’s mom, and so many others. Thankfully they live on in photos and memories.

It seems to me as I look at this picture that we are posing for someone else’s photo. I wonder who might have been taking it. I would certainly love to see that one. Maybe I’m wrong, though. We all don’t seem to be looking the same way. Perhaps this is just an excellent candid picture. It’s a nice candid picture where I still have hair, big glasses, and am surrounded by some of the best people I’ve ever or will ever know.

Friday Photo Flashback

I have come to really enjoy this little feature. It began as a simple writing prompt that suggested going through some old photos and picking one that brought make a lot of memories or feelings. It has been fun to go back through some of the old photos from our family albums.

Today, we have a look back at “toddler” Keith …

If I had to date this picture, I’d say it is 1971 or 1972. I have to be 1 or 2 in it.

I have no idea if this is Christmas or my birthday, but I would guess Christmas. I don’t really remember much about this piano, except for these few pictures. Did it come home with us or did it stay at my grandparents? I just don’t know.

The first thing that jumps out at me in this picture is the VERY wide collar on the vest I am wearing. At least I think that is a vest. It certainly looks as though there is a long sleeve shirt under it, but it very well could be that the sleeves are attached to it.

This is one of my favorite pictures of me as a kid. As I look at it, I am still amazed at just how much hair I had as a kid! It’s a wonder that I ever grew into those big ears, too! The caterpillar eyebrows have been a thing with me since I was little, obviously.

The other thing that stands out is the smiles on the faces of (from left to right) my grandma, my grandpa, and my mom. I am sure that I am probably not playing Beethoven, or even Chopsticks for that matter! I am probably just pounding out some nonsensical and nonmusical noise, but here they are looking at me and smiling!

It looks like my grandma is holding the piano bench I should be sitting on, but as a toddler, I probably wouldn’t have sat there for long. It was probably easier for me to just stand and bang on the keys. Her beehive hairdo is not quite a beehive in this photo and the lenses of her glasses are much smaller than I was used to seeing as she got older.

My grandpa is holding something that I can’t quite make out. It almost looks like a cigar, but as far as I know, he never smoked them. Of course, it would be an ashtray he is holding. That wouldn’t be a stretch. In the picture, you can really see how crooked his nose was. You can see how it is bent to the right. (He broke it when it was hit by a crank that you used to start cars with.)

My mom’s hair looks more “beehive-ish” than my grandma’s. I love that smile on her face. I saw that smile many times in my life when she was beaming with pride over something I did. While a little blurry, I think it is safe to say that she is wearing some horn-rimmed glasses in the picture. My brother and I always made fun of her when we found pictures of her in those glasses. Glasses or not, she still looks beautiful in this picture.

That lamp in the background was one that grandma had for YEARS! I think she even brought it to her condo after grandpa passed away. The shade had hung upon the lamp for years and collected a deep yellow cigarette stain from the smoke exposure. On the table is a picture of me as a baby in yellow PJs. I’d have to find the original, but I think I am holding a baseball in it.

On the wall above my mother are two pieces of art that I do not recall at all. I always remember there being a big picture on that wall. I can’t even tell what those things are? The middle one looks like it’s a fox or something. This is where I wish I could enhance it more.

I remembered another picture taken that same day. I found it and here it is.

This piano may or many not have had a big impact on me as far as my love for music. I did take some lessons on the Hammond Organ when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old, but I really never learned how to play piano. For whatever it is worth, in the above picture, I seem to be faking it pretty good. I actually look like I know what I am doing!

Speaking to A Stone

This blog will start deep – but I promise a funny story at the end…

I recently read a blog from a friend in Scotland. She is currently visiting with her dad and they took a trip to the local cemetery to visit her mom/his wife, who is buried there. She spoke of how her dad spoke to the various graves in the cemetery. They were all people he knew. She said that each headstone represent someone from his past.

I have visited my share of cemeteries and I really hadn’t thought about it before, but I am also one of those people who speaks to stone. I’m not sure why.

It is my belief, based on Scripture, that those who die as believers in Christ go to heaven when they die. In 2 Corinthians 5 the Bible says to be “absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord.” Now that being said, why am I talking to gravestones? They are literally big pieces of marble with a name and dates on them.

One time, I remember visiting my grandpa’s grave. I remember standing there, staring at his headstone and talking out loud. I was telling him how much he’d love his grandson (I only had my oldest at the time), and the silly things he did. I thanked him for being such a big part of my life and more.

I always talk to my mom when I visit her grave. I always seem to get more emotional when I am there alone. When I go with my wife or my kids, they almost always give me time alone at the grave. They must know.

I cry when I am there. I miss her terribly. Sometimes I feel robbed that she is not here to be a part of all that is going on. Then I remember the cancer battle and how much pain she was in. I am selfish for wanting her here, but I am grateful that there is no more pain or suffering.

I know that she’d be so happy with what I have done with my life – college, good job, an amazing wife and more grandkids. I also know she’d spoil the heck out of all of those grandbabies if she were still here. She, however, is not. So I stand or sit at her graveside and I tell her how much I miss her, our chats, and other personal things. When I have said my peace, cried my tears, and am ready to go, I take one final look at the stone and walk back to my car.

Ella at grandma’s grave

Maybe I am a bit crazy. I am well aware that I am talking to a stone with my relative or friend’s name on them. I also know that all that is under the stone is the earthly remains, and that the soul that was that person is no longer there. So why do I speak to those loved ones who are no longer here, and why do I only do it at the cemetery? I mean, I could easily do it in the car while I drive, right?

I know that I am not the only one who does this. Perhaps there is some sort of psychological answer. I don’t know. I kind of wish I had the answer.

As Promised – the Funny Story

Coming from an Italian family, there were many times where certain members of my family didn’t speak to each other. Once such case was my grandfather and his sisters. He made it very clear to my grandmother and my dad that when he passed away, he wanted no obituary. He did not want them knowing that he had died.

Those wishes were honored. He passed away in 1994, so there was no internet to look up records or anything like that. There was also no “Find a Grave” website to do a search and find where people, both famous and not famous, were buried.

My grandmother often went to the cemetery to visit my grandfather. There were many Sundays when they would go to trim around the head stone, or put out a grave blanket. Sofia from the Golden Girls reminds me of my grandma. She was a tiny, stubborn, and strong Italian woman.

One day, my dad pulled up to my grandpa’s grave and there were flowers on it. My grandma was out of the car like a shot to see what it was all about. Attached to the flowers was a note, obviously meant for my grandma to find. I don’t recall exactly what it said, but it was something like: “Dear brother. We are only now finding out that you passed away. We loved you so very much. We are sorry that you were kept from us…” or SOMETHING like that.

I have seen my grandma get mad. I was not there for this particular incident, but I can almost bet that a slow boil began in the pit of her stomach and worked its way up. I am sure with each sentence she read her anger grew and her face got red. I am also pretty sure that there was probably some sort of explosion that was audible when she finally “burst.”

(Now get that picture of Sofia from the Golden Girls in your mind as you picture the visual) She grabbed those flowers in one hand, planted herself like a quarterback getting ready to throw a Hail Mary pass, and as she fired those flowers into the air, she screamed, “F^%$ YOU!!!”

As she yelled and the profanity echoed across the cemetery, I am sure birds fluttered into the air, scared for their life. For years, whenever we brought that story up, grandma would casually chuckle and remind us of just how mad she was.

Cast the Movie of Your Life

The Word Press App on my phone will offer a daily writing prompt to bloggers. I subscribe to a few “prompt” emails and such, and they can certainly be thought starters. Today’s prompt was one I had considered before and I may have even been asked a similar question by a Facebook friend. The prompt:

They are making a movie about your life. Cast it. (Keith adds – with any actors living or dead)

My thoughts on this are to jot down what comes to mind immediately for some (not all) of my family, and a few friends (other friends may request I suggest an actor/actress for them if they really want me to). I will then continue to ponder the question and see if, after thinking it over, I would change any of my choices.

Me

Dom Deluise – No Brainer. This has always been my answer to this question!

My wife, Sam

This was tough. I tried to think of who might look like her and carry herself like Sam. Toss up between Charlize Theron and Olivia Wilde.

My Dad

I’m not sure there would be any better than Jackie Gleason to play my dad

My Mom

Who in the world could play my mom? Tough question and still not really sure, but I forced myself to pick someone. At times, Cathy Bates’ facial expressions remind me of her, so for now – that’ my pick.

My Brother – Chris

Really difficult pick. So just because it will either make him laugh (and he needs that, because he is recovering from Covid) or it will make him mad… William Shatner (Because I wanted to post this stupid picture!)

My Grandma and Grandpa P

Estelle Getty on Golden Girls WAS my grandma! I always felt Abe Vigoda looked like my grandpa, so there ya go.

My Grandma and Grandpa D.

I have always felt like at times, Betty White reminded me of my grandma. My grandpa was tall, a bit heavy, and always smiling. John Goodman reminds me of him.

My best friend, Jeff

Another no brainer. I’ve said for years that he reminds me of Robin Williams.

My friend Steve K.

Steve always has some sort of crazy fact that seems unbelievable to tell. So, he would be John Ratzenberger – but John Ratzenberger AS Cliff Claven from Cheers.

My friend Joe K.

Joe is probably one of the smartest guys I know. At first, I couldn’t get Jeff Goldblum out of my head, and then I though Rainn Wilson is a bit more “Joe” to me.

My friend Steve M.

Steve and I wear our hair the same. My first choice was Vin Diesel, but then I though Michael Chiklis looked more like him (and he played Curly in a Three Stooges movie, so he wins).

My friend Margaret M.

She’s Italian. She’s fiesty. She is strong. She is an expert at inserting profanity into conversation. Without a doubt – Marisa Tomei.

My friend, Chris B,

Tall and funny = Conan O’Brien

Uh …… I’m Stumped

Now, as far as my kids …. I’m just not sure. My older boys (Dante’ and Dimitri) have personalities that are very established. Ella does in a sense as well. Andrew is just a smiling happy baby. How do I begin to pick who will play them? I just don’t know….

It’s my blog and my rules. Let me think a bit on this ….

If I left you out …. and you want me to think about who will play you – let me know. In the meantime ….

Go ahead and cast YOUR life. Who would play YOU?

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 ….