Halfway to 100 …

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I received my invitation to join the AARP early last week. A week earlier the letter from the Secretary of State telling me my plates were about to expire came in the mail. Both served as a reminder that I was about to get older. Three days ago, I completed my 50th trip around the sun.  I celebrated the 11th anniversary of my 39th birthday, as I like to say. My milestone birthday was celebrated in quarantine.

All over Facebook there are “quarantine items” you can have made.  You can have things like: “Our first anniversary – in quarantine,”  “Class of 2020 – the one spent in quarantine,”  or “I turned 50 in quarantine and all I got was social distancing,” put on T-shirts, coffee mugs, or just about anything. I’m thankful that I didn’t get any of that stuff for my birthday.  As a matter of fact, I am glad it happened while in quarantine!

Why would I be glad about that?  Well, I know my wife.  She would have found a way to throw me some sort of party.  Don’t get my wrong, I would love to see all my friends and family.  I just wouldn’t want all the hoopla surrounding my age.  I can see all the black “Over the Hill” balloons, “Look who’s 50!” banners, and I’d receive gifts like a cane with a bicycle bell and rear view mirror on it!  No, I don’t need that.  Besides, most of my close friends are all turning 50 this year, too.  I’m sure there will be some sort of birthday party down the road for one of them.  I can go to that and celebrate with them!  Hell, maybe a joint party is needed?

We had some errands to run early in the day, so I was out when my oldest son called me.  I felt bad, because he drove to my house to surprise me with a card.  He left it in the door for me and he had me video chat him when I got home.  He told me he couldn’t find a Tim Horton’s card, so he opted for Burger King, because he knows I drink their coffee, too!

Another friend texted me and said “Yo!  What is your favorite beer?”  This made me chuckle.  I told her that was the weird text of the day and told her two of my favorites.  On the drive home, I received another text from her that simply read: “Yo!  Check your porch!”  When I got home there was a six pack of each of my favorite beers and a wonderful heartfelt note.

One of the errands we had to run was for my wife.  She had me stop at this local bakery and sent me in to pick up her order.  She had asked me earlier in the week what my favorite ice cream was.  I told her it was probably Mint Chocolate Chip.  This little bakery made me a Mint Chocolate Chip birthday cake.  It was simply delicious!  It tasted just like the ice cream!

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She and Ella made me a very special birthday gift.  I cannot even begin to tell you how special it is.  She took Ella’s footprints and made a heart.  I cried when she gave it to me.  I always hope that she will see me as her first love and her hero!  I can’t wait to hang it up.

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Ella’s feet were busy this week.  10 days earlier, for Mother’s Day, I had also used her feet for an art project.  Funny how my wife and I think alike … I heard Sam singing “You are My Sunshine” to Ella one day and then found this idea, and made it for her.

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Throughout the day, there were countless Facebook messages, calls from my son, brother and father, and text messages from friends and family.  Getting to spend my birthday at home with my wife and daughter meant the world to me.  As a matter of fact, it was the perfect way to spend the day.

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Her smile just melts my heart!

So what will 50 bring?  I don’t know.  What do I wish for?  Good health.  Weight loss.  A growing family.  Less stress.  Job security.  More family time.  To be a better husband and father.  Less debt.  Better time management.  A deeper and stronger faith.  To be more forgiving.  To be less angry.  The ability to let go of the things that hold me back.  To be more positive.  To make amends for wrongs I have done.  To look at each day as a gift.  To listen more.  To smile more.  To love and cherish those who are important to me.

Cheers to another year!

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Quarantine Chrysalis

I woke up this morning with the intention of writing a blog.  Not this blog, but another one.  I have my little “blog thoughts” notebook with the things I am going to write about, however, as I sat down with my cup of coffee a thought hit me.  That thought is what you are about to read.  I haven’t had but maybe 10 minutes to really think on this, so I hope I can get my point across.

The days ahead

I may have the date incorrect, but I believe the “stay at home” quarantine in Michigan started around March 13th.  Since then, some restrictions were added, but that really isn’t important for my point.  So, the quarantine has lasted well over a month here.  For me, I have been home on doctor’s orders for just about 3 weeks.  Government officials all over the country are making plans to life many of the restrictions in stages, so life can get “back to normal.”

With that being said, there have been plenty of articles and news stories about what the “new normal” might be.  Personally, I have tried to steer away from social media articles, and TV news in general (primarily for my health), because it just raises my stress level.  One thing is for sure, things are going to be very different when this is all said and done.  The thought I had prior to writing this, is how I hope to look at the post-quarantine days ahead.

The Chrysalis

When my oldest son Dante’, was in kindergarten or first grade, I remember him coming home and talking about the chrysalis in his classroom.  Now, that’s a big word for a kid his age. I’ll be honest, I’d never really heard that word before.  I had always heard the word cocoon.  He explained that the caterpillar had made his chrysalis and the were waiting to see what happened next.

You’ve seen the “life cycle” of a butterfly, right?  If not, here is a great illustration:

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About that thought I had this morning ….

Throughout this quarantine, I have already sensed some changes in my life.  Some of them, I have blogged about recently.  These things happened while being home in quarantine.  My thoughts shifted from what I used to think about to different ones.  What I thought was important, is not so important anymore.  I came to realize things that were “neglected” or “missing” prior to this, were things that needed my attention.

Prior to quarantine, I was living my life as the caterpillar.  As the caterpillar, I had certain attitudes about things, there was a lifestyle I was leading, etc.  With the quarantine, I have entered this chrysalis.  I am home with time to think about things.  I have taken notice of things that need to change and thought about how to implement them.  When I emerge from the chrysalis, I will be a changed person.  Life will be different, and hopefully, so will I.

Country singer Alan Jackson sang the song “Work in Progress”.  That’s what I am.  There is much work to be done.  Once I emerge from the “chrysalis”, it will be a daily challenge to continue to focus on the important things and not fall back into the “ways of the caterpillar,” but I sure am going to try.

I choose to look at this current situation as an opportunity that God has given me to examine who I was, where I was heading, and where I need to be.  It is time to emerge and spread my wings.

 

 

“Hello Again, Hello …”

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Long time … no blog

Hello, my friend.  Sorry I have been away for a bit.  My last blog led to many friends on Facebook reaching out to see if I was okay.  I wasn’t.  When I wrote that blog, I obviously was a bit frazzled, but had yet to reach my breaking point.  That only took an extra few days.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail, but I finally cracked.  Emotionally.  Mentally.  Physically.  The stresses alluded to in my previous blog, and the stress of everything that is going on eventually led to this.  During a visit with my physician, she stated that she was very concerned about me.  She decided it was best for me and my health to be off work for a few weeks.  I am hoping she is right.

Quarantine 

Since the doctor visit, I have been home.  I have only ventured out in the car a couple times – to pick up groceries we ordered online and once with Sam (more on that in later).  Many think I am crazy, but after the things I heard and seen at the hospital, the first thing I did when I brought the groceries home was set them on the porch.  With gloves on, I went bag by bag and wiped everything down with bleach wipes.  How do I know who touched the things we bought?

Remember the blog I wrote about things to do while at home?  Yeah, despite the sudden abundance of extra time, I haven’t really had a chance to do much of what was on that list.  The stack of unread books remains unread – for now.  Exercise – I took a walk or two and put leaves in bags (does that count?).  Plenty of movies I have yet to watch.  Clear coat on the wall in the kitchen – can’t do any home improvements.  Organizing digital music and folders and radio stuff – you would think I’d be on the computer more than I have been, but I am not. Clean the basement – I did this partially.  So many things on my list that I just haven’t done.  Sigh.  How damn sad is this?  I finally have the time, but just can’t put myself in the right frame of mind to do them.

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Social Media

While I am trying to limit my time on social media, I admit, I still get on Facebook more than I should.  It’s not that I don’t like it, it is just that it is flooded with so many things I am trying to avoid.

  • Political Bullshit.  Blaming Republicans and Democrats for everything.  Trump bashing.  Trump Praising.  Governor bashing.  Governor praising.  Polarizing stuff.  The world is full of division and it shows on Facebook.  You have your right to your opinion and to post what you want, however, I have programmed myself to scroll by this stuff.
  • Corona Virus  – Covid 19 stuff.  Being in the hospital setting, I know the numbers.  I know the severity of it.  The various theories and conspiracies and people re-posting every article they find to “prove their point” is NOT what I need to see.  The only things I pay attention to are the things posted by the CDC and World Health Organization.
  • Sad stories.  There are PLENTY of them.  Emotionally, I know they are out there, I just can’t handle them.

I have a page I update called Celebrity Passings.  When a celebrity dies, I post a picture and farewell.  There have been more than I can count lately – some Covid 19 related, some not.  My heart is just not in it right now.

One thing I am enjoying are some of the Facebook “games” that are out there.  One of the ones I am doing right now was a challenge to post an album that influenced your musical taste for 10 days.  In support of the 2020 seniors, some are posting their own high school senior pictures (I need to do that).  Another one that was fun was to zoom in on a picture of an album cover, or a scene from a TV show or movie and post the zoomed in part to see if people can guess what it is.  I zoomed in on Doc Brown’s eyes from Back to the Future – LOL!  Great Scott!

Family Time

The one thing that I have been able to do is spend time with my family – at least most of my family.  It has been very nice to spend time with my wife and daughter. This certainly has been a wonderful way to de-stress.  Ella is getting so big, and it is amazing how her features seem to change every day!

I have been feeding the baby more lately.  She often will fall asleep while eating.  When this happens, I usually let her sleep in my arms.  I may have mentioned this before, but one thing that I love is when she smiles in her sleep.  It is just so cute.

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She is actually smiling a whole lot more.  She has a little floor mat with toys that hang down from it.  She loves lying on her back and looking at the toys.  She’s also been able to hold her head up for longer periods of time. She has a “Bumbo” chair, and she loves sitting in it.

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Ain’t it cute how she is giving us a “thumbs up” in that picture?

When the weather cooperates, we’ve been trying to get out and walk the neighborhood.  The other day it was 70 degrees.  The following day we had temps in the 30’s and 40’s with rain, snow, wind, thunder, and some sunshine!  Only in Michigan!  I had the chance to do a daddy/daughter walk through the neighborhood.  It was very relaxing and she enjoyed the time in the fresh air.

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This will be Ella’s first Easter.  We had hoped to have some professional pictures done, maybe one with the Easter Bunny.  Obviously, with the current situation and social distancing, that can’t happen.  So we’ve been trying to get some pictures here at home.  We’ll post them on Facebook for Easter.  During today’s shoot – I had to laugh.  In one picture, she curled her lip up like Elvis!  Just typing this makes me laugh.  Here she is channeling her “inner Elvis.”

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Her hair continues to baffle us.  Some days it looks brown.  Some days it looks blonde.  Some days it looks red!  A red-headed Italian?!  Oh boy, am I in trouble!!??

Missing My Boys

As I stated above, I have had the chance to spend time with almost all of my family.  My sons are with their mom as this quarantine continues.  I haven’t seen them in almost a month, maybe more (all the days are running together).  I have video chatted with them a few times, but I miss them.  When we do talk, I always have the feeling that their mom is looming over them and they aren’t free to talk.

One call from my oldest made me especially sad.  The 4th was my mom’s birthday.  She would have been 72.  Every year, my sons and I visit her grave at the cemetery.  I was planning on going, but that day, I took a new medication that was prescribed by my doc and the side effects hit me pretty hard.  I was dizzy, lightheaded, and felt sick.  I took a nap and when I woke up my sons had called.  I called them from bed to tell them I was staying home.  They video chatted with me from the cemetery.  It was sad that I wasn’t they with them.  They were both in tears.  My oldest was upset because he was close to her.  My youngest was upset because he never had the chance to meet her and it still bothers him.  I told them that when this was all over, we’d go and visit.

It has just been awful not seeing them.  I miss them terribly.  My oldest video chatted yesterday and was showing me that he is growing his beard.  He turns 18 tomorrow.  I won’t even be able to hug him!  I have a gift for him.  I plan on wrapping it and driving it to his house and leaving it on his porch for him.  I told him I bought a cake and will make it and celebrate when we get the chance to be together.

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Special Trip

Outside of going to the grocery store, I have only left the house one time.  Actually, it was me, Sam, and the baby.  I was feeling down.  Sam said we were going somewhere.  She said she had wanted to do this for a few weeks.  It obviously wasn’t a restaurant or anything, so I had no idea what she had in mind.  We all got in the car and she drove.  She drove to the cemetery.  She knew I was upset that I didn’t get to go with the boys, but she also wanted to take Ella.  She said it she wanted Ella to see one of the Pamela’s she was named after.

As you can imagine, it was emotional for me.  Sam brought a blanket and Ella and I laid on it by my mom’s grave.  My mom always hoped for a granddaughter.  I know she would have spoiled her big time! Just like with my youngest son, it makes me very sad that she never got to meet her grandma.  Sam’s grandpa is also buried at the same cemetery, so we took Ella to see her great grandpa, too!

It was a very special trip.

No Moe

One of the changes that happened recently is that we had to find a new home for one of our cats.  We had two.  Moe was our first.  Then we got Maizey.  Moe was huge.  He ate so much!  When we brought Ella home, we worried.  How were they going to react?  They both did well, so we didn’t think we were going to have issues.  We didn’t, until one night we found Moe in Ella’s bassinet.  He was laying on her, and we knew this was dangerous.

We didn’t know what to do.  By a stroke of luck, my sister-in-law’s ex’s parent’s cat had died recently.  They were looking for a cat!  They took him and treat him like a king!  We heard he has eggs for breakfast – at the table!!  He has his own heating pad on the couch.  He is living it up.  I miss him, but am happy he found a good home.

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As for Maizey, well, when Moe was here, she was moving.  She never laid by you.  She never let you hold her.  She never purred.  Well, that has all changed.  She loves being by us now.  She meows and likes her tummy rubbed.  She always seems to be by me now.  She loves to be petted and now purrs like nobody’s business.

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Happy Easter

We’ll be staying home for Easter, obviously.  We’re not even sure what we are doing for Easter dinner.  But we plan on dressing up and enjoying our day as a family. We have an Easter basket for Ella and a very cute Easter outfit.  I am sure there will be many pictures!

Faith

I’m not one to push religion on anyone.  I understand that everyone believes what they want to believe.  I realized how far from my faith I have been through this whole situation.  Over the past two weeks, I began watching messages from pastor friends of mine, and got back into reading my bible.  A friend asked me some questions about the Antichrist and it was fun to re-study that topic and chat with her.  Bottom line, my faith is important to me.  It is a key element in my coming out of this in a better frame of mind.  I plan on spending a bit more time focused on that (and Him) in the future.

A friend of mine took this picture in Grand Blanc this week (about 30 minutes south of here).  It was such a beautiful picture, I want to share it here.  Enjoy your holiday.  Happy Easter.  Count your blessings.

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I appreciate you reading.  Sorry to have been away for so long.  I’ll get through this.  It just may take some time.

I hope to be back to my normal blogging self, soon.

Be safe.  Be well.

Keith

 

 

 

 

Saturday Songs

This is the first of at least two blogs today.  I chose to write this one first.  Amidst all of the chaos in the world, I was reminded of a song that I often turned to when things in my life were less than stellar.  Michael Buble’ has been doing video messages on his Instagram page.  In one, he began to sing this song … and I felt that it was, indeed, a perfect song for today.

Smile – Nat King Cole

I may have posted this song once before in a blog about Nat King Cole.  The song is based on an instrumental melody written by Charlie Chaplin (loosely based on Puccini’s “Tosca”) for his 1936 movie Modern Times.  Lyrics were added in 1954 and they were based on lines from the film.

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You know what’s difficult to do in difficult times?  Smiling.  Try it.  It’s pretty damn hard.  While you and I are sitting in quarantine, knowing what’s going on outside, try smiling.  Not the easiest thing, but it is possible.  That’s what the song is all about. It tells you to cheer up, tomorrow will be better if you just smile.

You have probably heard that it takes more muscles and it takes more work to frown than it does to smile.  So, why work so hard?  Smile.  Give it a listen:

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What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

This song is from 1967.  There are some conflicting stories about who was originally offered the song first.  Some say that Tony Bennett was offered the song, but refused.  Others say that the song was written specifically for Louis Armstrong, whom the writer of the song was inspired by as he felt Louis was good at bringing people of various race and color together.

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I first came to know this song because of the film “Good Morning Vietnam” starring Robin Williams.  It is interesting to note that the song was actually recorded 2 years after the film takes place (Williams’ character, a DJ, plays it on the radio).  What made me think about this song was the scene from the movie in which it was played.  While it plays, we see soldiers marching, bombs exploding, fighting and chaos in the streets, and more.

The contrast of the music of the song over these scenes are etched in my memory.  When I thought about the craziness in the world today, I couldn’t help but think of how, despite all of this, we truly live in a wonderful world.  One could easily play this song over scenes from what is going on in the world today.  It is important to find the happiness among the sadness.  It is important to notice the blue skies, green trees, white clouds, and red roses that are there to enjoy.

The only line that doesn’t fit today – is the line about shaking hands.

 

I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

I see skies of blue
And clouds of white
The bright blessed day
The dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces
Of people going by
I see friends shaking hands
Saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying
“I love you”

I hear babies cry
I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more
Than I’ll never know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Oh yeah