Memorial Day Weekend Recap

Pet Peeve

I have a few pet peeves. One of those is people who say “Happy Memorial Day.” To me, this is an example of someone who just doesn’t get what the day signifies. Memorial Day is not like Christmas, Thanksgiving, or a birthday. Memorial Day is a day for remembrance and honor! I saw “Happy Memorial Day” countless times on Facebook, on TV, and heard it on the radio. Please stop. For those who need a refresher – this is for you:

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for honoring and mourning the U.S. military personnel who have died in the performance of their military duties.  Please remember that when you are having your back yard BBQ next year.

A Busy Weekend

As most of you know, Sam is 5 months pregnant. We decided to stay close to home for the holiday weekend. There were a lot of things to do around the house and some shopping that needed to be done. We took a trip to Sam’s Club and picked up a bunch of stuff there, and then ventured up to Birch Run so I could get a few pairs of scrub pants for work.

The weather was just beautiful. Ella got plenty of time to play in the sandbox and on the trampoline this weekend. We also got to go out and walk the neighborhood a few times. One walk had a purpose.

Our neighborhood has a “group” on Facebook. A neighbor posted a picture of his daughter in front of her Melissa and Doug Lemonade Stand with the request to “make her day” by purchasing a glass for just fifty cents!

NOT my neighbor’s daughter…

We grabbed the stroller and walked a few streets over and grabbed three glasses of lemonade. I made sure to give her an extra fifty cents as a tip! Ella loved it!! So did we. As we started to walk away, another neighbor drove up to purchase some. We were certainly glad to help make her day.

Cool Treat

I think ice cream and summer holiday weekends go together. We decided that we wanted to grab ice cream on Monday. It was about 6pm, and I knew that the local Dairy Queen was gonna have a line of cars out to the road. I remembered that about 7 miles down the road, there was a little ice cream shop. They serve regular ice cream and soft serve, and since Sam was craving Moose Trax, we drove there.

The line was not long at all and we were at the window in less than 5 minutes. This place gives you plenty of ice cream! Their scoops are huge! Sam got her Moose Trax, I got mint chocolate chip, and we got Ella a scoop of chocolate (with sprinkles). She started to eat it at one of the picnic tables, and then they started to get busier, so we drove home to finish. Ella loved her ice cream. After she got toward the end, she actually picked up the bowl and started to drink it like soup or something!

Another First

We cooked out for the first time on Monday. I grilled up some burgers and hot dogs. I also cooked up some potatoes on the grill. Sam cooked up some corn on the cob. We decided to let Ella try some. She put the holders on the ends of the corn, Sam showed her how to hold it and she was off! She pretty much ate two cobs of corn. I wish I knew how to post a video on here. I took some video and asked if she liked her corn (as she was munching away on it). She shook her head “no” and kept eating, only to put it down and say “mmmmmm!” Love this girl!!

Bonus Vacation Day

Because the holiday falls on a day that I don’t normally work, those of us who work on Tuesday were given Tuesday off. Sadly, Sam still had to work, but I took advantage of the day with Ella. We went for a walk around the neighborhood, and then spent all morning at the park. She got to swing on the swings, play by the slide, walk by the creek, talk to the dogs that were out being walked, and run around like crazy!

We always start at the swings, and when I said it was time to go, she signed “more” and pointed to the swings. I took her back over to the swings and she got to swing a little bit more. She LOVES swinging! I was able to snap a picture that I feel sums up what summer should feel like:

Loving summer!

Back to Work

I have to be back at work tonight, but I got to spend some extra daddy/daughter time with Ella as mommy slept. We usually play on the floor with her toys. Today, she wanted to go down the little slide we have in the house. She must have done that about 35 times. Then she grabbed the stuffed Curious George my dad gave her and sat him on the couch next to me. She climbed down, grabbed a book and started “reading” to George. It was so sweet.

Listen up, George! I’m a Pout Pout Fish …

It has been a while, since we had a nice family weekend together. What a blessing to spend it with my wife and daughter.

I Hope They Don’t Have to Blast!

When you work mid-nights like I do, you look forward to winter. I sleep better in the winter. The only thing that can really wake you up outside is the garbage truck or a snow plow. In the summer, however, you have kids outside playing, people weed whacking and mowing their lawn, and extremely loud motorcycles. You can imagine what went through my mind when I walked outside today and saw this a couple doors down…

Not one huge machine – but two!

Over the summer, our neighbor was having some sewer issues. It seemed like they were always doing something in their front yard. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen people out with big trucks in the middle of the street. One day they stuck some huge tube-thing down the sewer for a while before leaving. Obviously, something is up and they will be tearing up the street.

I began to think about my sleep (or lack of) for the next few days (or weeks, depending on what they are doing). I actually chuckled as a movie line popped into my head. In Back to the Future Part III, Marty is told by future Doc in a letter that the Delorean is in an old abandoned mine. Past Doc says to him, “We may have to blast.” They do.

Back to the Future III

At any rate, I got to thinking about how often dynamite was used in comedies and cartoons. Dynamite and laughs seem to go hand in hand. The Three Stooges used dynamite more than once…

Moe, Larry, and Shemp

Dynamite was a staple gag in cartoons like Bugs Bunny…

and Tom & Jerry…

And how many explosives did Wyle E. Coyote use trying to catch the Road Runner??

It was not just used in comedy, though. Dynamite was always something you would see in old Westerns…

I have never seen this Western ….

In the 70’s, it was a TV catchphrase…

… in the 80’s, two good old boys blew up things with dynamite arrows…

The Dukes of Hazzard

and even though TNT is technically different than dynamite, AC/DC still had an explosive hit with …

… and who can forget our favorite nerd …

As a kid, dynamite seemed like it was something that was something very easy to get. I mean, all you needed was an ACME catalog and you could get it from them. I wonder if the coyote had a charge account with them?

Anyway, I know it’s gonna be loud in the neighborhood this week. I just hope they don’t have to blast….

Tune Tuesday – Ain’t No Sunshine

As summer quickly (and sadly) draws to a close, it got me to thinking about the one thing I’ll miss most about summer – sunshine. For those who live where the sun is always shining (or at least most of the time), you really cannot comprehend just how difficult the winter months in Michigan are. While I love Autumn, I miss the sunshine as we start to see it less and less.

The lack of sunshine that is on the horizon in the months ahead, made me think of this great R&B song from Bill Withers. It’s been covered by SO many people including Nancy Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Wynonna Judd and many more, but Bill Wither’s version is the gold standard! It can be found on his 1971 album “Just As I Am.”

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Bill wrote the song after being inspired while watching the movie The Days of Wine and Roses with Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon. He said in an interview that the characters Remick and Lemmon played: “They were both alcoholics who were alternately weak and strong. It’s like going back for seconds on rat poison. Sometimes you miss things that weren’t particularly good for you. It’s just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I’m not aware of.”

This was his first hit. He was in the navy for 9 years and after getting out, he worked in a factory making parts for airplanes. It was during this time that he met Booker T. Jones (of Booker and the MG’s). Booker brought in some amazing musicians (Donald “Duck” Dunn, Stephen Stills, and himself) to play on the track. Jones also produced the album.

One of the most recognizable parts of the song is where he repeats the words “I know” over and over and over. That was not they way he intended the song to be. he had hoped to write a verse to go there. Withers explained in an interview: “I wasn’t going to do that, then Booker T. said, ‘No, leave it like that.’ I was going to write something there, but there was a general consensus in the studio. It was an interesting thing because I’ve got all these guys that were already established, and I was working in the factory at the time. Graham Nash was sitting right in front of me, just offering his support. Stephen Stills was playing and there was Booker T. and Al Jackson and Donald Dunn – all of the MGs except Steve Cropper. They were all these people with all this experience and all these reputations, and I was this factory worker just sort of puttering around. So when their general feeling was, ‘Leave it like that,’ I left it like that.”

(Keith story: The first time I played this record at WKSG in Detroit, I was in the bathroom peeing when the “I know” part started repeating. I was standing at the urinal listening to the song over the speaker and I thought “the record is skipping!” I was playing this off a cart (which meant that it was already recorded and there was no way the song was skipping, unless it was recorded that way!). I remember running out of the bathroom and through the halls anyway …. by the time I got to the studio, the song was continuing ….skip free!)

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The song won the Grammy for Best R&B song in 1972 and went all the way to #3 on the charts. While English teachers must cringe when they hear the improper grammar (“ain’t no” instead of “isn’t any”), it worked in this song (and also Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough).

“Ain’t No Sunshine”

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
It’s not warm when she’s away
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And she’s always gone too long
Anytime she goes away

Wonder this time where she’s gone
Wonder if she’s gone to stay
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away

And I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know
Hey, I oughtta leave young thing alone
But ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
Only darkness every day
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away

“Hot” Summer Night Perfection

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Here in Michigan, Summer is never long enough.  This year, I am guessing it will feel even shorter.  I say that because we had a whole lot of rain that lasted well into May and June.  Many friends have said that they were late opening their pools or planting gardens because of the rain.  Finally, though, summer is here and it is time to enjoy!

I have many things that I love about summertime:  beach days, golfing, walks through the neighborhood, swimming in a pool, picnics, mowing the grass, and just generally being outside enjoying nature.  One of my favorite things about summer, is sitting around a bonfire with family and friends.

Usually, by this point in the year, we would have about 10 fires under our belt by now.  However, because of the rain and such, we’ve only had two.  We had our first on the 4th of July when we were all out in the backyard watching the fireworks.  We had our second one last night.  It was Sam and I, my aunt, my sons, and some of the neighborhood kids.  It was the perfect night.

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It was cool last night, but not chilly.  It wasn’t so chilly that we needed sweatshirts or anything like that.  We had the tiki torches full of insect repellent fuel and burned some some citronella candles to keep the mosquitoes at bay (the one downside of being outside).  We live in a society where we are always on the go, and relaxing around a bonfire helps us to forget that and actually enjoy life.

Before we were married, when I moved in with Sam, the firepit was the first home project I tackled.  It was actually a very easy and inexpensive.  I think we bought all the supplies (rock, bricks, the ring, etc…) for about $200.  That price will go up depending on what kind of pit you want and how big you want it.  You certainly can spend about $500-$600 on a big one, or one that runs on propane.  No matter what the cost, it is worth every penny!

My first experience with bonfires was back when my parents had a pop up camper and we’d go camping.  They usually got a camp site that had a stainless steel fire pit.  When you are camping, you’re out in the great outdoors!  The stars are a bit brighter, the crickets are a bit louder, and the sounds of the crackling fire cut through the silence of a dark summer night.  My folks would spray my brother and I down with Deep Woods Off or some other brand of insect spray and we’d just sit around the fire telling stories.

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Even though our fire pit is smack dab in the middle of our back yard, and the sounds of the city can still be heard, it is just as relaxing as if you were in the woods camping.  There is something “comfortable” about sitting around a campfire. Gazing up at the stars (or moon, which was awesome last night), storytelling, or just simply sitting and enjoying the peace of it all.  Time is no longer a factor – it’s amazing!

The kids love the bonfires because they mean s’mores!  I used to feel the same way as a kid!  I always found it a challenge to get that marshmallow roasted perfectly.  This rarely happened, and I got used to eating burnt ones!  Gooey marshmallows on a graham cracker with chocolate – how can you go wrong!?  Recently, I tried them with Reese’s Peanut Butter cups – that’s a game changer!!  Wow!!  Yum!

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Bonfires are special.  I really don’t know how to explain it.  It’s quality time with those you care about.  It’s quality conversation.  It’s actually laughing out loud with friends instead of texting “LOL.” It’s meaningful.  It’s making memories.  It’s a great summer night activity that continues into early fall and gets better with hoodie sweatshirts!

Light the tiki torches … I’m already looking forward to the next bonfire ….

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The “Carlson” Boys of Summer

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I took the above picture while standing in my backyard before I left for work.  Baseball practice has begun for our school district.  I always enjoy watching the kids and coaches work on plays.  Today they spent some time working on fielding a bunt and throwing to first base. As I stood there and watched, I was reminded of a post that my friend Andy had posted on Facebook recently.  He said “I wanna go back to when my only problem was if we didn’t have enough guys to play all fields open for baseball.” Those were some of the BEST summer days! Pardon me, while I step back to when I was in elementary school…..

My love for the game.

I don’t really recall when I became interested in baseball, but I remember it always being a part of our summers.  If my dad was out washing the cars or doing yard work, the Detroit Tigers were always on the radio.  The voices of Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey made all the calls.  When we would visit my grandparents, we would often watch them on TV as George Kell and Al Kaline announced the game.  I have been a Tiger fan for as long as I can remember.

I don’t remember when I got my first baseball mitt.  I do remember buying my first baseball bat.  It was a wooden Louisville Slugger with George Brett’s signature on it.  I remember it because George and I were both born on May 15.  I remember using money from my paper route to buy it.  I eventually bought a second bat with Dave Whitfield’s signature on it.

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I remember struggling to throw the baseball.  That’s where dad came in.  If I have never thanked him, let me do so now.  Thanks, Pop, for always making time to go out and thrown the ball around.  He’d call balls and strikes as we played catch.  He would occasionally throw me his “submarine” pitch (which was kind of a side arm pitch like Dan Quisenberry).  We went to the library and I checked out a book that showed how to throw a fastball, slider, curveball, and more.  Dad showed me how to throw a knuckleball, which I STILL love to throw.

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“Carlson Field”

There were two ball diamonds at our elementary school.  One had a backstop and faced the school.  The other was kind of a makeshift diamond that had dirt patches from where kids had made bases.  There was no backstop, and it had ruts in the grass from where kids ran from base to base.  There was also a spot for home plate and the pitcher’s mound was hardly a mound.  This field faced the other diamond and the road.  This was usually the diamond we played at.

One of the downsides of playing at this diamond was that it was that the school was about 10-12 feet behind us.  If you popped a foul ball behind you, it ended up on the roof.  Whether the game continued depended on 1) whether you had someone who could climb up to the roof to fetch it or 2) if you had extra baseballs. A benefit of playing here was there was a little valve on the school that if you had a wrench, you could turn it and get water – perfect for hot days.

Teams of Many Players

I remember during the summer I would wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, grab my mitt, put it on the end of my bat, grab the baseballs, get on my bike and head to the school.  Along the way, I might knock on a few doors and pick up other players, but it was rarely necessary.  It was a standing appointment every day.  We’d all meet up at the school and pick teams.  We’d do the hands on the bat thing to see who was up to bat first.

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Depending on how many kids showed up, we’d have to alter the rules a bit.  Sometimes we had to have a designated pitcher. If we didn’t have enough fielders, right field was out (unless you had a left-handed batter).  Sometimes we had to go catcher-less.  Many times when there was no first baseman, the pitcher’s mound was “out”! Then there were times where we were so short, we’d have someone hit and run to his base while the person on third base came back in to bat again with the “ghost runner” on the base.  It didn’t matter – we’d find a way to play!  Even if there were only three guys – one would pitch, one would bat, and one would field.  We spent SO many hours playing ball!

Off the top of my head, I remember Jeff, Tom, Bill, Frank, Mike, Steve, Leo, John, Danny, Dave, Carl, Tomlin, Ed, Mike Smith, and so many others playing ball.  If Andy and his brothers Ray and Tommy, were home, they were always there too.  There was a wide range of ages, and we often let some of the younger kids play.  I am sure that my dad came up once or twice to pitch to us and “ump”.

Just like in professional ball, there were amazing catches, close plays at first, strike outs, arguments with umpires, and long drives to left field for home runs.  We often “called” the games like Ernie Harwell.  If we all had a dollar for every time we said or heard “Hey, batter, batter!  SWING”, we’d be debt free!  There were no uniforms, but you could bet that almost every one of us had a Tiger baseball cap on!

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Day after day, all summer long we played ball.  I wish I could remember more detailed stories of our baseball heroics, but most of them have been lost with time.  Perhaps some of the guys I mentioned (and tagged on Facebook) can recall a story or two I can add to this blog.  I do have one memory that I can recall as clear as day….

Big Mike

Mike lived across the street from us and was always up for baseball.  Mike was a big kid.  He had some power when he made contact with the ball, no doubt about it.  I do remember taking away a home run from him once.  At any rate, because of his size, he didn’t really run fast.  The distinct memory I have of him is this – if you were the catcher and Mike was running home, you had better hope to avoid him and get the tag on him. There were many catchers who caught a ball from the outfielder who stood in front of Mike as he charged home, only to get plowed and knocked on their ass!  Mike knew his body was like a Mack truck and was not afraid to use it!  If he could plow into you and make you drop the ball, he was all about that.  I learned that the hard way once!  I can’t remember how long it took me to catch my breath after he had knocked the wind out of me, but it seemed like eternity!!

Looking Back …

I am glad that I grew up at a time where kids actually wanted to play outside.  Today, trying to get my boys to go outside and play is a chore!  There is the Xbox and Wii U and games on their phones that make them want to stay inside.  It is sad.  Both of my son’s played T-ball and Baseball and I was lucky enough to coach each of them.  They never really chose to continue playing, but every once in a while, they’ll be happy to throw the ball around with their old man and that makes me feel young again.

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