‘Twas a Blog Before Christmas

It feels like I haven’t blogged in forever.  Usually Christmas brings about many topics and many memories to write about and I felt like I had dropped the ball.  However, as I looked back over the last 7 blogs – 6 of the 7 were Christmas related, so I guess I’m not as “Grinchy” as I thought.

It’s been a busy week for me.  Last Monday, we had our company Christmas party.  This year the theme was “Hawaiian Christmas”.  I used to have a Hawaiian shirt, a few actually, but my ex hated them and made me donate them to good will.  I was telling Sam about the theme, and my mother in law told her she had a grass skirt, coconut bra, lei, and Hawaiian hat at her house.  I borrowed them for the party and wore them all – including the coconut bra (it’s always about getting a laugh!).  There’s a story behind it, which many of my coworkers know, but some do not, so I won’t tell it here…but one of our coworkers came dressed as Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s!  This, in itself is hilarious, but factor in that the coworker who did it is female makes it even funnier!!

Holiday-White-Elephant

One of the highlights of the get together over the past couple years has been the White Elephant gift exchange.  This always reminds me of that Christmas Episode of The Office where everyone has a specific person they are to buy for and then it becomes “Yankee Swap” with everyone getting gifts that were meant for someone else.  One of my favorite episodes of that show.

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With our party, everyone brings a gift.  Everyone choses a number and then gets to pick a gift.  No one unwraps them until the end.  A gift can be stolen three times.  This can be very misleading, as some of the biggest and prettiest gifts are often crap!  Last year, one coworker got a toilet seat and accessories (This year, he got a HUGE can of Bush’s Baked Beans!).  Another got bunny slippers made from tampons.  This year, I found a silly picture of my boss (Amy) from last year’s party.  I blew it up into an 11 x 14 picture and had a caption on it “Who needs an Elf on the Shelf?  You now have Amy in a Framey!”  Lots of laughs … and I wasn’t fired, so that’s good!

For the gift exchange, I got the LAST number!  Really, this is the worst because, all the gifts worth stealing have been stolen three times and not going anywhere!  As they got closer to my number, I kept looking to see what one I might want to steal.  When they finally got to my number, I was handed a gift.  I didn’t get to chose one.  I was like “What the hell?!? What if I didn’t want this one?!”  I was basically told that “this is the gift that you get!” Then, I opened it….

gift

My sneaky coworkers took up a collection and bought Sam and I stuff for the baby.  The basket included teethers, rattles, onesies, some very cute outfits (one will probably be the “take home” from the hospital outfit), and an Amazon gift card.  They knew we hadn’t received a mattress for the crib, and we are using the card to get one.  It was pretty overwhelming and they are lucky I held it together.  With as emotional as I have been lately, I could have easily cried at the party.  I work with some pretty amazing people!

Ultrasound

We had a coupon for a return visit to the place that did our gender reveal ultrasound.  It does 3D ultrasounds, so we can really see our baby’s face.  I was so excited to go in and see her!  We got there and found out that they had overbooked.  They were going to get us in, it was just going to be a bit.  When we finally got back, Sam got up on the table.  We saw the baby’s face briefly, and did get a picture of her.  We found out, however that the baby is breech.  Frank breech to be exact.  I had no idea that there were a few different “breeches”, but sure enough, there are!

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So, basically, she is sitting in Sam’s pelvis with her legs up in the air.  This made it difficult for them to get more pictures.  They suggested we go walk and see if the baby would move.  We went and had dinner and walked around the store.  When we returned and got back up on the table, it was even harder to get pictures.  We had to reschedule.  We’re going to go back right after the first of the year.  Sam said she hopes that she doesn’t come before then, as she’s starting to have cramping and contractions on occasion.  She isn’t due to arrive until February, so I’d like her to wait a few weeks.  Here is the picture we got to see.  I think she looks like Sam, but she thinks that she has my facial features.  One thing we did get to see was that she has hair.  We could see it floating on the ultrasound.  Pretty cool!  The excitement continues!!!

Ella

I love that we can see her like this!!  It really is amazing!!

Writing Prompt Extras

I get a daily writing prompt in my email.  Many times I don’t feel like there is enough to write about in a full blog.  There were two this week that I felt I could write about, but only as an “extra” to a longer blog, or a blog full of random things (like this one).

Prompt #1

“Besides a family member, what is something that used to be a part of your holiday celebration that is missing today?”

Instant Egg Nog.  Really?!  Yes!  My brother and I recall this vividly!  My grandmother used to buy it in a pouch and make it for us every year.  It was VERY good.  I have looked for it every year, but simply cannot find it.  I recently came across a picture of the pouch and hoped that this would lead me to a website to buy it, but no such luck.

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I have always loved Egg Nog – the non-alcoholic stuff, anyway.  I never even knew that it was supposed to contain alcohol until just recently.  When you go to the store today, you can find various kinds of Egg Nog’s, and I have to admit, I really like the Custard Nog.  It has a very unique flavor to it.  Please let me know if you ever see this instant stuff in a pouch, though!

Prompt #2

“What is the oldest Christmas Ornament on your Christmas Tree?”

I actually mention the ornament in the blog I wrote about Christmas Trees.  When I was a 6 year old boy, I was going to catechism for church.  They gave us all this baby Jesus ornament.  My mom always hung it on the tree, and it eventually went with me when I moved out. The ornament get’s hung every year on the tree.  I remember asking Sam if I could hang it when I moved in.  It really doesn’t fit with any of the ornaments that she has, but she lets me hang it up there every year.  The ornament is 43 years old.  One day, I hope it will get passed down to one of my children, and then one of their children.

ornament

Good Grief

In between working my real job, filling in at the radio station, and working on the baby’s room, I finally got 30 minutes to sit down and watch a Charlie Brown Christmas. It is one of many Christmas specials I have to watch every year.  Every time I hear Sally say, “Will you please write a letter to Santa Claus for me?” I chuckle.  They had to feed so many of the child actors their lines a few words at a time and then piece it together to form a sentence.  You can really hear it in that line.  I love it!

I don’t care how many times I see it, I still love when Linus starts quoting the Bible and tells the Christmas story only to walk over to Charlie Brown and say, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

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One of my favorite Charlie Brown quotes:

“It’s not what’s under the Christmas tree that matters, it’s who’s around it.”

After work tonight, I will go home to sleep.  I am excited because I get to have my sons tomorrow.  Christmas Eve was always when we celebrated with my dad’s family, and it is when I get to celebrate with them.  Christmas Eve morning is our Christmas.  I can’t wait to pass out their presents and celebrate with them.  My grandmother always made ravioli, and I plan on doing the same.  My work schedule has prevented me from seeing them much this month, so I am extra excited to have the day with them.

Because I will be focused on my sons, and my family, I may not get the chance to blog before Christmas.  I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season and that you are surrounded by friends and family.  Whether you are celebrating, Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, or another holiday, I hope that your holiday is full of joy and that you make happy memories!  Thanks for reading!  Merry Christmas!

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Is it “Binge” Worthy?

I am a sleep technologist full time.  Naturally, when I see articles related to sleep, I read them.  The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recently took a survey to find out what keeps us up at night.

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Coming in at #4 – Playing video games.  59% of men and 42% of women do it.

Coming in at #3 – Watching sports.  The survey says that 60% of us sometimes choose sports over sleep. (75% were men, while 45% were women)

The second thing that keeps us up at night is reading.  According to the survey 71% of women and 61% of men lose sleep because they couldn’t put down a book. (Personally, I LOVE when a book keeps me interested like that!)

So what was the #1 thing that keeps us up at night?  No surprise – Streaming TV shows or movies. A whopping 88% of us do this!  Of that group, 95% of the people were between 18 & 45 years old.

24 % of people in the survey said they usually are angry with themselves for putting entertainment over sleep.

The results got me to thinking.  As someone who rarely gets enough sleep because of my job, what TV shows would I consider to be “Binge Worthy”?

Since the birth of television, there have been thousands of TV shows!  With the availability of many of those shows on DVD and on streaming sites, which ones would I actually think about streaming or binge-watching?  I decided to break it down by decade.  I wrote down the first four shows from each decade that came to mind down.  So, here are the shows that I could easily “binge” watch:

The 1950’s

honeymooners

Jack_Benny

twilight

PerryMason

The 1960’s

TheDickVanDykeShow

trek

mission

smart_title1

The 1970’s

sanford

mash-title-960x590

wkrp

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The 1980’s

cheers

dukes

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TNG_head

The 1990’s

friends

raymond

seinfeld

70's

The 2000’s

On_the_next_Arrested_Development

office

30 rock

House

Now it’s your turn.  If you want to Google it – go ahead, but I thought it was more fun to just think of the decades and write down the first ones that came to my head.

What are YOUR “binge worthy” shows??

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“Life is better when you are laughing”

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A comedian’s job is to make people laugh.  Legendary comedian Milton Berle once said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”  Charlie Chaplin said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”  Victor Borge said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”  In a nutshell, laughter is an important part of a happy life.

According to a new survey, the average American laughs 8 times a day.  That seems a bit low to me, and I really hope that you are “over average”.  The survey has also compiled a list of answers to the question:  What makes us laugh?  Here are the Top 10 “universally funny things” that make us laugh.

10. Watching people trip or fall.

Let’s face it, this is always funny – unless it is you or me falling.  Pratfalls, slip and falls, etc…have been making people laugh since the silent films of the 1920’s.  Prior to YouTube and the internet, American’s Funniest Home Videos was loaded with people falling!  When people fall – people laugh.

9. Puns.

A pun, by definition, is a joke exploiting the different possible meaning of a word or the fact that there are words which sound alike but have different meanings.  When a banana goes to the doctor because it wasn’t peeling well … you have a pun.  I have a group of friends on Facebook who appreciate good puns.  We are forever posting “punny” things on each other’s Facebook page, or sending each other puns.  Often, a good pun is just what I need to start the day.

8. Bad photos of people.

I, for one, always find it funny to look at bad pictures of me.  Go ahead and pick up your high school yearbook and there are no shortage of bad photos that you can snicker at.  There are websites that you can find that offer you hours of entertainment by looking at bad mug shots, bad family photos, and people wearing wacky clothing.  http://www.peopleofwalmart.com is one of those websites.

7. People mispronouncing words.

As a radio guy, this is always funny to me!  I remember one day I had not read through a particular script before having to read it on the air.  Instead of saying “testosterone”, I pronounced it “test-ost-er-own-ee”….. it was like I was talking about some kind of pasta or something!  It was hilarious!  MANY old time radio comedies had people say things wrong on purpose to get laughs.  It was prominent on Amos and Andy, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Abbott and Costello.  Of course, those were scripted mispronounciations…..the ones that are not planned are even funnier.

6.  Knock Knock Jokes.

I have to admit, I find this interesting.  Outside of elementary school children, I don’t know of many folks telling knock knock jokes.  I guess they are still good enough to be in the Top 10.

5. Dad Jokes.

This can almost be included with number 9, because most dad jokes fall into the “pun” category.  A dad joke is typically a corny or predictable joke that are usually not very funny. As a matter of fact, the more unfunny, the better.  They are often told to get a groan out of the audience.

Example: I hate jokes about German sausages!  They’re the wurst!

4. Reality TV.

The fact that this is high on the list is kind of amazing to me.  Sure, there was a point where I could watch Duck Dynasty, and shows like that and laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of them, but not so much anymore.  Many reality shows are pure garbage today.  I don’t enjoy any of the “talent” shows anymore.  The only reality show I enjoy watching are shows like “Live PD”, which at times can still make me laugh.

3.  Memes and animal videos.

Why these two are lumped together, I don’t know.  Memes are like comic strips.  They can be very funny.  There are even apps that allow you to create your own memes.

Animal videos can be very funny – with or without narration.  There are no shortage of cat videos that will make you bust a gut on the internet.  One of my favorite animal videos is from some British show where they dub in voices for the animals! That’s funny stuff!

2.  Sitcoms on TV.

Here is where I agree and disagree at the same time.  To be fair, there are some very funny sitcoms on TV today, but many are just predictable and unfunny.  Much of the humor is crude and contrived.  There are some newer shows that made me laugh out loud consistently (like 30 Rock, That 70’s Show, The Office, and Arrested Development), but most of the current sitcoms are just not funny to me.  As old as they are, and as many times as I have seen them, shows like The Honeymooners, Sanford and Son,  and WKRP in Cincinnati still make me laugh out loud.

1. Things our kids say.

I couldn’t agree more!  I am actually glad that this tops the list.  My sons have said some of the funniest things (many of which I talked about on the radio).  I love the Facebook memories feed, because many times I am reminded of those things that they’ve said years later.  It doesn’t have to be your own kids, either.  Kids are always saying funny things (which is why there was a hit show called Kids Say the Darndest Things)!  The mind of a child and they way they look at the world and see things will always produce a laugh!

Your Turn

Ok, what makes you laugh?  I want to know.  Have a story to share about one of these ten things?  Was there something that you felt should have been in the Top 10, that wasn’t?  Let me hear about it!  Let’s share the laughter … the world needs lots of it!!

 

Questions and Answers #2

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In my current full-time job, sometimes you get called off because patients cancel their appointments.  This can really suck, especially when you’ve slept all day in preparation to work all night long.  At any rate, on nights off, I usually read or write.  I had a bout of writer’s block and so I went to my Facebook friends and asked for questions they’d like answered.  They never fail to ask questions that force me to think, dig deep in my memory, or get creative.

Question #1 – Denise

Denise’s question is radio related.  “On average, how many of the songs you spin (love that she is speaking DJ here!) take you back to an exact moment in your memories and is there one particular song you avoid playing for that exact reason?”

ANSWER:  One of the things I love about music is that there are many songs that so exactly what you state in your question – “take you back to an exact moment”.  With the station I work on today, I would guess that 2-4 songs a show can do that.  If I were at a different format (like classic rock, country, or oldies) it would be more.  We play a lot of current songs where I am now, with a sprinkling of 80’s and 90’s.  The older songs can certainly do that, for example, a song from 1999 or Little Red Corvette by Prince can take me back to a high school dance.

I did country radio for almost half of my radio career, so there are plenty of songs that I can remember hearing for the first time.  I was the music director and had a hand in helping the program director pick the songs to play on the air.  My job was to listen to every new song that an artist put out.  It was exciting to hear a song and get a gut feeling about whether it would be a hit or not.  Sometimes I was right, sometimes I was wrong.  I would think many of those songs I can remember hearing them for the first time while sitting in my office.

Now regarding the second half of your question, all stations have a play list.  Sometimes, you have the freedom to play requests, but usually, you are playing from the list of songs that was scheduled for you on your shift.  That being said, there is one song that I have to turn down the volume when it plays – Daniel Powter’s Bad Day.

That was the song that was the ring tone on my mom’s cell phone in the last few month’s of her life.  I guess she used it as an anthem.  She battled breast cancer for 10 years.  She’d been through it all – chemotherapy, radiation, and countless painful procedures and tests.  She had good days and bad days – more bad than good.  She would still keep that positive attitude and often say “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, but cancer isn’t small stuff.  She related to that song.  “You had a bad day”… but she kept fighting.  She was one of the bravest and strongest women I have ever known.  I have to turn down the speakers, because when I hear it – I hear mom’s phone…

Question #2 – Marcia

Marcia and I have known each other since elementary school.  Our mom’s knew each other and it is no surprise that her question is about my mom.  “What’s your favorite memory of your mom?”

This is really a difficult question.  Maybe for some people they could pick just one, but for me, there are so many special moments.  I could mention the many nights that she stayed up with what my dad called “The Warren Boys Club” and played pinochle until all hours of the night or how she used to stay up late on Saturday nights watching terrible Kung Fu movies on Channel 20.  I could also mention her falling asleep in the waiting room at the hospital as she waited for Dante’ to be born, a moment that is caught forever on film.  Instead, I have narrowed it down to three.

These three memories, in no particular order, are definitely in the top ten memories of mom.  To answer your question, I allowed myself to jot down three memories and stopped there.  Perhaps there are others that just weren’t lucky enough to pop into my head on command, but these three did immediately, so they appear as the answer to your question.

Mom memory #1 – I was 20, soon to be 21, when I moved to Ludington for a radio job.  I had ever been away from home before.  It was scary and yet my folks were supportive of the move.  Mom was pretty strong, even though I think it bugged her more than she let on.  After the first week, I think she missed me more than she wanted to tell me.  She used to send me a letter or a card a week.  It was usually something silly just to say she was thinking about me and that she loved me.

I remember the first night I was there.  I had a small apartment and every single noise kept me awake.  I remember the second day I was there, she called to ask how I was.  As much as I tried to keep it together, I couldn’t.  She listened to my cry and told me she was proud of me and that everything was going to be ok.  I remember coming home from the radio station at night and having messages on the answering machine from her.  What I wouldn’t give to have those letters and cards (ruined in a flooded basement) or the answering machine tape!

Mom memory #2 – Dante’ was 4 and loved trains.  He watched Thomas the Train all the time.  When mom found out that Thomas was coming near my house, she bought tickets for all of us.  This was probably in August, so it was two months before she passed away.  She was sometimes using a walker or a wheel chair to get around, but she was not going to let anything stop her from going for a ride with Thomas and Dante’!  As tired as she was, she sat next to him and sang the Thomas theme with him.  The day was captured in some of my favorite pictures, and even though the day is foggy for Dante’ today, he still looks at those pictures and remembers grandma.

Mom memory #3 – One year after mom passed away, my brother came home.  We were all going to go to the cemetery on the anniversary.  While at my dad’s house, I believe it was Chris who found a stack of envelopes.  Each envelope was addressed to members of the family.  They were letters that mom had wrote to each of us.  The letter to written long before Dante’ was born, so he wasn’t mentioned in it.  There was, however, a wonderful message from mom to me.  “Know that I love you” was the first line written to me.  It was a wonderful message from beyond the grave, that I still have locked away, so that I can read it whenever I need to.

Question #3 (in two parts) – Stephanie

Leave it to my friend Stephanie to give me a serious and silly question.  (1) “What comedy or drama movie would you make into a musical and what would be the name?” and (2) “What is something you recently realized that you can’t believe you didn’t realize earlier?”

Part 1 – As I thought about some of my favorite movies, I laughed at the possibility of them being made into a musical.  As you know Young Frankenstein was made into a musical, and so was Monty Python and the Holy Grail.    The Blues Brothers already is considered a musical, so I started to look at a few others.

Smokey and the Bandit would be hard to make into a musical. However, I think it would be fun to have Buford T Justice sing “Sum Bitch” in a song!  Airplane! is a comedy classic, but how do you make this into a musical.  Animal House might be one you could do as a musical – I could see Flounder singing about Bluto giving him that name or Dean Wormer singing a rant about Double Secret Probation.  I guess if I had to pick one, it would be Johnny Dangerously…because the name of the show would be easy:  Johnny Dangerously: The Fargin’ Musical!

Part 2 – I have an answer to this question that is kind of obvious, but because I am a bigger person, I will not use that answer.  What I will answer is this:  I realize now, just how fake some people can be.  It is sad to see how people are quick to judge you on the thoughts or stories of others.  They make their judgments based on those things without ever coming to you to see if they are true or hear your side of the story.  It is sad that so many people will pretend to be your friend and then as soon as you leave the room, begin to talk about you, label you and judge you.

I realize now that there are some people who are not happy unless they are making others unhappy.  I realize now that there are people who feel the need to be in control of every situation, no matter what, and have to get their way.  They will say things to make you believe things that will work in their favor, even if it means alienating you from friends and family.

The biggest realization I have had recently is that before you can make others happy – YOU have to be happy.  It is not worth living a life to make others happy while you, yourself, continue a downward spiral into sadness, unhappiness, and depression.  You must weed out negative people in your life and live happily and positively!  You should be happy in your job, happy in your relationships, and happy with yourself.  The hardest, and best, decision I ever made was to find happiness and surround myself with it.

Question #4 – Connie

Connie asks another question that is difficult to answer.  Connie and I often spoke of Stanley nickels and Schrute Bucks in the office, and now she asks “What is your favorite episode of The Office?”

While there are MANY episodes that continue to make me laugh out loud, it is hard to pick just one.  At the same time, some episodes consist of brief moments that make me laugh like hell, but the rest of the episode isn’t as strong.

If I had to name a few episodes off the top of my head, I would start with Diversity Day.  We truly get a sense of Michael Scott and just how awkward he is in this episode.  The uncomfortable situations that he often creates really start to show with this episode.  Next I would say The Deposition.  Classic Michael/Jan tension.  The Dinner Party is also a great episode – the awkward relationship that Michael and Jan have is showcased here (snip snap snip snap!).

The Dundies is just a great episode!  The thought of an office party – well, an awards show – and Chili’s while real customers are trying to eat is hilarious.  So many great things about this episode.  Threat Level Midnight is another one I liked because it showcased some cast members who hadn’t been on the show for a while, and it shows you the incredibly bad movie Michael wrote.

Scenes I could watch over and over and over:

  • Michael screaming “No” over and over when Toby returns
  • Jim’s spot on impression of Dwight – Bears, Beats, Battlestar Galactica
  • Kevin’s famous chili
  • The Fire Drill scene (“save Bandit!”)

Question #5 – Hope

Hope and I talk music a lot.  She’s a Beatle fan and played trumpet in band.  It is no surprise that her question is musical. “Are there specific songs that remind you of your childhood?  If so, which ones and why?”

Absolutely!  Growing up, my dad played in a wedding band, so I heard him play a lot of songs and was exposed to a lot of genres of music.  One of the first songs I remember was “Dream Baby” by Roy Orbison.  My dad had it on a vinyl LP and I asked him to play it all the time.

My friend, Jeff, had this album of novelty songs called “Dumb Ditties”.  Every one of those songs cracks makes me think of when we were kids listening to it.  Dumb songs like “I’m a Nut”, “Gimme Dat Ding”, “Ahab The Arab”, “Purple People Eater” and “Charlie Brown” were on it as I remember.

Anything of Willie Nelson’s Stardust album and  Johnny Paycheck’s Greatest Hits (Volume 2) makes me think of summers at my grandparent’s trailer up in Caseville.  There is a blog I wrote about an old 8 track that is full of songs that remind me of road trips to Caseville, too.

I remember many songs from 1988 and my senior year of high school – Wild Wild West by Escape Club, Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin, and Bad Medicine by Bon Jovi Come to mind.  I remember buying Huey Lewis and the News Sports album for I Wanna New Drug.  Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley, Need You Tonight by INXS, Rock Steady by the Whispers, and The Final Countdown by Europe were all songs I remember from high school dances.

I remember the first slow dance I ever danced to was Crazy for You by Madonna.  I remember wondering if I was doing it right.  I mean, I was literally swaying back and forth.  “Is this right?!”  We used to go to dances and just stand around and BS.  When I was asked to dance, I really had NO idea what I was doing!

Question #6 – Joe

Joe and I have been friends since Jr. High.  We met in first hour band class.  His question is “How well do you remember that day we all met in junior high in the band room?”

I don’t recall much.  It was the first day of junior high and I remember being scared to death.  I remember Steve, Kevin, John, and Joe.  Yes, there were others, but those are the ones I remember from the beginning.  As far as the first day, I don’t recall much.  I remember getting chair assignments and lockers, but that’s about it.  The first day wasn’t the “…wanna be friends?” day, was it?  Your memory may be better than mine, so please feel free to fill in the gaps.

Conclusion

This is the second blog that I have written based on the questions that friends have asked me.  It’s actually something I really enjoy.  Thanks to those friends who served as the “thought starters” for this blog.  I hope I answered your questions and you enjoyed reading this as much as I did thinking about the answers and writing them.