Celebrating 52

Today is the 13th anniversary of my 39th birthday. Jack Benny said he was 39 for years and got away with it. For some reason, today I realized just how silly that is. I will certainly continue to lie about my being 39, as a homage to Jack, but I know I’m not fooling anyone.

Because Sam had to work tonight, we sort of celebrated yesterday. I came home from work, caught a couple hours sleep and we went to the Saginaw Children’s Zoo. We met Sam’s sister and my nephew there.

It was quite hot out, so we took Andrew’s helmet off for the visit. Ella and I got a kick out of watching the otters, who were extra active yesterday. The were enjoying swimming around and she loved that one kept swimming by the glass window. It was too hot for the penguins to be outside, so we missed them. The wolves were also curled up in their den where we couldn’t see them either. We had fun anyway.

We always have to ride the train when we go. We bought a membership, so train rides are free. It’s a short ride, but the kids love it.

The kids love to ride the carousel too. Andrew was so hot by the time we got there, we figured we’d just keep him in the shade. Ella, of course, had to ride it like three times. Each time she rode a different horse/bunny. She loves it! It was great to watch her from the sidewalk and take pictures as she rode past me. Poor Sam, though. She was ready to throw up by the end of the third ride!

When we left to go home, Sam asked what I wanted to do for dinner. I told her I would be happy with something simple. I hadn’t used my grill yet this year, so I told her to pick up some hot dogs or brats and we’d grill them up.

We stopped at Meijer and Ella went in with Sam while I drove around with Andrew, who was napping. When they were done shopping Ella was extra excited. She helped pick out a birthday cake. I guess Sam told her my birthday was coming up and she kept asking about birthday cake. They stopped at the bakery and Sam asked if they could write “Happy Birthday” on it. Ella said it needed to say, “Happy Birthday, Daddy,” so that is what was on it.

After dinner, Sam put some candles on the cake and Ella not only sang, “Happy Birthday” to me, she helped blow out the candles!

This morning, I woke up feeling no different than yesterday. I don’t feel older, but I am. I received calls today from my dad, my brother, my oldest son, and my best friend. There are hundreds of Facebook wishes from friends. Some are long and heartfelt, others short and sweet. I have messages from Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram with birthday wishes, and many text messages, too. There is no way I’ll be able to respond to them all!

I certainly felt special the past couple days. I’m one very blessed man!

2021 – What a Year!

At midnight tonight, we’ll start a brand new year – 2022. Some have compared a new year to a book. The book with 365 blank pages – one for each day – and said that the book is ours to write. There is truth to that.

As I looked back over my “book” entitled “2021,” I see that (despite the pandemic and all the crap that came with it) I really did have a good year. Bear with me, he’s the recap:

January

January started with some snow. It actually looks like we should be getting snow again this week. Ella absolutely loved being outside in the snow. It was fun to watch her try to figure out just what all the white stuff was. Today, when she sees it, she get’s excited and yells, “Snow! Snow!”

In mid-January, we scratched our heads and wondered just how Ella was 11 months old! I mean, it seemed like she was just born!

The pressure was on as we closed in on her first birthday. With Covid, we weren’t quite sure if we’d even be able to have a party for her.

February

As we got closer to Ella’s birthday, Sam was just not feeling right. 3 days before Ella’s birthday, we found out that baby #2 was on the way!

This took us both completely by surprise! There was great excitement all over again. The hardest part was keeping it a secret…

Ella’s first birthday was a fun and busy day. We ditched the pink blocks and marked the birthday with a HUGE number “1” balloon. This was followed by a trip to the Sea Life Aquarium, the Build a Bear place, and cake at Nana’s house.

We were glad to be able to get some professional “1st Birthday” pictures, too!

March

In March we got our first look at the baby we now know as Andrew/AJ and announced Ella’s promotion to big sister.

Ella also got her first haircut

March also consisted of many walks around the neighborhood and stops at the park.

April

Big brother, Dante’ turned 19 this month! Before that, Easter fell on my mom’s birthday. We got Ella all dressed up in her Easter dress, stopped at the cemetery to visit grandma on her birthday and then went to Nana’s for an Easter Egg hunt!

Ella is so very blessed to have wonderful people in her life. Aunt Margaret is one of them! (She will kill me for posting this picture, but I just love this!!) She and cousin Marissa came to visit and the highlight was watching them read books together.

We also found out the baby’s gender, but that wouldn’t be revealed until May.

May

Birthday’s have never really bothered me, mostly because I opt for the Jack Benny attitude and say that I am stuck at 39. However, in reality I turned 51. 30 was big. 40 was tough. 50 a bit hard to swallow. Over 50? Well…..I examine my own mortality every day.

The month started warm enough that Ella got to spend lots of time in her sandbox and pool.

We revealed that Ella was having a baby brother and got another look at him on an ultrasound.

Ella and I worked on a special project for Sam for Mother’s Day and we got to visit the Detroit Zoo.

May also brought Ella her first taste of corn on the cob!

June

My second oldest boy celebrated his 14th birthday in June. We got to spend Father’s Day together by visiting Crossroads Village. They had a Classic Car Show there and we walked the village and rode the train. It was such a great day with my kids!

It was SO hot that day!!! By the end of it all, Ella was physically exhausted. June was a hot month and we did get to get out and enjoy walks in the park and a day at the splash pad.

July

By July, Sam was 5 months pregnant and was so sick. The pregnancy was a rough one on her. The heat didn’t help things. Despite that, the middle of summer was packed full of amazing things and our family had loads of fun.

We celebrated America’s Birthday, Ella had her first visit to the public library and bowled for the first time, and we all visited the Saginaw Children’s Zoo.

August

As Summer drew to a close, we continued to squeeze as much into it as we could. I got to spend a perfect day doing a daddy daughter picnic, my name was finally on the board at the Corner Cone for a free ice cream, Ella spent lots of time drawing with crayons, and our stress levels were through the roof as we took Ella in for her ear tube surgery. We also got another peak at AJ and had a visit from my brother.

September

Fall! My favorite season of all. I was glad to be able to get together with Margaret, Walt and my buddy Chris at Margaret’s house. Since she’s already mad at the one picture I posted, I’ll just share the one she told me I could share. Hopefully, that makes things a little better….

We always love going to get pumpkins and decorating the front of the house for fall. Ella seemed to like it, too.

Ella and I also got to take one last trip to the Saginaw Zoo before it closed for the season. It was a great day for us, and Sam actually got to relax a bit.

October

We had been told more than once that there was a possibility that the baby would come before his due date. He held out almost until the date! Just two days before he was born, Ella and I got to go outside and enjoy the fall colors.

On October 11th, AJ entered the world. I watched in awe as my son was born and all the pride of being a daddy again filled my soul. We weren’t sure how Ella would handle it, but she welcomed him with open arms.

They still did not have a photographer at the hospital, so we went to JC Penney to have some newborn pictures taken. AJ looks spiffy in his outfit!

While this wasn’t Ella’s first Halloween, it was the first real Trick or Treating adventure for her. She was happy that big brother was there to walk with her. AJ was obviously way too young to attempt to go out this year.

November

Fall walks are among my favorites. I love looking at the colors. Ella and I took many fall walks and there were many instances where she’d just play in a pile of leaves! AJ kept us all busy and so it was just Ella and I making the trip to Bronner’s to get his ornament for the Christmas tree. We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving at home and got the house ready for Christmas.

December

The final month of the year brought many happy memories. Professional Christmas pictures, my annual reading of Dickens, AJ turned 2 months old, a visit from Papa and Grandma, Christmas Eve with my boys, Holiday lights at Crossroads, our first Christmas as a family of four, and the anticipation of a brand new year.

Blog highlights included my entries to the 2021 Song Draft, salutes to Soupy Sales, my grandpa, and Ernie Harwell, a guest blog from my pal Max, silly blogs about hats and Bernie Sanders’ mittens, fishing memories, my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, and a blog about an amazing cartoon Dog Dad.

There were many sad moments in 2021. I lost classmates and friends to cancer, heart disease, and of course, Covid. If the past two years have taught me anything, it is that life is precious and another day is not promised. You never know when it will be the “last picture,” the “last phone call,” or the “last visit.” It takes me make to that quote that my band director wrote on the grease board my senior year. I have quoted it many times. “Live every day as if it were your last. Someday, you’ll be right.”

Life is too short. Live. Laugh. Love.

As we welcome 2022, I pray that it is a good year for all of us. May we find it full of happiness and good health. May God bless you and yours in the upcoming year.

Get ready. The Book of 2022 awaits. Grab your pen and turn to page (January) 1.

Busy Weekend

The “baby watch” was definitely on this weekend. A week ago Thursday Sam’s doc thought she’d go into labor by that Sunday. This past Thursday, her blood pressure was high and she was told to rest. Her doc was on call last weekend, so he said to come to the hospital this weekend if “conditions were right.”

Saturday, I woke up and Sam was having some contractions, so we kept watching and waiting. Nothing. Sunday, same thing. Sunday night, she had to work. I thought for sure that I’d be getting a call from her in the middle of the night. I had her bag, my bag, and everything we’d need to take to the hospital at the door – ready – just in case. Nothing.

So we enter another week and we continue to be on edge!

They say that walking helps bring on labor, so we went to one of the nurseries this weekend and picked up a few mums and fall decorations for the porch. Ella loves the pumpkins and has been crawling up on the hay bales to watch cars go by.

Monday turned out to be a nice day. Ella has so much energy, but I’m just not comfortable taking her to the mall or the store yet. Sam suggested I take her to the zoo. There is a small zoo just north of us that is perfect for kids. There are plenty of animals to see and you can be through it in an hour or so. They have a carousel and train that she can ride on, too.

We got there just after it opened, and while there were some other people there, it felt like we had the whole zoo to ourselves. I brought the stroller, but she walked most of the time we were there. The highlight for her (and me) was the otter exhibit. There was this one otter who must have saw us coming. Once we were in front of the window, he jumped in the water and began swimming around in front of her. She was giggling so loud.

Monday was National Sons Day. I am certainly blessed to have to fine boys (and another on the way). My oldest is gearing up to start college in the winter and my youngest is enjoying the beginnings of his freshman year. I am proud of all that they have accomplished and look forward to the things they will do in the future! I’m truly a lucky man to have such wonderful kids!

Me: From A to Z

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By far not the most original blog idea, but this stems from a daily writing prompt.  What is cool about something like this, is that I can probably return to this idea a few times and come up with some different answers.  The idea is to take all 26 letters of the alphabet and describe yourself with each one.  It shouldn’t take too long.  Why not do your own in the comments?  Here is Me … from A to Z:

A     Always early (“If you’re on time, you’re late!”

B     Blessed (with friends, family, and so many things)

C     Coffee drinker.  (Not sure how I’d make it through the day without it)

D     Daddy to Dante’, Dimitri, and Ella (I love them all so much!)

E     Emotional.  (I am probably too emotional.  I cry at sappy TV commercials!)

F     Friend.  (I have some of the greatest friends.  I treasure those friendships.)

G     Gaining weight. (About 25 pounds over the course of my wife’s pregnancy)

H     Happy. (I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.)

I     Italian.  (Proud of my Italian heritage.)

J     Jokes.  (I love hearing them.  I love telling them.)

K     Kind. (One of the greatest things we can be is kind to one another.)

L     Laughs a lot. (Laughter is important.  Life is better with laughter.)

M     Music lover. (“Where words fail, music speaks.” Music is SO important to me.)

N     Night Owl. (Yeah, I work midnights, but I have always been a night owl.)

O     Old Stuff. (Love old TV shows, old radio shows, old movies, etc…)

P     Procrastinator.  (One of my bad habits.  I tend to wait till the last minute to do things)

Q     Quotes.  (Might be a line from a TV show or movie, or a famous quote to apply to life)

R     Radio Personality. (The thing I wish I was still doing full time.)

S     Sam’s husband. (She has made me the happiest man alive.  She is my one true love)

T     Trumpet. (Wish I was still playing it in a band.)

U     Unique. (The easy answer, but it’s true.  We are ALL unique!)

V     Vague (Like this answer, for example)

W     Weird Al Yankovic.  (We’re both weird and I have all his albums.)

X     XOXO (I always kiss and hug those I love!)

Y     Young (Something I wish I was again!)

Z     Zoo (I love the Zoo.  Love going with my kids.  Favorite animal:  The Otter)

Get the “funk” out!

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I am not going to lie, this past week has been a roller coaster of ups and downs.  Whether or not there was more bad than good this week, I really can’t say.  It “feels like” there was a bit more negatives, though, hence the “funk” I was in this morning. I am hoping that this blog will act as a “redirection” in my thinking.

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I read an article a long time ago that talked about the “five to one” rule.  I want to say that it was about relationships.  The basic thing presented in the article was that in order for a person to get over a single “negative”, there needed to be at least five “positives” to counteract it.

Recently, my therapist has had me do something similar.  Focus on the positives.  Think of five positives, or five things that make me happy.  Rather than just “think” about those things, I thought I would benefit from writing them out.  The following may be simply a positive, something that made me happy, or a mixture of both.

1. Waking up next to my love

After a particularly stressful early part of the week, my sleep was a bit messed up.  When this happens, I tend to wake up earlier than I intend to.  As I lay next to my wife, I found myself thinking about how lucky I am.  I watched her sleeping soundly and I found lost in thoughts about just how beautiful she is.  In my mind, verses of poetry started to come so fast, I had to grab a piece of paper to write them down.  I made sure to write them out and give them to her the next morning.

What an amazing blessing she has been to me!  I am so lucky that I get to kiss her goodnight and good morning every day!

2. Possibilities

My ex used to question why I had so many Facebook friends.  My friends on social media range from school friends to college friends, friends who work/worked in radio and television and friends who I met through working in radio.  Then there are friends from the record industry, author friends, and friends from the entertainment industry.  Then I have some co-workers and former co-workers and friends who share many of the same interests as me (movies, music, etc…).  The majority of them I have met personally, while some of them I may not have.

Many opportunities have come to be because of “who I know”.  I have continued to work for many high schools and middle schools DJing their dances because the teacher knows me.  I became the voice of Ronnie, the RPM Auto Sales Super Hero, because of my friend at Fox 66 who thought I’d be perfect to be his voice.  I landed a voice over gig on a national TV program because the host heard my voice on something I did for some friends.

This week, another possibility has presented itself to me.  Details are sketchy at this point and I don’t know too much about it.  A friend of mine passed along my name to someone and hopefully, this will be yet another one of those amazing things that I can attribute to “who I know”.  Stay Tuned…..

3. Family Time

The weather hasn’t always cooperated with us this summer.  Friday, however, was just perfect.  Sam and I decided to pack the boys in the car and head to the zoo.  There are a few small zoos close by (Saginaw and Frankenmuth), but she suggested the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing.  I had never been there before, and the boys had never been either.  It’s certainly not as large as the Detroit or Toledo Zoo, but it was still a very nice zoo.

Unlike the Detroit Zoo, there was plenty of shade.  Temperatures were not an issue, as it was sunny and 70 – perfect!  I can see where the shade would be especially nice on those 90 degree days!  What I really liked about this zoo was how close we were able to get to the animals.  When we walked in, there was a sign that said the Lions were not going to be outside.  They were, however, inside, and we could see them up close through glass.  It was awesome!  They are much bigger than I imagined.  When you see them from far away, you really don’t get to see just how big they are!

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We all had such a great time!

4. Radio Time

This week, I got to work at both radio stations.  Being in the studio makes me happy.  I get to be creative and talk with listeners.  Monday – Wednesday, I was on for George.  I got to do his all-request 80’s lunch show.  It’s always fun to see what the listeners want to hear. I love when they ask for those “forgotten favorites.”  Friday, I was on for Lisa.  She was out an an appearance and I was on air.

Today, I was live on the Moose.  “Moosin’ around” is often what I call it.  Today I got to catch up with a couple listeners who used to listen to me when I was here the first time years ago.  I think that’s how you know you’ve made an impact – they remember you.  They remembered a few of the silly bits I used to do when I was here before and it made me smile when the one listener reminded me of my “Accordion Awareness Month Updates!”

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Some say radio is a dying business – I say “only if you are doing it wrong!”

I miss it!!

5. Sam’s check up

The best moment of the week was going with Sam to her OB appointment.  It was just a check up, and she told me since I was running on little or no sleep that I should stay home and sleep.  I wasn’t about to do that.  I wanted to be there with her.  The doc was running a little behind, as he had to deliver a baby earlier in the day.  He came in, asked a few questions, discussed a few things, and then he let us hear the baby’s heartbeat. The baby’s heartbeat was a strong 159-160 bpm.  The doc looked at us and said, “If I had to guess, I’d say it’s a girl.”  It will be a few days before we find out for sure.

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The above is what the heart beat looks like on an ultrasound (this one is not ours, but I am going to ask for one of ours!!).  I don’t care how many times I hear it – the sound of the baby’s heartbeat makes me smile!  It never gets old!  Sam’s sister had a fetal doppler she let us borrow.  It will allow us to hear the baby’s heartbeat any time we want!  How cool is that?!

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So, writing this has helped me to feel better.  Now, I am going to listen to our baby’s heartbeat ….

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