Forgive Me For Sharing

I am not feeling well.

I don’t typically like when people share their ailments over the internet or social media.

I don’t need the visual that you have diarrhea or that you are throwing up something that looks like something or other.

I want to gag too.

Just tell me you are taking a sick day and leave it at that.

Now here I am telling you I am not feeling well.

It’s been a while since I have felt like this.

But I realized today when reviewing my published work for the week, I had to have been off.

Because I made mistakes.  Some I was able to salvage and some I just had to apologize for.  I even tried to make a cup of tea in the microwave without any water.

But still, in spite of my fuzziness, once I got home, there was something kind of fun and relaxing about being able to sit in bed and have your wife feel sorry you (well at least I expect she will when she gets home), because in my case I know it’s nothing serious.  And when you grow up in the respiratory medical world getting a chest cold is kind of a professional challenge.

I break out my stethoscope.

I begin to analyze every cough and noise that I make.

Hey that one was loose and productive.

Wait that one was dry and non- productive.

Is that a bronchospasm I hear or a mucus plug?

What’s my temperature?  Low grade or high?

Do I have any chest pain?

And then there is the spitting.  When you work in a hospital or homecare keeping the airways open is your job.  Helping people breath is why you went to school.  You need to be alert and aware of all you hear and see.  Sure I have dodged a loogie or two in my day.  I had a couple I wasn’t fast enough for too.  My respiratory and pulmonary friends will relate.  There is nothing wrong with that, it’s part of the job, it’s what we did or do, helping people to breath, often saving lives.

I miss that.

So like it or not, when I am sick, I go into action.

And because today I am the one who is coughing and spitting, and delirious from fever, though I know that what I am experiencing is not serious, when I am sick, in my house, it is serious.

I remember when I was a kid, all the cool kids could spit really good.  Most them were athletic too, many played baseball like John Bedell, Bob Woolley, and Kevin Higgins; friends from my hometown of Oceanport, NJ.  They played hardball and Little League and Babe Ruth.  If you didn’t spit, you weren’t tough.

I wasn’t allowed to do much spitting on the Cub Scout Softball Team.

But those guys could sure spit.

They would wind up and when they let go it sounded like a poison dart coming out of a blowgun.  It was a perfect projectile and man it could travel. (Tttthhhhwwwwuuuut!)

I always envied those guys.

When I was a kid and I spit it was more like trying to eject a raw egg out of my mouth.  And it didn’t travel very far at all it just went about the direction I was leaning and usually required some assistance from my fingers to clear the obstruction.

So as a result I knew never to try and impress the girls by hocking a loogie in gym class.

Maybe I am just delirious.

Maybe I should stop writing before I say something stupid.

Maybe I have already said something stupid.

Maybe it’s a good thing I am not working with patients anymore, because forgiveness for mistakes in that world can be difficult.

Thankfully in the world I work in today, forgiveness is encouraged.

 

My wife is home now.

I am thinking about having her order a chest x-ray stat.

Or maybe a pizza would be easier.

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Faith

I threw the bikes in the back of the truck today and Kim and I took Cameron to the bike shop.  I got my front flat tire fixed and we picked up some new bike helmets and Cameron and I got a couple bells for our bikes.

Then we hit the W&OD Trail for Cameron’s inaugural trip on the bike trail.  But the warm afternoon had brought out swarms of bikers, and walkers, and strollers, and runners; and the stress of teaching Cameron the proper safety and etiquette of riding on the trail was too much for Pop Pop under these conditions, so we bailed out after a short while to the High school parking lot to try out our bells.

Dinner had its challenges too.  We made homemade pizzas.  Cameron was in charge of the cheese so naturally we had extra cheese.  But in my zeal to clone the pizza that was just like the one from Freddie’s Pizzeria on Broadway in Long Branch New Jersey, I slid it off the pan too early and watched in horror as my pizza sauce and all that extra cheese crashed to the bottom of the oven.

In spite of all that we laughed, and salvaged a second attempt to make the perfect pizza…though perfect it was not.

And though I enjoyed a nice weekend with family, my heart hurt.

At church this morning I was handed a cell phone open to a facebook post that read:

It’s a pretty magical thing to find your soulmate in this world.
Like pieces to a jigsaw puzzle, our crazy curvy edges matched and we fit together like no one else could.

On March 15, 2018 my husband was tragically taken from us.

“Where there is a lot of love, there is a lot of pain” – and after ten years of knowing and loving Brandon, 3 years and 11 months of marriage, and 3 beautiful girls; our love runs deep, and has been strengthened by our faith.

I keep trying to find the words to share with you – our friends and family – but nothing feels right.

I want to thank you all for your continuous love and support and prayers over the last 3 days. The coming days are going to be excruciating, as we dig deep to find the strength we need to heal.

Please keep us in your prayers, as I now have to find the words and the answers to tell my girls that their Daddy is not coming home.

Posted morning of March 18 by Chelsea Brownfield.

Chelsea Brownfield is a member of my church family.  Chelsea’s parents, Joy and Roy,  are part of my church family too.  Chelsea grew up in church.

Chelsea relocated from Northern Virginia to south Florida.

On March 15th her husband Brandon was under that bridge that collapsed in Miami. Since that time and up until this morning, Chelsea’s family had been waiting with hope.  The hope the faith allows you to have.

And Chelsea’s church family had that hope too, and waited, and prayed.

Many in the world will tell you having a strong faith and being Christian, is not always a good thing.  Some associate you with having a mental illness; or maybe assume you are racist; or in some parts of the world are persecuted.

I don’t understand any of those things.

But I do understand what faith can do.

I saw it with my wife almost sixteen years ago.  It still carries her.

And I saw it again the last few days and particularly today in the words of this young lady.

Something has her, something is lifting her up and carrying her now.

God has her.

The coming days and months will be excruciating, and healing will never come.

But sixteen years from now; 25 years from now, her faith will still be carrying her.

And as a result the time will come when she will be able to enjoy bike rides on Sunday afternoons and not so perfect pizzas with her beautiful daughters; and someday their children.

And she will laugh.

Because she will learn that it’s okay to laugh again.

Because God wants her to laugh again.

 

A Go Fund Me account has been set up to help Chelsea and those little girls.  If you are interested in donating here is the link.

And please keep Chelsea, those little girls; and my friends Joy and Roy, and Brandon’s family  in your prayers.  As well as the others who were injured or perished in that unimaginable accident.

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Joe

Dear Joe,

Today we will all come together and celebrate your life, remember your friendship, honor your memory.

I hope we are able do that in the way you expected us to.

You know, right after we all found out you had left us, the February weather got warm, temperatures rose into the 70’s and even 80’s.  It was wonderful.  It was like you were telling us it was time to plant the tomatoes.

Then you called us all home to Jersey to share some time to remember you in a Nor’easter!

Yesterday Matt flew in from Florida to Atlantic City in 70 mile an hour winds, “roughest ride ever,” is how he described it.

Then you had me driving over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in 60 mile an hour winds since 95 north was closed because two tractor trailers had literally blown over on the Tydings Bridge north of Baltimore.

It was kind of reminiscent of Ricky whipping us around the Shrewsbury in his little Boston Whaler… scary.

But then I hit the Delaware Memorial Bridge and it was covered with slush and I came down into New Jersey and there were cars spun out in ditches on both sides of the highway, and I said to myself “you son of a B?#@*, there is no way you are going to get me to have an accident just to come hang out with you tonight, I hope you are having fun with this, I will see you in good time.”

We did have a lot of fun though.

The time we had to have our sisters bring new clothes to school for us in the eighth grade, in order to participate in graduation because the principal didn’t like our bell bottoms and rope braided belts.

Going to church at Precious Blood and instead of going inside and taking Communion we stayed outside and took something else.

The time we hitch hiked to Asbury Park to see Grand Funk Railroad at the Convention Hall, my first concert, and the wild ride home we had.

The stretch of Steel Mill shows including the infamous Highlands Clearwater Swim Club show; the Sunshine In Black Sabbath/Cactus show that we had early show tickets to, that turned into a Steel Mill marathon when Black Sabbath kept blowing the power. I think my mother almost reported me missing that night and my sister picked us up when we finally spilled out on the street at about 2 AM.  And the final Upstage shows.

The time your sister Diane drove us into the Asbury Park riots where we were stopped by the National Guardsman in full combat gear who asked us “where the hell do you guys think you are going?” then told us to turn around and get out of out of there.

Walking barefoot to North Long Branch and walking back home from North Long Branch. Then walking to North Long Branch again, and walking back home from North Long Branch.  Over and over and over again.

Getting up at 4 AM after getting home at 3 AM to drive to Berkley Heights in your father’s pick-up truck to work at “the shop,” your family’s church furniture woodworking business.  And the time we went to install church pews at a church   in West Orange and Uncle Rudy parked the truck on the hill and the load shifted, when we opened the rear door of the box truck the pews came crashing out on to the street.  Glad that wasn’t our fault.

I could go on and on.

But I have to admit to something.  After losing Donny in 2002, I thought I was immune to all of this.  I thought that never again would I ever feel that death was something that would take me by surprise, something that would rattle me.  I thought that analytically and spiritually I had it under control, because I lived with grief every day and it would never affect me the same again.

And for almost 16 years it didn’t.

Then, I learned I was wrong.

Because, in the last two weeks I felt it again.

And I got scared.

And I started thinking I didn’t even want to come up here and go through this again.

But I knew I had to, and I wanted to, and I knew why as well.

Because I realized, though I had experienced loss, it had been almost 16 years since I lost someone I loved, a member of my “family.”

And the hurt came back.

Your sister told me you had talked about this day and how it should be.  Not religious, just a day for your friends.

So I promise not to get religious, and I think you can be pretty sure that your friends are here.

Through nor’easters or whatever; we may not be barefoot anymore, or need to hitch hike…but thanks for sharing today with us and all the other days before that we will remember.

We had some fun.

 

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“Hey Butch…Get Me a Beer”

Fourth of July, 2000.

“Pop” had his bedroom on the first floor, down the hallway from the kitchen.  He would smoke his cigars by shoving them down in the bowl of his pipe.  When he wanted a beer he would holler:

“Hey Butch, get me a beer,” in his “Jugoslavian” accent. That’s how he said it, “Jugoslav.”

Pop was Butch’s grandfather.

Butch was my dear friend Joe.

I spent a lot of time in that house, with his family; his mom, his dad, and a whole bunch of sisters.

It’s weird.

It seems like one day you are growing up 11 years old, then the next thing you know you are 20 and you’ve learned everything about life within a ten-mile radius of a little Jersey shore town called Oceanport.

And then the next thing you know you are 61 with life smacking you upside the head reminding you that you aren’t young anymore and the party can be over abruptly.

What happened?

Where did those forty some years go?

What did I miss?

What could I have done differently?

 

For that which, then, I thought was right…

Have Mercy God.

For that, which now, I regret…

Forgive me God.

For that which, hence, I know not what to do…

Guide me God.

That was from church today.

Today, that resonated with me

 

Before I went to church today I read something on Facebook that resonated with me as well. As I thought about starting to write today I thought what I had read on Facebook would be a good reference, would have some place in these thoughts.

But then I learned about Facebook time.

Like those forty years I just lost, four hours in Facebook time can be just as harsh.  That experience I had at 7 am this morning was now just a cloudy memory of something I know was worth remembering and worth experiencing,  but now lost.  I tried to go back to experience it again but I couldn’t find it, you can’t go back, it is lost in time.

But I recall it had a message that went something like this:

Life is a daily exercise in learning lessons. Mainly because we learn a lesson one day, but because life is what it is and we are what we are, flawed, we have to learn it again and then again, and again and maybe sometimes we never learn.

I think whenever we lose someone we wish we could get a redo, take a mulligan.  The “if I had a chance to do it again” syndrome.

There are songs written about it; I’ve written about it with Donny; now I am writing about it again.

I know this all too well.  It’s like being 60 and making fart noises in walkie-talkies. There are some things I wish I would have done differently.

We don’t always learn lessons well… well, at least I don’t.

We treat our bodies like they are indestructible only to find out once we are older and wiser, that they are not.

We treat our world like it is indestructible only to find out maybe too late,  that may not be true either.

But there is one thing I think I have learned that is true.

Some friendships are indestructible, no matter how hard they are tested or how much time is lost.

And worrying about what I did right or wrong; and what I now regret, is a waste of energy.  It’s in God’s hands now.

And like Facebook time, the remembrances of my experiences forty or fifty years ago might be cloudy and I will never see them as clear again. And even though more recent memories for me were fewer and farther between I can still smile when I think of them all, and still feel good knowing that even after many years, I got messages like this:

“A Very Merry Christmas and a Very Happy and Healthy New Year. I Love You All!! Butch”

We all love you too Butch.

 

Postscript:

My friend Joe died suddenly and unexpectedly last Friday.  We experienced growing into young adulthood together and shared many things in common, especially our love of music (though as instrumentalists,  we were only proficient at air guitar and air drums); and many of life’s lessons that made our relationship one that was comforting; at times funny, sometimes sad; and always in the end, supportive.

It was indestructible.

If there ever was a song written that I always associated with my friendship with Joe, it was this one:

Now young faces grow sad and old and hearts of fire grow cold
We swore blood brothers against the wind
I’m ready to grow young again
And hear your sister’s voice calling us home across the open yards
Well maybe we could cut someplace of our own
With these drums and these guitars

Cause we made a promise we swore we’d always remember
No retreat, baby, no surrender
Blood brothers in the stormy night with a vow to defend
No retreat, baby, no surrender

(From No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen)

Here is a great version if you have a few minutes that puts it in a perspective close to home for me, we did a lot of dreaming too.

I will miss him and will always be grateful for the friendship we shared.

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Super Sunday…It’s All About Me…and You

I woke up this past Sunday morning and didn’t want to go to church.  Instead of the typical three services we were just having one because of the holidays so I thought it would be a good day to stay home and watch Joel Osteen on TV. 

 But my wife said: “No….. We are not going to start out the New Year the wrong way”. 

 “Yes Ma’am” and off I went.

 When I got to church I was even more convinced I should have stayed home because it turned out the Preacher was on vacation and the sermon was being delivered by one of the Lay Speakers, a member of the church trained to do such things. 

 His sermon was called “It Is about You” and immediately I was put on the defense… as a Christian I am taught that it is God you put first, family second, and I am somewhere beyond that.  But the lay speaker’s point was that nothing happens without me… first.  The process has to start with me, it has to start with what is in my heart…… it is in fact about me, it has to be about me!

 Of course you may not be a Christian and you may not even believe in God …but I was reminded again very nicely this Sunday how important I am and you are.   Everything you do successfully starts with you! 

 The Bible teaches us that we all have different gifts.  If a man’s gift is prophesying let him use it; if it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

 We all have our different specialties, our different talents, different jobs, different contributions to give; and  individually it is up to us to be successful at what it is we do best;  how we use those gifts given to us. And your desire to do the best and to be your best comes from within.

 It’s got to be in your heart. 

 The Lay Speaker went on to make other points that are important to living well and just as important to a successful organization:

 Remaining positive even when you don’t want to;

 Not judging one another (let he who has not sinned cast the first stone);

 Not criticizing one another (Don’t pick a speck out my eye when you have a board in your own).

 We aren’t perfect people, we make mistakes.  The important part of this however is that you are striving to be perfect, you want not to make mistakes if you can help it; and you want to be successful at whatever it is you are doing.  You are doing it for you because you want to, and in doing the right thing for you, you will be doing the right thing for me and the rest of us.  

 Can you imagine what 50 or so independently motivated, independently successful, independently entrepreneurial people can do collectively?

It would be awesome.

 So as this year ends and we reflect on what we accomplished this past year collectively and in some cases individually, think about where you are.  Remember it is all about you and it is all up to you.

 

I wrote that in early January 2009 as part of an end of month/end of year email for the company I worked for at the time, reporting results and sending some message as I had done at the end of every month.

I am surprised I got away with this one.

I was reminded of this writing recently by a conversation I had with a friend at the memorial service for my friend Forrest who I have also written about recently.

The person who delivered the sermon I had referred to nine or so years ago was named Steve. Steve passed away in 2014.  Like Forrest, Steve was a pillar of our church, a writer, a historian, a great speaker, and just a real interesting guy.   The friend I was speaking to was Steve’s wife Beth.  I told her it was one of the best sermons I had ever heard and at the time I had even written about it.

These pillars of my church like Steve and Forrest were examples for so many of us for so many years and so much more to family members like Beth.

We can all relate to someone in this way I am sure.

Maybe it was a pillar of your family; your father, your mother, grandfather or grandmother, brother or sister; son or daughter.

Or maybe it was someone in your church, workplace, or other situation.

How do we replace them?  How do we fill that void?

We don’t.

We don’t replace them and those voids don’t go away.

But like Steve’s sermon taught me, it is about me.

It’s about what is in my heart and what I can do that might impact the lives of others positively.

It’s about all of us.

We can step up.  We can live as examples too.

What’s my legacy going to be?

What’s yours?

Can you just imagine hundreds of millions of independently motivated, independently successful individuals; using their different talents, their different specialties; using the gifts given to them; using what is in their hearts; to help one another?

It would be awesome.

It would be super.

Happy Sunday.

 

 

 

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Very Well Written, Love the Title…Thank You Forrest

Of all the money that e’er I spent

I spent it in good company

And all the harm that e’er I’ve done

Alas, it was to none but me 

And all I’ve done for want of wit

To memory now I can’t recall

So fill to me the parting glass

Good night and joy be with you all.

Oh all the comrades that e’er I’ve had

Are sorry for my going away

And all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve had

Would wish me one more day to stay

But since it falls unto my lot

That I should rise and you should not

I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call

Good night and joy be with you all

Good night and joy be with you all.

   “The Parting Glass” 

 

I started my day today with tears in my eyes.

Not that it’s all that unusual for me to cry.

I’ve said it often:

I cry when I write, and I write when I cry.

So here I am again.

I borrowed the lyrics above from a blog post I read first thing this morning.  The opening of a longer essay titled The Final Flash from the blogger’s website called Flashes of the Obvious. 

The Final Flash was posted January 8, 2018 and written by a friend of mine.

I wrote about that friend back in September.

You may remember.

My friend who was a decorated national hero, a writer, a historian, an engineer, a pillar of his church, a father, and a husband…

My friend, who was as in Matthew 25:21,  a good and faithful servant … who was set over many things, and while on this earth, had entered into the joy of the Lord, to the benefit of many of us.

My friend who had Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.

When I wrote my essay inspired by his story I made it his decision as to whether I would use his name, and his response was “It doesn’t need my name attached to be effective.”

But you should know his name.

The inspiration for that essay was man named Forrest Snyder.

In life Forrest taught many of us many things.  He was always encouraging to me as I began to share my writing publicly.

In fact the very first comment that I received on my very first post Three Score and Counting on my website,  was from Forrest:

“Very well written. Love the title. Welcome to the blogosphere.”

As time went on he often commented on my essays and I always appreciated the feedback.

Forrest Snyder entered into the joy of his Lord, this time for the everlasting, on the morning of January 14, 2018; six days after posting The Final Flash.

Very well written my friend; love the title…we will miss you.

But now you can rest Forrest, there is no need to struggle anymore.  Breathe deeply now and fill your new lungs with Heaven’s breath.

Rest in peace.  Those that knew you will have many memories to carry you with them.

And through your written words you may continue to influence those who didn’t have the opportunity to meet you.

So if you didn’t know Forrest, I encourage you to visit Flashes of the Obvious from time to time and read.

I particularly encourage you to read The Final Flash.

And finally, when it’s all over and I rest again in the arms of my Heavenly Father, to do so secure in the knowledge that I used every gift and opportunity He gave me to its fullest. (from Man With a Mission, by Forrest Snyder)

 

Thank you Forrest.

My friend Forrest (photo from Facebook)

 

Memorial donations can be made to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.

 

 

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Resolutions…What a Waste

image courtesy of the What The Health facebook page

Animals living in their own waste…they’re living next to animals that are sick or even dead…stuck in cages with these animals where bacteria tends to spread…

 Three thousand people die every year in the United States from Salmonella…twenty thousand people dying from antibiotic resistance deaths…

 …if you live near a swine spray field …three times more likely to have a MRSA infection…

 …ten million pigs in North Carolina produce the waste of one hundred million humans…this is the equivalent of the entire eastern seaboard flushing their toilets in to North Carolina…

The pig’s waste falls through slats in the floors of the sheds they are forced to live in… then pumped into giant waste pits…and pumped out unfiltered on to fields…

(From the documentary “What the Health”)

 

Happy New Year!

Time to bust out some new resolutions!

Maybe I’ll finally fix that sink that has never drained properly…

Maybe I’ll quit procrastinating…

Maybe join the gym…

Maybe change that diet and eat healthier too…

 

A few months ago my wife decided to change her diet.  Not that she was eating poorly to begin with; she almost never ate meat with the exception of some chicken and fish; but this time she was going to try to live on a plant based diet only.  No animal anything. 

No cheese, no eggs, no chicken, no beef, nothing dairy; nothing derived from an animal.

Just plants. 

I thought I might go along with this and do it with her but I insisted that until the freezers were purged of all the leftovers and frozen foods; all those meatballs, chicken wings, and other food stuffs we had accumulated, I would hold back.  Somebody had to eat that stuff, it would be wasteful!

So while my wife got healthier… I got heavier. 

It would go something like this: 

ME: “Hey honey, how are you…you’re on your way home? Good, are you hungry what do you want for dinner?   

KIM:  “No not really, I had a big salad for lunch.

ME: “Oh… okay… no problem I will just stop and get some bread,   get some meatballs out of the freezer and eat a meatball sub.

The next day… 

ME: “Oh hey honey, great I will see you at home.  Are you hungry, want me to make something for dinner? “

KIM: “No, you know I had some beans and rice later in the afternoon today so I am good.

ME: “Okay… no problem… it’s all good…hey you know I will just have a meatball sub…it’s fine don’t worry about me. “

 So while my wife cleansed her body of toxins; I cleansed the freezers.   

And I gained weight. 

 All this got started with my wife by her watching the documentary I illustrated at the beginning of this essay. 

The documentary titled What the Health.

Recently while sitting with my parents and talking about growing up in New Jersey we got on the topic of septic tanks. 

Because back when I was growing up before they put the sewers in Oceanport in the 70’s, septic tanks were common.  You had a septic tank on your property that held the waste until it got full, and then a truck would come along and pump out the sewage until the tank got full again, and so on and so on.

My grandmother had a couple of these septic tanks on her property and she lived across the street.   

My parents went on to explain that they heard that these sewer trucks would pump out the sewage and then drive the raw sewage down to farms in south Jersey where it would be sprayed on the fruits and vegetable fields as fertilizer. 

What the hellllth?

Wait, wait, wait so I could have pooed at my grandma’s house in central Jersey and my poo could then have been driven to south Jersey and sprayed on a head of lettuce that may have subsequently ended up in my salad bowl; or on strawberries that may have been on my strawberry shortcake birthday cakes that I loved so much?

Somehow that whole pig spray issue sounded rather genteel to me now…

I seriously don’t know what to eat after learning all this…the meat is bad…the veggies are sprayed with poo…

Probably not mine anymore but maybe someone else’s!

What kind of resolution should I make?

Never to talk to my parents about septic tanks again?

Maybe…

And why couldn’t my good plumber friend from New Jersey have retired to Northern Virginia and not the west coast of Florida?  I don’t want to fix that drain.

And I already joined a gym, so at least my bank account is getting leaner.

I don’t know what to do…

I know… I will procrastinate.

That always works for me…

Now what is it that I could be more resolute about?…

 

If you would like more information about the film visit the What the Health website.  For additional information visit their facebook page.  It’s worth a look, draw your own conclusions.

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2017 Christmas Letter

 Christmas 2017

I went to see Santa today.

It had been a long time since I had gone to see Santa.

For many years after Donny’s accident I would go visit Santa, have my photo taken, and frame the photo or photos with a letter to my wife that was meant to cheer her up.

It would always be the first gift of Christmas.

As the years went by and things got more hectic and wall space began to run low, I stopped.

Eventually after some downsizing and renovations those framed items were taken down from the walls and stored somewhere in the chance that someday one or all of my kids would remember and want one or two.

Not only did I have my picture taken with Santa, most of those photos were taken with the same Santa, who I got to know over the years and he even looked forward to seeing me come back each year.

I don’t remember if I have shared this story before and I apologize if I am repeating myself.   I have learned that repeating yourself is just a part of growing older, which I am.

But Christmas is about memories, those that we pull out of boxes each year or put in picture frames; and those that we work so hard to plan for so we can create new ones that we hope will be engraved in the memories of our kids and now our grand kids.

That is what visiting Santa did for me each year, he created a memory for me, for my wife, and after a few years for him too.

But Kim and I had already begun to create some memories for this holiday season.

It started by spending Thanksgiving with Ethan and Christian in Florida.  Oh yeah and Alexa and Namaan were there too.

Then upon returning home, my wife went on a tear and decided that in order to make better memories for the kids who were all going to be here for Christmas this year, we needed to create fun space by downsizing even more and renovating the basement.  That meant I had to take apart my office one piece at a time and put it in bins and boxes to be moved elsewhere while the new floor was installed and the painting done.

And just like opening boxes of Christmas memories each year, this task made me touch a lot of things I hadn’t picked up in a long time like:

My photo of Donny grinning and holding up his ticket at our Monmouth Park wedding reception;  my sterling silver guitar pick with “Pop Pop” engraved on it; the card and letter from my wife  for our tenth anniversary with our tickets to the Kentucky Derby.

Haskell hats, and Derby hats, and glasses, and more photos; guitars and vintage harmonicas; “The Little Chickens” Blizzard Blend wine bottled during a snowstorm when we were all stuck together in the house.  All of it brought me back to some place and time…and then it got put in a box.

And though the whole thing really stressed me out, at the time my wife said to me “when this is all done, you will say ‘Thank You Honey.’”

Next up,   was a trip with Cameron to see Santa on a Polar Express like train ride (the Northern Express) from Cumberland to Frostburg, Maryland and back that was an awesome day and a forever memory.

The next day I put up the really nice artificial Christmas tree with the lights already built in that I picked up really cheap at the yard sale.  And in typical Christiansen curse fashion only the middle section lights worked…well, so I save some money on the electric I guess.

And then today I get the idea that it might be nice to go visit my Santa friend again.

So I went, but sadly my Santa friend was not there anymore and hadn’t been there for a couple of years according to the girl I spoke with at the desk.  The last time I had stopped to check on him I was told he had taken that year off because his wife was very sick.  I am hoping he and Mrs. Claus are well and reclining on a beach on the west coast of Florida right now.

My new Santa was okay of course but since there were so many other kids waiting impatiently in line to see Santa (oh…and they had reservations!)  I didn’t have too much time in the chair so I didn’t get to tell him what I wanted for Christmas.

But If I could have I would have told him I wanted this Christmas to be more special than any other before.

That I wanted to spend quality time with my grandchildren;

That I wanted to enjoy the company of my kids and family and friends;

That I wanted my wife to have the happiest Christmas ever;

And that most of all I wanted some young kid to show me how to use the new Xbox One in the new basement.

Time goes on and age changes us all; Santa Clauses retire, and technology leaves me standing in front of a massive TV flailing my arms to no result.  And even as I write this, I am dribbling oatmeal on my sweater.

Though once again it has been a year of change for my family, God has been good.

 

And to my wife I must say I am not going to write you a letter this year and put it in a frame with my new Santa photo, have it be the first gift of Christmas, then hang it on the wall.

But I am going to say, “Thank you Honey.”

For all those Christmases and all those memories.

Let’s hope that time allows us to enjoy many more.

And to all of you out there I hope your Christmas season has been as good as mine.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my family to yours.

Kim and Curt

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  James 1:17

This year’s Santa Pic

The Christmas Card. Ethan and Christian with Santa. Cameron with Santa. My “new” Christmas tree. Alexa, Hayley, Savannah, and Donny with Santa…not sure date.

This year’s Santa Pic too.

With Santa on the “Polar Express” Train

Here are a few of my friend Santa. He was always a good sport.

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Hey Joe, Where You Going With That Gun In Your Hand

I left the house this morning with a song stuck in my head. Hey Joe, a song made popular by the Jimi Hendrix Experience and one of my favorite Hendrix tunes.

It’s not a very happy song however.

Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that gun of yours?
Hey Joe, I said where you goin’ with that gun in your hand,

I don’t know why I had this song in my head this morning but maybe all the recent violence and these lyrics had something to do with it.

I spend a lot of Sunday mornings in church, don’t hold that against me.  I guess one doesn’t expect to go to church and be confronted by a shooter, but as we all know, that happened this past Sunday.  But then again one doesn’t expect to go to school, a concert, a nightclub, or a softball game and have that happen there either; have their wife or husband killed; their kids killed; their mother, father, sister, brother killed; their friends killed.  The venue doesn’t matter, it’s all horrific.

And it’s final, they are gone…they’re just gone.

 

I read on Facebook last night that the recent rash of killings and violence was on account of the Republicans.

Well I don’t know if all that’s true

Cause’ you got me and baby I got you…

Wow sorry, there I go again, I just launched into a Sonny and Cher song…my wife says I do that a lot; hum, or sing mostly when I am nervous or uncomfortable.

But seriously, I don’t know whether all these bad things that are happening are really because of the Republicans.

But still, I am being vigilant.  Especially when I am around my Republican friends.

 

It is true though, I do hum a lot and sing a lot because I do love music… and I like to sing. And not just when I am nervous, I like to sing just as long as no one else can really hear me.  I can sing in a crowd, not to a crowd.

I was in church Sunday morning in Western Pennsylvania.  Since the pastors were on vacation, the sermon was delivered by a lay speaker.  A guy who is maybe a little younger than me; a guy who if I had to guess might be dealing with some health issues; a guy who just lost his job.  But in spite of all that, a guy who delivered a message that was positive, inspiring, and one that hit home to me.  It was awesome.

But that’s an essay for another day.

Something else happened at church Sunday.  My mother-in-law’s birthday was Monday, so my father-in- law was the special music at church that morning.  He got up, stood at that microphone, and in front of everyone introduced the song as being for his wife in honor of her birthday.  He then proceeded to sing a solo for his wife, in front of me and my wife, and everybody else in that church.

It was awesome too.

It was very moving, it was the ultimate act of expression of love for his wife in my opinion.

I sat there thinking, wow… I am not worthy.

 

Some years ago a friend of mine who was also friends with a few guys who worked for my wife at the time told me one day;

“Dude, those guys would jump on a grenade for your wife.”

I got that.

I understand falling on a grenade for my wife. I can do that.

But singing…alone…in front of other people?

Sorry Kim, if given the choice between singing to you in front of large crowd of people and falling on a grenade?

I will take the grenade.

 

Breaking news, the democrat was elected in the Virginia governor race.

I feel safer now.

 

 

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You Got Dirt? We Got Curt!

This morning, Cameron and I were sitting in my bed having coffee and playing on the computer when he looked up at the ceiling fan and asked:

“Pop Pop, why are there spider webs on the ceiling fan?”

Luckily my wife wasn’t in the room when he asked that question, but I already knew my fate for today included cobweb duty.

“Those aren’t like real spider webs,” I said.  “Those are cobwebs.  Cobwebs look like that because of dust.”

Alright so that wasn’t entirely true but an okay explanation.   I could have included that spider webs tend to get insects in big trouble whereas cobwebs tend to get his Pop Pop in big trouble,  but instead I explained that since it was rainy and cold today his Pop Pop was going to clean those cobwebs on that ceiling fan.

“Are you going to clean the cobwebs on my ceiling fan too?” he asked.

“Yup yours too.”

“And mommy’s?”

“Yup mommy’s too.”

Because since it was a rainy, cool, dreary day, it was a great day to clean cobwebs, and dead bugs in the light fixtures, and other such things I have been putting off.

 

My wife thinks that we don’t have someone to come in and clean our house because I am cheap.

And as ridiculous as that may sound to some of you, I must confess…it’s true.

I tell her why pay someone to clean your house when you have a husband that can do it?

 

Let’s face it, I don’t pay someone to cut my grass…I do it.

Why would I PAY someone to clean my house?

I don’t pay someone to clean out my gutters…I do it.

Even when the downspout on the second level is clogged and I am too scared to climb the extension ladder that high to clear the clog.  Why would I pay someone when I can duct tape a perfectly capable garden tool to the end of a ten foot piece of one inch PVC pipe; get up on the top step of a step ladder on the deck;  and maneuver the pointy end of the garden tool around until it clears the clog?  It’s that simple.

Job done!

And trimming high tree branches?  Why pay someone when I can back my pickup truck up in the front yard, put that same step ladder in the bed of my truck and climb up to reach the ends of those higher branches.

Job done!

High five myself!

You see, you just have to be smart.

 

I always tell my wife I may be cheap, but I am smart.

 

I once bought my wife a very expensive vacuum cleaner for Christmas.  Now I am not that much of an idiot to know that you don’t just buy your wife a very expensive vacuum cleaner for Christmas unless you attach something else of value to it that will be more personal.  It could be diamond tennis bracelet or some nice anniversary ring or something.

So since I am smart and I knew this, I attached something really special…

Me.

Yup me.

Got Dirt…I told her…Call Curt!

You see her vacuum came with a trained professional to push it around for her.

Me.

And I was smart and made up this funny little contract that said in the fine print “Acceptance of this vacuum is your commitment to never hire an outside cleaning service for as long as you live.”

She accepted the vacuum.

And I was cleverly under contract and free from worry about paying future cleaning crews.

Smart.

(High Fives again)

So tomorrow don’t ask me about how the game went, or what fun thing did I do this weekend, because I am so smart, I was busy fulfilling my contract.

And though I would love her till the end of time, in the end though, there is some kind of Paradise by the Dashboard Light irony to this situation for both my wife and me.

But I just have to remember, I didn’t want to go out and watch that football game anyway; or go play harmonica at that winery.  That’s right, because I am smart…I saved some money today.

So until the day when I get a little less smart…

Got  Dirt?…Call Curt!

No I am not trying out as an extra in Braveheart Two, I am getting ready to clean the gutter.

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