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ImageTitleDateContentMedia Link
Ryan’s Instagram post about Nana’s passingNovember 26, 2020

Ryan put up this post on his Instagram story, and it just made me very proud. I love you dude. I am sorry you had to say goodbye to our Nana at a time when none of us expected it.

Ryan’s first 7th grade craftNovember 24, 2020

Today Ryan brought home his first ‘craft’ from home economics class. They are teaching the students how to sew, cook, etc. Today he was asked to sew something. He didn’t want to do a mask or something boring. So he chose to replica a character from a game called “Among Us”, which apparently become popular this year during the quarantine. On the back is a button he also sewed on. SOOOO PROUD OF YOU RYAN!!

We spend a day with Jeff KlineJune 18, 2019

So Ania for my bday decided to take us back to Maine to a cabin we stayed at during an comic con with Optimus. This time we took a family trip without the truck just as a little birthday getaway celebration. During that time she coordinated a visit with Jeff Kline. Who we met one year prior at the same comic convention. Jeff is the Executive Producer of the Transformers animated series: Transformers Prime, Rescue Bots, and Robots in Disguise. We loved all of the shows, especially TF Prime. So spending a day with Jeff in his hometown was absolutely amazing. I enjoyed it mostly for Ryan. It was a great opportunity for him that made me proud. Because we would not have met him if it wasn’t for building Optimus.

Ryan and neighbors in Optimus late 2016November 25, 2016

It was the same year we built Optimus. He was getting close to being done and was back at home with us. Ryan was very excited to share it with our neighbors across the street – Avery and Bryce Biel. This was a photo I took of them before driving them in Optimus to Imagination Zone for some play time. They were so proud. And so was I 🙂

Ryan and daddy built MetroplexAugust 20, 2020

Shortly after I finished making the Optimus cosplay, Ryan asked about doing a Metroplex out of foam. Not to wear. More like a statue. I reluctantly agreed (I say that because I was SOOOO done with foam at that point and didn’t want to embark on ANY new projects). We spent about a month building this. He did help a lot. Cutting. Gluing. Painting. Overall he seemed very happy with how it came out. And he is very proud to display it in his Transformers room. In the end it was a very exhausting project for me, but it helped keep Ryan occupied during a summer that was otherwise very shitty because of Covid. LOVE YOU DUDE!!

11-Foot Optimus Prime cosplay buildJune 1, 2020

Because of COVID, we were isolated from going anywhere really. So this was a project we decided to do as a family, using primarily scrap materials for the skeleton and high density foam for the outside. This is a suit I wear and stay in for 45-minute intervals. My hope is that combined with the truck, we get more opportunities for events and fundraisers. But I also wanted to do it to show Ryan what it means to stay positive, even when the odds are against him. And trust me when I say…2020 was one of the shittiest years ever because of Covid. The odds were definitely against us.

If they still work, here’s a YOUTUBE link to a video on the cosplay. And an article I wrote about it.

A new firepit – celebrating son’s day 2020July 12, 2020

So as the result of Covid, we started doing more traditions to keep ourselves busy and to keep Ryan motivated. ‘Son’s day’ was a special day we coordinated for Ryan, much like Father/Mother’s day. Just a day to celebrate Ryan. We spent the whole weekend doing it actually. Did some basement games at our house, scavenger hunt, and this. Nana and I built him a firepit at her house so he could enjoy firepits more no matter whose house we were at. He loved it. And so did she! 🙂

Ryan’s 1st ATV oil changeNovember 9, 2020

Today Ryan helped me change the oil on his ATV. First one he’s ever done. He has helped me change the gear oil on golf cart KITT and real KITT (LONG time ago), but never ‘engine’ oil. He wasn’t really liking the dirty factor, but he enjoyed it and was genuinely listening very well. So proud!

Ryan’s 1st Q&A YouTube video questionsNovember 8, 2020

Ryan is starting to build his YouTube channel. He decided to do a Q&A where people ask questions and then he answers them in the video. I was so proud to see him do the video. It was very well edited and even had some humor. Here’s a link to the video. Hopefully it still works by the time you view this. Either way, I am proud of you Ryan!!

Test 3November 13, 2020

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Ryan helps me fix up NanasSeptember 16, 2020

So this was the COVID year. And this was also the year Nana’s house went to shit with a whole ton of issues with water, bees, mold, etc. I’ll save those stories for another time. But this photo was taken in Nana’s guest bedroom that I was remodeling. Ryan offered and wanted to help me paint it. So he painted the closet, which is really the first time he’s ever painted any walls before. He did great. So proud Ryan!!

Wifey and me with an amazing viewOctober 16, 2020

Taken on top of Camelback mountain in Big Pocono State Park, which has an incredible view. As you can see it was Fall season. Her brother was with us celebrating Ryan’s and his daughter Isa’s birthday. COVID limited our options on what we could do, but the walk and the view were absolutely perfect!

Ryan wearing my Megatron cosplayOctober 8, 2020

This is the Megatron cosplay suit we built a long time ago when the show Transformers Prime was popular. We decided to prop Megatron up on display in OP’s garage. While doing it, Ryan wanted to try it on. Another year or two and he’ll be able to wear the entire thing. It was definitely a proud daddy moment because he was proud to be wearing it.

Ryan’s 13th bdayNovember 2, 2020

Because of COVID, we celebrated Ryan’s bday a bit different this year. No friends this time. But instead we dedicated 5 entire days to Ryan. Combo of celebrating at our house and nanas. The decorations were insane in both house. And he was very happy to see the xmas tree setup. He got tons of Transformers including some very expensive ones. He said it was definitely one of his favorite bday’s despite the covid stuff. WE LOVE YOU DUDE! Welcome to teenager days!

Ryan’s “My Strengths” letter from churchJanuary 16, 2020

This is something Ryan answered in his religion class this week. We were so proud of what he wrote and I promised to put it into his Footprint. Keep those dreams alive Ryan. You can do anything you put your mind to!! 🙂

Ryan starts Transformers photographyJanuary 16, 2020

After seeing some pictures on social media of others who take close up still pictures of the Transformers collections, Ryan has begun to show interest in doing the same thing with his. He puts thought into every single scene and setting, often attempting to replicate something we saw in the movies or the cartoons. He wants to do this everyday to help boost his Instragram following and his photography skills. So far he’s been going about 10 days. SO PROUD!!!! KEEP IT UP RYAN!!

Ryan and Aleessia – 5th gradeNovember 8, 2018

Ryan never admitted it, but I think Alyssia was someone he liked in 5th grade. This photo was taken at the end of a play that she participated in called Shrek. Ryan NEVER wants to go to things like this. But he specifically asked us to go to this one – TWICE. Yes…he went to the play 2 separate times. He even got her flowers the second time around. I’m not sure if they were boyfriend/girlfriend status. For some reason Ryan doesn’t talk about this stuff with us. But looking at the picture makes me smile, as he is clearly growing up and starting that next phase of relationships. Gosh dude…I love you so much. I wish you could stay little. But regardless, you will always be my baby boy.

Remember – relationships are complicated as F**K.  Women will drain every ounce of energy you have inside. They will eat you alive and make your life a living hell. But never settle. Find the right one and you’re life will be amazing.  I LOVE YOU!!

Ryan gets official WWE sunglassesApril 8, 2019

WWE Wrestlemania took place in NJ. We really wanted to take you there. But the prices for even the worst seats were absolutely ridiculous. So we watched it from home on your WWE app.

One of the matches was Batista – his last match in WWE against Triple H. He came out in a car. The driver of that car was a guy that Ania knows from high school. He saw Ryan loved WWE, and actually sent Ryan the sunglasses that he wore when driving Batista to the arena entrance.

It was VERY cool to get these. I was so proud of Ryan wearing these, especially because he was so disappointed that we couldn’t make it to the event in NJ.

Ryan and Daddy fun nightApril 18, 2019

This was our first father/son bonding night in a while. Just the two of us. We did Laser Tag, Olive Garden, and night bowling. We had a blast together. And you kicked butt at laser tag. (we were partnered with a group of girls who said you did very well). You rock peanut. Thank you for spending the night with me!!!!!!  I LOVE YOU!!!!!!

Santa prank note for NanaDecember 19, 2018

This was one of Ryan’s favorite things prepping for Christmas 2018. He absolutely LOVED this idea and worked really hard to prepare the Elf box and book so it’s as realistic as possible. Combined with all of the wrapping and thought he put into Christmas prep, this is one of the first times I genuinely noticed his joy for giving. And I made sure he realized it as well.  I am so proud of you Ryan. For believing, and for giving.  I LOVE YOU!!!

Ryan’s 5th grade Math JeopardyDecember 14, 2018

Dec 2018 – this photo was shared on the school app. It was so cool he included you in the Jeopardy game!!!  LOVE IT!!

Random Notes we gave Ryan for schoolNovember 14, 2020

Most of these are between 2016 – 2018 when you were OK with us leaving notes in your lunchbox. On Nov 27, 2018…you officially asked us to stop doing this because it was embarrassing for you. I get it dude. But I will miss these memories and will make it a point to find another way to share these little bits of inspiration with you.  Love you shrimp!

Ryan’s hero note from CCDNovember 22, 2018

Small but meaningful piece that Ryan brought home from his CCD / Religion class tonight. He looks at himself as a hero. It melted our hearts

Ryan’s LAST tooth fairy noteOctober 15, 2018

Today Ryan lost his final tooth. As a dad, I was proud of him and yet also saddened. He is growing up so fast. He is becoming a young man. Soon his voice will change, soon women will consume his life, and soon he won’t be so little anymore. It’s hard for me to type this, as I am getting emotional just thinking about it. But he was very proud, and so I am. Especially since he still truly believes in the magic of the tooth fairy.

Don’t ever stop believing Ryan. The belief in something magical like this is what makes life worth living.  I LOVE YOU!

The FIRST girl in Ryan’s phoneOctober 11, 2018

today Ryan came home with some interesting news. He got a girl’s phone number!  Apparently ALeesiya was in his 4th grade class. They aren’t in the same class this year, but he says hi to her at lunch every day. And she asked Ryan’s friend Michael if it’s OK to have Ryan’s phone number.  He asked Ryan, and he said yes!

Right now it’s 9:00 PM at night. He has been playing Fortnite with her (virtually) for hours. He rushed through dinner just so he could get back and play some more. I completely get it and understand how he feels. Coincidentally, the 1st girl I ever went on a date with was in 5th grade as well.

I am so excited for him, and yet so nervous. I know she is likely just one of many girls who may break his heart. I hope that isn’t the case. But regardless, I hope he enjoys the time he spends with her and learns more about himself and relationships in the process!

GO RYAN!!!!!!

Ryan drives 1st REAL carJuly 12, 2018

During a trip to Presque Isle, Maine with Optimus, the guy who paid for us to go invited us to his house to see his cars. One of them is a replica Rosco car from Dukes of Hazzard tv show. But what made this visit super memorable was that Ryan got to DRIVE IT!  The guy (Troy) surprised us by asking if he wanted to drive. He’s got a huge field behind his house, so he offered to let Ryan drive around in it. I drove first to feel out the car, then we switched seats. Ryan was nervous and excited. He was more concerned that mommy was capturing the moment on video. lol  It wasn’t the smoothest ride of course (hard braking especially). But he did two laps around the field. You could tell he was MEGA proud. And so was I. Way to go Ryan, and thank you to Troy Nichols for the offer!

Ryan meets Peter Cullen at NASAJune 14, 2018

June 2018 – I received a random message from someone at NASA who found us on Facebook from the Ridiculous Rides video that was done on Optimus. They have something called OPSPARC (Optimus Prime Spinoff and Research Challenge) and were holding a ceremony where Hasbro and Peter Cullen were coming. And they invited US to bring Optimus!

WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW!  We took a family trip to NASA Goddard (Maryland)!! ANDDDD we met Peter Cullen (the voice behind Optimus Prime) in person!  I can’t believe what has transpired. I am beyond words. What an awesome experience. One that I hope Ryan never forgets.

Ryan meets Titus WelliverJune 14, 2018

Taken in June 2018 at Ocean City Con in Ocean City, NJ. This is Ryan and Titus Welliver, who played the character of “James Savoy” in Transformers: Age of Extinction”!!  Titus was at the small convention signing photos, and we made it a point to go up and introduce ourselves.  He then came outside when he was finished to see our replica and to get some photos with Ryan.  Another epic memory for little man that I hope he always remembers!!

Ryan completes 4th gradeJune 1, 2018

This was our final 4th grade parent drop-off to Pleasant Valley Intermediate! Naturally we arrived in KITT and picked him up after school in Optimus. 4th grade has been the most difficult year yet for Ryan…and for us. But he made it. He didn’t give up. He didn’t choose to stay in bed and fight us when it was time to leave for school. He got up, got dressed (more like I dressed him lol) and took care of his responsibility.

Though this year was the hardest for him, we are so proud of his accomplishment. And whenever you need help dude, we are always there for you Ryan. We love you unconditionally, and will do everything we can to help you become an academic master!  🙂 CONGRATULATIONS RYAN!  Let the summer fun begin!!

Ryan sees WWE live in ScrantonNovember 15, 2018

Ryan has shown a huge interest in WWE wrestling all of a sudden, likely because his friends at school were very into it. So I got tickets to a live WWE thing at Mohegun Sun Arena in Scranton. It was a basic show but had some of Ryan’s favorite characters like Kane, Shamus, The Miz, and others. He really enjoyed it and so did I.

It wasn’t soon after that he asked to go to a REAL WWE event like Smackdown or Raw. So coming up in May we got him tickets to see Smackdown in Baltimore. It was expensive and it’ll be a long drive, but I hope he enjoys it. I’m looking forward to seeing him smile.

Ryan rides ATV for first timeMarch 16, 2018

One of the guys I met through Otpimus, Shane Bond, r1ides quads. I happened to mention to him that I was looking for a quad for Ryan but that I didn’t want to buy one until he showed interested in it.  So Shane offered to let us try one of his quads for free!

We met up with him on a Sunday and he took us to his grandfather’s farm. Plenty of space to ride. Both him and I showed Ryan the safety features and how to ride safely. Shane even loaned Ryan a cool helmet.

Ryan didn’t know what we were doing until we got there. Initially he said no, but very quickly warmed up to the idea and got right on. He rode on his own for a good hour before asking if I would join. Shane had a 2nd quad and let me ride his. Though it was a cold day, Ryan and I rode around the property for another hour. He did amazing and picked up the skills with minimal effort. He did very very well for his first time, and is anxious to get out again. Perhaps one day we’ll get an ATV of our own. But for now we’ll stick with renting, as Shane said we can do this again anytime.

Great job dude!!!

Ryan’s 4th grade insect projectDecember 15, 2017

Ryan was given an assignment for the holiday break to make an insect for science class. We had to come up with our own version of insect and a name. This is what he did. He didn’t want to do it and it weas tough to get him to commit. But once him and I got started with looking at ideas on the computer, we came up with this together. He got into it and really enjoyed making it.  Took us about 90 minutes. He can’t wait to bring it to school and then bring it back home to display it. SO PROUD RYAN!!

1st time firing and learning gun safetyDecember 8, 2017

First time Ryan was given professional guidance and advice in handling a gun. Guy’s name was Brandon. Ryan even fired a few rounds! The blue marks on the dummy are his shots. I was very proud and impressed. He enjoyed the experience and wanted to do it again. So we scheduled another one after the holidays.

Ryan meets DJs from KRz radioNovember 15, 2017

I was invited to 98.5 KRz radio to promote the upcoming appearance of Optimus and team at the Scranton Santa Parade this weekend. Ryan got to meet the morning show hosts Rocky and Lissa. I was super proud to bring my family with me to this interview. I hope Ryan remembers the experience always.  Love you dude

Ryan’s 4th grade report card 1st periodNovember 9, 2017

Ryan’s 1st report card from Pleasant Valley Intermediate. His first year at the school. New environment, new teachers, some minor issues and meetings, struggling to understand this new common core math that being shoved down the kids throats. And yet our Ryan made Distinguished Honor Roll!!!! That’s the highest honor one can get in school!

Words can’t express how proud we are of him for these grades. As a result, we gave him $10 for every A, $6 for every B, and $2 for every “Outstanding or Very Good progress”. He was surprised at that. But in our mind, he definitely earned it.

Way to go Ryan!!!!!

Ryan’s man caveOctober 21, 2017

Today Ryan officially started referring to his Office as the “man cave”. He has been spending time decorating it, rearranging it, and making it his own. It’s no longer called ‘his office’.

Proud moment that also makes me sad. Because that means my little boy is not so little anymore. He’s becoming a pre-teen.  Gosh I wish he wouldn’t grow up, but I know he has to.

Love you Ryan. Always and forever

Ryan’s 1st trumpet lessonJuly 3, 2017

Today was the 1st time Ryan tried the trumpet. It’s a summer music program that helps ensure he won’t be placed in choir when 4th grade starts (because he doesn’t like to sing). It was a 30-min lesson at Pleasant Valley Intermediate with a small group of kids.  Ryan had a HUGE smile when he came out of the lesson. He even tried practicing a bit on his own at home!! He hit some really high notes too. I was MEGA proud!!!

Ryan tackles Bushkill FallsJune 16, 2017

For my birthday I wanted to go to Bushkill Falls with the family. This was one of the first times Ryan had been here since he was a baby. We walked the Red trail, which is the most challenging of hikes…with tough terrain and long steep climbs. But he completed it!

There were parts where he struggled a bit, but he kept pushing through (with some motivation of course). And he was very proud to reach the end…as was I. He even said he’d like to go back at least once a year to do it again.

Great job Ryan!

Ryan graduates 3rd gradeJune 16, 2017

Ryan’s last day of 3rd grade and last official day in Pleasant Valley Elementary. This was him walking out of school on the final day. He was smiling and very proud of himself. He doesn’t seem nervous at all about PVI . I am so proud of him. He’s growing until a young man. You’ll always be my baby Ryan. But good for you for completing such a major milestone!!!

Ryan meets the REAL Optimus Prime!May 9, 2017

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Western Star manufacturing plant in Cleveland North Carolina. One of the two remaining Optimus trucks used for filming Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Last Knight was on site. We got to place our replica side by side with the original truck. Ryan also got to meet the Galvatron truck (Megatron). He was beyond excited, and so was I. It was an absolute honor to be able to share this experience with him. Oh – and he got a ride in a few Nascar replicas from some friends who are local to the area.

WHAT A WEEKEND!!!!

Ryan’s 1st stage crew experienceApril 9, 2017

Pleasant Valley Elementary had a talent show at the High school and asked for volunteers to help behind the scenes. When we gave Ryan the option of helping he jumped all over it. He was given the very important role of moving the piano onto and off of the stage during the performances. He was mega proud and kept telling us how much he loved the experience and wanted to help (as a stage crew member) at every event he could.

He was shy at the end when the principal wanted to have him go on stage with the other performers and chose to stay behind the scenes. He was very nervous about being seen. We’ll work on that Ryan.

But mommy and daddy are super proud at how much you loved the experience. We were both smiling from ear to ear the entire time. AWESOME JOB DUDE!!

Ryan rides bike for 1st time in 2017April 14, 2017

We’ve tried for years to get Ryan into bicycling but he never wanted to. This year he finally showed an interested in wanting to ride, partially because his friends John and Camilo both have bikes and I guess he wants to have that “in” with them.

I found the bike on Craigslist and surprised him with it after school. It sat for a few days before getting its first use on the grass. He did really well. Was on it for 20 minutes. He almost figured out the balancing, and just needs a little more practice. But I’m sure he’ll get it down in no time.

Proud of you Ryan!!!

Ryan draws aliens in 3rd gradeApril 6, 2017

3rd grade Mr. Farkas is reading a chapter book to the kids. Ryan is really enjoying it because he talks about the book when he comes home, which typically he never does. The book is titled “Aliens for Breakfast”.

Today he came home showing me several drawings he did of the alien using his imagination and the limited photos they’ve seen in the chapter book. He wanted to show me how to draw one so we did the bottom two together.

I was so honored he wanted to draw one with me and that he shared his love of the book with me as well. Really enjoyed how proud he was of his drawings and wanted to preserve them for him. 🙂

Ryan’s 1st time pumping gasMarch 7, 2017

This was taken at the Exxon station on 115 in Effort. We were coming home from school and getting a personal free pizza from Pizza Hut. I needed to stop for gas and he asked if he could come out and help. We went inside and prepaid. Then came out and I showed him how to work the pump. He seemed very proud. And so was I 🙂

Ryan’s money project from 3rd gradeFebruary 10, 2017

February 2017 – Ryan was SOOO proud of this project he was working on in class. He said he was the only one in class to completed as much as he did. He typically doesn’t come home and show off his work. He doesn’t even like talking about school in general. But with this, he was so proud to show Ania and I. It was great to see it…and I was so proud of what he was able to accomplish in just a short time.  Way to go Ryan!!!

Ryan and Bryce BeilJanuary 13, 2017

This was taken on the last night the Beil family (neighbors across the street) were here. Amber, her dad, and her son came over for one last night of fun at our house. It’s likely the last time they will ever be in the Poconos again.

Ryan’s 1st note from Lucky 2016November 21, 2016

Ryan’s Elf on the Shelf came back to see us!! We found him inside Ryan’s big pod tent last night hanging out the tent window. Today we found him by one of Ryan’s SHIELD desks with a note that he was almost finished writing. Here’s what it said.

Ryan is SOOOOO happy to have Lucky here again And to be honest I am too. We needed some good fortune and Lucky may be just what we were looking for. GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN LUCKY!!!! 🙂

SHIELD car transformationNovember 2, 2016

This was Ryan’s 9th birthday present. He loves Agents of SHIELD. Ania got him a bunch of spy gear, and our house is rapidly becoming SHIELD HQ. So I decided to add some stickers and decals to our truck and create his official transport vehicle. I’m personally not happy with the outcome. Up close the decals look pretty bad. But I think he likes it. And that’s all that matters. Love you Ryan.

Another visit from LuckyOctober 6, 2016

This one was from Oct 2016 – Lucky left this in his lunchbox for school 🙂

Ryan and his science labAugust 9, 2016

This is a picture of Ryan in our guest bathroom, which was converted to a ‘mad science’ lab as part of his SHIELD remodeling. At first it remaining pretty clean. But on this night in particular, he decided to go crazy and just mix a bunch of shampoos, soaps, and conditions, rice, and cream, and sprays. The bathroom was an absolute mess. But he loved it and smiled from ear to ear.

It was a fun memory for him, so I decided to just let it go. Despite the mess, I enjoyed watching his smile so much

Ryan and John in the poolJuly 23, 2016

John invited Ryan to go swimming in his pool. It was very hot (90s) that day. This was one of the first times he ever went in to their pool. I was there watching the entire time. I was very proud of Ryan for taking it slow at first and getting used to things before he went all the way in. He even commented that it would have been nice if the pool had numbers for the depth.

They had a great day together. I absolutely love seeing him smile so much.

Ryan on day of comic book men filmingJuly 20, 2016

I was invited to be on a show for the AMC network titled “Comic Book Men”. I don’t know must about the show, but figured it would be a cool opportunity where hopefully Ryan and Ania could get a chance to be on camera.

Unfortunately the director didn’t want them on camera so it was just me. We were all very disappointed, and Ryan was very sad about it. To this day he doesn’t like thinking about it. But these were some photos I took when we arrived.

Either way, I was proud to share the experience with them. And I know Ryan will have his chance to be in the spotlight very soon. Until then, I can only hope it was another inspiring day for my little boy, who isn’t so little anymore.

Ryan at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQJuly 16, 2016

Ryan has recently gotten into the TV show “Agents of Shield” by Marvel. So much in fact that he wants to convert our entire house into Shield headquarters. So we started off small today. Converting the plant shelf into the command center, mimicking the front of the helicarrier ship. He was loving it. It was fun setting up with him!

Ryan and friends digging a holeJuly 10, 2016

A shot of Ryan and our neighbors John, Camillo, and Victoria. They spent the entire day together. Did metal detecting and they found pennies in an area that I suggested they look in near the trailer (wink wink). They dug this massive hole on the side of the house. Had a few issues getting along at times but they worked it out. We drove the golf cart a lot.  That night their parents came over and we did smores over the firepit.

Ryans Gymnastic Risk Pays OffJuly 8, 2016

Today was a very stressful day for me as a parent. A local gym place (Freedom Gymnastics in Brodheadsville) ofers something they call ‘Ninja warrior training’. It’s like an obstacle course where kids get to try some difficult maneuvers and things.

Ryan was really into watching the TV show American Ninja Warrior, and he also likes running and doing ‘physical stuff. So we thought he would enjoy these classes.

We he fought me the entire time. For literally hours he whined, he cried, and he came up with every excuse in the book why he didn’t want to go. It was absolute torture that almost had me at the point of exploding and saying “FINE – I’m not wasting my time or money. We’re not going.”

At certain parts of the conversation Ryan mentioned he was concerned about being in a group with older kids (age range was 5 – 15). He was afraid of doing something wrong and being bullied. He was also afraid the teachers wouldn’t be nice and that something would go wrong. He said it’s a big risk and he doesn’t want to take it.

I was stern about going. I felt he needed to be forced into going to prove to himself that he could do it. To never be afraid to stand up for himself if someone made him feel uncomfortable. To never be afraid to take risks in life.

In the end he eventually went. And he loved loved loved it! He was smiling at certain parts. He had no problems with anyone. He was in a group with older girls. Everyone got along. He came out and said “I want to sign up for this again.” I was smiling from ear to ear and couldn’t be more proud of how he conquered this fear and finally opened his mind to trying something new.

Yes I forced him to an extent. But I needed to do it to help he realize that sometimes risks are worth the reward.

WAY TO GO RYAN!!!!!! He stuck with this place for a few years, but then hit plateau because the instructors were just going through the motions vs. helping his excel. He got bored with it.

Another letter from Lucky to RyanJuly 1, 2016

Lucky left Ryan another letter in his mailbox today! Here’s what it said 🙂

Ryan and Mrs. Hauze 2nd gradeOctober 23, 2015

This photo was taken at the PVE Bear Walk. It’s a pic of Ryan and his 2nd grade teacher Mrs. Hauze. So far she has been the best teacher he’s had. Friendly, easy to work with, and really knows what she’s doing. Great photo.

Last day of 2nd grade highlight sheetJune 3, 2016

These are the things Ryan noted on his final day of second grade with Mrs Hauze. I absolutely LOVE that he still enjoys watching Knight Rider with me. The obsession with ghosts thing has me a little concerned, but if we handle it right I believe it can become a great passion of his that he can learn to pursue safely

8 y-o Ryan finds old police uniformJune 3, 2016

Ryan likes to go into the attic sometimes. We have some boxes storing many things from previous years. One of which was his police uniform costume he had for Halloween in Kindergarten I believe.  He put it on today and also spend like 20 minutes assembling his police belt. He looked SO official I just had to take a picture. Love seeing him so happy and proper. Great picture Ryan!

Ryan’s letter to neighbor JohnMay 13, 2016

After playing with our neighbor John for several days in the afternoon, he got a bit frustrated with things and wanted to have a chat with him. So he wrote this down and printed it as a reminder of what he wanted to say to him.

Weeks passed and he never said anything to John. As of the day I’m writing this, he still hasn’t. But I am proud of him for wanting to share how he feels instead of keeping it bottled up inside.

I hope it helps him cope with whatever concerns he has.

EDIT: today June 1, 2016, he had the official talk with John. I wasn’t hear but Ania said they sat outside and talked / played for a long time. Ryan even got the letter and read it to John even though his guidance counselor didn’t think it was a good idea. I don’t really know how the conversation went, but according to Ania, Ryan is very proud of himself.

Thus needless to say today is a major milestone in his journey towards adulthood. Way to go little man!

The dirtiest Ryan has ever beenMay 13, 2016

we were helping our neighbors across the street (Bryan and Amber) build a new patio. Ryan was carrying blocks from the pile to the patio the whole time, and also did a ton of shoveling of sand and gravel. I’m documenting this moment because it’s really the first time he’s ever gotten this dirty, AND the first time he’s helped so much with a project.  I think he enjoyed helping because there were some of Bryan’s friends there that Ryan knew. So he wanted to feel like one of the guys. Strange thing is he’s never once helped me to this extent when I do work around the house. Nonetheless I am very proud of this major accomplishment in his life!

Ryan doing pullups in basebmentApril 29, 2016

April 29 2016 – Ryan has been showing a little more interest in the weight lifting / exercise thing. So today we made a pull up bar in our basement. Right now he can only do one at a time, but he really likes it and wants to continue

Ryan’s First Holy CommunionApril 24, 2016

Some photos of Ryan’s first official holy communion on April 24, 2016. It was a perfect beautiful day. Ania’s brother and girlfriend Ali came, Mick and Josey, Amber and family, Meredith and kids. We had an after party at nana’s house and spent the entire day outside. There was absolutely nothing we would change about the day. It was amazing in every way. We are SUPER DUPER mega proud of you Ryan. This is a major step closer to God, and is something I never got to experience when I was your age. Way to go, and may God continue to be close to your heart for eternity and beyond!

Ryan’s Communion PrepApril 10, 2016

Ania made this with Ryan’s and my help on April 10th, 2016. His first communion is only weeks away and we are so proud of how far he has come!

Ryan’s first parade in KITTMay 25, 2010

This shot was taken at KITT’s first ever parade shortly after we had just about completed him. It was Memorial Day 2010 in East Stroudsburg, PA. It will forever remain one of my favorite photos of him as a little boy. He is so interested in this creation that he had a hand in building, and I you could almost see the bright and inspiring future that lies ahead for him.

Ryan gets his 1st PenanceMarch 5, 2016

Ryan got his first penance from church! He did his first confession with a priest and is preparing for his first communion in April! I will readily admit I don’t really understand much about his religion classes or what it means to get a penance. But I know it brings him closer to God, and it also makes both Ania and I very very proud.  Congratulations Ryan!

Ryan practicing guitarJanuary 7, 2016

A cool shot of Ryan practicing his guitar. He has only been playing for several weeks and getting him to practice hasn’t been easy. But he did this round for about 10 minutes and we were super proud of him! Over time he lost interest and stopped playing the guitar in about a year.

Ryan and His Elf “Lucky”December 17, 2015

Lucky was the “Elf on the Shelf” Ryan really really wanted this year.  After he heard about all of his friends in school having one, he approached us with disappointment, wanting to know why he isn’t good enough to have an elf. We tried explaining to him that these elves are meant for kids who don’t behave, and that he is such a good boy Santa said he didn’t need one. But he was very sad and said he had been praying for an elf at night and asked Santa as well.

So Ania talked me into getting this for Ryan. And the elf was waiting for us after we came back from our Captiva trip. We had fun watching Lucky move around the house. All day long that’s all Ryan would talk about. He was talk to Lucky and couldn’t wait to see where he would move next.

As I write this it’s Christmas night and Lucky went home last night with Santa. Surprisingly Ryan has been OK with lucky leaving (so far) which surprised me because they were so close with each other.

I absolutely LOVED watching Ryan’s imagination run wild with this. Ania made a good decision bringing Lucky into the house. It was THE highlight of this Christmas season.

Ryan’s 2nd Grade Progress ReportDecember 17, 2015

This is a copy of Ryan’s progress report from Mrs. Hauze. He is doing an outstanding job and it’s clear he is a model student. We are insanely proud of this

Ryan Working on golf cart KITT for 1st timeNovember 20, 2015

I purchased a golf cart and built you a miniature version of K.I.T.T., painting it black and setting it up with lighting, scanner, and license plate. This was the first ever repair you did with me on mini-KITT. He was leaking in the rear differential. We had to take off the cover, put a new sealer on, and replace it. Even your friend John next door helped a little bit.

One of the proudest moments of this year was right here. Watching you take pride in your new car and learning how to fix things the right way.  Love love love it.

Ryan’s Halloween Costume 2015October 31, 2015

Ryan is getting very interested in magic.  So this year he decided he wanted to be a magician for Halloween.  Ania found the costume online and had a custom made cape with his name done up.  He absolutely LOVES it and wears it almost everyday.  He setup a magic station in his room and in the play room, and the outfit even came with some cool tricks like a rabbit that hides inside the hat and a magic wand.  This is one of those photos that instantly makes me smile.  LOVE IT!

Ryan helps fix our hot water heaterSeptember 2, 2015

We got home from his Open House night at 2nd grade in the evening.  When we pulled in the garage, the door to the house was open.  Ania was worried so I went in to check things out.  Ryan followed shortly after.  We went into the basement and turned on the lights looking for an intruder.  What I found instead was a leaking hot water tank that was about to rupture.

#1 – talk about something you do NOT want to come home to.  and #2 – I will forever give thanks to Uncle Scotty for opening that garage door for us.  Had it not been opened, I probably would’ve never noticed.

Anyway, Ryan spent the evening with me and part of the next day after school replacing the heater.  He watched me work, I taught him some things, and he even did his own ‘plumbing’ work with his own toolset (which you can see on top of the cooler).  I obviously didn’t allow him to use the torch, but he watched.

Between the cost and the labor and the time, I was hating that I had to replace this heater.  But I also look at it as a father-son bonding moment that I will never forget.  And now that I’ve added the photos to his Footprint, he will one-day know how much of an impact this moment had on me.  In the end, I loved every single minute.

Ryan’s 1st day of 2nd gradeAugust 28, 2015

These are the photos we took of Ryan on his 1st day of 2nd grade.  He is pictured with his Nana (Judy Fiduccia) in front of our house by the same tree we take a photo with every year.  At school he didn’t waver once, and walked right in never looking back.  His teacher is Ms. Hause and so far we absolutely LOVE her.  He is growing up to be such a brave boy, and I couldn’t be more proud of the man he is becoming.  Welcome to 2nd grade Ryan!

Police Officer RyanOctober 31, 2014

This was Ryan’s costume for Halloween 2014. He was super proud wearing it, and enjoyed showing off the gadgets on his belt to his friends.

Ryan makes hot cocoa for school guardsJanuary 8, 2015

January 8th was one of the coldest mornings we’ve had so far this winter in northeast Pennsylvania. Wind chills were -20, and schools had a delayed opening. While eating breakfast that morning, Ryan started thinking about how cold it was outside. So I make the suggestion that we make hot chocolate for his school crossing guards to help keep them warm. So before leaving for school, Ryan prepared a handful of cups and got everything ready. We drove to his school and offered each of the crossing guards a cup to help keep them warm. Taken by surprise, they clearly didn’t know how to respond. So they simply thanked Ryan for his generosity and went about their day. He even brought a cup in for his teacher, Mrs. Borger. This marks a very proud moment for me as a father. It is great to see his excitement and interest in wanting to help others.

Ryan gets a letter from the White HouseJune 19, 2015

Ryan has really been enjoying 1st grade social studies class.  Back in March / April they started learning about the White House and the Presidents of past and present.  When his teacher said the White House sometimes responds to letters that are mailed, he came home and immediately wrote a letter saying hello to the current President.

Well just a few weeks ago my son got an “official” response from the White House with photos, a letter, and some other items as well.  It absolutely made his day, and weeks later, the package still sits proudly on his desk.

He knows nothing about politics or corruption, and does not yet fully understand the workings of our government.  So ALL politics aside, he is embracing this moment as a day when the President of the United States took the time to say hello…to him.

It is a milestone moment that will likely fade away over time.  And that is why I have added it to his mini-Footprint.  So that one day he can look back on this experience and remember the feeling of pride he had so long ago.

Ryan’s 1st pair of glassesApril 3, 2015

For several months we’ve noticed that Ryan was squinting a lot more to see things far away (e.g. TV; school white board, etc.).  So we took him to his first eye doctor visit in Brodheadsville.  He was very nervous at first and hesitate to go. But the doctor was very good with him, and ultimately Ryan was introduced to his first pair of glasses.  He actually wanted red ones because that’s his Nana’s favorite color – “power red”.  But they didn’t have any, so we settled for these (which by the way only took him less than 3 minutes to pick out).

It saddens me his eyes got blurry at such a young age, but I’m super proud of yet another milestone he has surpassed in his life.  🙂

Amazicon Comic Con with RyanApril 26, 2014

Our KITT car was invited to take part in a Comic Convention called Amazicon, down in Essington, PA.  Joining us were several other ‘star cars’ from famous movie and TV shows in the 60s – 90s.  It was really cool to expose Ryan to all these cars and get photos of his with such awesome legends.

Mowing the lawn with DaddyJuly 11, 2010

Just a fun summer day when Ryan would enjoy driving the tractor with me.  He would love taking it up and down the grass, and onto what we’d call the ‘bumpy road’, which was the little forest area along the side of our property.  Loved these moments with him.

Ryan with KITT and Mini-KITTFebruary 19, 2010

Here’s a picture I took of our Knight Rider KITT replica and Ryan together when he was maybe 3 years old.  Notice the mini red scanner we installed on his car as well.  It is such an honor to be able to build something like this together with my family.  It is one of my favorite moments ever.

Ryan’s first love letterJanuary 23, 2015

In Ms. Borger’s First Grade class at Pleasant Valley Elementary, Ryan was given this letter from one of his friends – Avianna.  She seems to have a small crush on Ryan, always hugging him everyday, holding his hand, and staying by his side wherever they go.  He really likes getting these things from her and seems to like her as well.

This hand-written note is officially the first love letter Ryan ever received.  And dare I say – this is potentially the first official ‘crush’ in his lifetime.

Ryan and his Kindergarten classMay 16, 2014

May 2014 This was a photo taken after some outdoor activities during Pleasant Valley Elementary school’s PBS Fun Day.  Ryan’s teacher was Mrs. Falcone-Smith (pictured in the middle).  Ryan is the one standing 3rd from the left.  And it was great for me to see him as a parent volunteer.

Ryan’s 1st Tennis RaquetOctober 14, 2014

Here is a picture of Ryan’s first tennis racquet.  He used it for only a few years before the coach suggested he move up to a bigger size at the age of 6.

2013 Ryan at CamelbeachJune 22, 2013

Camelbeach Water Park (Tannersville, PA).  This was our go-to spot during the summer (and for subsequent summers).  We loved coming here for a few hours because it was so close.  Ryan was always cautious on the slides and never tried the really big ones, but he enjoyed everything there.  This smile is a good representation of how happy he was everytime we went there.

Ryan’s 1st day of KindergartenSeptember 3, 2013

Here’s a photo of Ryan’s first day at Kindergarten at Pleasant Valley Elementary School.  We were a bit concerned as to how this would go because he had never been to school before. He never attended pre-school, and we had tried Polish school the year before (once a week every Saturday).  But he didn’t like it at all.  In the end though, this first day at Kindergarten (and the remainder of the year) was a HUGE success.

Ryan rides his bike freelyOctober 21, 2017

Oct 21, 2017 – today I kind of ‘forced’ Ryan to do his bike again after it sat all summer without being touched. He was doing well in the Spring but didn’t get to the point of being comfortable allowing me to let go. Today I forced him to ride in the street. He fought me because he said he was embarrassed that people would look at him weirdly (being 10 and all). But then he mastered it!

So today was the first official day Ryan actually rode his bike on his own. He’s no pro yet, but he went all the way down the street on his own without my help. I was super uber mega proud of him.  WAY TO GO RYAN!!!!!

Ryan finds a fossil (not really, but sort of)July 14, 2015

Ryan and I were exploring an empty piece of property next door to us.  It’s a foresty area about 1 acre in size, covered in young trees and leaves.  Off in the distance we saw an object that was grayish-white sticking out of the ground.  It clearly didn’t belong there, so we walked over to it.  Lifting it out of the ground we discovered it was the antlers to a buck.  We have a lot of deer that roam through our community and always enjoy looking at them.  It wasn’t clear how these antlers were ‘disconnected’ from the buck (e.g. if it had a fight with another buck or they just naturally fell off).  But because he is so into discovering things and learning about fossils and dinosaurs, he was mega excited at this particular discovery (as was I).

We do not advocate the harming of animals in any way.  And he is too young to fully understand animal cruelty.  So after cleaning it, he now proudly displays it on his desk…and simply looks at it as his first “real” find from an older period in time.  AWESOME!

First Time Ryan Earns MoneyAugust 21, 2015

Our neighborhood has a yearly thing where homes in the community to a garage / yard sale.  Not many people participate, but our neighbors across the street did.  So that Friday night, I asked Ryan if he wanted to earn some money the next day by setting up a bake sale.  He agreed!

So we spend some time making brownies, got chocolate chips and zucchini bread from nanas, and int he morning I went to the store to buy hot dogs, bagels, etc.  We setup our station at the tip of our driveway, make some signs, and had some visitors!  Some neighbors came by to support us, and some random people driving by.  In total Ryan made $11.00 for the day.  Not too bad for the first official day in his life where he worked for money!  WAY TO GO RYAN!

Family photo with KITTSeptember 2, 2013

One of the very first family photos we took with KITT in March 2013. I believe this was about a year after we had finished it. Preserving our journey became very important to me around this time. I don’t remember why. But you’ll notice in the background how bare everything is. We had no bushes or plants. We were so happy to have KITT and I was personally excited at the opportunities he would offer us in the coming years.

Ryan’s bday 2019November 2, 2019

Nov 2019 – celebrating Ryan’s 12th bday. It was the first outdoor party we’ve had at our house. We used Optimus’ garage (parked him at nanas house for a while) and setup games, tons of a food, dodge ball,, and more food. He said it was one of his favorite parties ever. And I agree. It was a memorable one, and likely one of the last few he’ll want to have as he gets into his teenage years. Happy birthday Ryan. Daddy loves you!!

Thanksgiving 2019November 29, 2019

Thanksgiving with Nana 2019. it was a fun day. We played lots of games, including beer pong (no beer), the saran wrap ball game, and tic tac toe sliding across nanas kitchen floor. It was a low key day with many memories. I love my family.

Ryan learns about Santa – letter I wrote for himNovember 6, 2019

November 2019 – Ryan discovers the truth about Santa and his elf Lucky. He was 12 years old. It was absolutely devastating for him…and for me. This is the letter I wrote for him that explained the truth.  I’m sorry I had to be the bearer of bad news Ryan. I love you, and I hope you’ll never stop believing in the magic of the Christmas season.

Ania and Joe at NJ BeachApril 28, 2019

For part of your 39 bday celebration, I surprised you with a trip to the Seaside NJ beach. Weather was beautiful, but since it was April, neither one of us expected the sun to do as much damage as it did. That night and for days later, the sunburn was extreme. Esp for you. You can barely walk, your ankles were swollen. We couldn’t shower. We were a hot mess.

BUT, we got some time alone on the beach for the first time probably since Ryan was born. We celebrated us, our journey, your bday, and most important – getting your toes in the sand…which you’ve been missing a lot.  I hope to spend many more moments on the beach with you Ania. I never want to lose our renewed love for each other. Thank you for believing in me…in us.  I LOVE YOU

Note from Ania during hospital visitSeptember 8, 2018

As we continue to recover from my stupid affair choices of 2017, we once in a while will leave notes for each other. Ania does it moreseo than I do. But not because I don’t care. Because I am doing so many other things that it’s difficult to stop the forward momentum. But we both do it as often as possible.

I just felt like saving this one tonight for some reason. Perhaps as a reminder of what could be and what could have been. I don’t want to lose her. I would do anything for her. And I have fallen in love with her all over again. I love you Ania.

Joe’s Landscaping flyerJune 2, 1989

Ryan found this flyer while looking through mom’s old photo albums. The first job I ever had was mowing lawns around the age of 10 y.o. for nearby neighbors. I would make about $10 – 20 per lawn once or twice a week. Great money for a kid my age!  I did this for several years until I was old enough to have a job that was considered ‘on the books’. When I was 14…it was at McDonalds.

12 yr wedding anniv message to RyanSeptember 2, 2017

This was a letter I wrote for Ryan. I printed it out on our 12-yr wedding anniversary day (6 months after the affair) and left it behind one of his baby photos hanging on the wall. LOVE YOU RYAN!!!

Meeting the real Optimus Prime truckApril 29, 2017

We got word of an appearance by one of the two remaining Optimus Prime trucks used for filming Transformers Age of Extinction and The Last Knight. It was at the manufacturing plant in Cleveland North Carolina.

We contacted the plant and spoke to the Union President, Cory Hill. He invited us down and we got to place our Optimus side-by-side with the original. it is a memory I will never forget, especially since the meeting took place just over a year since we first started this journey.

Ryan and daddy with fishMarch 7, 2017

mommy volunteered to help with Aquarium Day at school but with the hysterectomy I had to take her place. I was given a station where I had to talk about a live Horshoe crab and a live sea star. The crab was freaky like a spider. lol  Ryan’s class came in the afternoon and my station was the 1st one he came to. I spent about 5 minutes talking to the kids and then snapped this quick photo before they left. I hope he was proud to have his daddy there…because I was proud to be there for him. 🙂

Ryan and Daddy make Root BeerFebruary 19, 2016

just a simple picture of Ryan and I making Root Beer soda. Mommy was recovering from Hysterectomy so him and I spent more time together than usual. We have to wait a few days to see how it tastes. But I enjoyed making it with him. Love these memories together. I never want it to end.

Donuts with Dad Speech From RyanMay 26, 2016

May 26 2016 – this was a speech Ryan put together for Father’s Day. The entire class went up on stage, 1 by 1, to read it to a their dads (couple dozen people). I went in not knowing what to expect or what he would say. But it was really really sweet to hear him read this aloud. Defintely brought a tear to my eye. We shared a donut afterwards (actually I ate them; he didn’t want any) and then we came home early to finish watching the builders do the Optimus garage. See my VIDEO files for a video I took of him talking.

Appearing in Pocono Record with KITTSeptember 6, 2012

This was an article that was published in our area newspaper – The Pocono Record. They did a short piece about our car and the build and what we do with it. But it was cool to get the entire family in the photo, and to preserve this milestone in our journey. This was an article that was published in our area newspaper – The Pocono Record. They did a short piece about our car and the build and what we do with it. But it was cool to get the entire family in the photo, and to preserve this milestone in our journey.

Ryan wearing my old sweatshirtSeptember 2, 2016

This was a custom sweatshirt mom made for me when I was still a pre-teen. I loved wearing it and held onto it all this time. I would even occasionally wear it as an adult. It was cool to see Ryan wearing it, despite the crazy face and slightly oversize arms. Love preserving stuff like this for him.

Ryan and me on mini-KITTNovember 13, 2015

Our friend Mick (Josephine’s husband) took this photo of us driving the mini-KITT golf cart on your birthday. I absolutely love love love this picture. It is perfect in every way because YOU are perfect in every way Ryan.

1999 and 2001 My motorcyclesJune 4, 2005

Another few pics of my 2003 Harley Fatboy. Prior to that I owned a 1999 Harley Sportster 1200 Custom. And prior to that (though not shown here) I learned to ride on a Yamaha Virago. I rode motorcycles for almost 15 years, though after Ryan was born our rides together were down to maybe 1 or 2 a year. I lost the passion for riding after my mom stopped riding. Still trying to figure out what happened to my love for riding. But it’s a memory I will never forget.

My 2nd car – 2000 Chrysler SebringJune 14, 2002

After I sold my Eclipse, this was the second car I purchased. It was my first convertible. I loved it, even though I didn’t often drop the top. I leased it for the first 3 years, and then saved enough over that time to pay the remaining balance after the lease and outright but the car. Had a lot of fun in it, despite the fact it was never fun to work on mechanically.

I crashed it on a dark side road in December 2010 coming home late one night from the airport. It was my first (and hopefully my last) major accident. The car was totaled and insurance gave me just under $3000 for it.

Ryan and me with KITTSeptember 5, 2011

This was one of my favorites.  Ryan, Ania, and I were helping an organization called Aimee’s Army by bringing KITT to their walk.  Someone else took this photo and I just love looking at it every time.

KITT appears in first major movieJune 3, 2015

Last year I met someone named Judy San Ramon at a Comic Convention in Long Island.  She was a movie writer and really liked KITT and promised to bring us into one of her upcoming movies.  And this month it actually happened.

I trailered him to Long Island where they filmed him all day long for a movie titled “Fair Market Value”.  Some major players were in the film, including Luisana Lopilato (wife of famous singer Michael Buble).  I even got to meet Michael and chat with him for a few minutes about KITT.

1985 Me in the backyardJune 5, 1985

Here’s a picture of me on our diving board in our backyard pool.  I think this was only a year or two after the pool was built.  You can see my brother in the raft behind me.   We definitely has a paradise in our backyard.

Late 1980s 6th grade photoOctober 23, 1987

A picture of me and my 6th grade class.  I am in the back row, 2nd from the left.  My teacher’s name was Mrs. Faller – my favorite in my entire elementary school.  I unfortunately no longer speak to any of the kids from that class.

1988 Me at my deskMarch 3, 1988

As you can see I had quite a busy work station in my room back then.  I was big into things like music, model building, and weather.  You can even see the barometer hanging on the wall and some of the rulers I’d use for drawing.  My parents got my brother and I matching sweatshirts with our names on the back as well.

1989 6th grade graduation picJune 12, 1987

I don’t honestly remember much about my 6th grade graduation time other than what the photos show me.  I do remember how excited (and nervous) I was to go onto a new school, especially since I had been in the same Brookdale Elementary School for my entire education thus far.

Mommy and baby Ryan at car showOctober 15, 2009

This was taken at the same car show at the Pocono Nascar raceway where we decided we were going to build KITT

The day we started KITT (2009)October 15, 2009

This is a picture of us at a car show at the Pocono Nascar Raceway.  It was the first show we went to as a family with Ryan, and we really enjoyed ourselves.  In fact we had so much fun watching the other cars that we started thinking about how cool it would be to have our own car.  And that very night, our search for a 1980’s Trans Am began.  🙂

1979 Joey baby picDecember 5, 1979

Just a young baby obviously.  I think mom said this photo was taken at my grandmother’s house in Paramus.  Coincidentally it is near a piano, which I would eventually begin playing in another 7 years or so.

1988 My father and IOctober 2, 1988

This photo will probably represent the ONLY photo I ever upload of my father.  This was taken in front of our fireplace in Bloomfield (I don’t remember the occasion).  Unfortunately I stopped speaking to my father during the divorce, and never had any interest in speaking to him again.  He died sometime around 2006 I believe.

Homemade Megatron CostumeOctober 21, 2013

Ryan (4 years old) and I LOVED to watch the animated series on the HUB Network titled “Transformer’s Prime”.   When he was 5, we looking at several costumes ideas for Halloween with a Transformers theme.  And since I couldn’t find anything for myself, we decided it would be fitting to embark on a new challenge and make a full-scale costume of my favorite character.

This is a 100% EVA foam costume.  We used about 60 square foam tiles and foam sheets (similar to the material you’d find on a gym floor).  It’s put together by warping the foam with heat, hot-gluing the pieces together, and then spray-painting it to mirror Megatron’s metallic finish with purple (Energon) accents.  It took us over 3 months to complete, and considering we had NO artistic capabilities, and had never tried something like this before, we were really happy with the outcome.

We only wore it a handful of times in October 2012.  On a trick-or-treating adventure at our local Mall (see pic below), with Ryan dressed up as the arch enemy “Optimus Prime”, we were bombarded by people who wanted photos with Megatron.  I also wore it to a Halloween Trunk Or Treat at his school when he was in 1st grade.

Ultimately our goal in doing this was to create a great lifelong memory for Ryan to look back on and also teach him to never be afraid of trying new things. We can only hope we were successful!

1987 Lion-O CostomeOctober 31, 1987

Thundercats was my favorite cartoon of all time back then.  My mom made this costume from scratch since I liked it so much.  Ironically, later in life through KITT and a comic convention, I would meet Larry Kenny in person (he was the voice of the original Lion-O).  He sat inside KITT and took some photos.  The best part was that I got to introduce him to Ryan and get a few signed pics for him at no charge.

7th grade marching bandNovember 1, 1989

This was the first official parade I got to march in.  This was before high school, but it was cool because you felt like you were in the high school marching band (and thus one of the ‘cool kids’ in my eyes).  As you can see, the costumes they gave us were pretty lame, consisting of a barret and sash.  The parade took place on Broad Street and ended at the Bloomfield High School

Ryan’s Donuts with Dads SpeechMay 5, 2013

This as a speech Ryan prepared as part of a 2nd grade project with his class. They invited all of the fathers to the school for “Donuts with Dad”. Each child from the class came up and read something. I didn’t get emotional while I was there, but I get emotional everytime I watch it. My little boy is growing up so fast. But I am honored to have already spent so much time with him, and love that I can be available to see things like this. Love you Ryan!!

Ryan rides his bike on his own!October 21, 2017

Today, Oct 21, 2017 is the 1st official day Ryan rode his bike on his own!!! He didn’t touch it all summer. This weekend I was playing with him and kind of ‘forced’ him to do it on the street. He wasn’t happy about it, but then he got it and wanted to KEEP riding. SUPER PROUD OF YOU RYAN!!!!!!!!!!!

Ryan’s 1st Transformers stop motionFebruary 13, 2020

February 2020 – Ryan has been getting into photographing his Transformers toys like they are real characters with fancy backgrounds and editing. This was the very first “stop motion” video he and I worked on together. He was so proud of this, as was I. WELL DONE RYAN!!!

Ryan’s 1st Day of KindergartenSeptember 1, 2012

This is a short video montage I created of Ryan’s 1st day at Kindergarten. Every time I watch this it gives me chills. We were SO proud of him walking through those doors for the first time. He had such pride, and didn’t shed a tear. Way to go Ryan.

TestNovember 4, 2020

Test

My first car – 1990 Mitsubishi EclipseJune 21, 1996

(this is not my actual car; just a similar model I found online)

I was “proudly” known as ‘Guido Joe’ or the “Italian Stallion”.  This was my first car which I had purchased about two weeks before getting my license.  If memory serves right, it cost about $6500…which was literally every dime I had in savings.  Mom helped with the last $1000, which I paid her back on within the next year.

It was a manual trans that I drove for a good 6 years and racked up just about 105,000 miles before it was time to part ways and pass it on to the next owner. It sported a stereo that would retrack itself to appear like the detachable face-plate ones, a sound system that would shake a house from two blocks away, a total of 44 purple neon lights throughout and underneath the car, strobe lights that would activate in reverse (in lieu of the white lamps), and plenty more.  I would cruise up and down the streets of Nutley and Bloomfield, NJ virtually every day.  It is also how I met my first girlfriend (Dawn) and became a nice “private getaway” for those romantic evenings when a bedroom wasn’t an option.   Lots of memories for sure!

2016 Holiday LetterDecember 15, 2016

This is the holiday letter we sent out to friends and family instead of a greeting card. It summarizes our year for everyone

10 Year wedding anniversary cardSeptember 2, 2009

This was a paper Ania printed for our 10-year anniversary.  It was something I felt was worth documenting because so many relationships fail after just one year.  And so far we’ve gone 10 years!  Go us!

Father’s Day 2015 from RyanJune 16, 2015

This was a gift from Ryan on Father’s Day 2015.  Ania helped him write it obviously, but his responses were genuine.  I couldn’t help but laugh at some of them and get totally inspired by others.  And then some just left me scratching my head in disbelief – like all the time I apparently spend on the computer trying to get AmericasFootprints.com working for us.

Ryan’s baby shower invitation 2007October 7, 2007

This is a copy of Ryan’s baby shower invitations from early 2008

Letter from when I was 11 y.o.June 16, 1989

I found this in 2014 while looking through an old memory album that my mom had kept for me growing up.  I don’t remember writing it, but I loved finding it!

Childhood Scouts newspaper clippingNovember 21, 1986

See image for more

Family tree 3rd grade (2nd page)November 15, 1985

More from the family tree docs

My Family Tree (3rd grade)November 8, 1985

I  vaguely remember doing this, and unfortunately don’t really know much else about my family’s history.  Perhaps one day I’ll research the names a bit further.

1st official job pay stubJuly 9, 1993

(I think) this was the first pay stub I had ever gotten.  It was from the Brookdale McDonalds in Bloomfield, NJ.  This was my first “official” (on the books) job after mowing lawns.  Despite how low the final amount seems, it was really awesome to have a real job and make so much money at the time!

Ryan’s 1st hockey gameJanuary 17, 2019

January 2019 – Ania won tickets to a local ice hockey game in Allentown. Ryan got them for Christmas from Santa. He was very hesitant to go and really really really did NOT want to attend the game. But we went anyway, and he had a blast. He really enjoyed himself and wants to go to another game again soon. This was a fun family adventure. Thank you Santa for the awesome gift. So glad you liked it Ryan!!! 🙂

A message from me to you Ryan – 2018June 8, 2018

I love you little man. And I hope you (along with everyone reading this) realize how important it is to dream big. Don’t let the bullies bring you down, don’t try to be someone you’re not, and never…ever…let the fear of failure stand in your way. You got this. I love you dude. ALWAYS

Trip to NASA with Optimus – 2018May 17, 2018

June 2018 – I received a random message from someone at NASA who found us on Facebook from the Ridiculous Rides video that was done on Optimus. They have something called OPSPARC (Optimus Prime Spinoff and Research Challenge) and were holding a ceremony where Hasbro and Peter Cullen were coming. And they invited US to bring Optimus! WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW! We took a family trip to NASA Goddard (Maryland)!! ANDDDD we met Peter Cullen (the voice behind Optimus Prime) in person! I can’t believe what has transpired. I am beyond words. What an awesome experience. One that I hope Ryan never forgets. (Coincidentally, on that same day, I got TWO Gift Card membership purchases to America’s Footprints. Talk about icing on the cake! WOW!!!!!)

First broken bone ever – 2017December 7, 2017

December 2017 – first time ever getting broken bones. I was working on installing a temporary heater for the Optimus garage. We had an empty 100lb propane tank outside that I was moving into position before it dropped, literally crushing my toe. At first I thought I cut off my toe. But when I removed my shoe I didn’t notice any major blood thank goodness. Ryan and Ania took care of me. Ryan was very brave and insisted I go to the hospital. Even though I knew it was broken and there wasn’t much a doctor could do aside from medication, I went so I could be a good role model for him. It was the most painful event of my life so far. I can’t imagine a gunshot feeling any worse. I hope to never experience that type of pain again. But at the same time I know why it happened and I know I deserved it (from the affair)

Spring and Summer Family fun – 2017July 21, 2017

A collage of some of the fun memories we created together as a family during the summer of 2017. This was also a time when Ania and I were working on our marriage and trying to overcome the hardships we went through as a result of my affair. I can proudly say that we have come a long way, and I am once again happy to share these moments with them both. Whereas before, I only did it for Ryan. LOVE YOU FAMILY!

Daddy and Ryan 1st road trip in O.P. – 2017September 15, 2017

These are a few photos we took from our first road trip in Optimus as father / son. We went to Erie, PA. I got a booking with a fan to bring Optimus to their home for a visit. The amount they paid basically covered the expenses for getting there and back. We were only there for a day. What made it fun is that I got to show him the building where some of the chrome work was done and stacks were built. I also introduced him to one of the guys from the chrome shop (Joe). We drove around a bit, took some cool photos, enjoyed the atmosphere. Bonded. We spent most of the day there. I didn’t want it to end. I was smiling inside the entire time. We didn’t have any issues. We laughed. We talked. It was truly an amazing experience I hope I never forget.

Poland Family Vacation – 20June 2, 2016

These are just a few of the photos we took while on a trip in Poland in June 2016. It’s the first time we went there since Ryan was a baby. What made the trip special is that we visited so many places we had never been to before. Sopot, Gdansk, and more. We saw all of Ania’s family and cousins. We celebrated her dad’s 70th birthday. We took cruises on the Baltic Sea, had lots of Polish food, and played a lot of games together. Ryan even started to pick up and speak some Polish words which was really cool to see. Ryan collected a lot of souvenirs along the way. He loved seeing the friendly dogs and cats that roamed free at certain places. Though across the street there was a big slobbery dog that jumped up and scared him a little. Tata’s driving made us all car sick. But Ryan did really well throughout the vacation with only a few small meltdowns. It was all-around an enjoyable trip. It’s always nice to come home though. I barely slept and I gained 6 pounds while there. Glad we got the chance to go and expose Ryan to some awesome Poland sites.

Ania’s 36th birthday at Jersey ShoreMay 1, 2016

I took Ania to Alba Winery in NJ (apparently one of the best wineries in the state). It’s been hard finding places that she’ll enjoy after I sent her and mom on that trip to Napa a last year. But she really liked the wine. Afterwards we went to Seaside Heights for the day. The weather was cold (low 50s) and the water was downright freezing. But I wanted to take her because she loves putting her feet in the sand. So we were practically the only ones on the beach. I was buried in sand (fully clothed) and because there was so much sand inside my clothing when I got out, I decided to jump into the water (completely in). Ania was in tears and Ryan was hysterical laughing. When we left the beach we walked the boardwalk. Played some arcade games and got some pizza (I am blown away how expensive a single slice of pizza is ($4.50!!). But despite the costs and the pain I dealt with from Ryan, it was an absolutely amazing day. We had a blast, and created some great memories that will continue to make me smile for quite some time.

Happy Valentine’s Day Ania – 2019February 14, 2019

This is something I made for Ania on Vals Day 2019. 2 years after the affair. This time of year is clearly difficult for her. She has highs and lows and I think may even be bordering on depression. I hope I can help her smile again. I love you Ania. And again…I am sorry.

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COVID-19November 8, 2020

The pandemic of 2020. COVID-19. In one word…you SUCK!! I’m sure for anyone reading this, a simple keyword search on COVID will give you plenty of information on it. So I won’t bore you there. But it was responsible for the shut down of an entire country, and the demise of any plans for success we had all year.  Schools were closed and then went to hybrid (some days in session, other days virtual). Who knows when that’ll go back to normal. All of our businesses shut down literally overnight. All of my shows and planned appearances with Optimus were cancelled. The entire thing put a major financial strain on us. The only thing keeping us afloat is the puny unemployment, food stamps, health insurance assistance, and Ania’s wine thing. Which she has absolutely rocked at.

It’s been frustrating for me because I want to get out an make more money. I want to get out of this debt I created, and 2020 was poised to be a great opportunity for us. Lots of potential. Lots of possibilities. Then overnight…nothing. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is now to have an end in sight with this thing. The stupid government no doubt has a lot to do with it as they play their political games in an election year btw Trump vs Biden…one of the worst elections in history that really brought out the negative side of humanity. It’s disgusting really. But that’s another post.

On the plus side, if there is one, we tried to start many new traditions as a family. We do restaurant night usually once a week where I pretend to be a restaurant person serving the family. Nana comes over usually for that. We learned how to make a lot of the things we would get at restaurants like Olive Garden breadsticks. We are spending a TON of time together in the same house. Which has its ups and downs. For me personally, I get very upset at the “zero-to-90 anger’ Ryan portrays sometimes. Like just now I asked him for an idea of when he’ll be ready to go to Nanas. And he flips out because he’s getting ‘stressed’ while trying to figure out a picture he’s taking. And all I’m trying to do is ask him for an idea so we can give nana the courtesy of planning properly with whatever food she is making. And it’s moment like this that drive me insane. Because now inevitably Ania will side with him and find fault in what I asked him. All because I wanted to be respectful of the window of time we gave nana. Shit like this I can not stand. And it just keeps going all year.

I get it. We are all frustrated. And I blame fucking COVID. I fucking hate you COVID. I hate what you’ve done to our family and this world. I HATE YOU

Letting go of the hatred from former OP partners in 2019December 31, 2019

The people listed below I had partnered with alongside Optimus. Some had replica cars. Others I thought would be a good partnership. Turns out they are ALL evil and/or not people I want to be around. These are my ‘letting go’ letters to each of them (I didn’t send it to them, this was me giving it to the universe)

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TO JJ SLON,

Owner of Barricade – you partnered with me for several years, traveling around the country with Optimus and I. You became known online throughout the Transformers community because of me. Your car helped earned you some extra income because of me. 90% of the opportunities you would get were because of me. I supported you. I shared images of us together. I tagged you. I welcomed you into our home, to our parties, and into our lives.  And I hoped we would continue growing together.

But instead you got greedy. You got jealous that Barricade gets no love, and that all of the attention was on me. You started questioning my motives, when I would dedicate my heart and soul into helping us both succeed. You gained a sense of entitlement, as if you felt like you earned the same position in life as I have.  As if you could just ride my coat tails and continue building on our successes, but for your own personal gain. You rarely ever tagged me back.  You caused issues; you spread rumors, your created drama. You created doubt. You show no appreciation for the opportunities I work so hard to get for all of us.  You contacted people questioning my motives, you hindered some of my progress, and perhaps destroyed some of the relationships I worked so hard to build.

I no longer wish to associate myself with you. I am severing all ties with you and your family, and no longer wish to see or know you. But I will learn from these experiences. You were not a mistake in my life. You were a lesson. You taught me that I should be more cautious of who I partner with and support in life. You reminded me how greedy and immature people can be. And you’ve shown me what it means to take from the hand that feeds you.

But despite it all, I forgive you.

 

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TO Joseph Putney,

Owner of Bumblebee – you partnered with me for several years, traveling around the country with Optimus and I. You became known online throughout the Transformers community because of me. Your car helped earned you some extra income because of me. 90% of the opportunities you would get were because of me. I supported you. I shared images of us together. I tagged you.  I welcomed you into our home, to our parties, and into our lives. And I hoped we would continue growing together.

But instead, because of falsified rumors no doubt started by JJ, you started questioning my motives. Even though I would dedicate my heart and soul into helping us both succeed. You gained a sense of entitlement, as if you felt like you earned the same position in life as I have.  As if you could just ride my coat tails and continue building on our successes, but for your own personal gain. And now you no longer support me. You never comment, like, or share anything I do. You show no appreciation for the opportunities I work so hard to get for all of us.  And today you started deleting comments I placed on your page to help others find the information they were inquiring about. TWICE.

I therefore no longer wish to associate myself with you. I am severing all ties with you and your family, and no longer wish to see or know you. But I will learn from these experiences. You were not a mistake in my life. You were a lesson. You taught me that I should be more cautious of who I partner with and support in life. You reminded me how greedy and immature people can be. And you’ve shown me what it means to believe what other people say, no matter how bad it may be, instead of opening a simple dialog from someone who started us both on this path together, and someone who always supported our growth together.

But despite it all, I forgive you.

 

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TO Joe Nollendorf,

Owner of Bumblebee in Texas – you partnered with me for several occasions, traveling around the country with Optimus and I. You became known online throughout the Transformers community because of me. Your car helped earned you some extra income because of me. I supported you. I shared images of us together. I tagged you.  I welcomed you into our lives and our journey with Optimus. And I hoped we would continue growing together.

But instead, you started to display a bad attitude. You questioned my motives, wondering why I didn’t always go to you for an event opportunity but instead offered it to other people. Even though I would dedicate my heart and soul into helping us both succeed, and would explain to you how I go about getting all of us opportunities together, you doubted me. You gained a sense of entitlement, as if you felt like you earned the same position in life as I have.  As if you could just ride my coat tails and continue building on our successes, but for your own personal gain. And now you no longer support me. You never comment, like, or share anything I do. But you DO reply to other comments when it’s an opportunity to tag yourself or promote your car. You show no appreciation for the opportunities I work so hard to get for all of us.

I therefore no longer wish to associate myself with you. I am severing all ties with you and your family, and no longer wish to see or know you. But I will learn from these experiences. You were not a mistake in my life. You were a lesson. You taught me that I should be more cautious of who I partner with and support in life. You reminded me how greedy and immature people can be. And you’ve shown me that no matter what, people will always be in it for themselves. And no matter how much positivity I put into the universe, people like you will find a way to tone down that excitement and bring me to your level of misery of life.

But despite it all, I forgive you.

 

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TO Joshua Mello and Rachel Ware,

Owners of K’s Kustoms – I presented you with the opportunity of a lifetime. A chance to change lives. A chance to build both of our names through a kind and generous act.  You accepted the offer to partner with me. We worked together for 5 months, locating, building, and delivering a Bumblebee Ride-On to a family who lost their father in the line of duty. You became known online throughout the Transformers community because of me. Your generous act was a catalyst that could have catapulted us to the stars. It could have opened new doors of opportunity, and new chances to do some amazing things together.

I supported you. I shared images of us together. I tagged you.  I welcomed you into our lives and our journey with Optimus. I took a chance on a stranger, and hoped for the best.

But instead, soon after the project was completed, you turned into a mortal enemy. You questioned my motives with Project Goldwheels, you called me a Decepticon, you attempted to tarnish my family’s name and reputation. Even though I dedicated WEEKS to documenting our experience and building a video to share with the world, you felt that what I did was a ‘slap in the face’. You claimed I stopped supporting you after the video aired. You claimed I should have shared your story of homelessness. You claimed I should’ve asked people to purchase your gifts and tshirts. You turned a positive experience into one of the most negative I’ve ever experienced.

You created a situation that forced me to want to sever all ties with you. I removed every mention of our project together. I removed all videos and commentary. I removed the very thorough reviews I had written for your company. I cut the cord. I wanted nothing to do with people who could be so vicious, so manipulative, so negative. You gained a sense of entitlement, as if you felt like you earned the same position in life as I have.  As if you could just ride my coat tails to grow your own company. Project Gold wheels was my idea. My project. I dedicated WEEKS to sharing our experience online. I tagged you, I encouraged people to look you up…I even made you and your family a temporary image as my profile picture. All so people would see the ones that helped bring Goldwheels to life, in the hopes that they would come to you for future business.

Yes – I forgot to add your FB page to the end of the credits on the final video. My honest mistake. I told you about that after the video was uploaded as soon as I realized it. I felt horrible. And made sure to mention and credit you in the original post with tags and a link to your website. But that video was all about US. Coming together for the Chesna family. It was not supposed to be a video of Ks Kustoms and your recovery from homelessness.

Clearly you were in this project for your own personal gain. You claim I did this for my own gain. And now what do either of us have to show for your bad behavior – NOTHING but a memory.  You no longer support me, and you’re on a quest to destroy our name and our image online.  You think people want to watch your hate speeches and read your derogatory comments. Some probably will. In fact some may even support you. But those are the same people I want nothing to do with. Those people rob from our positive energy. You are robbing from my peace, and my family. You are tarnishing your own name and brand, attempting to bring me down after I’ve worked so hard to build an empire from nothing.

I therefore no longer wish to associate myself with you. I am severing all ties with you and your family, and no longer wish to see or know you. You are a despicable human being. The type of person I NEVER wish to see partner with ever again. But I will learn from these experiences. You were not a mistake in my life. You were a lesson. You taught me that I should be more cautious of who I partner with and support in life. You reminded me how greedy and immature people can be. You’ve shown me that there is still plenty of hate in this world. Plenty of people that will always want more, instead of those who accept the gracious gifts and offerings that are presented to them. You’ve shown me that no matter what I do, people will always find fault in one way or another.  And that no matter how much positivity I put into the universe, people like you will find a way to tone down that excitement and bring me to your level of misery of life.

But despite it all, I will never let you bring us down again. You are nothing to me. And you are nothing to my family. I forgive you. May God have mercy on your soul.

I can’t believe it keeps getting worseAugust 21, 2016

I have to say today ended up being one of the worst days of my life as far as family goes. Long story short, it was a Sunday and I was home all day. I wanted to spend some time with Ryan, and Ania wanted to go to BJ’s. I tried hanging out with Ryan in the garage working on installing a small camera in mini-KITT, and within minutes it turned into a battle. He got beyond upset when I said we’re going to BJ’s later. As if this wasn’t enough, all he wanted to do was wait for the potential of playing with John. He literally stood by the garage staring at John’s house.

I finally said to him if he’s not going to be engaged with me and willing to do this activity on mini-KITT with me, then I’m leaving. He gets all up in arms and we ended up going inside so he can complain to Ania.

Then it was just a downward spiral from there. We went to BJ’s. That was an absolute clusterfuck. Ryan complained the ENTIRE time. Oh yeah…and prior to BJ’s Ania wanted to get him shoes for school. SO we stop at target and get him FOUR fucking pairs of shoes. Ania – are you frigin kidding me!!!???  FOUR pairs for a child who doesn’t even show apprecation for ONE pair?

Then of course Ryan got upset because we didn’t buy him any toys from Target. I was getting so livid I wanted to scream. He could care less about spending family time together. He could care less that I just paid for 4 pairs of shoes for him. He gets all upset because he doesn’t want to go places we need to go, like BJ’s. In his ‘perfect world’, he said he would prefer only two people at any given time (e.g. I go to BJ’s and he and Ania stays home).

Then over dinner, a filet mignon steak by the way, I brought up the suggestion of going to West End Fair’s fireworks for Ania. Literally that’s all I did. And what do you know-  Ryan BLOWS up again. Full meltdown because he wasn’t “prepared” for it. And what does Ania do? Tries to calm him down.

I swear inside an artery was about to pop. Ryan needs discipline. He needs to understand that the world does NOT revolve around him. He needs to realize that punching pillows and stabbing boxes is not alright. He needs to realize that we are an AUTHORITY figure in his life and he needs to respect it. We tell him to do something, like going to a grocery store for god’s sake, he GOES. I’m sick and tired of feeling like I’m not even the parent here.

I feel muzzled because Ania wants to keep the zen in the family. I get so boiling inside I can literally feel a pain in my head. But god for bid I yell at Ryan and all hell breaks loose.

I am very concerned that if Ryan does not respect us as parents or the decisions we have to make as a family, that he will very soon become an out-of-control teenager that does whatever the fuck he wants to do with no consequences for his actions.

Ryan – I love you with all my heart. And it BREAKS my heart when I see that you don’t respect me sometimes, nor do you respect the lessons we try and teach you or the things we try to do for you. You’re a great kid. But I am seriously worried about your future if we don’t make you understand NOW that life is what you make of it, and what you earn from it. Like is not handed to you on a silver platter.

A tough battle with Ryan about risksJuly 8, 2016

Today was a very stressful day for me as a parent. A local gym place (Freedom Gymnastics in Brodheadsville) offers something they call ‘Ninja warrior training’. It’s like an obstacle course where kids get to try some difficult maneuvers and things.

Ryan was really into watching the TV show American Ninja Warrior, and he also likes running and doing ‘physical stuff. So we thought he would enjoy these classes.

We he fought me the entire time. For literally hours he whined, he cried, and he came up with every excuse in the book why he didn’t want to go. It was absolute torture that almost had me at the point of exploding and saying “FINE – I’m not wasting my time or money. We’re not going.”

At certain parts of the conversation Ryan mentioned he was concerned about being in a group with older kids (age range was 5 – 15). He was afraid of doing something wrong and being bullied. He was also afraid the teachers wouldn’t be nice and that something would go wrong. He said it’s a big risk and he doesn’t want to take it.

I was stern about going. I felt he needed to be forced into going to prove to himself that he could do it. To never be afraid to stand up for himself if someone made him feel uncomfortable. To never be afraid to take risks in life.

In the end he eventually went. And he loved loved loved it! He was smiling at certain parts. He had no problems with anyone. He was in a group with older girls. Everyone got along. He came out and said “I want to sign up for this again.” I was smiling from ear to ear and couldn’t be more proud of how he conquered this fear and finally opened his mind to trying something new.

Yes I forced him to an extent. But I needed to do it to help he realize that sometimes risks are worth the reward.

WAY TO GO RYAN!!!!!!

2019 was a rollercoaster yearDecember 31, 2019

2019 Rollercoaster year So in a nutshell, 2019 was about 2 things – rebuilding family, and dealing with a-holes that caused me to change how I share Optimus.  On the family front, we got to take a few short trips together in Optimus. We took a family getaway to Maine where we spent an afternoon with Jeff Kline and stayed at the same cabin we stayed in for the comic convention 2 months prior. We did lots of summer stuff, went to the beach, camelback, arcades, and plan to do Hershey for New Years again. I spent a lot of time at home and went out on a lot of dates with Ania. I felt we did a good job rebuilding, though the hussle and bustle of life and work has kept us both busy. Moreso her as she tries to balance wine, ASC, BNI, and everything in between. She is very stressed.

On the Optimus front, the year started off awesome. I partnered with a company in Rhode Island called Ks Kustoms to build a Bumblebee ride on that was presented to a family who lost their dad in the line of duty. It was a day I will never ever forget. Unfortunately that day was clouded by the same people who built it, claiming I did not represent them the way they thought I would. They thought my final video would be a tribute to them and how they survived homelessness and built this with no income. When instead it was ALWAYS about spotlighting all of us while focusing mainly on the delivery to that family.

Others assholes like the Barricade owner JJ, two Bumblebee owners who both are named Joe caused me to change a lot with Optimus in the 2nd half of the year. I am done partnering with other vehicles for now. Only a select few remain. And I now stated a campaign to end bullying with OP, where I go to schools and deliver a presentation to the kids with OP about joining us in our mission. In 2020, all I need is to find some rich guy with a ton of money to blow who comes to me and says ‘whatever it takes, I’ll help you get to every school around the country’. And if all I do in 2020 are school visits, I’d be totally content with that.

All in all 2019 was an OK year. We are still struggling financially but I am more optimistic than ever that we’ll soon be out of this hole and built up our savings and be back to a normal, comfortable lifestyle. Fingers crossed. LOVE YOU ALL!!

2014 – a year of change and Amer FtpDecember 31, 2014

I had grown comfortable in my job. Life was predictable, paychecks kept coming, and we just kept living.

But for me, life was getting dull. I had everything I wanted, I had a family that loved me, and yet I was still growing depressed. And a lot of it had to do with work. I was just tired of the same old shit.

I wasn’t happy, and I knew that if I continued down this path, my health would start suffering.  It was time for a change, and it was time to see what I was really made of.

2014 was the year I officially decided to start America’s Footprints, even though I had already been planning it since 2013.  But this was the year I started to transition away from training and start a new path that I had never traveled before.

To say this was a major life change is an understatement. Knowing I was the sole source of income for our family, it was not an easy decision to make. But I wasn’t afraid to take the risk in an effort to provide a better future for all of us.

2017 the year our lives changed foreverDecember 31, 2017

2017 A new beginning The our lives changed forever. The year that started a new beginning. The year my affair was discovered. The year you and I rekindled our marriage and worked on each other for the first time in a long time. The year we felt like a couple again. The year we experienced our second ‘honeymoon stage’.

The year we made family important, and each other important. The year we started communicating more and helping each other more. The year we were both there for each other. Truly, a year like no other. A year where the first half I would rather forget, while the 2nd half I want to always remember.

2015 was a “transitional” yearDecember 31, 2015

Our marriage changed slightly. We were both feeling the stresses of work, and we both struggled to spend equal time with each other and our son while also managing our businesses. We snapped at each other a bit more, and struggled to find our ‘happy’.

This year was very tough. Even though I was home-based, I was working all day and sometimes into the early morning hours. I was dedicated to getting America’s Footprints off the ground, and didn’t stop learning whatever I could to make it a success.

But I officially left my training business in June. So I didn’t have any steady income since then. We had been relying solely on savings and on Ania’s income (which has helped tremendously). But to go from a fairly steady paycheck and minimal working hours to absolutely nothing was a difficult transition.

I know this will not be easy. I know the road ahead is still a long one. But again I am not afraid to experience this transition in an effort to better the life for my mom and family.

2016 was a crappy yearDecember 31, 2016

2016 This will be OUR year! This is the year of change. BIG things are ahead for the Fiduccias. It’s time to see what we are really made of! Ania plans to bring in $300,000 in earnings before payouts, I plan to finally turn a profit with America’s Footprints and bring in at least $50,000. This also the year we will build Optimus Prime and begin traveling the country to continue our Make A Difference campaign of good!

Cheers to the New Year. Let’s make it happen!

RESULT – 2016 was one our worst years ever. We lost everything financially because of the Optimus build. We are in a lot of debt that mom helped with that I can’t yet pay her back for and so desperately want to. Ania and I are at the lowest point we’ve ever been. we barely speak to each other anymore and both of us are just empty.

A LOT of negative came out of 2016. We said good riddens to this year and embraced the potential for a POSITIVE change in 2017

Got my driver’s license at 17June 18, 1995

Saying I was a bit nervous is an understatement.  This is a moment that most teens long for.  It is a time in their life where they get to tackle the challenge that had plagued them for so long – to earn the right to be behind the wheel of a car and explore the open road on our own.

Leading up to the test I had taken lots of lessons with a driving instructor (Mr. Bottone was his name I believe).  I had also done lots of practice driving with mom on the weekends, though had very little experience in the details like parallel parking.  Yet no amount of practice can eliminate the nerves I had on this day.

It was a sunny morning at the local DMV in Wayne, NJ.  I did not go to school that morning, but hoped to earn my license and still have enough time to drive my new car to school before it ended and show off my new ride).  We waited in a long line of cars for about 40 minutes.  I finally got to the front of the line, and instructor inside, the rest was up to me.

The test is done on a closed course.  It last about 7 minutes, and did very well during most of it, only messing up slightly during the parallel parking. The instructor didn’t say anything and just kept making notes as I drive.  We eventually reparked by the main building, and he said ‘congratulations – you passed!’

Writing this I still get that tingly sensation.  It was official – I had my license!  And after another hour of waiting, I finally got my photo taken and new ID printed.  Mom was mega proud, and probably a bit nervous at the same time.

But when we got home, the first thing I did was get in my car and drive around in my 1990 Mitsubishi Eclipse with the music blasting and windows down.  It was a day I will never forget!!

Very worried about our finances (2016)November 9, 2016

It’s Nov 9, 2016 – and I’m extremely worried about our family’s finances. I went out on a limb for many things these past few years. I left my steady income job. I started America’s Footprints. And I built Optimus. I have completely exhausted our entire life savings. As it stands today the only money we have left is the $24,000 I have set aside for Ryan. I do NOT want to use that money for bills, but it looks like I don’t have much of a choice. On top of that, this is the first month Ania is not paying her credit card bill in full. These credit charges are absolutely out of control. I have $10,000 in bills sitting on my desk and I have no idea how I’m going to pay them.

I’ve tried so hard for so long to make something big happen. I want us to hit it big. I want our family to become millionaires. I want our businesses and everything we’ve worked so hard for to succeed. I’ve been busting my ass trying to do the right thing. Trying to help people. Trying to be there for everyone. Being kind, doing other acts of kindness. But for so long I’ve been hoping there were be major success by now. And so far, nothing has happened.

Please God – help my family get the finances back on track. I feel we’ve more than earned it, and our family deserves it. This shouldn’t be a concern in our lives. We want to help each other, we want to live a comfortable life, and we want to help others. Please give us the opportunity to do that.

Please give us the break we’ve so desperately been longing for.

A stressful story about getting OptimusMarch 20, 2016

This was a blog article I wrote for America’s Footprints. The “project” I was referring to throughout the article is the Optimus build. We are weeks away from getting the base model truck. So stress has really overcome me now.  Here’s what I wrote. Enjoy!  🙂

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Growing up my mom would always tell me: “enjoy these years. They are the most stress-free years of your life.” But with the constant barrage of bullies, tests, and class topics I never fully understood, school certainly didn’t feel “stress-free” at the time.

Little did I know those days would pale in comparison to the stresses of adult life.

In the beginning of my adult life, stress started with my first car. Do I purchase a mediocre car that is within my price range but needs a little work, or do I get a loan to get the car I really wanted that needs practically no work at all?

Later on, another big risk was buying our first house. Should we go with this construction agency to build our dream home in a dream location? Or do we buy a more affordable house that is already built in a lower income neighborhood, and hope to make it our dream home?

Then came the decision to have a child. Were we really ready to become parents, or should we wait a little longer and save up a little more?

Up next comes the career decisions. Do I stay in a job that pays well but leaves me feeling empty? Or do I risk it all and pursue a new job in the hopes of finding my inner happy?

In life, risks equal stress. There is no way around it. And most times it feels like jumping from the high dive at your local pool.

When we jump off the board into the pool water below, is there a risk that we’ll get hurt, or possibly hurt someone else? Sure.

Is it stressful feeling standing at the top of the high dive right along the edge, looking down at the water with the butterflies in your stomach fluttering on overdrive? You bet.

But when you make the decision to jump into that water, you no doubt rise back to the surface with a smile on your face, telling yourself: “again, again!”

That is the reward you gain for taking a risk. It is the feeling of satisfaction that you mustered up enough courage to jump, despite the stress, anxiety, and resulting fear that consumed you.

Once again I am finding myself at a crossroads in life with a new challenge. A new risk, potentially the biggest one in my life, is now confronting me. And it has led to more stressful feelings than I can ever remember.

I am getting ready to build something big. Something that hasn’t been done before. Something that will take months of round-the-clock labor to complete.

It is a project that I studied in depth through reading and research, but one that I have very little real world experience with.

It is a challenge that will require me to solicit the help of others, which in itself I am not comfortable with because of how many times so-called “experts” have disappointed me in the past.

There is no risk we can’t conquer.  When it is completed later this year, our lives will change forever. The weekday / weekend routine our family is familiar with will be turned upside down (in a good way). And it will become a major milestone in our journey that will remain with our family forever.

But if this new project isn’t done right, or if it takes twice as I am forecasting to complete it, our family could find ourselves in severe financial danger.

Given the challenges I will soon be facing, coupled with the fact that I lose sleep everyday because of it, I yet again find myself asking the same question over and over again: “is this new risk worth the stress?”

I’m sure any doctor will agree that the stress is taking a toll on me. How it will affect me or my health, if at all, remains to be seen. And whether or not it will be worthwhile in the end is anyone’s guess right now.

But when I am lying in bed wide awake while my family is sound asleep, I look over to them in the darkness of the night and remember how we got here.

I have been here before. Our family has been here before. And despite the challenges, we have made it this far, so why not keep that momentum going? For there is no risk too great, and no risk we can’t conquer – together.

Thus I now find myself at the tip of that high dive again. Do I jump, and experience the thrill of splashing into the open water? Or do I let the stress…the fear…walk me back down the ladder? And do I look back at that diving board from my lounge chair, wondering what could have been?

It’s time to make that decision. Is the risk worth the stress?

I am ready to jump. But which way would you go?

I’ve hit rock bottomNovember 20, 2016

This was an email I sent to mom and Ania. It was in response to mom’s offer to help us pay for things like food and health insurance as a result of the shitty financial situation we’re now in…because of me and the strain Optimus placed on us.

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Nana,

I really appreciate your willingness to help us. I really do. We spoke about it on the way home and decided not to accept the offer for Amex and health insurance help. This is our mess (mostly my fault)  and we have to deal with it. Knowing you are there for us though is one of the only saving graces I have right now. Please don’t leave us.

She is filing for the Medicaid thing and the food stamp thing. It’s not easy, of course – nothing is. And it makes us both sick. But it’s what we need to do to be able to survive this. And I know we’ll probably need your help again at some point anyway.

Never in a million years did I see us in this position. I take the responsibility for my actions and feel like I completely obliterated our lives and our family in the pursuit of a dream. Something I felt was the right thing to do to bring ALL of us to new heights. To get you never to have to worry about work again. To give Ryan opportunities that we never had. To give Ania a chance to enjoy success. To leave a legacy that our great grandkids will be proud of.

Why am I not seeing ANY glimmer of that after everything I’ve done?

I know you say to keep the faith. And I’m trying. I really am. But between the continued dead ends with Footprints, KITT, All Service, and now Optimus over SUCH a long time, how much longer can I keep ‘believing’ when the universe is not giving any sign of hope that we’re even on the right path.

Even ounce of me just wants to give up. I am weak. I am depressed. And everywhere I turn more bad shit keeps coming my way. What did I do to deserve this? Have I not proven my strength? Have I not proven my ‘worth’ in this world? How can I succeed when I have nothing left to give?

Anyway I’m just rambling. My point to this email – thank you for your offers of help. I don’t know where we would be without you. You are our rock. Stay strong for us Nana. Love you.

 

Hatred seems to exist everywhere latelyApril 16, 2018

It is April 16, 2018. These past few weeks have seriously tested me and my family. For some reason the universe is exposing us to a lot of the hatred that exists on this planet. A short summary of what’s happened:

1) Indiana Comic Con – I had Optimus on display there for the weekend. Items were stolen from the table. And stanchions were knocked down onto the running boards.

2) Ania had someone follow her for 45 minutes on the way home from a work event late at night. She was scared for her life

3) Ania helped host a wine party at someone’s house who clearly represented “the white trash of America”

4) Ryan is having issues with a lunch monitor who keeps blaming him for bad behavior

5) OUr neighbor Tracy (who we have helped her kids more times than I can count over the years) decided to give me a hard time over the weekend because she thought I was blowing leaves into her yard (mother nature was doing it)

6) Someone threw a bottle / smoothie at Optimus as I was driving to get some work done in Effort on 115

7) Social media backlash from that incident was through the roof. Hate messages and comments were like some I’ve never seen or experienced before

8) Ryan keeps telling me all the things i do wrong, and why he doesn’t like so many things in our home

9) Ania said we can’t move because of Optimus. Same day Ryan also said Optimus has changed our life, some of which not for the better

As I write these things, thinking about them, I am overwhelmed. I don’t know where to begin. I don’t know how to react. The hatred that the universe is sending my way is enough to make anyone cry. And there are times I have almost broken down.  I don’t know why I am being tested so harshly. I don’t know why there are so many people who literally hate me and what I do with Optimus.

I never expected my dream of building this home and building Optimus to backfire with Ryan. The way he talks, it makes me feel like he doesn’t enjoy living here, and doesn’t appreciate anything we do for him, nor does he realize what I’m trying to show him with Optimus.

I’m at a loss of words. I don’t know where to go from here. But I wanted to share these moments with you because I know at some point things will get better. They have to. But it’s important to realize, whomever is reading this, that life is not rays of sunshine all the time. Life can downright SUCK at times. This world is full of devils. It’s up to us not to let the devil win.

Hasbro approves Optimus buildDecember 21, 2015

On the afternoon of December 21, 2015 I received one of the best pre-Christmas gifts I could ever hope for. I am planning to build an Optimus Prime replica of the truck seen in Transformers 4: Age of Extinction. To help keep us safe, I hired a lawyer to contact Hasbro (the owners of Transformers) requesting permission to build a replica.

Though 95% of the time requests like these are denied, Hasbro responded to our letter and granted permission to do it! That basically means were are legally allowed to build our own replica of the truck as long as we don’t start using it for promotional purposes.

This was a HUGE milestone in 2015 and probably represents one of the few moments I smiled uncontrollably with excitement. I am beyond thrilled at the foundation we are building as we enter 2016 and have every confidence that our future is about to sky rocket with success. AWESOME DAY!

Officially unveiled Optimus PrimeOctober 15, 2016

The date was Saturday Oct 15, 2016 – I finally decided it was time to unveil Optimus. It’s still not done, but I had to get the word out. We don’t have any more money and I need him to start producing for us.

It was an exciting time. I took a video of the truck and posted it to Facebook. It got over 2500 views and lots of fun comments. I was proud, and yet nervous…as I still don’t know what the future holds for us. But I have to keep the faith that this path will lead us to an adventure like no other.

Caught cheatingMarch 10, 2017

It pains me to say this – but St Patricks weekend 2017, I came home from doing Uber late at night and Ania was sitting at the counter. She caught me cheating with Aisha. Her and I had taken a trip in Optimus to Niagara Falls for an event I was doing. We took a photo together and Ania saw it and then looked up the phone records and saw the history.

I’m ashamed. I’m embarrassed. My world crashed down. Everyone’s world crashed. It’s like I was a sinking ship and brought everyone down with me. I’ve been coping as best I can and figured divorce was the only option. But Ania refused to give in and give up. She layed out a plan where we talked everyday about things. About how I was feeling, why I did it, what exactly I did, etc.

Through those discussions she has come to realize the role she played in my cheating. Obviously I’m to blame, as I made the decision to cheat. But I’ve been unhappy and depressed for years. I had given up. I was empty. There was nothing left. Tank was empty. I longed for happiness. I wanted to smile again. I wanted to feel appreciated again. And Aisha gave that to me.

 

It’s been about 3 weeks now since I was caught and believe it or not, Ania and I are doing quite well. We both agree it’s like we are dating. We are finding each other and learning about each other. We are different people now, but we are two people who believe in each other and our potential together. We are talking more than we have in a long time, and spending more quality time together doing little things like taking walks or just cuddling.

Neither of us knows where this go. But we’re trying. And so far I am enjoyed our new journey. I feel aweful for what I did. But maybe it was necessary to get her and I to fall in love once again. We’ll see…

2016 PneumoniaFebruary 8, 2016

Worst illness ever so far – February 2016 – it started shortly before Valentine’s Day when Ryan developed a slight cough. Then both he and Ania got pretty sick. Ryan vomited, and Ania complained of massive dizziness. both had fevers. We took it easy. And then I came down with something.

For several days all of us were bed ridden. The virus was really kicking our asses. I didn’t vomit, but I had cold sweats, I could not sleep, I was dizzy, it was horrible. I was still able to function a little bit, until Wednesday night when I didn’t sleep at all and spent half the night taking showers trying to get rid of the sweat and to warm myself up.

That Thursday I decided it was time we go to the immediate center. Ania did want to get herself checked. Ryan might have had the flu, but since we waited a week, it seemed to have subsided and turned into a double ear infection. So he was given treatment for that.

Then they diagnosed me. I had a 103 fever at the time, my O2 levels were fluctuating between 92 and 95% (should be 100), they did an e-ray of my chest, the works. Then the news – you have pneumonia.

WHAT!? ME? I NEVER get sick. EVER! Might get a cold or mild something from time to time, but pneumonia?! That was devastating to hear, but at least I knew with the docs help and some meds, I can finally start feeling better.

They prescribed a whole bunch of meds, shot me in the butt with a steroid injection (boy did that hurt…but Ryan really enjoyed watching me in pain). Gave me a nebulizer. And sent me home. I was still bed ridden for days. I literally did not sleep for 4 days straight. I had virtually no appetite. But as I write this, I am FINALLY starting to feel better.

No where near 100%. I have probably another week to go for that. But definitely better. Ryan is also feeling much better thank goodness. And Ania is still coughing a bit, exhausting of course from doing so much around the house.

I can not believe how debilitating this illness was. I felt like I was on my death bed. I have never felt like that before in my life, and don’t wish that type of pain on anyone.

It’s time to start getting back into the swing of things. I haven’t done much with Footprints, and I have my CDL road test coming up in a few days. I sincerely hope these meds don’t mess with my ability to drive the truck. I’ve worked too hard to get here and can’t miss this opportunity to earn my trucker’s license.

What a week. This was will forever go down in the record books as one of the worst weeks of my life. Let’s never repeat it again.

Dealing with life changes in 2015December 31, 2015

2015 was a very difficult year for me. It is the year I officially stopped doing training. I worked very hard to get America’s Footprints off the ground, spending a lot of money on Facebook advertising and putting in a lot of hours in a chair as opposed to spending time with the family.

I tried balancing the work like with home life, especially the shift from work to no work came at the beginning of summer. It was tough having Ryan home all day knowing there were so many things I need to do and still trying to find ways to keep him entertained. On top of that Ania has her business and things she needs to do as well. But she feels guilty leaving Ryan by himself when he is home and spent more time with him.

It was a year that tested our relationship. We didn’t necessary fight, but we bickered a lot. I had a lot on my mind, I was short with hr and Ryan at times, and I know there were so many things she wanted to do outside of work and home that I just couldn’t get to.

I was really hoping by the end of the year that I would have much more success from a financial standpoint with the new business. But people just weren’t paying for a membership. Towards the last quarter I tried getting more creative by offering contests and really stepping it up on Facebook. IN the last month I definitely noticed much more activity on the website, which I believe was the stepping stone we needed to enter 2016 and really conquer it big time.

But overall it was a year we were both glad to leave behind. And we are very excited at what’s ahead for 2016.

2016 Valentines Day memoriesFebruary 14, 2016

Today was a nice day for Valentines. Unfortunately Ryan and Mommy were sick all day. And mommy was REALLY sick. In an effort to get better quickly, we all took it easy today. But there were a few highlights to this special day:

  1. a) Lucky showed up! That’s right – Ryan’s elf on the shelf showed up to surprise Ryan today. He left a note saying he heard Ryan was sick and just wanted to check up on him. Ryan absolutely lit up and loved seeing him. They were together all day, we did a scavenger hunt together, Ryan showed him how he does on the guitar, and more. Lucky was only able to stay for today and had to go back home, but it was really cool to see him.
  2. b) In the morning Ryan took it upon himself to make some valentine’s day gifts for us. He did some construction paper art and put a small gift in a lunch bag for both mommy and me. He had it all nicely displayed in the living room when we came down. And this just completely melted my heart. We have been trying so hard to get him to show his appreciation for people, and this surprise was perfect. No one asked him to do it. He just did it. Awesome!

Oh and Ania got me a bunch of sweatpants and sweatshirts, since she and ryan ripped my only big sweatshirt while playing together.

Otherwise it was another relaxing day. I was proud of him for generally staying still and listening to our advice for getting rid of his sickness. He is doing a bit better, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings. Unfortunately I feel my body trying to fight it now. I truly hope it doesn’t get the better of me since I want to keep helping my family best I can.

Happy vals day!

Almost set mom’s house on fireApril 3, 2014

The fire that almost ended mom’s home – This was a story I wrote for the America’s Footprints blog. It’s a true story about the dance party at my mom’s house back in 2014:

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Last Thanksgiving, my mom hosted her annual pre-holiday ballroom dance party. It’s been a yearly tradition at her house for several years, yielding up to 80 people at times.

And this year’s event was no different.

The party started off as it always does. Guests arrived just as the appetizers were being placed on the table. The bar was open for business, and the DJ began his wave of dance ballroom dance tracks. The dance floor starting getting lots of love, people were laughing in conversation uncontrollably, and tapas were served by the incredible wait staff of All Service Concierge.

One of our guests of honor was a close friend: the Amazing Kreskin. Several hours into the party, he decided to put on a small performance for everyone. But the only way to make it work was to send everyone to the large basement.

So the entire party migrated downstairs to enjoy his performance. It lasted about 20 minutes, afterwhich I immediately headed back upstairs.

About 3/4’s of the way up I noticed something wasn’t right. Something was burning. As I reached the top of the stairs, I could see smoke billowing through the rear porch.  Was our house on fire!?

 

Just about!

At the back of the house was an outdoor deck that we had covered with a large party tent. We used it to served the hot food in. As I stood at the top of the basement stairs and peered through the windows onto the deck, my heart stopped.

Flames were taking over the tent.

At that moment my survival instincts kicked into high gear.  I immediately ran into the porch and realized the fire was worse than it first seemed. Not only was the tablecloth on fire, but a large portion of the tent wall had caught fire as well.

But I refused to panic, and just remained calm while figuring out a way to put out the flames before everyone made their way upstairs from the basement.

Fortunately it was a slow-burning fire and didn’t grow very quickly. After receiving some scalding burns on my hand and arm, I was able to put it out…just as the guests got back onto the dance floor.

While some people noticed the smell and realized what had happened, most did not. The majority figured it was something burning in the oven.

So they continued to enjoy the party while I cleaned up the aftermath and dealt with the throbbing pain from my burns. In the end I saved not only the entire home from burning down, but countless lives from being lost while stuck in an enclosed basement with only one way out.

Those who witnessed the incident started telling me I was the hero of the evening.  But I quickly realized that this ‘hero status’ is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Mentally this experience has taken a major toll on me. “Why,” you ask? Because that was MY station.

 

For one, I was the one in charge of setting up and monitoring the tent. For over 6 hours leading up to and during the party, I was the one keeping an eye on the food and keeping the sterno flames lit. Yet in the measly 20 minutes the entire party was downstairs for the performance, a major catastrophe was about to unfold.

And it was all my fault.

Yes – I am eternally grateful for the safe outcome. I know it could have been much worse. If the performance lasted just five more minutes, my mom’s house may have burned down…taking everything she had worked so hard to achieve in life. Or worse, dozens of people could have died, including my own family.

But I still can’t get over the mental anguish that has followed. I keep picturing what could have happened. I am having a tough time coping with the endless scenarios that would have ruined countless lives. Years later, there are times I can’t sleep at night, simply knowing I could have been responsible for the last party these people might ever have.

Yet I give thanks to my angels every day, and have now come to understand why some people just don’t wan’t to be labeled a hero.

My favorite professor Wayne BondNovember 6, 2020

1998 Dr. Wayne Bond

Dr. Bond was a professor at my university.  He was one of the leaders in my major, and taught numerous classes that I was enrolled in.  Dr. Bond quickly became my all-time favorite professor and major life motivator, and I’ll tell you why.

Up until that point in college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  I decided to enroll in the Speech Communication major because it looked easy, and because I was semi good at speaking in front of audiences.  But what I would do with this major was completely unknown.

At the same time, I was lacking the drive.  I started getting lazy and didn’t want to be challenged.  Though I did well in school from a grade perspective, I just wanted to play and have fun and experience the college life, despite the fact that I didn’t have many friends to do it with.

 

Dr. Bond was one of only a few professors in my major.  So I would regularly see him both in class and in the halls.  And one thing he always brought with him – a smile.  He was happy.  He was excited.  He looked forward to being there.  He enjoyed his job and loved the people.  He would come up with so many ideas that I wouldn’t think of, and so many challenges that forced me to work even harder and truly ‘earn’ my degree.

And over time I started looking at him like an idol.  I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I wanted to enjoy my career just as much as he did.  I wanted to experience the joy of life like he was experiencing.

And that became a pivotal moment for me.  Because of his teachings, both inside and outside of the classroom, I pursued a career that would make me happy.  And I continue to adapt my life accordingly in hopes I never lose the passion I learned through him.

In fact several years into my career and long after I graduated college, I went back to school just for him.  I setup an appointment just to sit down with him and say ‘thank you’.  He deserved to know how much of an impact he had on my life.  I will forever be grateful for meeting him.  If I hadn’t, I would like be in a much different place right now.

Learning how to drive a big rigJanuary 8, 2015

The first day I drove a truck = The date was January 20, 2016. I finally found a location in PA willing to teach me the ropes in order to get my CDL license for driving Optimus. They are the Professional Driver’s Academy in Milton, PA. Today was the first day on site and I worked 1:1 with an instructor Gary. He helped me with the pre-trip inspection stuff, and I actually got to drive the truck around the parking lot a bit! I did straight backing, offset turns, and shifted between reverse and first. It was a cold day, but it was SOOOOOOO cool to envision where I’d be headed in just a few months time!

Officially obtained my CDL permit

It was January 18, 2016. I had self-studied and watched tons of online videos and took more online practice tests than I care to count. Stayed up past midnight for weeks prepping. And though the DMV test exams were tough, I passed! I did get several questions wrong, but it doesn’t matter. I made it through and passed the general knowledge and the air brakes exam. This permit will be valid for 6 months, during which time I plan to practice driving a truck at a school who is willing to teach me. Can’t wait…and stay tuned! CDL Joe is headed for you Optimus!

 

More about learning how to drive and getting my CDL license:

The day of my road test was Feb 24, 2016. Up to this point I had only taken about 6 lessons with an instructor. Got some good driving time in and around the parking lot, but not that much on the road. Still I was as ready as I would’ve been.

The day of the test I was second in line. So I waiting for hours. I watched the first guy fail the parking lot skills, only to be given a 2nd chance after the instructor was told she set him up wrong. My nerves were going crazy, but finally around 11:45, it was my turn.

I started with the pre-trip inspection (in the pouring rain by the way). I did really well on that part. Then we went inside the truck for the brake test. I screwed up here. I forgot to release the brakes before doing my fanning of the brake. And I thought I was screwed since I realized it too late. I asked her if I can start the brake check again and she agreed. So I went through it again, and this time did everything I was supposed to do.

 

Next was the parking lot skills. First was a straight line back, which was OK (ended up at a slight angle, but I was still within the lines). Then I did an offset to the driver’s side. Again I did that OK, just a slight angle, but still within the lines.

Then I setup for a 90-degree back. This is where the other guy failed. I was given boundaries not to cross, but I decided to cross them anyway because it would’ve been impossible not to. I took the few points and ended up backing the truck / trailer in one shot. I was so excited!!!

Last up was the road test part. That’s when the nerves really started going. I pull out into the road and start my shifting, only to find out the jake brake was on and I had no clue how to turn it off! Moment of panic sets in. But she was helpful and we figured out how to turn it off together. I grinded on a few gears, I didn’t put the shifter switch all the way down at one point, I rolled back ever so slightly at a stop sign. I made mistakes. But I think by that point she had been impressed enough with what she had seen in pre-trip and parking lot skills that she was a little more lenient.

Not to mention the weather was horrible. Windows and mirrors were completely fogged. Rain was coming down hard (and I didn’t know how to turn on the wipers full speed).

We pulled over at one point to review the emergency pull over procedure. We got on the highway and did a few lane changes. Throughout the trip I was telling her what I was doing (checking mirrors, watching off tracking of the trailer, etc.). I think she appreciated hearing what I was mentally doing.

We finally get back to the CDL test place. My left foot was killing me from the shifting and holding of the clutch. But I was determined not to stall or fail now. We pull in the parking lot, turn around, and park. We sat there for a good 30 seconds while she made some notes. She said ‘I did OK considering the road conditions’. But what did that mean!!!!???

Finally Sarah said “let’s go inside and get your CDL”. I said “OMG THANK YOU!!!!” Words cannot explain how happy I was, especially knowing the few guys who went through 8 weeks of CDL training failed their test just a day prior. They were all watching me in the parking lot, no doubt wondering if this guy who barely took any training would pass. But I did it!

I am officially licensed to drive a tractor trailer. Who knew I would be behind the wheel of a big rig! I thanked Sarah for her hospitality and advice along the way. She said good luck, and we parted ways.

The entire way home I was elated. This CDL stuff was practically my entire life since January. Between the written test, watching vids, practicing, my life was consumed with getting this CDL, while trying to watch the finances and not spend a ton of money getting it. In the end it cost me about $3000. But that’s better than the $5500+ schools wanted for 8 weeks of 5-day training, which never would’ve worked with our schedule.

So as I write this, I now find myself almost lost. Like I don’t know what to do with myself now that I got my CDL. I haven’t been slacking on America’s Footprints, but it also hasn’t been my 100% focus. Now it is. It has to be. Footprints is what will help make our dreams come true.

Congrats Joe!  You did it!!!!

2012 Megatron cosplay buildSeptember 1, 2012

(See my photos section for some pics of Megatron)

Ryan (at the time only 4 years old) and I LOVED to watch an animated series on the HUB network called “Transformers Prime”.  After looking at several costumes ideas for Halloween 2012, we all decided it would be fitting to embark on a new challenge and make a full-scale costume of my favorite character – Megatron.

So we started with about 60 square foam tiles and foam sheets (similar to the material you’d find on a gym floor).  It was put together by warping the foam with heat, hot-gluing the pieces together, and then spray-painting it to mirror Megatron’s metallic finish with purple (Energon) accents.  It took us over 3 months to complete, and considering we had NO artistic capabilities, and had never tried something like this before, we were really happy with the outcome.

We only wore it a handful of times in October 2012.  On a trick-or-treating adventure at our local Mall (see pic below), with Ryan dressed up as the arch enemy “Optimus Prime”, we were bombarded by people who wanted photos with Megatron.

Generals specs included:

– we built it between July and October 2012; over 100 dedicated hours

– 60 3×3 ft. foam floor tiles; 25 thin foam sheets; 12 cans of Plasti-Dip / Spray Paint; 22 utility blades; 14 glue burns and 7 flesh wounds

– Worn during Trick-or-Treating 2012 and Ryan’s 5th Birthday celebration on November 3, 2012

– Costume weight: 45 pounds

– Accessory – LED eyes that light up

Ultimately my goal in doing this was to create a great lifelong memory for Ryan to look back on and also teach him to never be afraid of trying new things. I can only hope I was successful!

Tennis timeNovember 6, 2020

In 1984 my parents were big into tennis.  They would play almost weekly, and even took trips to Hilton Head North Carolina once a year (alone) to play tennis all week long.  So I guess it was inevitable that I would eventually be introduced to the same sport.

I don’t recall the exact age I started playing, but it was likely around 5 or 6.  My parents (mainly my father) would take us to the local tennis courts with ball hopper in hand and teach us the skills.  And I have to say, it was not easy for me at first.  Generally speaking, I wasn’t a big sports person.  I never exceled in things related to sports.  So tennis didn’t come naturally to me, and I would easy get frustrated during tennis as well.

But I guess the old adage still rings true – practice makes perfect.  So I kept practicing, occasionally hitting the ball on my own against the wall or playing in our driveway.  And though the lessons eventually stopped, I kept at it.  And it wasn’t long before I got pretty good at the game.

 

I ended up playing on my high school tennis team (both junior varsity and then varsity).  My senior year I was captain of the team (though that was because of my age vs. skill; there were plenty of better players on the team than me).

I found I did much better at doubles than singles.  Having a partner helped since I would quickly get winded running all over the court during singles.

Once high school ended, so did tennis.  I didn’t really play much at all during college.  After college however, I joined a tennis league with the intentions on both playing and hoping to meet someone I could date.  I would play every Tuesday night and really enjoyed my time there.  I was the youngest in the league, but would eventually get to meet my future love – Ania.

Some childhood hobbiesNovember 6, 2020

1984 Playing the piano – The piano was really the first musical instrument I gained a liking for.  During school we were introduced to other basic instruments like the violin and a clarinet-looking thing that had holes we would cover while blowing through the top.  But none of them interested me as much as the piano did.

My parents enrolled me in private lessons that I went to weekly for several years in a row.  Though I was never what I would consider “amazing”, I could definitely hold a tune and play some really cool songs.  My fingers moved pretty quickly, I could read some of the most difficult notes, and I could feel for the keys vs. looking down to watch them.

I remember playing some awesome music from movies like Grease and shows like Phantom of the Opera (mom’s favorite).  I was invited to play a song at my half-brother’s wedding that the bride was going to sing along with (it was “Wind Beneath My Wings”, meant to be sung to her mother).  But that fell through because the never pursued it.

Still I would be one of the better players at piano recitals and once in a while would wow my friends at school as well.  However, as a kid I quickly grew bored of the piano.  It wasn’t the cool thing to do anymore.  The lessons had become work.  They wouldn’t fun.

So I eventually stopped playing.  Mom always said I would regret that decision, and now much later in life, I do.  So for my 35th birthday, I asked for a keyboard so I could start playing again and perhaps inspire Ryan to do the same.

 

1992 Keeping busy – Ever since I found out about my parent’s divorce at the age of 11, my life has never been the same.  And that’s a GOOD thing.  I’ll never forget something changing in my mind that day.  When my mom told me they were splitting up for good, I instantly took on the role of ‘man of the house’.  I looked for ways I could help her.  I tried to do more chores around the home and learn other things by watching professionals (e.g. maintaining our pool).  Since then I have ALWAYS been looking for ways to keep busy.

Presently there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t look for something to do, something to fix, or someone to help.  Around the house I do virtually everything: laundry, vacuuming, cooking, cleaning, landscaping, maintenance, repairs, and so much more.  I work on all the cars to keep costs down and because I don’t trust most mechanics to do the job I would.  The same holds true for my mom’s house in Saylorsburg.

I have built everything that surrounds our home – from the shed, the driveway, to the decks, the retaining walls, and even the grass.  Nothing is perfect, and I’ve come to realize that it never will be.  But I’m content with that.  And if there is one thing I’ve learned, this stuff is very exhausting but yet very rewarding.  The main reason I do all these things now is not only for myself, but also to inspire our son Ryan that he can do anything he puts his mind to.

My career history through 2017November 6, 2020

1988: LAWN MOWING: While I guess you can’t consider this an official ‘career’ since I was only in my pre-teens, this is the first time in my life I was working for money.  This was a time that didn’t yield many “professional” landscaping companies.  People would mow their own lawns, or in my case, ask one of the neighborhood kids to do it for them.

My older brother used to do the lawns, and then my neighbor Rob Casella took over.  Next in line for kids of the right age in our neighborhood was me.

At my peak I would move about 7 lawns a week.  I would get anywhere from $7.00 – $15.00 per lawn.  Sometimes I was asked to do special weeding, and that would yield me $20.00 for a few hours of work.  And at that age, it was like a gold mine for me.  Because I never went out much, I was able to save most of it and adding the funds to my bank account.

I did this until I was about 14 years old.  At that time some of my neighbors starting hiring the professional companies.  And I was getting a bit tired of doing it and wanted to move on to something more professional myself.

 

1994 MCDONALDS Front Counter Attendant – This was the first “on the books” job I ever had.  When I turned 14, I was legally able to get a job with a company that worked with young teens.  I completed my working papers and started working at the Brookdale McDonalds in Bloomfield, NJ.  I was making $5.05 per hour which eventually went up to approx $5.75.

I worked in most of the positions available for a 14-year old, including filling orders, helping at drive thru, snack bar, and custodial (cleaning) duties.  I also got to work in the grill area when they cook everything, but that was extremely limited since I was technically too young.  I worked there for two summers before they didn’t hire me back (lack of work opportunities).

It was fun and challenging.  I also gained 30 lbs while working there because I would come home with huge bags of leftover food.

 

1997 Valet Parking Attendant Whelan / Prestige Parking – This was a job I got immediately after getting fired from Grand Union when I was 18.  My brother worked at the Charthouse in Weehawken and suggested I contact the valet parking company to see if they had any openings.  After speaking with the company’s owner (Dave Whelan), soon I was working for them 4 days a week.

I made between $10 and $15.00 (sometimes $20.00) per hour.  I got the chance to work at other restaurants, night clubs, and even a strip club (that one was my obvious favorite). While I was considered one of their best workers, I did crash / damage a few cars during that time.  I worked late nights (sometimes until 2:30 AM) and all weather conditions (snow, cold, heat, rain).

As I was nearing college graduation, I started getting worn out from parking.  While Dave was amazing to work for, the kids I worked with showed me no respect.  I was tired of being made fun of, and my ‘anger’ was starting to show to his clients and customers.  I eventually reached the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore and quit shortly before getting my full-time with Executrain.

 

 

1999 News Radio 880 Intern Shadow Traffic – As I was interested in pursuing a career in radio, this was an internship I had taken on during my last year of college.  I only worked there for one semester.  I learned a little bit, but really didn’t enjoy working there.  The atmosphere wasn’t very inviting and they really didn’t teach me anything.  I was just another ‘body’ taking phone calls, making photocopies, and getting breakfast for them.

They were located in Rutherford, NJ and handled all of the major traffic reports for News Radio 880, 1010 WINS, and various other news and sports reports for radio and TV.  They paid a stipend of $50.00 total for the 6 months.  They offered me an opp to stay onboard after my internship ended, but the rate was too low (I made more money parking cars as a valet), and I decided to pursue something different.

 

 

2001 Senior Trainer Executrain : This was my first official career after graduating college.  I found a job listing for a Microsoft Trainer in our local newspaper and decided to give them a call.  I did not have a lot of experience using Microsoft products, but I had the public speaking capabilities.  After seeing a demonstration, they were willing to hire me and teach me the technology!

Executrain was a prominent computer application training company around the world back in the early 2000’s.  In the two years I worked there, I rose up to be one of the top trainers in the company.  I delivered a variety of classes in the suite of Microsoft Office products…specializing in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Project, Frontpage, Outlook…and Lotus Notes. These classes were typically done for corporations (both large and small) across the Northeast.

When I started there were 16 full-time trainers at their New Jersey location (including me).  In the end, I was one of only 3 trainers left. Sadly they closed their doors in Dec 2002 (exactly two years after I started).  This put me out of work, forcing me to find another job – quickly.

 

 

2016 Uber driver Uber and Lyft: Uber and Lyft are this new taxi service alternative. Basically, through an app, passengers can request rides just like a taxi. But instead of a cab company, I am the driver. I drive my own personal car, pick them up, and drive them to their destination.

Its an OK gig. I’m mainly doing it out of desperation. I’m putting a ton of miles on the car and maintenance will get expensive. many nights don’t get home until 4:30 AM or later. I’m exhausted, and the pay is only between $10-20 hour depending on the day. But it’s at least some kind of income. It’s helping me a little bit pay some bills. So hopefully it continues to help us get through this financial hump.  I’m desperately seeking the help of Hasbro or Paramount Pictures to sponsor my trips with Optimus. And I still have mega high hopes for America’s Footprints.

Please…let 2017 be the year all of our financial troubles disappear. Please.

High school graduation dayJune 15, 1996

This was the moment I had been longing for.  After being in school for practically my entire life, I was ready for it to end.  High School didn’t always yield the best of days for me.  I had been bullied a lot and specifically in my Senior Year, lost virtually all my friends and even my long-term girlfriend due to her cheating.  People would tease me (even in band at this point; the one place I used to feel comfortable) knowing that I wouldn’t retaliate or fight back.  So for me, graduation day couldn’t come fast enough.

But it finally arrived.  I was finally wearing the suit and tie overlapped with my graduation cap and gown.  Mom was so proud of me and took tons of pictures.  I got to walk down a busy street with the rest of the class from the school to the graduation field (about one mile, almost like a small parade).  I had my name called and accepted my graduation certificate from the school’s principal.

Even though I was alone (didn’t have friends or anyone to ‘party’ with), I loved every minute.  I was finally becoming an adult and entering a new phase of my life – college.  It was a time that would bring new opportunities and new people into my world.  It was like a fresh start.  And I embraced it whole-heartedly.

Childhood Christmas TraditionsNovember 6, 2020

My favorite time of year growing up was Christmas.  Everything about the season just filled me with joy.  And believe it or not, presents are the main reason why.

My family was big into the Christmas spirit.  We always decorated our home several weeks prior to the big day.  We would spend most of one weekend putting lights and ornaments inside and outside.  My father would always get a massive fruit basket (literally at least 4 feet high) from one of his clients that we would ‘dissect’ together…pretending it was a patient that needed surgery.

My parents would host a massive Christmas party, inviting well over 100 people to our home.  Every floor was decorated and prepped for people, drinks, music, and of course some amazing dishes.  My mom did ALL of the cooking, and started prepping for the party two months ahead of time.

One of the highlights in every Christmas season for me was going to Nanny’s house (my father’s mother – Jenny).  On Christmas Eve she would host a party and though it was quite boring when I look back at it, it was like the “pre-party” to Christmas morning.  The house always smelled great.  We ate a lot.  We got a few gifts from our Aunts and Uncles.  We sometimes sang songs or played the piano.

I wanted to be a meteorologistNovember 6, 2020

I had a love for weather. It has always fascinated me.  I don’t remember much from my early childhood, but I do remember my love for weather.  My room, for example, was filled with weather-related instruments such as thermometers, barometers, and even a custom-made weather station that was attached to the outside of my window.  It would measure things likes rain level, rain acidity, outdoor temps, and much more (plus you have to remember this was before digital instruments were popular.  So everything was quite large and/or hand-made).

I remember a time in 3rd grade with Mr. Espisito that was learned about the clouds.  We reviewed the different cloud types like stratus, cumulus, and cirrus clouds.  And I remember going home everyday after that just studying the clouds and what they were doing.  I even find myself doing it now (almost 45 years later).

As I entered my teens, cable TV was becoming very popular.  It gave us access to the weather channel, which was pretty much weather forecast and predictions 24/7.  Before or after school when most kids watched cartoons, I watched the weather channel.  My favorite part was our local forecast every ten minutes.  I even had the background music and exact screen sequence memorized from watching it so much.

My education historyNovember 6, 2020

1983 – 1989  BROOKDALE SCHOOL: I don’t remember much about my time here.  Teachers I remember include: Mrs. Spooner (1st grade), Mrs. McNeil (2nd), Mrs. Walsh (3rd), Mrs. Faller (6th).  Faller was my favorite.

I remember certain parts of the building and how it looked.  It was three floors, and I’ll never forget the day I entered 2nd grade which required me to go up to the 2nd floor (it was like entering a new world).  I made lots of friends along the way but lost many of them as the years went on.

I remember the ‘Fun Fair’ they would have every May which was like a small festival in the back in the school.  They also had bike inspection day which was cool because you could ride your bike to school and have officials look over it.

I remember being part of the Audio/Video group and would help get movies ready for classes.  I participated in a spelling bee, played after-school basketball for a while, and remember times looking out the window at the radio tower of Montclair State University (a college I never knew about but ended up going to).

 

1992 – 1996 BLOOMFIELD HIGH SCHOOL: High School was fun at first, but eventually I couldn’t wait to leave.  Especially in my Senior year I was plagued by bullies and generally people just didn’t like me.  I was looked at as a band geek with a cool car but no personality.  I tried my best to make friends but it never really worked.

Outside of social life, I did OK in High School academically speaking.  I got A’s and B’s for virtually every class and was almost always on the Honor Roll.  In Senior year I got very lazy and didn’t take many challenging courses.

I was happy to have graduated and finally be done with High School and the people who made it so challenging.  As I look back on it today, there were many things I might have done differently to make it more enjoyable.

 

1996 to 2000 MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY: MSU was local to where I lived (only 5 minutes away).  I initially went here because I was forced by my mom (I wanted to go to technical / auto mechanic school but she refused to pay for it).  I am super happy I ended up coming here.  I met some good people and nice friends, though I’ve lost contact with virtually everyone.

My major was Speech Communications.  My favorite professor was Dr. Wayne Bond.  He was an incredible inspiration because he had such a passion for what he did.  And I wanted to be just like him in my career.  I was top of my class and as a result of my hard work and awesome public speaking skills, I became the most awarded student in that major during my time there.

 

History 2September 21, 2020
History 1September 3, 2020
TitleDateContent
Some bad people are out thereJuly 10, 2019

2019 has been a tough year for me. With Optimus I attempted to build a team of supporters. Vehicles, cosplayers, and total strangers – I invited them to join our adventure with Optimus. To join us at shows, to help charities and non profits, and to bring a community of fans together under Optimus Prime.  But instead, this year has shown me how much hate is out there. And how many people are in it for themselves. How many people can be overcome with greed and hatred and disgust. I am disgusted from what I’ve experienced with people I supported and trusted. This year has shown me that our journey with Optimus is ours, and ours alone. No one else deserves to be part of it. What we do is in the best interests of our family. I’m done partnering with people who will ultimately seek to destroy us.

Ania suggested writing letters of ‘forgiveness’, printing and burning them. The following section is a summary of the 4 letters I wrote to 4 people who clearly seek to rob from me and our successes. People who attempt to destroy what we’ve built.

And to them I say – you will never stop the Fiduccia’s. We WILL succeed. We WILL make a positive impact. And I WILL rebuild the losses in my family once again.

Never give up hope Ryan. Never give up hope.

Cherish the time you haveNovember 6, 2020

Medical experts from all walks of life bombard us with their research, claiming to know what’s best for us. And a lot of their advice centers around one important theme: “live a happy, healthy life”.

But what they fail to tell you when sharing their expertise: there are never any guarantees.

I had an uncle (we’d call him “Uncle Scotty”, a.k.a. Doug Johnston) who was the epitome of this mantra. Close to 70 years old, he had the spirit of someone half his age. Maintaining an extremely healthy diet for the longest time, he would exercise four to five days a week, 2 hours each day. This was on top of the countless hours he would spend ballroom dancing (which anyone in the dance industry would agree can be a pretty intense workout).

Retiring early, he was high on life and had no problem driving 15 hours just to visit his family and friends for a day, only to return home the following evening.

My uncle was an inspiration to any generation, and always left us wondering what was in store for his next venture.  I grew excited for our next adventure together, but never once could have predicted life’s other plan.

The day came where his adventure abruptly came to an end. Just two days after a sudden aneurysm, and with years of life still left in his spirit, my uncle took his last breath and said his final goodbye.

Don’t take for granted those you love. Because when you least expect it, they may drop out of our life – forever

Friends will come and go RyanApril 1, 2013

As I write this Ryan, you are in school.  My 2nd grader approaching his 8th birthday.  You are making lots of news friends and forming some special bonds with your classmates.  I know you love it.  And so do I.

I tell you this on occasion, and never want you to forget that friends will come and go.  It’s great to make new friends, but it’s OK if you’re not friends with everyone.  Not everybody wants to be your friend Ryan.  And quite honestly a lot of kids will probably say mean things about you as life goes on.  Even adults get nasty with each other.

But you can’t let stuff like that bring you down.  Does it hurt when someone doesn’t like you?  Sure.  Do you feel like crying once in a while, wondering if you did anything wrong?  Yep.  But is it the end of the world? Absolutely not.

So as you meet new people, always remember that there isn’t enough room in life to keep everybody.  Focus on the people who WANT to be in your company.  Learn from and remember the good times of those from your past, and don’t ever think something is wrong with you when a classmate no longer wants anything to do with you.  Sometimes people change and just aren’t compatible anymore. But when you lose a friend, you’re just making room in the universe for someone new to enter your life.  🙂

Letter to family before Optimus trip (2017)October 13, 2017

2017 Letter to family before Optimus trip This was a note I wrote to Ryan and Ania before going on a short trip to Canada with Optimus. She was recovering from her hysterectomy at the time.

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To my peanut and his mommy,

So I’m getting ready for another trip with Optimus to Canada. As you know I’ll be stopping at Niagara Falls and London, Ontario – two locations I visited last year with you guys. Even though I’ll only be gone for a few days, I want you to know you’ll both be with me the entire time. As I drive and walk the streets that the three of us last walked, it’ll be emotional for me. A piece of me will be missing. But I understand why you can’t come.

It’s been hard trying to generate enough buzz with Optimus to get our family back on track financially. But I won’t give up and I won’t stop trying. Mommy – you deserve your beach house, and Ryan – you deserve new batteries for mini-K.I.T.T. So whatever good opportunities I can get, I am going to take in hopes of getting that sponsorship and introducing you guys to the main characters from the movies.

As the year goes on I know I’ll be taking more and more trips with OP. Some of them you’ll join me on, and some you won’t. But in those times when I’m alone for days, all I can think about is you. No matter where I go or who I’m with or what I do, I always see your faces right next to me.

Life is about making choices. Sometimes they aren’t always good ones. But as long as they are done with good intentions, then we can rest easy at night. I try hard, but I still don’t know if I’m making good decisions in my life anymore, or if I’m just clouded. But Ryan and mommy – I hope you are proud of what we have accomplished and what I’m trying to do. Because this entire journey was meant to inspire you and to give you a future that most people only dream of.

And I won’t give up until I have succeeded in giving both of those to you.

Miss you much. Ryan, please take care of mommy this week and listen to her and nana. Whatever they need or ask of you, don’t forget that you’re the man of the house these next few days. Mommy, you’re in good hands. Everything has been taken care of. Your friends and nana will be checking in on you constantly. There is nothing you need to do but heal, relax, and recover.

I probably won’t call or text much when I get to Canada since it’s international. But whenever I have wi-fi I’ll try to reach you guys. Hope you enjoy your weekend, and I’ll see you both on Sunday. 

Love Daddy

Standing up for yourself RyanNovember 9, 2019

Start of 6th grade is like any other year. Problems with a few kids. This year it’s a kid named Ryan “Krepple?”. I won’t get into the details than to say how proud I am that you are standing up for yourself. If he pushes you, you push back. If he says something mean to you, you have a response for him. I’ve noticed you are doing so well speaking to teachers and admins anytime there is an issue. You speak up during our chats and during times when you have an opinion. This is something I was never able to do at your age. And to a point I still struggle with.

You are becoming independent. You are becoming someone who one day won’t need his mommy and daddy to stand up him. You are developing your voice, and you are making sure people don’t get away with means things towards you.

Ryan – you are my idol. I wish I could be like you, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.  You will do amazing things in life. AMAZING THINGS!!!

A letter I wrote to someone else but also speaks to RyanNovember 7, 2017

Hey dude. With Optimus one of the things I would do is send letters of encouragement to people once in a while. This is one that I sent to a boy named Max who just got his Eagle Scout award. But the words in here are so important to me to share with you. Because this is a journey that has changed my life forever. And whenever you have doubts in your own life, I want you to read this again and again until it sinks in. Bottom line – NEVER GIVE UP HOPE! I LOVE YOU RYAN!!!

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Dear Max,

It’s Joe! You know…that really awesome guy you met who just happens to drive a replica of Optimus Prime?

Your mom extended an invitation to join you for the Eagle Scout celebration. And we’d love to be there for you, but a trip from PA to TX isn’t exactly something I can accomplish in 2 hours of driving lol. However I wanted to recognize your efforts and accomplishments. In my day, I only made it to Star scout, and lost the motivation at the time to keep going. I’m sure there were moments you felt like throwing in the towel, but you didn’t. And now look at what you’ve achieved! AWESOME!

On a more personal note Max, I’ve had the pleasure of spending some time with you 1:1. And occasionally I see what’s happening in your life through social media (sorry about the house by the way; glad you are all safe). In the short time we were together, I got the feeling there is a lot going through your mind at the moment. So many uncertainties…so many choices…so many paths to choose…and so many risks that could change your life (for better or worse) forever.

You already know a lot about our story Max. But I feel the urge to share a little more with you. Because no one (except my family) really knows all of it …

One of the difficult decisions I faced at a “crossroads” of my life journey was whether or not I should leave a 15-year career to pursue Optimus. I was actually a corporate trainer who was paid very well. And for a while I loved it. In fact I was one of the most sought after software trainers in the industry. I conducted classes for major Fortune 500 companies and traveled all over the world to do it. I even went to Australia on a business class trip for Singapore airlines.

O-M-G – BEST … FLIGHT … EXPERIENCE … EVER!!!

But as time went on, this job no longer satisfied. In fact, I was becoming miserable.  I lost my passion as a trainer, and started losing my passion for life.  So back in 2013, I decided to try something new. Something I developed a new passion for after our son was born – launching a new website called

America’s Footprints. I was hopeful this was the best idea ever, and that everyone would support it. That the struggles we faced up to this point and the misery I was feeling would finally end. Because this new venture would give me a new purpose, and would make us all successful.

But to this day, America’s Footprints has yet to gain any serious traction. And that was not the outcome I was hopeful for.

For years during all of this, I still managed to put on a smile everyday in front of the people I would meet. I learned to become really good at hiding how I truly felt inside. But I just couldn’t do it anymore, and it was starting to show. I was struggling to find the joy I once had in my younger years.  I would keep asking myself” why I am getting out of bed each day to be miserable? Why don’t others appreciate the work I do or the efforts I make?  Why are my new ideas not going where I envisioned?  Why do I feel like a failure? Is this where I was destined to wind up? Is this the father figure I was meant to be?”

Years went by before I reached another crossroads. And I had to see if there was anything I could do that would help me smile once again. I had to find that

“test of wills”…and something where I could prove to myself and to my son that I still have what it takes to succeed. So ultimately (and with the backing of my amazing family), we chose the path of Optimus late in 2015. But many don’t realize that this path nearly destroyed us. We lost everything financially, and we even struggled to keep our family ‘bond’ amidst the chaos that just took over our lives. Things have calmed down a bit, but we’re still living month to month while also trying to rebuild a family unit that almost fell apart.

However it’s almost like my life did a reboot. Everything is starting over again for me. It’s like we’re building our empire from the ground up again.  Like it’s a 2nd chance to find our happy place together.   And that’s a life lesson I was not expecting, but is also one I am truly grateful for.

This project with Optimus opened my eyes into what it means to take a chance. Yes, I did this for my son. Yes, I wanted to show him what it means to truly take a leap of faith in pursuit of a dream. Because even if I failed at building Optimus (which believe me, there were plenty of moments that almost happened), at least I could tell my son “I tried my best.”  And that’s all I look for from him as he grows up…to try his best, to walk an unchartered path in life, to lead others with morals and respect, and to conquer his dreams with no fear of failure.

But moreover, I’ve learned that life is what you make of it. Life is about making choices and taking chances. Sure, maybe not as crazy as Optimus. But if you don’t take a chance…if you don’t venture into the unknown…you’ll never know what could have been.  And here I find myself halfway through my lifetime, starting all over as if I just got out of college.  All because I took that leap of faith.

As you celebrate your Eagle accomplishments, the uncertainty you may be feeling now will always be there. It never goes away. It just adapts to your present circumstances as you get older. You will always second guess your choices. You will always be faced with challenges you never expected. You will often feel forced to make decisions you don’t want to make. And the daily struggles of life will continue to keep you up at night. That’s just the way things are.

But I’ve learned that doesn’t mean the darkness and dead ends will linger forever. A new life awaits us, no matter your age. And a new (uncertain but optimistic) future is ahead. And I can say that because I never would’ve gotten here if I didn’t choose to take this chance with Optimus.

So through this simple letter, the message I want to leave you with is just that. Don’t be afraid of future challenges… fears…or uncertainty. Don’t be afraid to face LIFE and try new things.  Because I believe all it takes is an idea, no matter how big or small, and a belief in yourself that you can turn that idea into reality with the power of positivity. The rest happens organically. When the sun sets, sometimes darkness takes over. But eventually that sun will rise again.

I certainly wish all of you the best for a bright future ahead Max. You got this. Find a healthy way to deal with whatever punches life throws your way. But don’t ever let them keep you down. Stand up, stand tall, and stand proud. And remember to leave behind a legacy worthy of a Prime.

Letter to Ania on 18th ‘meeting day’ anniversaryJuly 20, 2017

Ania This was an email I wrote to you on July 20, 2017. The day after you gave me the new wedding ring and the day after I gave you your engagement ring. Love you Ania!

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Today back in 1999 is the day we first laid eyes on each other. The day when a desperate 20-something kid was on the hunt for a girl that would sweep him off his feet. The day when I felt an instant connection with you, having no problems talking to you and even hugging you.

18 years later, we have changed a lot. Life got in the way. Sh** happened. We’ve had those ups and downs. For me, I felt like we were no longer looking after each other…but instead living separate lives. Just surviving. I felt like we had forgotten (more like lost) that feeling of a partnership. Those moments of laughter and deep “what IF” conversations. 😉

Today however I feel renewed. Like the person I was years ago. I am happy, content, and don’t feel alone anymore. I know I keep relating what happened to a drug addiction. Because in essence that what it was like for me. I feel like I am a recovering addict who has been saved by the one he loves. You had an intervention with me. You stood up and said “I will stand by your side if you’re willing to stand up with me”. You were willing to have very difficult conversations. You were willing to do whatever it takes to see if we, as a couple, still had a fighting chance.

And here were are months later. Happy again. You are my savior. You are my guardian angel. You are the one who has proven that together we CAN make it work.  Thank you Ania. Thank you for making the changes you’ve made and for doing the things you do. Thank you for helping. Thank you for talking. Thank you for laughing with me. Thank you for loving me.

On  this day, our 18th anniversary of the day we first met, I can proudly say I couldn’t imagine life any other way. I am where I belong.

Love you Ania.

A message to AniaMay 2, 2014

My wife – Ania They say when love is real, it never fades away. It just keeps getting stronger with time. And that is the way I feel with you Ania. Married life would never have been half the fun it is, without you as my wife.

I could never give you away for anything in this world.  I don’t know what would I do without you in my life. Your eyes, your smile and the way you look at me makes me feel like I am living a sweet dream. I don’t want to even imagine living a single moment without you. I’m so much in love with you and hope that you feel it everyday.

The day you stepped into my life, you changed it into something so beautiful and meaningful. You are just so amazing to have around. I cannot stop myself from telling you everyday, how much you mean to me.

Letter to Ania on 12th wedding anniversarySeptember 2, 2017

Ania This was a letter I printed for you and left behind our wedding photo hanging up in the stairwell hallway on Sept 2, 2017…our 12th wedding anniversary.

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My feelings on this day – Sept 2, 2017 … 12 years later.

I don’t know where to begin. So I’ll just jump right in. This marriage thing isn’t what I thought it would be. Everyone always leads you to believe the good times will outweigh the bad.  We were so strong once, long before marriage. We were unstoppable. We laughed at nothing, smiled at everything, and genuinely looked forward to our future when one day we would be living together forever. And that day finally arrived back in 2005 when both of said ‘I do.’

Guess those times are the honeymoon phase everyone talks about.

But now the honeymoon has ended. As the years went on, life took over. So many obstacles, challenges, defeats, hardships, work issues, family issues.  The list is never ending. So many things contributed to our downfall. It wasn’t just one. But I realize the harsh reality my personal actions have now brought us to. A reality that neither one of us expected, nor wished for.

A reality of broken hearts…nonstop tears…broken trust…and an uncertain future. A reality that shattered the feelings you once had for me. A reality that will forever change our story and the friendships of the people around us.  A reality I wish didn’t exist.

I know what I did was wrong. I know you’ll continue to have questions. I know there is nothing I can say that will completely restore your faith in me. I know the woman who depended on me the most for everything now feels robbed, hollow, empty, and defeated. The woman who longs to have those “honeymoon moments” again feels cheated and like life was a lie.  And feels like she’ll never again feel those special moments of joy when she looks at me.

I know…because I have felt (almost) the same way.

I am sorry for not communicating better with you. I am sorry I didn’t look at you or kiss you enough. I am sorry I failed at being the husband I promised I would be to you. I am sorry for destroying your trust in me. I am sorry for giving you a reason to question every memory we have ever shared. I am sorry for hurting you. I am a coward, and I am sorry for not being honest during the hysterectomy. I am sorry for the pain I have caused. I lost all faith in us. I lost all faith in what it meant to be happy. I lost my entire soul and became a shell of a man who simply went through the daily routines of trying to do everything I could to make your life easier and happier.

Despite everything that has happened, I never stopped loving you. I look at you and you still have a sparkle in your eyes that tickles me inside. You have a passion for life that is infectious. You have a belief in God and the universe and the angels that inspires me to want to believe. You have a positive outlook for us…our future…together…and fought for us when I had already checked out.

But I was never checked out until late in 2016….when so many failures led to so little support. When all I felt like was a failure who kept making sacrifices and trying to make a better life for his family. I knew you needed me. And I kept telling myself we’ll be there soon. Just one more week or one more month and we’ll finally be over this hump.

A hump that ultimately never went away.

Ania…I am glad I met you. I am glad I fell in love with you. I am glad I married you. I am glad and thankful for every memory we have shared. Even in the recent years when I was on this ‘downward spiral’, the memories we created together were still good ones for me. Our day trips, outings, adventures…they were always fun. Please don’t question those moments. Because those are the only moments that kept me hanging on, hoping for a better tomorrow.

And now I feel like that ‘better tomorrow’ is finally here.

I am typing this while listening to you watch Transformers with Ryan. You laughed a little. And I know he is enjoying this show with you, just like he enjoyed watching Knight Rider with me all those years. I am not, nor will I ever, try to compete for the ‘#1’ status. Ryan is always number one. Ryan is my joy just as much as yours. And on this anniversary day, I am reminded of the love that first brought him into this world.

It is my hope, Ania, that the two of us find peace. That we continue to date…and go on dates with fewer tears. That we continue to make time for each other. That we continue to stop life from taking over. That we constantly remind ourselves of the value we both bring to this marriage. I have come to realize that we can still be successful together even if we’re not financially where I thought we would be by now.

Ania – I am not trying to buy time. I am not jumping (back) into this with one foot and the expectation that we are ultimately doomed, and that history will repeat itself. I do believe we can succeed in our marriage. We can relive those honeymoon moments again. We can smile at nothing and laugh at everything. We can be goofy. We can kiss for longer. We can explore our ‘sexualisms’ more. We can continue to fall back in love with one another. We can once again remember what it felt like to fall in love all those years ago. We can do anything and be anything…together.

So on this day, our wedding anniversary, I simply want you to know that I have no longer given up on us. I have no longer ‘checked out’. I am committed to making this work. To building up your confidence in us once again. I will proceed with caution, because I know the more time that passes, the more you may realize that I am not the one for you. Which is why I’m ready to do what I can so neither of us lose faith in our incredible partnership…our marriage…ever again.

Love you Ania. Happy a-day. I hope at some point you will smile at the thought of what was…and what it still can be.

P.S. I didn’t proofread anything. So if it sux or doesn’t make sense, my bad. My brain is fried

A message to my childhood best friend Joe GeiselNovember 7, 2020

My childhood friend – Joe Geisel Though our friendship did not withstand the test of time Joe, I wanted you to know that you played a big role in my childhood.  We knew each other for so long that I can’t even remember the day we first met or how old we were.  I just remember all the fun times had growing up, from riding bikes together to climbing trees at the local park, to driving around town when we first got our license, to having overnight sleepovers and popcorn together at your house.

But one thing I’ll never forget is the moment of our senior year of high school when our bond together started changing.  Specifically the day that I found out you had spent some alone time behind closed doors with my girlfriend at the time and never speaking a word about it…which just wasn’t something close friends would’ve done to each other.

I guess we were both becoming different people and hung out with different friends.  It’s as if life was taking us on different paths, each of us following the path of our own choosing.  It was clear that our friendship would suffer, and that one day we would go our separate ways forever.  And that’s OK.  But I enjoyed the good times we shared and will forever remember the memories we created together in our childhood.

I wish you nothing but the best and hope that you have the life you longed for is the life you are now living.

A letter I wrote for RyanMarch 20, 2016

Ryan – when you were 8 years old you had a cardboard mailbox in our hallway outside of your office / play room. This was a letter I wrote to you and placed in that mailbox. 🙂

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From: Daddy

To: Ryan

Today’s Date: March 20, 2016

Hi Ryan!!!

I just wanted to send you a letter to let you know how proud I am of the young boy you are becoming. You are starting to learn so many important things about life, and you are discovering what it means to become an adult. In just a few short years you will be turning double digits (10 years old). That means you will have survived your first decade!

You have a great life ahead of you Ryan. You have so many amazing things you can do, like learning how to master the guitar, create awesome art projects, build things, become a professional tennis player, and more.

There is a saying that goes: “the sky is the limit.” That basically means to keep reaching for the sky. You will be amazed at the things you can accomplish in life if you believe in yourself and in your dreams.

I will always do everything I can to help guide you down the best path, and the right path. At times things may get tough. At times you may not like me very much. But every decision I make, I do it with your best intentions. I do it for you. 

Love you little man. Write back soon! 🙂

Daddy

Message to Mom after finance help with OPApril 4, 2017

This was an email I sent to mom (who I’d also call ‘nana’) after picking up Ryan in the morning for school and seeing how sad she looked and how empty her house looked.

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Nana – I know you’re hurting inside. I know you’re probably in feeling the same type of depression that I am. I know you probably look at your home as nothing more than four walls with memories and failed attempts to bring family together. I know you’ve given up. I know you’ll ultimately looking to sell your home.  And I know a lot of that is my fault.

But I wanted you to know something. I don’t speak much. I don’t say much. But I care about you deeply. Your my mom. The woman who never gave up on me. On us. On our family. The woman who has always been my rock. My expert opinion. The one I always value advice from. The one who never falters. And if she does, she finds her way to freedom again.

I’m sorry for the financial situation I’ve put you into. None of this has gone the way I had hoped. The way I had dreamed. My goal in doing this (Footprints / Optimus) was to provide an amazing life for ALL of you. To travel all over. To completely take over all of your bills. To give you a chance to live that carefree lifestyle. To make you proud without having to worry about a thing. To help you retire young. To see you smile. To give you a chance to live a great life after so many years of disappointment and struggle. To give you time with your grandson. To send you on getaways every year to Napa. Sky was the limit. My dreams were set high. But unfortunately I turned into a sinking ship. And I’ve taking everyone down with me.

It’s really hard to admit defeat. It’s really hard to have hope when so many things in life have failed. It’s really hard to smile through all the stress. And it’s really hard to see you struggling because of my actions.

As I mentioned before, I am backing off of Footprints. It costs me about $100 a month to keep online and it will still be up for use. But I can’t put any more into it. Instead I’m going to dedicate whatever time I can towards helping Ania streamline her business so she can get more profitable and continue growing it. I will also do whatever I can to keep promoting Optimus. Because despite the darkness I am in, I still have that little glimmer of hope things will work out.

I’ve thrown my hands up to my angels. I’ve given in. I’ve given up. I have asked them to just take me and guide me where I am supposed to go. Everyday is a fight, but I keep reminding myself that I am no longer in control of my own destiny. Because the decisions I have made got us all to a point I never saw coming.

I hate to see you in pain. I hate to see you giving up. I know you feel alone, desperate, nervous, and so much more. But I can’t sit idly by and watch you give up on your dream while falling apart.

Starting this month, I am committing to paying you back and taking over the payments as much as I can. For starters I will dedicate one full paycheck from Uber to you each month. I’ve cancelled the insurance on KITT, so that should get us a few hundred as well. Ania and I are going to sell some of her jewelry and will get her stamp and coin collection from her grandmother appraised. We should continue getting help from the state to cover food costs. So at least once a month I want to do shopping for you with those food stamps.

All of this is non-negotiable. My mind is made up. So you can say no all you want. It’s still happening.

I don’t know how bad your financial situation is, nor am I asking you to share that with me. But if there is any ounce of hope left in you, please don’t start emptying your house of the memories we have built. Please don’t start selling off everything. Because all you’ll have left is an empty shell of a home. A place that was once a paradise now turned into a prison. If you want I can come over and together we can walk through the house and come up with a list of the random things you no longer need while still maintaining a sense of ‘home’. For example we can sell your tractor if it’s getting to be too much maintenance for you and I will bring ours there once every few weeks to do the yard for you. We can sell one or two of your refrigerators. If you want we can sell the wood flooring you purchased for your kitchen. Etc.

I don’t know if I’ve ever told you, but your home has felt MORE like home for me vs. my own home. I felt more comfortable at your house than I do here. It was relaxing. Peaceful. Fun. But most of all it was my mom’s house. A home she was able to purchase on her own despite the odds. I was, and still am, so proud of what you have accomplished. We have already made so many memories there. None of us want to see it go. None of us want to see it empty.

You bought that home with the intent on giving your kids and grandkids a mountain getaway. I realize most of those kids are done, but we are still here. And I can tell you Ryan still absolutely loves going there and making new memories. This morning he was very concerned he would lose his “nana home with the forest and huge property”.

Again I don’t know your situation. And don’t tell me. I’d rather not know. You do what you need to do to survive. But if there is anything left in that strong-willed girl we all know as Judy “tiller woman”, please don’t give up on your dream. Don’t give up on the one place you enjoyed coming to. Don’t give up on us. Don’t give up on the new memories we have left to create.

Don’t respond to this email. Instead I just wanted you to know how much you mean to me and to us. We miss you. And I would love to maybe spend some time there again, even if it’s just once or twice a month. Cook, drink, play, chat, relax. Whatever. Like it used to be.

I will fix this. I am committed and won’t stop until I do. Love you nana.

A message for you MomNovember 7, 2020

You are the strongest person I’ve ever known.  You have gone through so much in your lifetime that it’s a miracle you still have your youth at the time I write this.  I know at times you’re probably depressed at how life had turned out (e.g. Christian and Patrick no longer communicating with you, Uncle Scotty’s death, etc.).  But you never faulter.

You are the reason I am who I am today.  You raised me to be a man of compassion and honesty.  You somehow found a way to support me and your other two sons despite a tough divorce and virtually no income.  Your entrepreneurship is what inspired me to start my own business.  Your faith in me is one of the things that keeps me going.  You believe in me when others don’t.  You try to comfort me when others don’t.  You listen and don’t judge.

I know there have been many times where I seem to have nothing to say.  I am quiet, reserved, and bite my tongue in most situations.  You may think I am mad at you for something…but that is far from the truth.  I do look forward to seeing you.  I enjoy our time together.  I feel like I’ve just lost the ability (as a person) to communicate effectively.  So through this message I wanted you to know what during the times I was silent, I just couldn’t find the right words to say.  But bottom line – you are my world.

Thank you mom – for everything.

A message to you RyanNovember 7, 2020

There are so many things I want to tell you and so much I want to share with you.  I have a lifetime of experience I want to pass down to you, and so many lessons I hope you never have to learn the hard way.  But I realize life isn’t forever.  And the day will come where you are on your own with a father in heaven who will always be at your side.  And when that day comes, I want you to know:

One Footprint post will never truly convey how I feel about you.  Simply put, you are my world.  You are the reason I get up everyday.  You are the biggest joy in my life, and the one person I feel an unconditional love from.

As time goes on, never stop believing in yourself.  You are an amazingly talented woman.  You have already accomplished so much in such a short time and have only scratched the surface of your potential in life.  Don’t ever let anyone take that away from you.

Love something passionately. We’ve always encouraged you to try new thing, and though you are sometimes tough to convince, always remember to keep an open mind.  I love that as you get older you are experiencing new things in life and focusing on the ones you love, such as your amazing imagination and love for the arts & reading.

Say what you think.  You can have a stubborn and “bossy” personality which might rub people the wrong way sometimes.  But it’s that same personality that keeps you strong and encourages you from within to TALK to others in a conversation-like manner.   Don’t evert lose that.   It’s okay to not agree with your friends, not to want to do what they do. Speak up, speak out,  and stand by what you believe.

Stop and listen. Listen to the words of a song, the sounds of nature, the ideas and opinions of others. Listen to the still, small voice in your head.  And most important, be brave and face your fears head on.  You’ve been afraid before, and will experience fear again.  But never let that stop you from conquering all the challenges life has to offer.

More to come soon…

A message to Ryan from AF blogOctober 26, 2015

this was an article I wrote for the blog on AmericasFootprints.com (10/26/2015).  It gives you glimpse into something I do for you every single night while you’re asleep.  I hope you like it. Love you – Dad

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There is nothing more precious than watching your little one sleep. From the moment your children are brought into this world, there is something magical about seeing them close their eyes and rest comfortably in the arms that brought them into this world.

Every night when we tuck our children in bed, all of the day’s stresses instantly disappear. Even if it’s just for five seconds, we forget about work, the bills, and the social drama. We become memorized as they sleep the night away, no doubt dreaming about all the fun experiences they have already enjoyed as a child.

And perhaps there is a piece of us that wishes we, too, were able to join them in their dream.

When I watch my son sleep, I am at ease. It takes me back in time to the few memories I have as a child, when things were easier. We played more. We laughed more. And we didn’t have to worry about the mortgage payment every month.

We had no fear, and we had minimal stress. We enjoyed school. We learned how to socialize. We didn’t yet fully comprehend things like friendships and love, and how sometimes the friends we play with today can become the worst of enemies tomorrow.

Our children see this world in a much different way than we do. When they go to bed at night, they aren’t thinking about the senseless acts of violence around the world. They don’t care about corrupt politicians. They don’t see their friends as ‘black or white’.

All they see in their dream is the beauty of life, and the joy that tomorrow will bring for them.

Yet the day will come when their dreams are challenged. When their future looks bleak. When they, too, might worry about losing a job or getting that next paycheck to support their family.

And if we are fortunate enough as parents to be by their side, we will help guide them the best way we know how: through advice, experience, and just casual conversations at the dinner table.

But what if I told you we could do more beyond just the face-to-face chats? That we have the power to better prepare them for the life ahead. What if you could pass down the advice you are waiting to share until they get older…all while they are resting comfortably in a deep sleep?

Experts claim that our brains subconciously pick up everything happening around us while we sleep, even though most times we have no recollection of it.

Sure my silence might good for a peaceful night’s dream. But it’s my voice that will help him get through the nightmares of tomorrow. So when my son is dreaming peacefully in his bed, I walk into his room and pull the blanket over him, ready to share another piece of wisdom I have picked up in my journey through life.

For example, when he is asleep for the night, I tell him that life will present challenges he will not be expecting, but to never stop believeing in himself.

“There will be times when you feel like giving up. But you will never realize your full potential if you don’t keep trying. Take on each challenge as it comes. Use your experience to guide you down the path you believe is best. And regardless of how things turn out, never look back.”

Dont let them break your spirit. Sometimes I lay next to him while he sleeps, and talk to him about not caring what other people think. That it is his life, his journey, and his Footprint.

“Sometimes your friends and family just want to help. And sometimes, all they want to do is hurt. People will talk about you behind your back. They will be vindictive. They will look for ways to bring you down because they can’t stand to see you so happy.

Friends and family will make you smile, and they will make you cry. Sometimes they will try to force their way into your life when you just don’t want them there. They may break your heart, but never let them break your spirit.”

In the calm of the night, I speak to my son about fear, and how he should never let it get the best of him.

“You will have ideas. You will want to do things that seem impossible. You will want to experience things that are so far out of reach, physically and financially.

However something will hold you back. You will be scared of the unknown. You will be afraid of failure. And there will be someone inside your mind who will tell you not to face that fear.

Yet if you don’t try, you’ll never know what’s like to be fearless. Make smart decisions, and let your wisdom guide you. But never be afraid to stare fear in the face, and tackle it head on.

Most people spend their entire lives wondering. But you will spend your entire life living.”

And right before I leave his room for the night, I never forget to tell him about the great potential he has within.

“Everyone has their own beliefs. People do things their way. Not your way. But that’s also what makes you so special.

You are an amazing young man. You have done, and will do some incredible things in life, and you will inspire so many people along the way. You are traveling down a road that no one else will take, but you are also leaving behind Footprints that others might choose to follow.

Walk cautiously, and remember that you are never alone. I will always be there, right by your side.”

There are certain things our children are too young to understand. And as parents, all of us are waiting for the “right time” to have certain conversations with them as they grow older.

But what if we wait too long? What if life has other plans? What if the future we are trying map out for the role we play in our child’s life just doesn’t go the way you expected?

What will you do to be proactive in helping them see their future, through your eyes?

What will you whisper in the ears of your children tonight?

Worst Halloween ever – message to AniaOctober 31, 2017

Halloween at Nanas turned out to be Ryan’s worst halloween ever, according to him. Won’t get into details, but this was an email I sent to you that night. Thank you for being a strong mom Ania…

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I am sorry today sucked for you. I am sorry it drained so much out of you. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I was so excited to be home celebrating Halloween with new ideas. I was so excited to see Ryan all dressed up. I was ready to have a good time as a family. And then all of this happened. He cried. You cried. And once again I am left trying to figure out the right things to do or say when apparently I can’t do anything that’ll make the pain go away.

But I want to say thank you for being strong for Ryan today. He is lucky to have you as a mother. I don’t know why he feels like I don’t appreciate or want him. I don’t know why he got upset with me today when even you pointed out that I had nothing to do with the moving of the decorations. It baffles me. One of the biggest things I try to instill in him is appreciation. I know whatever is going on is layers deep. And I know he will continue to confide in you for guidance. Me…well, he may grow up one day hating me. But in the end I will forever love him and you, and will always have his best interests at heart. I hope one day he will understand that, and love me back for it.

Thank you for being the strong mom you are. I don’t know what I would do without you.

A message to brothers – Christian and PatrickJanuary 25, 2015

As of the date I’m writing this (January 25, 2015), we unfortunately are no longer in communication with each other.  By my own choice, it has been just over a year since I’ve last spoken or heard from either of you.

As you know I sent you both a message in the beginning of 2014 basically severing our relationship.  But I never thoroughly explained why.  So I’m hoping that through this simple message, you might understand where I was coming from.

First and foremost, we will always be brothers and I will always hold a place for you both in my heart.  Growing up we all created some ‘memorable moments’ with each other that I will never forget.  And though we are worlds apart at the moment, maybe someday we will reunite again and continue our journey.

I am not going to cite any specific incidents that made me come to this decision.  Because in fact, there weren’t any.  There was no ‘one thing’ either of you did that brought me to this decision.  Instead, it was really just a culmination of multiple events over our lifetime that I eventually got fed up with.  Many of these events I don’t even remember.  But what I do remember is the way they made me feel.

It wasn’t until I became a father that these things started to affect me.  Neither of you showed any care or concern for us as family.  Whenever we’d visit or come together, how many times would you play with Ryan like I would always try to do when I saw your kids?  How often would you ask us about OUR life?  How many times did you ask questions about our careers other than ”how’s work?”  When mom once told you both that she believes I am in a depression state, did either of you do anything to show support or help?

Christian: how many times did you come through for Ryan on his special days…bothering to make a simple phone call or send a card on his birthdays?  Patrick: did you ever feel ANY remorse for blaming me about the incidents that happening between Ania and Jenn during Uncle Scotty’s re-union, making me feel like I was the root cause of it all.  You would drive hours on your trips to visit Tony or Athena.  Yet did you ever even WANT to stop and see me for lunch in all those trips you made to NJ?

We all know the answers to the above.  And the list just goes on and on.  But if I had to list a catalyst that forced me over the edge, it was your treatment towards mom.

Despite what you may think, despite everything you’ve put her through, we always supported your relationship with her.  We would always ask if she’d heard from you or if she has any plans to visit you.  There were Sundays when we offered to drive her and visit you for the day.  We always tried to bring up the positive.  But again, at the times she needed you the most, where were you!??

The death of Bob.  The death of Scotty.  The death of George.  Where were you?  Their losses affected mom more than you know.  And what about the tens of thousands of dollars she’s given you both to bail you out of a jam, or support you in times of need?  Have either of you EVER made any attempt to pay her back or somehow make it right?

Despite how far away you both live, did you ever once think about doing something nice for her during the week?  Maybe having flowers sent to Clemente?  Or ordering a pizza delivery for her one night at dinner?  Or hiring a personal chef to cook for her on a Sunday?  Or getting her a car service for work one day so she didn’t have to drive?

And my biggest issue – why the hell did you both stop talking to her!!??  She had NOTHING to do with my decision to break all ties with you.  I didn’t even include her in the original correspondence.  And yet both of you somehow blame her for what happened?  And punish her by cutting ties as well?  The one woman who busted her ass during the shittiest of all divorces to give you the life you now have.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!??

Like I said, I’m not going to start citing each specific incident that brought me to this conclusion.  But in the end, I grew tired.  I grew tired of the lies, I grew tired of everyone being ‘fake’ and then talking about us the moment we’d leave, and just plain tired of the lack of support either of you showed for us.  We would drop everything in a moment’s notice to help and your kids.  We would go out our way countless times just to visit you or be there…especially in a time of need.  And yet we were never a consideration.  We were never on the first, second, or even the 9th blip on your radar.

So for the sanity of my own well-being, I made the decision enough was enough.  There was no longer the need to continue the ongoing drama that began affecting my health.  For the sake of focusing on my future and my immediate family, it was time to end it.

I don’t expect either of you to have any sympathy for me.  I imagine you are both reading this with disgust, probably questioning many of the things I cited above.  But these are my feelings.  This is why it had to end.  Neither of you will fully understand them, and you probably never will.  You’ll look for every counter-excuse in the book, and likely cite many of the things I might of done as well.  I realize I am no saint.  I realize no one is perfect.  But I always felt like the outcast.  Like the one who didn’t belong.  So perhaps it was my destiny to break away on my own.

Whatever the case, the love as a brother never stopped.  The love was always there.  I would think of you both practically every single day.  I would wonder where you were, wonder where life was taking you, and wonder how your kids were doing.  I have no ill-feelings towards either of you.  You might be surprised to hear that I am at peace with my decisions.  I am on my own path now, and wish you both nothing but the best as you continue your journey in life.

Goodbye…for now.

Celebrating 13 years of marriageSeptember 2, 2018

Sept 2018…an email I sent to Ania on our anniversary…18 months after we crumbled…

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Celebrating 13 years…wow. 13 years since we 1st said those magic. 19 years later and here we are with a ‘mini family’ of our own. 19 years ago, I never envisioned ending up where we are. I never pictured our home, our lifestyle, our hardships, our little human, my ‘issues’, our family drama, our debts, our successes, our (your) ‘emotions’.  I had dreams and hopes and looked forward to living a comfortable life with a woman who treated me with the respect I felt I deserved. 19 years ago, I had no idea that sexy young girl with the awesome boobs and beautiful smile would be YOU.

I agree with what you said on your note – I believe we are 2 souls destined to be with one another; destined to complete one another. Together we are unstoppable. Together we can (and have already done) anything we imagine. It’s time to once again realize those dreams. It’s time to become that power couple everyone else looks at with awe, wondering what the hell we’re doing to make all this work.

I have regrets. Lots of them. But one thing I don’t regret is asking you to marry me. Because you are a true gem, and someone who would lay down her life for me…for our family. You, Ania, are my one true love. And I am so glad I said “I do” on this day so long ago. I am sorry I have not lived up to your expectations all the time. I am sorry I buckled under the pressure of life. I am sorry I failed you. Everyday that passes I try to make it up to you in some way, be it more love, more food, more alone time, more help with work, or more effort into getting us out of debt. I hope you see what I’ve been doing, and I hope you still look at me with love and not disgust.

I hope…you are still grateful for saying “I do”.  I LOVE YOU!!!!

Letter to Ania after affair (2017)April 24, 2017

This was a letter I wrote to her after admitting to the details of my affair with Aisha in early 2017.

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I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know where our story ends. Perhaps it already has. Or perhaps we are writing a new book. I don’t know if there is anything I can ever do to make you whole again, just like you probably don’t know if you’ll ever find ‘the real Joey’ in me again.

Elizabeth predicted it. I was a train on a collision course. She tried to stop me. My angels tried to stop me. But I wrecked. And my family was in the passenger seats. And for the rest of my life, I have to live with the reality that my family has died because of the decisions I have made and the wreck that has ensued.

Yes – her and I had a short term relationship. Neither of us knowing where it would lead, neither of us having any expectations from the start…but both of us finding comfort in having someone who listened. Someone who made us both smile again. Someone who made us look past our problems and see that ounce of self-worth.  Like a drug, she became my addiction.

Today I told her I needed space. That I could not continue down this path. That I have to try and fix what’s been broken for the sake of myself and my family. That I have to see where these conversations between you and I would lead. So that in the end, even if I end up alone with nothing but my thoughts and four walls…which I am fully prepared for…I can at least tell Ryan that his daddy tried. I tried to make things better.  That I did not give up on us and the dreams we once shared. But even though I was too late, that he should never stop trying to fight for the one he loves.

I never wanted to hurt anyone. Despite everything that has transpired, you need to know that I never stopped loving you. I just lost that love. My well was never refilled, and thus had run dry. And I realize yours did to. And for that, I am sorry. I am sorry for draining your well and never filling it back up. I am sorry for taking all the hopes and dreams and love we once shared and crushing it into oblivion in a matter of 24 hours. I felt driven away…pushed away…but I realize nobody forced me to make the decisions I have made.  With that dry well, I desperately kept looking for something (or someone) to fill it up again. Footprints, Optimus, her.  Anything or anyone that would compliment me and just make me feel like I was somebody who mattered. Somebody who could succeed.

I chose several paths over the years that have all led to failure. I failed you, I failed mom, I failed our friends, and I failed my family. I will never live that down.  I cannot ever face your friends again. They are now your new family. They are no longer mine. I will forever be the outcast in their eyes. When you invite me to see them, I will respectfully decline. Yes – perhaps I am a coward. But no more than you say you’re naive. Even if we stay together and somehow find a way to make this work, I am prepared for a life where we must still live some of it separately. That we are now independent of each other. And again for that, I am sorry.

In here you will find the ring you left with me in Toya. I am committed to trying. I am committed to our son. I am committed to being your partner in life, together or separate.  I do not expect you to place this ring on your finger ever again. I have no expectations of a bright future together with a happy ending. But should you feel the urge to sport a symbol of the love we once shared, I want you to have it. And if you decide to wear it again, I will notice it. I may not say anything, but I will see it as a sign that you wish to continue this journey together to see where it may lead.

I love you Ania. I never stopped. Maybe one day we can rekindle that love we both shared once before. In the meantime, because of my actions, we are both hurting. We are both fighting. We are both crying on the outside, and dying on the inside. Neither of us knowing if we will come out of this hole together, or not at all. But even if I don’t make it, I know you will. Because your spirit deserves to see whatever remaining beauty the world has to offer.

Your partner in life…and daddy to the most amazing boy in the universe…Joey

A letter I wrote for RyanNovember 2, 2016

This was another letter I wrote for Ryan and placed in his makeshift mailbox in the hallway next to his ‘office’.  It was the day before I was to make the trip to Ohio to pick up Optimus Prime.

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Today’s Date: April 10, 2016

SUBJECT: A letter to my little man for his hallway mailbox – from Daddy

Ryan,

As you know, tomorrow (April 11th) we will begin a new journey as a family together. Tomorrow is the day I pick up our brand new truck with the hopes of soon converting it to look like Optimus Prime. This is probably going to be one of the most challenging builds of my entire life, and will no doubt test my strength and skill. It will keep me up late at night, and will keep me away from home a lot more than usual for the next few months while I attempt to get it done.

This is a very risky project for us to take on, and it has me nervous, excited, anxious, and scared. I don’t know how it’ll turn out. But I am not afraid to try for the chance at giving our family the best life possible.

 

Take this piece of advice as a lesson for your life: there will be times when life challenges you. There will be times when projects and dreams seem so far out of reach, they might as well be impossible. There will be times you doubt yourself and would rather take the easy way out or pursue a path that doesn’t intimidate you as much.

Optimus is very intimidating to me. It is scary. I have never done something like this before. But I am not afraid to try. And as you go along in life, YOU should never be afraid to try either. If you have an opportunity to make your dreams come true, go for it.  Even if it means going down a path that no one else has dared to walk.

You can do anything you want to in life Ryan. Never let fear stand in your way. Live your life, and leave behind a Footprint that YOUR kids will one day be proud of.

I’m excited to bring the new truck home and can’t wait to see your reaction as I pull in. Everything I do, I do it for you and Mommy. Love you Ryan!    -Daddy

New message to oithersSeptember 4, 2020
First Meeting When Company was FoundedSeptember 5, 1960

When the company was first founded…

AregtineSeptember 6, 1972

Prairie land, Happy days. In Royal Buenos Ayres
Now far, far behind are left the fire, and terrific heat.
Today in thy verdant exultation all my day dreams will come to life
And I shall inhale thy fragrant breath and bathe me in thy sun.

A very good morning to thee, my orchard, and now I salute thy freshness
As it bursts forth from thy branches, while thy peach trees are in bloom;
Framed about with rose bushes thy Florida Street
Looks on while Glory, the Mart and Sport pass along.

A little bird, a poet, meditates verses in his craw;
Gossipy and petulant, a sparrow goes chattering;
The climbing plants are arguing about political affairs;
The roses and the lilies talk of art and also of love.

Driving his chariot team of fairy dragon flies,
The mischief making Puck of rich dreams passes
And here is the splendid sportswoman in her celestial car,
The Imperial Titania followed by Oberon,

At night when the half ring of gold shows itself
Beneath the tranquil blue of Heaven, the loved one of Pierrot,
(It is a pallid feast which reigns now in the orchard)
Plays upon her lyre the air, forsooth, do-re-mi-fa-sol.

The curious violets into her balcony are peeping
And one of them sighs, “Tis a pity that the nightingale is not here!”
The sylphs accompany the dances of the breezes
In a vague hazy Walpurgis of perfume and fantasy.

Soon is heard the echo of the loud cry of the pampas.
It burns like the setting of the Argentine sun
And a spectral horseman like a shadow crosses,
Over his shoulder is a poncho, upon his face is grief.

Who are you solitary traveler of the night?
“I am Poetry” who once upon a time reigned here
I am the last gaucho herdsman. I am going away forever
From our ancient country and carrying away its heart.

Ania and daddy

This is a message to Ania 🙂

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A dream Ryan shared with meNovember 16, 2020

So Ryan told us about a dream he had last night that I thought was very poignant. He wrote out the dream and I am copying and pasting it below. I thought it was really cool and just wanted to memorialize it. Love you dude

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I had a dream that I had gone back in time and met a younger version of nana. I would guess she was in her 30s. The dream took place in her house which had a front room twice the size of a normal room just filled with a Christmas diorama village. After that room came the living quarters of the house. I never made it past that room however. I had no self control over this dream and it felt like I was watching a “first person movie.” In the Christmas room, I saw s young nana. I went up to her and said “hi Judy.” I assume the dream didn’t want me to say “hi nana” because she wouldn’t know who I was. I said something around the lines of “hi, I will end up being your grandson one day.” “Also your son Joe will be very successful in life and will have been the first person in the world to build a full sized replica of Optimus prime.” Of course she was skeptical. I told her I’ll show her proof. I took out my cell phone, which to her probably looked like some alien futuristic technology. Right as I was about to pull out my phone and show her pictures of us together the dream ended. I don’t know what made this dream so important. There was just some type of vibe to it. Something I have never felt before. The next day we found out nana had severely hurt her back during the night. Like I said there was something about this dream that I just couldn’t stop thinking about. I think that dream may have been more than meets the eye.

Ryan’s 5th grade honesty and good choices!December 13, 2018

You got in the car after school and after checking first to see if we knew anything, you shared a story from lunch about your friend Michael, who apparently threw a water bottle up in the air and then got in trouble by Mr. Dudley. He happened to be standing behind you when it happened, but you had nothing to do with it and actually started walking in the opposite direction when you realized what happened. One of the paras came up to you and starting asking questions. But you were honest with them about what happened, and she eventually realized it wasn’t you who caused the incident.

I just want you to know Ryan how proud I am of you today. You told us immediately what happened, you stayed away from trouble, you were honest with the teacher who asked you questions, you had no involvement in the incident. There are so many reasons to be proud of your choices and your reactions that day. I remember telling you how proud I was, and you in turn seemed very happy with that.

I love you Ryan. Always make good choices, and the world will be yours to conquer!

Ryan goes up near stage for danceJanuary 19, 2016

This happened in January 2016. As you know Ryan hasn’t been doing well in front of groups with the singing and dancing thing. We’ve started guitar lessons with Shelley and that’s helped. But school we still struggle, partially due to the teacher Mr. Reese.

But this week we got the following email from his teacher Mrs. Hauze, which we were SOOOOOOOO proud of!!!! It reads as follows:

I was so excited for Ryan today and wanted to share with you! I am on the dance and song committee for the upcoming Mini-Thon, therefore we had to help teach the students the song and dance a couple of times in the cafeteria.  We were there today for the Mini-Thon helpers (one from each second and third grade class) to be videotaped in order to teach it to the rest of the school.

At the end, Ms. Rudawski invited the students who were watching (my class was one of them) to come up in front of the stage on the cafeteria floor.  She let them do a little dance that she may possibly include at the end of the video.  Ryan looked at me with some hesitancy.  I let him choose if he would like to participate or not.  He chose to go in front of the stage with the rest of the classes.  Although he didn’t want to do the whole dance, he took the initiative to be involved.  I was so proud of him and told him that I would e-mail you.

Ryan’s tough week in 2nd gradeJanuary 11, 2016

Specifically it was the week of January 11th, 2016. Ryan had a tough week at school. On Monday, he had a planned meeting with Mr. Reese (his music teacher) and Mrs McDonell (guidance counselor) abuot his lack of participation in music class. We requested this meeting to see if they could find ways to help Ryan overcome his fear of singing and dancing.

That afternoon we got a call from the Vice principal and a few others telling us about the conversation and saying Ryan will fail if he doesn’t participate. Ania took that call and I was very proud of the way she stuck up for Ryan and held her ground. She said a lot of things in that conversation I probably wouldn’t have.

Then on Tuesday we got a call from the Dean of Students regarding an incident during lunch where Ryan was talking about ghosts, demons, and killing. He is really into the haunted / ghost hunting stuff and even brought in a folder of pictures to show his friends. Well he took the conversation too far and that resulted in some kids getting scared and an emergency visit from the guidance counselor that afternoon.

Thing that got us upset is that we knew nothing about what happened until after we got home and got the phone call. We tried explaining to Ryan the importance of telling us about his day and telling us what we need to know, because that call was a surprise and we were very embarrassed by it.

Then on Wednesday something else happened in lunch regarding Avi, who was trying to take back a pencil from Tim that she purchased. She was grabbing it from Tim and Ryan was trying to tell her not to grab him. All three of them were called out by Mrs. Hauze for a meeting to figure out what happened.

He didn’t get in trouble since he was mainly just a bystander, but here’s what made us proud: he TOLD us about it ahead of time! As soon as we got home he wanted to chat with mommy and he told her everything. It was his way of trying to implement what we taught him 24 hours prior, and we were very proud.

The rest of the week went better. He got a prize from Mrs Hauze’s prize box (“Ginger” stuffed animal) for doing so well in math, and he and I went swimming at the Mt Pocono school on Friday with his friends Andrew and Zoey.

A whirlwind of a week, but he made it through and learned plenty of lessons about life in the process

Lucky visits Ryan summer 2016August 22, 2016

AUG 22, 2016 – lucky (Ryan’s elf on the shelf) visited today! This was the text in the letter that was with him. It came after a horrible day yesterday.

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HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO Ryan!!!!!!!

Yep – you’re not dreaming. It’s me. Your Christmas-time pal. Boy did I miss you!!!

So you may be asking why I’m here. I will say that typically we’re not allowed to travel this time of year. In fact, no elves are supposed to make contact with their families until we get into the November timeframe. But Santa contacted me last night with what he called “an emergency.”

Ryan, I understand you’ve been having a difficult few days recently with your family. Specifically yesterday. Santa said you seemed very upset all day long. He was watching you for a while and got a little concerned at your reaction to some of the things your parents were trying to tell you.

Ryan I want you to know that your parents love you unconditionally. When your dad was trying to spend time with you in the garage working on mini KITT, he got very sad when you didn’t try to enjoy that time with him. You were more concerned about seeing your friends or not going to BJ’s. But now you’ll never get that time with your dad back again. That day is over.

Santa was also shocked when you started getting upset in the living room and actually threw your shoes across the room. That is NOT the type of person you are Ryan!!  Why would you do something like that?

Then at the end of the day your dad suggested taking a family trip to see fireworks. Again, he wanted to spend family time together watching a beautiful display of lights. Why did you get all emotional about that? He was just trying to do something nice for you guys.

Ryan – Santa’s been keeping a close eye on you lately and he noticed one of the biggest lessons your dad and mom are trying to teach you in life is to appreciate what you have, and appreciate how much they actually do for you. A perfect example is when they bought you four pairs of shoes yesterday at Target. Do you realize that most of your friends only got ONE pair? Some friends don’t even get that. And yet your parents bought you four pairs of shoes, despite the fact they aren’t making any money right now. The least you could do is say something nice to them, like “guys – I really appreciate what you got for me. I am very lucky to have these.” Santa also got very upset when you gave them a hard time about not getting a toy you wanted after the shoe shopping.

Common Ryan – that isn’t the type of person you really are, is it!!?? You appreciate what they do for you, don’t you??

So you may be asking why I’m here. Well first, I love seeing you. Second, Santa sent me here. He wanted me to keep an eye on you today. Third, I understand that your dad gave you a mission for today. He asked you to think about doing an activity that someone else wants to do. And I see why he’s doing it. We’ve noticed that all summer long, your mom and dad have primarily only done the things YOU want to do. Isn’t it time you offered to do something they wanted to do?

For example, maybe today you can tell mommy (or your friends) something like:

– Thank you for playing with me. Would you like to work in the office for an hour?

– What would you like to do for the next hour together? I’ll play anything you want.

– Are there any games or activities you would like to do now mommy?

– Would you like me to help you organize or clean the room?

– Would you like me to help make dinner?

– Are the any errands you need to run today? How can I help?

So today Ryan, I am going to keep an eye out for that. This is very important. I need to see that you are thinking about other people and not just thinking about yourself. I need to see that you are considering the feelings of what other people want to do. I need to know that you are willing to share the day equally with other people, where you do some stuff that you want to do, and some stuff that they want to do.

Your dad said he’s going to ask you tonight what you did to help other people or to think about other people. I know you can do this Ryan. You’re an amazing boy. Please don’t disappoint your parents, me, or Santa. We’re all counting on you!

Have an amazing day buddy. Can’t wait to spend some time with you!!  -L-

Ryan’s very interesting start to 5th gradeAugust 24, 2018

First day of 5th grade for Ryan was…interesting.  He is currently attending Pleasant Valley Intermediate school. However, days before school opened for the new school year, the building was closed because of mold. That’s right…CLOSED.  They cancelled the first few days of school and then setup a plan  for students to attend classes at Pleasant Valley Elementary school building instead (2 days for Intermediate students/teachers…2 days for elementary).  Despite the weird feeling of going backwards to his younger school, Ryan was actually looking forward to it because he loved that building.

So today was the 1st day of 5th grade at the PVE building. It was chaotic, parents didn’t know what to do. But he walked in tall and proud. Getting out of bed was simple and the morning routine was easy (not something that usually happens). He got a ride to school in KITT and then was picked up in Optimus!

The most intriguing part of the day was when he told us a classmate from 1st grade named Michael Castro was in some of his classes. This is a kid that has issues, and even threatened to kill Ryan at one point. We had tons of meetings with teachers of the years regarding this kid and keeping the 2 apart. We were told it would never be an issue. And yet, here we are. 2 kids with a shaky past in the same room once again.

Ania was very upset, so was I. But Ryan…WOW…what an adult approach he had. Basically saying he doesn’t want to change classes and that it isn’t fair for Michael to be punished for something he did years ago. He said he is still concerned about michael but so far (1st day back) it’s ok. So he wants to test things out and wants to see how it goes.

WOW!!  What a grown up thing to say. You could tell it bothers him, but he’s willing to stick it out and see where this path will lead. Way to go dude. So proud of you for being the bigger person.

Sooo….of to a good start with 5th grade! Let’s see how this goes! 🙂

Snowflake elf asks Ryan for a letterNovember 15, 2016

We got a message from Snowflake elf asking Ryan to write a letter why Lucky should come to our home this year for the holidays. Apparently Lucky’s family is having a hard time lettering him go because of the new baby they have. Here’s what Ryan wrote (I typed it for him):

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Attention: Lucky and Snowflake Elves, North Pole

From: Ryan Fiduccia, Effort, PA (typed by Daddy fiduccia)

Dear Lucky and Snowflake,

I got your message! This is why I would love to have Lucky in our home this year for the holidays.

  1. The first reason I would like him to be here is because we think of his as family.
  2. He cares for us and we care for him. He is always there with me, and sometimes wants to travel with us. So he gets creative and goes into a slipper or bag so we can carry him around.
  3. It’s a lot of fun to find him everyday where he goes. I enjoy when he hides and moves, and we have to look for him.
  4. He is helpful because one time we needed a battery for the clock downstairs. Ryan came upstairs to get it and Lucky was holding the battery for him.
  5. We do scavenger hunts together.
  6. We care for him by making sure nobody touches him, we try to feed him by placing food next to him. Sometimes we use spoons to place him in bed or somewhere he can be comfortable.
  7. I think I am special to him because I make him feel safe and loved and welcome in our family.
  8. If he arrives in time, when we go to Captiva we would love to take him with us on our special vacation. And if Santa is there he might even get to see Santa! (Santa is usually there when we go)
  9. I plan to spend even more time with him and show him our basement and Optimus Prime and our SHIELD car, and all the things we are fortunate enough to have.
  10. The Christmas season is not about getting presents and stuff. It’s mostly that we get to spend as much time as possible with our family and our elves because we don’t get to see them until next year.

I would love it if we could have Lucky for the couple of weeks during the Christmas season. I hope you will send him to our home. And he is welcome to bring his family if he would like.

 

THANK YOU AND LOVE YOU!

Several “firsts” for RyanNovember 7, 2020

Some of the many firsts for Ryan that I’ve documented along the wa…

 

2015 Ryans 1st dog walk

We were visiting Julia and Rob in Oswego for KITT’S appearance at wizard world august 2015. Ryan really enjoyed their dog Rex, and him and I took Rex for a walk today. It was the first time Ryan ever walked a dog and he loved it…even though he only watched as I held the leash

 

2016 First day at a friends house alone

May 22 2016 – today was the first day you stayed at a friend’s house by yourself for an hour. First we already had an amazing weekend. We did the first firepit with Amber and Brian across the street, spent the day at Knoebels with Nana where you did a ton of rides (many for the first time), and you played with Emma at the trampoline place and then later that same day with John.

But you also went to Camillo’s house (new neighbor on the corner). They invited us over and you said you wanted us there (specifically you said you don’t like going anywhere without us). When we got there and you started playing a bit, his mom asked Ania if we’d like to leave him there for a bit. So we asked you if that was alright, and you said “yeah – why wouldn’t it be?”)

So we left you there for a little over an hour to play with him and his cousin. It sounded like you had fun based on what you told us (even though his older cousin wasn’t very nice apparently). But you should know it was hard for us as parents to let you go. We’ve always been with you anywhere we go. But we also know that at some point we have to let you go and give you that independence. And we are proud that you made such good decisions without us.

So today marks another milestone in your journey. The first day we ever left you alone at a friend’s house. Way to go Ryan!

 

2015 1st time a friend left him

Today (Dec 29th 2015) was a tough day for Ryan. He was playing outside with our neighbor John. Ania went to check on them after a while and Ryan was by himself. She came down to see what was going on and Ryan asked to go inside and close the door.

It turns out John walked back to his house on his own and did not have any intentions on returning. He didn’t tell Ryan where he was going. He just left without saying goodbye or coming back.

This severely disappointed Ryan. He said nothing happened (they didn’t argue or anything) and couldn’t understand why a friend would just leave him. So we tried to help him understand that John doesn’t have a family like we do. He does his own things and never has to answer to anyone or tell people where he’s going. So him leaving wasn’t done intentionally to hurt Ryan, but instead was just what he’s used to doing in general.

It helped Ryan realize that sometimes there are good and bad moments in friendships. He said he doesn’t want to see John for a while, so we’ll see where it goes. He didn’t want me to write about this in his Footprint, but I chose to do it anyway because it’s represents a milestone in his life he has never experienced before.

I know he’ll be ok, and we will do everything we can to help him get through these new experiences together as a family.

 

2017 First time left at friends house

Nov 4, 2017 – 2 days after turning double-digits. You went to a friend’s birthday party (Nicolo) at his house. There wasn’t many people, and you were the first friend to arrive. Mommy and I considered the option of leaving you there to play, and asked you if you would be OK. You said as long as you have a way of reaching us you’d be good. And since you were wearing your Gizmo watch phone, you were OK. We left, and we texted throughout the afternoon to make sure things were going ok. Seemed like you enjoyed yourself.

Today will go down in history as the first party you went to without mommy and daddy staying there by your side. It was sad for us, because you’re growing up. But becoming a responsible adult is what you’re rapidly turning into. We are so proud of you Ryan.  Love you

Ryan’s 8th bday celebrationNovember 2, 2015

This is the birthday of all birthdays little man. What an incredible celebration you have had. Let’s see if I remember everything:

 

  1. a) Nana got us tickets to see ‘Finding Neverland’ on Broadway (we loved the show; you just needed some help understanding what happened)
  2. b) Went out for lunch at “Eataly” and dinner at an old place we went to before you were born (Franklin Steakhouse in Nutley, NJ) that same day. You had all your favorites – mainly pasta and steak
  3. c) Monday (your actually bday) was filled with gifts. You woke up to a few presents on the counter (all magic stuff). And after school you came home to even more magic stuff. And then of course the BIG gift was waiting for you in the garage – your new mini-KITT car / golf cart.
  4. d) Of course the kids in school sang happy bday. Mommy made them all goodie bags, and I had to package them into this very large and loooooong box.
  5. e) We had dinner with Nana at our house on your bday. We made steak, rice, ronis and cheese, carrots, and crusty chicken. Almost all of that was by your request.
  6. f) We have a day trip planned to Aquatopia in Camelbeach where we will swim and play in the arcade and eat dinner
  7. g) And we have your bday celebration with your friends planned for Apple Blossom Village this weekend. Afterwards Mick and Josey are coming back to your house. You are sooooo excited to show them your car and your magic tricks.

WOW what a bday this year. The best part for me was when you asked me on your bday night if this was a dream. You were afraid it wasn’t real. But everything was very real Ryan. And we did it all…for you. 🙂  Happy birthday little man. We love you always and forever.

Ryan’s first day of 1st gradeSeptember 2, 2014

This was a HUGE milestone for all of us. But Ryan was really excited to start school again after a busy summer. Unlike the other kids we knew at the time, he was looking forward to the full day and to what 1st grade would be like. He started school on Sept 2nd, 2014. We walked him to the door and he had no issues going right in. He already knew where his classroom was because we had gone there as a family a week prior (Open House / Find your Classroom day). But he had such pride walking in, and never looked back. This was his realm, his world. And he was ready to conquer it. I couldn’t be more proud.

Camilo surprises RyanNovember 18, 2016

New neighbors at the end of the street moved in. Boys name is Camilo. Him and Ryan had a great summer together for the most part but then towards the end had a falling out. Wasn’t exactly a fight, but something happened that caused them not to be friends anymore (to this day i am not sure what it was).

Ryan took it very very personally. He wrote letters and stories (for himself) about how disappointed and upset he was. He obsessed over it for a long time. To the point we got the school counselors involved.

Then out of the blue while waiting for our neighbor Avery at the bus stop, Camilo asked Ryan to his front door. They had a brief discussion and Camilo apologized and they shook hands.

Ryan was absolutely over-joyed. He was so excited that he threw away all of his stories and bad things he said about Camilo. He firmly believes this will never happen again and that they will remain friends forever.

I am proud of the way he accepted Camilo’s apology. But I am worried it’ll happen again. In fact I know it will. Maybe not with Camilo, but with someone else.

So far we have not rescheduled any appointments with the counselor because we’re not sure about bringing up a topic that has apparently been repaired. Besides Ryan had a meltdown at the thought of seeing a counselor for this.

So for now we’re letting it go. But Ryan – remember that friends will come and go. People WILL disappoint you. You need to learn how to let things go and not take things personally. I know it hurts. And I know you’re happy now. I hope that happiness stays forever. But if the day comes where you’re not happy, find a way to work out your frustrations safely and politely. And I’ll always be here to listen to whatever you have to say. Love you Ryan!

Ryan’s random act of kindness (1st grade)March 26, 2015

When I picked up Ryan from school today, he immediately told me about something he did that still has me smiling. Had to share it in his Footprint.

Long story short, they had indoor recess today (basically play time in the classroom when there is inclement weather). Out of nowhere, he made the decision to do something nice for the teachers instead of play. So he found a bucket of pencils that all of the kids use during class and noticed they were all worn or broken. He then spent the next 20 minutes manually sharpening each and every one so the teacher didn’t have to worry about it.

He was so proud of what he did, and told me he couldn’t wait to do it again tomorrow. When I mentioned how awesome that was, and reminded him that’s it’s OK to play too, his response? “Daddy – I would much rather do this that play. She takes care of us all day and deserves something nice.”

This is a 1st grade child who had no outside influence, no ulterior motives, and no vested interest in himself. He simply wanted to do something nice. His random act of kindness is more genuine than most grown adults. Unbelievably proud of him today.

Ryan expressing his feelings about 1st gradeMay 4, 2015

Recently Ryan has been coming home from school a bit ‘on edge’.  He doesn’t say much about his days and seems like his is ready to burst into tears in a split second.  But he finally decided to open up to us a little bit, and shared some of his feelings.

He told us about a couple of things that have been bothering him in class.  Specifically, he’s been wondering why:

– he doesn’t get challenge lists anymore

– he isn’t asked to do special errands or help in any way (beyond ‘class helper’)

– he doesn’t get any opportunities to go in the prize box

Apparently Ryan feels that other kids get more attention and more special treatment than he does.  He said that this has been going on since January…and when we asked if he spoke to his teacher Mrs Borger about it, he said no.

We sent her an email that evening and the next day, she actually invited Ryan to sit down and have lunch with her.  That afternoon he came home like a new boy.  Happy, excited, and saying his teacher is the best teacher ever.

I know this is only a blip in his life of school, but we were extremely proud of him to share his feelings with us.  If anything it shows him that it’s ok to talk about how you feel, because there are people out there who are willing to help him through it.

Daddy is super proud of you Ryan.  🙂

Ryan learns to swim!July 18, 2014

We’ve been at this for a long time. We tried swim lessons. Practiced a lot in nana’s small pool. but he never seemed willing to try swimming on his own. He always had to touch the ground. Even most of this summer (2014) he did the same. But towards the end, something changed. Out of nowhere, one day while at Camelbeach he began swimming on his own. Still in the shallow end and still touching once in a while, but he was swimming! Kicking his legs, moving his arms, and just going! he even started holding onto the rope dividing the deep end (huge hurdle for him!). The summer rapidly came to an end before we could perfect this, but I am totally confident that 2015 he will be on his own. MEGA PROUD OF YOU RYAN!

Ryan’s “right vs wrong” with JohnMay 19, 2016

Tonight Ryan and I had an awesome conversation, and he did most of the talking. He was playing with John a little bit and they seemed to have fun. But then when we came inside Ryan decided to open up about some of the things he doesn’t like about John.

He was saying John doesn’t follow the rules. He doesn’t put things away when they are done playing. He doesn’t let Ryan create rules for a game. He uses bad language. etc.

Most of these we already knew. But what I loved about tonight’s conversation is that Ryan gave us a glimpse into the man he is becoming. He is starting to recognize the difference between right and wrong when it comes to playing with his friends. He is realizing that friends sometimes want to do or say things that he doesn’t agree with. He is seeing that there will be temptation to do or say what others do. And while I fully expect him to make mistakes, I was very proud to hear how much he didn’t like that John wasn’t respecting things.

Way to go Ryan. Another AWESOME night that I am so proud of.

Ryan’s great day in school and with friendsOctober 20, 2015

Today is October 20, 2015.  Ryan was laying in bed and I was in the office working.  After 20 minutes of silence, Ryan calls over to me and says: “Daddy – would you mind writing about this day in my Footprint?”  My heart melted.  I am more than honored to do that for you Ryan.

Today was a great day for him.  It was the first day he tried a new after school activity.  A science program for an hour which will be going on for the next several weeks, once a week on Tuesdays.  He fought tooth and nail not wanting to do this.  But we convinced him to try it.  And it helped that his friend Nathaniel was also attending the program.  It turns out that Ryan loved it (which of course we knew you would Ryan!!!).  They made some kind of slime, and he really enjoyed the time there.

Once the after-school event was over, we went to Imagination Zone and met Nathaniel and his family there.  They all played for a good hour.  Then they had some pizza and Ryan playing the bowling game.  He got a few tickets and requested a lolly pop and small eraser.  But what he REALLY wanted was a dinosaur which was in one of those drop-claw games.  I told him maybe next time and expressed that he should just appreciate what he has instead of getting upset that he wants more.

His friend Nathaniel and his dad had played the game and won a dinosaur.  You could tell Ryan was upset, but we helped him through it and started saying our goodbyes for the evening.  As we were leaving, Nathaniel came up to Ryan and gave him the dinosaur he just won.  When we asked why, he said ‘because I want to’.

This absolutely made Ryan’s night.  He was soooo happy, and we were blown away with his generous act.  The night ended at home reading a chapter from Club CSI and watching an episode of Knight Rider.  It really was the perfect day.

Bullying begins in new schoolMarch 1, 2018

His first year at Pleasant Valley Intermediate (4th grade) has been very challenging. Probably one of the worst school years so far. And part of that involves some of the kids who are turning into bullies.

There is one boy that has been distracting him for over a month now – Lucas. The boy is not in his class, but in a nearby 4th grade class. Something happened during recess where Lucas took the balls Ryan and his friends were playing with. Ever since then, Lucas makes it a point to say something mean to Ryan anytime he sees him. During lunch has been especially hard. The boy sits at another nearby table and always says things to Ryan that make him upset.

Ryan wants to fight him. But he knows he’d get in trouble at school, and here at home we’re trying to teach him alternatives to fighting and the reasons why fights usually don’t solve problems. But i understand his feelings. I totally get it, because I was in the same position many times at school. Difference being Ryan is willing to stand up for himself. I wasn’t. And that I am super proud of.

The teachers and guidance counselor Mrs. Romanisko seem to have a ‘hands off’ approach. In a meeting, she told Ryan the past is in the past, that it won’t happen again, and to just move on. But how can Ryan move on if this boy continues to pester him?

As of today (March 1, 2018), this still isn’t resolved. Yesterday I wrote yet another email to the counselor asking for further action. I also spoke with Nicole, the counselor who comes to the school once in a while, who will hopefully meet with Ryan and discuss it with him.

Sorry you’re dealing with this Ryan. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and to speak up. You will ALWAYS have a voice.  Love you dude

Ryan has a lot on his mindNovember 21, 2018

You have a lot on your mind dude. You recently had an issue with Frankie and John (Frankie pushed you into a wall at our house and John sided with him). You felt scared and didn’t know what to do. I am sorry I wasn’t there to help you. And I am sorry mommy didn’t fully understand what was going on to help you either. This situation with John siding with Frankie really has been weighing you down. He is on your mind constantly. I often wonder what you think about, as you don’t share much with us other than “you want us to do something about it”. But it’s hard dude. We want to help, but we don’t know how to help with a situation that involves a neighbor who we barely see or speak to in the first place. You can rest assured we have your back if anything were to happen. But you shouldn’t let it take over your life.

You can’t live life in fear of what MAY or may not happen. Who knows. You guys may never talk again. Or you may become friends over time. None of know the answer. But I want you to know that I DO understand your feelings. I understand what you’re going through. And we are here to help you get through it in any way we can.  We love you Ryan!!!!

Ryan helped mommy in daddy’s absenceJune 7, 2018

Summer 2018 daddy was away with Optimus in Canada and mommy woke up in the middle of the night vomiting and in severe back pain. You were brave enough to pick up the phone and text me. I called and led you through some ways to help. Our neighbors, Melissa and Doug, ultimately took mommy to the ER in the middle of the night. You stayed with mommy the entire time. You remained calm and collected. And in the following days, you helped tremendously. You went shopping with Josey and made food together, you helped Louise prep stuff, and over the next several days, you even made your own pretzels with butter instead of water. You seem very proud of these and love making them yourself for both you and mommy.

This is truly the first summer that you have started showing this type of independence and maturity. I am so proud of you!!!

Ryan gets stuck on elevator aloneSeptember 21, 2017

Ania was helping a non-profit called BW Nice organize a red-shoe banquet at Aquatopia in Tannersville. It was the evening before the banquet and we went with her to unload a ton of gift baskets. We placed them on luggage carts and wheeled them to the elevators.

The event was on the 4th floor. We couldn’t get all three carts onto one elevator, so Ania and Ryan went together and I took the next one. When I got the 4th floor, I only saw Ania. Apparently the elevator doors closed to quickly before Ryan could get out. Thus he was left behind on the elevator all by himself.

I was in shock. Her and I stayed there watching the numbers…hoping it would return to floor #4. After about 2 minutes, it did. And Ryan was right there.

He got off…clearly scared…but happy to see us. He said his legs were shaking like crazy, and he eventually started crying a bit as the adrenaline rush started kicking in. Ania was clearly upset at herself for allowing something like that to happen. Ryan said he was scared, but stayed calm. He new which floor we were on and just stayed there until the elevator returned. He said if we weren’t there, he would’ve gone to see one of Ania’s friends who was also helping with the unloading.

This was clearly a milestone moment for all of us, esp Ryan. He talked about it all night and said he’s taking a break from elevators for a while. I don’t blame him. But I did tell him he did everything right and that we were very proud of him. Out of feeling bad, Ania gave us $10 to go spend at the arcade downstairs. He got enough tickets to get himself a camel stuffed animal.

SUPER duper proud of you Ryan. Coincidentally but not related, that night at home he attempted going upstairs without the hallway lights on. Even said he’s trying to conquer his fear of the darkness. I think he did that after realizing how big of a fear he conquered at Aquatopia.

WAY TO GO RYAN!!!!!

Ryan is the 1st grade math contest winnerNovember 14, 2014

Now in first grade, Ryan’s 1st grade class is focusing heavily on mathematical skills and being able to immediately recognize and answer common math problems (such as 2+2 or 10-3). To assist with this the teacher (Mrs. Borger) has provided a large stack of flash cards that him and I practice with several times a week.

Yesterday (Nov 5, 2014) the students had to bring in a form that documented the # of times per week we practiced. The students who brought it in were then given an opportunity to compete in a mini math contest with their peers. Going one by one, the teacher would present a flash card (with a math equation) to a student and ask them to answer it in under 5 seconds. Whoever couldn’t do it was out of the game.

In the end, my son was the last one standing…out of over 20 students. And as a result, he was given the unique opportunity to represent his entire class in a First grade math competition that will take place amongst all classroom winners throughout the school. The contest will run later this week, and he is very much looking forward to it.

This experience is one of his proudest moments of First grade thus far. He understands that the contest is not about winning, and that instead it’s about having fun and challenging yourself to do the best you can. He came home with such a smile that day and was anxious to share his proud moment with anyone who would listen.

Congratulations Ryan. Daddy and Mommy are incredibly proud of you.

Ryan’s “worm” story from schoolApril 2, 2018

So in April of 2018 Ryan decided to tell us about an incident that happened back in the fall of third grade. Mind you it’s almost 18 months later. But it was an incident that has clearly affected him and continues to affect him with his schoolmates. Apparently the gist of the story is that he killed a worm in third grade by stepping on it. The girls did not like that very much. They even named the worm David. For the rest of third grade and now into fourth grade A lot of those girls still call him names and give him a hard time because of what he did. They call him worm killer and stupid worm. He said this has been affecting him for a very long time but he didn’t want to say anything and just wanted to deal with it on his own. Last night during dinners  ania finally asked enough questions that got it out of him.  He’s been really bothered by the fact that the girls keep making fun of him for something that happened so long ago and that he apologized for. He decided he wanted me to contact his  teacher and also  the  guidance counselor lady so he could talk about it with them.  I hope  he figures out his way through this and realizes  that girls are always going to create drama in his life.  But I also hope he realizes that his mom and dad are always here to listen to him and support him whenever he needs it.  I love you Ryan  hang tough buddy

Some of Ryan’s hobbiesNovember 7, 2020

2014 The Amazing Magician Ryan

Ryan absolutely loves learning about magic. He has a magic desk in the living room with all of his tricks and loves giving demonstrations to our neighbors and to others who come by. He even did magic for his friends at school by pulling a bunny out of a hat. He is the next major magician of this century!!!

 

2009 Transformers

Simply put, Ryan LOVES Transformers.  We introduced him to them when the Tranformers films (by Michael Bay) came out.  While there were months at a time he showed no interest, he always seems to get back into it.  He has a ton of Transformer toys, DVDs, even has a Transformer lunchbox for school. In 2012 him and I dressed up as Transformers from our favorite HUB Network TV Show – Transformer’s Prime.  As of this day (Sept 2014), he still loves to watch the episodes on his DVD player and can’t wait until a new season of Transformers is introduced.

 

 

 

2018 WWE Fanatic

This year he started 4th grade. And his friends were big into WWE, so now he is too. He leaves and breathes it. He watches all of the matches from years prior on his kindle. He has a bunch of WWE belts, signs, posters, and action figures. I even took him to see a WWE match in Wilkes-Barre.

 

He wants me to build a wreslting ring, he wants wrestling mats, he ‘fights’ the punching bag in our living room as if it’s another wrestler, and he wrestles with his friends (playfully so far). This is clearly taking over his life

 

 

2015 Ghost Hunting

This is written by Ryan: “In second grade I started ghost hunting. It is somtimes scary and fun at the same times.”

Ryan’s educational historyNovember 7, 2020

Some information and background about Ryan’s school (I try to udpate when I can)…

 

Pleasant Valley Elementary 2013 to…2017

I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of Ryan’s progress in school.  He is conquering his fears and learning how the world works.  I am so happy he is (for the most part) enjoying his experience at PVE so far.

His teacher for second grade was Mrs. Hauze. She was amazing. Probably my favorite so far in PVE. More details to come later…

For third grade he has Mr. Farkas as his teacher. I’m writing this on his third day back to school. He was very nervous about going back, or should I say he just didn’t want to go back. He had a good summer with late nights and later mornings. Getting up wasn’t fun. And at one point he said he doesn’t like school at all.

But so far these past few days have been good. He says he loves his new teacher. And he has several kids in his class who were also in his 2nd grade class. He’s even in the classroom directly next to Mrs. Hauze, his 2nd grade teacher! Time will tell how things go. But as of today, third grade is a major success!.

 

Pleasant Valley Intermediate

Mrs. Bachone is your teacher. These 1st few months have been tough. You’re getting a LOT of work…math is extremely difficult…we’ve had some issues with teachers like your gym teacher (he’s not very nice) and the Dean lady (Mrs. George) who called you into her office and blamed/interrogated  you for leaving paper and soap on the bathroom floor. You held your ground though and stayed true to yourself.

 

Anxious to see how the year goes dude. It’s a new school with lots of new things being thrown at you. You can do it though – I have complete faith in you!!!

 

———————–

 

End of school year update – 4th grade sucked. You didn’t like it at all. Mrs Balchune was the only good thing you experienced there. Everyday you came home with issues. Problems with other kids, visits to principal who didn’t do anything or try to help, and counselors who you just don’t jive with. This got worse towards the end of the year and all the way up til the last school day. This was the toughest year yet. But you stuck with it and didn’t give up. Don’t ever give up Ryan. You can conquer anything life throws at you!!!

6th grade Ryan opens a conversation with disabled girlSeptember 12, 2019

First few weeks of 6th grade. There is a girl in Ryan’s class that is paralyzed and in a wheelchair. While waiting in line they were next to one another and Ryan decided to strike up a chat with her. Asked how fast her wheelchair goes (6 mph on full charge) and if she ever ran anyone over with it. She laughed and said ‘not with this one’.

I am BLOWN away Ryan. You took the time to speak with someone who probably feels alone and isolated. Someone who feels like she stands out. You made her feel normal. You made her feel like she had a friend. YOU are incredible Ryan. Nice job dude

Ryan learns the truth about Santa and Elf LuckyNovember 19, 2019

– Ryan discovers the truth about Santa and Luck (elf on the shelf). I believe he’s known for at least some time now, thanks to online videos and pages debunking santa and elves. But he never said anything about it. While Ania was visiting her dad in Poland, Ryan and I started setting up Christmas decorations. He began to bring up the topic of seeing Lucky again. But he didn’t have that excited tone. He was curious what I would say. I brushed it off but he kept asking about Lucky. As if he was seeking the truth to an answer he already knew.

Ania and I decided weeks ago it was time to tell him. But with Ania away we agreed not to say anything until she got back. Unfortunately Ryan kept bringing up the topic over and over again. Finally at dinner, the night before she came home, I revealed the truth to him via a letter I wrote (you can see it in my photo memories). He was absolutely devasted. Heart broken. Cried. Didn’t talk to us. Put all of his elves and elf-related items into a box. Said Christmas will never be the same again.

I was heartbroken. It’s like a piece of him was destroyed. Not to mention Ania was extremely upset with me for telling him and not waiting. I had anger coming at me from all directions. I tried to break it to him gently. I tried to help him understand the ability to believe in something you can’t see, like love. To believe in the spirit of Christmas and the joy it brings. TO believe in himself.

A few days have passed and he’s slowly speaking to me again. But you can tell he is still very sad. This has to be one of the most difficult parenting discussions I’ve ever had with him. Ryan said Lucky was family. And he truly believed. And that we did too good of a job convincing him it was all real.

I’m sorry Ryan. We did what we felt was right to help you believe in the joy of Christmas. We love you, and promise to do everything we can to continue making your christmas seasons special from start to finish.

Gosh that was a tough day for me. VERY tough.

Sex talks with Ryan beginJanuary 23, 2020

Ryan is starting to bring up the topic of sexuality. he is only 12, but already knows what PornHub is and has already seen a short clip of people having sex. He wonders how the act of sex is accomplished without hurting man or woman. He wonders what happens, how it feels, what comes out, etc. How do we know this? Because he told us.

Ryan seems to be open to these conversations and somewhat encourages them. The most recent one prior to this post is Feb 2020 when we were all a Kalahari resort for a day. We had a nice dinner and he brought up the topic. It was uncomfortable as a parent and a bit embarrassing, but we were all honest and open and laughed as well. I am proud that he is willing to discuss these things with us. But it’s also sad as a dad to know your little boy is becoming a man. And that one day he won’t need advice from us as much anymore.  Doesn’t matter though. I’m proud of him.

Patience during tough moments for RyanApril 18, 2019

You’ve been playing a lot of video games lately on your Sony PS4. Fortnite is your biggest one. This evening you went to login to your Playstation and there was a message stating your account was banned. First time this ever happened. And come to find out it was apparently a security concern on there part (likely someone trying to hack in)

Now not too long ago, you would have freaked out. You would have had a meltdown, anger, chaos, complaining “we need to fix this NOW” and carrying on about all of the reasons why life was over because Playstation wasn’t working. But tonight, aside from obvious upsetment, you stayed VERY calm. I asked you some questions, asked you to relax while we figured it out. 60 minutes later we were on the phone with their customer service and I think we figured out how to get access once again.

After the call was over, I immediately told you how proud I was of you for staying calm in what could have been a very chaotic moment. And you said this week you’re working on how you react to things. I believe it’s due in part to a conversation we had earlier in the week regarding your ‘rage’ at school and how some of the kids are using that against you when it comes to meetings with the guidance counselor or principal (meetings you arrange; not ones where you’re in trouble)

I am PROUD of you dude. You are listening to our suggestions, and you are becoming so mature. You will undoubtedly do amazing things in your life and be a loving father and husband. You are incredible!!!

1st time you just called me ‘dad’November 19, 2018

Nov 2018 – you were playing with your friend Michael at our house. And multiple times when you needed anything, you called me “dad”. For example, “hey dad…can you get me something to drink?”  I am totally not used to that. You always called me Daddy. It’s hard to hear you shorten it to just “dad”. I realize why you’re doing it. I realize it’s not as cool to say Daddy. And I realize it was probably awkward for you to say it as well.  But this is a milestone I won’t ever forget. My little Ryan is growing up. I am proud of you, and love you regardless.  No matter how old you are, you will always be my baby boy.

Ryan is bornNovember 2, 2007

This was the moment my life changed forever – in a VERY good way.  Up until this day, I honestly was not sure how I would be as a parent.  The closest I had come was caring for our dog Buddy.  But when I tell you that this was the best moment of my life, I mean it.  Suddenly I was caring for this young baby boy that I helped bring into this world.  And now everyday, everything I do is for him.

Ryan at age 7 has been challengingSeptember 11, 2015

This has been a challenging year for us Ryan.  Not to say we don’t enjoy every minute with you, and we’d never give up time with you if can help it.  But lately the bossiness has been quite difficult.  As I write this, we’re just starting the month of the July.  It’s a few weeks into summer, and it’s already clear that we have to make some changes to our daily routine.  Now that you aren’t in school anymore, you have been having difficulty understanding that the day does not revolve around you.  Mommy and I have a lot of work we must do, and it’s been hard for me to try and grow Footprints without feeling like I’m at the computer all day and not spending time with you.

However the times we do spend together lately have been mixed.  You always want more and more and more, and don’t seem to appreciate the moments we share.  You seem to feel like you’re entitled to do only the games and things YOU want to do.  You don’t show any interest in things WE want to do (e.g. go to the library, take a walk, ride your bike, etc.).  When you don’t get what you want, or when I tell you it’s time to stop playing your game and do your summer school packet or go to bed, you throw a fit.

When you get upset like that, it makes it hard for me to continue playing with you.  On one hand, I want to do everything I can with you.  But on the other I need you to learn the importance of appreciating the time you DO get.  You can’t become greedy and keep asking for more, especially when you are not the only one who gets to make the choices in our home.  Mommy and I also have a say, but more importantly we (as your parents) have to find a way to show you the right path towards becoming the best young man you can be.

Right now, we’re still working on it.  Tomorrow we will attempt a new approach – you do all of your school and activity things during breakfast.  Then each of us gets to pick TWO things we do everyday, each having a time limit.  I’m hoping this will help teach you the importance of sharing time equally and appreciating whatever time you get in life.

Love you Ryan.

Ryan’s 1st real mention of ‘sex’December 8, 2016

today is the official first day Ryan hinted that he knows the meaning behind the word ‘sex’. He got a student dictionary in class today (all 3rd graders did). I’m not sure if he was prompted to look it up on his own or not, but when he came out after school he said ‘daddy this dictionary even has bad words in it’. He even knew the page number! He said go to page 299 and you’ll see the word SEX in there. Fortunately for me, it’s definition strictly referred to the male / female gender. Not the ‘other’ meaning.

But so it begins. He already knows the word. And he knows it’s not your everyday word. Where do we go from here? I don’t know. But he’s only 9…and this scares me!! Lol

Ryan’s 1st ‘girlfriendOctober 11, 2018

Today Ryan came home with some interesting news. He got a girl’s phone number!  Apparently “A’Leesiya” was in his 4th grade class. They aren’t in the same class this year for 5th grade, but he says hi to her at lunch every day. And she asked Ryan’s friend Michael if it’s OK to have Ryan’s phone number.  He asked Ryan, and he said yes!

Right now it’s 9:00 PM at night. He has been playing Fortnite with her (virtually) for hours. He rushed through dinner just so he could get back and play some more. I completely get it and understand how he feels. Coincidentally, the 1st girl I ever went on a date with was in 5th grade as well.

I am so excited for him, and yet so nervous. I know she is likely just one of many girls who may break his heart. I hope that isn’t the case. But regardless, I hope he enjoys the time he spends with her and learns more about himself and relationships in the process!

GO RYAN!!!!!

Ryan’s first intro to gunsNovember 18, 2016

Nov 2016 – Ryan is now 9 years old. He’s been showing a lot of interest in weapons and guns via his nerf battles and such. He’s been very curious about the gun we keep locked away and has asked about it from time to time. I’m worried the curiosity may get him hurt, and I’m worried he might find himself in a situation where a friend shows him a gun. So I made the decision this month to show ours to him.

Before showing it I explained some rules about gun safety. Always point it away. Always act as if it’s loaded, even when it’s not. Always make sure it’s in safety mode. Never point it in the direction of someone. Never rest your hand on the trigger. Etc. And he seemed to understand and accept everything quite well.

I opened the safe and first showed him the gun clip with the bullets, explaining how they work. I then took out the gun and showed it to him. After walking through some basics of holding it properly, I allowed him to hold it in this hands. I was very nervous, and still don’t know for sure if it was the right thing to do. But he’s getting to that age where friends are really going to spark his interest in certain areas. So if I can help keep him safe, smart, and help him learn in a controlled environment, then that’s what I’ll do.

I attribute it to drinking. As he gets older I’ll probably allow him to take sips of alcohol or beer before he is of legal age. But again, that’s only because I don’t want him to do what I did by binging on 10 beers the first night I was allowed to go away for a weekend with a friend and then getting stupidly sick and vomiting all over everyone there.I want him to know what certain things feel like and how they affect him before friends have that influence. I probably won’t always be successful in everything, but I’m going to the best I can to raise a smart and safe young man.

I’ll occasionally allow him to hold the gun again as I see his curiosity continue. Probably in the next few years I’ll find a place where he can practice shooting. I hope I’m making the right decision for him. Love you Ryan

A message from AniaJanuary 2, 2017

Ania sent me this on Jan 2, 2017….

 

Joey – My wish for us is that in 2017 we find ourselves.  We have lost ourselves as a couple and as a family.  We don’t speak to one another, we speak through or at one another, if we even speak at all.  You may not mean it, but what we feel is anger in your voice.  We both hear you and your comments, those you mumble under your breath.  On a flip side, you have me, who is shutting down and barely talking.  And in the middle, you have one sensitive and emotional child that all he truly wants is time with us.  These moments of him actually wanting to be with us will not be here forever.  There is nothing I can do for you to see that but I know deep inside the moments with Ryan is what you treasure the most.  Yes, I am sure you have many thoughts on how I am with Ryan.  Yet, this is all I know to do to keep all of us together, glued together, somehow as a family unit.  As you question what I do or say, all I can say is that my whole existence is to keep the family as happy as possible, by putting everyone else ahead of me, and trying to get through this until we are not drowning anymore.  Just like your world has totally turned upside down, I am not quite sure you are aware of how it has affected me but more importantly Ryan.

My wish for me is that I cry less this year.  This was supposed to be a year of things turning around.  Yet less than 48 hours into the year I have already broken down a few times.    I have not told you how much your words hurt me.  You have never spoken to me so angrily and harsh as you have in the past year.  I realize that last year I stayed quiet and did not speak up or tell you when I was sad or upset.  One goal for myself for this year is to speak up and be better at communicating.  Please don’t argue with me by yelling at me, scolding me or talking to me like I am a child.  Joey, I am empty inside and sad, unsure of who I really am – I have lost myself among my choice of being it all for both of you to keep the household going regardless of whatever came our way.  I need you in our life.  I miss the things we would do together.  I have never loved you more, than the love that came out of this challenging year. You make me LAUGH when I didn’t think I could – and then all is better. You inspire me with how you have handled the challenges, how you keep fighting for what you believe in and what you have invested your heart into.  I know that what you do is for all of us, you put so much of yourself into everything that you do.  I just wish you keep in mind that in the end, your family just needs YOU, time with you, just you.  I would like to trade in my coupon from last year for ‘game night’ add beer/wine and your popcorn and maybe your potato chips thingies you make so well.  Maybe we can all play the Goosebumps game or something like that.

Don’t forget you are LOVED and are our world.  Your wifey

PS – update – this was written earlier today – tonight was perfect.  Loved the time we had together

Ryan walks with John and not meAugust 20, 2016

Today I was in NJ working on Optimus all day. Ania sent me photos later in the day after school of Ryan and his friend / neighbor John. They took a walk all the way from our house to the gas pipeline field that we ride the golf cart on and sometimes take walks on.

What makes this a milestone for me is thefact that it’s the first time he did something significant like this with a friend and not me. Typically in the summer, him and I like to take at least one walk to get pizza. We’ll walk all the way to Dominos on Route 115, coming back home via the same open field pipeline.  I had been asking him to do this walk with me all summer long, at least on 5 different occasions. And every time I asked, he said he didn’t want to.

It made me a little sad that he didn’t want to do this walk with me all summer long, but that he jumped at the opportunity to do an even longer walk with John. I asked him about it the next day, and he said the only reason he did it was because they were bored and needed something to do. He said with me there is always something to do and that’s why we didn’t walk together.

Ryan if you’re reading this I want to make it clear that I’m not upset with you in any way. Did I miss our Father/Son walk this summer? Yes. Am I a little sad? Yes. But not at you. I’m sad that my little man is growing up. He’s becoming independent and he’s beginning to live his life, separate from me.

I know we have a long road together Ryan. And I am proud of the man you are becoming. You’re starting to find your way. But I’ll make sure I soak in every single minute I can get with you. Because I know our moments together are limited. And that one day you’ll be a grown adult with your own family.

I love you Ryan. Always and forever.

End of Summer 2017 – doing much betterAugust 28, 2017

So it’s now August 28, 2017. Ania and Ryan are laying in bed watching his new favorite, “Transformers Generation”. I am here updating my Footprint for the first time in a while. Wanted to catch you up on where I’m at.

I can honestly say I am doing much better than I was. Ania has been making great strides towards improving herself and how she makes me feel. She helps a lot more around the house now, seems to appreciate the things I do a lot more, and seems genuinely committed towards making this work. We still have our bad days. Days when she wants more answers. Days when she cries. Days when she questions my commitment and loyalty. But we are doing much better than we were.

We did a lot of things together throughout the summer. We laughed, we cuddled, and I felt like we were finally a ‘team’ the entire time. We went to the Jersey beach a few days ago and while looking out to the water while they played and splashed each other, I felt like a weight was lifted. Like the darkness was gone. Like I had a clear mind for the first time in a while, and like I was where I’m supposed to be.

I remain cautiously optimistic about our future. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I am blown away at how far we’ve come in a relatively short time. This is not where I pictured us being. I lost all faith in our marriage and felt like I was destined to be alone. But I can’t tell you how many times over the summer I thanked my angels and said to myself “I feel like I’m where I am supposed to be.” I was finding my inner happy again, and I even laughed sometimes.

All in all…a GREAT summer. Her and I are doing what we can for each other and I remain committed to making her feel those butterflies she once felt about me. I deserve her, and she deserves me. We deserve each other, and we can be that power couple once again if we try hard enough.

Can love conquer all?  We’ll see.

Ryan starts guitar lessonsDecember 29, 2015

Today was the first official day Ryan started his music lessons. After watching a guy playing the guitar for entertainment on the beach during our trip to South Seas Resort in Captiva, he became very interested in learning guitar himself. Mom bought him his 1st guitar for Christmas and we hired a woman “Shelly” to come to the house for lessons.

Today was more like a “meet and greet” for the two of them to get to know each other. Ryan said he likes her and wouldn’t mind doing another lesson. So we have scheduled his first “official” lesson for the 7th.

We are super excited that he is finally getting an interest in learning how to play a musical instrument. For quite some time and as a result of a bad music teacher in school, he has shown no interest in music, dancing, or singing.  So we are really hoping this is the day when things start turning around for him.

2020 update – Ryan did not take lessons for very long. He lost interest in guitar in about a year. Not sure if it was the instructor or the fact he didn’t practice and thought it would be easier. We still have both guitars. Maybe one day he’ll play them again. Who knows. More recently he took a piano class at school and seemed somewhat interested in continuing. I’d love to see that!!

Niece Abbrielle gets honored as valedictorianJune 3, 2015

Today I learned that my niece, Abbrielle, was selected as one of the top two finalists for her middle school Valedictorian. She has always been an incredibly smart girl and excelled in her academics as far back as I can remember. Her interest in getting a good education seems to come directly from the heart. She shows a genuine love for school, and this amazing honor is one of my proudest for her.

Unfortunately, she will never know how I feel…because our family has grown apart over the decades. As a result, we no longer get to visit our little Abbrielle. And if you were to ask why, I would simply say: “it’s very, very complicated.”

My two brothers and I had a fairly close relationship growing up, but it certainly wasn’t a ‘bond that could never be broken.’ As we went through our childhood, some days we were closer than others. We were each very unique from one another, and as such began to lead very different lives which became more widespread as we entered our teen years and into college.

Our careers were starting, and we moved to different parts of the country. Eventually we all married and had children…starting families of our own. And though we continued to stay in touch and get together whenever possible, life took us even further apart. So much so that we have not spoken to each other in almost 2 years.

Abbrielle was the first newborn in our family when my oldest brother got married. I can’t even begin to describe the relationship we had with her growing up. We saw each other virtually everyday, we attended almost all of her school and sporting events, and treated her even more like a princess on the special holidays & birthdays. I would even like to think I was considered the ‘fun uncle’ in her life, as I was the only one in the family who would play all sorts of games with her along the way.

The tumultuous relationship with my older brother finally came to a head back in November of 2014, where our falling out meant we would no longer get to see the niece that I had grown so close to. Calling, email, and texting were not an option since all three would be intercepted by the parents who we wanted nothing to do with anymore.

But just because we weren’t on speaking terms with their parents, we didn’t want to stop communication with their children. So we attempted to stay in touch with Abbrielle by writing letters once a month. We would share what was happening on our end, how our son was doing, and would always ask what was new and exciting in her life as well. However this penpal relationship quickly ended when my brother sent all of those letters back…unopened…requesting we stop immediately.

Having been such a major part of Abbrielle’s life, it hurts us to no longer be involved as she continues down the path of childhood and becomes a young woman. But we have accepted the reality of the situation and will always hold a special place (and special feelings) for her in our hearts.

There are plenty of people who will tell us we have to find a way to fix the relationship with my brother, and that ‘family is always first’. Perhaps in time, that moment will come. But now it’s just too soon. Many feelings were hurt, and many bridges were burned. I realize the role I played in this divide, and having experienced a separation we never anticipated, I will no longer judge others who have chosen the same path.

But just because we can’t see our niece, that doesn’t mean we aren’t still proud of her accomplishments.

And with the help of our personal Footprints, we are able to regularly document how we feel and how often we think about her. Because we know full-well that one day, she will see the Footprint we have left behind about our life story. And even though it might be too late, she will hopefully realize that we had no intentions of abandoning her. Despite what her parents may tell her, we wish nothing but the best in her journey…now, and forever.

So until such time that we meet again, I want you to know that we are all very proud of you Abbrielle. Keep your dreams alive, and don’t stop reaching for the stars.

10-year wedding anniversarySeptember 2, 2015

This year Ania and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.  We got married on Sept 2nd 2005.  So this month on that same day we did some very special things.  She did a lingerie photoshoot and had professional photos taken of her in ‘nighty’ attire.  First time she ever did something like that, and it took her out of her comfort zone.  I was blown away at how beautiful she looked, and really appreciated the gesture knowing that none of our friends would even think about doing the same thing.

From my end, I took her to various spots from our past.  We drove into NJ and stopped at Montclair State University (OMG has that place changed!!).  Went to Applegate Farms in Montclair, stopped at our High School, and even went into the church we got married at.  We ended the trip with a picnic at the spot I first proposed to her: Brown’s Point Park at the bottom of Greenwood Lake.  Had a really nice day together, and I am super proud of how far we’ve come in our relationship!

Finding myself at odds with AniaJuly 17, 2016

July 17, 2016 – recently (past few months) I’ve been finding myself at odds with Ania. Our parenting styles are becoming so different, and it’s putting the two of us in a consistent ‘bicker’ with each other. Every day I grow more and more frustrated with the situation and fear I will just explode.

In my opinion, Ryan has been taking advantage of her ‘summer rules’ and not respecting or appreciating them. Examples include: they pretty much stay up all night together (one night until 5:30 AM). She let’s him eat whatever he wants at all hours of the night, long after dinner. She gets upset when there are times in the day when he has to be left alone (e.g. for us to do our work), even though we agreed BEFORE summer vacation began that it was a necessity to have our alone time.

The list goes on and on.

She gets pissed off at me for doing what I believe is necessary to keep Ryan in check. Tonight, for example, I told him he needs to be in bed early (and by early it was like 11:00 PM) in order to be ready for tomorrow when Nana will take him to work with her for a special treat. He got upset with me, and basically said ‘no’. The minute I start to put my foot down and tell him, “if I say you’re going to bed…you’re going to bed,” he gets even more upset. And then SHE gets upset because it’s a ‘Hitler’ way of parenting. And in her mind we have to TALK to him about it instead of just dictating.

Or another example: tonight again he didn’t finish his dinner. His friend John was over and he joined us for dinner as well. John finished everything he was given. Ryan didn’t. They came inside and they both wanted chocolates. I let Ryan have one so as to not embarrass him by saying no, since he didn’t finish his vegetables. But then they both came back for more and I told John he could have one, but told Ryan he couldn’t. And there again, Ryan got upset with me. He later told me I embarrassed him and sometimes he doesn’t like how I talk to him in front of his friends.

But I’m your father Ryan! If I need to enforce certain rules of the house, I have to do it. I don’t care who is around or if it embarrasses you or not. (Though today I told him I’d work on pulling him to the side instead of saying something in front of his friends). But Ryan – you need to respect the rules of the house! Don’t take advantage of them and do whatever you please.

And all this time Ania completely disagrees with my approach. Sorry – I can’t help it! If I see my son defying me NOW at age 8, how will he be at 15 Ania? If I can’t get him to go to bed now without yelling at him, how will this get any better? If I can’t raise my voice, put my foot down, and PARENT this child…even if it means yelling at him to get my point across…then why the hell am I even here.

For the first time tonight, I found myself wanting to leave. I feel like I cause nothing but aggravation for everyone in the family. I can’t be the parent I feel I need to be, I can’t speak up for fear that you’ll get all upset at the situation, I can’t do anything right. When I cook dinner, something is wrong with it. Despite the fact I do virtually EVERY single fucking thing in this household – yardwork, breakfast in bed, cooking, laundry, cleaning…and all this ON TOP OF trying to get America’s Footprints earning money and trying to build Optimus – you STILL aren’t happy.

And god for bid I don’t spend any time with Ryan for most of the day. You think I don’t want to? You think I’d rather be in the office sitting a computer desk all day? You think I’d rather be driving all over the fucking country trying to get Optimus built or make money with KITT?

You walk around the house with this attitude everytime I do something wrong. I feel like I’m walking on eggshells with you lately. Say or do one thing, and that’s it – the day is ruined. I try my damndest to give you both the life most people dream of. Yet it isn’t enough.

I am tired Ania. I don’t know what else I can do to please you. For the first time ever I just want to walk away. As I write this, words can’t express how aggravated I feel. I’m pissed off. I’m upset that my own son thinks he’s the king of this house and can dictate how our days go. I’m pissed off that you get upset at me everytime I “ruin your zen” by having to yell at Ryan or raise my voice. I’m pissed off that you seem to have no confidence in my abilities as a parent. You believe in this modern day bullshit of “let’s talk to the child”. I think I’ve done a damn good job attempting to try your approach. But let’s get fucking real – we’re his parents. If we say we’re going somewhere and he doesn’t like it, too fucking bad! He goes where we go.

Ryan – I want you to know that every decision I make in life is to help make you a better person. I try to impart my wisdom and my experience to you everyday. Most times I feel muzzled, but still do what I can to get my message across. You are my world. And I would drop everything in a heartbeat to spend more time with you. But the reality is that I can’t. If I don’t start making money for our family this year, I don’t know what we’ll do. Therefore I’m doing what I NEED to do to help maintain our lifestyle and to build an even better one for all of us. I need you to understand sometimes that means I’ll be away or unavailable for a while. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with you. I’m just doing what I need to do for our family.

Ania – I want you to know that for the first time ever, I started questioning our future. Where do we go from here? We have totally different approaches to parenting. And these differences are separating us. I am no longer happy. I haven’t been for a very long time. In fact I am miserable. I feel like you just don’t appreciate what I do for this family anymore. You might appreciate certain moments, like surprise trips to the beach one day. But as soon as we walk in our house, the mood changes. Like the good times we had just vanish. And within 10 minutes we’re back to a stressful household with everyone ‘tensed up’. You need wine or music to bring your ‘happy’ back. Apparently I don’t do that for you anymore.

I don’t know what else to say. This is just me expressing my emotions they best way I know how. If I bring any of this stuff up, it’ll just lead to more arguments and frustration. It’s just not worth it to me anymore. With everything that’s been happening in our lives lately, I feel like I’ve been beaten down so hard that I might as well just stay down and die already.

Something needs to change. Time will tell what that something is.

Mom tries to commit suicideMay 11, 2017

It’s May 2017 – several days ago I tried getting in touch with mom and she wasn’t responding. No texts or calls. No activity with email or phone records. I went to her house and no answer at the door. Rang the doorbell and she finally picked up the intercom. 10 minutes later she showed up at the door and let me know. At that moment I could clearly see something was wrong.

Her eyes were beady. She was shaking. She could not walk. She could barely talk. At first I thought she had a stroke or something. She said she’s been exhausted lately. I called 911 and they sent an ambulance. Shortly before they arrived, she admitted to taking 24 xanex and 30 anti-depressants in an effort to kill herself the night before.

We went to St Lukes in Bartonsville where she stayed for 5 days while they got her back to heath. I stayed with her for part of it. She need a walker. She slept most of the time. She doesn’t have much memory of the first few days. It was very difficult to see my strong mom like this.

Because of the circumstances, they sent her to a psychiatric unit at St Lukes in Bethlehem. She didn’t want to go, but they wouldn’t give her a choice. She is currently there now as I write this. It’s been 24 hours since she arrived and I visited her. She looked better. She spoke clearer. Was able to walk again. Her spirits were better. But you could tell she had a long way to go.

She now stutters with her speech. She is thinking faster than she can get her words out. I am worried she may have done permanent damage to her body. She is also dead set on leaving within 72 hours, which is the approx window they gave her. I really hope she stays longer. She needs this time to explore herself. She is isolated from the distractions in life for the first time in probably forever. This is a chance for her to think about what happened and what, if anything, she can do to fix herself.

I really hope to see mom smile again. She deserves to be happy, and I’ll do whatever I can to help her get there. Love you mom. Stay tuned…

Ryan fails his first testFebruary 5, 2016

Ryan took home some tests for a few 2nd grade exams. He didn’t do very well at all. He got some 80s, a 74%, and the lowest was a 54% on a math test.

While I understand everyone has their bad days, what upset me the most was that he showed no interest in wanting to figure out where he went wrong. The minute I brought up the option of re-writing some of them, he went into tears.

I feel like I am in a tough position as well because Ania doesn’t want to make him emotional. She pointed out answers where his response was technically accurate, but it wasn’t what the teachers wanted. She wants me to go easy on Ryan so he doesn’t turn into a perfectionist.

I get that, but common! Ryan NEEDS to understand his responsibility in life is to do well in school. Take pride in your work. And when you fail, let us help you understand how to make it better.

Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle trying to keep both of them happy.

Ryan’s “old soul” words of wisdomMay 2, 2014

This was a story I wrote on our blog about an experience I had with Ryan when he was 7. It’s a truly story and it blew me away.

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I am certainly not the first parent in the world to be surprised at some of the things my child says. Occasionally the words from our children shock us. Sometimes they’ll leave you speechless, and other times will just take your breath away.

But on very rare occasions, their words will resonate so deeply as to remain with you for the rest of your life.

And that is exactly what happened to me a few days ago.

It was Wednesday evening around 7:00 PM. I had gotten home earlier than expected from a long day’s commute, and thus entertained the option of doing something special with my son before bedtime, like playing some board games, reading a book, or watching our favorite TV show.

He made the decision to watch TV together, to which I stated it just depends on how quickly we finish dinner and complete our ‘nighttime routine’.

With bedtime getting closer by the minute and still several things left undone (homework, shower, etc.), we had to make some sacrifices and unfortunately could no longer watch our show.  So as you might expect from a 7-year-old, he did not take the news very well.

And as is sometimes the case with parents and their children, the conversation ramped up from zero (“calm”) to 90 (“mass hysteria and tears”) within 30 seconds.

So I separated myself from the situation to give him some time to calm dawn. But after about 10 minutes, he returned and steered the conversation around a corner I never saw coming.

While at my desk, Ryan came in and asked to sit on my lap. I could tell he was ready to break down in a moment’s notice, but he didn’t. He mustered up the strength he needed, gathered his thoughts, and composed himself just enough to have the following (paraphrased) discussion:

Ryan: “Daddy the reason I got so upset is because we didn’t have time to watch our show anymore.”

Me: “That’s life sometimes Ryan. We don’t always get to do what we plan, and need to learn to be more flexible.”

Ryan: “I know that. But I’m just running out of time and really wanted to watch our show.”

Me: “You’re right – we did run out of time today. So tomorrow, depending on how well you behave, we can try again to watch it.”

Ryan: “No that’s not what I mean. I’m saying that I don’t have enough time in LIFE.”

Me: “I don’t understand. What do you mean not enough time in life?”

Ryan: “You’re getting older daddy. And I’m getting older. And soon we won’t be able to enjoy some of the fun things we do together.”

Me: “Just because we’re getting older, that doesn’t mean we still can’t enjoy the fun things we’ve always done together.”

Ryan: “Yes but we’ll never get these moments back. Today will never be here again. We’ll never have the chance to make these special memories that I wanted to do tonight. And one day you’ll be in heaven and I won’t get to do this with you anymore. I want to do everything I can with you now while we’re all still here.”

Me: speechless

 

I was absolutely lost for words. I couldn’t believe what he was saying. Here I am thinking he’s just like most other kids his age…stuck in the moment of that day and just looking for another hour of fun time before bed.

But that wasn’t the case at all.

He wanted to do more than just watch a show. He wanted to share an experience that will stay with him, long after that evening. He wanted to create a memory that he could hold on to. He simply wanted to make the best of our time together, knowing that our time in life is limited.

I felt like I was talking to an old soul. This was not a 7-y-o child. He was someone who understands the meaning of life, better than most people 10 times his age. And he found it within himself to not only express those feelings with me, but to speak the wise words about life that even I fail to remember from time to time.

Needless to say, this was a moment in my life I will not soon forget. It was a conversation that will fade over time, and thus deserves preservation in my Footprint. Because one day I want him to look back on this story and realize how proud I am of him.

And though he still has much to learn, his soul has a century’s worth of experience to back him up.

Meeting Ania (my future wife)September 3, 1999

1999 Ania Masiak  I met Ania while playing tennis in Brookdale Park (Montclair, NJ) in the year 1999.  I had started playing tennis because I wanted to meet someone.  But after years of playing in the league, that never happened and I just continued playing because I enjoyed it.

However, the day came when Ania started helping the lady who ran the league.  I instantly felt an attraction to her and almost immediately asked her out on a date.  We dated for a short time and before we knew it, we had to see each other every day.  We got married in 2004 and have been together ever since.  Continue reading other stories for more about our relationships over time 🙂

Middle School Adventures

Middle school memories…

TitleDateContent
Relaunching America’s FootprintsNovember 8, 2020

After almost 5 months of time spent upgrading the website, today is the official “relaunch” day. I took the plunge and converted the website to a mobile-friendly version, completely eliminating the old site and all of the ‘free’ members that never used it. I’m starting fresh with the hopes that we can finally build it up to something special that also brings in a steady income each month. This is also my last attempt at doing so. I have no plans to update the site anymore (majorly). Either this will work or it won’t. But even if it doesn’t, I still want to hold onto it for recording all the memories and stories I want Ryan to know about one day. I pray that this migration will help America’s Footprints become the success I always believed it would be. Fingers crossed!

Some of my wishes for the futureMarch 4, 2016

These are some random wishes I noted for myself:

Optimus Prime will be ours by 2017!

The Transformers films by Michael Bay are far my favorite movies of all time.  I have full intentions of one-day building an Optimus Prime truck replica with my family, and traveling around the country to show it off!

 

Help my mom retire

I hope to one day be successful enough that we can hire my mom part time to do the bookkeeping for us, and to give her an opportunity to stop commuting to her job in NJ.  She’s been through so much in life and deserves the best that ‘older’ age can bring.  She doesn’t have a lot a money and has nothing for retirement or major savings.  I WILL make AmericasFootprints.com successful enough to help her enjoy whatever years she has left with us.

 

Give Ania and Ryan the world

I know they already appreciate what we have, as do I.  But I would love the chance to show them so much more.  To take them on dream vacations.  To go to our very own beach house in Virginia or Sanibel Island.  To travel the country in Optimus Prime and show Ryan the beauty in this world that I never get the chance to see or understand fully.  But most importantly – I want to give them my ALL.  Everything I have, and everything I will continue to do – is to help make their dreams come true.

A few of the people in my lifeNovember 6, 2020

These are a few of the people that were in my life at some point. Mostly friends. I’ll add to it over time as more come and go.

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1998 Danilo Moura

I met him and his brother Darius through working as a Valet.  Danilo became a really good friend of mine.  We took a few motorcycle rides together and hung out once in a while.  He was just a really down-to-earth easy person to talk to.  Unfortunately he moved to North Carolina and we have since lost touch.  Once in a while we will text or call each other, and still stay in touch with his wife Caroline on social media.  But he is definitely missed.

 

2014 Maria Florio

Maria is a great person and is one of the few people I’ve met on social media who seems to have a genuine heart.  Though she lives in Florida for 6 months and Italy for the other 6, her and I have become good friends and even started a “Make a Difference” podcast together in 2015.

 

1980 Louie the Barber

Louie was my barber throughout my entire childhood and even through college.  He sadly retired sooner than expected and I was forced to find another place to get my hair cut.  But he was one of my favorite people.  To this day, he always calls me on my birthday because mine is the same day as his son’s birthday.  It’s sad to see him age, but he will forever be a great memory in my life

 

1985 Joe Geisel

He was my best friend throughout most of my school years.  In Junior and Senior year of college though, he hung out with the ‘cooler’ kids and I didn’t fit in with his crowd anymore.  He also slept with my girlfriend Dawn at the time.  I haven’t spoken to him or seen him since I graduated high school.

I cheated on a college examNovember 15, 1996

We’ve all had those school exams that no amount of studying can prepare you for. It’s the one test that can significantly boost your overall GPA, and yet fate seems dead set on going in the opposite direction.

Only a few months into my first year of college, that test was suddently on the horizon for me. It was an exam that I just wasn’t prepared for. A myriad of circumstances prevented me from fully understanding the content, including work, a teacher who was unwilling to help after school hours, and sheer laziness.

So when test day finally arrived, I cheated. Yes I’m ashamed of it, but I saw no other way out. I did what I felt I had to do to keep my future years in college alive.

Nothing was said to me on that day, but one week later when the professor handed back the scores, he followed it up with one final statement to the entire group before class ended. He said: “someone in this class cheated. If this person does not come forward by the end of the day today, I will proceed to have him expelled from the university.”

Long story short, I owned up to my mistake and did what I had to do to make it right. Thus allowing my college pursuit to continue. Cheating is NEVER a good idea.

Watching G1 Transformers (2019)December 18, 2019

Just a newer tradition for us: for most of the year (2019), we’ve been ending each day by watching Transformers Prime or Generation 1 Transformers cartoons. Ryan loves these moments, as do I. We’re all together as a family spending quality time instead of getting lost in our phones or work.

Because we are all together enjoying something simple. No outside interference.

I hope Ryan continues this tradition with his kids, and that he always values time with family. Because they’ll grow up quick, and before you know it, they won’t be watching anything with you anymore.

The little moments at bedtime with RyanNovember 28, 2009

Every night when it’s just you and I, pretty much since you were a baby, I always make it a point when saying goodnight to ask you 2 questions. “What was your favorite part of the day?”  And “what do you appreciate from today?”. And then when you’re sleeping, I whisper little inspiring things to you J

Because I believe it’s important to remember the good times, the good memories, the lessons learned, and the fun things we do together. I believe it’s also important to appreciate what we have and the lives we live, because it can all change in a heartbeat.

I hope when you have your kids, Ryan, you will continue to do the same with them. Teaching them the importance of appreciation, and family time.

Family dinners are very important to meNovember 7, 2020

I don’t know what it’s going to be like 30 years from now.  But we currently live in a world where technology has taken over every part of our day.  You can’t go anywhere without seeing someone on their phone, texting, reading, playing, etc..  And the same holds true at the dinner table.  Conversations amongst family don’t happen as much as they used to.  Between phones and TV, eating a family meal without any distractions seems to be a thing of the past.

That is why family dinners are something I try to do every single night.  All of us will sit at the dinner table with no outside distractions.  No TV.  No technology.  If the phone rings or a text comes through, we don’t even answer it.  We spend 20 minutes or more just sitting there, enjoying each other’s company while we eat. This became important to me as a father because I wanted my son to experience what’s it’s like to enjoy a conversation.  I want him to know that no matter what happens during the day, that he can always look forward to family dinner at the end, where he can not only share his memories from the day…but perhaps solicit some advice.

Family time is sacred.  We won’t ever get these moments back.  Technology will be there when we’re done.  But WE will not always be there for each other in the future.  My hope is to continue this tradition as long as we can, but to also instill the importance of family bonding, without any outside interference.  Because that dinner may be our last, and it can become a memory we will hold onto forever.

My days as an Auxiliary Police OfficerJune 14, 2001

I wish I had saved the stories I wrote down during this time.  It was mega cool stuff that I will promise to write about here asap.  To say the least, it was really awesome being able to drive a cop car on the streets and just patrol the neighborhoods.  Though I wasn’t allowed to physically pull people over, I would regularly pull up very close to them just to mess around.  I would even park off to the side and pretend I was using radar to check their speed.

I entered the Auxiliary police because at the time I wanted to be a cop.  So this was not only fun to be a part of, but it gave me some insight into what law enforcement was all about and whether or not I had what it takes to join this industry.  Turns out I didn’t.

I wasn’t a fan of the politics, didn’t like the potential hours if I became a real cop, didn’t like the ‘numbers game’ (to be hired you had to pass a test with a certain score), and physically I wasn’t in the best shape to do it anyway.

Weird pains near heartDecember 9, 2019

Dec 2019 – I’ve been having weird pains around my heart from time to time. They are so sporadic though that I doubt any doctor could diagnose it. It’s almost like a stinging sensation that lingers sometimes. Other times it vanished within seconds. In fact while I type this, I can feel a small pain there that isn’t going away. I don’t feel any other symptoms, and sometimes I’ll go weeks with no problem at all. I’ve also been getting lots of headaches in the morning. Not sure if it’s related or not.

At this time no diagnosis is planned. But I’ll monitor and if symptoms get worse I promise to visit the doc. Because I plan to stay in Ryan’s life for a long long time.

Admitted to hospital for low plateletsFebruary 6, 1990

One of the experiences I’ll never forget was a moment when I was maybe 13 or 14 years old.  We had a big winter snowstorm and I was the one outside shoveling.  The snowblower worked well until I started doing my neighbor’s driveway.  It conked out on me only a few feet in (and it was a LOOOONG driveway).  So I started doing the rest by hand.

Despite my youth, I was very quickly depleted of energy.  The snow was heavy, no one was helping, and I got so weak to the point I just collapsed on the snow (not fainted; just laid down for a few seconds).  My brother was laughing and finally came out to help finish the job.

I went back inside and felt so weak that my mom recommended I take a bath.  While sitting in the water, I noticed a bunch of red dots all over my body.  It wasn’t chicken pox.  It was like clusters of red dots that formed a rash or something.  I didn’t know what it was, and neither did mom.  So she recommended a trip to the hospital.  And it was a good thing I went when I did.

After some bloodwork, it turns out that I had that I had low red blood cells.  Like dangerously low.  So I had to stay in the cancer ward for three days (apparently that is where the equipment was that I needed).  They kept me hooked up to an IV and I was limited to the bed that entire time.

Eventually I got better and went home.  Never again did the symptoms reappear.  There was no specific cause other than a possible virus (like a cold) that stayed inside me even though the physical symptoms went away.

Heart palpitations are a bit concerningJune 27, 2006

The first time I experienced a fluttering of my heart (to the point that it was noticeable anyway) was back in 2006. I’ll never forget the scenario either.  I was sitting at my office desk and had just found out how much money I owed to taxes (because I had my own business, I would pay taxes quarterly).  While the exact amount I don’t recall, it was much higher than I expected, and was enough to get my heart racing uncontrollably.

I could feel my heart beating very hard.  It wasn’t necessarily fast, but more like a pounding inside my chest.  And it scared me since I’ve never experienced that before.  So after 20 minutes of the hard pounding, I grew concerned and called a local nurse who recommended I go to the hospital.  Since I was the only one home, I got in the car and drove their immediately.

Fast forward to the diagnosis part, the doctors couldn’t determine exactly what it was, and said that it’s somewhat normal for people to experience heart beats like that.  They had me wear a halter monitor for 2 days, and even put me through a stress test where I run on a treadmill while connected to wires and stuff that monitor my heart.  In both cases, the palpitations were noticeable, but according to the doctors, not life threatening.

In the end they attributed it to stress.  Now initially I would have agreed, since the trigger seemed to be the day I found out about the high taxes I had to pay.  But the strong heart beating continued on and off for months after that.  And now years later, though not was frequent, I still occasionally feel them.  So I plan to continue monitoring it on my own and will do what I need to if I feel the symptoms getting worse.

My teeth are still holding strongMay 15, 2014

Best teeth ever (so far)

I’ll readily admit that behind the scenes I did not practice very good dental hygiene.  Brushing my teeth was something I would do maybe once a week, if not longer.  Occasionally I would rinse with mouthwash at night, but even that was a rarity.  Believe me it is not something I am proud of, but it just became a habit that was hard for me to break.

After about 20 years (yes – 20) of not going to the dentist, I felt a visit was warranted.  Every so often I’d feel pain in my jaw, my gums would bleed, and my teeth weren’t the best shade of white (but weren’t disgustingly dirty either).  So I finally made the visit to see a local dentist.

I went in there with the worst expectations.  I was anticipating them to tell me my teeth were rotting (even though they looked ok visually) and that I had at least 15 cavities.  The dentist was certain surprised to hear how long it had been since I had any work done, and I have a feeling they were expecting  to hit the motherload of dental work and drillings / fillings.

But to everyone’s surprise, I had no problems.  No cavities, no gum disease.  Just a set of teeth that could use a deep cleaning.  So I went back two separate times to get my teeth deep cleaned.  I had to get Novocaine which wasn’t pleasant (who likes a needle in their mouth), and spent about $1000 on the work.  But in the end my teeth were super shiny.  And I told myself I’d do a better job at taking care of them.

Problem is, I didn’t.

What I’ve learned about parentingSeptember 15, 2016

This was a story I wrote for the America’s Footprints blog in 2016. I kept the story anonymous and didn’t want people to know it was me. That’s why I refer to my ‘daughter’ instead of my son. But this story is about the times I spend with you Ryan, and about how I notice what other parents don’t do. Enjoy!

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When I became a parent, I was introduced to a whole new world. I went from hanging out with friends at 2:00 AM to getting no sleep while changing diapers. Instead of enjoying lunch in the city with my co-workers, I was watching Dora the Explorer on every television in the house.

Most parents will agree that having a child can turn your life upside down. For me however, it has been a very good thing.

There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t smile and say ‘thank you’ to the angels above for giving me such a blessing. We laugh, we play, we learn, and we live. I savor every minute I can get with my pre-teen, and forever cherish the good times (and bad times) we enjoy together.

But over the past 10 years, I’ve noticed something else. Not all parents seem to feel the same way.

When you become a parent, you see things you’ve never paid attention to before. You get to know other parents through school and extracurricular activities, and observe them interacting with their own children.

Boy has that been an eye opener for me.

If we are in the park or at the playground for instance, I am the first one to join my daughter on the jungle gym. I squeeze my way through the crawl spaces meant for toddlers, climb walls and ladders that make the adrenaline start pumping, and I reach new levels of exhaustion from the nonstop running and swinging.

But 9 times out of 10, I am the only parent doing so. It doesn’t matter if there are 2 families or 40 families on the playground. The kids are busy running around while the parents sit on a bench looking at their phone or chatting it up with friends. Completely oblivious to the memories they aren’t making with their children.

Other times we could be at someone’s house. Perhaps it is for a get together with some of our friends, or a birthday party celebration with people we have never met.

I am always the first in line to see what my daughter is up to, and to participate in the games they are playing. It could be hide and seek, video games, jumping in the bounce house, or a simple game of imagination.

Without smothering her, I am always ready and willing to join my daughter’s side as opposed to sitting with the adults who do nothing but drink and complain about life.

In my observatory travels, once in a while I will overhear conversations while waiting to pick my daughter up from school. And it never fails – every single time there is at least one parent who isn’t ready to pick up their kid yet.

These parents are yapping about how much they can’t stand having their children at home. All they talk about is finding ways to keep them occupied, be it through play dates, full-time summer camps, or sending them to the grandparent’s house.

I am shocked! Is your child really that much of an interference in your life?

Then there are the observations I make when we take a vacation. For example, we recently went on a trip to a family-friendly resort in Florida. And every single day, we were together. Whether it was hunting for shells in the ocean, going on a scavenger hunt around the island, or looking for shooting stars, I can definitely say it was a memorable vacation for ALL of us.

But there was one thing missing at the resort that continues to baffle me: other families!

hands off parentingThere were easily over 200 people at this resort, most of them parents and their children. But there was a clear divide in the ranks. Adults were lounging by the pool or sipping drinks at the bar, while the children were sent to the resort’s day care facility or a full day camp for the older kids.

It’s like the parents wanted a vacation separate from their kids, and had no problem passing them off for days on end just so they weren’t bothered.

I even noticed that sometimes the kids would get back early from camp, and jump into the magnificent pool for a swim. But for the most part, the parents never got up from their chair to join them, or even acknowledge them.

Now let me be very clear about certain things:

  1. I know very little about most of the parents and families I see. Therefore I am not implying how to be a good parent, nor am I making assumptions or judging anyone for their behavior. These are strictly observations that cause me to ask these types of questions to myself.

 

  1. I am well aware of the need for any parent to have their alone time. We are tested and stressed every single day. So there is nothing wrong with wanting a little R&R.

 

  1. I realize that children need their space too. I make a very conscious effort not to smother my child, and have no problem backing away if she seems to be enjoying her time with her friends more than me.

 

  1. I don’t spend this extra time with my daughter just to keep a “watchful eye” on her. Even though she is only 10, I trust her to make good decisions, regardless of whether or not I am present.

 

  1. I also understand that adults need their “adult time.” It could be a drink with friends, or conversations meant only for adult ears. Sometimes we need to vent a little. And I am all for a night out on the town to let loose.

 

  1. I believe in introducing children to new things in life, and letting them experience life on their own. Lessons are learned and friendships are formed when the parent isn’t there to observe it. And I know the only way to do that sometimes is to send our children away (e.g. to camps).

 

But after observing so many parents over the years who don’t seem to give a crap, what blows my mind is the same recurring pattern: they are completely absent from their child’s life!

Don’t you want to play with your child and create new memories with them?

Don’t you want them to look back at their childhood saying: “the best times I had were with you, mom”?

Don’t you want to be a part of the learning process, helping to guide them down the right path while showing them what it means to be independent?

Do you even look at parenting as a reward, or is it an obligation that you would rather not be bothered with?

Obviously these are questions I’ll never have an answer to. Every family dynamic is different. Every parent interacts differently with their children. And again, I readily admit I know next to nothing about most of them. For all I know, they will go home and spend the rest of the day playing board games and reading books together.

But there is no denying what I see. The parents I observe in my daily travels are hands off. They would rather sit, watch, and gossip then to create a new memory with their children.

And all I can say to them: “you are missing out in the moments that your children will remember forever. Don’t lie in your death bed wishing you had just one more day with them. Today is that day. Live it up and create new memories together…while you still can.”

The years I had “x-ray eyes”December 9, 2015

This was an article I wrote for the blog in December 2015, all pointed to Ryan. It was about the time as a father that I convinced Ryan I had x-ray eyes, and could see what he was doing when I wasn’t even there. It’s also how we got him to eat carrots at dinner, telling him carrots are what create x-ray eyes.  Hope you enjoy!

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“Daddy?”

“Yes?”

“Can you look with your x-ray eyes and tell me if my friends are still at the park?”

“Sure. I can see them right now. Would you like to go meet them?”

“Yes I would love to!”

As parents we do what we can to help ensure our children stay safe and make good decisions. And yes, sometimes we need to get very creative in doing so.

For almost 5 years now, my son has been convinced that I have what we call “x-ray eyes”. It started when he was much younger, as I traveled quite extensively for work. When I would come home, I would ask him about all the things I missed. And as he shared his highlights with me, he would conveniently leave out the details that he thought might get him in trouble.

So as we talked, I began inquiring about the moments he left out, telling him I was watching what happened with my x-ray eyes.

In reality I already knew exactly what transpired, as my wife would give me a heads up long before these conversations took place. But my son doesn’t know this, yet. And as a result, he believes I have x-ray eyes.

As he continues to grow though, I know it’s only a matter of time before my cover is blown. He will soon discover that x-ray eyes are just the imagination running wild, and that daddy was never really able to see through the surface and into the areas he couldn’t.

So what does a parent say to that? How do I respond when he calls my bluff?

Similar to a child beginning to question the existence of Santa Claus, what do I say when he discovers the truth behind a white lie that has continued for so long?

Simple…just be honest with them.

The truth is as parents, we do have x-ray eyes. Looking back on the hundreds of lessons we have learned in life, we sometimes see beneath the surface and beyond the horizon, far past what our young children are usually capable of.

For example, I see something different when…my son plays outside with our neighbor. I see a young boy who takes life day by day, and does whatever he can to live it up.

Squeezing every ounce of fun out of any given day, he embraces the true meaning of life without yet knowing the burden of the responsibilities that will one-day weigh him down.

I see a bright future aheadI see something different when…he has a conversation with his friends, I see a boy learning the importance of true communication. A characteristic that will be challenged as he grows in a world of text and email.

I watch and listen from a distance as he holds secret meetings and chats with friends, laughing almost every other minute. Yet at the same time, I can’t help but fear the day when one of his closest friends unexpectedly betrays his trust.

I see something different when…he plays with his toys in an imaginary world. I see a boy whose mind is still developing, and who isn’t afraid to take an adventure into the unknown.

But I also know his imagination will catch the attention of others. I know there are people who may tell him how stupid and childish his imaginary games are, causing him to question whether or not his imagination should still run wild.

I see something different when…he mentions a girl from school who has an attraction towards him. I see him forming a special bond and one-day sharing his first kiss. He will realize what it means to experience true love, and to hold the heart of another soul.

But I also know there is the potential for a broken heart, and that he will need to figure out a way to realize new love once again.

I see something different when…he talks about the positive moments he sometimes witnesses (random acts of kindness, good cop stories, etc.). I see a boy who looks at the world with positive potential, and not with disgust. A boy who hasn’t yet become jaded by the negativity that plagues the news and social media.

I see something different when…he talks about what he wants to do in life. I see a young boy who has dreams he wants to fulfill. As he figures out his purpose in life, he is actively discovering the future that awaits him with excitement.

Yet I also see a boy who doesn’t yet know what it’s like to be rejected. He doesn’t know how it feels when almost everyone around you wants to see you fail, and to uncover the faces of those who want nothing more than to stand proud and say “I told you so.”

What do we tell our children when they asks for the truth behind our x-ray eyes? How do we keep their spirits high while gently helping them understand the difficult experiences that we know are just around the corner in their future?

As parents, our x-ray eyes are a blurred window into their future. We can’t accurately predict where they will end up, but we have a good idea of what will happen based on the milestones in our own journey.

But just like an x-ray can only give you a glimpse of what lies beneath the surface, our eyes are limited to the experiences of our past, and thus may never truly predict their future.

Sometimes adults need ‘alone time’November 11, 2015

Ok this one is something that you will not fully understand for some time yet, But one day you will, and you’ll probably get chuckle from reading this.  As you know, mommy and I shared a bed together that you would invade practically every night.  Which that in itself baffles me because when you were an infant, we never brought you into our bed.  You always stayed in your bassinet or crib.  So is this our payback?  🙂

It never fails that sometime between 10:30 PM and 2:30 AM every night, you’ll wander your way from your bedroom down the hall and into our room.  You would jump into our bed and nuzzle your way in between us.  And most times you’ll have no recollection of this stroll when we’d ask you about it the next day.

Now one thing you’ll understand when you’re older is that parents enjoy their alone time.  They like to chat, talk, and just do adult things.  And I can’t even begin to tell you how many of those “moments” were interrupted by the pitter-patter of those little feet.  Most times we would hear you before you got to the room, and on a rare occasion you’d walk so silently that it was almost too late.

And because of these moments, we ended up changing our routine.  We gave ourselves a specific window of time to enjoy our adult moments, hoping that it was early enough where you wouldn’t come in.  Most times it worked.  But I have to say you added a ton of pressure to an otherwise enjoyable situation! 🙂  I still love you though Ryan!

Attempting to balance work and playAugust 14, 2015

It hasn’t been easy finding the time to grow AmericasFootprints.com and balancing it with time for Ryan.  But I am grateful to have the opportunity to spend as much time with him as I do.  In my previous career as a trainer, I was fortunate enough to be home more often than at work.  And now having AF gives me even more time at home with him.  I don’t use this phrase very often, but I feel extremely blessed to be able to share so much of his childhood where most other parents either don’t care, or physically can’t do it because of their work schedule.

This was a tough day for meApril 13, 2019

Tonight is Friday and the church you take classes in was doing a retreat that you didn’t want to attend. Mommy wasn’t home and you suggested father son bonding time. So my compromise was to do something you wanted to do and something I wanted to do.  For you it was bowling. For me it was go karts.

Well today after school when you found out what my plan was, the next 60 minutes were pure hell. You (and eventually mommy) bombarded me with all these different reasons why you did NOT want to drive go karts. You cried. She cried. You both felt like I was being a dictator. You both gave me such a hard time that I needed to walk away so ALL of us would cool off. And that just got both of you even more upset.

Eventually mommy left and you and I had a civil conversation. I explained to you that I simply wanted to introduce you to something new. Something fun. Something that you hadn’t done before. Something that would help you face your fears. Something that would give you confidence. Something that could become a new favorite hobby. Something that would give your friends one less reason to say you don’t know anything. Because kids can be cruel dude. And I want you feeling confident when you do stuff with your friends, partially because you’ve already done it with me.

Eventually I succumbed to the pressure and explained all this to you so you understood why I really wanted to take you. Instead we are going to do laser tag at this really cool place in Lehigh Valley, then dinner, then bowling. I am looking forward to a fun and memorable evening with you dude. No matter what, this wasn’t about me. This was about helping you grow. But I love you and no matter what we do, I will have fun with you.

Playtime = “soar time”June 19, 2015

Pretty much from the moment you were able to move around on your own (crawl and walk), I was always by your side.  If you would go through a small infant tunnel in gymnastics class, I would follow you.  If you jumped on a trampoline into a ball pit, I did the same.  If you wanted to ride the small train at the theme park, I’d come along too.

I take advantage of every moment I can get to play with you.  But here’s the difference between you and I – you’re young…and I’m not!  lol  I mean  let’s face it: I’m no spring chicken anymore.  I can’t bend like I used to or crawl on the floor like I did in my early years.  I not designed to swing from a rope and jump into a pit of sand.  I shouldn’t be rolling around on the grass and run at lightning speed down a small path.  But somehow I found a way to do it.

I could never resist the urge to play with you.  Problem was, I would end up with being sore for days.  My back would hurt, my legs needed a break, and I would very quickly learn that my stamina is nowhere near what it used to be.  And yet when I write this, I can’t help but think to myself that one day you’ll feel the same way when you play with your children.  And when I watch, I will do so with a little smile on my face, recalling these very moments with you.  🙂

Optimus Prime blog story I wrote for Amer FtpNovember 8, 2017

This was a story I had written and posted to the blog on America’s Footprints. It basically explains a bit more about the Optimus Prime build, what it took, and why I did it.

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Autobots vs. Decepticons.

 

Cybertron.

 

The matrix of leadership.

If any of these sound familiar, then you have probably heard about or even watched Transformers on the big screen. Currently the 10th highest-grossing action film series based on the toys created by Hasbro and Tomy, the first five movies were directed by Michael Bay, including Transformers (2007), Revenge of the Fallen (2009), Dark of the Moon (2011), Age of Extinction (2014), and The Last Knight (2017). (credit Wikipedia)

Fans across the globe have been inspired by the messages and special effects seen in each of the films. And some have taken their inspiration to the next level by purchasing (or even building) full-scale replicas of the now-famous vehicles, such as the popular yellow Bumblebee Camaro.

But this Pennsylvania dad took his love for one of the movie characters to a level no one else has been able to accomplish.

Joe Fiduccia has become the first person in the world to ever replicate a full-scale version of the Optimus Prime® big rig vehicle seen in Transformers: Age of Extinction. And he did it with minimal experience, no trucking backround, and a limited budget.

The Monroe County dad and business owner has always been somewhat of a hobbiest and hands-on kind of guy. After successfully building a replica of K.I.T.T. from the popular 1980’s television show Knight Rider, he began thinking about a new hobby project. But he wanted to step up his game to a level even he wasn’t sure could be accomplished.

“It wasn’t that I was bored, and I wasn’t looking for some kind of notoriety,” Fiduccia tells us. “It’s just that there are thousands of fan-built replicas on the road today from almost every movie and TV show you can think of.  I wanted to do something that no one else has done yet.”

Fiduccia says he loves this iconic Transformers character and everything that character represents. So it became his new goal to build an Optimus Prime replica truck.

And simultaneously become the first fan in the world to do so.

Fiduccia and his family made the decision to tackle this endeavor late in 2015.

“I had been talking about it every now and then with my family for months,” says Fiduccia. “But the serious conversations took place at the dinner table late in 2015. Mainly we had to discuss the timeline it would take to build, and also the impact financially. But my wife and son were on ‘cautiously’ on-board.”

With his family’s unofficial go-ahead, Fiduccia’s first task was to obtain legal permission from Hasbro, Inc…the trademark owners of the Optimus Prime brand.

“I wasn’t about to take on an expense like this without their blessing,” he says. “The last thing I want is to have them terminate any further use of the truck after the build was complete.”

“I want to work with them. Not against them.”

So Fiduccia drafted a letter to Hasbo with his attorney, explaining his intended use of the truck. And in December of 2015, he officially obtained their approval!

Next up, because this iteration of Optimus Prime used a truck that was a brand new concept vehicle for Wester Star, Fiduccia was tasked with finding a Western Star dealer willing to spec out and build a new truck for him with the same base design.

“I probably reached out to at least 30 different Western Star dealers across North America,” Fiduccia explains. “I was upfront and honest about my intentions and what I needed. As a result most didn’t even give me the time of day. But I finally found a dealer who was willing to work with me.”

Joe Fiduccia and dealer Bill Moore with his new Optimus Prime Western StarIt took Fiduccia almost two full months of planning and negotiations with Western Star to plot out the specifications of the truck on paper.

“All we had were photos and videos of the original Optimus trucks that appeared in the film. We did not receive any detailed prints or measurements from Hasbro.”

“So using what we had, the dealer and I spent a lot of time attempting to get my replica as close to Optimus as possible from the factory, focusing on things like wheel base length, fuel tank size and position, cab sizing and style, and more.”

When the blueprints were finished and truck was getting assembled at the factory, Fiduccia shifted his focus to obtaining his Class A CDL.

Yes you read right – Fiduccia had absolutely zero experience in the trucking industry.

“A lot of people are surprised when I tell them I’m not a trucker by trade,” Fiduccia says.

Scheduling private lessons at the one school who was willing to give them, Fiduccia went through the same training and testing that any other Class A driver must complete. And after learning everything he needed to be safe on the road, he obtained his CDL. Which he claims was one of the most difficult things he has ever done.

“I definitely have a new respect for truckers and the complexities of what they deal with on a daily basis.”

With his CDL in hand, Fiduccia picked up his brand new 2017 Western Star 5700XE from the dealer in April of 2016. And for the first time, he was finally in the driver’s seat of what would soon become the world’s only fan-built replica of Optimus Prime.

From the beginning, Fiduccia realized his capabilities in taking on a build as complex as Optimus Prime were limited. And that in order to pull something like this off he needed help from the professionals.

So long before he obtained permission from Hasbro, Fiduccia worked out several deals with individuals who had the experience he needed to do the job. And on the same day he picked up the truck, Fiduccia started contacting the people who promised to help with the build.

That’s when the first real hurdle presented itself.

“I won’t name names, and I won’t bad-mouth anyone,” explains Fiduccia. “All I will say on the subject is that a lot of people made promises they didn’t keep. Looking back I honestly believe they didn’t think I would really go through with this.”

“I had the truck. I fulfilled my end of the bargain. I was ready to begin the build. My family had been preparing for my time away. I showed up at the doorstep ready to move. But instead, I was left with nothing but empty promises, a boatload of excuses, and a $200,000.00 semi. And that put me in a very difficult situation, very quickly.”

Fiduccia immediately entered what he calls ‘survival mode’. He started contacting fabrication and body shops across North America looking for anyone willing to help. Many of them were interested, but the timeline and cost involved was an important factor that most shops wouldn’t negotiate on.

“I knew it would probably be one of the biggest builds most of these shops have ever taken on,” says Fiduccia. “I needed to finish this thing in one summer. And I knew it wasn’t going to be cheap.”

“But I’m also no millionaire. Unlike the corporations who first created Optimus, I don’t have an endless supply of cash, nor do I have thousands of employees at my fingertips who can source the perfect builder. I’m a middle-class dad with a dream and a small bank account. So I had to pick up the phone and just find someone willing to take on this challenge. Someone who also understood the inherent risks involved.”

Fiduccia spent almost a month tracking down anyone who would take his calls. Eventually his efforts paid off, as he finally located a small fabrication shop in New Jersey that agreed to help make his dream a reality.

Though Fiduccia had already done several modifications on his own since he picked up the truck, work “officially” began on converting his Western Star to Optimus Prime late in June 2016.

Optimus Prime under constructionHe brought the truck to a shop in NJ where it stayed for most of the summer. Day and night, and sometimes very early into the next morning, the team worked tirelessly to create a mirror image of the truck seen in Transformers: Age Of Extinction. Again, using nothing but photos and videos of the original trucks they located on the internet.

The first few weeks of the build went relatively smoothly. The rear fenders started taking shape. The running boards were masked out. The roof fairing was off and ready to be cut down.

Things were looking up as work on this Optimus Prime replica was finally underway.

But the build itself wasn’t without its fair share of challenges.

“Tempers flared at the shop on occasion due to the overwhelming magnitude of the build,” explains Fiduccia. “Things started spiraling out of control very quickly, both in the timeline and in costs. Complicating things further were the 3rd party vendors who heard about the build and wanted to be part of it, coming in with their offers.”

“They pitched a good sale. However most of them fell way short of our expectations, causing nothing but another hit to my wallet along with more headaches and issues.”

But Fiduccia did his best to be proactive and to keep the progress moving in a forward direction.

Realizing the limitations that started to arise with the core team of builders, he resumed his search for more help.

Fiduccia was successful in finding a highly-skilled craftsman who molded and CNC-cut the alumimum emblems and various body components such as the hood vents and the running board exhaust tips. He also found a company in Pennsylvania who built the six stacks from the ground up, and took care of chroming all of the custom parts.

All-told more than 25 people, not including the individuals or companies who failed to deliver, were involved in bringing this creation to life.

fabricating the stacksFiduccia exclaims “I can’t even begin to tell you how many man hours went into this thing. The stacks alone had over 450 hours among 10 people. But no matter what was going on or where, I wanted to be part of the build. So the entire time I was right there to help.”

“I would work tirelessly for 12-18 hour days most of the summer, sometimes 30 hours straight. Because I would never ask anyone to bust their ass for a job, paid or not, if I wasn’t willing to put in that same effort.”

By the end of September 2016, his fan-built replica was finally road worthy. Fiduccia and his team still had a lot of work to do, but his semi was at the point where fans would instantly recognize it as Optimus Prime. So Fiduccia began a tour with his truck across parts of North America and Canada over the next several months.

But his first stop was home – where he would finally show his wife and son the fruits of his labor.

“They really hadn’t seen the truck since I took it to the shop back in June. They saw pictures, but not the real thing. So I wanted them to be the first ones I unveiled it to. Plus I couldn’t go anywhere until my son had a ride to school in Optimus Prime.”

Since getting his now-completed replica back home, Fiduccia has made stops at several comic conventions, indoor car and truck shows, and even a children’s hospital. Fans who see the truck are given an opportunity to get up close and even sit inside for photos while talking with like-minded Transformers fans.

What’s even better is that he takes the time to make personal visits to children’s homes along the way to various destinations. Something the two original trucks used in the filming don’t typically do.

“I consider this a replica truck that was built by a fan, and built for the fans. It gives me great joy to bring Optimus into the driveway of a young boy’s home. To be able to put him the driver’s seat for photos. To pick him up from school and make him an instant celebrity for a day. To give him the confidence and inspiration he might need to pursue his own dreams.”

“It’s enough to get me all emotional. And I am not typically an emotional person,” boasts Fiduccia.

Optimus prime meets some fans

Throughout his trvels, Fiduccia has met thousands of Transformers lovers. Some are fans of the truck, and some are not. But he says for the most part, people still respect and appreciate what he has done and the good things he now does for families with his replica.

Fiduccia also mentioned the three most common questions people ask:

  1. “Does the truck transform?”
  2. “How much did it cost?”
  3. “Why did I build it?”

And his answers are always the same:

  1. “Optimus is a robot in disguise. He’s not supposed to transform.”
  2. “A life savings and a second mortgage.”
  3. “To inspire my son to never give up on a dream, and to never be afraid to try…even at the risk of failure.”

 

Fiduccia now travels with his replica truck whenever he can, sometimes with his family, in an effort to continue bringing the fans an experience like no other. He says it’s still only about 85% done, and has been bearing the brunt of the huge financial burden on his own. He has also experienced several problems with some of the fabrication work that he continues to deal with and repair as needed, and as time & money allow.

Fiduccia family with their Optimus truckDespite any troubles he faces though, Fiduccia remains determined to keep Optimus on the road for the fans…and for his son. But he has also come to realize the immense costs associated with owning and maintaining a rig of this size. And with his family at the point where they are now living month to month, he is unclear as to how much longer he will be able to keep Optimus on the road.

“Whenever we make stops or personal visits, we do ask fans for a minimum donation to help keep us going. And we really appreciate the support everyone has shown us from the beginning of our journey. I feel like I am slowly building a tribe that has banded together for the common good.”

At last check, Fiduccia had been working hard trying to obtain sponsorship from Hasbro to aid in these trips, and to help generate even more buzz for the newest 2017 film Transformers: The Last Knight.

But at the time this article was written, Fiduccia had not received any praise, accreditation, or even a ‘job well done’ letter from Hasbro, Paramount, or film director Michael Bay. He did however get a chance to speak with the original Optimus Prime builders and the Optimus stunt driver for all five films.

“That was cool they took the time to chat with me. I feel like the more I get out there, the more connections I’ll make. And hopefully one of them will lead directly to the sponsorship help I need.”

But Fiduccia says that no matter what happens, he is proud of his accomplishment and hopes it has a meaningful impact on his son’s life.

“In the end, I did this for my son,” explains Fiduccia. “I did this to show him that with hard work and determination, anything is possible. So if that means I have to be in debt the rest of my life in order to inspire him to pursue his own dreams, then so be it.”

We encourage you to follow the Fiduccia’s and their continued journey with the world’s first and only fan-built replica of Optimus Prime on social media at facebook.com/OptimusIsHere … and instagram.com/optimus_is_here.

My depression continues (2016)July 29, 2016

I’m not a writer. So this is hard to put into words. Perhaps writing this will help me alleviate what’s pent up inside me right now.

This summer…this year…these past FEW years…have been the shittiest of my life in turns of my feelings. I have been in a depression that just gets worse daily. And honestly I don’t know what to do anymore.

Most days Ryan is the only joy in my life. He’s the only one who makes me smile. No one else adds joy, and I have no interest in talking to anyone either. Mainly because I know most people could care less about me or my life. They’ll pretend to listen, but they don’t care.

Sometimes I find myself just wanting to live on an island. Ryan is the only reason I stay.  I just want to be alone. Life has gotten so complicated. I don’t laugh anymore. I barely smile. I’m always quiet. I’m a different person now compared to five years ago. I realize that. And a lot of it has to do with my feelings towards Ania and the way she makes me feel like an inadequate parent.

Almost every single day this summer, I try to give Ryan the tools necessary for life. One of those is to take care of his responsibilities. Do his school work. Eat. And just do what needs to be done before it’s play time or before he goes to play with his friends. And yet every time it’s a struggle. He doesn’t want to do it. He complains and keeps making matters worse. It gets me boiling inside. I want to scream.

My approach, and my belief as a parent, is that if I tell him to do something, he better do it. But Ania has a completely different philosophy.  She believes he should talk about his feelings and come to a compromise, or just do HALF of what he needs to. She is so fucking concerned about keeping her zen. And I honestly try very hard to do it HER way first by trying to talk with Ryan. I try to help him understand the reason why my request is important, and I try listening to him as well. But it gets to the point enough is enough. DO what I’m asking you to do please!

And that’s where Ania starts getting pissed at ME. When voices are raised, she shuts down. Or she intervenes and tries to ‘coddle’ Ryan by coming up with another solution (e.g. instead of eating the breakfast I made for him, she’ll say let’s just do pasta). Because she believes during Summer there apparently aren’t any rules. Just have fun. Because how much more time do we have with Ryan at this age?

Let me stop and say I DO understand where she is coming from. I do like that Ryan is getting more comfortable talking about his feelings. And I do believe summers should be about having fun. But give me a fucking break. Asking my son to do 10 minutes of school work, or to eat his vegetables at dinner if he wants dessert, should not be causing this much aggravation.

She gets pissed at me for every little thing. Almost daily now. Within 90 minutes of getting out of bed, I’ve done something wrong. Or something she doesn’t approve of in parenting. I walk on eggshells every frigin day. God for bid I try to be a parent or speak my mind. God for bid I have to raise my voice to my 8-y-o son because I just want the best for him.

I get the feeling she resents me as well. She wants to do her work. She wants to make her meetings. She wants to have her alone time. But despite the fact I gave her open invitations dozens of times to do ALL of that, I’m not specific enough. She says for the benefit of the family she is putting all of that stuff aside. And yet hear I am – I do EVERY SINGLE THING around this house. I cook, clean, vacuum, do laundry, maintain the cars, maintain the yard, try to grow a business, and countless other things. And yet she gets pissed at me at the very thought of letting Ryan do his own thing for an hour or two while this shit gets done.

I look at myself as a miracle worker. I get up before 9 everyday this summer. I do a ton of shit in the morning while they sleep. They get up and I alwayis have breakfast ready to do. I try playing with Ryan throughout the afternoon and evening when he’s not with his friends. At night I try doing to more work on the computer. I’m in bed around 11 or 12:00. This weekend I’m staying all day Sunday to spend time with the family and my cousin Athena. I’m then going to drive through the night 7 hours to Erie to get pipes installed on Optimus.

That’s just an example. The days vary. But the same cycle continues. Everyone wakes up eventually, I manage to piss someone off within 90 minutes (many times without even saying a fucking work), and the rest of the day goes to crap.

I’m tired of it. I’m sick to my stomach. This is not the life I envisioned. I look at myself as one of the best dads and husbands in the world. I do what I can for my family. And I have never met or known any man who can say they do half the shit I’ve done.

And yet it still isn’t enough. There is still always something wrong with what I do.

Ryan – women will absolutely destroy you. Things will seem great in the beginning. But over time, their emotions and hormone imbalances will make you wish you never married them.  They will make you feel inferior, and will find fault in every single thing they can. I don’t tell you this to scare you. I don’t tell you this to thing of dating men instead. I just feel like I need to warn you of the life that may lie ahead. Trying to co-exist with a woman, even the love of your life, may one day become a nightmare that you just want to escape from.

I love you Ryan. You are the reason I continue to put up with this bullshit. I hope you are 10-times more of a man than I ever will be. Maybe that will be enough to keep the spark in the connection between you and your future wife.

My earlier relationshipsNovember 6, 2020

1998 Alyse Pashman – I met Alyse while at a bar one night with my brother.  She was hosting the Karaoke singing.  She wasn’t exactly my type, but it had been a while since I dated anyone and she was very easy to talk to.  We chatted most of the night, and exchanged numbers.  We subsequently dated for a short time (less than four months).  I did have feelings for Alyse, but they weren’t growing.  And I found myself less and less attracted to her physically.  Plus at the end of our relationship is when I met Ania and started dating her as well.

Even though I broke it off with Alyse, I did reconnect with her in 2015 through Facebook.  We stay in touch a bit and chat once in a while.  She’s a good woman, but just isn’t for me.  I do wish her the best in her future.

 

1996 Dawn Stone We dated for a year.  She was the first person I officially had a relationship with and the first person I slept with.  I met her while cruising down Franklin Ave in Nutley (something I enjoyed doing).  I saw her, waved, pulled over, she got in, and the rest is history.

Though she’ll never admit it, unfortunately she cheated on me with my best friend since Kindergarten (Joe Geisel).  I subsequently broke it off and we didn’t speak for years.  But in my later 30s, we started chatting again via social media.

 

1992 Heather Lurker Heather was one of my first crushes in high school.  We both played in the band together, and though we didn’t know each other for very long, we started dating almost immediately.  Our relationship wasn’t very complicated, nor did we get to do many things together because of family and school obligations (and the lack of a car and the fact we lived 15 miles apart from each other).

But Heather was my first real girlfriend.  She was the first girl in school that I would hold hands with and share a kiss with.  We dated through the holidays of my freshman year and into the new year.  But she started to get upset with my lack of commitment.  It didn’t help that I had a very strict curfew and a mom who would not let me out of the house, even for an after school visit.  Heather was a senior while was only a freshman, and we just never got the chance to build our connection.  In fact we never even french kissed, even though I tried so many times.

In the end we broke up after only 3 months of dating.  She became somewhat abusive towards me and started getting other juniors and seniors on my case.  That is when a lot of the bullying started for me in high school.

Later in life I would learn that Heather was gay and married a woman.  She did reach out to me on social media and apologize for what she put me through in high school.  I don’t really think of her often, but once in a while her face and the good times we shared will randomly appear in my memory.

1997 Dominique (Mimi) Carissimo Simply put, Dominque was my first true love.  I had met her through a mutual friend, and though I found her very attractive and fun to be around, I never crossed the “relationship border” since she was dating other people at the time.  But we would still regularly chat and beep each other once in a while (beepers and pagers were the IN thing before cell phones).

Then the day came where our relationship would be brought to the next level.  Dominque called me hysterical crying one day after breaking up with a man she had dated for about a year.  So I came over and we took a ride to a local lookout with a nice view of NYC where we hung out for several hours.  I listened, she talked, I listened so more and gave pieces of advice whenever I could.  And before we knew it, 4 hours had gone by and it was time to return home.  But not before we would share our first kiss.

I started dating Mimi at that point, which was also a few months after Dawn and I broke up.  Mimi and I had a lot in common and shared many good times.  I would consider her the first woman I genuinely loved and wanted to have a long term relationship with.  She is someone I will never forget, and even to this day I will think about her often.

Towards the end of our relationship, we fought a lot.  Unfortunately she believed I was cheating on her and keeping secrets about other women I was seeing.  But in truth, that never happened.  I was faithful to her the entire time.

Eventually we broke up. I was always curious where she ended up, but I have not heard from her since.

 

MORE ABOUT MIMI

I didn’t really experience love until I was in college.  I had dated, minimally, during high school and had a few semi-long term relationships.  But nothing that I can look back on and say “wow – I was really in love with her.”

But that all changed when I started dating Dominque.  And I’m actually finding that it’s difficult for me to put my feelings into words for the purposes of this Footprint.  But I can honestly say that she was the first person in my life who I cared tremendously for.  She was the first girl who really meant something to me.

When we were together, we could talk for hours, or not say a word.  And either way, we still enjoyed each other’s company.  I had grown very close with her family (mainly her dad) and would regularly come by to help him around the house with things like painting or landscaping.  I would enjoy dinners with them as a family, and they would often invite me to short outings they went on as a family.

Simply put, the relationship I had with both her and her family gave me a taste of what married life might be like.  And at the time, she was the one I wanted to marry.  I wanted this to continue.  I wanted nothing more than to continue that bond and strengthen it even more.

But over time, the wall we had built together would crumble.  The good times turned sour.  We were fighting constantly, and looking back I can’t help but feel it was a combination of insecurities and our ages that contributed to most of it.  our last fight was pretty serious (never physical of course, but enough yelling), and that was the last time we saw each other.  We never officially shared a ‘goodbye’ or spoke after that moment.

However I will always hold a special place in my heart for her.  She was the first person who loved me unconditionally, and the person (that wasn’t family) I loved back.  She will always be missed, and a small piece of me hopes that one day we can reconnect to formerly close the final chapter in the book that current remains open.

Knight Rider KITT buildNovember 6, 2020

(Check out my PICS section for some photos of the car)

My family and I build a KITT replica from the 1980’s TV show “Knight Rider” (starring David Hasslehoff).  This build started shortly after our son Ryan was born in Nov 2007.  Prior to building this my wife (Ania and I) were big into motorcycling.  But when Ryan was born our priorities shifted and a new journey had begun.

 

So we began looking for a new hobby we could enjoy with Ryan.  We decided to go to a local car show one day and had a really awesome time there.  Sitting and watching, we started thinking about how cool it would be to have our OWN custom car.  Then thinking of the options and what fits our lifestyle / childhood, KITT was the ultimate dream-come-true.

 

So in late 2009 we purchased a 1988 Trans Am GTA Notchback from a gentleman in North Carolina.  I took a one-way flight down to see it, did some inspections on it, and then drove it back home (almost 13 hours – NOT comfortable!!!).  Immediately after getting the car, we began taking it apart and building / adding the KITT components. From a conversion “accuracy” standpoint, it’s approximately 80% accurate to what you would’ve see in the very last season of the TV show.

 

And what made the car SUPER unique was the rear hatch.  The “Notchback” edition was a 1-year only production option that was only available on the 1988 Pontiac Firebird Trans AM GTA (the exact model we had). A total of 718 GTA Notchbacks were produced in 1988 … 624 of which were sold in the United States.  The base model Trans Am we started with was an ORIGINAL Notchback … still in very good condition.  And knowing that there were less than two-dozen original Notchbacks left in the world at the time, we decided to deviate from the show a bit and keep this unique hatch on the car.  In fact, I believe we owned the world’s only Notchback-style Knight Rider KITT replica.

 

Since K.I.T.T. (from the TV show) was a car that had an array of very advanced features built into it, we were often asked: “does your car actually DO anything from the TV show?”  And many are pleasantly surprised when they learn about the “series-specific” functions we’ve added to our replica.  Here’s a short summary of K.I.T.T.’s major features:

 

– Four 100-watt surround speakers putting out the real voice of K.I.T.T. using actual clips from the TV show….also setup with voice recognition so the owner can have a

2-way conversation with the car

– Front CO2 sprayer, shooting a small burst of CO2 gas with the push of a dash button

– Rear Oil-slick, dropping a small stream of black water onto the ground

– Rear Rocket launcher, sending a rocket (made of PVC ) out the back about 40 ft.

– Turbine sound effects synced with the acceleration of the car’s engine, to simulate the jet turbine sound K.I.T.T.’s engine would make from the TV show

– A cockpit and rear-mounted camera system with basic night vision

– A fully operational dash, where all standard mechanics of the car are still visible

(speed, fuel, tachometer, turn signals, etc. )…which also powers on and off with a specific voice command

– Dial-tone sounds in the upper console area that produce a tone just like the TV show

– Push-button ignition kill switch linked with the upper and lower console buttons

(you need to press these buttons in a certain order to start the car)

It is my intent to hold onto this car as long as I can and ultimately pass it on to my son, Ryan.  Until that day, we are honored to be able to bring the car to various comic conventions and 80-themed events all over the east coast.  We never tried to profit from the car.  Instead we were all about bringing smiles to people’s faces.  And this car definitely succeeded in doing so.

This is a new line about meSeptember 30, 2020
What a daySeptember 29, 2020

It’s been quite a ride

Joe and ryan

Will Optimus live?

Test

another test

More Places I’ve Traveled To

I’ve traveled to several states including…