Category: Comedy

A weekend fishing trip

I don’t know if I’ve shared this with you all before and if not, I apologize in advance. I just thought it was important that you get to know a side of me that I don’t talk about very often on this blog. Revealing this side of me will hopefully serve in providing a richer blog experience for us all.

I am super masculine.

You may have sensed it as it palpably oozed off of these pages the past few years, but if you were unaware, you now know.

Getting this off of my chest allows me to take this blog in new and exciting directions. I’ll talk guy stuff like cars and engines and hunting and MMA fighting and motorcycles and meat. It will be killer and I hope you’ll ultimately agree.


This past weekend I flexed my manliness muscles in a big way with three days of fishing in Long Beach Island, NJ. The ultimate boys weekend. Fish guts, bait, beer, potato chips, football, farting and fist bumps.

Luckily for you, I captured the debauchery on camera so you could feel like you were right there with us.

Cheers.


Right off the bat, I made sure to capture my exploits on Instagram. Wait, what? Fishermen don’t drink local craft beers and then flaunt it on Instagram using the X-Pro II filter?

fishing-8

 

Oh, the goal is to catch more than one fish? So I shouldn’t be proud of the lone bluefish I caught? You can’t imagine the fight this one put up. Epic.

fishing-7

 

Is it safe to assume the same goes for my father as well? Isn’t the expectation of more than one fish caught over three days a wee bit high?

fishing-6

 

Next thing you’ll tell me is that selfies on the beach are a no-no as well. That beard looks solid though, doesn’t it? Did you say neck beard?

fishing-5

 

It took me a while to set up this vignette on the tackle holder thing. I like how the ruggedness of the knife is offset by the soft curvature of the shell.

fishing

 

I’m still not sure what the purpose of this “weight” thing is but it sure looks cool with an ocean backdrop in this shot.

fishing-4

 

I love the way the tree branches frame the entryway to the ocean  … I mean, let’s cast our rigs f’ers.

fishing-3

 

I had no idea shasta daisies could grow in the sand. I’d plant more to soften the edges of the decking.

fishing-2


So what are your first impressions? Excited about the new blog direction?

Breaking News

Frenchtown, NJ

The people in this small and tight knit rural New Jersey river town are in collective shock this afternoon after learning that one of their own has done the unthinkable; publicly denounce the ubiquitous and fall thriving plant known as “Stonecrop” (or “Sedum” to those garden snobs who throw around Latin plant names as a means to impress and ultimately intimidate).

John Markowski, a local avid gardener and supposed garden blogger, was allegedly discovered early this morning in a disillusioned state as he gave a tongue lashing to the previously mentioned “Sedum” plants in his sprawling garden. A neighbor, concerned that John seemed agitated and louder than usual as he walked through his garden early this morning, tried to approach him but was quickly rebuked by a look that he could only describe as “peculiar”.

Here is the unnamed neighbor’s take:

“John normally walks through the garden early each morning but he normally does so as if he were I don’t know, a giddy ballerina. The entire neighborhood knows this and we’ve all become accustomed to it. Whatever floats his boat.”

“But this morning was very different. Scarily different. There was an intensity like I’ve never seen before and the noises coming from within the garden were strange enough that it had both of my dogs barking incessantly.”

“I attempted to approach him to see what was wrong and all he was doing was mumbling to himself. All I could make out was ‘I’m done with sedums. I don’t like them and they will be removed from my garden’. Now I don’t know much about gardening, but I know enough to know that them there are the words of a crazy man. Everyone loves sedums, or whatever they are called. I quickly walked away and contacted my buddy at the local newspaper”. 

Upon receiving this tip, we immediately sent someone out to the property to monitor the situation but the self proclaimed ONG was nowhere to be found. We did, however, encounter a family spokesperson who offered little more than a “no comment” and “this family has suffered enough gardening drama to last a lifetime so please respect their privacy at this time.”  

We were however able to get this photo of what was allegedly the subject of Mr. Markowski’s wrath earlier today.          

sedum

Adorable and pink, right? 

After leaving the home, we sent an email to Mr. Markowski hoping to get his side of the story so it would quell the fears of all of the locals. Within a few hours we received a response and well, you be the judge:

“I appreciate your concern and the concern from my neighbors and all of the community. I assure you I am of sound mind and there is no reason for any drummed up hysteria. It is as simple as this: I no longer enjoy having sedums in my garden. They just don’t work for me any more or I should say, they just don’t “fit” any longer. I knew there would be great backlash if I removed and tossed them because the friggin world loves sedums, especially right now as we move into fall. I had to psych myself up in order to do away with them and that pep talk must have been what scared my neighbor away. You can all breathe easy, it is no big deal. As the years have gone by, my garden has taken on a look and feel of mostly native plants and the sedum stick out like a sore thumb. If it would make everyone happy, I would be thrilled to donate them all to the highest bidder, I mean first to reach out. Thank you for your concern. By the way, check out my blog at www.obsessiveneuroticgardener.com”

We’ll all have to chew on that one for a while.

We plan on taking some time to page through Mr. Markowski’s blog to see if we can further assess his current demeanor. 

Our best guess is that this story still has legs going forward. Dude has a serious case of too many ornamental grasses and not enough flowers in his garden. Just look at these photos we obtained from an anonymous source.

grasses

grasses 2

grasses 3

Something just smells wrong here.   

 

                    

Thursday Thoughts

Read at your own peril:

  • When a “farmer’s tan” becomes all the rage in fashion, I’ll be on the cover of Esquire. People were literally alarmed at the beach a few weeks back and my daughter got a case of the giggles like I’ve never seen before. It’s that bad … or good.

 

  • I’m way late to the party, but I just finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic”. A must read for those wanting to explore their creative side more. Too many quotes to add here but just know that I’m creating things like this on Instagram as a result. Scary, I know.

liz

 

  • Speaking of inspiration, I’m still all in on Gary Vaynerchuk and vow to one day work for him in some capacity. He lit a fire under this mid 40’s dude like I didn’t think was possible. I’m also creating things like this on Instagram as a result.

gary

  • I have many book ideas rolling around in my head and they range from a “An Illustrated guide to what not to do when gardening” to “How Joe Pye Weed changed my life” to “How to survive deer and shit soil”. Would you read any of those?

 

  • I’m negotiating with my daughter to dispose of her swingset/playground so I can install a large and fenced in vegetable/fruit garden. On one hand, It’s killing me to end that era as I remember pushing her for hours on end just based on her smile and remember teaching both kids how to jump off a swing in style. On the other hand, this could be epic and I could teach her all about growing your own and how to tend to a garden that bears food. On the other hand part II, do I have the time for such a venture? #GardenProblems

To pull or not to pull?

I need your 100% honest opinion below.

If you’ve visited here before and know me even slightly, I struggle with my OCD tendencies and need for control when it comes to gardening. While I enjoy and even prefer others wild and bold and out of control gardens, it takes a lot for me to create that same vibe in my own garden. I’m getting better, but I still fight the need for order and tamed plants.

And if I could play amateur psychologist for a moment, this personal need for control but a love for the more “out of control” extends to my “real” life. I find myself attracted to those people who are more outspoken, have a louder personality and aren’t afraid to say what they feel. They are an outlet for me to live vicariously through them. I’m jealous of their fearlessness.

So are our gardening lives a true reflection of our real lives? Or can we use gardening as an outlet to explore a different part of our personalities? Me thinks this is something I’ve been working through for years now, even if I wasn’t conscious of it most of the time. There is a much deeper discussion to be had here at a another time. I just need some more time to mull it over. Because the same parallel can be drawn with writing.

Moving on.

So as I was touring the garden this morning, I came upon this bit of “wildness” (relative term of course).

ocdIt took all I could handle to allow the white and purple coneflowers to coexist previously, but I could justify it since they were of the same genus. But now things are getting all sorts of wacky with that random Phlox ‘David’ appearing out of nowhere (not really “out of nowhere”, I know how it found its way there. I’m smart.) I so want to pull it out to restore order in the garden and more importantly, in my troubled cranium. Proudly, I managed to hold off so we could discuss together.

Progress.

So what would you do? Are any of you as insane as me? Do you stare whimsy in the face and say “not in my house” or are you a normal human being who appreciates such fun and random and fascinating garden happenings?

Please tell me I’m not alone.

 

Dangerous Garden Advice Ahead

“Over promise and under deliver”

“Measure once and cut twice”

“Fool me once, shame on … actually, let’s fast forward to the fool me twice part.”

Mantras I live by, albeit unintentionally, in life and in the garden.

I’m not proud but I own it. My therapist would be proud.

With that in mind, here are six things I won’t be doing in the garden this season. I’m sure you’re sick of all those positive blog posts encouraging you with ways to make your garden shine. You want justification to be lazy and skimp on all that work. I get that and that is what I am here to do for you today.

So with that in mind, my goal in sharing these shortcomings with you is that you’ll either:

a. Do the opposite in order to not be like this lazy and uninformed gardener
or
b. Feel just as comfortable as I do in ignoring them as I’ll share my twisted justification with you.

Here we go:

1)Get a soil test – every year I say I am going to do it and every year I forget about it amid the excitement and pressure to add more plants to my garden in spring. Call it lazy or call it having one’s priorities messed up, it simply doesn’t happen. While I get the benefits of understanding my soil and all that it is comprised of and what it is lacking, I’m to the point now where I know what plants I can stick in the ground and feel confident that they’ll survive in their new surroundings.

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2)Fertilize – no chemicals for this guy, as I’m talking about natural options. I’ve read up on what works best for what plant and I’ll even go as far as purchasing the supplements, but that is where it ends. Maybe it is due to the fact that I have a “survival of the fittest” mentality when it comes to my garden; if you don’t like my clay soil and poor drainage and deer, f you, I know many others who do and they never complain. Or I could just be plain lazy (sensing a trend here?).

3)Careful planning before planting – I could barely type this due to my howling laughter. L O frickin L. Planning is boring, true gardeners buy what they like and ask questions later. Almost all Some of my greatest plant combos/vignettes were created by accident.

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The few times where I actually developed a well thought out plan, it bombed terribly and I ended up starting over.

4)Always properly space your plants – If you have “Plant Location ADD” like me, this doesn’t matter. No plant gets a chance to reach its full size before I relocate it. So I say stuff those plants as close together as you can and enjoy the lack of bare earth. If you are a patient gardener, my hat is off to you but just know we can never be friends.

5)Do not plant or transplant on hot sunny days – I’ll do it when I want to and nobody can stop me. Plus all of my best design ideas occur in summer when all plants have emerged and are thriving. That is when we have the best view and perspective. And I sure ain’t waiting until fall to realize those ideas.

If we continue to make it so easy and coddle our plants, how are they going to survive when times really get tough? Teach them young that it life is tough and they will thank you later. Give them some water and they’ll find a way to make it through.

6)Stop and smell the roses:

a. I don’t grow roses – thanks soil and thanks deer
b. Who’s got time to actually enjoy the garden when there is work to do.
c. Damn kids and their activities getting in the way
d. I’ll enjoy it tomorrow … after I divide this grass … and extend this bed … and divide these irises.
e. I have a deviated septum and have virtually no sense of smell

 

To hug or not to hug

This post may make future functions with friends and family incredibly awkward or it may resolve a decades long unspoken issue between many of us. My gut tells me it is the latter, so I’m willing to push on, all in the name of improved familial relations.

The truth is, steps were taken this past Saturday night to address something that has stressed me out for decades – the process of greeting and saying goodbye to friends and family. I know, you all go about it without a care in the world, a mere afterthought, but I’m just not that fortunate. If someone had created and distributed the rules when I was younger, I’d be fine. Simply follow the rule book and move on. But as far as I can tell, that set of rules was never created and that is a shame. I could have enjoyed life a whole lot more up until this point.

Back to Saturday night.

We were enjoying a hearty wintry meal with extended family, impeccably prepared by my better half, with the six of us (all sans children) seated around our dining room table. The wine was flowing as was the conversation. A lot of laughs were had and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to broach a lighthearted yet vital topic.

“Hey guys, on a scale of 1-10, how comfortable are all of you with greeting each other, friends and other members of your family?”  

Crickets chirped.

Silence.

Shit, I ruined a fun and carefree moment.

But I waited it out. I was all in now.

“Are you kidding, I never kiss HIM hello.” Yes!

“We see each other so often, there is no need for a physical embrace.” Amen sister!

“That dude goes right in for the kiss every time and I barely know him.” You’re preaching to the choir!

Nice, let’s get into it.

I am not an overly touchy feely type guy. No deep seated psychological issues and no parent to blame either. I am not anti affection, just overly sensitive to how others perceive my affection. I don’t want to ever do it wrong. I respect others’ personal space and hold it sacred as well. I also know that from time to time my breath can be somewhat questionable (TMI, I know, but I drink a lot of coffee). If I had to sum it up, it’s not that I don’t feel warmth from a hug or genuinely enjoy seeing someone who I haven’t seen in a while, I just struggle with the formality of the initial embrace.

In order to deal with this silly yet very real hang-up, I have created a robust, albeit imaginary, spreadsheet in my head that outlines the greeting tendencies of various friends and family members. I access it daily in order to best prepare for the inevitable greetings. This one is a “hugger”, that one is a “fist bumper”, that one practically wants to make out and that one finds an excuse to walk away at the right moment. With that important info in tow, I can navigate the sitch.

What made our Saturday night dinner discussion so enjoyable, beyond the beef tenderloin and popovers, was that I learned that I wasn’t alone. My sister-in-law and cousin-in-law paddled in the same boat as me. They clearly had analyzed personal embraces as much as I had. I wasn’t so strange after all.

The more wine that was poured and the more we chatted about bear hugs and high fives, the more we collectively realized that people could easily be placed into categories. Categories of how they said hello and goodbye. The extremes of physical touch and last second head turns.

Luckily for you, I’m here today to provide you with these specific categories. It is a great reference for those of you who struggle with social interactions. Feel free to bookmark it for future reference.

THE ALL-IN PERSON

You know who I am talking about. The individual who goes all in aggressively regardless of your relationship to them. A massive hug, a kiss on the lips and maybe even a face squeeze. I actually find these people to be easy to deal with. I simply sit back, let them do their thing and survive it. I don’t have to worry about my actions because they are oblivious to what I am doing.

hugging

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BRO-HUG

These dudes scare me. Aggressively male and the hug usually follows with an unnecessary punch to the arm. The biggest question is whether or not there is a slap or two on the back after the hug. I usually let the aggressor make that call and I try to quickly return the slap(s).

Bro-hug

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BRO-HUG LITE

The most terrifying embrace by far. It requires one to recognize that a “lite” hug is coming and not the full-on version. Any mix of the two becomes unbearably awkward. Even if it is properly identified ahead of time, it is still difficult to pull off. One must rotate about 45 degrees and the other must remain with both shoulders facing their counterpart. The head tilt down is optional. And both parties must remain stoic throughout the embrace, with no words spoken. Terrifying.

bro hug 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

STANDARD HUG

This one seems easy at the surface, but it is anything but that. First decision, are you going in with your head tilted to the left or to the right? I prefer the left and decided a long time ago to stick with that in all circumstances. Second decision, how long is the hug? A quick 1 second or do you linger longer? I think of it as a formula where you have to factor in how close you are to your fellow hugger and how long has it been since you’ve seen them. There is also a height differential issue that comes into play. I’m 6 foot 3 and have to contend with this often. The last thing you want to do is rest the chin on the head because you cannot pull that off and not look creepy.

hug

 

 

 

 

 

 

STANDARD HUG WITH A CHEEK KISS

Oh lord I hate this one. I hate it when I know it is coming because I turn my cheek in anticipation and that looks weak. I hate when I am caught off guard and had assumed it was just the standard hug. It sends the message that my counterpart was not worthy of the standard hug with a cheek kiss. There is also a decision to be made post cheek kiss. Do you time it so the kiss and hug occur at the same time, or do you allow yourself to be kissed and then go in for the hug. And similar to the “standard hug”, how long does one linger with the hug. And for future reference, I am never the “kisser”, unless it is my wife or kids.

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THE HANDSHAKE

Relatively easy one between two dudes. One challenge is to up the other in terms of the handshake firmness. I like to win that one but some times the other dude is just built like an ox and it is hopeless. The other challenge is to determine if your partner may be a germaphobe and may not want to shake at all.

Where it gets really awkward is with the opposite sex. Is a handshake a bit disrespectful to a woman? Should it really be? What justifies the jump to a hug? Is it easier to just wave “hello”? Is it possible to pull that off without looking like a tool? I’m exhausted.

handshake

 

 

 

 

 

THE DEAD FISH HANDSHAKE

The biggest challenge with this one is to not immediately react to the corpse like hand and to some how garner respect for that same individual.

dead-fish-handshake1

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FIST BUMP

I guess this is the alternative to the handshake but I never include it in my arsenal. I think it is now officially a thing of the past. So 2010.

fist bump

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE NO CONTACT PERSON

This is the one who establishes early on that you will not be making any physical contact with them. Easy to deal with when someone has already been identified as a “no contact person”, a simple “Hi” is all that is needed. Where it gets tricky is when you do not know for sure. It may be someone you met once before and didn’t get a chance to determine how they embrace. Or someone you’ve come to know better over time and when you see them it would make sense to now hug. Or someone who comfortably greets someone of the same sex but has different rules for the opposite sex. Even more of a reason for the mental spreadsheet.

No-Hugs

 

 

 

 

 

Look for an upcoming post where I’ll address the rules of workplace interactions including the holding of a door and how to navigate the men’s room.

You’re welcome.

Not thankful for the following

Here is what I am not thankful for this year:

Large kid themed shopping carts – I am proud of the fact that we never allowed our children to spend even one second in one of these awful vehicles. The turn radius alone guarantees at least one display will be toppled over each visit. Not to mention the aisle clog factor is way upped when these are involved.

Nip the whiny-kid-thing in the bud early and make them ride in a standard cart under all circumstances. Life isn’t always fun kiddo and being pushed around while eating animal crackers ain’t a bad way to go through life.

supermarket_cart

 

The Property Brothers – Dude. Enough already. They’ve been around for like a decade already right? 15 minutes ain’t over?

Twins weird me out in the first place and these two Stepford Husbands just make me never want to put on HGTV ever again. Admittedly, I’ve only watched a few episodes but that was enough to draw a definitive conclusion. Home rehab is never as easy as they make it seem and you should never knock down a wall looking that good/creepy.

You know the long play here is to make it into TV/Movies (their father was an actor/director … yes I do my research) and in fact, Drew made it into one of my holiday flicks which made me delete it immediately. I have more integrity than that.

Kudos though to some fantastic facial hair.

property-brothers-1024

 

My facial hair – no lie, that is like 4-5 days worth of growth. I’m an embarrassment to middle aged men everywhere.

not thankful for

 

Food Network programming – I was a huge fan of the Food Network back in the day when it was all about the cooking and none of the showmanship. I blame Emeril for the inevitable downfall into celebrity and style and no substance.

But it is at an all time low right now with all of the game shows and 97 different versions of Chopped where 8 year olds are making appetizers out of gum and duck bills. And I don’t need to watch contestants try to cook while holding a bowling ball in their pocket. Thank God Ina Garten is still around to keep some of the original integrity.

cutthroat kitchen

 

Canker sores – If you are a sufferer of canker sores, you know how damn frustrating they are. No truly known cause and they come in waves. Eating becomes miserable as does talking. If I tune out my family, they immediately know why.

This year they’ve been worse than ever and I’ve had enough. C’mon scientists, give me a root cause already. If it means I have to eat upside down, I’ll friggin do it.

canker

 

The word “frankly” – The definition is:

In an honest and direct manner

This term is way overused and IMHO, misused as well.

“Quite frankly John, I’m going to lunch now.”

“To be completely frank, I’m totally not sure.”

Frankly_650

 

The loose definition of eminent domain – The definition as I understood it (same goes for Merriam-Webster):

A right of a government to take private property for public use

Never in a million years did I know a private company could do the same all in the name of the almighty dollar. The ultimate wake-up call of 2015. We’re fighting it, will be fighting it for the foreseeable but already, there are good signs for us.

Check this out:

Cracks are beginning to show

eminentdomain

 

Round-up still being used – I’m no scientist, but I’ve read/seen enough to know this stuff is bad. I don’t need to see any more. European countries have banned it as a known carcinogen and it’s high time we consider doing the same. Just pull the weeds or put up with some already won’t you?

That is coming from a rehabbed obsessive and neurotic gardener.

Roundup-Monsanto

 

Facebook know-it-alls – I know I just dedicated an entire post to all that is Facebook, but with the recent events in Paris and the subsequent refugee discussion, so called layperson experts have emerged from both sides of the political spectrum. And damn if people aren’t downright nasty and aggressive about it. I didn’t realize how many people gathered all the facts in such a short period of time and have drawn definitive conclusions already. The days of civil discussion are done.

cat

 

Facebook hate explained

My Facebook hate … here we go.

If you are friends with me on Facebook, chances are I’ve completely stalked you by now.

Before you contact the authorities, let me clarify.

When I say “stalk”, I mean not in a creepy looking-through- your-window-at-night kind of way, but more like I’ve enjoyed your pics, investigated your “likes” and browsed your Wall (if it’s even called that anymore). We all expect that right? We put it all out there realizing this is going on regularly, right? I know I do.

I find people fascinating. I find the mundane fascinating. I find both ends of the political spectrum fascinating. I find sad stories fascinating. I find baby pigs fascinating. And guess where you can find all of those things in one nice and tidy location? You nailed it, The Facebook.

I suffer from Facebook hate because I can’t pull myself away from it. And it has been like this since 2008, when I joined FB. I don’t think this is normal for a 43 year old man but it’s me. I made a pledge to myself when I started this blog to be completely transparent and that is what I am doing here. I’m not proud of it, but it feeds the curiosity gene in me.

Just a few of my favorite things on FB:

POLITICAL ANGER – I have my share of friends (and subsequently their friends’ friends) who fall to the left and to the right. And are they ever convinced that they have it all figured out. Never mind the fact that they only seek out information from sources that feed their existing beliefs (like www.liberalssuckbigtime.com or www.everyconservativeisabigot.org).

Once they post said information and others of the same ilk chime in, it is like friggin bedlam. A snowball rolling down hill fast. Anger and hatred that I would have never thought they were capable of displaying.

So much for the “gray”.

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THE VAGUE COMMENTER – We all know who these people are. And while most of you dismiss their narcissism, I can’t get enough.

“A very good thing might be happening to someone at some time.”

Wow, count me in. I cannot wait for the follow-up. This is a better cliffhanger than an episode of Breaking Bad. We don’t know who, what, when or why, but damn if I don’t need to find out how it all works out.

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CUTE ANIMAL STUFF – True confession, I hate cats and they hate me. I have no idea how to handle them and I don’t get their eccentricities. But give me a dog or a pig or even a panda and I’ll cry all day.

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THE IRRESISTIBLE LINKS – You know what I’m talking about.

“Top ten worst dressed soap actresses.”

“Ten child actors that became like real ugly.”

“Ten harrowing photos of people right before they were attacked by zoo animals.”

You know you shouldn’t but you click it any way. And then you get stuck in the whirlwind that is other links and fake “next” buttons and before you know it, you have 13 windows opened and cannot remember how you got there.

 

NON-CONTROVERSY CONTROVERSY – While I rarely comment on such things, I find it to be a great study in humanity after reading the 571 comments about why Starbucks is the devil.

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UNDESERVED CELEBRITY – The Kardashian’s come to mind. Ignore them and they will eventually go away, right? Probably, but I can’t. But I justify it by believing I am an amateur sociologist and I need to understand what makes them tick.

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ALLOWING REAL LIFE DRAMA TO PLAY OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA – This can be either heartbreaking or awkward or funny and once I’ve been pulled in, I cannot jump ship. There is a real human side to this in many instances and I do believe it helps people cope by putting it out there to an audience. Would I do it? Not a chance, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not fascinated by it.

 

THE GOOD – No matter your opinion on social media, and the notion that there is a lot of hatred and nonsense on Facebook, there is still so much good to glean from others all over the world.

Tolerance

Compassion

Shared tragedies

Exposure to those we don’t encounter in our daily lives

And on a personal level, I’ve formed friendships with many over the past few months who are dealing with the same fight we are fighting against. FB has allowed us to easily communicate, share important links and just think together in a closed, yet open forum.

That kicks ass.

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Sappy holiday movies are the greatest

Before I continue, I must share this with you all first.

man card

Judging by the title of this post, I’m sure you can figure out why I voluntarily stamped my own card. I should have done it a long time ago but I wasn’t emotionally ready to do so until now. I feel so much better now that it is out in the open and thank you in advance for your understanding.

My name is John and …

I love sappy holiday movies.

Take a minute to allow that to soak in …

Pause …

Pause …

Pause …

I can’t get enough of the fabulously cheesy holiday fare that is put out by Lifetime and the Hallmark Channel each year. 

That’s right, you heard me. Not an ounce of sarcasm either. I’ll put it right up there with listening to the Peanuts Christmas soundtrack, eating cookies and watching the kids open their presents on Christmas morning.

I’ve kept this a secret for years running with the only one aware being my holiday-movie- watching-confidante, Mrs. M. She warned me of the repercussions of this announcement but I went against her better judgment. Even if I’ve influenced only one of you to sit through one of these sappy holiday movies, I’ve done my service for the season.

Starting mid-November each year, we blindly DVR each and every holiday themed movie without reading the description. No initial judgment is passed. Many are movies we’ve enjoyed in the past with a handful of newly introduced titles included. Within days, the DVR is 97% filled and we can kick our plan into motion.

After the kids are in bed, we retire to the boudoir and hit “play” on the very first move on the list. We then agree to give it at least 15 minutes before rendering a decision. If after 15 minutes we’re not feeling it, it gets erased from the DVR and from our memory all together. We don’t take notes for the next year. It is too much fun to reevaluate the same movie again and again for years to come.

If the movie does pass the 15 minute test, we’ll keep watching it and often times it may take three viewings to get through it. Since we initiate the process at a later hour now that the kids are getting older, we often fall asleep during the movie. A joyous falling asleep I must add. It’s even fun to reconnect in the morning and remember the last scene we were still awake for.

“I remember when she hired the fake boyfriend to come home with her at Thanksgiving.”

“And I remember when she found out that her job wouldn’t allow her to travel back home for the holidays and her parents were devastated.”

Fun, right?

How is each movie evaluated you may ask? While it is tough to quantify, here is just some of my criteria (my wife will have to post hers under separate cover):

  • No supernatural stuff (wishes granted, manger scene coming to life, etc.) unless it is imagining how a different life may have panned out (even if you have to climb through a dryer to get there).

sappy holiday movies

  • Only a light tone will work. There can be, there must be, a serious message underneath, but I am looking for whimsy.
  • While all locales are an option, the preferred is to start out in NYC and then work your way home to an unnamed town that looks like it fell out of a Thomas Kinkade Christmas painting.
  • Anything with Joey Lawrence and I am in (whoa).

hitched

  • An all knowing Santa that doles out sage advice at the local Christmas Tree Farm gets me every time.
  • I cannot get enough of the aforementioned hire fake boyfriend/girlfriend and then really fall in love arc.

sappy holiday movies

  • Speaking of preferred arcs, give me bah humbug corporate hack that doesn’t get the true meaning of Christmas until he or she meets a hopeless Christmas romantic every day of the week (especially if she runs a Christmas hat store).

The criteria is ever evolving so I will have to keep this updated as each and every holiday season continues to pass.

And of course when you are a Hallmark Channel aficionado, you reserve the right to be critical from time to time. So if you executives/script writers are listening, here are a few tips, free of charge, from this sappy holiday movies watching veteran:

  1. No more exes running into each other unexpectedly in their hometown without knowing what the other had been doing for years now. It is called Facebook stalking and everyone does it.
  2. Stop with the struggling actor/advertising rep/young writer who lives in even a decent apartment in Manhattan. That one burns me to no end. No one can afford to live in Manhattan, please relocate them to Queens or even Hoboken.
  3. Please up the acting standards for the quirky best friend. There is a fine line between quirky and really freaking annoying. You know the difference.
  4. Less whiny children as well. In fact, let’s eliminate kids completely. My guess is the budget for these movies doesn’t allow for the hiring of kids with much talent so let’s not bring down the overall quality by subjecting people to the little ones’ lack of talent.

Faithful readers, if you are looking for recommendations, please feel free to email me and I will break them out by category/story arc if you so desire. Thanksgiving movies are very underrated and there are some beauties out there right now.

Or, do yourself a favor and check out some of the movies listed here. It will change your entire outlook on the holiday season.

You are welcome.

From: Your sappy holiday movies expert.

 

 

 

 

 

Receiving therapy in Vermont

If I asked you “When are the two best times to visit Vermont?”, what would you say? I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest it is “Fall Foliage” season and “Skiing” season, am I right? If I think this through, that most likely covers all of October for foliage and then maybe the last two weeks of November through early May for skiing, correct? And you really can’t go wrong the remainder of May through September either as summer in Vermont is kind of gorgeous as well.

So only a visit during the small window of the first few weeks in November would be kind of silly, right? A dead zone if you will. If I apply some math to this we are looking at a 49/52 or 94.2% chance that your visit to Vermont is going to be all sorts of awesome.

Well not for this non-foliage enjoying and non-skiing brood. That is not how we roll. Give us a small window of nothing going on and we are so there. This past weekend we apparently arrived in Vermont during the peak “brown foliage”time or “stick season” as we came to learn from the locals.

woods 2

Truth be told, our 4 day trip to Stratton, Vermont was phenomenal. Even the post-peak foliage season is stunning.

equinox pond 2

equinox pond

We have friends who recently purchased a townhouse in Stratton and even if they were initially all like “Seriously, you want to visit us now?” they were still gracious enough to host us non-skiers without hesitation.

Speaking of non-skiing … I had some unresolved issues with skiing that bubbled to the surface this weekend and I’m proud to say I kind of think I worked through them.

Some necessary background:

During my senior year of high school, I joined the ski club. I had yet to ski at that point in my life, but thought joining the group would:

a)look good on the high school resume (don’t ask)

b)provide an opportunity to do something I had never attempted before

c)be a fun hang/social opp.

Makes sense right? Well it turns out I never had the chance to take advantage of the experience.

Since I was on the high school varsity basketball team during the winter sport season, we were not allowed to ski, at all, for fear of sustaining an injury. Now shockingly, none of us when on to basketball stardom in the NBA, let alone the NCAA, but that was the rule and we had no choice but to abide. That included #50, power forward extraordinaire.

basketball

Still, I was not happy.

It all came to a head one Friday night in January, 1990 when we had a basketball game against our rival, Waldwick High School, which coincided with the one huge ski trip for the ski club. As an immature yet awesomely mulletted 17 year old, I was super pissed off. I was missing the social event of the year. A chance to chill with the ladies … OK, “chill” may not be the right word since I had less than zero game, more like a chance to hang in the vicinity of the ladies and hang with my boys. But no, basketball was apparently more important.

By tip-off of our game, we had like 10 fans in the crowd. Our home court was filled with the visiting team’s fans and my anger level reached an all time high. It was my senior year dammit and not only was I missing a friggin life changing event, but our last rival game was going to suck as well. The woes of a teenager.

The suckage level peaked even higher when the scoreboard clock read “0:00”. I remember it like it was yesterday. We had what was supposed to be an insurmountable lead at 51-39 with 3 minutes remaining in the game. Somehow we managed to not score again. We ended up losing 52-51 when their point guard literally fell backwards at the foul line and threw up a desperation two handed overhead shot that somehow managed to go in. The crowd went berserk, on our home court, and I was f’n crushed.

I carried that anger for a long time after the game had ended. And I took it out on all of the “skiers”. Just the sight of a ski tag on a CB jacket pissed me off.

cb

Because truth be told, I always envied/was annoyed by those who skied. There was a coolness factor that came with skiing and since I fell towards the other end of the cool spectrum, I was easily annoyed at anything close to “cool”. Without ever giving it a whirl, I knew I would fail miserably at skiing. Leg coordination was not my thing. One attempt at surfing and I knew to stay away from the leg/feet sports. To this day, I have no ability to kick a soccer ball.

Ski trips/vacations also always held this special luster in my mind.

“We’re going to Vail this weekend. We’ll ski all day and hang in the lodge at night.”

That sounded uppity and a place where all the cool kids would hang out. Even after that was done, you could wear your ski tags all winter on your jacket and people would look at it like a badge of honor.

“Where did you go? Aspen, right on bro, we just got back from Killington.”

Even the ski locales had sick names.

So you combine my skier jealousy with the fact that skiing deeply impacted the most important basketball game of my career and I can see why I subconsciously avoided a visit to Vermont during its best time of year. Who knew there was a psychological aspect  of “skiing avoidance”? I think I just invented it.

But I’m proud to say I may be over it after this weekend. Thank you J & A for the therapy session. And yes, it is OK that you are all avid skiers. And that your 6 year old son is not only more athletic than me, but can no doubt ski circles around me. I can accept that now.

Thank you for selling our family on the benefits of snowshoeing and tubing. While I may feel like the kid who can’t leave the shallow end of the pool, it is progress. Hopefully my kids will avoid the dreaded ski envy and join you all one day. Maybe I will even set foot on the slopes … and get to wear kick ass looking goggles and get a ski lift ticket of my own.

One can dream.

Some other ditties from the weekend:

  • I love a saloon. I love the term and the connotation. We went to one for dinner on Saturday night and it rocked. Local, pretension free and solid food and drink. This was not a bar, it was a saloon. Very different in concept. The only things missing were a set of swinging doors upon entering.

saloon-doors-adam-burn

And the patrons staring at us with that “You ain’t from these parts” look.

Also, a shot tossed down the bar from the bartender would have been a nice touch.

  • Kids loving hanging in bars. At least that is what we learned as our collective four children loved playing pool and feeding quarters into the jukebox while the four adults enjoyed quiet dinners sans children. I think we could agree this wasn’t a parenting highlight, but it is amazing how much easier it is to justify a decision when you have other parents involved in the decision making process. It’s as if we each said to ourselves “Well, if ‘blank’ says it is OK and we kind of trust their judgment then it must be OK.”
  • Vermont makes the greatest beer. This is now my new favorite beer in existence.

rock-art-limited-access-dipa

  • I have crossed that threshold where any physical activity has a 90% probability rating that it will result in injury. The kids planned, practiced and obsessed over a football game against the adults. In the past, this was a fun charade where, because we are nurturing parents, we allowed the kids to win without them realizing it. However, within 2 minutes of this football game, we realized times, they are a changin’. The kids were smart enough to implement a “wear the dads out” game plan that was genius. We were quickly down 21-0 when I decided to temporarily put them in their place. I returned a kickoff for a touchdown prancing along the way like a young Deion Sanders. That is if Deion had just about ripped his groin apart and couldn’t really walk right the remainder of the weekend.
  • I’d be plenty fine with hitting the “pause” button on the aging process for all of the kids right now.

kids leaves

kids path

jamie parker

riley

jack jamie

Tune in next time when my family visits Washington DC right before the cherry trees are in bloom and then as we head on down to New Orleans the week after Mardi Gras.