the rabbit hole.

Some days there are things that trigger me….it can be a good trigger (usually tied to something musical), or a bad trigger. I had something that triggered me the other day, and I’ve been really trying not to let it consume me, but I’m struggling. This is what I refer to as “going down the rabbit hole.”

When I was in high school, my dad was a very popular and respected teacher at my school. There were students that would kiss up to him, and treat me and my brother like dog shit, for lack of a better term. As my dad did nothing to discourage this, it is something that I’ve never forgotten, nor will I ever forget. There are people in my life now that do that with me and Jenn, and it sometimes is a trigger. They either ignore me to my face like I don’t exist, or they only speak to me because other people they feel are more important are in the vicinity, and they have an image to maintain….seriously, ARE YOU THAT SHALLOW??? I’m not mentioning any names, but a lot of their lives revolve around acronyms….I’ll just leave it at that.

The situation with Lauryn only adds fuel to this fire…..the 10+ years that I’ve spent trying to be in her life as best I could now mean nothing to her (and I know why she’s been made to feel that way), and we may not speak again for years, or possibly never again. The feeling of detachment is truly hard to describe, as there are days when It feels like I’ve failed her as her dad. And that’s when I feel like I’m really down the rabbit hole.

No hop in my step today.

Crosby, Stills & Nash have a lyric in one of their classic songs – “Don’t let the past remind us of what we are not now.” What if you feel surrounded by people who either think of you strictly because of your mistakes, or they just can’t forgive in general? What’s even worse is when you feel treated differently for no reason….I have one friend who seemed like a supportive person, and now they only communicate in one-word answers.

I know, don’t worry about what other people think….but what about when it’s your daughter, or people that put a wedge between you and your family, and know that they’re doing it and don’t care? These aren’t my friends, and I’m tired of being treated this way. Right now, I feel as if I’ve replaced my daughter with my dog, and I know that’s a horrible thing to say. Otto loves unconditionally – he doesn’t remember my mistakes and hold a grudge, and as “Human’s Best Friend”, he sure as hell doesn’t try to be a pretentious asshole like some of the people in my environment.

When I started this blog, I made a promise to myself – “to thyself be true”….this blog is a space to write how I’m feeling, good bad or whatever. Sometimes I might be pissed off when I write in here – this is one of those times. But I’ll work through this, and I’ll bounce back, and feel good about all of the wonderful things and GOOD people I do have in my life. It might be time to take another social media break, especially after all of the negativity of the last few months…..it definitely has not brought much positivity to our society.

Time to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again….and climb out of the rabbit hole.

the redemption of johnny lawrence.

“Don’t let the past remind us of what we are not now.” – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

I’ve started watching Cobra Kai on Netflix. I won’t be a spoiler, but I can tell you that this gives a completely different spin to the original Karate Kid movies.

There’s a common perception that people never change. That’s not true – we can all look back on who we used to be. The journey isn’t easy….even as we try to correct past mistakes, we keep making new ones.

Trying to put his best foot forward.

What’s interesting about the character of Johnny in Cobra Kai (the villain in the original movie) 😊is that he’s aware of the path to changing his life for the better, but he still keeps getting in his own way. A day does not go by where I don’t feel like I’m having the same issue. My heart is in the right place, but I don’t know how to convey how I’ve changed, and it’s not recognized by others. This can be disheartening and disappointing, but I know that I’m on the right path.

There’s a storyline in the show with which I can truly relate – it involves the strained relationship between parent and child. There are scenes that really resonate with me, because the negative perceptions and external voices far outweigh the reality. The frustration of the characters trying to reconnect really hits home with me, as there are barriers that keep this from happening.

If you haven’t watched Cobra Kai, it’s very well-written, and it has added dimensions to Daniel and Johnny that gives them tremendous depth. It’s intriguing to see them in a different light, because you see how they’ve grown and gone in very different directions with their lives.

To Johnny Lawrence, I say thank you….we’re both finding our way to redemption, and doing it one step (or kick) at a time.

forgiveness……believe the hype.

Otto took a leak on the downstairs carpet last night.

Yes, my initial reaction was anger, but less than 30 minutes later, we were out on our evening walk, and I truly enjoyed being out in the crisp air walking Otto around the block.

This afternoon, it dawned on me – why was it so easy to forget about the carpet and enjoy my evening? Why was it so easy NOT to hold a grudge? Yes, he’s a puppy and these things happen, but why do we find it so hard to forgive each other when we make mistakes?

My ex-girlfriend Tina and I broke up over 25 years ago, and to this day, she still holds a grudge because of an argument we had. Forget the fact that I apologized – what’s the point in carrying that anger and resentment for 25 years? My college roommate and I had a falling out about five years ago….we reconnected last Christmas, and although we don’t talk as much as we used to, I hold no grudges. It just doesn’t feel healthy.

Another reason why they’re “people’s best friend”….thank you, buddy. 😊❤️🐶

I know I’ve said and done things that have hurt people, and I’ve had things said and done to me that were hurtful and traumatic. It’s been very hard, but I’ve forgiven those people who I felt wronged me. My daughter sent me a very angry and vulgar text this fall, and I had no choice but to forgive her. The words still hurt, and the course of our relationship has significantly changed, but there’s nothing gained by holding a grudge.

It comes down to this – if you carry a grudge and cannot forgive, how can you expect forgiveness? Yes, the saying is “forgive but not forget”, but how is carrying a grudge part of forgiving? We’re all forgiven by God’s grace, and yet we still feel the need to not try and turn the other cheek.

It’s a new year – we all can agree that none of us will miss 2020….I’m choosing to look for the good in people, even the ones who have hurt me deeply. I wish no ill will on anybody, and I hope that others will continue to show compassion and forgiveness as well. It’s needed now more than ever.

And as appreciative as I am for being reminded by Otto’s mistake, I truly hope that forgiveness doesn’t end up going to the dogs.

steroid cars, the unnecessary “u”, and a poem from my nightmare.

The Ford Company meant well.

They spent a pretty penny reuniting the main characters from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to introduce their new hybrid Mustang. I’m sure it will have some nice bells and whistles, but I can’t help but wonder if this car will be the Edsel of the new millennium.

What next? An F-150 that runs on a 9-volt battery?

Gone are the days of muscle cars revving their engines at a red light to the music of Steppenwolf – are they now replaced by hybrid muscle cars (Steroid cars) competing to see who’s engine is more silent while listening to Kenny G’s “Songbird?” God, I hope not.

Going to Great Britain is on my bucket list after COVID, as I want to see everything from Big Ben to the West End. There’s a lot to love about England, from the history of the Beatles to going to see Buckingham Palace (they even drive on the left side of the road, just like they do on the Maryland side of the Beltway! 😂)…I just have one small pet peeve….why the extra U between words with O and R? Are we uncivilized in America for spelling color instead of “colour?” (On a side note, Living Colour gets a free pass, because their music is so awesome.) If it was called “Mister Rogers Neighbourhood”, I would expect Mr. Belvedere to come through the front door!

And he’s already got the sweater.

Anyway, these two things popped into my head at 2:27 this morning, after waking up from a horrible dream. What I vividly remember was saying these words to someone in my dream, and it’s been on my mind all day….perhaps because we’re just about to end one of the worst years of our lives, and I’m hoping that next year brings peace and prosperity to everyone. Here’s the poem: “For the wretched venom that you spew/bad karma will come back to you/first walk a mile in another’s shoe/and then you’ll know what you should do. Whenever it snows, whenever it rains/may frigid ice run through your veins/your evil words you can’t contain/just show that you don’t use your brain.” Perhaps my subconscious is tired of all the bickering on social media?

Nipsey Russell is haunting my dreams.

May 2021 be a wonderful year…perhaps I’ll get a steroid car with a red colour?

christmas 2020 – the “duct tape” holiday.

This horrendous year is almost over. We’ve seen so much negativity and sadness this year, and there seems to be a level of exhaustion that our society has not seen for quite some time.

I know that Christmas still is the most wonderful day of the year for a lot of people. I used to feel this way, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s more about the real meaning of Christmas, much more so than the commercialization of the holiday. I enjoy seeing the happiness of others this time of year, but as I no longer have any of the traditions that I grew up with as a child, I just don’t get into the holiday spirit the way I used to.

That brings us to 2020 – a year in which COVID and social injustice were a part of all of our lives. Just this past weekend, I found out that five of my friends lost loved ones, with a few of these due to COVID. I have other friends who are seeing the impact of COVID on their families, as it’s impacted our abilities to be together during the holidays.

It must be the he holiday season in 2020. May this become a fashion accessory of the past in 2021.

I had a very good friend ask me today how I was feeling about the holiday, as they were struggling….I told them that I feel like it’s a “duct tape” holiday, as a lot of us are just trying to hold it together. Im thankful for a lot of things this year (including our new floofy bundle of joy), but my heart hurts for all of the negativity that we’re seeing around us each and every day.

I hope that there is peace on Earth, and that we get back to good will towards each other. That would be a tremendous holiday gift. That’s another reason why a “duct tape holiday” could be a good thing….because we all need to stick together going forward.

Happy Holidays, everyone….here’s to a much better 2021.

30 days with the ottomeister.

Boy, have our lives changed over the past month.

It’s had its ups and downs, but it’s 30 days that we’d do again in a heartbeat. Otto has brought a lot of joy into our lives, and each day is a new and fun adventure.

The Gatekeeper.

As with most dogs, Otto has tried to test the boundaries…he figured out how to open the screen door if the front door is open, and on a couple of occasions we’ve chased him on foot (and by car) in the neighborhood. He wants to make new friends, and always stops as other dogs pass by.

With Bogart….she’s his new squeeze. ❤️

Otto loves to sleep on the hardwood floor, as he prefers the cool surface….he saw snow for the very first time two weeks ago, and he loved it! And of course he’s just as happy to play with the empty $1.99 Dasani water bottle as he is to play with the $18 chew toy from PetSmart (note to self).

Otto and his wingman.

Who knows what the future will bring? I know this much – for all of the horrible things that have happened to a lot of us in 2020, we feel so incredibly thankful and blessed to have this 102-pound Floofinator in our lives, as he’s brought us tremendous joy.

Ready for another road trip.

Thank you, buddy. 🐶❤️😊

my best friend is floofy.

OK, so I “survived” my first week with Otto….my fears of taking care of a dog (especially the cleanup) have faded. As Jenn has been out of town the last few days, it’s just been the two of us….and I have enjoyed this in a way I couldn’t even fathom 10 days ago.

Riding in the car….Otto loves his Steely Dan and his Yacht Rock!

Being a new dog owner is definitely a trial and error process, but it’s also a lot of fun. Otto is a barker, as Great Pyrenees dogs are known for this. He’s also quite the sleeper – he snores like I do! He now sleeps at the foot of the bed on the hardwood floor, and more often then not, he’s asleep within minutes.

Enjoying our downtime together.

I took Otto to PetSmart on Friday….that was quite the adventure! As he chewed through two leashes and a harness, I needed to take him inside to make sure the new harness was properly fitted. I wish I’d known that there was a big German Shepard in the same aisle before we’d gone in….it was like a Clint Eastwood Western – first the stare down, and then barking instead of bullets!

Otto’s first trip to PetSmart!

I also have seen the incredibly gentle side of Otto….he’s fantastic around little children, as we pass quite a few during our daily walks. He lets the kids pet him, and it’s fun to see their faces light up being around such a gigantic and fluffy new friend!

Stylin and profilin!

Although he hasn’t had any puppy play dates yet, he definitely made a new friend the other day with a Newfoundland named Brendan. They’re about the same size, and neither barked at the other when they met. They just did the cordial sniffing of each other, and went about their day.

The new crime-fighting duo?

I love when other dog owners wish me luck, and lightheartedly refer to Otto as “polar bear”, “horse” and “sheepdog”…he’s a big boy, and he’s already got quite the fan club both locally and online (Otto_the_floofinator on Instagram). It’s only a matter of time before he kicks ass at Westminster!! (OK, I might be a little biased.)

The end of a long day.

I’m not he least bit ashamed or embarrassed to say that Otto is one of my new best friends. He’s the first face I see (or I’m licked on my face by) in the morning, and I hear his snoring when I go to sleep at night. And I look forward to many more years of love and laughter with The Floofinator….and hey, every hero needs a sidekick, right?

proud puppy papa.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that make us happy….a smile from a stranger, a call from a friend, or hearing a favorite song on the radio.

I have a new addition to the list – the joy of my puppy pooping after walking him for almost 90 minutes.

I can only compare this to how I felt when my daughter was potty trained. At 51 years old, it feels like a new type of fatherhood, but with a 102-pound floofy toddler.

The new ruler of the household.

I love taking care of Otto – from the time he licks my face at 6am until I’m watching him fall asleep at 10pm, I enjoy every moment. He’s still chewing on his leash, and loves to zoom around the house after his walks, but it’s fun to see him have such exuberance and joy!

He’s found his relaxation places in the house (anywhere there’s a cool hardwood floor), and when he naps, you can just tell that he’s having happy dreams.

Taking in the sights of Del Ray in Alexandria.

I definitely have felt less stress over the past few days, as my main concerns are related to Otto’s well being. Every new day brings a new adventure and a new learning experience, and I’m enjoying the ride.

I’m a proud puppy papa….say that 10 times fast!

ottopalooza. (aka it’s definitely not about me anymore.)

We got a puppy. We got a very happy puppy. We got a very BIG puppy.

We adopted Otto from a rescue shelter in Williamsburg VA yesterday, and it truly has been one of the happiest things that I’ve ever done.

Otto!!

People tell you that when it’s your own pet, you instantly feel this level of love that you haven’t experienced. I totally agree with this! The first thing Otto did when we first saw him was to put his head in Jenn’s lap, then he stood up on his hind legs and hugged me! Jenn and I both knew right away that we wanted to take him home!

On the ride home.

Getting him in the car was pretty easy, and we thought it was a piece of cake….until he hopped into the back section of the SUV and found some of his food! After that, he was a good puppy the rest of the way home….he actually slept for the majority of the 2 1/2 hour ride home.

My new co-pilot.

Otto has quickly acclimated to his new surroundings….he’s more than made himself comfy on the couches and chairs, and he feels right at home. He was a little scared his first night in his new crate, so I slept on the couch next to his crate, and he seemed to be ok throughout the night.

Making himself right at home.

Otto gave us a quick scare this afternoon, as he was able to open the screen door, and he decided to go sightseeing in the neighborhood! Our neighbors didn’t let him get too far, and he was back home pretty quickly.

Look at that face!!

Right now he’s sleeping in his new Extra Large dog bed, and we’re watching football….as the Giants beat the Eagles today, I attribute this to good karma from our new pup. As Jenn’s an Eagles fan, I’m sure she begs to differ.

Out for a morning stroll.

Although things aren’t great with Lauryn right now, I sincerely hope that she’ll get to know and love Otto (how can anyone not love such a beautiful dog?), as I know he will bring her joy the same way he has already brought joy to so many people. It’s a wonderful feeling to have Otto as part of our family…..pets truly love unconditionally, and they really bring out the best in us.

Truly a dog day afternoon.

It’s Otto’s world….I’m very glad just to be a part of it. 😊❤️🐶

big brother.

A “guest writer” for this blog post.

These are the words of my older brother Lee Stowe, a pastor and teacher in Upstate New York. His words perfectly describe how many of us are feeling right now.

With my older brother Lee.

Hi, everyone—

I’ve been giving this some thought, and this may go for awhile. I invite you to hear me out.

I am likening the American political saga of 2017-2020 to the Dr. Seuss story of “The Sneetches.” As to which ones are star-bellied or plain-bellied, you can assign Democrat to one and Republican to the other; it makes no difference. Each side is diametrically opposed to the other. In my view, Donald Trump has brilliantly played the role of Sylvester McMonkey McBean. He has been able to play (and prey) upon the beliefs, fears, naïveté and misunderstandings of both sides and basically drive a wedge between the two sides. That wedge has since become a chasm. In the story, by the time the Sneetches realize what is happening, they are left in a mass of confusion literally not knowing who is on what side, and McBean has made off with all of their money. We have come through the past four years. Each side definitely knows who is who, but the mass of confusion, coupled with division, is still there. There is hope at the end of the story, though. The sneetches then realize that a sneetch is a sneetch, whether star-bellied or plain, and they move forward from there as one.
The takeaway, in my opinion, is this: whether we are Democrat or Republican, whether we are white or black, whatever the differences are, not only are all of us Americans, but we are also children of God. He made us all, and He deliberately made each of us differently. We are all created in His image, and each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made. All of us are children of sacred worth. This is something that has been lost in translation over the past months.
There is never going to be a “perfect candidate” because there is no such thing as “the perfect human.” Mistakes are going to be made; that is human nature. There is, has been and will be only one person in this universe who is perfect, and last time I looked, none of us are God.
This campaign in particular has exposed the differences among party lines, leading in some cases to hatred and separation. No two people are ever going to see eye to eye on everything; again, this is human nature. However, disagreements over a given issue does not make you my enemy, nor should it make me yours. This should be the beauty of the process. It is that disagreement, I would hope, that would lead to a conversation in which people can come to an understanding, to consensus, or to at least be able to agree to disagree, and from there the opportunity for healing and relationship building can arise. Right now our nation is a wounded world that is crying out for healing, and it is this healing that must take place, regardless of whoever is sitting in the Oval Office. Just as star-bellied and plain melded together to make one, so now it is time for red and blue to make purple so that conversations can take place and healing can begin.
How fitting that we are on the cusp of the season of Advent, which is the lead-in to Christmas. How poignant that the liturgical color for Advent just so happens to be purple. The mantra at this time of year is “Peace On Earth.” Peace on Earth, peace in our nation, peace with our neighbors begins with us. Let this be the time that differences get put aside in favor of harmony, unity and healing. Purple is the color of the season; may it move to become the color of every American heart. May we find what it truly means to be “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Thanks for taking the time to listen to me. May God richly bless you all, and may God richly bless America.

May we all find peace and harmony through the holiday season, and for many years to come.

Thank you, big brother. ❤️🇺🇸😊