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. ❤️🇺🇸😊

quiet, please.

Some days I just enjoy the silence…not just the quiet outside, but giving my mind a rest. It’s been such an unusual year, and the stress of 2020 has taken its toll. Right now, I’m reveling in the quiet.

There are a lot of things that are out of whack in our lives right now. Dysfunction, pretentiousness, ignorance and hate. These are things that used to consume me, because I felt like I could fix things or change things that were truly out of my control. Although I’ll always be an “extroverted introvert”, I’m learning to appreciate the silence, especially by listening without the instinct of wanting to fix things.

The best way to learn from and respect each other.

The most important election of our lifetime is less than 10 days away, and regardless of the outcome, there will be a lot of arguing over political and social differences. People will lose friendships for the sake of having the last word. Sadly this won’t change anything – if ever there was a time for more listening instead of talking, it’s now. I hope that over the next few years, we see more unity, and we hear less division in our words.

Whoever coined the phrase “silence is golden” is a genius.

music legends never die.

Like many, I was very saddened to hear of Eddie Van Halen’s passing yesterday. After losing Helen Reddy and Mac Davis last week, it seems like 2020 has been especially unkind to the music industry.

What hit me so hard about Eddie’s passing is that we lost another musician who revolutionized his instrument. Although I was only 13 months old when Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, I’m sure that quite a few rock fans back then felt the way I do today. I remember the last two times I felt this gut-punch of a loss….when Jaco died in 1987 and when Miles died in 1991.

Eddie Van Halen was an incredibly gifted musician. He started playing classical piano at age six, winning four state competitions for classical piano. Considering that he did not know how to read music, and learned to play Mozart by ear (with a little improvisation here and there), that’s one hell of an accomplishment! When he switched from piano to guitar (with a quick period of playing the drums), this is where he truly became a virtuoso.

Eddie, Jimi, Jaco, and Miles….Heaven’s got one helluva band up there.

I’ll admit it – I favored “Van Hagar” over the original Van Halen lineup, because I felt that Sammy Hagar challenged the band to be more musical than David Lee Roth did. This does not take away from the awesomeness of the Van Halen albums from 1978 – 1984. I loved all the great hits from “Dance the Night Away” through to “Panama”, and any teenage boy who went through puberty when the “Hot for Teacher” video premiered on MTV owes the band a humongous debt of gratitude!

I was amazed to find out that Eddie Van Halen once asked Alice Cooper if he could reach out to Glen Campbell on his behalf to see if he could get a guitar lesson…knowing that Glen Campbell also played by ear (even on Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night”), I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall for the knowledge shared between these two incredible guitarists!

Fifty years from now, people will still be listening to Van Halen the way we still listen to Hendrix 50 years after his passing. Kids will still be learning how to play Van Halen guitar solos, because they are that phenomenal. Hell, they’ll still be trying to figure out Hendrix solos like we still are! This is why music legends never die – they leave a unique and incredible imprint, forever changing how their instrument will continue to be played.

I wonder if Mozart has already asked Eddie Van Halen to teach him how to play “Eruption.” Rest In Peace, EVH. 🎸😔❤️🎶⭐️

getting back what you give.

Today did not go as I thought it would…..and that WASN’T a bad thing.

Sometimes something unexpected happens, and it takes you in an unexpected direction…..and it allows you to show genuine kindness and put others first. That was my day today.

I was able to catch up with a friend, and do something kind and helpful for her and her five-year-old granddaughter, as they had an emergency situation. As we all have our struggles and challenges, it truly felt good to have the opportunity to go above and beyond for a friend in need.

Doing something to put a smile on other faces can really go a long way.

I’m not writing this to “toot my own horn”….I’m hoping for some really good karma this week. All day today I just kept thinking about the importance of treating people the way we want to be treated, and how I feel thankful to have people in my life that won’t let me fall through the cracks. With all the hate in our society right now, acts of kindness are incredibly needed. And I believe that the universe will reciprocate for those who not only care for others, but who do so with genuine compassion and support, expecting nothing in return.

I genuinely hope that today makes a positive difference for friends I really care about. Karma isn’t just a bitch – it can also be a tremendous blessing.

40 & 41.

To be clear, this post is not about Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Yesterday was a day of tragedy. In addition to the verdict which confirmed that there are still flaws in our justice system, an icon of sports and a very respected human being passed away. That person was Gale Sayers.

The “Kansas Comet” shattered both individual and game records during his career, but more importantly, he shattered racial barriers with his friendship with his teammate, Brian Piccolo. It was unheard of that Black and White players would be roommates at an NFL training camp in the 60’s. Although all teams were integrated by 1965, it had only been three years since “The Washington Football Team” had finally integrated. Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo truly spoke with their actions, both on and off the field.

Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers. Champions.

When Gale suffered a major knee injury, it was his best friend Brian who encouraged him and challenged him to recover. When Brian Piccolo became gravely ill with cancer, it was Gale who was at his side. His award speech (so eloquently recreated by Billy Dee Williams in the movie) is something that everyone should take time to watch. The love and respect they had for each other far outweighed the color of their skin.

Here we are, 51 years later. Our society still has the same divide, and we’re seeing athletes standing up (or kneeling) for social justice. In his book “I Am Third”, Gale wrote about his life struggles, and his friendship with Brian Piccolo. We are all familiar with the movie “Brian’s Song”….this is a story that everyone should become familiar, as it shows how people of different races and backgrounds can come together. We need this right now more than ever.

Rest In Peace Gayle. Rest In Peace, Brian.

THANK YOU for creating a legacy that will never be forgotten, both on and off the field. 😔❤️🏈

9/11 – remembering what we must never forget.

Tomorrow is the 19th anniversary of one of the worst days in our country’s history. It’s a day that should be a day of mourning, and it should also be a day when we all pause and reflect.

I remember so many things about that day, right down to the clothes I wore to work on the morning of September 11, 2001. I also vividly remember the afternoon of September 3, 2001 (Labor Day), as I was driving back to Pennsylvania from playing a wedding gig up at Lake Placid that weekend. I remember this because I got on the New Jersey Turnpike by the Meadowlands, and I remember seeing the World Trade Center on a perfectly sunny afternoon. I had no idea at the time that this would be the last time I’d see the towers in all their glory.

I had gotten to work at The Vanguard Group in Valley Forge at 8:15 the morning of 9/11. My co-worker Mike Cianciulli and I had been talking about the Monday Night Football game the night before (the Giants lost to the Broncos), and as we came back to our desks after grabbing breakfast in the cafeteria and continued to talk about the upcoming football season, somebody interrupted us to inform us that a plane hit one of the Twin Towers. We assumed it was a small plane and that it was a freak accident. That’s when our lives changed forever – it took forever to get online, and the first image I saw was the humongous hole in the tower with smoke and flames pouring out. It was beyond surreal, and I remember racing to a nearby conference room which had a TV. We turned on the news not more than a minute before the second tower was hit, and there was no question that our country was being attacked.

Never forget….EVER.

We watched in shock and horror – I remember the image of a lady waving what looked like a towel as she was helplessly sitting in a window of one of the towers a few floors above the fire raging below. We watched firemen and policemen answering the call of duty, not knowing that it would be their last and bravest act of heroism. We saw tremendous acts of bravery and sacrifice over the next three hours that morning that should never be forgotten, from New York’s Bravest and Finest, to the courageous people on Flight 93.

We all remember the days that followed – people frantically searching for loved ones, lost person posters covering every telephone pole and available wall space for blocks from Ground Zero…..in all of this darkness, we also saw a light of hope and resiliency – first it was the image of the firemen who lifted the American flag at Ground Zero….then it was the chants of “USA! USA!” heard by those volunteering at Ground Zero to find their fallen comrades. One image that I will ALWAYS remember was when Congress all stood together on the Capitol steps to sing “God Bless America.” These were very unchartered waters, but we all came together in support of each other, and with our common focus and hurt as Americans. Social media did not yet exist, and the Internet was still used for more good than evil. The phrase “United We Stand” had deep meaning, as we were all in this together.

Here we are, 19 years later…..in some ways, 9/11 all but seems a distant memory. Words of unity have been replaced by words of division and hate. I can’t help but wonder how different the reaction would be if a tragic event of this magnitude happened in 2020 – would this bring us all together again, or would fingers be pointed while buildings collapsed? The events of 9/11 did not discriminate – people of all colors, backgrounds, creeds and preferences died because of the acts of one incredibly evil group of people.

How is it that 19 years later, we’re seeing such evil and hatred amongst Americans, as evil groups of people are using both their words and their actions to cause harm to other people? How did we lose our focus and unity? The days that followed 9/11 were somber, but it was also one of the last times we put our differences aside and we were all AMERICANS. We were pissed off at Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda, and we all wanted to see our troops find him and KICK HIS ASS.

I have a challenge to all that read this blog post – for one day tomorrow, put aside your differences – take a break from railing against those who don’t agree with your beliefs. Take time to focus on commonalities instead of differences. Take a day to remember those who perished 19 years ago, just for being at work, or on an airplane, or while trying to save the lives of others. These people were AMERICANS.

Let 9/11/2020 be the first step towards truly making our country great again.

UNITED WE MUST STAND. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

grin and bare it.

2020 has been a year where we’ve learned a lot about the people around us. From a political standpoint, we’ve become even mode divided, as we’ve discovered how different our beliefs are, and long-term friendships have ended. People have been almost proud to brag about their disdain for others. For the longest time, I was afraid to let people know something about me, crippled by the fear of what they’d think of me or say to me. I don’t feel that way anymore, as it’s something I will never be ashamed or embarrassed about going forward. Now in hindsight, I see how this has changed my life for the better for the past 25 years. I’m very proud to say that I’m a nudist.

I’ve received every type of reaction you can imagine about this, from complete acceptance to downright disdain, from laughter to people saying that this could ruin my professional career. In my 30’s, I only told my closest friends. In my 40’s, I began to feel more comfortable with people knowing, but not everyone knowing. I’m 51 years old now….and if anyone has a problem with this, guess what? It’s not my fucking problem. They need to deal with their own issues instead of judging mine.

I grew up with a very image-conscious father. Everything from my grades to my musical abilities was always harshly criticized. I was also teased constantly about my weight and my skinny calves (genetic – I can do calf exercises 24/7, and they won’t get bigger), and I had very low self esteem, which I kept well-hidden behind a facade of arrogance. Even through college and until I moved to Pennsylvania, I always felt ugly from the inside out, and it was because of years of feeling like I didn’t measure up to the people around me.

That changed during the summer of 1995…I had a friend who introduced me to the world of nudism, and I realized that it is a culture of acceptance. Nobody cares about anybody else’s perceived flaws. I’ve met people from all walks of life over the past 25 years, and this has truly helped me to not only become more open-minded and accepting of others, but also empathetic towards those who are very closed-minded, self-righteous, bigoted and judgmental of others.

My “Lucky 7”, helping me to change for the better.

There’s a perception that all nudists must look like Tom Brady and Gisele….not at all! People of all body types are nudists, and as of June 2020, there are 213,000 members (myself included) in the American Association of Nudist Recreation (www.aanr.com), and that’s just one of many nudist organizations. For those who may have an issue because of religious reasons, there are also Christian nudist organizations and campsites. I love that over the past 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to go to AANR-affiliated clubs in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, Arizona and California, plus Gunnison Beach in New Jersey and Haulover Beach in Miami. I’ve actually networked with musicians at the clubs, and gotten gigs as well!

To help put this in a very proper perspective – as a nudist, at the clubs I’ve met a number of wounded veterans missing limbs from combat, and one of my nudist friends recently had a double mastectomy. She loves to joke that she doesn’t have to say “Eyes up here!” to everyone anymore, but it’s because nobody treats her differently, and she can truly be herself. And so there’s no misconception, my wife is not a nudist, but she has been nothing but supportive of my nudism for the past 10 years, even getting my the annual AANR guide as a gift!

I’m sure that as some people read this, their perception of me may change….that’s fine. I have nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. I’m glad that I’m happy and comfortable in my own skin.

Going forward, I’ll just continue to turn the other cheek. 😉☀️❤️☮️👍