black friday has become black november.

The older I get, the more the holidays have become a blur. What used to be my favorite time of the year is now nothing more than a watered-down marketing and sales push, and it tends to bring out the worst in people.

I grew up believing that the holiday season started the moment that Santa Claus arrived in Herald Square at the end of the Macy’s Parade. Even though department stores started putting up holiday stuff in November, it was in preparation for the day after Thanksgiving.

The new norm is that holiday decorations must be put up before Halloween (as Halloween decorations are displayed before Labor Day), and that holiday commercials and holiday music start at 12:01am on November 1st. When it’s still 75° and sunny in DC, and I’m hearing Let It Snow while driving around in the convertible, something seems incredibly wrong about that scenario.

I realize the impact of the pandemic (and Amazon) on the retail industry. When I was a manager for JCPenney in the 90’s, they used to reserve the first Saturday in November as their “Biggest Sale of the Year”….now it seems like they’re doing this every couple of weeks, just to stay afloat. Most people have just about all of their holiday shopping done. Although I don’t wait until December 24th to do my shopping, there’s still something special to me about going to the mall in December to do some of my shopping (where I can also get it gift wrapped, as I suck at wrapping presents).

“No…….um…..Merry Christmas?”

I’m sure people will be camping in tents in front of electronics stores before Thanksgiving, so that they’ll be first in line when the stores open. Is missing the holiday with family and friends now secondary to getting your hands on the newest video games? And is being open all day on Thanksgiving worth it, for the sake of turning a profit over the previous year?

All this aside, I have one holiday pet peeve that drives me batshit crazy, and I’ll put this in the form of a question: how many holidays are in December? Besides Christmas, there’s Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, St. Nicholas Day and Boxing Day. It irritates me to no end, when people feel the need to correct others who say “Happy Holidays” with “No, it’s Merry Christmas”. Seriously, are you so closed-minded that you can’t recognize other religions except your own? As I’m inspired by Festivus, I’m introducing a new holiday tradition….as December 10th is an approximate halfway point between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I hereby declare this day as “STFU Day”, where if someone corrects you for saying Happy Holidays, you are free and clear to respond “Shut the f&$k up! And hey, Happy Holidays!” I know I’ll be more than doing my part to celebrate this new holiday this year….perhaps I can get Samuel Jackson to do a commercial?

On a serious note, I do wish everyone health and happiness through the rest of 2021….perhaps as we continue to head towards a semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy, we can bring back the sense of tradition as well.

Perhaps I should start digging out my St. Patrick’s Day stuff for January?

8 things for which i’m thankful.

1. My new friends in Milwaukee….there’s a different type of politeness in the Midwest that I wish we had here on the East Coast.

2. Newfound courage.

3. Improved communication.

4. Lactose-free mint chocolate chip ice cream.

A peaceful afternoon at Lake Michigan in Milwaukee.

5. Finding my voice musically, emotionally and spiritually.

6. Laying on the couch while watching TV with The Floof.

7. The INCREDIBLE voice and musicality of Dara Tucker.

8. Redemption….coming on December 14th!

a clockwork otto.

So much for a good night’s sleep.

Our dog Otto is usually our morning alarm clock, as he consistently wakes up between 5:30 – 6:30 every morning. He sleeps in our bedroom, as he likes to sleep on the hardwood floor. Occasionally he’ll have an exception to the norm, and this morning was definitely an exception.

As I was in my deep sleep at 4:15 this morning, Otto was awakened by a siren (I assume), and next thing I know, not only did he hop up on the bed, but he put his head right by my face…there’s nothing like warm dog breath in your face to start your day!

As Jenn is on business travel, Otto and I have our nightly ritual – I walk him around the block at 10pm, and then we come home and head upstairs, where he hops on the bed while I brush my teeth. I then give him his Greenie dog toothbrush, where he hops back down on the floor to eat the Greenie and goes to sleep. He’ll sometimes hop back up for a quick snuggle, but then he’s back on the floor and fast asleep.

Otto in mid-day form….has anybody seen my
Apple Watch?

When he woke me up this morning, I assumed he needed to go out (when you have a Great Pyrenees dog, you ALWAYS go on the side of caution!)…needless to say, I hopped up and threw on my sweats, and quickly went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I came back to the bedroom, and guess who was passed out cold, laying horizontally across the ENTIRE bed, snoring louder than I usually do?

All I could do was laugh….as I nudged him over enough so that I could at least have 1/8th of the bed, I thought about how dogs are very intuitive to the needs of their humans. Whether it’s a seeing eye dog, a dog that can sense seizures before they happen, or a therapy dog for helping those with emotional issues, dogs truly make a difference in our lives.

More often than not, Otto knows when I need a laugh, when I need some company, or when I need to get my ass off the couch. That’s why I didn’t mind petting him this morning while he slept, occasionally taking a big paw to the face, and I enjoyed the quiet (ok, relatively quiet) time to plan out my day.

While he was asleep beside me, I actually started thinking about if I could put my Apple Watch on one of his paws to help with my Exercise ring. I then realized that it would be much more logical to put it on him while he’s asleep, as he probably would burn a lot more calories while snoring!

I’m truly thankful for the joy that Otto has brought into our lives. Every day is a new and interesting adventure – and sometimes the adventure starts at 4:15 am!

the dog days of autumn.

No matter how you calculate his age, it’s still a parental dilemma. Otto is both a toddler in his “terrible twos”, and he’s also an “early year teenager” (14) in human years. This week he reminded me of how he is both.

On Monday morning, I had an early morning dentist appointment. I took Otto both for a walk and to the dog park, so that I could get him back home and situated before heading out. Right before I was ready to head out the door, Otto got an unusual case of separation anxiety. He would not let me leave, as he blocked the front door, and then he would not leave my side. It was like he was trying to protect me from something. When I was able to get out of the front door, he decided to rebel like an angry teenager and tried to escape – by charging right at me, knocking us both over down the front steps.

Only a couple of more years until I have to start teaching him how to drive. They grow up so fast.

After deciding to drop him at daycare (and arriving late to the dentist), I took a few moments to think (and chill) over what happened. When I picked Otto up after work, I found myself in complete “parent mode.” Otto and I have a ritual that we walk around the block at daycare before getting in the car to come home. As we walked, I started talking to him, as I’m thoroughly convinced that he understands me. I remember the conversation word for word:

“Otto, I was really disappointed in how you behaved this morning, as both of us could’ve gotten seriously hurt. But you know what? No matter how much you upset me, you’ll always be my Floof.” I could practically see my mom smiling from above.

Dogs give us unconditional love…they also remind us of the importance of unconditional love. I treated Otto to a ride home in the convertible, as he’s getting more and more comfortable to riding with the wind blowing through his floof. Although I’m still a little sore from the tumble, I’m thankful that the experience was such an important life lesson.

Hopefully the only things that Otto and I see falling going forward are the leaves.

what can a miracle do?

Thank you Will, Luther, Don, Randy and Mike.

I watched an incredible movie last night. The movie was “The Last Full Measure”, based on the true story of Air Force Sgt. William Pitsenbarger, an Air Force paratrooper who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. In April of 1966, he chose to be dropped from his helicopter into incredibly heavy gunfire to save nearly 60 Army soldiers who were being ambushed by the Vietcong. He didn’t know any of the men he saved, as he became their medic, as the Army medic was severely wounded during the ambush. When the last helicopter to safety had to leave because of the danger of the situation, Sgt. Pitsenbarger waived this helicopter off and chose to stay and fight with those still on the ground. Tragically, he was killed by a Vietcong sniper during the battle.

One of the Army soldiers said that seeing Sgt. Pitsenbarger cable down from the helicopter while his troop was being ambushed seemed like some sort of miracle, as he thought death would be eminent. Although it took nearly 34 years, Sgt. Pitsenbarger was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military award that can be received. He put others before himself in a way that I can’t even imagine.

As we acknowledged the 20th anniversary of 9/11, there were many stories not just about New York’s Bravest and Finest who gave their lives to save others, but also about civilians who gave their lives to ensure that the others around them got to safety. I’m sure there are many stories that we may never know.

Thank you, Staff Sgt. William Pitsenbarger.

We had a guest speaker at our church on Sunday, and she made a statement that still strongly resonates with me five days later – the statement was “Don’t think less of yourself – just think of yourself a little less.” It’s a reminder that we can always be there for others, even when struggling to be there for ourselves. It’s said that people come into others’ lives for a reason…how many times has this been referred to as a miracle by someone when this happens?

This was an enlightening week. As much as we continue to dwell on the things that divide us, we have reminders of what happens when we not only think of others, but also the importance of putting aside the things that divide us. In both Vietnam, and the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and Shanksville Pennsylvania, we saw miracles even in the moments of darkest tragedy, as people put their own lives aside to save the lives of others, where color, religion, politics and preference did not matter.

I hope the day comes when we all can find the unity we shared on September 12, 2001, where we had the utmost respect for those who put others first.

That’s what a miracle can do.

(no longer) uninspired….

It’s been a while.

I needed to reboot, for many many reasons.

I’m feeling better. (Thank you, The Headspace Show on Netflix for being the pleasant surprise along my journey.)

I challenged myself today….I’m making myself write, even though I don’t feel like saying much. Like any good habit, the more you let it slide, the harder it is to pick it back up. As much as I hated writing term papers as a required part of my adolescent education years, writing this blog has helped me find myself, it’s helped to find a new outlet for creativity, and it’s helped me to reconnect some friendships that I thought were forever broken.*

Trying to reconnect with my “joie de vivre” of being creative….perhaps “LeFloof” can help?

*And yes, I realize that if it wasn’t for trying to write as accurately as possible for all those years, I probably would never have been able to write a sentence with such eloquently crafted verbiage as these last two sentences above have been written. Thank you Bennett Elementary and Onteora Central, with mad props to my 5th and 6th grade teacher, George DeFina!)

The incredibly sad news I received about my ex’s recent passing has made me think a lot about my past….it’s also helped me to realize that my future isn’t written yet, and for my daughter’s sake and my families’ sake, I need to stay as focused and positive as I can be in the present.

It’s been a while.

I needed to reboot for many many reasons.

And I’m truly grateful that I did.

i’m a narcissistic, insecure, social media whore…..

……and I’ve caused a lot of damage to people my entire life.

Sandy Quaranda, Melissa Fisher, Jennifer Gray, Amanda Donis, Peggy Dyer, Lori Petramale, Tina Pratt, Bonnie Longbotham, Michal Sears Stowe and Jennifer Otto Mendez Stowe – I’M TRULY SORRY.

To friends and fellow students and colleagues I’ve hurt along the way – Anne DeWitt, Becca Saltman, Lynore Lawton, Jennifer Rodgers, Jeni Munson, Chuck Wilson, Todd Googins, Nanette Fellman Kaiser, John McGovern, the Red Hot & Blue Band, Mike Olexa, Aurora Velasquez and Beth Loudy – I hope you can all one day forgive me for the things I both said and did.

To my brother Lee – thank you for showing me later in life that you are the greatest big brother I could ever ask for. Seeing the husband you are to Margaret, and the father you are to Rose, Claire and Alyssa, you are the living example of courage, strength and perseverance.

To my friends Will Lee and Donna Pescow…thank you for giving this awkward and dorky band geek from Shokan New York the ability to DREAM BIG. Although I never got to share the stage with either of you, you gave me the inspiration to believe in myself, and this helped me on many the day I felt like I was the only one who believed in myself.

Jenn and Lauryn – please know this….I will ALWAYS be with you. ALWAYS. (Jenn – You don’t have to hold the beach ball underwater anymore.) ❤️

These people mentioned in this post are the people that I’ve hurt the most in this lifetime, and I vividly remember how I hurt them. This is why I can’t blog anymore. I’ve realized just how much damage has been done, and to be very honest with everyone, I really don’t like what I’ve become, and I’m tired of being such a “surface person”….for all of the words of support and comfort these last couple of weeks, I wish that I had more genuine compassion to receive it the way it should be received.

This is why I’m “shutting up”….I need to focus on fixing what is severely broken right now, even if that means making the ultimate sacrifice for the betterment and happiness of the ones I love.

Bye, everybody…thank you for allowing me to use this blog to tear my wall of fear down. Be well in all ways. 😊❤️🎶

the 18th hole?

This might be my last blog post on “The Back Nine.”

I’ve been doing this for two years. I never thought of myself as a writer, and I still don’t. This space was what I needed, but all things must pass.

Although I have found tremendous growth by blogging, I’ve never felt more narcissistic that I do today.

I appreciate all of the feedback and well wishes. My entire future is up in the air today, and blogging/social media is not part of my solution.

Thanks for reading.

52.

This is definitely not how I expected the week to go leading up to my birthday.

As most people know, I just found out that my ex-wife Michal died very unexpectedly and tragically nearly three months ago from a brain aneurysm. My emotions have been all over the place, as it’s a very complicated situation. There are moments of sadness and compassion, and there are moments of absolute anger and frustration.

There are fences to mend – not just with my former in-laws, but with many people. 10 years ago, I would’ve been driven by “getting approval” as my focus of mending fences. Now I realize that my motivation for doing so is because it’s simply the right thing to do.

I drove up to Pennsylvania this week and showed nothing but genuine compassion to my former in-laws. For as many reasons as I have to be upset and angry, I put all of that aside. I haven’t forgotten the things that happened between and Michal, but in comparison to the pain and grief her family is going through, my hurt is very minimal in comparison. I’m not the least bit ashamed to say that my heart breaks for my daughter and Michal’s family and friends, because I know they’re all truly devastated.

I’m also burying the hatchet with Miss Vitriolic (who’s name rhymes with “Seth Cloudy”)….she indirectly apologized for her actions towards me, and stated that what was said is not a reflection of who she is. In light of what else has happened this week, I’m at peace knowing that I forgive her, even if the apology was not directly given to me. Who amongst us has not ever hurt someone else very deeply. I know I have, and I’ve learned to forgive myself. By doing so, it’s easier for me to forgive others, including “Seth.”

Let’s go, Buffalo?
🎂🎉🎁🎈🎊☀️⭐️💕🦬

I’ve heard from a lot of people this week, telling me what I should do and how I should go about things in terms of my daughter. I genuinely appreciate everyone’s concern. I’m at peace with what I have decided going forward….as my focus is on her well being, I also know that she’s where she needs to be, and for me to make a sudden and shocking change in her life would not be good for anybody right now. As I’ve forgiven my ex-in-laws for the decision that had recently made regarding the communication around Michal’s passing, I hope that my family and friends can do the same.

I called this post “52”, as my 52nd birthday is Sunday. Although Jenn has been phenomenal in making this a wonderful birthday considering the circumstances, it’s going to be a bittersweet day, knowing that my daughter lost her mother. The best birthday gift I can ask for from everyone is to keep Lauryn and my ex-in-laws in your prayers. I’ve put and will continue to put my animosity in the rear view mirror.

With Jenn’s blessing, I’m going away by myself this weekend to AvalonFest, as it’s three days of live music. This was a planned trip, and I seriously thought about canceling. I need to get away for a few days….when people “run away”, it’s based on fear. I need to “go away” this weekend – to process what is happened, to enjoy the silence (except for the live music), and try to come back feeling like a better person than I do this morning. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and experienced receiving a lot of hurt in this life – lies, loss of trust, abuse…I choose to not live this way anymore, and to have a much healthier mindset. This is my birthday gift to myself.

I started to call this post “Lane Arthur Stowe, August 15, 1969 – August 15, 2021”, but I knew that everyone would freak out and misinterpret the title as a suicide letter. Trust me, that is something that I will NEVER do. I wanted to call it that because I’m hoping to “start life over” with this birthday. I’ve worked hard to get over a lot of the negativity that I have both given and received….I don’t want to be so unhappy anymore. Everybody’s lives look great on social media – I’ve used it to build this “happy persona” as a way of deflecting that I often deal with loneliness, depression and feeling inadequate. It’s time for me to “be the buffalo” – buffalos run toward thunderstorms instead of away from them….they face their issues head on.

Thank you to everyone for your love, friendship and support through this very challenging time….I’m going to do everything to ensure that my 52nd trip around the sun is brighter than ever before.