The Lawn

As Annie Lennox sang, “here comes the rain again,” and for a guy who obsesses about his lawn, and who has two neighbors with yards higher than my yard, and another guy who does zero lawn maintenance, my backyard is still smushy and muddy from all this rain. But I’m a soldier. I’m like Captain America, but for my lawn. I battle water and then, in July, I battle drought. But right now, I’m battling water and mud.

Beginning in late March, I applied a pre-emergent weed preventer to the entire lawn and Preen to all the beds. In another area, I cheated and got some of that Scott’s super seed mix that “grows anywhere” and fixed all the bare spots, and then in late April I put down a mix of lyme, gypsum, and lawn food …and then did that again two weeks later.

But the super sexy thing is my fire pit area that, two years ago, was a sandbox and swingset and some pavers. It was a glorious playground for my young kids but when they got too old for it, well, it became a fire pit. My dream was for this fire pit to be surrounded by grass so beautiful I could walk around barefoot and …well …I’ve done it.

I will announce all nights I’m having a fire. I always have a fridge full of beer. I hope you’ll join me around my fire pit.

Scott’s super seed mix fixed all the winter damage

Three HILARIOUS Things

Sometimes I pop outta bed at 4:45 a.m. and brew my coffee (via Aeropress) and I plan to get alotta stuff done. And then sometimes, I don’t.

Like this morning. I checked Facebook and Twitter and came across these and I laughed and laughed …and laughed. So I had to share. That’s it. I’m not pushing you to buy my salsa, not sharing my “I Love Don Week” Wish List, not talking about coffee …nope. I’m just curiating quality humor. If you’re here, you might be saying, “Don! This is sooooooooo 2014.”

To that, I say, whatevs. I’m a middle-aged father-of-three …it’s my job to be a little outta step and late to the party. But I have a friend who’s a DJ, so that’s gotta count for something.

Social Media

If you run a small business, have a personal brand, an Etsy store, are a consultant, real estate agent, or really … if you know you should be better at social media, this post is for you.

I help people with social media. I have found Apps, tricks, and services to make managing social media easier for you. If you don’t know what to do on social media, I have lots of ideas. I’ve taught myself these things little by little, month after month, over many years.

Do I know what I’m doing and how to help you? How many of these questions about me to you know?  

Do I make salsa? Do you know the name of my salsa company? Do you know I founded and wrote for a pop-culture website and that I recapped shows like The Bachelor? Do you know the name of that website? Do you know what I do for a living? Do you know who I work for, now, and who I worked for previously? Do you know I have a blog? Do you know I write and like to write? Do you know I wrote a book and sold hundreds of copies? Do you know what a ghost-writer is and that I do it? Do you know I write an automotive insight column? Do you know I like good coffee (and that Starbucks is NOT good coffee)? Do you know how I make my coffee? Do you know my favorite coffee brand and local roaster? Do you know what electronic gadget I’m obsessed with? Do you know what I find interesting and post photos of on Instagram? Do you know I recently started telling stories at The Moth? Do you know if I’m any good (or maybe I won, once)? Do you know I’m a Michigan State grad? Do you know if I’m more left-leaning or right-leaning? What do you know about me and lawn care?

Here’s the point. If you know a few answers to the questions above, you might understand what social media can do for a brand, a business, and cause, or a person. If you know 50% or more answers to my questions, you might want to talk with me about helping you with your social media. If you know all the answers to every question, you are probably my wife (or in my family).

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Instagram 2,200 Character Limit

I learned something today. I learned Instagram has a 2,200 character limit on posts. You really DO learn something new every day, even if that something is almost useless.

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Barbershop Quartet

I tried a new barber shop, last week, for one reason – convenient parking. My downtown Birmingham barber shop doesn’t have convenient parking. This new barbershop is in a strip mall, which doesn’t give it that downtown-Mayberry, main street charm, but it was full of old, grey-haired men cutting hair and an equal number of grey-haired old men getting their hair cut. The owner spoke broken English and had a heavy Italian accent, and he was only the second owner since it opened in the ‘60s (I like to chat up my barber and learn things).

‘80s music played over the sound system, but one of the barbers, with an amazing handlebar mustache, was blaring Frank Sinatra out of his iPhone (it might’ve been an iPhone 5).

The barber shop’s phone was ringing off the hook – how many people really need to call a barber shop at Noon on a Friday? And it wasn’t just one main phone. Each of the eight barber stations had a phone on the wall and the lady doing nails (yes, this barber shop has a lady doing nails) also had a phone at her station.

I was lucky enough to have the barber who felt compelled to answer the phone every time while not one of the other barbers pretended to even notice the nine ringing phones. Each call was the same. “About a 15 minute wait.” “We’re open until 5:30.” “Giuseppe no work today.”

The final participant in my barbershop quartet, along with the nine ringing phones, the Sinatra by iPhone 5 speaker, and the overhead 80s tunes, was the gentlemen in the chair next to me who just had major unexpected oral surgery. I tried to focus on Sinatra singing about trampy ladies, cities he wants to be part of, and his way, and I even tried to forget if Giuseppe was working and be surprised it was his day off, but instead all I could hear was “blood” and “so much pain” and “impacted tooth” and “the cause of my lifelong bad breath” and really bad jokes.

My barber, at one point, asked the Sinatra-iPhone-guy, to turn down his tinny, annoying Sinatra and the handle-bar-mustache barber looked and said two words… “Chill. Pill.”

My barber, I learned, has worked there for twenty-three years and he and handle-bar both looked to be in their 60s, so I fully expect to read about a barber murdering a barber soon in my local paper.

Handle-bar-mustache barber begrudgingly turned off Sinatra. The dental surgery story was impossible to ignore.

“Turns out I had an extra tooth growing under my other teeth,” he said.

Please stop.

“That extra tooth was there since I was a kid. Can you believe that.” he asked his barber?

No. Nobody can believe this.

“Guess I gotta thank Obama because it was covered and that’s definitely a pre-existing condition, amiright?” He laughed alone and so then repeated it because he must’ve assumed his barber and everyone missed that Leno-worthy punchline about his extra tooth being a pre-existing condition.

My haircut took about 50-minutes all told, not helped by my barber answering a dozen or so phone calls. I give him credit. He gave a good haircut despite having his head shrugged against his shoulder pinching the phone in place so he could have conversations about the hours of operation, current wait time, and Guiseppe, “no work here, anymore …he be retired ‘bout four years.”

Four years!?!?!? Someone is calling to get back in to see Guiseppe after four years? That’s a long time between haircuts.

The haircut ended up being the best I’ve gotten in a long time. The parking was convenient and I liked that they accepted credit card. I’ll wonder, now, if I have an extra tooth.

But I won’t ever wonder again if I should try a new barber.

Speaking of trying “new things”, this is my experiment to see if an Instagram post will also post to my Blog. Thanks for reading.

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The Lawn Makeover

There I was, sitting on my deck during the summer of 2016, looking at my lawn and thinking, “I might have the best lawn in the neighborhood.”

And then I thought, “I need a fire pit.”

My focus turned from my lawn to my firepit, two things you wouldn’t guess were mutually exclusive, and because my lawn was “perfect”, I stopped obsessing over it.

2016 turned to 2017, turned to 2018 and last summer, my lawn had been neglected and last fall I had a low spot that seemed to be muddy all the time, and the muddy sludge soil turned my Bermuda/Bluegrass/Fescue into a sorta swamp grass – a grass you might find at your local public park, which is not right for a back yard.

This summer …I take back my lawn. It started Monday with an application of Crabgrass prevention and lawn food. Today, the weather calls for some drizzle in the afternoon. Perfect.

  1. Crabgrass Preventer (3/18)
  2. Soil Enhancement (4/8) …but not places I’ll be seeding
  3. Overseed specific areas (4/10)
  4. Weed n Feed (granular) (5/5) …but not places I’m seeding

I’ll figure out what’s next from there.

A Message from a Happy Jalapeno

You might be here at my Blog because of my stories and my writing. You might be here because of my birthday and Christmas wishlists. Or you might be here because you love great salsa, and you know Donnie Jalapeno Salsa is the greatest salsa on the planet. Actually, on any planet, and I know this because Interplanetary Dining Magazine rated me #1.

You’ve read reviews, you’ve tried my salsa and you know it for yourself, but if you want another testimonial, how about you hear it from a jalapeno. The dream of all jalapenos is to be part of Donnie Jalapeno salsa.

Stay tuned for the Roma tomato roundtable discussion on being part of the Donnie Jalapeno Salsa recipe. Coming soon.

And, now, a word from a jalapeno. Oh, and ORDER HERE.

The Joy of Breathing from The Moth StorySLAM

If you’ll take the 6-minutes to watch this, please know this …this happened when I was 35 years old. I’m 46-years-old, now. And at the end I act like all at once I figured everything out. You might think for the past 11-years I’ve been nothing but a source of joy and happiness and inspiration to other people. I’m still a work in progress. The good news is, more days than not, I’m acting less selfishly and thinking of others.

My night at The Moth was inspired by hearing Matthew Dicks on the The Art of Manliness Podcast (Episode 462, “How To Tell Better Stories”, hosted by Brett McKay). Until that Podcast, I didn’t know “storytelling” was a thing. The Podcast found me at the right time in my life. 2018 was difficult because my dear friend passed away suddenly, and shockingly, at 47-years-old. He was a clean-living, in-shape, 5K-running, family man and an all around good person. He had a heart defect since birth, but at 47-years-old, having been a runner his entire life, he probably thought he was OK. Like I said …shocking.

This story is not about him, but my bold move to get on-stage and tell my story happened because Matt’s death woke me up and I vowed to stop sleepwalking through life.

Thanks for reading, watching, and listening. Make other people happy, and you’ll know joy.

My Wife is Batman

This will embarrass my wife, but it shouldn’t. My wife has unwavering confidence and courage of her convictions. She has the ability to be firm and confident on things that I’ve never had. Even when I know I’m right, I still second guess myself and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s called Catholic Guilt.

My wife is also Catholic. But without the guilt. Not sure how that happens.

My wife does all the grocery shopping for our family. She plans the meals. Makes the shopping lists. Creates a grocery and food budget. Clips coupons. Finds all the discounts. And every week she soldiers to the grocery store (always at the busiest most inconvenient time, which is another Blog entry) and makes sure we have food in the house for a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

Going with her to the grocery store must be what it’s like to watch NFL game film with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Or maybe what a real-life Jason Bourne would look like if he was trained in grocery shopping instead of, ya know, killing and fighting and stuff.

b2ap3_large_grocerylistDon’t believe me? Next time you bump into my wife, ask her what aisle and shelf something like, oh, tomato paste is on. Or where would you look to find jarred pimientos or taco seasoning packets? She’ll tell you exactly where those things are, and what shelf, and she’ll give you landmarks like, “it’s about 6 feet down from the cooking oils,” because that’s a can’t-miss grocery aisle landmark. Anyone can spot the cooking oils, but not seasoning packets.

My wife doesn’t just ask for sliced turkey at the deli. She asks for it sliced and tells the woman at the deli what setting she wants on the slicer. My wife can do the self-checkout and knows all the produce identification numbers by heart. Give me a cart full of produce and send me to the self check-out and I’ll see you in the year 2021 (with a basket full of spoiled fruits and vegetables).

She knows all the cashiers and baggers. They laugh and chat. My wife knows their kid’s names. One time I went along on the weekly grocery shopping trip with my wife and the cashiers all were like, “oh, so this is the husband,” and they all laughed together which told me, oh, my wife and the cashiers have inside jokes …about me!!!

What does this have to do with Batman? Batman knows right and wrong and what a crime-free city looks like. My wife knows how a grocery store should properly be run.

My wife’s deep, expert knowledge of our grocery store, which has been our grocery store for almost 20 years, means she also knows the good employees and the bad ones. Believe me. I hear about it. I know there’s a lazy, angry lady at the deli. I know there’s a cashier who’s completely useless.

And I know there’s a rude Customer Service Manager.

My wife hasn’t ever crossed paths with this particular Cstomer Service Manager, but she’s seen this manager treat customers rudely, treat employees rudely, talk loud, be crass, and generally just act obnoxious.

This past Sunday, my wife was doing the weekly shopping and needed something and her cashier said, “you could talk to the Customer Service Manager,” but my wife said, “no, thank you. I see how she treats people and I don’t feel like dealing with that.”

Well, this cashier tattled to the Customer Service Manager and, as impossible as it is to believe, and as an example of how crass she is, the customer service manager confronted my wife before she could get out of the store.

Oh. No. She. Di’n’t. Oh. You. Must. Be. Out. Yo’. Mind.

Customer Service Manager: “Excuse me. Did you tell my cashier that I’m rude?”

My Wife: “Yes. I did. Because you are.”

Customer Service Manager (annoyed): “Do I know you, ma’am?”

My Wife: “Well, you should. I’ve been coming here for years. I see how rudely you treat your employees and how you talk to other customers, and you’re not someone I want to deal with. And this, you confronting me, is a prime example.”

And my wife walked out. Because she was right. Didn’t want the fight. But when the fight came to her… She. Shut. It. Down.

I would’ve never told the cashier the why I didn’t want to talk to the Customer Service Manager, and if confronted, I almost certainly would’ve apologized for my rude comment. I want to make everyone happy all the time.

Not grocery-store-Batman-Jason-Bourne.

She knows what’s right. What’s wrong. And is supremely confident as she moves through the world. Batman is a superhero. So’s my wife.

My wife shared an article with me today about how men married to teachers are happier than men not married to teachers. I was going to make a joke or something, but the article missed the most important reason. Teachers have to control, motivate, and make 20 random children move together from one level of knowledge to another in 9 months, so there’s no room for making everyone happy or creating 20 different teaching plans. One plan. One goal. No room for apologies or concessions. Moms and Dads back down and coddle. Good teachers, like my wife, do not.

Have you ever tried to control 20 8-year-olds or 9-year-olds? Teachers, like my wife, can develop 20 one-on-one relationships, push and prod some kids in the way they need, and others in different ways, but miraculously at the end of the year, the star-student-teachers-pet has learned what the misbehaved-needs-extra-help kid learned and they all advance to the next grade.

Teachers have full days without breaks. Without the opportunity to quick run out to Starbucks to “clear their mind.” They are on-stage from punch-in to punch-out, and without confidence and courage of conviction, a teacher would be chewed up, spit out, and completely ineffective.

It takes a special person to be a teacher.

It takes a special person to be my wife.

It takes a special person to dress down a bully and a villain at a grocery store and be completely in the right.

I’m lucky to have one such special person in my life.