“So you want to be a rap superstar
And live large a big house
5 cars, you’re in charge
Comin’ up in the world
Don’t trust nobody
Gotta look over your shoulder constantly.” -Cypress Hill
This is bragging in one way or another. Either I’m bragging because I bought a car for cash. Bam. Found it. Wanted it. Bought it. Cuz I got that kinda cash lying around. Or I’m bragging because I’m suddenly incredibly fiscally responsible and I’m not like all those people caught up in material things and a car, to me, is just four tires and a motor that gets you from one place to another.
I like to go with the second “brag.” Oh. This car? Your Tesla? That Porsche over there? To me, they’re all the same. What do I care if a car has leather? Or working shock absorbers? Or electric windows? Or Bluetooth? Or an automatic transmission?
Yawn. A car’s a car.
OK. Truth. When I bought this thing, as a third car, and I was driving it home, there was a small part of me that felt like the world had won, and I had lost. No, I’m not saying I need a Bentley or a Yukon Denali to help me sleep at night, but I have grown fond of USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity over the past 7 years in my Chrysler minivan, my GMC Terrain, and now my Buick …and this 2005 Chevy Aveo definitely does not have any of those amenities.
But it’s OK. It’s like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. With a little love. Gentle driving. A washing, vacuuming, and detailing …it’s not such a bad little car.
I washed it. I vacuumed it. I really detailed it. Cleaned the windows. Sprayed liquid silicone (actually Lemon Pledge if you wanna know my secret) on all the rubber weather stripping. Scrubbed the floor mats. Added some hubcaps. And ya know what? I’m not lying. It’s not such a bad little car.
My daughter actually wanted to learn to drive it (it’s stick shift if you didn’t figure that out already) and she figured it out on the first try. Didn’t stall it even once.
Now I have this twisted mission that I’m going to drive it for another 6 or 7 years and it will be the 3rd car when I have two drivers in my house, and maybe it will make it until my youngest is a licensed driver in four years from now. And all my kids will learn to drive stick. And we’ll have many laughs over “Dad’s insane car purchase.” And I don’t care what happens to it, or if my son adds a stereo system worth more than the car itself, or if they paint flames on the side. It could be kinda fun.
Anyway, just to recap. I’m enlightened because I don’t care how much my car costs (even though I totally do). A car isn’t a status symbol (even though this car puts me in the fiscally responsible status). I paid cash (though not much).
One last thing – I took it to my mechanic after I had already made the purchase. My mechanic really wanted to see it before I bought it, but the seller was like, “do you see what I’m asking? No. I’m not driving it 30 miles to your mechanic who will point out all the things I already know are wrong with it.” I took a chance and my mechanic said, “you did not waste your money. Don’t take it on the highway or anywhere that you can’t get a cheap Uber back to your house if it dies. I’ll buy it from you when you don’t want it anymore.”
That’s a seal of approval if I’ve ever heard one. Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of Li’l Blue.
Thought I would use Mother’s Day and my random Blog to talk about my Mom. Was she the best-Mom-ever? I’ve always thought she was, but to truly figure it out, we would need a panel discussion, surveys, data analysis, and an independent review board, ideally made-up of individuals who never had mothers of their own so no cultural or socioeconomic bias comes into play. I think there would have to be 50 or more criteria ranging from cooking skills, discipline tactics, and final results (what their children become when they grow up) and it would take years and years to truly figure out World’s-Best-Mom and …
I’ll bottom line it. My Mom was really good. I think she would rank high if such a study was ever done. And I think determining Best-Mom-Ever would have to be like the ACT or SAT, where someone might excel in Math and Science and that helps that someone with other topics they struggle with, like Reading Comprehension or Verbal stuff.
However, I’d like to share four things that, I believe, would’ve gotten my Mom into the 95th percentile or higher and she would’ve qualified for all sorts of scholarships and financial aid and …oh …lost my train of thought.
Here are four things that made Mary Lou (that’s my Mom’s name for new readers) exceptional…
BED MAKING – Growing up, my favorite day of the week was the day the beds were stripped, washed, and made fresh. Our beds, on those nights, were a work of art. Mom actually provided turn-down service and folded the bedding back – it was only missing a mint on the pillow. Sheet, blanket, and comforter would all be folded back together, perfectly square, and Mom never made a bed without the sheets even on both sides of the bed, and hospital corners. To this day, I never start my day without making my bed perfectly because, in my mind, a well-made bed gives a solid foundation and start to any day, and then how nice to be greeted at night by a bed worthy of the world’s finest hotels? A bedroom should feel like a retreat or a place to get away, and it all starts with a made bed.
FOLDING LAUNDRY – My Mom was in the top 1% of all laundry folders on the planet. Yes. There exists a one, true, best way to fold towels and t-shirts, and my Mom knew the technique. For towels, well, all laundry, it should be folded while still-warm and fresh outta the dryer. This will keep everything as close to wrinkle-free as possible. For a towel, you must whip-it really strong two or three times. Then, fold it in half the long way. Whip-it again. Grab the corners, fold it in half the opposite way. Whip again. Then fold in half one more time and you’ll have a square. For t-shirts, whip-it 2 or 3 times while holding onto the corners of the shoulders. Fold it so the shoulders meet and the shirt looks like a hatchet shape. Fold the sleeve to meet the shoulders. Now fold the neck and shoulders to meet the bottom of the shirt. It should be a square shape and it will look perfect when you unfold it and wear it some time down the road. This is it. The only and proper way to fold towels and shirts. I shot this video so you can know, too.
ALWAYS SAY ‘YES’ TO AN INVITATION – People loved my Mom at a party. She was “the life of the party” wherever she went. No, she wasn’t leading the congo line, wasn’t drunk and crazy, but she was there. She showed up. She danced (if there was dancing), she talked to everyone, and I don’t remember her ever coming home from a wedding reception, birthday party, work party …anything, really …without saying she had a “wonderful time.” But her rule was this …if someone thinks enough of you to invite you to a party, you should go. She said, “they don’t invite you because they feel like they should or feel obligated. But they most likely invite you because they like you, like being around you, and they know their party will be more fun if you’re there.” It didn’t make alotta sense to me when I was a teenager and in my 20s, but as I get older, I now know what she was talking about. Sometimes I’ve been invited to something and I might’ve thought, “crap, that was the weekend I was going to wash my deck,” or, “who gets married Labor Day weekend!?!?! Dang it. I like to go Up North and fish and drink beer around the campfire.” But then my Mom in heaven whispers a reminder in my year …”you were invited because they love you. Go to the party! Fishing, beer, and campfires will be there, but people only get married once.”
Oh, and when you do go to the party, even if slightly against your will …have a good time. Make it a good time. Make people smile. Help make the event as amazing as it can be for your friend or family member that invited you.
And finally …and this deserves more than four sentences …this is what my Mom did that qualifies her for Greatest Mom Ever.
MY MOM MADE MY DAD A GREAT MAN – I hear things about my Dad and I don’t believe them. I hear he was a trouble maker, drank, smoked, and wasn’t a great student because he wasn’t a hard worker. When I think back on my 45 years, I don’t know that guy. I only know my Dad to be a hard worker – the hardest worker. 50, 60, and 70 hours weeks in a factory (sometimes 120 degrees in the summer) for 37 years. I’ve never seen him with a drink or cigarette in his hand. And I never saw him treat my Mom any other way than with love and commitment. Sure, they had their arguments, but it never lasted longer (think of fights siblings might have …you get over it). There’s a tale to tell about how my Dad changed, when he changed, and why he changed …and I think his grandkids should know. I recently told my son and my son was shocked. Just a side note …I told my son about my own youthful indiscretions, and about his Grandpa, because I wanted him to know the 74-year-old Grandpa and his 45-year-old Father …we aren’t perfect, and certainly weren’t perfect, but life is a continual journey towards perfection. Thank goodness the guy I was at 16, 17, 20, and 21-years-old wasn’t the best I would ever be.
Yes. Mom made my Dad a better version of himself. And because of that, I can follow his lead, learn from the amazing things he did and does, and from the mistakes he made. That started with my Mom.
My hope, and my belief, is that the true measure of Moms aren’t about their cooking, hugs, and ability to pick out the exact right gift at birthday and Christmas because they listen so well and know us so well, but for their constant and subtle prodding and pushing to make us all better people.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Miss you every day.
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.
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.
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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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.
“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 donkowalewski.com Blog. Thanks for reading.
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.
I’ll figure out what’s next from there.
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.