This is Christmas

I’ve always loved Christmas. Always. When I was little, it was because of the presents, of course, but even then, it was more than that.

Religiously, I appreciate what it symbolizes, and that becomes more relevant as my faith deepens. I realize, of course, that Christ wasn’t born on December 25th and that we really don’t know when he was born. But we don’t recognize Lincoln’s or Washington’s birthday on the exact date, either, so it’s not as though picking a date to represent an event is uncommon.

But for me, it’s about family and friends. It’s about seeing people I care about, spending time with them, even if it’s people I see on a semi-regular basis, and even if it’s only a brief lunch outing penciled in between the insane rush of the holidays.

It’s about Christmas carols playing, about the movies on TV, even the insanely corny ones like Hallmark Channel airs. Every year, I have to catch “A Very Brady Christmas” and “Christmas List” on ABC Family (though I’m not sure how Pixar and Harry Potter movies have anything to do with Christmas, yet they make it onto ABC Family’s schedule like every year). I have to watch “Home Alone” and “The Santa Clause” and, by far my favorite, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Some people go crazy when Christmas music starts (earlier and earlier each year), but I say, as long as Halloween is over, bring it on. It’s such a limited time, and it always seems to rush right by.

It’s about Christmas lights on my drive home from work, or kids squealing with delight in the mall when they see Santa (which does still happen, and sometimes I even still believe in him). It’s about a smile on a stranger’s face when you do something nice for them sometime, randomly, because you’re in such good spirits.

It’s about hot chocolate and marshmallows, ham, turkey, or goose, cookies, pumpkin roll, and gingerbread.

Yes, bad things happen during the holidays – people get hurt on Black Friday, or stress over having enough money, finding the right gifts, making time for everyone they “need” to make time for. And this can all be disheartening and frustrating. If we let it.

I have a lot of reasons to dislike the holidays. My grandfather died just a couple days before Christmas a few years ago. Last year, just before Christmas, was absolutely horrible for personal reasons. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned lately, the only things that can truly bother us are the things that we allow to bother us.

So I choose to enjoy it. Because that’s why it’s here. And I hope that, no matter how frustrating and stressful and worrisome it gets, you can enjoy it, too. Because it’s fleeting.

And it’s a gift.

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The Unexpected Positive Side of Being Sick

I’ve no idea if this will make sense to anyone else, but it’s something I’ve thought for quite a few years now, starting in my senior year of high school.

That was the first (and currently only, knock on wood) time I’ve ever had the flu. And, while I was miserable for a few days, I found myself realizing something rather curious afterward.

I’d spent those few days wrapped in a blanket, in my bed or on the couch watching TV, slipping in and out of consciousness. And at the end of those few days, when I started feeling better, I noticed that I felt more relaxed and rested than I could remember feeling for quite some time.

So, almost every time I’ve been sick since then, I’ve noticed the same thing. Obviously I feel terrible during and would much prefer not to be sick, but I usually come out of it feeling re-energized.

And I’ve tried to figure out why that is. Obviously, there’s the physical aspect, wherein we’re usually sleeping or at least relatively immobile. But I think there’s also a mental side of things. Regardless of what crappy stuff might be going on in my life, I tend not to worry about it while I’m sick. All I care about is…not being sick. And that break in worrying about day-to-day life, I think, recharges my brain a little bit.

Case in point, I just had a three-day weekend, starting Friday. I had plans to go out to dinner Friday night. But I woke up that morning with the same stomach bug my mother had just gone through a couple days prior, so I spent the day watching TV and not eating much of anything. I was able to enjoy the rest of my weekend. And now that it’s Monday and I have to go back to work this evening, while I’m extremely disappointed that I didn’t get to enjoy dinner with one of my best friends on Friday and now may not get to spend any time with her until after Christmas, I almost don’t mind that it’s time to go back to work. (Almost, of course. I’d much rather be independently wealthy and retired at 26. Well, duh. But at least I mostly love my job.)

Plus, I lost a couple pounds and didn’t have to kill myself on the treadmill to do it. I also didn’t have to call in sick for work, since I’d already had the day off scheduled. Gotta look for the good, right?

Being sick sucks, obviously. I’m by no means saying I enjoy it. Some people have told me I’m crazy whenever I mention this, but does anyone else kinda get what I’m saying here?

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10 Reasons You Should Be Watching The Hub

For those of you who don’t know, Discovery Kids was re-branded as The Hub, a joint project between Discovery Communications and Hasbro, in October. Since then, I’ve come to realize quite a few things I love about it (not the least of which being that I get to work on the shows that air on it). Here’s some of the reasons why…

10. The Adventures of Chuck and Friends. Okay, it’s a pre-schoolers’ show. And, yeah, it would be hard to sit through several episodes at once. But taken in moderation, it’s actually a really cute show, and the theme song is totally addictive.

9. Classic family movies. They’ve been airing almost all of the Muppet movies, for example.

8. Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. Yep, two of the most classic sitcoms ever, airing nightly. I always liked “Laverne & Shirley” a bit more than “Happy Days.” Hub is also showing “Family Ties,” but I don’t like that one quite enough to mention it.

7. Doogie Howser, M.D. You know, that guy from “How I Met Your Mother,” back when he still wasn’t a doctor, but he played the world’s youngest doctor on TV. I got into it while it was in syndication after its original run.

6. The Wonder Years. I was just a kid when this show aired, so my parents appreciated it more. Now that I’m older, I really get it. It was, indeed, an excellent show.

5. Batman Beyond. Okay, it wasn’t “Batman: The Animated Series,” but it was the same continuity, I believe, and it was pretty good in its own right. They’re also airing the ‘60s Adam West “Batman.”

4. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show. Ahh, one of those shows from my childhood. I can remember watching this on Disney Channel when it originally aired. Is it cheesy? Oh, completely. But in such a wonderful, self-aware way. Peter Scolari (of “Newhart” fame) takes over for Rick Moranis, and also note Thomas Dekker as the son. Dekker went on to star in a ton of other stuff, like “Heroes,” “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” and the reboot of “Nightmare on Elm Street.”

3. Fraggle Rock. Yes, that’s right. Perhaps you remember it by its official title, “Fraggle Freakin’ Rock”! I didn’t have the pleasure of viewing this first time around. It premiered a year before I was born, and I didn’t get cable until I was a teenager (and never had HBO). I also don’t remember it in syndication. But I got to see several episodes at work, and now I’m totally hooked. A truly classic show, indeed. One of my co-workers says she can sing along with all the songs.

2. The Transformers and G.I. Joe. Yep, the original ‘80s versions, for a campy, nostalgic good time. Complete with the commercial bumpers (“We now return to ‘The Transformers.’”). But even better are the about-to-premiere new versions of each franchise. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the first couple episodes of both “G.I. Joe: Renegades” and “Transformers Prime,” and I can’t express how incredibly great they both are. Watch them starting afternoons this Friday, November 26th. (Check your listings.)

1. The potential. Hub is just starting out. There are so many classic shows they could start to air. It seems that they tend to go for currently out-of-syndication series, which gives me hope for things such as “Perfect Strangers” or “Mama’s Family.” I can dream, right?

So, please, watch The Hub. Support it. Yeah, not everything on it is great (I hate their game shows and most of their pre-school stuff, but I’m not really the target audience, either.) But it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite channels. Keep it on the air!

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If the Apocalypse Comes…Don’t Beep Her

In what has to be one of the dumbest moves of the 21st century, Warner Bros. has decided to “reboot” the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” franchise…sans its creator, Joss Whedon. Now, allow me to make it clear that “Buffy” and its spin-off, “Angel,” are among my favorite shows of all time. While I readily admit that much of Whedon’s other work has failed to excite me, his work on the Buffyverse is nigh perfection, in my opinion.

But it’s not the TV show they’re rebooting – nope, they don’t have the rights to that. They’re rebooting the 1992 movie, for which Whedon wrote the original script, which was ultimately defiled by others and turned into something that barely resembled what he had in mind. The movie, I might add, which was considered a critical and commercial failure.

The movie has only the smallest of fan bases, whereas the show has a huge cult following…and none of us has any desire to see anything Buffy-related that isn’t the brainchild of Joss Whedon.

Let’s make it plain – if Whedon isn’t involved, what you’re creating isn’t Buffy. You’re making a movie about a girl who fights vampires, and her name may even be Buffy, but it won’t have anything to do with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” And in this modern era of “sensitive,” moody vampires, I fear what they’re going to do with the story.

Change her name, call her a “Hunter” or something, and you might be able to get away with it. Because one thing is pretty clear — you will definitely not be able to cash in on the Buffy fan base. Without Whedon, none of us will be running for the theaters on opening day.

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I Totally Sweat the Small Stuff

I hate how I let small, seemingly unimportant things bother me, but I’ve recently begun to understand why I do. It’s been a progression.

In my life, there have been a lot of broken dreams, broken promises, and disappointments, whether it was trying and failing to watch them film a movie here over the summer or planning a vacation for months and having it canceled at the last minute or even just wanting to see a play but not finding anyone who could go. Probably 75% of things I really want to do (and should even be able to do) ultimately fail, and it’s been that way since I was old enough to want to do things.

And after 26 years, it’s kind of reached the point where I’m used to the big things going wrong, so it hardly even bothers me anymore. Like, I almost expect it to go wrong, so it can’t really disappoint me too much when it does. But now it’s when the small things go wrong that I really get upset – way too upset in proportion, actually.

Case in point, I was recently offered something by a good friend, who knew it was something I really, really would enjoy having, and there was even an effort to give it to me. But when the first attempt failed, that was it. My friend decided he didn’t want to give it to me – which was entirely his right, I might add. It wasn’t really something I deserved to have, anyway. It’s not so much that I’m not getting it that upsets me, but that he went so far as to try to give it to me, which, in my mind, meant I was going to get it, and now I’m not.

I realize that entire example is vague and probably confusing when you have no clue what I’m talking about, but the point is, it wound up seriously upsetting me. In reality, it’s not even remotely important, but when you live your life not getting very many of the big things you hope for, the little things become huge to you. It’s sad when, like, an episode of a TV show excites me as much as – I don’t know – an all-expenses-paid vacation or something would excite most people. When it’s all you have, it means more to you than it would to most others.

I need to learn to not let things like that bother me. But it just gets added to the list, and it brings up the memories of all the other things that have gone wrong. I need to stop bottling up my feelings and truly learn to get over things. And I’m working on it.

This is really one of the most muddled, incomprehensible posts I’ve ever written, but it was on my mind, so I figured I’d get it out. Maybe it’ll make sense to you.

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“Deathly Hallows, Part One”

Let’s just get it out of the way right now. “Deathly Hallows, Part One” was epic! Ep-ic! Almost everyone I know who’s seen it agrees, though one of my friends has referred to it as “disappointing.” I certainly don’t get that at all. I thought it was well-paced, and I definitely wanted more at the end. They did a fantastic job setting up part two.

But I’m not really going to review it here. If you saw it, you know how it went. If you didn’t, you either don’t care or intend to see it later. So, instead, I’m going to tell you about the insanity surrounding my day.

When I went to see “Order of the Phoenix” the first time, I wound up sick about 10 minutes in and had to leave. That day was one of the sickest days of my life, so I was miserable. I ultimately wound up seeing it a few weeks later. So, when I went to see “Half-Blood Prince,” I was a tad worried something else would go wrong. Fortunately, that one worked out fairly well, if I recall correctly.

Today, however, was incredibly strange. On the way to the theater, we ran into traffic on the highway twice, the second time so bad that we got off and took the side roads. That was the first sign that today would be odd.

After we got to the mall – considerably early, since we weren’t sure what the crowd would be like – we killed a little time doing some shopping, then, as we returned a bag to the car, we saw three fire engines in the parking lot, one of which was just driving up and down each lane of parking spaces. We have no idea what they were doing. Then, suddenly, two of them turned their lights on and left the parking lot, only to return a bit later.

Anyways, when the line started to form, we jumped in it. I’d bought tickets online, but I still had to exchange my voucher for real tickets, which resulted in a half-hour wait outside in not the warmest of weather. Behind me, one guy received a phone call informing him that one of his friends had hit the lottery for $1.7 million. I really need to play the lottery occasionally.

Finally, the box office opened at 12:30, and the line started to move. I got my tickets and we headed inside.

As we entered our screen, the lighting was really dim, almost totally dark, and we could barely see our way up the steps to the top, where we prefer to sit. Literally, it threw my equilibrium off so badly that I almost fell repeatedly, and I felt dizzy for several minutes after we’d sat down. I’ve seen a number of movies, and that’s never happened to me before.

The movie started normally, but around an hour in (in the middle of the scene where they apparate into the woods), the screen suddenly burst into bright orange, almost looking like flames, and went black. The projector had malfunctioned.

It took 20 minutes for them to announce that the projector was screwed up (no kidding!), and they said they hoped to have it back shortly, otherwise we’d receive vouchers for free tickets. Personally, I think we should’ve gotten the free tickets anyway, as it was about half an hour before the movie finally resumed, only to go black again about a minute later.

I thought that would be the nail in the coffin, that they’d have to stop so that they could have it fixed in time for the next showtime, which I assumed they wouldn’t want to delay so long. I was wrong, and a few minutes later, the movie resumed again, and played normally for the remainder.

After we got out of the movie, we went to an in-mall restaurant to eat what turned out to be very blah, almost tasteless food (but an awesome dessert), and I managed to make a fool out of myself several times to a very cute waitress. Whatever. I’m used to looking like an idiot.

As we were leaving, I slid out of the booth and managed to slam my right knee rather hard into the pole holding the table up. I saw stars and limped to the car.

When we were almost home, we drove through a significant amount of smoke and briefly worried it was coming from the direction of our houses, but we ultimately found no source for it. It was almost a relief to get home.

When I got in the house, I changed clothes, noting the rather nice bruise on my knee, not to mention the decent-sized bump.

Seeing “Harry Potter” shouldn’t be so crazy. But it was worth it, because it was easily the best movie I’ve seen this year. Rupert Grint and Emma Watson kind of made the movie – I’ve always liked Ron and Hermione a bit more than Harry. I was disturbed by the number of parents who took young children (like, 4 years old) to a movie that was clearly not made for children (and common sense should’ve told them that).

Side note: I was rather surprised by the amount of skin in the movie. It didn’t bother me, mind you (I’m a bit of a prude, but I’m not that prudish). It just surprised me. And I’m pretty sure Daniel Radcliffe deserves the “most shirtless appearances in a single movie” award.

But, anyways, excellent movie, for sure. Possibly my favorite in the series. My aunt (who loves Harry Potter almost as much as I do and who accompanies me to all the movies) shocked me by suggesting that we go to the midnight premiere of part two – in character! She wants to dye her hair purple and go as Tonks. I’m most definitely in! Whether or not it’ll actually happen remains to be seen, but I’ll post pictures if we do.

My final thought? Go see it. Now. Or I’ll use the Imperius curse and make you!

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I’ll Drink What I Want, Thank You

A lot of things bother me. I tweet about them occasionally, but overall I tend to stay quiet, at least in mixed company, because I respect other people’s opinions and try not to push my own. I’m a “live and let live” kinda guy.

That’s probably why it raises my blood pressure considerably whenever I hear about truly wrong things. And I’ve heard a couple of stories in the past two months that really bug me. Well, in fact, I’ve been hearing a lot of stories lately that irritate me, but I’m going to focus on these tonight.

I really dislike when school districts decide they know better than parents. Maybe because school districts – at least, public ones – are government institutions, and I don’t think the government should try to run my day-to-day life, either.

For example, a local school district has banned soda from their school. That doesn’t just mean vending machines or anything like that. It means it’s not allowed to be packed in lunches from home, either. And not because they think soda cans are too sharp or some other such nonsense which might at least be somewhat justifiable. It’s because soda is “unhealthy,” and the school has decided they have the right to prevent you from drinking it, even if your parents are okay with it.

And that means, if you take it into the school, they can snatch it out of your lunchbox like they did to a girl my family knows, embarrassing her in front of everyone by making a loud announcement that she had brought this horrible contraband into the school. And it wasn’t even a regular can. It was one of those mini-cans. And she didn’t normally bring it, but her mother, who usually packs her lunch, was away, so her father packed it and thought he would give her a little, basically harmless treat.

This isn’t cocaine. It’s not beer. It is a perfectly legal and even moral beverage. Maybe you can justify not selling it on school grounds, but where do you get off telling me that I can’t send it with my child?

In a different school district, another child my family knows took a Twinkie or Doritos or something along those lines (I admit, I can’t remember what), and he, too, was chastised publicly by a teacher who confiscated it. And, let’s face it, the teacher probably then proceeded to eat it in the lounge.

Don’t tell me what I can and cannot eat. Or what my kids can and cannot eat. I decide that. Not you. You don’t have the right to decide that.

I admit, I don’t eat very healthily, and that’s my right. And that’s because, no matter how hard I try – and I do try – the taste of healthy things tend to make me sick. I do, at least, try to eat in moderation. It’s not easy, and I struggle with it. But it’s my choice. And what worries me is how our choices seem to be disappearing quickly.

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