In a past life, I think I was a Who. Because “Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot”, and so do I. Actually I love it. I get completely into it, but not in the goofy Christmas sweater wearing Santa hat on my head kind of way. For me it’s about tradition and it’s more of an internal feeling that one I outwardly show. But there is a time and a place for it. For me Christmas cannot start before Thanksgiving! I need my Thanksgiving with no interruptions! But the fourth Friday in November…game on!

Christmas at my house officially starts out with me reading Dr. Suess’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! to my kids. That book along with all of our Christmas decorations comes down from the attic in the ritual know as “daddy climbs the ladder and hands the dozens of large plastic storage boxes down to mommy. All the while, mommy yells at the kids (who are running amuck, in anticipation of decorating the tree) to stand back because daddy may drop something on their heads.” In actuality I’ve never dropped anything on their heads. However, every year I have managed to drop an Easter basket or two on Gina’s head. To calm the kids as we await for all the boxes to be down, Gina finds the box of all of our Christmas books and gives it to them to place in a large basket on the hearth. Once the glorious large red and green book is found, I am usually finished my ascent into the rafters and climb down to read the children my favorite Christmas book in my best Boris Karloff voice.

That’s about all I can handle of decorating. I don’t like the process, only the end result. So usually I end up going off to work at some point, only to come home to a completed house and then I can futz and putz around until I redecorate and get everything where I like it.

Once the house if properly dressed for the season, there are certain things that have to happen for me every year for it to feel like Christmas, things that warm my heart and make me all gushy inside.

First, there is the music. I keep my car radio locked on the 24/7 Christmas music KOST 103.5 FM. While I do enjoy most all Christmas songs, there are some that I have to hear specific versions of or Christmas is not Christmas and there are one or two that need never be heard! In no particular order, I have to hear…Cougar’s I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause, Burl Ives’ Have A Holly Jolly Christmas, Brenda Lee’s Rockin Around the Christmas Tree, Andy Williams’ It’s the most Wonderful Time of the Year, Bing Crosby’s entire holiday cannon (especially the album where he’s wearing the Santa hat and the holly berry bowtie), and The Vince Guaraldi Trio’s Charlie Brown Christmas album. There are dozens more but those were all must hears. But if never hear Grandma got run over by a Reindeer or that sappy one about the kid that buys his dieing mom some shoes to see Jesus, I will be perfectly content!



Second, there are the movies. There are movies that I would never dream of watching in June, but must be watched in December. And there are scenes that make cry everytime I see them or laugh out loud thinking about them. I have to grab a box of tissues…when Natalie Wood screams to stop the car so she can run out to see the house that Santa got them…when Linus says, “lights please” and recites Luke 2:8-14…when Burger Meister, Meister Burger gets his yo-yo and finds the Christmas spirit…when Jack Skelington prances around Christmas Town singing “What This”…When Jimmy Stewart reaches in his pocket and discovers Zuzu’s petals are still there…when Ebenezer buys a Christmas goose for the Cratchits…and when the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes.



Thirdly, there’s the food and beverages. Every holiday has it’s own special culinary delights, but Christmas confections are something else. Let’s begin with the savory…Honey-Baked ham, mashed potatoes, tamales, shrimp cocktail, yams, trays of Hickory Farms cheeses and sausages, bowls of nuts in the shell with a silver nutcracker and long pick, deli trays of cold cuts, corn, and green beans. Then there’s the sweets…sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies with the Hershey’s Kiss on top, candy canes, See’s chocolates, Grandma Michell’s saffron buns, peanut brittle, fudge, bourbon balls, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, gingerbread, snickerdoodles, stollen, gumdrops, and fruit cake (not!). And don’t forget the sinful…Sierra Nevada’a Celebration Ale, Anchor Brewing Co. Merry Christams & Happy New Year beer, mimosas, kir royale, egg nog, wassail, Bailey’s Kaluha Tuaca and coffee (better know as a Chip Shot), red wine, hot cocoa and Goldschlagger, gin and tonics, hot buttered rum and Clarence Odbody, Angel 2nd Class, favorite holiday classic…Flaming Rum Punch.



Lastly, and most importantly there is the spiritual side of Christmas. Some of my best Christmas memories took place in church. I go to pieces whenever I see a child-shepherd with a sheet wrapped around his head, in a manger scene…when flying angles with trumpets swoop down on Christmas Eve at the Crystal Cathedral…when a stranger sitting next to me in the pew, touches their lit candle with the round paper wax catcher thing around it to mine…when my mom crys as we sing Silent Night…when we took communion as “Mary Did You Know?” was being sung…when someone I’ve never met before and probably will never see again, makes that long walk down the aisle at an alter call to proclaim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior…but most especially when I think about a virgin mother holding the most perfectly innocent and helpless infant that would one day grow up and sacrifice his life for the greatest sinner I know, me.

I love Christmas the whole Christmas season. But it must come to an end. I cannot let it linger in my house. Before the kids go back to school in January, I need it all packed away. The lights come down, the cook books go back on the shelf, each ornament gets wrapped back up in tissue paper, the tree comes apart and put back in the box, the CD’s go back in their cases, I change my radio stations, and I read my kids How the Grinch Stole Christmas one last time. As much as I love Christmas I acknowledge that there is a time and a place for everything and I am perfectly ok with Christmas resting in our dusty rafters for another eleven months.



Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!

Fall

Posted by Jon in HB | 9:51 PM | 2 comments »


I lived in Indiana for almost ten years. When people find out, they usually ask “Don’t you miss the seasons?” My standard answer is “No! The summers were too hot and the winters were too cold.” Which is absolutely true and a very real reason, among several others that I moved back to California. But in my answer, I realize that I’ve left out the other two seasons.

I never really liked spring either. Spring was wet and rainy. It just sort of popped in right after a long, cold, dirty-snow filled winter. It started out cold and wet and it was just one big count down to another hot sticky, mosquito infested humid summer.

But there is one season I miss, fall. Keep your snooty ‘autumn’, to me it’s ‘fall’. It was the first respite from that heat and humidity of summer. Once fall hit, it began to get cool and crisp. You could wear jeans again and flannel shirts. You got out the blankets and put them back on your bed. No longer did you sleep sans sheets in nothing but your underwear, constantly flipping your pillow looking for the cold side. Caps kept your head warm when the cold breezes began. You got excited to be able to rifle through that top shelf in the cedar closet searching for the gloves and scarves that have been hiding from the moths since last February. Friday nights were for football. Leaves began to change colors. And it was all the leaves, not just one tree on the block. They turned gorgeous hues of orange, red, yellow, and brown. But not just any brown, a rainbow of browns that you’d only ever heard of on a Bob Ross painting show on PBS. Browns like; burnt sienna, raw umber, auburn, and sepia; each with their own character and richness. They would eventually fall to the ground and crunch under your feet. People would burn leaves and smoke would travel through the neighborhood. Fall was a picture of a turkey made from the outline of a child’s handprint. Fall meant apple picking, harvest festivals, pumpkins, and nuts. Pale yellow remains of recently harvested corn stalks fill the fields. Fall was Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s not commercial. There’s no pressure to buy a card or a gift for someone. It’s about family and food, two of my favorite things. In Indiana we would usually rotate houses for the big meal every year. Our house, then my aunt’s then Grandma & Grandpa’s then back to our place. It was always potluck and we got to use the good china, the silver and the nice linens. And it was those old standards on the table every year. There was always, roast turkey with bread and celery stuffing, candied yams with marshmallows on top, that green bean casserole with the fried onions, warm dinner rolls with butter, and mashed potatoes. Dessert was served after the table was cleared and dinner had digested a bit. And dessert was always pumpkin pie with cool whip. After dinner grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, & cousins would sit around the living room and talk and laugh.

I loved that tradition. Gina & I enjoy a similar tradition now, with her father’s side of the family. But we’ve always thought how wonderful it would be to experience all the things that we loved about the holiday with close friends. So for five years now on the Sunday before Thanksgiving we invite some close friends over for a potluck turkey dinner with all the fixings. It is a time that I am truly thankful for. It has been a rough year for some. There was sickness, death, relationship struggles and financial troubles. But through it all everyone was thankful. I am thankful to have those people in my life. I am thankful to know that other people struggle like I do, so more, some less. I am thankful that no matter what comes my way I have a group of friends that I can count on to get us through.

I am thankful for the blessings that God has given my family and me. I am thankful that I make enough money that my wife has been able to stay at home to care for our kids. I am thankful that someone as selfless and caring as Gina, saw something in me that made her want to live her life with me. I am thankful for my loving caring son Dylan. I am thankful for my spirited little princess, Megan. I am thankful for my salvation and relationship with Jesus Christ. I am thankful for our church and school. I am thankful for my wife accepting Jesus. And I am thankful for the fall.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Word Verification

Posted by Jon in HB | 10:07 AM | 3 comments »


This was my word verification to make a comment on a friend's blog the other day. Very odd, I just thought I would share.

Rats!

Posted by Jon in HB | 12:07 AM | 5 comments »





We've got 'em again. A couple of years ago we had a rat in our attic. I'll never forget the call i got at work when Gina was screaming that they were poking their way through the ceiling attacking her and the kids (not exactly, but it makes for good blogging stories). But there was a big one up there. So big that Gina's Grandma's handy-man happened to be over doing some work for us and he set a trap for it. When he caught it, I was told that it filled up a shoe box and it was the biggest rat that the guy had ever seen.

Well it's back. And Grandma no longer has a handy-man around. So now it's my job to step up and take care of business.

This little sucker is smart. I first heard him about a week ago. I was putting Dylan to bed and I thought I heard a little scurrying across the the ceiling in his room. And my kid has the most panic crazed thoughts that I did not want to scare him. Seriously Dylan worries about if there is no such thing as God and Heaven. What if it's only the Devil and Hell and he's just making up the good stuff so people won't be so freaked out that every one will spend eternity in Hell after they die. Seriously! And he's only seven! Too Kafka-esque for me. So do you think I'm gonna acknowledge that I thought I heard a rat above his ceiling as I tuck him in, Hell no!

Then a few days later Gina and I are in bed talking before we go to sleep and we hear it again. At this point i have to fess up that I've heard it before, it didn't go away, and I will have to be the big man and take care of it and protect my family.

So a few days later I find myself at Home Depot staring at the billions of options for killing things that should not be in your house. There are really expensive sonic/electronic devices. There are humane little cage things. There is poison. There are the old fashion traps. But I decide on the glue traps.




A large square of plastic filled with a very gooey sticky stuff that traps them. I thought this would be good, no big spring trap to crush them and possible get blood and guts all over. So I wait til the kids are asleep and put a ladder in our closet to access the attic. I clear a little spot on the rafters and set the trap with a bit of peanut butter for bait.

The next night I look for my prize catch. THAT LITTLE SHIT WAS TOYING WITH ME! There was the trap with fur stuck to it and little nail marks in the glue. It checked it out and got away!

Well no more Mr. Nice Guy! I bought a big ass trap, loaded it with peanut butter and smiled while I set it.




His ass is mine. Nobody mocks me! Who does he think he is. No I wait. Tomorrow night i will one again make the trek up the ladder to see what me efforts will produce...




Ha ha ha ha haha!!!

I'm a PC...NOT!

Posted by Jon in HB | 10:18 AM | 3 comments »


Am I the only one that has noticed these "I'm a PC" commercials that Microsoft has put out there as a rebuttal to the hip and trendy I'm a Mac & I'm a PC ones?

They are PC user made and they have the WORST video quality ever! Seriously? You are proving the point that Mac is a superior quality product!

Political Blahs & Yawns

Posted by Jon in HB | 8:09 PM | 2 comments »


There were no good slogans this year. Nothing memorable. Not that there has been for awhile anyway. What happened to those great political slogans of yesteryear? You remember them...

"Tippecanoe and Tyler too"

"A Chicken in every Pot and a Car in every Garage."

"I Like Ike"

"All the Way with L.B.J."

"Are you better off today than you were four years ago?"

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman!"


Or what about those cool phrases that described policy or programs, like...

The Square Deal -Teddy Roosevelt

The New Deal - F.D.R.

The Fair Deal - Truman

The New Frontier - Kennedy

The Great Society - L.B.J.

1000 Points of Light - Bush Sr.

You just don't hear cool stuff like that these days. When's the last time a President made a really memorable quote, the kind they put in history books? Like...

"Speak softly and carry a big stick."

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

"And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

"A man who has never lost himself in a cause bigger than himself has missed one of life's mountaintop experiences. Only in losing himself does he find himself."

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

"If anyone tells you that America's best days are behind her, they're looking the wrong way."

"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure."
(Uhh, what was that?)

When the smoke clears tonight we will have a new President. And while some hope that the next four years will show big change in, health care, the war in Iraq, taxes, immigration, social issues...I just want to not be bored. I want I snappy quote here and there. I want a President that shoots from the hip and does not sound like a Styrofoam cut out regurgitating some speech writers thoughts. This years was so planned out, so scripted

I want someone to tell it like it is, someone with passion. What ever he decides to do in office, be convicted, and do it with your whole heart. Don't do it to please one side or the other. do it because, right or wrong, it's what you believe in. I don't want politics as usual. And may God bless the winner and guide him in his thoughts and choices.


My Dirty Little Wife!

Posted by Jon in HB | 1:46 PM | 4 comments »

Gina set her alarm for 4:00am this morning.
She and my sister woke up and drove to San Dimas to participate in the 2008 LA Muddy Buddy race. I am so proud of her! She is a kick-ass stud athlete! I'm sure she'll blog about it later, but I couldn't resist posting these pics now that she's home.




BEFORE...






AFTER...







She rocks!

I do

Posted by Jon in HB | 7:17 PM | 4 comments »

On October 23, 1999 I said "I do". Nine years seems like it flew by. Not every single day has been the romantic ending of a Nicholas Sparks novel or a perfect scene in a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie. But more days have been than have not! In nine years of marriage I have learned several things...

First, I can choose to be right, or I can choose to be happy. If you know me well, you know that I'm usually smiling.

Second, I have learned that after Gina leaves this Earth behind, she will no doubt be eligible for sainthood for the miracle of putting up with me!

And third, in every marriage there are clearly defined roles. To have a great marriage you must know your role and perform it. And gentleman, don't be so naive as to think that you have a say in your role. Your role will be thrust upon you whether you like it or not and whether you are able to perform it or not. Let me share with you my roles...





I get to kill things in our house.




I get to pick up things outside of our house.




I get to answer the door when certain people come to our house.




I get to fix things that break in our house.





I get to make sure that I have unwrinkled clothes when I leave our house.






I get to hang things from our house.

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Posted by Jon in HB | 4:00 PM | 3 comments »

Last night Gina and I had an awesome evening, celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary. It started with wine tasting at the Irvine Hyatt, sponsored by one of the wine vendors from my work. Then we went to The District in Irvine and had a nice dinner at J.T Schmid's. Then we played a couple of games of bowling at Strike. When then walked around, got a coffee and wandered in and out of some shops.

Then it happened...as we walked to our car we saw two gals trying to change a flat tire. We were almost passed them when I thought, I'd better do the gentlemanly thing and offer some assistance. One girl was struggling with the jack and the other girl was standing by her and watching. I said, "Are you girls ok? Do you need some help?" The girl standing watching turned to me and said, "I don't have a tire iron." Then she totally staggered and almost tripped to the ground as she turned to me, to which I replied..."or the ability to walk appearently." It was an innocent wine enduced comment. I was trying to make light of her situation. However her situation happened to be MS, or cerebral palsy, or a wooden leg, or something else that causes her to walk with a ginormaous limp. Just then AAA pulled up and I quickly walked to our car pretending that didn't just happen.

I thought Gina was going to piss herself from laughing at me on the way home.

In the words of my dear friend Kristi, "Jon is an ASS!"




Happy 100th Grandma!

Posted by Jon in HB | 10:09 PM | 6 comments »


Last weekend Gina, the kids, and I along with seventeen other west coast Michells traveled to Fort Wayne Indiana to celebrate my Grandma Michell's 100th birthday. What an adventure. First of all traveling with twenty-one Michells on one plane was quite an experience! I'll let your mind wander with that one.

We had a great time. All of my aunts, uncles, cousins, great aunts & uncles and second cousins were there for the celebration. It started Saturday afternoon in the basement of Forest Park Methodist Church for refreshments and cake. This is the same church that all three of her children got baptized and married in. The same church that most all of my cousins and I were baptized in. The same church that she work at as the church secretary. The same church that most of my cousins were married in. The same church where my dad would sneek in the the boiler room and smoke cigarettes on the nights that grandma would drop him off for youth group. And the same church that we held funeral services for Grandpa Michell in, several years ago.

After that grandmas immediate family (her three children and their descendants) had a big dinner in a banquet room at the hotel where all of the west coast crew was staying. A lot of speeches, wine and tears made for a wonderful night!



While researching 1908, the year of Grandma's birth, I was amazed to find out some of the highlights of that year...





The year began with the first ever ball dropped in Times Square for New Year's Eve...



...the Cubs win the World Series (for the last time)...



...Ford launched his Model T...




...Robert Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scouts...




...England hosted the IV (that's fourth!) Olympiad...



...and it was the first Mother's Day!



Here are some pictures of all the festivities...




This is Grandma with a beautiful bouquet of 101 red roses. One rose for each of her birthdays and one for next year.




My sister had all of Grandma's twenty great-grandchildren make a square for this quilt by tracing their hand and coloring it. Then she pieced them all together. (That's not a really big quilt, that's a really short woman, under five foot!)



My Aunt Sharon read a proclamation from Indiana Governor, Mitchell Daniels, recognizing Grandma as a distinguished Hoosier. (It's pretty cool when your cousin is the special assistant to the Governor of Indiana!)




We also got to visit with my mom's mom who is a spring chicken at 94.



And no trip Fort Wayne is complete, without a visit to John "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman's grave!

FREE DOG

Posted by Jon in HB | 9:20 AM | 7 comments »


I'm giving away only one, so hurry up and be the first one to contact me or you might miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity!
If you want a myopic, eighty-nine year old, dirty-white, American Eskimo, she's yours.
You must be willing to deal with a few issues. She eats only boiled chicken, plain rice cakes, and outrageously expensive kibble that can only be bought from her vet. You must be ok with non stop barking that sounds like an elderly woman that has smoked since she was twelve. Periodic vomit, that is really just her last six drinks of water with a few blades of grass, must not upset you. Flatulence so bad that GITMO, has deemed it cruel and unusual punishment must not be a problem for you. She has absolutely no concept of where she is, in relation to other objects in the room. This causes her to walk too slowly in front of you or, makes her try to occupy the space that you are currently occupying. You should be willing to scrape crud out of her Sammy Davis Jr. eyes every forty-five minutes. And please, do not forget to administer her phenobarbital every morning or theses issues may worsen!

If interested, call me ASAP. And please, don't tell Gina or her grandmother about this. It will be our little secret. I just have to figure out what to tell them!

Tough Conversations

Posted by Jon in HB | 8:20 PM | 4 comments »


Tomorrow is a day of remembrance at Dylan and Megan's school. All the kids will be wearing red, white, and blue and there will be a moment of silence. At dinner tonight we were talking about it. Megan asked what we will be remembering tomorrow. Gina explained that it is a day to remember a bunch of people that died.
The kids immediately began listing names of dead relatives. "You mean like Grandma Birdie?" "Are we remembering Grandpa Gundry?"
Gina and I started to explain it, but just tapped danced around the subject. I guess we felt that it was too much for a kindergartner and a second grader to digest during family dinner.
Then I thought, where do I want my children to hear about important things like 9/11? From friends making casual comments about it, or wait until they get old enough to surf the web and come across idiotic conspiracy theories like 'Loose Change'?

So I began to explain it to them as best as I could and realized how do you sum up such a horrific cowardly act to your child. How do you make them understand that there are people in this world that hate them, simply because of where there were born. How do you explain to them that tomorrow they might see mommies, daddies, teachers and friends cry for people they never met. How do you make them feel safe and let them know this won't happen to them. How do you let them know that there won't be terrorists on our plane in October when we travel to Indiana for their Great-Grandmother's 100th birthday party.

I guess you just do your best. You put it plainly and simply and if they have more questions, they'll ask. And at the end of the night you tuck them into bed, kiss their check, and snuggle them a little tighter, and pray.

Seriously?

Posted by Jon in HB | 8:18 PM | 0 comments »


Is this really all there was to talk about in the news today?

I cannot wait until the first Wednesday of November.

Life after ALF

Posted by Jon in HB | 7:48 PM | 2 comments »

I always wondered what happened to the dad on ALF.







Apparently he's changed his name to Joe and he's stumping for McCain.






Our Big Date

Posted by Jon in HB | 5:54 PM | 2 comments »












Well, no thanks to your comments, we had a wonderful day. After days of contemplation and planning and miscommunications and lack of communication and misinterpretation and a big old argument I finally planned a great day. Once we shuttled the kids off to camps and sitters it was about 1:30pm and we headed to the Newport Marriott's pure blu Spa for a day of relaxation.

We spent the day lounging by the salt water lap pool in our own private cabana talking, reading, napping and swimming. We sipped champagne and wine. They were four packs of the bottles you get on the airplane. Gina smuggled them in because after spending all that money on the spa, our asses were too cheap to buy booze at hotel mark-up prices.




We enjoyed the dry sauna, eucalyptus steam room, and whirlpool. Then it was off to our massages. We each enjoyed a Cool blu Signature massage and then showered and met in the hotel bar for a cocktail. We then walked across the street to Fashion Island and walked around. Finally ending up at P.F. Changs for dinner.

It was a very nice relaxing day of adult conversation and reconnecting. Through it all Gina and I discovered what are true calling is. We are going to become authors of a book or website that reviews spas for couples. Now we just need to find a lot of sitters, vacation time from work and some high roller to fund our project! If you know of someone that might be interested in helping us out, please have the call us. It would be a grueling job, but we're up for the challenge!

Date Night Dilemma...

Posted by Jon in HB | 10:11 PM | 10 comments »


I really don't want to jinx it, but Gina and I have a sitter lined up for this Tuesday night and have absolutely no plans! This is something we've been trying to do for some time now. But it seems one of the kids is always sick and thwarting our plans.

HELP! 

What should we do? We've run out of ideas.

Please send us a comment on your idea of a great date night. 
Check out the blog on Wednesday to see what we did.