Monday, January 20, 2020

Best Hallmark Christmas Movies Ever. For now....

Normally this is a place for posts about running. Well, at Christmas time I will confess that I spend WAY more time engulfed in Hallmark movies than running. Yeah, I know, I'm a grown ass man. What am I doing with an obsession for those sappy, unrealistic two hour sagas? The answer is simple: I love sappy. I love predictable, I love happy endings. I love Christmas. I love the fact that the plots are the same. For instance, you always know that there will be drama with 25-30 minutes left in the movie, BUT it will all turn out okay. I'm often confused as to whether any editing whatsoever happens at Hallmark, but I've come to be okay with how closely Hallmark thinks downtown Denver is to the mountains how a woman hoping tgo be engaged can stare at her right hand, and how people can live in a house that looks different each time it's shown. Whatever.

My list leaves out some classic Hallmark women. Lori Laughlin? Forget it. Lacey Chabert? Nope. Alicia Witt? I don't think so. Candace Cameron Bure? Well, she sneaks in for one. My list is completely SUBjective. I like what I like. I like couples with believable chemistry. I like a tale that feels good. I like, as I said, what I like. So without further ado, here are my fifteen favorite Hallmark Christmas movies.

Also, I should mention that last year, some of my opinions were different. Some movies went UP, some went down. AND you get the eleven reasons I like the certainty of the Hallmark Christmas Movie.

15. Time for Me to Come Home for Christmas.  Famous country singer meets business woman, spills coffee on her, and somehow they end up driving to Oklahoma together (where amazingly they both are from). The cast is okay. What makes this movie so nice is the three little mini stories on their journey: the little boy at the airport, the aging country singing couple (The Roamers), and Nate's family.

14. Christmas Unwrapped. Here's where Candace sneaks in. She goes off to be a doctor in Alaska and meets Santa Claus (sort of). Not sure how I let this one slip in. We'll work on this.

13. Christmas with Holly. This is just a sweet story about a little girl whose Mom dies (someone always dies in a Hallmark movie - never in front of you however. Usually it was 1-3 years ago) and is raised by her uncles. A nice little tale.

12. Christmas at Homestead. Movie star films in small town, meets local yokel, falls in love. If anyone else were in this movie, it wouldn't have made it, but I have two words for you: Taylor Cole.

11. Christmas Connection. This is a really cute story about a flight attendant (Brooke Burns) who befriends a little girl and ends up with her Dad. The kid and Brooke are awesome. The couple is one of the least believable.

10. Christmas Getaway. Single woman, single Dad with kid both get booked into the same Christmas cabin. Love happens. Surprise. Love Bridget Regan and Travis Van Winkle. Kid was cute too.

9. Hitched for the Holidays. Jewish girl and Catholic boy arrange dates to make parents and a "dying" Grandma happy during the holidays. Joey Lawrence is a semi unlikely, but awesome leading man and his family is a hoot (especially when they pretend to be Jewish for a dinner party). Mary Lou Henner makes a surprise appearance.

8. Christmas Next Door. A fun story about a grinch uncle having to watch the kids during the holidays. Of course he falls in love with the Christmas obsessed neighbor. Basically, I like Jesse Metcalfe (except the first half of the movie where his hair looks like Eddie Munster's. BUT..... the kids steal this show.

7. Christmas Made to Order. My wife, Linda, doesn't like this one so I watch it after she's fallen asleep. She'd have stuck the 12 Dates of Christmas in here (sorry, not for me). Anyway, I love the budding relationship between Steven and Gretchen and the growing relationship between her and Steven's family. Sometimes I question why I like this movie so much.

6. Snowed in Christmas.  This could have placed higher, actually. I completely like the unfolding chemistry between the main characters Andrew Walker and Bethany Joy Lenz. With that chemistry comes the changing of Lenz' character from over organized "official" girl, to freer, happy girl. Love Chris and Carol (Santa and the Mrs.) who own The Winter Inn. 

5. The Christmas Train. A fun tale about lovers reuniting (unbeknownst to them) on the Christmas Train. Not usually a big Dermot Mulroney fan but liked him in this. Danny Glover was great AND, are you ready for this...... the circumstances around the ending were kind of a surprise.

4. One Starry Christmas. This fun tale of an astronomer and a rodeo cowboy has a fantastic cast. Yeah the leads are good, but the best are Holly's (lead woman) parents. They win best parent award. One of the few movies I watch with my Stetson on. "You're the real deal," Holly says. "Yes I am," says Luke (I make Linda say that at some point during our viewing). Wild Bill was a Wild One.

3. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. While Brooke Burns is my female lead fave, Henry Winkler is the reason this movie is so great. Some of the scenes that contain The Fonz are epic as he always was the King of the subtle look. A fun movie, especially the two airport scenes.

2. The December Bride. Okay..... Jessica Lowndes, BUT the chemistry between her and Daniel Lissing is beyond cute and the story of their fake engagement is delightful. And, did I mention..... Jessica Lowndes. Her Dad and Brother are great, and his parents are even better (in fact his Dad, played by Drummond Macdougall, looked like Dennis the Menace's Dad). Oh nostalgia!

1. Christmas Love Story. There is no debate at the Sands family household. This movie is tops. It was also a surprise favorite for me. Kristen Chenowith is not on the top of my leading lady corps, and looks a bit like an alien too many times in this movie. BUT, this story is beautiful as she (Katherine) leads a New York City teen choir, meets a boy singer (Danny) and his Dad (Greg) and they all live happily ever after. The music is great (especially the close with Chenowith and the boy Kevin Quinn - great voices), the support crew is awesome (especially Greg's boss and his wife as well as Katherine's cousin). The choir is outstanding, AND I especially enjoyed the Father/Son relationship in this movie. The kicker is that neither Linda or I saw the surprise ending coming. RARE in a Hallmark movie.

Am I missing something? Let me know.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Proof is in the Miles. Get OUT 2019!

Holy Crap!

I haven't run this little since High School. Even in the "bad" years when I worked at Coldwell Banker and struggled to get runs in, I ran more than in 2019.


1106 miles. In fact, in 2018 I almost had that by the halfway point. A bad year, indeed. And with the knee replacement in June, I don't expect the next year to be much better. 

1106 miles. That's barely averaging 3 miles a day. And to be honest, if that really was 3 miles every single day, I might be okay with that (well, probably not). But it wasn't 3 miles every day. There were a multitude of 0 days.

1106 miles. That's worse mileage than a 1986 Lamborghini Countach (look that one up). 

So what do you do? We'll see. Maybe....

Run on. Anyway. 

And don't get me wrong, there are plenty of people with much bigger problems than a bad knee. I am grateful to be strong, healthy, and happy with the life I lead.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Yesterday I Woke Up on the Couch

Yesterday I woke up on the couch. No, this isn't a story about marital trouble and it is not a commercial about the world's most comfortable couch (although mine is pretty comfortable). This is a story about decisions.

Yesterday, I was supposed to awaken in a bed at Rose Medical Center. I would awaken there because two days ago I was scheduled for my  knee replacement. While my Doctor said he'd throw me out of the surgery center in 4 hours, Medicare says old folk like me have to spend the night. Anyway, it didn't happen. I moved it; postponed it, you might say. Here's why:

After spending most of a Monday about four weeks ago re-reading my “Guide to Knee Replacement” I am convinced that this was not the time for this and is my best plan.

My reasons for postponing are:
1.   1) In order to have the best replacement surgery and recovery, it is advisable to not be overweight. Presently, I am considerably overweight. My history says that I am literally no good at dropping weight in the winter (like many). I do much better in the spring and early summer and in the past have been able to drop up to 12 pounds a month very naturally. That, frankly, would be ideal. In 2001 at the ripe age of 50, I weighed about 175, which I consider my “ideal” weight. With only four weeks until the December scheduled date, there was no way to make any significant progress to anywhere near that. I know what I have to do to get to 175 and have already made some significant changes in my overall dietary regime.
2.   2) I also read more about recovery and the difficulty of the first month and believe that Christmas is not the time to go through that. Not fun for me, not fun for anyone else. And no fun experiencing this already weird Colorado “winter” with crutches or a walker.
3.   3) Recovery is easier and quicker when the patient is able to be active and summer is the best time for that.
4.   4) Neither Dr Larkin (The Replacer) or Dr Andy (my Ortho guy) are relating any sense of urgency with this surgery. They both say that at some point, I’ll need it, but neither of you say I have to have it, like NOW..

If I were not me, I wouldn’t care about any of this at all. If I didn’t feel that the last 53+ years of running were worth adding to, I wouldn’t care about this. I am the guy who hasn’t been on any major medication for like…. Ever. I don’t even like Advil. To have a foreign object stuck in the middle of my leg seems kind of repulsive and everyone who has had it says it takes some serious getting used to. I really don’t want a knee replacement, but if I want to live the life I want to live for the next 20-30 years, I need to have it done. I just don’t think I am physically (or mentally) ready right now. My wife, Linda, says I'm just chicken. Well, that too.

SO, I postpone. In the meantime, a cortisone shot to help reduce inflammation and pain (although there isn't much pain). Jogging about 15-20 miles a week for sanity, and getting ready to begin the assault of my bike, the elliptical and anything else I can add to the mix.

Why the couch? Well, I've been sick as a dog (whatever that means) the last five days and trying to avoid keeping my wonderful wife awake while I hack through the night.

Run on. Merry Christmas, Happy Whatever else you like.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

It's Really Kind of Sad

It's been a long time since I wanted to write anything on this blog site. I've done some running since July 29 (last post), but nothing of any significance whatsoever.

I write today while basking in the comfort of the once lovely Best Western North River, awaiting tomorrow morning's Chicago Marathon. I was supposed to run Chicago last year, but my knee caused me to defer until this one. This knee thing has eliminated two New York Marathons, a San Francisco, that previous Chicago, and untold numbers of local races.

Anyway, for once, I decided to get my moneys worth and at least show up at one of these expensive events. So here I am (of course it helps that I am also working Monday teaching my brand new Listing class at the NAR building). And while the day began incredibly, it has gone more downhill than the Revel course in Colorado (you'll have to look that one up, sorry).

I awoke to the news of Eliud Kipchoge's fabulous sub-two hour marathon run. While showering, I downloaded the race so I could watch it on the plane. One word: AMAZING! It lifted my soul immensely, and caused me to think that maybe, just maybe, this trip to Chicago would be a good thing.

Upon arriving, the Expo was crowded and fantastic. I love the buzz of a big city marathon expo. All those people, feeling fired up, conserving energy, loving the runner atmosphere that few other events possess. Arriving on Saturday, much of the best stuff is missed. Few, if any, elites are doing appearances and many booths have been picked over. Nonetheless, the electricity remained. And the new Nike hot pink shoes are everywhere.

After Ubering most of the day, I decided to take the Nike double decker bus back to
the Nike store and walk to the hotel (just four blocks). Other than the absolutely freezing wind of the Windy City, the ride was pleasant. The Nike store was PACKED.

It was walking around the store and the subsequent walk to the hotel that it hit me. I am a sad imposter. 

I have run three times in the last two weeks. My five mile run from 13 days ago had my knee buckling at least ten times. My hope, from two months ago, to at least run half this thing has been replaced with a fear that I can't even cover the 5.

My knee is shot. My doctors appointment six weeks ago emphasized this point as the only real solution he had was/is knee replacement. 114,000 miles has brought a bunch of arthritis, and zero meniscus. My knee has called it quits. On the follow-up appointment, this
Tuesday, I imagine I will be referred over to the official knee replacer doc. It's sad; I'm sad.

The issue is that the expo reminded me of how cool it is to be ready and focused the day before a marathon. The reality brought with it the sadness that it is just a reminder of how it was. Yeah, there are many stories of runners who beat the odds and ran far and even raced after their surgery. I'm just not sure I believe I have the discipline and/or desire to be one of them. Seems like a lot of work and after over two years of this bad knee stuff, I'm tired.

So, tomorrow I will go. How far? Not sure. I will go until I'm too humiliated to keep it up. It's sad when you've run fast and now you can't. It's sad when you love the marathon and am not sure you'll ever finish another. It's sad when you feel like you no longer belong to that coolest of groups: runners. It's just kind of sad.

Monday, July 29, 2019


Some people Blame it on Rio. Not me. For me, Rome is the culprit. In fact, all of Italy is to blame.

I'd never been to Italy. Heck, I'd never been to Europe or in fact across either of the Oceans. My life, although much traveled, is domestic in nature. But the trip I took this summer with my wife Linda, and her family, sort of woke me up. And now it's time for decisions.

I'm not big on decisions. In fact, here's how bad it is. The four major life decisions I have made went like this:
1. Began dating my ex-wife because as I was getting ready to leave a party, she said, "How come you're not dancing?"
2. Went on my first date with Linda because she asked me to a wedding.
3. Became a teacher because Dr Beer said I would be a good teacher after I delivered an A+ informational speech in college.
4. Became a real estate agent because someone said, "You should go into real estate," and I said OKAY.

Pitiful, huh?

Traveling to Italy, however, stirred up a bunch of stuff. Italy, obviously, made me want to travel more (I gave up acceptance in the Mount Blanc Marathon for this trip AND of course my crappy knee), the in flight movie Free Solo and Alex Honnold made me want to climb and be all over the outdoors, my son made me want to hike, camp, and kayak, Linda is also  tired of me walking like I'm 98 years old, and I just, simply, want to run..... Another decision has/had to be made. What do I do about my knee?

Tuesday, I took step one on the road to answering that question by going to see my trusted Physical Therapist, Pete Emerson. Pete is awesome. Pete is honest. Pete doesn't like medication, doctors, surgery. Pete also cured my piriformis syndrome when NObody else could. So, I went to see Pete. Here is what he said:

The ligaments in my knee are strong. The tendons around my knee are strong. My quadriceps are strong. My issue is simple: after nearly 114,000 miles, my left knee is suffering from severe degeneration. No stretch will cure that, no strength exercise will cure that, doing nothing won't cure that. "I hate to say it," said Pete, "you may be looking at a knee replacement."

Not the news I want to hear, but exactly the news I expected. After my knee surgery in December 2016, yeah the one that didn't work, it has been a steady trail of pain, discomfort, non-support, bone on bone hyperextension, and flat out knee buckling. On the upside, however, Pete said he sees three athletes in his PT business who are presently running pretty well with replaced knees. In a world where surgeons are afraid to suggest that is possible it's good to know it is.

SO, what is the plan? Pete suggests I get my own x-ray and MRI, take it to several orthopedic surgeons and say, "Here is my MRI, here are my x-rays, here is what I want to be able to do in my life. What do you think?" I like that.

So, what DO I want to do in the rest of my life? Well, I want to run without constant angst over whether my knee will give out. I'd like to race again. Maybe not a marathon (but why not?) but for sure 5Ks, 10Ks, Halfs, Trail races. I want to jump, climb, hike, and, oh yeah, be able to go up and down the stairs or get up from the couch without it being such a big deal. I want to lead a fabulous active life. Not too much, right?

Pete suggested losing 25 pounds prior to a surgery. Twenty Five is nice, why not Fifty? Either way less pressure on the knee (real one or fake) can't help but help. So, OUT is soda, meat, bad stuff, and most every sugar known to man. In is pool running, cycling, 3-5 mile easy runs, beginner rock climbing lessons, and vegetables - oh so many vegetables. I'm shooting for early December. That gives me six/seven weeks of recovery time before I hit the teaching road again. 

No doctors with a million years of experience, says Pete. We want a youngish (40s maybe), tech inspired, computer knee mapper surgeon who's done a lot of knees in the last decade. He says the technology of the knee stuff has grown by leaps and bounds. Awesome, that's what I'm talking about!

Now taking applications...... 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A Trip to Italy (and maybe some runs) Part 13, Arrivederci Italy!

Our Ride
We were up before the alarm. The anticipation of a long trip home sort of weighed on us as we headed down the scary elevator to meet our "driver."

There had been a little bit of a joke about us opting for the car instead of the taxi. Well, not when we hit the curb. There was our guy in a black suit driving a black frickin' Mercedes Benz. Oh yeah, another solid choice!

The trip to the airport was easy, as was check-in, despite AlItalia not being the best communicators around (but what airline is?). We had every piece of paper we needed, checked those massive bags, and hit the waiting area. My carry-on bag.... yes, the Kevin Costner bag, nicely protecting my Luccan pottery. John and Patty's plane left an hour later, but we sill ran into them prior to our/their departure. And before we knew it, we were onboard.

I made a conscious effort for the NY-Rome and back flights to pay a little extra for stretch seats. It was so well worth it. Nothing much happened across the Atlantic (and that's the way we like it). I played some cool trivia game, was amused by a little baby, read a bit (Roger Bannister's book - Twin Tracks), and watched Free Solo one more time. 

Nice View!
Arriving at JFK, we were shuffled through customs in what seemed like record time, grabbed our bags and then unfortunately had to go OUT of JFK and back in to catch our flight to San Francisco. While it could have been a moderate pain, everything went amazingly well and being TSA Pre for the flight didn't hurt.

We had a few hours so we attempted to eat finding that the selection in our terminal wasn't the best. I can't even remember what we settled on, but it was not, as you can tell, memorable. The six hours across the USA seemed to take forever. I decided to pass the time with two oldies but goodies, at least I thought so. First I watched Gone With The Wind.

As always I was amazed at Margaret Mitchell's ability to write such a fascinating character in Rhett Butler. I didn't cry at the end, but I was reminded that this was my Mom's favorite movie of all time and that she thought, if there had ever been a real sequel, Scarlett would have gotten Rhett back. No way, Mom.
Looks like Denver to me!

The other movie was Breakfast at Tiffany's. My motivation here was that I had never actually watched it and I was anxious to see this epic tale of life in New York City. PLUS, Audrey Hepburn. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. This got an Academy Award???? Who was the competition???? Holy Crap, it might have been the most boring, nonsensical, useless movie of all time. Give me a break. I kept asking myself, why am I watching this? Couldn't I just open the exit door and jump? Lord have mercy!!!!

We arrived safely in San Francisco (except for the scarring left from watching Breakfast at Tiffany's), grabbed our bags without incident, and grabbed a shuttle to the closest dump that didn't charge $350 a night, a Super 8. We checked in, hid out in our room and after falling asleep initially, we woke up about 2 and spent much of the remaining night giggling about things that had happened on the trip and especially how terrible it was to watch Breakfast at Your Know Where's.
The Gang in all their glory! Front: Leslie, Me, Linda, Alex
Back: Blane, Kaci, Kyle, Rachel, Joey, John, Patty, Kevin

The crappy Super 8 had a great shower and our Uber arrived bright and early. We made it to SFO just in time to catch our flight home. As hoped, our luggage made it, our Uber driver delivered us home, and everything was intact. Excellent.

It was my first trip to Italy, first trip to Europe. While I could wax poetic about the entire experience, I will only say this: it won't be my last trip like that and I couldn't have done it without this bunch of cohorts. Thanks to John and Patty, Blane and Leslie, Kyle and Kaycee, Rachel and Joey for your awesome company. Thanks to the many wonderful people who helped us all over the place with a special shoutout to Chiara, without whom I'd have never had Chiara's Car.

And big time THANKS to my honey, Linda for being a wonderful companion. Welcome home.

Monday, June 17, 2019

A Trip to Italy (and maybe some runs) Part 12, When in Rome, Time to Go Home

Grabbing shade at Monte train
If it's Monday, it must be time to head to Rome. A bit of a sore knee made a run a lousy idea so I went for a walk instead. We were pretty much packed from the night before and we kind of knew that this would be the close to final packing as we had very limited time in Rome for such things.

Breakfast was good, we walked about town a bit filling in a couple of last minute gift purchases. We were to check out at 11, and a taxi would take us to the train station. Unfortunately we had a bit of a wait until our train left for La Spezia. So we stood, one more time, in the sun waiting for a train dragging around our heavy luggage.  One major lesson learned on this trip for any future trips is this: pack light, wash often.

Special Luggage Spot
We found John and Patty at the La Spezia train station. We would have a long ride from there to Rome (3 1/2 hours) and no one was looking forward to it. As much as the train ride from Florence to La Spezia was a mediocre experience, this one beat it hands down for sheer suckiness. We weren't assigned a track until the last minute and with all of the luggage and last minute bathroom going, we were not positioned for good placement.

The doors opened and every obnoxious train rider rushed through the doorway and snagged every spot in the already minimal luggage area. That, once again, 
Room with a View
left one choice, the overhead space (and there wasn't much left). In the end, we had luggage everywhere. Front, Back, hanging out the window, I think. We still however had one BIG piece without a location. Easy, we thought, we'll just lay it on our table. So that's where it sat for what seemed like an eternity, on our table.

Upon arrival at the Rome station, we were dumped in what I will not so livingly call the catacombs. Far, far, far from the the lovely end of the terminal, we were dumped at the

South end, where basically even the taxis didn't like being. AND, we would need cash for our cab ride and had none. Two stores within a half a mile and no ATM. Then, like a beacon in the harbor, I saw a Radisson hotel. THEY must have an ATM, I thought. BINGO!

My Girl shooting a pic
Heading to different hotels, we took separate taxis. Our driver was one of those, let's call them "creative route" guys. We arrived, just the same although our driver dropped us almost a block from where we were going (of which we were not completely sure). We called our host, and he said he'd meet us in a jiffy (not sure what the European time unit is for the jiffy). He ushered us into this very old building, took us up and even older elevator that barely fit the two of us and our bags, and led us down a hallway to a door that said, "Colosseo Panoramic Rooms." He explained the lay of the land in extremely broken English noting that if we had questions we could call his wife who spoke it better. We asked about shuttles to the airport in the morning and he said a taxi was $48, this shuttle guy he knew did it for $50. We opted for shuttle guy thinking he had to be better than the taxi rides we'd had.

The room was GREAT. Without a doubt, and yours truly scored again as it was spacious, with an AWESOME bathroom, AND a view of the Colosseum. A quick unloading of our stuff and a call to John and Patty to see about dinner. They decided they were an hour, at least, from heading out SO we decided to sightsee the Colosseum before sunset.

Epic Colosseum Shot
The next hour was spent sucking in the majesty of the Roman Colosseum. We were too late for a tour and leaving too early the next morning. So we read placards, took pictures, and enjoyed the crap out of the experience. Soon, the phone rang and we arranged the dinner meeting. We would meet right on the corner near our hotel. Cool. Minutes later, there they were. It turned out that their hotel was pretty much in the same huge building as ours, but on the other side. 

We were pretty much ready to eat, when a lovely young lady in front of a restaurant asked if  we wanted to eat on their rooftop. Sure, why not. Great call on that one. We ended up on the roof of the Ristoro Della Salute with an unobstructed view of the Colosseum. I had a killer Caesar Salad, Linda had, surprise, Bruschetta. Then came the good stuff. For me, a filet with roasted potatoes and tempura asparagus. She had a good looking risotto thing. We ate, recapped, took some pictures, and then departed. Somehow in
See ya Italy!
the reshuffling of flights, we ended up on different ones, so this would probably be arrevaderci. 

We finished packing, set a 5:45 am alarm and spent our last night sleeping in Italy. 

Sogni d'oro. Sweet Dreams.

Until we meet again!