P.C.Pop with Pablo

Archive for the ‘Fashion’ Category

Father’s Day – Hey Groupon, I Ain’t That Guy!

In father's day, fatherhood, Malavenda, Men, Pablo Malavenda, parenting on June 19, 2016 at 6:20 am

fathersdayAs Father’s Day approaches — I once again have to accept the fact that I am not a “typical” dad. And my kids are used to explaining that our family is a bit “weird.”

Thanks to “Deal of the Day” websites and e-newsletters like Groupon & Living Social — we are further reminded of the stuff and activities that dads are supposed to like.

Groupon not only has Father’s Day deals that include cigars, meat (steaks), sports equipment, watches, recliners, grills, grilling tools, chain saws, lawn mowers, car detailing, beard grooming stuff, all kinds of things to help me carry my beer and keep it cold, and yes, ties — but they also have a post entitled, The Guide to Father’s Day Gifts. Groupon wants my kids to take me boxing, race go-carts, start a wood working project, jump out of a plane (tandem sky dive), taste a bunch of beers…and go to the shooting range (yes, guns), golf course, batting cage, rock climbing wall, go-cart track, etc. Not to mention that Home Depot, Lowe’s and Menard’s keep sending me emails promoting their gift cards as great Father’s Day gifts. Really?

Now, truth be told — I do enjoy some of these things, a few of these activities, and enjoy an occasional trip to the “hardware” store — BUT is this what they really think about fathers. Is this it? To be fair, Groupon has a deal for facials but they listed it under “wildcard” father’s day gifts.

These “Deals of the Day” sites have taken it to a new level.

My frustration stems from the fact that I was raised as a progressive, Mediterranean-American male – who does NOT fit any of the stereotypes of the typical man as defined by Groupon, the greeting card industry or by any marketing that is gender-based.


Greeting cards are the worst though. In general greeting cards reinforce all of the worst negative stereotypes about men, women, and several other historically oppressed peoples. Standing in the card store in front of the rack filled with greeting cards, I momentarily feel inadequate, left out, odd, and less than a man. I don’t golf, fish, drink beer, or demand dinner when I get home from a long day in the office. I DO cook and bake well; I work around the house; I respect my life partner (and still love her a lot); I love being a dad; I do laundry, iron, and put away clothes; I fill and empty the sink and dishwasher; I dress myself; and I put the toilet seat back down. Eventually I realize that I am very, very OK with NOT being the “guy.”


1963ish1 (2)My male role models in my family were studs – but they were respectful of their partners; they were romantic; could cook and did often; and dressed very well. They hugged and kissed their kids every day, said I love you to their wives, and went shopping, did laundry, and made dinner. Of course roles in relationships were different in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s – but I am a combination of their great traits and the expectations of modern times. Why then do the greeting card writers and marketing gurus still perpetuate these archaic, primitive, unenlightened behaviors featuring beer loving, Neanderthals, sloths, chauvinists who can’t cook and prefer hunting and fishing and golfing more than being with their family?

So what’s up? I doubt if the only Father who doesn’t fit their mold is me. I am sure there are other Fathers, perhaps the majority of Fathers, who can’t relate to the males depicted in these greeting cards. In such a competitive, commercial, and capitalistic industry – if it didn’t sell, they wouldn’t keep making them. So, who are these guys? – And who’s buying these cards or this stuff on Groupon? Are we just so lazy that we can do nothing more than surrender to the negative stereotypes of Dads? – No matter how offensive it is to both men and women.

Or it is that I – once again – am the only one who cares? (Probably not.)

So, now I must go and bake for the church brunch, hug my wife, do the laundry, drive my son to band practice, call my mom, text my wife that “she’s beautiful and I miss her,” sew my daughter’s shirt, tutor my kids in math, go grocery shopping, and get dinner ready for the family.

This is what this Father is doing – so, call us weird — but there are NO complaints here — because I’ve got the BEST job in the entire world!


Read more stories about growing up in my family and our traditions, check out these PC Pop posts:


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Father’s Day – I (still) Ain’t That Guy!

In father's day, fatherhood, Malavenda, Men, Pablo Malavenda, parenting on June 14, 2014 at 11:34 pm

happyFathersDay2014

You’re family’s weird — we overheard our son’s best friend say to him on speaker phone. What do you mean? Max asked. Well, his friend said, your dad is baking for church and your mom is outside cutting the lawn. Max then replied — yeah, my family breaks all the stereotypes.

Only two days ago, when I was explaining to a friend that I was having the hardest time finding anyone to fix the concrete steps at my church — she  replied — just do it yourself. My response was — you obviously don’t know me. I am handy around the house and all — but install a set of concrete steps — are you kidding?

Then there is the media and memes and greeting cards — I ain’t that guy!!

Greeting cards in general reinforce many negative stereotypes about men, women, and several other historically oppressed peoples. We may have come a long way from the racial and ethnic stereotypes in mainstream cards but problems still exist. As a feminist and a father of a daughter, I am aware of the role of women and girls in greeting cards as well as the images, colors, and characters used for girls versus boys. It starts with from conception with Baby Congratulations cards and continues on through Father’s Day and Mother’s Day cards, Anniversary cards, and general Birthday cards. Our best friend and his wife just welcomed a new baby girl, and we could only find a Minnie Mouse congratulations card – no Mickey – and of course it was pink. (There was a Mickey Mouse card but it was for a new born boy and it was blue).

Personally, there are two times a year I dread going shopping for greeting cards. One is my wedding anniversary and the other is for Mother’s Day. I also get frustrated during Father’s Day by all of the marketing and sales. It’s a great time to buy power tools, a lawn mower, a grill, golf clubs, hunting gear – because it is all on sale – for Fathers – but I Ain’t That Guy. My frustration stems from the fact that I was raised as a progressive, Mediterranean-American male – who does NOT fit any of the stereotypes of the typical man as defined by the greeting card industry or by any marketing that is gender-based.

Standing in the card store in front of the rack filled with greeting cards, I momentarily feel inadequate, left out, odd, and less than a man. I don’t golf, fish, drink beer, or demand dinner when I get home from a long day in the office. I DO cook and bake well; I work around the house; I respect my life partner (and still love her a lot); I love being a dad; I do laundry, iron, and put away clothes; I fill and empty the sink and dishwasher; I dress myself and do it pretty well; and I put the toilet seat back down. Eventually I realize that I am very, very OK with NOT being the “guy” in the Father’s Day, Mother’s Day or Wedding Anniversary cards. After a few minutes of browsing cards in our local greeting card store and online, I noticed some themes.


The message I saw is that Real Fathers:

  • Eat Beef not veggies
  • Don’t Cook – unless it is an Outdoor Grill or Deep Fried Turkey
  • Sit in Recliners
  • Sleep in Hammocks
  • Try to get out of doing Chores
  • Golf
  • Fish
  • Drink Beer
  • Leave the toilet seat up
  • Won’t Change a Diaper
  • Can’t Dress Themselves
  • Aren’t Romantic
  • Don’t Bake – unless you count pancakes from a mix
  • Demand Dinner after a long, hard day at work
  • Are Lazy, unorganized
  • Love cars (over human life partners)
  • Burp, Fart, Spend a lot of time in the bathroom, Snore
  • Lounge in underwear
  • Have bad tempers – Yell at their wives
  • Are not affectionate — don’t kiss, hold hands, hug
  • Love Bacon
  • Leer at young women in bikinis
  • Have a mustache
  • Need more tools
  • Smoke a pipe
  • Shoot guns
  • Insult their wives – joke about their weight, hair, looks, gray hair, cooking, etc.
  • Are mostly white, stupid, and straight

1963ish1 (2)My male role models in my family were studs – but they were respectful of their partners; they were romantic; could cook and did often; and dressed very well. They hugged and kissed their kids every day, said I love you to their wives, and went shopping, did laundry, and made dinner. Of course roles in relationships were different in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s – but I am a combination of their great traits and the expectations of modern times. Why then do the greeting card writers and marketing gurus still perpetuate these archaic, primitive, unenlightened behaviors featuring beer loving, Neanderthals, sloths, chauvinists who can’t cook and prefer hunting and fishing and golfing more than being with their family?

So what’s up? I doubt if the only Father who doesn’t fit their mold is me. I am sure there are other Fathers, perhaps the majority of Fathers, who can’t relate to the males depicted in these greeting cards. In such a competitive, commercial, and capitalistic industry – if it didn’t sell, they wouldn’t keep making them. So, who are these guys? – And who’s buying these cards? Are we just so lazy that we can do nothing more than laugh at the negative stereotypes of Dads? – No matter how offensive it is to both men and women. Are we not protesting enough to see a more aggressive movement to influence change with the current messages in greeting cards – and the negative stereotypes that they are reinforcing? Or it is that I – once again – am the only one who cares? (Probably not.)

So, now I must go and bake for the church brunch, hug my wife, do the laundry, drive my son to cross country practice, call my mom, text my wife that “she’s beautiful and I miss her,” sew my daughter’s shirt, tutor my kids in math, go grocery shopping, and get dinner ready for the family.

This is what this Father is doing – so, call us weird — but there are NO complaints here — because I’ve got the BEST job in the entire world!


 

Read more stories about growing up in my family and our traditions, check out these PC Pop posts:


My Story of Pasta Fazool

In Family, fatherhood, Food, health, Italian, parenting, Summer for Renewal, Uncategorized on August 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm


Pasta Fazool aka Pasta e Fagioli — This is My Story


Pasta e Fagioli is one of those dishes in my family that popped up every now and then — and everyone loves it. Later in life I was given more insight into this simple Italian meal from my Grandmother, Phyllis. If I hadn’t lived with my grandmother for a while in college, I might never have heard some of these stories about our family, our heritage, our Pasta e Fagioli. When I was accepted into college my family didn’t have a lot of disposable income to support me 100% — so, I made some tough decisions to make college more affordable. First decision was to attend a regional campus of UConn to save some money.  Commuting to the Hartford regional campus would allow me to live at home and pay a fraction of the cost of tuition/fees compared to the main campus. By the time the first day of classes rolled around I unfortunately no longer had a working car. Just getting to the campus every day was a challenge. I did various things to get back and forth and for part of that time I lived with my grandmother. My grandmother lived in the south-end of Hartford and the UConn Hartford campus was on the west-side of Hartford — actually in West Hartford. I soon became a city kid and got comfortable taking the bus everywhere.

My new home was in one of the oldest Italian neighborhoods in Connecticut. Franklin Avenue is a well-known center of the Little Italy of Hartford — and I live right on Franklin Avenue in an apartment with my grandmother. The street level of her building was one of the best Italian grocery stores on Franklin Avenue and directly across the street from one of the best Italian bakeries in the city. It was a very walk-able neighborhood — everything you needed was within walking distance and downtown Hartford was only a 20 minute bus ride away. My grandmother did not drive or own a car either but never struggled getting by on Franklin Avenue. At this point in her life my grandmother was retired but still very busy. I soon realized that during the day through early evening she had a definitive routine.

My grandmother’s routine was driven by “her shows.” Her first soap opera came on at 11 a.m. so everything had to be done by then. She got up and made breakfast. One of my favorites was French toast made with Italian bread. She often ate hers with salt and pepper — not maple syrup. Once breakfast was done, my grandmother planned the menu for the day and then went shopping for fresh bread and everything else she needed for lunch and dinner. She enjoy really fresh food, so she shopped every day at the small grocery store downstairs, the bigger grocery store a block away, and one of the several bakeries on Franklin Avenue. Her options of places to shop increased on Wednesdays because she walked a couple of blocks up Bond Street to attend early morning mass at St. Augustine’s. My grandmother worked very hard all morning planning the meal, shopping, tidying up the apartment, and making lunch. Her ultimate goal was to be settled in her chair in the TV room with her lunch ready to eat at exactly 11 a.m. when her first soap opera started. The dinner she planned would be pretty traditional with an Italian flair but lunch was consistent — a sandwich and a side dish. My grandmother used fresh Italian bread, fresh deli meat, and fresh cheese usually provolone. She then prepared a hot side dish. Although for most this would be just another lunch — but to my grandmother it was an inspired work of art made with love. The sandwich was toasted or grilled and was a masterpiece.  The side dish could be almost anything like a simple soup (chicken noodle, turkey rice, split pea & ham, minestrone), vegetables (ratatouille or grilled vegetables like peppers, onions, squash, zucchini), pasta (risotto, pastina), or creamy polenta with grated cheese and/or tomato sauce. I learned a great deal about cooking and planning meals during these times. My grandmother shared little tricks and techniques and soon I knew how to turn a good sandwich into a great sandwich.

Most of the time, my grandmother was so focused on getting settled for her soap opera TV show, that there wasn’t much time for chatting. But I learned that if I listened carefully, I could learn a lot. She not only taught me about food but also would tell me the story behind the food. One of my favorite stories is how this is the food that the poor people at in Italy. Most of the ingredients of her side dishes were inexpensive, grown in the garden or from left-overs from dinner. As I mentioned in another blog, we rarely went out to eat at an Italian restaurant because they served we could make better, fresher and much less expensively — for pennies. As Italian chain restaurants started to pop up and become popular it amazed my grandmother that they offered and charged a lot for Italian “peasant” dishes like polenta, pastina, risotto, Pasta e Fagioli, and even pizza with homemade pizza dough.

Another story was about Pasta e Fagioli. Pasta e Fagioli is the ultimate poor-family meal. Among her friends when she was a kid, Pasta e Fagioli was made at the end of the week with the left overs from the entire week. Pasta e Fagioli literally translates into “pasta and beans.” So technically any soup that includes pasta and beans can be called Pasta e Fagioli. It is a delicious, hearty meal that you could make with everything you had on hand. Pasta e Fagioli can include meat but it can also be a vegetarian meal. Now you have to be careful with old time Italians because even though it was served vegetarian most of the time in my family — the flavor in the broth came from pork. A hunk of salt pork, some bacon fat or a ham bone was often used to add flavor. Salt pork or bacon fat was used when sautéing the onions and celery and if you had a ham bone on hand you would include it with the water or broth when you begin simmering the soup.  You then add the first of the two main ingredients — the beans. It can honestly be any bean you like but in my family it was typically kidney, chick peas, canteloni beans or some combination of the three. After an hour or so of simmering, remove the hunk of pork and ham bone and add beans and pasta. My favorite is a mini tube pasta called ditellini. Others in my family prefer a bow-tie pasta. I think you get the idea — frugal families would take all of their leftovers for the week (including hunks of salt pork and bones), add rough-cut vegetables, onions, celery, garlic, broth/water and the magic ingredients — pasta and beans.

Pablo’s Pasta e Fagioli Recipe – click photo

The best part about Pasta e Fagioli is it is the ultimate Italian food for the soul. There is nothing more comforting that a hot bowl of Pasta e Fagioli with grated parmagiana, crushed red peppers, and a slice of crusty Italian bread. So it is not surprising that most Italian restaurants offer Pasta e Fagioli; and it is one of the best things to bring to a carry-in or potluck. And when you want to show your friends that you care about them during tough times or times of joy, nothing says you care more than sending a big pot of Pasta e Fagioli. You’re not only sharing a meal but you are sharing your heritage and a family tradition.

Another quite humorous part of this meal is the pronunciation itself. When I was growing up we ate something called “Pasta Fazool.” Everyone in our family called it Pasta Fazool; our friends called it Pasta Fazool; you could order Pasta Fazool in a restaurant on Franklin Avenue and get what you wanted without the server giving you a strange look. Basically there was no reason for me to question the proper pronunciation of Pasta e Fagioli. It wasn’t until the coordinator of the potluck lunch at work asked me for the recipe of my Pasta Fazool that I actually saw how it was spelled. And then the first time someone ordered it at the chain Italian restaurant, the well trained server of the fake Italian restaurant gave us a funny look and corrected our pronunciation — which by the way wasn’t correct either. I again denied our family mispronounced Pasta e Fagioli because we also didn’t pronounce other foods phonetically — like lasagna, manicotti, mozzarella, or ricotta. I later discovered that the pronunciation, Pasta Fazool, is unique to the American-Italian community in the Northeast. So I now proudly say Pasta FAZOOL!

Our Pasta e Fagioli is vegetarian (often vegan) and a healthy, high protein, low fat meal. Today, I share this story and meal with my family — the next generation. The most wonderful part of this meal are the memories of my grandmother and our time together. The cook that I have become is in large part to my grandmother. She was a creative and confident chef. She loved making meals special and loved sharing meals with others. As a tribute to her and all of the other great cooks in my family, I am committed to not only sharing these meals with my kids but also keeping the stories alive. My grandmother would be very pleased that I have kept many of her traditions alive and I am still sharing her stories and our memories.


Buon Appetito!


If you want my recipe for Pasta e Fagioli, click here.


This PC Pop Blog post is a part of a series called the Summer for Renewal. Read the other Summer for Renewal posts too.  They are as follows:

 


Read more stories about growing up in my family and our traditions, check out these PC Pop posts:


Pablo’s Pasta e Fagioli Recipe

In Family, fatherhood, Food, Italian, Malavenda, Pablo Malavenda, parenting, Summer for Renewal, Tradition, Uncategorized on August 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm

This is one from my grandmother’s kitchen. It is a recipe from the old country — true Italian comfort food. Pasta e Fagioli can be found on the menu of many of the best Italian restaurants around — but the dish was a peasant dish served by frugal families. My grandmother’s version used salt pork or a ham bone for flavoring. My version is vegetarian (often vegan), high protein, and low fat. Pasta e Fagioli is a special treat for my family — and I hope it becomes that for you. For the whole story of my family’s Pasta e Fagioli tradition, READ the PC Pop Blog post: My Pasta Fazool Story (aka Pasta e Fagioli).


Pablo’s Pasta e Fagioli Recipe

Serves: 10-12


Ingredients:

  • 2 cups – onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups – celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves – garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 cups (2 cans) – kidney bean (light and dark red)
  • 2 cans (28 oz.) – crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) – diced or stewed tomatoes
  • 2 tbs. – olive oil
  • 2-4 tbs. – dried or freshly chopped parsley
  • onion powder/garlic powder, to taste
  • 28 oz. – water or broth
  • 1 cup – pasta (ditalini)
  • grated cheese
  • crushed red pepper
  • crusty Italian bread

 

 


In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil and onions. Saute onions stirring often until they begin to look translucent – about 2-3 minutes; then add garlic and celery. Continue to stir occasionally over medium heat for about 5 minutes (be careful not to burn onions or garlic). Optional – add other chopped vegetables.

Add kidney beans, parsley, onion powder and garlic powder – and combine ingredients by tossing well. Add crushed tomatoes and stewed tomatoes. Fill each empty tomato-can half-full with water or broth (approximately 28 oz. total) to get remaining tomatoes — add to the pan. Bring soup to a boil carefully; then reduce heat and simmer for 20-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

For al dente pasta, 30 minutes before you are ready to serve, carefully bring the soup to boil. Then add the pasta, bring to boil again, cover and turn off heat. Let stand, covered for 20-30 minutes. Stir and serve with grated cheese, crushed red pepper, and crusty Italian bread. Fresh green salad with oil/vinegar or Italian dressing is a perfect accompaniment.


Buon Appetito!



This PC Pop Blog post is a part of a series called the Summer for Renewal. Read the other Summer for Renewal posts too.  They are as follows:


Father’s Day – I Ain’t That Guy!

In father's day, fatherhood, Malavenda, Men, Pablo Malavenda, parenting on June 17, 2012 at 12:28 am

Greeting cards in general reinforce many negative stereotypes about men, women, and several other historically oppressed peoples. We may have come a long way from the racial and ethnic stereotypes in mainstream cards but problems still exist. As a feminist and a father of a daughter, I am aware of the role of women and girls in greeting cards as well as the images, colors, and characters used for girls versus boys. It starts with from conception with Baby Congratulations cards and continues on through Father’s Day and Mother’s Day cards, Anniversary cards, and general Birthday cards. Our best friend and his wife just welcomed a new baby girl, and we could only find a Minnie Mouse congratulations card – no Mickey – and of course it was pink. (There was a Mickey Mouse card but it was for a new born boy and it was blue).

Personally, there are two times a year I dread going shopping for greeting cards. One is my wedding anniversary and the other is for Mother’s Day. I also get frustrated during Father’s Day by all of the marketing and sales. It’s a great time to buy power tools, a lawn mower, a grill, golf clubs, hunting gear – because it is all on sale – for Fathers – but I Ain’t That Guy. My frustration stems from the fact that I was raised as a progressive, Mediterranean-American male – who does NOT fit any of the stereotypes of the typical man as defined by the greeting card industry or by any marketing that is gender-based.

Standing in the card store in front of the rack filled with greeting cards, I momentarily feel inadequate, left out, odd, and less than a man. I don’t golf, fish, drink beer, or demand dinner when I get home from a long day in the office. I DO cook and bake well; I work around the house; I respect my life partner (and still love her a lot); I love being a dad; I do laundry, iron, and put away clothes; I fill and empty the sink and dishwasher; I dress myself and do it pretty well; and I put the toilet seat back down. Eventually I realize that I am very, very OK with NOT being the “guy” in the Father’s Day, Mother’s Day or Wedding Anniversary cards. After a few minutes of browsing cards in our local greeting card store and online, I noticed some themes.


The message I saw is that Real Fathers:

  • Eat Beef not veggies
  • Don’t Cook – unless it is an Outdoor Grill or Deep Fried Turkey
  • Sit in Recliners
  • Sleep in Hammocks
  • Try to get out of doing Chores
  • Golf
  • Fish
  • Drink Beer
  • Leave the toilet seat up
  • Won’t Change a Diaper
  • Can’t Dress Themselves
  • Aren’t Romantic
  • Don’t Bake – unless you count pancakes from a mix
  • Demand Dinner after a long, hard day at work
  • Are Lazy, unorganized
  • Love cars (over human life partners)
  • Burp, Fart, Spend a lot of time in the bathroom, Snore
  • Lounge in underwear
  • Have bad tempers – Yell at their wives
  • Are not affectionate — don’t kiss, hold hands, hug
  • Love Bacon
  • Leer at young women in bikinis
  • Have a mustache
  • Need more tools
  • Smoke a pipe
  • Insult their wives – joke about their weight, hair, looks, gray hair, cooking, etc.
  • Are mostly white, stupid, and straight

My male role models in my family were studs – but they were respectful of their partners; they were romantic; could cook and did often; and dressed very well. They hugged and kissed their kids every day, said I love you to their wives, and went shopping, did laundry, and made dinner. Of course roles in relationships were different in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s – but I am a combination of their great traits and the expectations of modern times. Why then do the greeting card writers and marketing gurus still perpetuate these archaic, primitive, unenlightened behaviors featuring beer loving, Neanderthals, sloths, chauvinists who can’t cook and prefer hunting and fishing and golfing more than being with their family?

So what’s up? I doubt if the only Father who doesn’t fit their mold is me. I am sure there are other Fathers, perhaps the majority of Fathers, who can’t relate to the males depicted in these greeting cards. In such a competitive, commercial, and capitalistic industry – if it didn’t sell, they wouldn’t keep making them. So, who are these guys? – And who’s buying these cards? Are we just so lazy that we can do nothing more than laugh at the negative stereotypes of Dads? – No matter how offensive it is to both men and women. Are we not protesting enough to see a more aggressive movement to influence change with the current messages in greeting cards – and the negative stereotypes that they are reinforcing? Or it is that I – once again – am the only one who cares? (Probably not.)

So, now I must go and bake a cake for my daughter’s birthday, hug my wife, do the laundry, drive my son to his guitar lessons, text my wife that “she’s beautiful and I miss her,” tutor my kids in math, go grocery shopping, and get dinner ready for the family. This is what this Father is doing – and NO complaints here — because it is the BEST job in the entire world!


 

Read more stories about growing up in my family and our traditions, check out these PC Pop posts:


Under My Umbrella – Creating a Happy Place

In color, dolly parton, dollywood, Fashion, rain, rainbow, smoky mountains, umbrella, Uncategorized, WHUS on April 5, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Red Heart Umbrella


The way I see it, if you want the Rainbow,
You gotta put up with the Rain

If you take the time to find the perfect umbrella, choosing one with a bright and bold color, you will love the rain — and have a much more joyful life with plenty of rainbows. Here is a guide to Creating a Happy Place – Under My Umbrella (Ella Ella, Ay Ay Ay).

On our recent Spring Break Trip to Eastern Tennessee, we took our kids to Dollywood.  I must admit the first time I went to Dollywood, I was not expecting to enjoy myself. A self-proclaimed New England snob, what could Pigeon Forge, Tennessee have to offer me by way of entertainment and thrills. Our first visit to Dollywood was pre-Kids and was a day-trip with the in-laws. I must admit we had a blast at Dollywood. I now triple love and admire Dolly Parton from Nine to Five to Dollywood. So, recently when we were discussing our options for Spring Break 2012, we realized our kids had not ever been to Dollywood, Gatlinburg or the Great Smoky Mountains.  Of course the kids only know her from her role as Aunt Dolly, Miley Stewart’s godmother, on Hannah Montana. Since our first (pre-Kids) visit to Dollywood, the park has grown and grown and grown.  Plus — the week of our designated Spring Break 2012 was also the week of the first public launch of Dolly’s new rollercoaster, the Wild Eagle. After a week of exploring all of the “must-see” attractions in Eastern Tennessee, I can honestly state that our Spring Break trip was a big success, and the kids loved Dollywood.  Our kids shared that they were surprised that Dollywood was way better than they thought it would be and they admitted some initial apprehension. I would call that —  Success!

Laurel Falls -- Great Smoky Mountains

Even though it was only the sixth day of the 2012 Dollywood season, the park was ready to go and filled with beautiful flowers, blooming trees, wildlife roaming freely or in natural habitats, and the weather was perfectly delightful.  It was a sunny, breezy, spring day.  Until the thunderstorm moved in, that is.  The storm passed through quickly but it did force us to be creative during that time (and my mother-in-law decided to head home). It would have been so easy to be angry with the rain and thunder for ruining our afternoon, but we chose a positive outlook instead.  It was then that I noticed a quote, from Dolly Parton herself, craftily painted over the threshold of one of the many theaters on Dollywood’s Show Street.



The way I see it, if you want the Rainbow,

You gotta put up with the Rain

(Dolly Parton)


I read it to myself and reread it and smiled.  Dolly Parton strikes again.  You may not believe it but try as I might to dislike everything associated with country music and (the University of) Tennessee, I admire Dolly Parton — and here she goes again.  This quote was what I needed at that very moment. This experience and this quote reminded me of a theory I developed years ago as to why most people hate the rain.  Regular listeners to my weekly WHUS radio show, PC Pop with Pablo, heard the theory often — as often as it rained, actually.  Not to be confused with my stories about how college students, when they get wet from the rain, smell very much like wet dogs — the theory has to do with your choice of umbrellas.

As you know from my previous PC Pop blog posts, I see that the moods and behaviors of us all have to do with a phenomenon referred to as self-fulfilling prophecy.  We choose our attitudes and we use self-fulfilling prophecy to prove and justify our negativity, impatience, anger, and moodiness — including behavior that is hateful, bigoted, intolerant, and disrespectful.  Some of us are so bound and determined to be miserable that we create an environment for it to thrive. We want the rumors to be true so badly that we wait for and find justifications and information to support our lies.  I have met individuals who would not know what to do if they didn’t have something about which to whine or someone about whom to despise; and others who direct every conversation and every situation to how they are the only true victims in this world. How utterly exhausting. Remember — we have complete control over our attitudes and our moods. Furthermore, only you can give others the power to put you in a bad mood and ruin your day and hurt you. You choose your attitude, and you choose your umbrella. (See how I brought you back to my theory about rain — clever, aren’t I.)

Basic Black UmbrellaNext time it rains take a look at everyone’s umbrella.  You will see what I have for years; and agree that it is no wonder we hate the rain. Most umbrellas are black. Now don’t get me wrong — I like black but I also like color.  I have never been afraid of bright, bold colors — especially in my wardrobe.  In fashion, black has its proper place.  Most of the time when you wear black it is a very solemn, serious moment.  Whether it is a formal evening function, a serious business meeting, or a funeral — black is not typically associated with cheerfulness. And even when you must wear basic black or formal black you usually have the option of adding a smattering of color. But a black umbrella is a black umbrella.

So when it rains — and it is a given that you already hate the rain — you can really make sure that it is a miserable experience by covering your heads in a black canopy — the Umbrella. How absolutely and utterly depressing.  It makes sense that we end up dreading rainy days — even harmlessly delightful, misty rains. Imagine the next time it rains if everyone was smiling, smirking, giggling, laughing, joyful, exuberant — making others wonder what’s up and what they’re missing. My theory is that you can get this done simply by picking a better umbrella. Now Degas Umbrellathere isn’t going to be one umbrella that works for everyone.  So, first you must know what personally makes you giggle and smirk.  Once you have a list of giggle-irresistible characters, images, animals, and colors; choose those that would make you smile in your private umbrella-place without being too corny (like a photo collage of your family). Then the fun part — finding the umbrella. I would suggest starting with a quick internet search — but if you prefer the social experience of the good ole brick’n’mortar, then go shopping. Be creative — think unique, colorful, bright, and funky. Some of the best umbrellas can be found in the most unlikely places like candy stores, museums, ice cream shops, bakeries, amusement parks, comic shops, toy stores, art collective studios, book stores, garden shops, and even pet stores.

Remember what you’re looking for is an experience and an attitude — an umbrella that you can’t wait to use and makes you pray for rain. Be forewarned that once Pink Flower Umbrellayou get excited for the next opportunity to strut around town with your new umbrella — it won’t rain for days. But when it does rain, you will be ready. The first few times, I would suggest choosing that parking space that’s farther away to give you the maximum impact. And how will you know you have succeeded? When you push that button, pop open that umbrella, and swing it over your head — you will have succeeded if you get lost in the joy of your new private umbrella rain space. Ka-POW!

You probably know where I am going with this.  Yes. It is about your attitude toward Mickey Mouse ears umbrellarain or rainy days.  We all know (April) showers bring (May) flowers and also give us life — and rainbows — but we still dread seeing rain in the local weather forecast. We blame rain for a lot like ruining our entire day, canceling the parade, flooding our basements and giving us mold, destroying our vacation, giving us rain delays, and dangerous driving conditions with blinding conditions and hydroplaning. BUT — the deeper meaning is about more than rain. If we can laugh and sing and dance in the rain merely by choosing a colorful umbrella — just imagine how we can make many of the clouds we create in life disappear.

The concept is best described in the book, the FiSH! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results (2000, Lundin).  FiSH! Philosophy is basically a Fish!: A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results (2000, Lundin)leadership and customer service model but the concepts transcend the workplace. The four principles of the FiSH! Philosophy are Be There, Play, Make Their Day, and Choose Your Attitude.  All of them are powerful concepts and collectively, if practiced consistently, can transform a team. The one that really impacts me day to day though is Choose Your  Attitude.  According to the FiSH! Philosophy, Choose Your Attitude means taking responsibility for how you respond to what life throws at you. Once you are aware that your choice impacts everyone around  you, you can ask yourself, “Is my attitude helping those Lady Umbrellasaround me? Is it helping me to be the person I want to be?”  (2000, Lundin).

The power is within all of us.  The power of choice. Choosing to love the rain. Choosing the best umbrella. Choosing a positive attitude. Choosing to give ourselves permission to giggle, to smirk, to laugh, to smile, and to be exuberant.

So the next time it rains — grab your umbrella and join me Under My Umbrella – Creating a Happy Place. We’ll laugh and sing and experience life and joy — looking forward to that rainbow and enjoying those (May) flowers.


References:
Lundin, Stephen C. (2000). FiSH! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results. New York: Hyperion.

For a list of some of the better Leadership books, check out the PC Pop blog post: Leadership Books – Recommended Reading.


Bonus — Enjoy Rihanna’s “(Under My) Umbrella” Orange version featuring Jay-Z


Mad Men Style

In Fashion, fatherhood, GQ, life, Mad Men, Malavenda, metro, metrosexual, Movies, Pablo Malavenda, parenting, Pop Culture, Rat Pack, Sinatra, TV, Uncategorized on March 26, 2012 at 10:25 am

Growing Up with GQ — Part 2:

Either You’ve Got or You Haven’t Got STYLE!


Robin & the 7 Hoods


This is the second PC Pop blog post in a series called Growing Up with GQ.  As you know from previous PC Pop blog post (Growing Up with GQ), I grew up surrounded by men who took great pride in how they looked, smelled, and were proud to be one step ahead of the latest fashion.  Every man in my family was voted “Best Dressed” in high school; and someone in our family has continuously subscribed to GQ magazine since the early 70′s.  We were metro before there was a word for it.

Robin & the 7 HoodsRecently I have realized that my son is the sole heir of this marvelous legacy.  He’s the only Malavenda male in his generation.  That’s a lot of pressure on him — and me. I have been looking for inspiration in many places and searching for opportunities to make the point without triggering the “oh, dad” so typical these days.  Not sure if you have noticed but men are dressing better in movies and TV — and men and fashion is once again acceptable.  And thanks to shows like Mad Men and characters like Don Draper there is a renewed interest in the classic fashion styles of the past — even the ’60’s. One thing my son and I do have in common is our love of “black and white” movies and TV — classic cinema and television.  He and I (to the dread of my wife and daughter) watch a lot of the Dick Van Dyke Show and movies on the classic movie channels. He loves the George Clooney – Ocean’s movies; so, we watched the original from 1960. Last weekend, we stumbled on a movie similar to the original Ocean’s 11 that featured amazing fashion — Robin and the 7 Hoods starring the Rat Pack.

Robbo played by Frank Sinatra is a mobster from Indiana who is now in control of Chicago’s north side during pre-prohibition times. Robbo and his band of thieves which features Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin are different from the other gangsters (Peter Falk) and corrupt Sheriff (Victor Buono).  With some of his money Robbo with theSinatra, Dino, Bing help of an orphanage director (Bing Crosby) creates a nonprofit social services initiative.  In addition to the orphanage, they run a homeless shelter and soup kitchen. The movie is a great vehicle for the Rat Pack with great music, dancing — and great costume design. The movie score features some of the most memorable Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen songs like “My Kind of Town,” “Bang! Bang!,” “Any Man Who Loves His Mother,” and “Don’t Be a Do-Badder.”

Ole Blue Eyes, Bing, Dino and Sammy are also dressed to kill the entire movie. Mad Men - Men's StyleThe fashion and style of this movie are classic, mobster, glamorous 1910’s style with a Technicolor – 1960’s – Vegas – Rat Pack swagger. More importantly the fashion in this movie has helped me make sense of my family. I forgot about the connection between the appreciation of GQ style with the men in my family — and the Rat Pack. The song and dance routine, “Style,” from this movie says it better than I. As the song goes, “Either you’ve got – or you haven’t got – style.” It would even inspire Don Draper.

Watch this clip from Robin and the 7 Hoods.  I think it speaks for itself.



Today, with the recent fascination with everything Mad Men and Don Draper — perhaps there is hope for my son to be more conscious about fashion and how he looks, smells, and dresses. A father could hope for a kid whose “got it” — yes?

Growing up with GQ — Never Stack Up Your Patterns (and other fashion rules for men)

In College Students, Fashion, GQ, Malavenda, metro, metrosexual, Pablo Malavenda, Pop Culture on June 18, 2011 at 10:14 pm

I grew up surrounded by men who took great pride in how they looked, smelled, and were proud to be one step ahead of the latest fashion.  Every man in my family was voted “Best Dressed” in high school.  Buying a suit off the rack was unthinkable.  And it didn’t stop there.  They wore the best athletic shoes, ironed their under-shirts and jeans, never wore jeans or t-shirts to school, tweezed eyebrows, and had their own signature cologne. Someone in our family has continuously subscribed to GQ magazine since the early 70’s.  We were metro before there was a word for it.  These men were also tougher than anybody in the neighborhood but never afraid to wear pink. (My uncle wore a pink suit to my confirmation as he served as my sponsor and got a compliment from the bishop.)  Everyone wanted them on their team, wanted to be their friends, and envied their sense of style — and their mojo.

GQ was a must read.  GQ is great if you have tons of money and have the ability to be dressed by a designer.  GQ is useful for knowing what color is the new brown; how skinny or wide your tie or lapel should be; or if your pants should be plain front, straight leg, cuffed, pleated or skinny. (I could go on and on about skinny jeans but we’ll save that for another time.)  So you can imagine my horror when I see men mixing the patterns.  Every day it seems I see someone with a plaid shirt with plaid shorts or someone with a pattern tie with a plaid shirt and a striped suit.  Now I am told that it is the latest fashion to mix your patterns — that it is the current fashion rule that is OK to break. GQ calls it “stacking your patterns.”  Designers are promoting it and famous folks are wearing them.  But you have to be brave to defy such a long standing fashion rule.  And not everyone, strike that, very few can pull it off.  I have yet to see someone in my small town pull it off.  So Stop.  Please.  My advice is to follow the rules.  Here are a few, if you missed that lesson growing up.

  • Don’t mix patterns — if your shirt is plaid, striped or patterned, everything else should be a solid color
  • Tuck in your shirt and Wear a belt
  • Your belt should match your shoes — black belt with black shoes, brown shoes with a brown belt — and your watch band should match your belt
  • Only wear white pants and light suits between Memorial Day and Labor Day — never wear white after Labor Day
  • Don’t wear suede or leather in the summer
  • Wear socks
  • Socks should match your pants
  • White socks with athletic shoes only
  • Flip flops only at the beach or in the locker room
  • No socks with sandals – or should I say mandals
  • Iron your shirt, at least
  • Polish your shoes
  • Learn to tie a tie with a dimple — and never wear a tie too long or too short
  • Tie should complement your shirt and suit
  • Don’t be afraid of color
  • Undershirts should remain under your shirt
  • Sweatpants are for the gym only
  • Pajamas, lounge pants, and slippers are for bedtime not to be worn in public
  • Never wear camouflage
  • For nicer occasions (wedding, interview) wear a white shirt
  • Never take off your suit jacket at an event, meal or meeting
  • Don’t button the last button of your suit jacket
  • Suit jackets should be snug on your shoulder — pants should break once not gather on your shoes
  • Black with black; Blue with blue — black pants with black socks; blue pants or blue shirt with blue socks
  • Never wear black with brown or navy
  • Don’t mix metals — all gold or all silver — not both
  • Unless you’re in the NBA or a professional clown — Never wear blue with orange; never wear red with green; never wear purple with yellow
  • Comb your hair, use some product tame it but not too much so it looks slick or stiff
  • Shave, shower, and don’t wear too much cologne

If you want to be more fashionable than the rest of the neighborhood kids, then here are a few things to remember.

  • No pleats — only plain front pants
  • Straight legs — no flared legs
  • Medium width to skinny ties with medium sized collars
  • Leave the really skinny ties for the younger generation — but wide ties are out for all ages

Now you may after reading this think that I fancy myself a well dressed man but I don’t.  I’m a state worker.  I’ve worked for the state for many years and stopped trying to be the best dressed at work.  I do however know the rules and follow them and appreciate when others do as well.  I also cringe when I see the rules being broken.  I secretly wish I never knew the rules.  What a carefree life you might have if you didn’t know about the rules, didn’t care about the rules, and just dressed as if no one was watching.  Walking around with plaid shorts, a plaid shirt, flip flops, and not so fashionable messed up hair — Oh the freedom.

But for me — oh the pressure. So for now, please, please stop stacking up the patterns.

Good luck.