Attempting to Be the Next Chip and Joanna Gaines By Painting Our Back Porch (Two Different Colors?!)

As we have recently have decided not to make the easy $80,000 profit from selling our house right now, the focus has instead become finding ways to make small upgrades without having to spend too much money; as our agenda is to pay off our mortgage as soon as possible.

While my parents were still in town for my wife’s birthday so we could enjoy going to the Kenny Chesney concert in Nashville without worrying about the kids back at the house, my wife suggested we run out to Lowe’s the morning after to buy supplies to stain the back porch again.

Admittedly, I had been faithful to keep it stained… up until our daughter was born over 2 years ago.

Being the thrifty Millennial parents we are, we decided to check out the “Oops” section at Lowe’s, in an attempt to keep from having to pay nearly $50 for the stain.

I had remembered from last time I stained the porch that it took one big can and one small can to do the job. Turns out, there happened to be one big can and one small can there in the “Oops” section, with labels clearly confirming they were the exact same shade.

When we got back home, my wife chose dibs on the railings, which meant I would handle the deck itself. Once she opened her small can of stain, she mentioned her surprise that the color was more of a classic red; as opposed to the more natural look I had used before.

But oh well, we spent only $17.50, as opposed to nearly $50. Not to mention, as least we would be improving the quality of our back porch; even if it meant changing the color.

My wife was already a few minutes into starting the railing before I opened my big can of stain. Then I saw it… I shouted, “Hey! Stop. Look at this…”

I showed her how my can, despite the label indicating it was the exact same shade as her small can, was actually more of a salmon color, instead of classic red stain.

After a 2 minute deliberation, we decided to just to go for the two-one, knowing that A) we will likely stain it again (all the same color) before we eventually sell our house, and B) that most people probably wouldn’t even notice the colors didn’t match anyway…

Unless I made it obvious by doing a blog post about it.

Oops!

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My Wife’s 37th Birthday Gift from Me: Tickets to the Kenny Chesney Concert in Nashville on August 11th, 2018

Without question, the biggest fan of Country Music I’ve ever known is my wife, Jill; who was born and raised in northern California; near Sacramento. (I suppose there’s some irony in knowing that I myself was born and raised in Fort Payne, Alabama; the hometown of the country group Alabama.)

Her favorite artist is Kenny Chesney. And amazingly, he just happened to be having a show in Nashville (where we live) on her 37th birthday, which happened to be on a Saturday.

In other words, the stars were aligned just right for my wife to have the perfect birthday gift for her 37th birthday.

My parents came up to take care of our kids while we were out having fun for over 11 hours, so we didn’t have to worry about getting a babysitter.

We were able leave our house early enough to find a place to park and stop for dinner, without feeling rushed.

The opening acts were Old Dominion and Thomas Rhett.  They both served as perfect openers, as their style shares the same laid back rock feel of Kenny Chesney’s music.

Earlier this week leading up to the concert, my wife already stated that this was going to be the best birthday gift she’s ever gotten. She confirmed that statement throughout the concert- and a few times since we got back from it.

An interesting side note: Kenny Chesney’s show broke the all-time attendance record for the Nissan Stadium where it was held; as we were part of the 55,182 people who attended.

I’m happy that my wife loved the concert so much. Despite living in the Nashville area, it’s seldom we ever actually get to go become part of the action downtown. We had a great time together!

If only Kenny Chesney did a show every August in Nashville, I’d never again need to wonder what to get her for her birthday. I’d be set…

Here’s to a great way to start 37!

The Crazy (Not So Crazy?) Idea to Downsize to a One Story Home in an Effort to Pay Off Our Mortgage Quicker

When our family moved into our brand-new construction home back in January 2015, we had somewhat of an idea that we were potentially getting the last great deal in our bedroom community outside of Nashville.

But we didn’t realize that would mean the value of our home would increase more than $25,000 each year following.

In our neighborhood, houses are constantly for sale, and often are sold before a “sold” sign can even be posted in the yard.

My wife has been keeping up with the growing selling prices of our neighbors’ homes. It’s no exaggeration: We would easily make $80,000 if we sold our home today.

Contrast this to a decade ago when we bought a town home the year we got married, which happened to be right in middle of the The Great Recession. The value of that town home began dropping almost immediately. When we finally sold it in 2014, we barely made $1,000 off of it.

My wife and I are mutually obsessed with paying off our mortgage as soon as possible; as we have been debt free for 5 years now: No student loans, no car payments, no interest to be paid- other than our mortgage.

Last weekend was consumed by the quest to find out it would make more sense to actually downsize to a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, one story home in our area; compared to the 4 bedroom (plus a bonus room), 2 and a half bathroom, 2 story home we have now.

Even with the cost of other homes rising in our town, the $80,000 profit from selling our current home would greatly minimize our monthly payment; which we’re already paying several hundred dollars extra on each month.

We learned that ultimately, the amount of money we owe the bank would remain the same, but with the monthly payment being several hundred dollars lower, we could increase the amount we pay on the principle by that much more. And therefore, we could pay off our home years sooner.

However, it’s still a gamble…

Because at the rate our home is increasing in value each year, this means that two years from now by 2020, our home would be worth $100,000 more than what we bought it for in January 2015.

So while we are still open to the idea of downsizing in order to have a paid off mortgage that much sooner, it might be smarter to wait a few more years as our home continues to increase in value at the rate it is.

Therefore, it looks like our plan is to be working on simple upgrades for our home in the meanwhile, so that not only we will be able to enjoy our current home that much more while we are actually living it, but so that it will also be that much enticing for future buyers.

The problem is, I’m no Chip Gaines when it comes to my handyman skills. That will prove to be the biggest challenge for now…

Dear Holly: You Wore a Poop Emoji Band-Aid On Your Forehead to Church, While Your Parents Never Questioned It

2 years, 3 months.

Dear Holly,

The funniest part of this story is that it wasn’t until Mommy was making dinner last Sunday evening, around 5:30, that I even bothered bringing it up:

“So Holly’s been wearing a poop emoji Band-Aid on her forehead since I woke up this morning. We went to church, and then went to the doughnut shop, and the rest of the afternoon has now passed. Up until this point we haven’t talked about it.”

Mommy’s answer was everything I knew it would be. It was the explanation I didn’t need, since I already knew the answer because I know you that well. It was the very reason I never mentioned it all day:

“Yeah, Holly saw that I bought new Band-Aids and she wanted one on her forehead- so I let her. It wasn’t worth the fight.”

Needless to say, you’re going through that “wears Band-Aids excessively and unnecessarily” stage.

Earlier last week, I came downstairs from vacuuming, and you had two on each arm and two on each leg. You looked up at me in an attempt to earn all my sympathy:

“Daddy, I got boo-boos!”

You were the equivalent of a cartoon kitten who went skateboarding for the first time.

To you right now, Band-Aids are a fashion accessory. But you are also able to understand that in order to somewhat justify wasting them, you have to write a loose narrative as to why you’ve earned the right to wear the Band-Aids.

But you know good and well I’ll immediately settle for, “Daddy, I got boo-boos!”

Like Mommy said, it’s just not worth the fight.

In your psychological and social development right now, this is important to you.

Not to mention, I can’t deny it’s giving me access to being able to take some pretty funny and eventually embarrassing pictures of you these days.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: You Start 2nd Grade in the Morning

7 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack,

Tomorrow morning, you will officially be a 2nd grader. I was just telling Mommy tonight how I pretty much remember the entire year of 2nd grade. It was the first year in school where I have more than just flashes of memories from it.

I remember that was the year I officially became obsessed with getting a Nintendo so I could try to save the princess on Super Mario Bros. I remember Nonna taking me to see the movie, Big, which was the first non-kids’ movie I ever saw in a theater. And I remember that was the first time I was in a school play: I was an earthworm.

You have an exciting year ahead of you, which will bring its own little milestones in your life.

Today was your last day of summer art camp. When I picked up and reminded your teacher why you wouldn’t be returning after today, I could tell how proud you were when I said, “Jack starts 2nd grade tomorrow!”

Earlier this week, we even got to meet your 2nd grade teacher… or I should say, teachers.

Your school is experimenting with a new curriculum this year in which you will have a homeroom teacher who takes care of math and science, but then for reading and social studies, you will go across the hall where a secondary teacher will handle those subjects.

When I started 2nd grade 30 years ago in 1988, we only swapped teachers for reading. And it wasn’t until 6th grade that switched teachers for more than one subject.

You are definitely ready and eager to start 2nd grade.You were proud too, that this will be your first year at your school where your classroom is up on the 2nd floor.

If you weren’t a big kid before, you definitely are now.

Love,

Daddy

Every Wednesday is Noodles & Company: How I Accidentally Founded the “Lunch Bunch” Tradition at My Office

This week marked the third month of my return to the corporate world. After an unexpected gig as a stay-at-home dad for 6 months, my mind is now consumed for 8 hours a day by a constantly shifting workload of HR, marketing, and admin; as my English degree somewhat randomly translated into a lifelong career as a professional recruiter; in addition to running this blog, managing two YouTube channels, and handling SEO for companies on the side.

Never in my life has anything I’ve ever done required such a high percentage of brain functioning as my new current job at a Fortune 500 company; as I hide away all day in a fancy 6 story building outside of Nashville. It’s not stressful, but it’s undeniably challenging.

For most of my 11 years as a recruiter at my previous employer, I was known for just bringing my lunch everyday. And I definitely never went out to lunch with any of my co-workers.

But about a month ago at my new job, I decided to reward myself for surviving the first two months of training. I walked half a mile around the corner to the Noodles and Company; knowing without a doubt they would quickly and easily be able to accommodate my needs as a manly vegan.

The meal was everything wondrous I imagined it would be.

So after I walked the half a mile back to my office, I casually mentioned to Lori, who works in the cubicle next to me, what I did on my lunch break.

She immediately responded, “When are you going again? Let me know- I want to go next time!”

For the next two Wednesdays, she and I both went. Then word spread. Today made the 4th week of our tradition, and now were up to about a half a dozen people.

We’re all Noodles Rewards members; meaning we earn special discounts and freebies each time we stop there for lunch.

It feels good to be a part of the group- and to know we’re going somewhere I actually want to be each week and that I never get tired of.

My favorites are the Spicy Korean noodles with tofu and the Thai Green Curry.

Noodles & Company is naturally an extension of my identity. Not only do they openly cater to vegans like myself, but they also have so many menu options for everyone else in my lunch bunch; including one co-worker who orders theirs gluten-free; which is very easy to do with there not only being rice noodles but also Zoodles, made from zucchini.

I also appreciate that I can get meals that come so spicy they fog up my glasses. I like how we can see the staff making our food the moment we order it and then how our food is brought to our table just a few minutes later.

And not only is the price in my budget, but as a token Millennial, I avoid going to restaurants where I have to tip. Noodles and Company is a fast-casual style restaurant; meaning that there is not full table service offered.

By now, it may be easy to assume that Noodles and Company is sponsoring this post. But no, they’re not.

In fact, this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned there here on my blog, simply because I am passionate about their brand. Back in January 2017, I featured them in a story about my son and I going to see Rogue One and stopping at Noodles and Company for dinner. (See picture above.)

I am simply writing about something I very much like. I am a huge fan of Noodles and Company.

And therefore, the Lunch Bunch is sure to arrive every Wednesday.

How I Accidentally Retired as a Stay-at-Home Dad 3 Months Ago and Went Back to Work Full-Time… Finally, I’m Ready to Talk about It

It was exactly 6 months since I had accidentally become a stay-at-home dad. That’s when I got the unexpected (and overdue?!) phone call.

A recruiting firm in Jacksonville, Florida had discovered my resume on Career Builder and assured me that I was more than perfectly qualified for a Forbes Fortune 500 employer that was just down the street from where I had worked for nearly 12 years.

The irony is that I had applied to work for this company just 3 weeks after I became unemployed. But apparently, the timing wasn’t right when I was most ready to go back to work.

Instead, the timing was right after I had made “stay-at-home dad who works side-jobs online” part of my identity for 6 months.

By mid-April, I had already assumed I wouldn’t be returning to work in an office until perhaps my 2 year-old daughter started Kindergarten. That was because it only took a month after losing my job to realize that most of my income had been basically just cancelling our day care costs for both of our kids and covering most of the gas money it took for both my wife and I to commute to work in separate cars to different parts of Nashville. (My wife, who has her master’s degree, has been bringing in significantly more income than me for most of our 10 year marriage.)

In other words, being a stay-at-home dad actually made more sense anyway.

But in the likeness of the classic sitcom trope where the TV character has no interest in making a deal until they hear how much money that opportunity is surprisingly worth, I quickly changed my mind from “Thanks, but…” to “How much money did you just say?!”

It turns out, my 11 years working at the same company serving in roles of recruiting, HR, and retention made me quite marketable for the right company who was looking for someone with that kind of background.

The new job offer came with a 50% raise, compared to what I had been making where I had worked for the 11 years prior. Not to mention, the hours are much more flexible, so that I can get to home more than an hour sooner each day.

With all that being said, the pay increase of my new job matches the increase of the challenge level.

I have never used my brain at such a high-functioning level on such a consistent basis as I have since starting my new job in May. But I love the challenge of what I do!

So in the same way I found myself suddenly without a job after working at the same place for over a decade and had to reinvent my identity… just 6 months later, I was thrown back into the corporate world, but this time, in a much more advanced version.

It’s almost exactly like the beginning of Rambo: First Blood Part II. I feel like an action star of the 1980s who was called out of retirement for the sequel.

I am basically Rambo right now.

Photo by Mohamad Alaw.