Dear Jack: You Have Your 1st Speaking Part in a Play, Because You Volunteered for It

8 years, 3 months.

Dear Jack,

I’ve been telling you all week how proud I am of you for volunteering to have a speaking part in your upcoming play at school. Two students from every class in 2nd grade will have a speaking part in the play.

This is your line:

“Our first song is ‘Top of the Music to You’; in this song, we live about the orchestra, which consists of four instrument families: woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion.”

As your parent, I never know how seriously you let my life advice soak in. But for the past couple of months now, I have been telling you what an advantage it is to be the boy in your class who jumps at the chance to participate in a play. It builds confidence and provides opportunities in life; so I have learned. (This is coming from a dad who has been on national TV, of course.)

I explained that typically in elementary school, boys are afraid to get up in front of people and have a speaking part.

But not you. You volunteered and you got the part!

Love,

Daddy

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Our 24 Hour Parent Staycation in Franklin, Tennessee at the Hilton Franklin Cool Springs Hotel

Two months ago for Christmas 2018, the only gift my wife and I gave one another was the promise of an upcoming 24 hour window of existence that we would share together, in which we would have zero parenting responsibilities; including uninterrupted meals out, a stay at a nice hotel, and the ability to be lazy.

We both work full-time jobs, plus I manage 5 SEO side hustles, and we have two adventurous kids. So for us, the thought of a break from reality is the greatest gift we can receive at this point in our 37 year-old lives.

Last May when I started my new full-time job as a recruiter at a Fortune 500 Company in Franklin, Tennessee, I couldn’t help but notice that an 8 story building was being built right next to my office.

A few months later, a giant Hilton sign went up on the side of the building facing the interstate (I-65). Once the hotel opened last fall, my co-workers and I started going there for lunch, and were very pleased.

So by the time my wife and I came up with the idea of the perfect mutual Christmas gift for each other, I suggested we make our stay at the Hilton Franklin Cool Springs hotel right next to where I work; which is the halfway point between where we live in Spring Hill and where my wife works in downtown Nashville.

Sometimes in your mind, you build up an idea to the point it becomes an unattainable fantasy. But no, that was not the case for our 24 Hour Parent Staycation. In fact, everything went perfectly according to plan:

My parents drove up 2 and a half hours from my hometown in Fort Payne, Alabama, to watch the kids while we were out. As my son’s Saturday morning karate lessons began, to be followed by one of his classmate’s birthday parties our daughter would end up successfully crashing, my wife and I made our way over to H&R Block to file our income taxes and were so relieved we didn’t owe any money; despite my 5 SEO side hustles unexpectedly doing much better than I planned for last year.

We officially started out our responsibility-free adventure with lunch at Sopapilla’s New Mexican (like the state) restaurant en route to the Hilton. This was a big deal to us for more than one reason.

Not only was it the first time in… (years?)… that we have been able to enjoy a delicious meal out with no children putting a damper on the conversation or the cuisine or our peace of mind, but it was our first official meal out as a now non-vegetarian, non-vegan couple.

I would go as far as to say I am now obsessed with eating at Sopapilla’s, but I don’t know the next time we’ll be able to make it back there without kids.

As for the Hilton, it was every bit as glorious as I knew it would be. My wife and I realized this is the newest hotel we have ever stayed in; throughout our decade of marriage.

And our wish came true- we got to be lazy for our entire day. In fact, we never left the hotel until the next day when we checked out. We got to watch a few movies on TV, in between heading downstairs for dinner in the hotel restaurant, The Harth Restaurant and Lounge.

Not to mention, we got to sleep in! We naturally woke up, on our own, at 8:00 AM. That is unthinkable back at our house, thanks to our children’s internal biological alarm clocks, which are annoyingly set an a default of 5:55 AM.

Life is good. I admit, I’m enjoying the view from where I’m sitting on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid. Our 24 Hour Parent Staycation taught me that the motivational carrot in my life at this point will be getting to experience our next 24 Hour Parent Staycation. That is the rarest commodity I know right now: a break.

And when that time comes, my wife and I plan to do everything exactly the same way again. It’s a formula that works for us.

This is 37.

After 5 and a Half Years, I Stopped Being a Vegan in September 2018… Finally, I’m Ready to Talk about It (Ex-Vegan Back to Kosher, Still Cured of Dyshidrotic Eczema and Sinus Issues)

Don’t get your hopes up- I still wouldn’t be any fun at a BBQ or a hot dog eating contest. But it is true that back in September, I quietly retired my strict vegan lifestyle of 5 and a half years, and my vegetarian lifestyle of 7 years. But why?

Because I realized that for the last few years, I had been gaining weight as a vegan– to the point I basically weighed as much as I did before I stopped eating meat, eggs, and dairy. Here is proof of my vegan dad bod.

For the first year and a half of being a vegan, I slimmed down to 156 pounds, which at 5′ 9″, placed me perfectly in the middle range according to a BMI chart.

Not only I had a lost and kept off nearly 20 pounds, but I also was finally free of my “medically incurable” dyshidrotic eczema and my constant sinus congestion.

I was convinced I would never forsake my vegan identity.

But after spending all of 2017 and 2018 trying to still fit into my size 31 pants, and eventually my size 32 pants, I realized that even with my routine of running on the weekends, my vegan diet wasn’t enough to combat the fact that since turning age 35, my metabolism had undeniably changed.

I was open-minded by the time I accidentally (?) met Mark Glesne at a Starbucks one Sunday morning after church in September 2018. With his experience as a personal trainer, he explained to me that my body had ultimately found a way to rewire itself so that despite consuming 0% cholesterol as part of my vegan diet, I had begun storing fat for lack of complete proteins that are found in meat, eggs, and cheese.

So since September, I have bid farewell to my vegan lifestyle and switched back to simply being kosher; which I have been since Thanksgiving 2008.

I have remained committed to abiding my Jewish kosher law for over a decade now; not eating pork or shellfish, or any other bottom feeder animals.

And even though tuna and tilapia are technically kosher, my eczema did briefly return when I ate those types of fish recently; as well as salmon that was farm-raised instead of wild caught. So I have to stick with fish that are cleaner; like cod, mahi mahi, and wild caught salmon.

As far as my sinus issues, they haven’t returned since I started eating cheese again. However, I refuse to drink cow’s milk, as I believe it was causing my severe sinus and allergy issues; not to mention, it contains a lot of unnecessary sugar.

To help counteract my metabolism noticeably slowing down since I turned 35 nearly 3 years ago, my great friend Mohamad Alaw (who took the photo of me above) helped me get started on a daily work-out regimen, which I have been faithfully doing, based on a website called Darebee.com.

I went from a consistent 176 pounds as a vegan, now to a new consistent 171 pounds by remaining kosher and working out daily; as well as mostly eliminating wheat flour, added sugar, and hydrogenated oils.

Granted, I’m still not comfortably fitting in my size 32 pants, but I believe I eventually will.

I definitely do not regret the 5 and a half years I spent as a vegan, and 7 as a vegetarian. Honestly, had I not begun gaining weight to the point I had a dad bod, I would have stayed a strict vegan the rest of my life.

(Click here to find the best deal on this funny dad bod t-shirt on Amazon.)

But the fact that being a vegan wasn’t enough to prevent a dad bod, I took it as a warning from my body that I needed to change what I was eating.

I still undeniably have a very strict diet, but there’s much more grace. I feel a little bit more human in social environments now.

It’s all about doing what works for me personally. Let vegans be vegans. Let bacon lovers be bacon lovers. Let them not be in a cultural war by demonizing each other like Democrats and Republicans.

Let emotional intelligence rule and let each person find their own way to happiness and health.

(Click here to find the best deal on this cute women’s t-shirt on Amazon.)

As for me, I’ll be a kosher guy who works out in his living room every day when he gets home from work- as he pursues a goal of fitting comfortably in size 32 pants again, and continuing to remain cured of dyshidrotic ezcema and constant sinus congestion.

Dear Jack: It’s Better to Watch One of Mommy’s Movies Than No Movie at All

8 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

You are allotted one hour of screen time on Saturday and another for Sunday. Other than, you don’t get the option to use a tablet, laptop, phone, or Netflix.

Well, there is an exception, actually:

If Mommy or I feel like taking a break and watching a movie, then that obviously doesn’t count against your hour for that weekend day.

So this past Sunday afternoon while I was working on a big blog post I’ve been putting off, I insisted that Mommy relax and watch a movie.

Both you and your sister were doing a great job of convincing me that neither of you were tired enough to need a nap. That meant you got to hang out with Mommy instead of going to sleep.

You didn’t complain at all that Mommy was watching one of her straight-to-Netflix, Southern-themed romantic comedies.

Hey- it’s better to watch one of Mommy’s movies than no movie at all.

Love,

Daddy

Affording a New Home: How Much of Your Monthly Income Should Go Towards Your Mortgage? 28%? 25%? Less Than 20%?

If your family is currently considering buying a new home, one of the biggest questions should be this:

“What percentage of our household monthly take-home income should go towards our mortgage payment?”

If you depend on the unanimous results of a Google search, the answer is 28%.

If you put your faith in the results of a lender or a mortgage calculator found on the website of a new home development, you may be pleasantly surprised to see how big and nice of a home you can “afford” based on your household monthly income.

However, Dave Ramsey teaches no more than 25% of your household take-home income; in an effort to prevent becoming “house poor”; where you could afford to pay your monthly mortgage but could not live a comfortable lifestyle.

After meeting a 2nd time with our Associate Financial Consultant, Christina Tumbleson at Charles Schwab, where my wife and I recently starting investing our money, we learned that we are spending around 13% of our monthly take-home income on our monthly mortgage.

However, that number was based on the total of both of our full-time salary positions. That does not account for the monthly income I make from my 5 side hustles; for example, I made $531 last month from my two YouTube channels alone.

When we consider all my side hustle income, we can easily yet conservatively count on another 1%.

Therefore, at around 12%, we are fortunately spending a little less than half of the conservative 25% of take-home income Dave Ramsey suggests.

While it is undeniable that at age 37, my wife and I are at solid places in our careers and are being paid accordingly, we also have no other debts other than our home. I have been driving the same 2004 Honda Element for over 13 years now. Not to mention, I spend literally all my free time on my 5 side hustles; which provides passive streams income for our family.

But perhaps most important is the fact our 1900 square feet, 4 bedroom, 2 car garage home is still much more humble than it needs to be, according to popular American dream standards.

The main take-away is this: We choose to live way below our means.

If we wanted to sell our current home, we could pocket an easy $50,000 and then “upgrade” to a half a million dollar home. I could even trade in my old Honda Element for a new Toyota Tacoma.

We could “afford” to do that.

But if I am going to impress anyone by my finances, it’s not going to by how much I spend, but instead, how amazingly little.

Dear Holly: What You Learned at Your Brother’s Karate Lesson

2 years, 9 months.

Dear Holly,

You had curiously yet quietly observed your brother’s karate lesson last Saturday morning.

So on Sunday afternoon, when I began trying to wrestle with you on the living room carpet, you shouted:

“Get your hands off me!”

You made it clear that you had listened well to the karate instructor when he explained how important it was to not only tell the person to stop hurting you, but also to announce it so everyone could hear.

A few days later, when I dropped you off at school, I even asked your teacher if you had shouted to any of your friends:

“Get your hands off me!”

To my surprise, you hadn’t.

But I think it’s only a matter on time.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: You Started Taking Karate Lessons at the Rec Center

8 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

Last Saturday, we drove around the corner to the rec center so you could start intro karate lessons.

The instructor called you up several times to help him demonstrate in front of the class on how to get out of certain attack holds.

He explained that the first action in self-defense is to verbally tell the person to stop.

His focus was on helping students to prevent a fight, as opposed to participating in one.

We are trying out this class over the next couple of months to see if you want to take it to the next level and enroll in an official karate studio.

I have a feeling that could easily be what ends up happening.

Love,

Daddy