A “Work Date”with My Wife at ENAR 2018 in Atlanta (Featuring the 2018 Mazda CX-5)

Last week during Spring Break, our family opted not to go somewhere slightly exotic, like Destin, Florida; as usual. Instead, I dropped my wife off at the Nashville International Airport for her flight to Atlanta, then I drove our kids to my parents’ house, in Fort Payne, Alabama; where I grew up.

My wife went to work immediately, as she was there to help represent Vanderbilt University’s Biostatistics Graduate Program in at the ENAR 2018 Spring Meeting. (In case you happen to be out of the loop, ENAR stands for Eastern North American Region of International Biometric Society.)

I spent the first day of Spring Break at Ruby Falls with our son (more on that in the near future, so stay tuned…). But the very next morning, I left early for Atlanta; in the 2018 Mazda CX-5.

This SUV was the perfect size for my 3 hour scenic drive down Lookout Mountain into the Rome, Georgia; and eventually Atlanta. I appreciated not only the great gas mileage it got (25 city, 31 highway), but also how well it handled all those sneaky curves on my route.

As a stay-at-home dad who works from home as a Social Media Specialist and Influencer, I haven’t commuted to an office since last October. So I do admit, it was nice being able go back and forth between The Beatles and Tom Petty for a few hours. There’s a part of me that misses that 2 hour round trip everyday to work, where I could sort of just think about my life as I listened to good music.

Thanks to the trusty GPS, I had arrived at lunch time at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. My wife met me right away at front doors, where I introduced her to our new ride for the week, and from there we drove just about 5 miles away to our favorite vegan restaurant in Atlanta: Cafe Sunflower in Buckhead.

Our lunch every bit as magnificent as we expected; so much so, that we went back again the next day for lunch! Though my wife is an amazing plant-based chef, I love being able to take her somewhere nice where she not only doesn’t have to cook, but a place that is also as committed to our lifestyle as we are. (My wife has been a vegetarian and I have been a vegan, for well over 5 years now.)

Afterwards, we headed back to ENAR 2018, where I took photographs of Vanderbilt’s booth; as I will be writing an article for Vanderbilt’s website to promote their presence at the event. I was proud to see my video series on display on the monitor, as one of my many roles working as a freelance Social Media Specialist is to create promotional videos for companies.

Over the course the past few weeks, I had interviewed several current students and professors from Vanderbilt’s Biostastics Graduate Program, then made a series of short promo videos. Not only were these playing on a loop during the whole event, but I will eventually upload them to a YouTube channel that I will be creating and managing for the department.

I also also very proud to see my wife there in her role, as well; serving as a beautiful model and spokesperson for prospective students. More importantly though, she had helped coordinate the booth for the department, including all the logistics in getting it there, along with other Vanderbilt employees.

After a hard day’s work, we took advantage of a special attraction there at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta: They have a restaurant called Polaris, on top of the hotel. You have to take a special, exclusive, elevator there. And the over the course of an hour, the entire restaurant spins; so you get to see a 360 degree view of Atlanta. We will definitely go there again!

The next day after ENAR came to an end, we headed back to Cafe Sunflower for lunch again, then took a different route back to my parents’ house in Alabama. Our adventures were far from over, as we would be taking a family trip to Rock City the next morning.

I was very grateful to be able to have a “work date” with my wife. Sometimes, or maybe I should say usually, it requires some creativity in being able to plan fun dates when both parents work and have young children.

Perhaps at some point, our lives will be a little less crazy. As for now, we are truly making the most of what we have!

To check out the entire trilogy of blog posts about the cool trips my family took in the 2018 Mazda CX-5, just click the related link below:

A “Work Date”with My Wife at ENAR 2018 in Atlanta (Featuring the 2018 Mazda CX-5)

My Family’s Road Trip to Rock City in Chattanooga in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 (Featuring the Original New Theme Song I Wrote)

My Road Trip with My Son to Ruby Falls in Chattanooga in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 (Featuring the Original New Theme Song I Wrote)

Advertisements

Our Review of the Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine for Latte Drinks: 3 Reasons I Love It as Much as My Wife Does!

For three reasons, as the husband, I am very happy we now own a Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine.

First of all, my wife loves this fancy hunk of metal sitting on our kitchen counter, and the expensive-tasting coffee it makes so quickly.

Secondly, it’s saving us the money she used to spend on coffee most days at Starbucks; whether it was from our shared budget or from her own “blow money” (a Dave Ramsey term). I can honestly say this is an investment, for the money it’s comparatively saving us.

And lastly, I am happy we now own the Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine because it truly does make amazing coffee. Granted, I’m just an instant black coffee kind of guy. Monday through Friday, twice a day, that’s what I drink. But on the weekends, my wife joyfully makes me a rewarding latte, which is the equivalent to the 6 dollar version you’d find at a local coffee shop; and in my opinion, better than Starbucks anyway.

Yes, it’s true: We are now technically owners of a small coffee shop in our home, in which we are the only customers. We drink up all the profits!

It’s probably no surprise to learn that the Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine was my Christmas gift for my wife a couple of months ago. When it comes to us getting each other gifts, we simply directly tell the other person exactly what we want; perhaps with a gentle nudge thanks to an Amazon link.

This isn’t the kind of coffee maker most normal people own. In fact, we may be the only people you’ve heard of who actually own one of these.

But my wife had researched for months, as she wanted to find the most affordable version of the fanciest espresso machine that exists and that definitely makes great coffee. She has a talent for finding the best overall selection that exists.

So if you’re on the look-out for the best deal on an espresso machine that makes expressive-tasting lattes that will impress guests when they drink your coffee, I can already assure you the search is over. Trust me, my wife knows best when it comes to something like this. Trust me.

All you have to do is click this link for the Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine. That takes you straight to Amazon, which will help you find the lowest price available. Who knows? You may even find a better deal on it that we did.

Remember, the search is over:

Gaggia Brera Super Automatic Espresso Machine

After Nearly 10 Years of Marriage, My Wife and I Have Decided to Get a Dinnerware Set (Melange Nantucket Weave) to Replace Our Original One

A decade ago, I had just proposed to the love of my life. We hadn’t even been dating for a year yet, but I was already feeling at that point that my proposal was past due. That’s how much I knew she was the one.

I proposed on January 14th, and our wedding day was less than 6 months away, on July 5th. I suppose that’s just how our story goes. We didn’t need a long time together to decide to get married, nor did we require a long time to be engaged.

The entire year of 2008 is a blur to me. In early January we were just dating, and by early December, we had already been married 5 months. That really puts things in perspective now, in hindsight, what a big year that was for us.

At some point that year, my wife and I spent a day at Bed Bath & Beyond where we had registered for our wedding. When it came time to pick out the dinnerware set, she found a red set that she really liked.

Then we realized that for some mysterious reason, the same set in blue was half the price. So we went with blue.

Amazingly now, after nearly 10 years of using that dinnerware set, from Bush to Obama to Trump, and with two new smaller human members joining our family, all pieces of that set have survived other than a bowl and a cup. That even includes a move to Alabama and back.

Ten is a big number. Just a couple of weeks ago, my wife got to pick out new jewelry from James Avery for Valentine’s Day. That’s the only new jewelry she has gotten (or said she’s wanted) since her engagement and wedding rings back in 2008. So it was a big deal.

So while we’re in the spirit of my wife getting new things, in convenient accordance to our upcoming 10th wedding anniversary, we now have a brand-new set of dinnerware:

Melange Dinnerware, Nantucket Weave

It was not a rash decision. My wife obsessed over, I mean, carefully studied, dozens of sets online through the course of a week.

She then requested my opinion, as well as our son’s, to give her further direction after she had finalized her selection to the top 3.

I have learned over all these years that often, when she asks which one I like the best, whatever the thing is I’m helping her to decide, my answer only reinforces her own decision; which is never the same one I chose.

Amazingly, this time it was different.

Even though she was leaning towards another set, our son and I both chose Melange Dinnerware, Nantucket Weave, and apparently we swayed the vote!

Now obviously, with me being a man, you can imagine that in the end, my choice in our new dinnerware set was not a passionate one.

But now that the new set is here, I have to say, I am very pleased with our decision!

It’s like a crossroads of both Country and Class, which is how I think of my wife. Yeah, she’s from northern California but she loves Country music and grew up on a 5 acre farm with sheep, pigs, cows, chickens, and rabbits. She’s arguably more Southern than I am, yet I was born and raised in Alabama!

Soon, when you see pictures of our kids eating at the dinner table, you won’t see the decade old blue cups and plates anymore; as we start phasing in our white wicker-looking ones.

I never would have thought that picking out a new dinnerware set would be worth writing about, and on your end, reading about.

Yet here we are.

Now let’s see, so far this year, my wife has gotten a new set of jewelry and dinnerware. Meanwhile, I’m still driving my 2004 Honda Element that I’ve owned since January 2006.

Hey, I wonder if I will finally get my Jeep Wrangler I’ve been wishing for all these years?

Nah, probably not. Old Hondas just never die.

By the way, if you’re reading this because you are already actively looking for the Melange Dinnerware Nantucket Weave set, just click here:

Melange Dinnerware, Nantucket Weave

That link will take you straight to Amazon, where you’ll likely find the best deal on it, like we found.

Wear Your Love Story: Taking My Wife to James Avery for a Special Valentine’s Day 2018

DISCLOSURE LANGUAGE

James Avery partnered with bloggers such as myself for this program. I received compensation for my time, creativity, and SEO platform. I was not told what to purchase nor what to say about any product mentioned in these posts. James Avery believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. James Avery’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines, and social media engagement recommendations.

When it comes to gifts for my wife, she’s always made it easy on me, telling me all she really wants is maybe a new pair of slippers or pajamas, along with a bag of red licorice.

But for this Valentine’s Day, as we are just months away from our 10th wedding anniversary in July, I decided to make this one extra special.

With her mother in town from Sacramento, and our 7 year-old son at school, my wife took the day off from work so we could make the drive in the 2017 Mazda 6 to the Cool Springs Galleria Mall, where there is a James Avery artisan jewelry store.

Honestly, the thought of trying to choose jewelry for my wife is slightly terrifying. For a gift this special, I wanted her not only to have the experience of choosing the gift herself, but also to be able to enjoy seeing all the options in the store; to make the final selection that much more satisfying.

So I figured it would be a lot more fun for my wife, and for me, if we simply went to there together with a James Avery gift card in hand. My wife was able to focus on shopping, as I tended to our 21 month-old daughter in the store.

At the front of the store was a timeless, crafted Valentine’s Day gift set collection. Immediately, my wife was drawn to the Petite Heart Gift Set. She tried on the heart-shaped earrings and necklace pretty much immediately. It’s funny because as long as we’ve been together, I can think of only a couple of times she has worn earrings, but that changed during our store visit.

My wife was sold on the Petite Heart Gift Set, but I encouraged her to take her time and not stop there. I reminded her, “There’s no rush. Enjoy this. Get what makes you happy.”

Meanwhile, I looked over to see how my mother-in-law was doing, and to my surprise, she was in the middle of purchasing a new silver ring for herself.

I smiled as I made my may over to see her selection. She laughed and she explained, “You should have known better than to bring me into a jewelry store and expect me not to come out empty-handed.”

The assistants in the store were extremely helpful and knowledgeable along the way. My wife ultimately depended on their direction, as well as my opinion, in making her final selections.

As I handed over the James Avery gift card to make the purchase official, I realized that the total was a little bit higher than the amount of the card.

Oh well. I didn’t hesitate and just quietly paid the difference.

After all, my wife deserves it. For someone who is content with a new pair of pajama pants and licorice for a typical gift, it was time for me to go way, way beyond her expectations. And I did!

So for this Valentine’s Day, I know my wife of nearly 10 years will feel even extra special. It truly brought me joy in knowing I made her day!

If you would like to see my wife’s final selections from James Avery, just check out our “haul video” below…

Despite the 1990s Sitcom Cliche, I Actually Really Like My Mother-in-Law (Featuring the 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring)

I feel like there’s this familiar cliche from family sitcoms of the 90s where the mother-in-law comes from out to town to visit, which inevitably yields 23 minutes of zany frustration for the husband and father of the household; accompanied by laugh tracks, of course.

Maybe that’s true for some men out there, I don’t know.

What I do know is I personally can not relate to this stereotype at all.

My wife and I have been married for nearly 10 years. I can honestly say that I have never once felt frustrated when my mother-in-law comes to visit or when we visit her in California. In fact, she has the opposite effect on me: I feel more relaxed with her around.

I assume I’m the typical American dad in that I am heavily involved not only with the kids, but also with the household chores. The only real free time I have is when everyone else is asleep.

During my waking hours, I’m either taking care of at least one kid or I’m helping clean up a mess. Because with young kids, there’s always a mess to be cleaned.

But when my mother-in-law is in town, I get a break from reality. I actually have pockets of time where I can do things like, you now… learn what it feels like to sit on my own couch for 5 minutes; thanks to my mother-in-law insisting on preparing dinner without my help, telling me, “Now Nick, sit down. I’m taking care of all this over here. You just take a seat and relax.”

This is all especially fresh on my mind, as my mother-in-law is currently staying with our family here here in Tennessee this week.

When the folks at Mazda heard about our special guest flying in from the West Coast, they dropped off a 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring with a full tank of gas, to make the week-long visit extra special.

It’s funny because despite only living about 40 miles south of Nashville, I only see that wondrous and trendy city a few times a year. But knowing we had a fancy car to get us there, we loaded up in the Mazda 6 and took our mother-in-law out for a magnificent lunch.

My wife suggested this cool Lebanese bistro called Epice.

Wow, seriously. It is now officially my favorite restaurant in all of Nashville. It was like being introduced to a whole new world of food. Not to mention, they were easily able to cater to me being a vegan.

The restaurant shares a parking lot with a very swanky “Nashvilley” shop called White Mercantile, which happens to be owned by Holly Williams; the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr.

I admit, the decor there was so cool, I took lots of pictures, made it into a collage, and debuted it as my new Facebook banner picture.

My mother-in-law just loved that store! Despite being born and raised in Oakland, California, she definitely has a fascination with the Southern motif.

After lunch, my wife and mother-in-law decided we would be stopping by an organic grocery store called The Turnip Truck; as it is soon to be a place frequented by Country Music stars.

Apparently, there were no celebrities there at the time, but at least I got a Mexican coffee out of the deal, and my daughter was able to enjoy one of her favorite snacks for the drive back home.

The next day on Saturday, my mother-in-law decided she wanted to take us out for dinner at our town’s official favorite restaurant, Viking Pizza Co. of Spring Hill.

Needless to say, it’s been a very enjoyable week for our entire family with my mother-in-law in town. Especially for me. I have enjoyed being able to remove myself just enough from the household chores, as my mother-in-law has assumed many of my roles this week, so though I could have some moments of sanity.

I don’t care what happened in 90s sitcoms. All I know is, I definitely like having my mother-in-law in town!

If you would like to learn more about the specifics of the 2017 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, check out another article I wrote; which as the title of it implies, will answer many of your immediate questions. Just click on the click below:

2017.5 Mazda 6 Grand Touring: Back Seat Space with 2 Children’s Car Seats, Fuel Door Release, Volume Knob for Stereo, Extra Trunk Space, Gas Mileage, Price

And don’t forget to catch up with me on The Lifetime Network’s “This Time Next Year” on February 20th, at 10 PM Central/9 PM Eastern; as I journey over the course of an entire year in attempt to find and meet my doppelganer!

Dr. Joshua Straub Actually Agrees with My Theory That You Get to Decide Whether Others Control Your Emotions?

One of the most fundamentally important parts of my identity is a theory that I discovered on my own, a few years back: That I alone get to decide and determine whether or not other people have the ability to offend me, insult me, or hurt my feelings.

I even tested my theory out with a blog post and video where I invited the free world to say anything they wanted to me in attempt to negatively emotionally affect me. You can imagine the results:

No one was successful in offending, insulting, or hurting me with anything they said.

Why not?

Because I had already made it my mission to stop allowing other people to “hurt my feelings”. I realized that no one could make me feel insecure or inferior unless I gave them the green light for it.

So whether it was someone flipping me off on the Interstate as they perceived I cut them off, or a co-worker implying that I was not doing my job right, or even a member of my own family that I perceived brushed me off when I was telling them a story that was important to me.

I realized, I am the one in control of the lever that determines whether or not I get offended. It’s an on/off switch that most people never take advantage of.

Most people, I have learned, refuse to take ownership over their own emotions; when it comes to other people. By default, they allow the entire free world to potentially offend, insult, or hurt them at any given moment.

I challenge that concept. I choose to be victorious over my own emotions, not a victim by default.

It’s a journey, for sure. I admit it. The easiest place to start though, is with people who you don’t actually personally know, but who still have the power to offend you; like other drivers on the road or people who disagree with you on social media.

I would have to imagine that if we’re honest, we can realize how foolish it is to let someone like that ruin our day. That’s where I started.

From there, I practiced my theory of “not giving other people control over my own emotions” to co-workers. And then to my own family.

Granted, trying to keep your own spouse from offending you is probably the most challenging, as it’s important you don’t build an emotional wall which keeps them from emotionally connecting to you.

Still though, I can say from personal experience, the less I allowed my wife to “hurt my feelings”, the stronger our marriage has become.

I control my own emotions, meaning that other people don’t get to decide that for me.

See, most people live with Identity Protective Cognition, believing this:

“But I’m a good person!”

So when one another person says something that could be perceived as an attack on their identity as a “good person”, that “good person” is therefore being attacked.

The irony here is that most people think the same thing about themselves: “But I’m a good person!”

Then the paradox of a result is we have a world filled with “good people” who constantly offend each other anyway.

I made a conscious decision to unplug from that broken system.

Instead, I don’t see myself as a “good person.” I recognize that term as an illusion.

(Here’s a recent video I made about this just a few days ago, below.)

I see myself as an imperfect person who is constantly in need of improvement. I know what my strengths are, yet I know that even my strengths can be improved. I am also aware of my weaknesses, and I am quick to agree with anyone who points them out.

Without a doubt, one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life is to stop letting people offend me. However, I’ve also learned that most people would prefer to live with their victim mentality mindset which allows them to be potentially offended at any moment.

It’s just like when people learn that I’m a vegan. Most people immediately respond with, “Oh, I could never do that!” I get the same response with most people when I explain my theory about not letting other people control your emotions.

This morning, I decided to test out my theory on Dr. Joshua Straub, who has a doctorate in Counseling. He is a professional who helps people on his parenting blog and on his YouTube channel. By the way, he and his wife have a huge following on Facebook! (Whereas I have nearly 1,100 followers on my Facebook fan page, they have nearly 18,000 followers!)

To my amazement, he actually agreed with the validity of my theory. You can see the surprise on my face in the video (featured at the very top of this blog post) we recorded together today.

I feel like I’m not the kind of person who constantly needs confirmation from society, like the way Michael Scott infamously always did on The Office. So usually, I honestly don’t care if anyone else agrees or disagrees with my perspective. I am a confident person. People who are secure in their identity don’t that require confirmation as their fuel.

But undeniably, Dr. Joshua Straub is an exception to this for me. Why? Because he actually knows what he’s talking about; and not simply on a professional level, but a doctorate level.

So maybe… my crazy theory about not allowing others to emotionally control us is just crazy enough to be true.

What do you think about my theory? Is it really so far-fetched? Am I crazy for thinking this way?

Let me know in the comments. I’ve already established it’s impossible to offend me. Go ahead, give it a try…

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: I Am Now Officially an Overweight Vegan (176 pounds, 5’ 9”, Age 36, Medium Frame)

I am fundamentally opposed to New Year’s Resolutions. I have always said that if a person is truly ready to make a change in their life, then why wait for some arbitrary date on a calendar?

So for me, the first day of the rest of my life was not January 1st, but instead, it happens to be January 8th.

Last night after I took my shower and put on my size large t-shirt, I couldn’t help but notice how tight it felt. So I did something I rarely do: I weighed myself on the scale.

It took me a moment to accept my reality: I now weigh around 176 pounds. The most I’ve ever weighed was 178 pounds, and that was when I was in my late 20s and still eating meat, eggs, and dairy.

The lowest I’ve ever weighed since high school was 153 pounds; easily fitting into size 31 pants. Check out this video I made just 2 and a half years ago in May 2015, to see me in the ideal weight range for my height:

But there was a subtle change that began just a couple of months later, once my wife got pregnant with our now 20 month-old daughter back in July 2015. As my wife began eating more during the pregnancy, so did I… and I never stopped!

For over two years now, I have been slowly and steadily gaining weight; yet remaining faithful to my diet consisting of only vegetables, fruit, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. That means no meat, no eggs, no dairy.

In two months from now, it will be 5 whole years that I’ve been a vegan.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this “vegan weight gain”. I first brought it up in September, a month before I became a stay-at-home dad, in my first Dad Bod post.

What’s interesting, as my wife recently pointed out, is I’m actually eating one less meal a day now that I work from home and take care of our kids. Back when I worked at the office, I always had a huge bowl of oatmeal; full of protein and saturated fat, thanks to the nuts and unsweetened cocoa I put in it.

But now that I’m constantly caring for a 20 month-old daughter all day long, plus a 7 year-old son before and after school, plus writing and shooting videos whenever I get a chance, I just don’t have much time to eat… until we all eat dinner as family each night; which is apparently when I make up for any lack of calories.

I am convinced that my strategy to get back to my ideal weight is to aggressively eliminate empty or unnecessary calories; especially during dinner, which is my biggest meal. It’s important to me that I don’t go hungry, but instead, that I stop eating once I get enough food. I need to do a better job of telling the two apart.

Just imagine the irony of an overweight vegan. Imagine all those well-meaning, yet concerned people telling me over the years, “Well, just make sure you get enough protein…”

Uh, yeah, that’s clearly not a problem for me.

And in case anyone is skeptical that I am indeed overweight, perhaps because I don’t “look” overweight, just check out the height and weight chart. For my height of 5’ 9” and having a medium frame, I officially became overweight once I crossed 170 pounds. That was about 6 pounds ago.

What’s my motivation to get back into that ideal weight range where I was back in May 2015? It’s not about self-esteem. My confidence is not effected by my weight gain.

Instead, it’s important to my identity that I have control over my own body. In the same way I refuse to let other people control my emotions, I now must refuse to let my overeating habits effect my weight.

No kidding: As I was putting this blog post together, my daughter who was sitting on my lap, looked up at the picture below of my belly, and in all sincerity asked, “Baby?”

I am an overweight vegan. We do exist, yes. But I do plan to change that.