Dear Jack: What I Was Doing When I Was Your Age, 30 Years Ago, Back in the Summer of 1989

8 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

For every year older you get, it seems that much closer to my memories of my old childhood; since my memories are that much more elaborate the older I was.

So for me, it’s pretty easy to think back 30 years ago to the summer of 1989.

I remember I attended baseball camp. The main thing I remember is that Jonathan Shugart got hit in the head with a baseball.

I remember that was the summer that our town got a Taco Bell; because I went there for the first time in my life, after baseball camp; during the first week it opened.

And I definitely remember our whole family going to see the original Batman movie in the theater.

I remember that I was excited about starting 3rd grade, because it would be at a new school, where you were able to pick juice instead of just milk.

You’re going to have a great school year. I can tell you from experience.

I also can tell you that you won’t forget this summer, just as I didn’t forget my summer preceding 3rd grade. I’m sure getting the Jeep will help ensure that!

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Jack: You Now Own a 16 Year-Old T-Shirt with My Face on It, with My Name in Thai

8 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

We spent last weekend at Nonna and Papa’s in Alabama, at the same house I grew up in.

After you took a shower on Sunday morning, you realized you didn’t have a clean t-shirt to wear

I walked over my old bedroom to take a quick look at the t-shirts hanging up in the closet.

Instantly, I discovered the perfect t-shirt for you to wear:

Back in college, I had recorded 3 different albums of songs I wrote.

For the cover art on the first album in 2003, I traced a photo of myself as the logo.

Then, that summer of 2003 when I was teaching English in Thailand, I gave one of my CD’s to a friend there.

Accordingly, they had a t-shirt made with that logo of my face, with my name in Thai underneath it.

(Unfortunately, the size of the shirt didn’t come close to fitting me.)

There’s a good chance you are the only boy in America who owns a t-shirt with his Daddy’s face on it, along with his Daddy’s name in Thai underneath.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure of it, actually.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: You Got to See Toy Story 4- Your 1st Movie in a Theater

3 years, 2 months.

Dear Holly,

I couldn’t have planned it this way, but your brother was your exact age, to the month, when he got to go see his first movie at a theater.

For him, it was The Lego Movie.

For you, it was Toy Story 4.

You had been telling Mommy and me, “I like Woody… I like that other guy too- what’s his name?”

The first Toy Story movie came out in November 1995; when I was in 9th grade.

Now, more than 23 years later, you were able to see the final Toy Story movie (…or is it?) as your first movie in a theater.

I am so proud of you. You had so much fun.

It was sweet because you chose to spend the first half of the movie in my lap, and the second half in Mommy’s.

And here I was thinking I was just going to put sitting on the end of the row in my own little world.

I am so glad we took you to see Toy Story 4 in the theater!

Love,

Daddy

 

2019 Family Reunion in Lake Tahoe: Celebrating the Life of My Wife’s Father and Grandfather

In case you somehow didn’t know this by now, my wife is #9 of 10 kids. So every year, our official family summer vacation is going to visit as much of her family that can show up in the Sacramento, California area; which is where they all grew up and some still live.

And in case you’re not so familiar with the geography of Sacramento, it is in northern California; just a little over 2 hours away from Lake Tahoe, which also borders the neighboring state of Nevada.

This summer, Lake Tahoe served as the central meeting place for the family; this time to especially celebrate the life of my wife’s father (who passed away a couple months after we were married in 2008); as well as her grandfather Gus, who passed away last fall.

Everyone was given the opportunity to share memories and stories of both men. Being that I married into the family, I wasn’t planning on saying anything.

But when I was asked if I wanted to share something, after I had the opportunity to hear what everyone else said, I decided to speak.

I explained that my takeaway from what they all said about these two very important men in their family was this:

It was undeniable that these men sacrificed much for the sake of their family; even if they weren’t able to be appreciated or feel appreciated at the time.

That is often the theme of being a parent: that you often are unable to be truly appreciated as you give the most of your time, energy, and soul to the people you care for so much.

I appreciated being somewhat of a grafted-in outsider that day. I feel that it took that kind of perspective to understand myself better; coincidentally during Father’s Day weekend.

It was a truly good day.

My Wife and I Debuted Our New T-Shirts in Lake Tahoe: “Hi, I Don’t Care. Thanks!” and “I Hate People”- A Blog Post about Identity Protective Cognition and Emotional Intelligence

I turned 38 a couple of months ago. I have entered Life: Part 2. In other words, I have come to terms with the fact my life is now half complete; assuming I live the typical lifespan of an American man.

When you’re pushing 40, there are certain things that tend fall into place in your life:

Your strengths, your weaknesses, your family, your career, your finances, your retirement plan…

To steal a quote from a book I will never read called Anna and the French Kiss, it really comes down to this:

“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” 

In other words, my identity is well established. While I remain open-minded to a certain point, I am at the place in life where I am no longer seeking confirmation of my identity from other people; the way Michael Scott and Andy Bernard did on The Office.

I no longer subscribe to the delusion that I am a good person, because then I would fall victim to the mentality, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

Not to mention, the concept of being a good person is simply relevant to others I would perceive as bad people.

There will always be people who perceive me as morally or intellectually inferior to themselves in some way. I am okay with that. I embrace it. I even celebrate it.

To quote Matchbox Twenty in a song called “Busted” from their debut album from over 20 years ago, this is how I feel:

“I’m the flame, I can’t get burnt. I’m wholly understated.”

In my 38 years, I have learned that most people predictably fear being perceived as wrong, ignorant, and/or immoral.

But I don’t. I am immune because I already know those things are true:

To some people, I will always be wrong, ignorant, and/or immoral.

I have taught myself that anything a person believes is true in their own mind; even for crazy people.

This is only magnified because of Identity Protective Cognition, which explains that when another person tries to convince someone against their strongly held beliefs, anything they hear in an attempt to convert them will only reinforce what they already believe.

Therefore, I don’t care what other people believe. I have no desire to prove anyone wrong, as I have learned that often the subconscious goal people have in trying to prove another person wrong is that they are ultimately trying to earn that person’s respect.

I don’t crave for people’s respect by proving them wrong, as I believe it’s nearly impossible; and ultimately, a poor choice in the game of time management.

People tend to think their opinions, beliefs, and ideologies actually matter to other people.

They don’t.

No one cares what anyone believes. It’s an illusion. Instead, people are simply seeking to identify members of their own camp; while demonizing the other side; believing those with opposing views are wrong, ignorant, and/or immoral.

(The bipartisan structure of American politics has made this clear by now.)

I have peace knowing that I can privately disagree with other people’s moral codes and lifestyles; as they surely disagree with mine. I am more interested in learning what I have in common with others; not what we disagree on.

So surely you can understand why a guy like me has proudly adopted this as my current life motto:

“Hi, I don’t care. Thanks.”

Further exploring my mindset, it is important to note that I have also climbed the ladder of emotional intelligence high enough now to know this:

It is always a choice to be offended, insulted, and/or disrespected by another person.

Similarly, forgiveness is always a choice, as well.

I turned off the breaker switch to allowing others to affect my emotions. I now control my own emotions, thanks to some gentle reminders from the surprisingly emotionally intelligent band Metallica, in legendary songs like “Master of Puppets”:

“I’m pulling your strings/Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams/Blinded by me, you can’t see a thing.”

This is a great illustration of how most people, by default, allow other people’s control of their own emotions to rule their lives.

Imagine the unnecessary burden that has been removed from my own mind. Imagine the freedom I must feel:

To not allow other people to control my emotions because I ultimately don’t fear being perceived as wrong, ignorant, or immoral. To know it’s vanity to believe I can gain a person’s respect by proving them wrong.

So it’s only natural that what I really wanted for this Father’s Day was a basic t-shirt that shares my motto with the world:

“Hi, I don’t care. Thanks.”

(To buy this shirt for the best price on Amazon, click here.)

I was able to debut it during our recent family vacation to Lake Tahoe, where my shirt was a hit among random passersby… my age and older. They are clearly riding they same vibes I am.

And my wife was able to debut a t-shirt that shared her equivalence of my motto:

“I hate people.”

(To buy that shirt on Amazon, click here.)

It’s subtle deadpan humor, as the backdrop is a camp scene in the mountains.

No, my wife doesn’t really hate people.

But like me (she is just a couple of months younger than I am), she has come to similar conclusions about life.

She regularly responds with, “People are crazy.”

So this is where I’m at in life. This is who I have become. This is who I am now.

I have lived enough life to understand and appreciate what little actually matters.

It is now even easier for me to enjoy my life and to love my neighbor as myself.

I am no longer distracted by the things that held me back in Life: Part 1.

Dear Jack: Creeping Critters are Easy to Find in Alabama

8 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

One of your favorite things to do when you stay at Nonna and Papa’s house in Alabama is to go outside and find wildlife.

I’ve noticed it never takes much effort nor time for you to come back from the yard with a collection of bugs and/or lizards.

Granted, some of the bugs end up becoming the dinner of the lizards.

So for a 2 grade boy spending his Spring Break in the mountains of Alabama, what better way to spend hours of daylight then to go out explore nature… and then to bring that nature back with you!

Love,

Daddy

This is the 1st Year Millennials Will Start Having Their 20th High School Class Reunions: Starting with the Class of 1999, in 2019

There are some people who just don’t care anything about going to their high school reunions.

They are the ones who will say, “I spent a dozen years with those people and I didn’t like them then, so what makes you think I would want to go hang out with them now? If I was really that curious what they are up to, I would just look them up on Facebook!”

Clearly, I am not one of those people. No, instead, just call me Mr. High School Class Reunion!

For me, going to my high school class reunions is like repeating the final scene of the final episode of Lost… every 5 years of my life.

What is really special about my own upcoming 20th High School Reunion this July is that we just happen to be the first official Millennial class to experience this.

Most sources agree that Millennials were born between 1981 and 1997. I was born on April 20th, 1981; so I will be turning 38 in a few weeks.

If the Millennial generation were siblings, then those of us who graduated high school in 1999 would be the firstborn children.

This is history in the making.

Back in 1988, when I turned 7, I had a very memorable birthday party. My dad had just cut down a tree in our backyard, so the main entertainment was being able to climb the fallen tree. And coincidentally, I just happened to be wearing a “Class of ’99” t-shirt on my birthday.

Fortunately, my mom did a great job of taking several pictures to capture the magic of that day.

Gary Schrader, Russell McElhaney, Will Stephens, Shane Burt (along with his sister and mom), Tabatha Thomas, Haley Rogers and her sister Ashley, and my own sister Dana were all there that day; whether they remember it now or not… and whether they have ever seen these pictures before either!

I am confident that my upcoming 20th High School Class Reunion will be a highlight of 2019.

Yes, just call me Mr. High School Class Reunion.

It’s that big of a deal to me!