Dear Jack: You Chose “Poop” as Your Theme for Dress Up Day at School… and Totally Got Away with It!

7 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

Last Friday your class unlocked a special day at school due to your collective good behavior. Your whole class got to participate in “Dress Up Day”, meaning you could have worn pajamas or a hat, or something a little out of the ordinary like that.

As I got you ready for the bus last Friday morning, I saw that on your own, you decided to adopt the theme of “poop” for your special day with your friends.

You pulled out your poop emoji hat from your closet, the one you bought from a street vendor; as a souvenir at the Monster Jam truck show in Nashville last year.

Then you found the “pooping moose” key chain I got you as a souvenir several years ago when GM flew me up to Detroit.

It was clear: You saw “Dress Up Day” as the perfect subtle opportunity to promote poop awareness at school.

Just like the week before when you took it upon yourself to craft a real cobra head necklace to wear to school, you had used your own creativity once again; and never needed to ask Mommy or me what you should wear for this special event.

As I hugged you goodbye right before you hopped on the bus, I thought to myself, “Is there a chance he’s going to be sent home for wearing this to school? Or best case scenario, will he have to take off the hat and necklace as soon as his teacher sees what he’s wearing?”

Fortunately, that was not the case at all.

When you got home that day from school, one of my first questions for you was, “So what did your teacher think of what you wore for Dress Up Day?”

You smiled and announced to me, “She told me she liked it.”

Okay, then. Well, that’s that.

You went to school wearing a poop emoji hat and a pooping moose necklace and it was no big deal.

Good for you. You’re a creative kid!

Love,

Daddy

 

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Dear Jack: You Made a Real Cobra Head Necklace and Wore It to School… So Yeah, That’s Pretty Awesome.

7 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

Unlike Indiana Jones, you are clearly not afraid of snakes.

Last week, you found an old key chain I brought back as a souvenir from Thailand, when I was in college. I had bought it from this man who professionally hunted and skinned snakes. He used the leftover heads for key chains.

Realizing you could disconnect the crystal arrowhead necklace that you got at Ruby Falls during Spring Break, you then replaced the arrowhead with the snake head.

In your own initiative, you had created a cobra head necklace and decided to wear it to school.

As you were leaving that morning for school, I assured you that you’d be the only boy in America to wear a real cobra head necklace to school.

No, this story doesn’t end with me saying that your teacher told you not to wear it to school anymore. You totally got away with wearing the head of a poisonous snake to school.

You came home and bragged to me, “Daddy, on two people thought my cobra snake wasn’t real!”

Coincidentally, just a few days later on Sunday, I had put your sister down for her afternoon nap and decided to take you to play in the creek at Brenthaven in Franklin.

As we were walking across the bridge over the creek, you and I both noticed something we assumed was a rope that had surfaced on a rock, in the middle of the stream.

But as we made our way closer, I announced to you with both caution and joy, “Jack, that’s a real snake!”

I tossed a few pieces of mulch at it- but it never budged. Then I tossed some rocks at it- it still never budged.

Finally, I found a stick long enough to pick it up with. It was obvious the snake was not only dead, but it had been dead there overnight.

You pointed out to me that its tail looked like it had been chewed up. My theory is that a neighborhood dog found the snake and broke its neck by slinging it like a whip, then the snake crawled onto the rock to die.

Turns out, it was either a venomous Cottonmouth or a harmless Brown Watersnake.

But since it was definitely dead, I let you throw rocks at it. I’m pretty sure you’ll remember that day as a highlight of your boyhood.

So yeah, you’re not afraid of snakes.

Love,

Daddy

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…

Dear Jack: Tonight was the Night You Prayed to Jesus to Tell Him You Believe in Him

7 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

Today has officially become one of the most important days of your life. Just less than an hour ago, you prayed to Jesus, officially telling Him what you’ve been growing to understand and believe for these past couple of years:

That you believe Jesus is God’s son and that He died on the cross for your sins and came back to life to give us eternal life, and to give us hope in this life on Earth in the meantime.

You prayed to God telling him you want to life your life to please Him and help other people.

I will never forget this day. This means so much to me.

Though I knew you have been heading towards to this moment for the past year or so, I had no idea today would be the day. I felt it was important that this was your decision, not mine that I was making for you.

You and I had spent most of the day together, as we made the trip to Nashville to go see the monster trucks at Monster Jam. It was funny because for a nearly hour-long drive, we didn’t say a word to each other.

We just contemplated life and enjoyed the lack of responsibility or conversation, as I played Dierks Bentley’s Riser CD through the stereo. (You had requested Johnny Cash, but my iPod battery was dead.)

But by the time we got to the monster truck show, you came alive. We started talking and enjoying our time together one-on-one.

By the end of the day, I think the fact we had our quality time together as father and son made somewhat of a special impact on you, because you specifically asked me to read to you from your children’s Bible when it was time for bed.

After I read to you the story about how Jesus explained to Nicodemus he must be born again, it led to you asking a series of seemingly random questions about God and Jesus and good people and bad people and what Heaven will be like for people who believe in Jesus and who live their lives for Him.

Then I immediately felt compelled to say to you, “How long have you known and believed that Jesus is God’s son who died for us?”

You just smiled and shrugged, saying, “I’ve just always believed that, haven’t I? Just maybe not when I was a baby…”

Right then, I knelt down at your bed and explained, “The Bible says when we believe, we should say it out loud. I can help you pray that right now if you want me to.”

(I was referring to Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”)

You seemed grateful for the offer. You smiled and said, “Sure!”

So I guided you through a simple prayer and then answered a series of legitimate follow-up questions like, “Do I have to be baptized, though?”

I then explained that it’s the way you officially share with the world what you believe, but that when you are ready, to let me know and I’ll get it all set up with our church.

It’s interesting how you’ve made this decision almost exactly 30 years after I did. For me, it was just a few weeks before Christmas 1987, when I was in 1st grade myself.

This night has instantly become one of the most rewarding moments for me as a parent.

Years of bedtime Bible stories and Sunday mornings at our church and praying before our meals and having unscheduled conversations about God has finally brought us to this fateful point in your life.

Oh, and a monster truck show, too. I guess that somehow set the course of events, as well.

This is your story.

I love you so much.

Love,

Daddy

3 Non-Romantic Reasons I Love My Wife

On the surface, it’s easy to see why I chose to spend the rest of my life with the woman I married over 9 years ago. She’s universally beautiful, she’s unselfishly kind, and she’s humble yet confident in herself.

I am a lucky man. I have the ability of knowing in all confidence, I made the right decision.

Not only did I choose the right person to marry, but I made the right decision that fateful night of October 5, 2006, when I spotted her in a crowded room full of hundreds of people and decided to take a chance: I walked up to her and attempted to woo her with my interesting stories, my charming, yet off-beat personality, and my average looks.

It worked.

Now here we are in our mid-30s, having been married nearly a decade, and having produced two blue-eyed, Dutch-looking children despite our DNA.

So while I could easily write 841 words on the romantic aspects of how much I love my wife, I’m instead going to take a different direction. What about the non-romantic reasons I love her?

What about the reasons that would be symbolized not by a heart emoji, but instead, by a house or a stack of money, or by a clock or even a skull?

If for no other reason than to challenge myself as a writer, I now present to you 3 non-romantic reasons I love my wife.

  1. We make a good business team.

I feel like this isn’t emphasized when a couple becomes engaged, but marriage is a business, and it needs to be ran that way. The longer we are married, the better we become at running our family’s business.

During our first year of marriage, before kids, we were able to pay for my wife to go get her Master’s Degree, without going into further debt. That investment paid off, as my wife has since then, consistently made considerably more money than I have all these years. My wife also handles our family’s weekly budget.

On my end, I have been faithfully building my experience as a writer (thanks to this blog) since 2009, and as a YouTuber for the past 3 years. Now at present day, we are seeing the possibility that my “side hustles” (as a blogger, ghostwriter, SEO expert, social media influencer, and YouTuber) are starting to pay off. I actually speculate that by January 2019, our monthly mortgage payment will be covered from my YouTube earnings alone.

My wife is the detailed accountant and investor. I am the creative entrepreneur. Together, we run a family business.

            2. We make a good parenting team.

In the same way we are counterparts as co-business owners, we function the same way as parents. My wife is the nurturer, the schedule keeper, the travel planner, the head chef, and the laundry engineer.

Meanwhile, I am the disciplinarian, the head of communication, the chauffeur, the before-and-after school program director, and the “wake up at any hour of the night to get our daughter back to sleep” technician.

We are not great at doing each other’s roles. Instead, we embrace our individual parenting strengths as part of our own identities. We’ve got a good system. And we’ve got good kids.

Whereas I see marriage as a business, I see parenting as a talent management agency. We have two young recruits who we are responsible for molding into respectable and independent adults, preparing them for the real world.

        3. I want to be around her even during the predictable, seemingly uneventful, non-                          Facebook-status-worthy moments of life.

For me, it all comes back to the famous line in our wedding vows: for better or for worse.

Yeah, I’m totally cool with slowly aging alongside my wife for the next 40 years as we live happily ever after, until ultimately one of us finally dies first, leaving the other person with the insurance money- and unimaginable sadness.

But what about the in-between of better or worse? Not everyday can be a Michael Bublé song. Many days are more like Huey Lewis, when he sang, “Yes, it’s true, I’m so happy to be stuck with you.”

I love my wife for the moments in our life together that are just normal and forgettable; the B-roll footage that no one would care about watching if our lives were a reality TV show on TLC, called Our Crazy Vegetarian Life. Being grateful for your spouse through all the filler moments, which honestly, make up most of our time on this planet, is what real love is all about.

So maybe I’ve failed to hold true to the title of this article. Maybe there really is something romantic about building a life together, running it like a business, creating and raising mini-me’s, and choosing to love a person until the day you die, even if most of those days don’t have fireworks and champagne.

Maybe there’s something undeniably romantic about the unromantic parts of loving the person you married.

If so, consider me a hopeless romantic.

Photo credit: Mohamad Alaw.

About the Author:

I am an accidental stay-at-home vegan daddy blogger based in Spring Hill, Tennessee. I have no spare time, but by default, my hobbies include playing guitar, singing, songwriting, mountain biking, skateboarding, running, and going on road trips across America with my family in vehicles that Toyota and Lexus provide for free because it’s smart advertising for them.

Additionally, I enjoy making videos for both of my YouTube channels: Nick Shell, which is a mentorship program for younger men who are psychologically dealing with going bald, and Family Friendly Daddy Blog, which celebrates and explores ethnic diversity based on DNA test results.

How I Accidentally Became a Stay-at-Home Dad Back in October… Finally, I’m Ready to Talk about It

Imagine the irony. The very same week I was driving around in a $50,000 car, the 2017 Lexus IS 350 to promote here on my blog, I became unemployed. That fancy car then began serving as my vehicle to begin a new job search.

Yeah, that was a crazy week.

And really, it’s been an interesting month and a half since then. Let me catch you up on what I was hiding from social media this whole time…

It was simply my fate. I was already a vegan daddy blogger and a YouTuber. The demographics were there. So it only made sense that a guy like me would end up as a stay-at-home dad.

On October 18th, after having worked for over a decade at the same company in the Human Resources field (recruiting, onboarding, and retention), the new president of the company basically shut down the whole branch where I worked in Tennessee.

Imagine the psychology: Spending over 10 years of your life at the same company, seeing the same people day after day, appreciating the solitude of the same hour long commute to and from work; simply having a predictable routine which made me feel like I was financially providing for my family.

And then suddenly, it all ends. The plug is pulled. Not just for me, but for an office full of people who suddenly have a new full-time job: to find a new full-time job.

I admit, I was privately struggling with it. Even though it wasn’t my fault, nor the fault of the dozens of other people who were laid off that day as well, it still felt like a death, of sorts.

That job was part of my identity. I was always grateful for it. It was my first real job out of college; and really, my only full-time job.

During the next 30 days, I applied for over 60 jobs online; plus, I signed up with 4 different staffing agencies. It all resulted in one legitimate job interview, but they ended up hiring someone else for the position.

Through all this, it was important to me that no one else knew I had lost my job and that I was in search of a new one. I didn’t want the free world asking me everyday if I was okay, or asking if I got a new job yet.

To put myself in that situation would make me feel like I was some sort of victim- which I am not. I always choose to be victorious; never a victim.

The way I’m wired, I didn’t want anyone to know about any of this, until I had a success story to tell.

Just as I was about to cross the line of “not okay anymore”, right before Thanksgiving my wife presented me with some amazing news which I was quite thankful for.

As she is the one who handles our budget, she joyfully explained to me that since losing my job, we have been continually putting more money into our savings account each week; not less.

When I asked her how, her immediate response was, “I know it has to be a God thing.”

She went on to break down all the ways we were saving money:

We are no longer paying for two kids to be in daycare full-time.

Our daughter, who was growing up in day care, stopped getting sick, so our doctors’ bills ceased.

I am no longer filling up my car with gas each week; only monthly now.

While that may not sound significant, my wife told me that considering the cost of two kids in day care, my job was ultimately only making our household $200 per week. I was being paid appropriately for my position where I worked, but my wife has a Master’s Degree and therefore has been making a bit more money than me for a while now.

So actually, those little things added up to more than cover the $200 per week difference.

Me? A stay-at-home dad?

It would have been too crazy of a plan; for me to leave my steady job of over a decade. But that steady job came to an end; with over 10 years of Human Resources experience as a souvenir.

We wouldn’t have chosen this. It wouldn’t have seemed like a smart position. But it’s working for our family right now.

And obviously, I truly enjoy getting to actually spend time with my awesome kids. Even my wife and I have more quality time as well, including the fact she is able to call me everyday on the drive home from work. We have more time together as a family now.

Granted, I’ll remain on the look-out for a great job in Human Resources, as I never stopped applied for jobs. And while my daughter is taking her nap each day, I work diligently on further building my YouTube channels, which I predict will eventually exceed the $200 weekly difference.

But as for now, I have officially made it part of my identity. Last night, I changed the “work” section on my Facebook profile:

I am now a stay-at-home dad.

MyHeritage DNA Test: Photos of My Great-Grandparents’ Jewish-Middle Eastern Wedding from 1919- Giuseppe Metallo and Maria “Mary” Vite

Last week at work, my wife was explaining to a coworker how our family is vegetarian and that it all started a few months after we were married in 2008, when I went kosher; meaning I stopped eating pork and shellfish.

The natural follow-up question from her coworker was logical: “Is your husband Jewish or something?”

My wife replied, “Actually, he is. He just took a DNA test and found that out!”

(This is funny because my going kosher had nothing to do with my ethnic background; I simply had to in order to cure my eczema dyshidrosis, severe sinus infections, and allergies. In the end, it worked, by the time I eventually became a vegan in 2013.)

Despite my mom thinking her whole life that she was half Mexican and half Italian, her own DNA test through MyHeritage told a much different story:

True, her mother truly was Mexican; but on her father’s side, her Italian grandfather was mostly Middle Eastern and her Italian grandmother was Sephardic Jewish.

My mom’s mother’s side:

32.9% Central American (Mayan/Aztec)

22% Iberian (Spanish/Portuguese)

My mom’s father’s side:

15.2% Sephardic Jewish

14% Middle East/West Asia (Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Palestine and Georgia)

7.8% Greek

4.5% Italian

2.6% Baltic (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia)

2.0% West African (Benin, Burkina Faso, the island nation of Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, the island of Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone, São Tomé and Príncipe and Togo)

These wedding photos are from my mom’s paternal grandparents’ wedding in 1919. This is Giuseppe Metallo (age 28 and a half) with his bride Maria “Mary” Vite (age 19). I speculate this was an arranged marriage, but I have no proof; only speculation, based on their age difference and the fact they were recent immigrants to America from Italy.

They both moved here from Italy, spoke only Italian, and had Italian names… yet ethnically, they were barely Italian at all. My theory is that their own ancestors had settled in Italy a few generations prior but had culturally become Italian by the time they got to America.

I’m guessing their families had both converted to Catholicism by the time they had left Italy.

This stuff is purely fascinating to me!

But what do you think? Are we truly looking at a mainly Middle Eastern groom and a Sephardic Jewish bride, who were known to me up until this year as my Italian great-grandparents?

I would love for you to leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

And if you’re interested in taking a DNA test like I did, here’s the link to MyHeritage.