Dear Jack: The Indoor Camp Out with Nonna and Papa

8 years, 3 months.

Of all Saturday nights for the power to go out for a couple of hours, it just happened to be the one where Mommy and I weren’t there.

We were staying at a hotel about 20 miles away, while Nonna and Papa were in town from Alabama to take care of you and your sister.

But the power outage was no problem- in fact, it was probably more exciting…

You and your sister got to camp out on the floor of the bedroom with Nonna and Papa; using blankets as sleeping bags, as you both held on to some of your favorite stuffed animals.

As you can see from this picture, your sister was proud to be a part of all the fun!

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Holly: I’ve Never Once Seen You Act Shy

2 years, 10 months.

This week at work one of my coworkers was asking me what your personality is like, after she saw a picture of you being your happy self.

It got me thinking: I have never once seen you act shy.

You are such a happy, outgoing little girl. Wherever we go, you’re just glad to be there and you aren’t afraid to interact with friendly strangers who tell you how cute you are.

I’ve noticed you definitely aren’t camera shy, either.

Sometimes I casually ask you, “Holly, you want to be in a video with me?”

You instantly and enthusiastically agree every time.

You’re just not a shy kid.

Love,

Daddy

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

Exactly One Year After My National TV Debut on Lifetime’s “This Time Next Year”, How is My Life Different? SEO Vs. TV

On February 27th, 2018, my secret was finally made public, when my year-long quest to find my doppelganger from a package of Campbell’s Soup debuted on a new TV show on the Lifetime Network, called This Time Next Year.

My episode was entitled, “Dudes from Different Latitudes”, which was based on the song I wrote and performed in front of the studio audience; near the end of the episode.

A year ago when the episode finally premiered, I was prepared for a huge jump in the number of visitors on my blog and viewers on my two YouTube channels. I was even anticipating the possibility of getting more opportunities to be on TV in the future.

Instead, my blog readers and YouTube viewers only knew about my TV debut after I brought it up. Even then, they had trouble even finding a way to watch my episode of This Time Next Year.

So how is my life different because of the show? I can’t say that it is.

But being on a nationally aired TV show did teach me this truth: TV is mostly irrelevant.

It is true that since the airing of my episode of This Time Next Year, that my viewership on this blog and my YouTube channels have dramatically increased; along with the revenue I make from these side hustles.

However, that had completely nothing to do with people seeing me on TV. Instead, people are discovering me, in growing numbers every day, thanks to the content that I as an individual am constantly producing.

In other words, the Internet is mightier than the TV show.

And that’s because the Internet is much more relevant than television.

So while it was fun to be on TV, I never needed to be on TV to find an audience; or to make money on the side.

I was not paid anything to be on TV. Meanwhile, I make money in my sleep from the thousands of videos that I have published on YouTube. Everyday, I receive emails from people across the world who offer to pay me money just to be featured as a guest blogger here on my site, so that they can include a link back to their website’s business.

When your audience is the Internet, they find you; despite who you are; not because of who you are.

It’s sort of like the opposite of being famous. They accidentally discover your content through a Google search without ever needing to know your name first.

I definitely wouldn’t turn down another opportunity to be on TV, but I no longer see it as the next big step for my creative career.

For me, though, the best part of being on TV was getting to meet my doppelganger, Steve. He was such a cool guy to hang out with and get to know.

If we lived in the same city, I know we would be friends. He was the best part about being on TV.

And Steve, if you’re reading this, just know I still feel you are the brother I never had.

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.

Income Tax Returns at H&R Block: So Relieved I Didn’t Owe Taxes on My 5 Side Hustles in 2018!

As I recently crowned myself “The SEO Side Hustler”, announcing that in 2018 I had 5 SEO-based side hustles that earned a minimum of $1,000 each, I knew that title would come with a potential downside:

This month when my wife and I would file our taxes for last year’s income, instead of getting money back from the IRS as we have every single year we’ve been married, it would be a very real possibility we could actually owe several thousand dollars instead of receiving that as a return.

When I said that I had 5 side hustles last year that earned a minimum of $1,000 each, the thing is…

For some of those side hustles, it was a bit more than a thousand dollars… or even a lot more.

I had never made that much in side income before. It was never an issue or a concern for the years prior.

The problem is that my superhero power of finding random ways to make money from my SEO skills didn’t mean that I automatically knew anything about being prepared for the taxes I would owe on that money.

It was a bit intense last Saturday morning, walking into H&R Block, knowing that in just an hour, we would know our fate; for better or worse.

Forty-five minutes into our consultation, it was looking as if we were going to owe about a thousand dollars; which wouldn’t have been awful.

But fortunately, and I would even say miraculously, our H&R Block representative found a couple more items that had not been considered yet as tax write-offs; like how I mainly use my phone for managing my side hustles, and the fact I have a room in my house dedicated exclusively to my side hustles, serving as my office.

Plus, our H&R Block representative helped us get set up on a system where we are now able to easily pay back 25% of my side income earnings in advance each quarter, so that there’s no reason for anxiety in paying those taxes next February.

At the 55 minute mark into our hour-long consultation, it was confirmed: Even after the consultation fee for H&R Block, we would still get a few hundred dollars back!

Our sense of relief was actually greater than our sense of celebration.

And it was perfect timing, as that money would ultimately end up covering our “24 hour parent staycation” that began the moment we left the moment we drove out of the H&R Block parking lot.

Stay tuned for that…

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.