Dear Jack: You Won Your Sister and Yourself Prizes from the Crane Machine at Chuck E. Cheese’s

8 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

During our 45 minute “all you can play” spree at Chuck E. Cheese’s last week in Sacramento, we were down to the last 10 minutes when you decided to take a stab at the crane machine filled with inflatable balls.

After just a couple of tries, you were able to successfully win a purple ball for yourself!

Naturally, you drew a crowd: your own family.

Your sister immediately expressed that she wanted one too.

And after another couple of tries, you seemingly effortlessly won her a purple ball just like yours.

I have a feeling that had you spent the entire 45 minutes at the crane machine, you would have emptied it!

Love,

Daddy

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Family Summer Vacation in Sacramento: Going to Chuck E. Cheese’s Instead of Disneyland

After spending the first half of our vacation at Lake Tahoe, our family spent the rest of the time closer to Sacramento; staying with my mother-in-law and her husband.

Selfishly, I didn’t mind at all because it gave me several consecutive days to sleep in; since there was never really any planned event or agenda happening before noon the rest of the week.

And after the long, early flight to California (we left Nashville at 2:00 AM), I was pretty much the equivalent of Weekend at Bernie’s for the first few days anyway.

Staying there in the Sacramento area provided more opportunities to visit with more family members, as well as long-time friends of my wife.

But of course, eventually our kids wanted to do something special; since after all, we were on vacation. I suggested putt-putt golf, which was something I kept seeing in Lake Tahoe.

But the kids wanted Chuck E. Cheese’s. It hadn’t crossed my mind since there’s already one just about 20 minutes from our house in Tennessee.

However, I realized how little it would cost us: Just about $13 total for unlimited games for 45 minutes for our whole family.

So I immediately agreed!

We were given what was essentially an infinitely loaded debit card only good for the currency of Chuck E. Cheese tokens.

So for 45 minutes, we frantically passed the card to each other; as ultimately, all four members of our family were constantly earning tickets to buy prizes the entire time.

The time limit actually made it even more fun and challenging for all of us, as we individually learned and decided which games we were best at winning tickets from.

By the end of our California family vacation, my wife suggested that maybe next year the kids will be old enough to visit Disneyland.

Maybe.

But I definitely wouldn’t mind Chuck E. Cheese again either.

Our Family Spot at King’s Beach on the California Side of Lake Tahoe

When our family is ready to hang out at the beach, why drive 6 and a half hours from our home near Nashville, Tennessee to Destin, Florida when we could fly all the way to the other side of the country to Lake Tahoe in California?

As far as my kids are concerned, they have just as much fun either way. When you’re a kid, it’s sand and waves- and that’s all that matters… even if the water is much chillier on a lake that is more than a mile higher than sea level.

Our tradition is to hang out at King’s Beach, which is at the very northern part of Lake Tahoe. I love being able to see the snow-capped mountains all the way across the other side; which is 22 miles away.

For years now, my son has enjoyed making sand fortresses. He’ll get in the water a little bit, but mainly just to wash off the extra sand in between his toes.

I was amazed this year by what heavy stones he was able to find and carry over to his construction sight.

For all I know, there are much better spots at Lake Tahoe. However, King’s Beach is the most convenient for our family, since we are always ultimately en route to Sacramento from there anyway.

There’s a really nice pier there that is fun to walk out across and take a family photo or two.

Not to mention, there is a playground, easily accessible restrooms, and even a grocery store in walking distance; so you can easily buy everything you need to have a picnic there on the beach.

King’s Beach is our spot on Lake Tahoe. Granted, I’m fully aware that thousands of other people feel the same way, but it still feels like a well kept secret to us.

Accidentally Family Glamping in Squaw Valley, California: Home of the 1960 Winter Olympics

It was the closest to camping my wife will ever be and she wanted to go home right then.

I admit I’m borrowing from the memorable 1998 hit song “Iris” from Goo Goo Dolls here.

(“You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be and I don’t want to go home right now.”)

In hindsight, I understand now that we accidentally ended up glamping for a few days of our family vacation last week in California.

For the first three nights, we stayed in Squaw Valley; home of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Imagine the scene:

My kids shared a fold-out couch on one side of the rustic motel, while my wife and I shared an actual bed. The thing is, it’s typically so cold in this part of California, where it is more than a mile above sea level. Therefore, the building is not equipped with air conditioning.

So instead, there were fans in the windows and ceiling fans above us to pull in some cooler feeling air. But during the middle of the summer with the temperature being the highest, it’s not the most comfortable way to fall asleep.

Our bed was right next to the window connected to the outside hallway, so that other fellow guests could basically see through our window while we slept, since we had to keep the curtain open in an effort to prevent blocking the fan.

I should mention the shower, too.

It was basically a giant tray on the floor of the bathroom in which I had to spray my kids with a hose. It was like giving a cat a bath.

But fortunately, we were able to overlook all that and appreciate the beauty of our surroundings during the daytime.

I’m pretty sure this was the closest my wife will ever get to camping. As for me, I grew up in the mountains of Alabama, so it’s what I know.

Here’s to family glamping!

My 3 Year-Old Daughter’s Bigtruck Hat Souvenir and Our Consequent Tour of the Bigtruck Factory Store and Custom Hat Bar in Truckee, California

Upon arrival in Truckee, after the short drive from Reno where our flight landed, we began our summer vacation by visiting the first souvenir shop the kids saw.

While my kids’ agenda was to immediately spend their $20 souvenir stipends, my wife was more concerned with finding a hat to cover our fair-skinned 3 year-old daughter from the California sun in Lake Tahoe.

My daughter wasn’t quite sold on the simple and practical sunhat my wife found. Instead, my daughter was lured by the irresistibly trendy Bigtruck trucker’s hat with a yellow flower on it.

She still had a leftover gift card from her birthday back in April; to extend beyond her souvenir budget.

It turns out she loved this “flower hat” so much, that she chose to deplete the rest of her gift card money on it!

I will admit: I’m glad she did.

What an awesome hat for a cute little girl spending a week of summer vacation in the Lake Tahoe area.

She totally rocked that hat and she knew it.

Of all coincidences, by the end of our week-long vacation, we just happened to stop for lunch at a deli right across the street from the Bigtruck Factory Store and Custom Hat Bar there in Truckee!

After lunch, my wife stayed in the truck with our daughter who quickly fell asleep for her afternoon nap.

Meanwhile, my son and I invited ourselves in for a tour; where we met Triston Sceirine, the company’s Production Manager, who was happy to show us around the place.

We had a great time checking out how they make the hats, and even learned they have a “hat bar” where customers can customize their own hats.

I have a feeling the next time our family is in Truckee again, we’ll be heading back there to make some cool hats!

And thanks to my daughter’s hat choice, we have brought a piece of Truckee back to Nashville, Tennessee.

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.