This is 36: I’m No Longer in Denial that It’s Difficult (and Stressful!) for Our Family to Make It To Church on Time

Is there any such thing as a family who doesn’t struggle to arrive to church before the service actually begins? Perhaps equally challenging is to show up without being stressed out or upset with each other.

The pastor of The Bridge Church, Josh Howerton, brings this up frequently- how ironic it is that it’s normal to fight in the car all the way to church, then put instantly put on smiles once the car ride is over and you walk through the doors of the church.

Last Saturday night, I decided to attempt to prevent this problem. And it actually worked- as simple as my plan was. Here’s what I did…

First, I initiated the conversation with my wife, acknowledging that our family is habitually late for church, and it’s typically a stressful morning, and that I wanted to do my part to change that.

So I asked her specifically what time we all needed to be up in the morning, so that everyone would have ample time to get ready in time.

Then I set my own alarm to the new time, to ensure that I led my family in our slight routine change.

I have to admit, it was a peaceful morning. It was enjoyable, actually. We even got to church early enough for one of the church greeters to take our family’s picture; to make up for the fact we forgot to do an obligatory Easter picture of our family for Facebook the week before.

So apparently that’s what it takes. It requires specific planning. But it all begins with the parents recognizing that an easygoing, on-time car ride to church is not the default.

I feel I am no longer in the denial of believing my family is the exception to the rule when it comes to the cliché stressful car ride to church.

And because of that, I am proactive enough now to change that for my family.

Here’s to getting the family to church on time and without the stress… for the 2nd time in a row.

This is 36.

This is 36: The Story behind My 1 Year-Old Daughter’s 1st Face Palm at the Mexican Restaurant

By now you’ve probably already read the first entry in This is 36, which explains the motivation behind this new series; how being surprisingly pie-faced on my 36th birthday at Tito’s Mexican restaurant in Spring Hill, TN serves as the perfect symbolism of my life at age 36.

As my wife and I were looking through the other pictures from that night, we found another photo that actually has enough merit on its own.

The picture is from when I decided I wanted my wife to take a picture of me with our kids, after we had finished our sopapillas for dessert. I of course am wearing the cartoonish Mexican birthday sombrero, while my son is undeniably proud to be squeezing his little sister, who is smooshed in between us.

Yeah, I know… The real reason she had her hand on her face is that she was getting tired, as her bedtime was growing near.

But if you’re looking at the picture without knowing that, it easily looks like she is doing a “face palm”, as if to communicate her embarrassment to be stuck in the middle of the two of us goofballs.

It’s just hilarious to imagine a little 1 year-old girl face palming, as if she’s embarrassed to be seen in public with us.

After all, this picture is a pretty accurate illustration of what life is like for her. So much of her time is spent alongside her brother and me. We naturally feel obligated to entertain her, serving as her constant court jesters.

Ultimately, if she doesn’t learn to adopt the silliness which surrounds her, she will likely be doing the face palm a lot more as she grows into her tween years.

But I have a feeling, she will end up joining us in the daily circus.

This is 36.

This is 36: The Story behind the Pie-Face Picture on My 36th Birthday

Last Thursday night as my birthday came to a close, I posted a picture on Facebook that was taken just a couple of hours earlier. The caption simply read, “This is 36.” The picture showed me right after I had been pie-faced by one of the servers at our favorite restaurant, Tito’s.

Indeed, it caught me by complete surprise. I had no intentions that night of being pie-faced for the first time in my life. Sure, one of the waiters leaned over to me and muttered into my ear right before they sang “Happy Birthday” and told me, “We’re going to throw pie in your face… is that okay?”

I just smiled and nodded my head, assuming he was just joking. I still didn’t take him seriously even when he told my wife, “Grab your camera. You will want a picture of this…”

Actually, I didn’t even realize what had happened until I tasted the whipped cream. My mouth just happened to be open with the pie came at me. I never even saw it happen, as the girl who did it secretly had the pie behind me.

(And yes, I just have to count this as a “fortunate accident”, as consuming whipped cream violates my vegan lifestyle…)

Even after 24 hours and two showers, I was still sort of able to smell the whipped cream. It got pretty high up my nose.

To me, that image is the perfect concept of how I interpret being 36 years old.

I had just turned 18 when I graduated high school in 1999. That means just as many years have passed since then. I am 36.

And I am proud to be 36. I embrace change. I accept the minor (or are they major?) evolutions in my personality that come along with being age 36. I gladly commemorate what this seemingly insignificant age symbolizes to me.

It’s like getting surprisingly pie-faced, then instantly laughing because you already know that it’s the little things in life that become the big things.

This is 36.

My Thoughts on Turning 36 Today

As Facebook has reminded you, today is my 36th birthday. It was this day in 1981 that my parents had to change the name they had planned on giving me, Mario, because when I was born, I didn’t look Italian and Mexican enough (on my mom’s side) to live up to what that name should look like. I was born with much fairer skin and lighter hair than I have now…

So instead, they gave me a Greek name, Nicholas, which means “victorious.” In hindsight, that name has become a tribute to my Italian grandfather, Alberto Victorio Metallo. Fate would have it that despite not looking ethnic enough for the name Mario on the day I was born, members of my family unanimously agree that as a grown man, I definitely have an undeniable resemblance to my grandfather; whose own father emigrated here from southern Italy about 100 years ago.

When it comes to my age, I will never be the kind of person who is ashamed or embarrassed by that ultimately arbitrary number, no matter how high it gets. Because the whole point of a birthday is to celebrate your life with the people who care about you.

It’s that one day of the year where you don’t have to do anything but be alive, and accordingly, people make a big deal about you still existing in the universe.

On the day you are born, you are not psychologically developed enough to appreciate the world celebrating your arrival into the world. And when you die, at your funeral, you are not able to physically respond to everyone mourning your passing, as well as celebrating your life that has now come to an end.

But for the birthdays in between those bookmarks, we can all celebrate together, in these living years.

In real time, we can consciously appreciate the precious and mysterious gift of life. We can celebrate our shared memories, that in theory, only continue to exist because we still remember them.

I think birthdays are great.

So here’s to being closer to 40 than 30.

Here’s to being grateful for all I have, including people who celebrate the fact that I still exist in the universe.

Here’s to being reminded everyday, not just my birthday, how much I matter in this world; especially to a beautiful girl from California, and our wondrous blue-eyed children.