Our Morning of Americana at Gentry’s Farm and Pumpkin Patch (Featuring the 2017 Lexus IS 350)

This story takes place in Tennessee, but really, it could have happened nearly anywhere across America: Maybe the Midwest, or easily in northern California, where my wife is from.

I simply define this as a Morning of Americana; built of nostalgic ideals regarding what it means to be a proud American during the fall season.

All the elements are here: A hay ride pulled by a tractor, a corn maze, farm animals…

And of course, pumpkins!

I feel, to some degree, the fall itself is like a patriotic holiday season; as we celebrate and appreciate the splendor and even novelty of autumn. It’s a time when we are able to take moments to remind ourselves that we live in a great country, and that life itself is truly beautiful and mysterious thing.

(Can you tell that the fall is my favorite season? Sorry I had to get so poetic there more a minute.)

Our family was able to experience a good old fashioned pumpkin patch, in a much more elaborate version than the one that Charlie Brown visited.

My family of four, along with hundreds of other families last Saturday morning, as well as my sister and her family who were in town visiting from Alabama, visited Gentry’s Farm and Pumpkin Patch in Franklin, Tennessee.

So we parked the wondrous 2017 Lexus IS 350 in the dusty grass field which served as a parking lot, and made our way to the festivities.

It was especially rewarding for me as a parent, to see my 1 and a half year-old daughter react to the local, classic, Americana version of Disney World.

We started out by going on the hay ride, which took us through the pastures of the farm. My daughter was laughing with joy, which happens to be her middle name, as she pointed at all the animals in the not-so-far-away distance.

Unsurprisingly then, she was truly intrigued afterwards, when we got to see the farm animals up close. My daughter’s vocabulary is still pretty much limited to family members’ names, as well as her interpretation of what sounds animals make.

The goat must have seemed like a mythical creature to her, as she responded to him in her language: “A-bluh-ah, a-bluh-ah, a-bluh-ah!”

However, she was quite skeptical when it came time to visit the chickens; especially when one poked its head through the fence to look for food in the grass. My daughter had a “Hold me, Daddy!” moment.

As for my almost 7-year old son, he assumed the role of being a tour guide and assistant to his cousins, while wearing a suitably themed Superman t-shirt.

For our family, the fall season just isn’t complete until we have visited the pumpkin patch. Oh, that reminds me, now my son and I need to actually carve that big pumpkin he picked out, which is currently sitting on my front porach. Looks like we’ve got some work to do.

This, to me, is what it feels like to be American.

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We Were Approached to Be on NBC’s Upcoming Show, The Family Project

We Were Approached to Be on NBC’s Upcoming Show, The Family Project

A few weeks ago, Cast Iron Productions reached out to our family about the possibility of us being in a brand-new show on NBC, called The Family Project.

I have to admit, I feel honored that they chose us because A) they found our family simply because of my blog, which makes me very happy about my SEO, and B) because they said we seem like a really fun family based on what they saw on my blog, Family Friendly Daddy Blog.

After an email exchange, a phone interview, then a 2 hour Skype interview with our family, we were told we were good material for the show.

They liked specifically that we are a Christian, vegan/vegetarian family who doesn’t believe in spanking and who lives by an extremely enforced “Dave Ramsey” budget and who keeps our home spotlessly clean and who doesn’t own smart phones.

As far as what the show is about, here’s my best understanding:

It sounds like the concept of Wife Swap and The Real World combined. Instead of 2 polar opposite families swapping the wives in each family, it sounds like The Family Project will combine all the family members of both households in the same house.

They were clear with me that we would still have to work jobs, but it would be whatever my wife and I consider our “dream jobs”. As for me, that would mean full time blogging and making videos for my YouTube channel.

We had a lot of fun during the Skype interview, but I do have good reason to believe that ultimately, NBC will not be officially choosing us:

I was very clear with the casting agency that we have a complete Libertarian approach when it comes to our lifestyle:

In other words, we have no desire to enforce our beliefs on others. Therefore, I seriously doubt a camera crew would be able to get a rise out of me, which typically makes for “good reality TV.”

After all, conflict and chaos serves as the fuel of reality TV. From there, the audience watching is subconsciously prompted to pass judgment, thinking to themselves, “At least I’m not as crazy as that person!”

If one of the parents of the other family in the house tried to get me to debate with them on why we are vegans/vegetarians or Christians or why we won’t spank our child or why we live by a super strict budget, I simply wouldn’t argue back.

I am a man who is completely confident and secure in my beliefs. I have no desire to seek confirmation from anyone else.

While I’m always happy to explain any parts of our lifestyle, I back off the moment the other person thinks I am defending myself.

I have nothing to defend.

And I especially have no reason to argue with a non-Christian. Jesus didn’t argue with or try to fiercely convert those who were close-minded to His teaching.

Instead, He said time and time again, “Whoever has ears, let him hear.”

In other words, His teachings were meant for those who were listening; not those who tried to heckle him or prove him wrong.

I am a man who is completely confident and secure in my beliefs. I have no desire to seek confirmation from anyone else.

Where would the drama be in a reality show episode like that? Where is the conflict and chaos?

The only thing I can think of is to “try to get the Christians to crack” after being so irritated by the other family’s opposing “annoying” habits.

I’m not saying that’s impossible, but as Christians, our role isn’t to judge, but to serve others.

So I’m thinking, if their dirty dishes in the sink got in the way of our family making our own vegan meals, then we should probably help them out with their dishes.

Why would NBC pick us at this point? Yes, we’re a fun (and interesting) family; and yes, we have a different lifestyle compared to the American mainstream, I would assume.

But we have nothing to prove… or to defend… or to be offended by.

I have a feeling that just like with Steve Harvey and Katie Couric, when they approached me a couple of years ago about being on their shows, only to never call me back after they realized I wouldn’t argue with other guests on the show about my beliefs, that The Family Project will air without the Shell family.

Even still, I’m very curious to check the show out when it premieres in a few months!

We Were Approached to Be on NBC’s Upcoming Show, The Family Project

Photos by Aimee Cornelius.

How Race and Religion are Connected and Why Isaac and Ishmael are behind It All

This is me in a video I made for you, which explains all this in a 5 and a half minute video, in case you prefer that over reading the 1378 word blog post below it, which I wrote 7 years ago.

Meet your great-grandfather Isaac.  Or Ishmael.  Or maybe even both…

How do you determine who ethnically is a “white person” and who is not?  Are Jews considered to be white?  What about Greeks and Italians?  And though Central and South Americans typically have tan skin, why is it there something about them still seems sort of white, as opposed to a person from India or China? These are some of the “side effect” questions that will be answered as I explain my theory on the origin of race and religion.

No, this theory doesn’t start with Adam and Eve.  Nor does it start with Noah and his family repopulating the world after the Great Flood.  It starts 20 generations after Adam, and 10 generations after Noah, with Abraham (the father of the Jewish and the Arab people), being promised by God that he would have a son in his old age.  After waiting and having no sign of this coming true, Abraham’s wife Sarah convinced him to sleep with their Egyptian maidservant Hagar, in order to have a son to carry on the family lineage.  At age 86, Abraham goes with his wife’s plan (like the way Adam ate the fruit after Eve convinced him to) and has a son with his maidservant- the son is named Ishmael.  However, 13 years later Abraham’s wife Sarah gets pregnant with a son, as God promised, and this son is named Isaac.

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dharma

Abraham eventually sends away his maidservant Hagar and his son Ishmael into the wilderness (Genesis 21:14), and raises Isaac his as true first-born son.  Today, thousands of years later, it is through Ishmael that Arabs and Muslims link their heritage through.  Accordingly, Jews and Christians trace through heritage back to Isaac.  Now we are in the meat of my theory.

As generations passed and both families migrated from their Middle Eastern homelands, the descendants of Ishmael moved south and east- to Africa, Asia, and America (becoming the Native American Indians in North America and the Aztec Indians in Central and South America).  In fact, the angel of the Lord told Hagar that Ishmael “will live east of all his brothers” (Genesis 16:12).  Meanwhile the descendants of Isaac moved north and west- to Europe, Russia, and eventually to America (killing off, running off, or marrying the Native American Indians).

Notice how today the countries that are represented by the descendants of Ishmael are generally practice religions that do not involve the Judeo-Christian God (worshipped by Christians, Catholics, and Jews) but instead are tied Hinduism, Animism, Taoism, Buddhism, Communism (Atheism) and Islam.  And of course the descendants of Isaac are matched to the Christianized nations: For example, Scotland is mainly Protestant, Ireland is mainly Catholic, and England is mainly Anglican (Presbyterian).

Almost 2,000 years ago thanks the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys to preach Christ where the Jews had already settled (in Europe, specifically the Mediterranean areas) and also the birth of Christianity as a whole, the countries that were already familiar with the Judeo-Christian God were basically the first to get introduced to Jesus as the Messiah.  As far as all the Ishmael-descended areas, like modern day Africa and Asia that were less familiar or not familiar at all with Christianity, they were not and have not typically been as generally open and accepting to “our God” as Isaac’s descendants.

The Ishmaelese Middle East

Ishmaelese Africa

Ishmaelese Asia

I do believe that whether or not a nation (or individual person) is a descendent of Isaac has much to do with their religion, race, and culture.  However, there are obviously exceptions.  One of them is Russia, which had been mainly Christian up until the point of its embrace of Communism.  Another exception is African-Americans, whom most identify with Christianity, as opposed to most Africans living in Africa.

And then there’s the “half breed” nations that make up Central and South America.  For the most part, their blood is mixed of Indigenous Americans (Native American, Aztec, etc.) who migrated from Asia through modern day Alaska, and European lineage from those who “discovered” America.  So in essence, the inhabitants of modern day Central and South America are half Isaackian, half-Ishmaelese; though they have accepted the religious beliefs of Isaac’s descendants (largely Catholic).  Read more about this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_peoples_of_the_Americas

Yes, I did just now make up and use the words Isaackian (to describe the descendants of Isaac who are prone to believe in the Judeo-Christian God) and Ishmaelese (to describe the descendants of Ishmael who typically do not).  And now that you hopefully understand what those terms represent, I will begin using them frequently.

What started much of this thought process was when I recently began “Climbing the Family Tree” and realized that so many of my ancestors had last names that are Jewish (Schell, Klaar, Ullman, Wiseman, Vite) yet there is no solid proof that I actually am- only family rumors and tradition.  If I assume that none of the people in my family tree were Jewish, well, still, I have Jewish names in my family tree.  So that got me thinking, Jewish people and “white people” are essentially the same thing, coming from the same common ancestors.  Whereas someone who is Japanese (Ishmaelese) wouldn’t have last names in their family tree that would resemble a Jewish last name.

So going back to one of the questions I asked in the beginning, are Jewish people considered to be white?  Yes.  Though their homeland is Israel and though they are a Middle Eastern people group, they blend in with us Americans so well.  And that’s part of my fascination with pointing out which celebrities are Jewish.  Half the casts of Friends and Seinfeld are Jewish (The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of Friends and Seinfeld) as well as The Wonder Years (The Ethnicity of the Cast of The Wonder Years), but the fact that most of us don’t know which ones are or aren’t shows that despite most of us being a mix of European blood, those Middle Eastern descended Jews are still our cousins.

Of course ultimately, it doesn’t matter which of us descended from Isaac or Ishmael or how much blood we have of either (I’m around 12.5% Ishmaelese); it just predicts the tone of our skin and our traditional religion, according to my theory.  By no means do I see the Isaackians as superior to Ishmaelese for the fact that I myself worship the Judeo-Christian God.  But what I do recognize is what God himself proclaimed to Abraham regarding Isaac and Ishmael:

But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son and you shall call his name Isaac, and I will establish my everlasting covenant for his descendants after him,” (Genesis 17:19).

“As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold I will bless him, and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly.  He shall become the father of 12 princes, and I will make him a great nation,” (Genesis 17:20).

What’s most important from those verses I just quoted is that God promised to establish his covenant through the line of Isaac.  In other words, the savior of the world would come in the form of a Jew.  Not to mention that the Isaackians coincidently would hold the responsibility of sharing their God with the Ismaelese- that’s why Christian missionaries exist.  That’s why Christianity is now the largest religion of the Ishmaelese country of South Korea, for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Korea#Religion

We all have the same great-grandparents at the tops of our family trees.  I try to imagine how different the world would be if Abraham wouldn’t have had a son with Hagar, if he just would have waited another 13 years for his own wife to become pregnant.  But he jumped the gun and changed the course of history (for him, it was the future) forever.  Though if he didn’t, I wouldn’t exist, being that my grandmother is Mexican.  Not only would I have not written this and you wouldn’t have read it, but there wouldn’t have been any of this to write about.

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jewish

I am the Human Spell Check

Bring me your misspelled words and incomplete sentences.

In school, I never studied for spelling tests (at least I never needed to) and I always got a “104” (perfect score plus I got the “challenge words” right as well).  The English language, as random and pieced-together as it is, has always made sense to me.  I wasn’t too bothered with the fact that the word “know” has a silent “k” (originally it was pronounced).  Nor was I ever really annoyed with the “I before E except after C” rule.

Somehow I’ve made sense out of the consistent inconsistency of our junkyard Spumoni language, borrowed mainly from our European ancestors- and also surprisingly from Yiddish, the universal language of the Jews, being that there are almost exactly the same number of Jews living in America as there are in Israel; accordingly, the United States has the 2nd highest Jewish population in the world.  Examples of adopted Yiddish words – bagel, klutz, schlub, schmooze, schmuck, shtick, schnozzle, tush, schlong.

And I’m convinced that my love of words has a lot to do with why I don’t really have a Southern accent, despite only living in the South (AL, FL, VA, TN).  Because I know how words are supposed to sound.  It’s not “ahss”, it’s “ice”.  It’s not “Toeyohduh”, it’s “Toyota”.  To speak in any distinct accent would be to stray from the standard American way of speaking.  I’m overaware of the way I pronounce words- only in rare occasions does a hint of Alabama come out of me.

I am the person in any given room who people ask, “How do you spell ‘initiate’”?  Then immediately, the word pops up in a translucent white font outlined in black, in my head.  I am that guy.  That can always save the day in times of a spelling crisis.  In college, I was the guy that all my dorm mates would bring their papers to for me to correct them the night before they were due.  And not only was it fun for me, but I took pride it doing it.

The downside of being a human spell check: I’m horrible at math and science.

The irony of writing about being a human spell check: I misspelled the word “spell check” in the title for this post by combining two words as one.  The real spell check caught it for me.

For a similar post by a similar but different writer, read http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/05/12/99-grammar/.

Taking a God-Nudged Leap of Faith (Like a Guinea Pig)

And hoping not to fall like an idiot in the process.

Thinking back on the lyrics of the popular traditional song, I’ve never really understood or wanted to understand why ten lords were ever leaping in the first place.  But after much thought, I perhaps have come to the realization that I have been one of those lords a leaping the entire time.  Needless to say, I’m not cool with wearing tights.

Desperately trying to avoid imagined images of myself wearing tights, yet still needing to get a grasp on my way of thinking, I’ve always been a bit of a Peter Pan.  (You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.) People like me never really grow out of that 1980’s propaganda mindset for kids that taught us we could do anything dream of if we put our mind to it.  Then we graduate college and realize that with this many people graduating college, having a college degree is less of a major advantage and more of a basic necessity.

On paper, my life looks pretty normal and planned out and even typical.  But behind the scenes, my life is series of leaps of faith that always got me where I wanted to be.  And I think by now, I’m just used to it.  My life plans are often void of much practical reason, instead, they are intertwined with my lofty dreams which I interpret as God’s will for my life.

I realized a while back that God tends to use me as the Guinea pig.  He already knows the plan will work but I become the human example to show others.  This is a fate I have accepted with surprisingly little fuss.  One of out 20,000 people in America has dyshidrosis, a vicious form of eczema that consumes a person’s hands and much of their body.  I was one of those 20,000 people.  But after several years of devastating torture embedded with anxiety and some depression, my skin problem has now 100% left me.  But God wouldn’t instantly heal me like I prayed for Him to do about 30 times a day.

Instead, He spoke through the wisdom of soft-spoken people in my life.  As well as random websites.  I now know the cure for dyshidrosis and eczema.  I proudly serve as God’s spokesman on how to overcome the skin condition, refusing any monetary compensation.

I feel honored to give out  this information.  Read The Cure for Eczema. Also, my e-mail address is listed on the upper right side of the screen for my more info.

That being said, I had prayed that God would get me around or over the problem, instead He took me through the problem to the other side.  And that is a classic (yet annoying) truth about life.  God doesn’t often use instant magic to fix our problems, He enables us to solve them ourselves.

But ultimately, even after God equips us with the wisdom and direction we need to solve the current problem; the ultimate issue is whether or not we give God the credit for it.  I remind myself that life is ultimately a spiritual war, and we can either say “God is good” or “look what I figured out” when we move from “tragedy” status back to “normal”.

Like the game between Jacob and The Man in Black on LOST, we serve as islanders who prove to the spiritual audience what’s really inside of us. It’s true that physically spoken words here in the physical world play a major part in the spiritual world.  That’s why I take these words of King Solomon so seriously in Proverbs:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, but in all things, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (3:5-6).

So whatever leap of faith that is required of me from God (or that I throw myself into), I have to ask myself, “what’s the worst that can happen?”  If it is of God, or God finds favor in my plan, I’m not convinced that God will allow me to simply make a fool of myself when I am completely focused on finding a way to honor Him through it.

“Something good coming, there has to be… And I’m in it for the long run, wherever it goes, riding the river.” –Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (“Something Good Coming”)

Read the sequel to this blog, by clicking right here.

For a related post by the same author, read Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People ?

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on faith, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

Good Men Still Exist; They Just Don’t Make the Headlines as Easily

“The handy thing about being a father is that the historic standard has been set so pitifully low.” -Michael Chabon, Manhood for Amateurs

Yes, everyone is well aware that despite all the good men in history who have left a good name for themselves (along with plenty of quotable quotes, with many of them being strong military leaders or respected writers), there are enough deadbeats, scoundrels, and cads to cast a negative connotation on the word “man”.  Women are expected to be saints and givers; sadly, men are expected to be… well, not a lot is expected of men anymore.  But not all good men are long gone.

In the aftermath of Father’s Day last week, the Internet was full of freshly published articles about the modern man, father, and husband.  Two in particular really got my attention.  The first one reviewed the history of TV dads from Leave It to Beaver, to Married with Children, to Parenthood.  It brought out the fact that in the 1950’s, dads were too perfect, in the 1990’s they were often portrayed as bumbling idiots, and now in the 2010’s, TV dads have finally began to look more like real dads.  See http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/37758834/ns/today-entertainment/.  (Though I would argue that the 1980’s were good to TV dads…)

The other article that really got me thinking was one I found on Stuff Christians Like, http://stuffchristianslike.net/2010/06/the-wild-difference-between-a-mothers-day-sermon-and-a-fathers-day-sermon/, which explained how many fathers in Christian churches feel miserable on Father’s Day Sunday because the sermon is about how men need to step up to the plate and be better fathers, while the Mother’s Day sermon provides nothing but praise for women. 

I definitely see how good men often don’t get the praise they deserve.  Like Zack Morris once said on Saved by the Bell when Jessie declared that all men are jerks, “Hey, don’t judge us by our worst specimens.”  What can we do to enhance the minority of men who are truly good fathers, husbands, and hard-working citizens?

My guess is to call them out on their goodness when you see it.  It seems that if we as a culture began to celebrate the men who are doing right, it would be more of an incentive for those who are just half-way doing it, seeing there is praise and appreciation for being a “good man”.  But when the goal is simply to be better than Charlie Sheen (both the actual person and his fictionalized character on the totally lame yet successful sitcom Three and Half Men), there’s a certain lack of motivation to become a better man. 

In an age where stereotypes of men who are drug to church by their wives end up jumping in a 15 passenger van for a weekend trip to their nearest major sports arena to learn from a former NFL player at a Promise Keepers conference that they should spend more time with their kids instead of watching sports games and that they should share the household responsibilities with their wives and stop looking at pornography on their home computers, then they go back home a changed man for a month, then repeat the process each following year, there are still plenty of men in America who actually already are indulging themselves in being the husbands and fathers they need to be.  There are actually good men in America who don’t have to be reminded to be good.  Because they are already aware of the reward in being a respected man who lives for his family, not himself.

Celebrate the good men in your life.  They may instantly brush aside your compliments or seem embarrassed when you do, but inside it means the world to them.  Of course with good men being the coveted gem in a parking lot full of gravels, my guess is, you already do.

Super Mario Bros. from a Logical Perspective, Finally

There are moments in the pop culture highlights of our lives where we are so consumed by awesomeness and groundbreaking concepts that we never even think, “Man, that’s pretty weird now that I think about it…”

It’s been a long time coming, but after 25 years since its introduction to America, (1983 in Japan, 1985 in the US) I need to set aside some time to question the life-changing vice called Super Mario Bros. The first issue that I’ve been thinking about is Mario’s ability to jump.

Have you have really thought about how high he can jump? I would say he probably jumps the distance of about six of himself high. Mario looks like he’s about 5’ 8 (I would say Luigi is more like 6’ 1). Since I’m bad at math I’ll just do some rounding.

Mario can jump about 36 feet high. He can be standing still and just jump 3 stories high. And he never hurts his ankles or knees. 

 That is not normal!

And in case you haven’t noticed, every game is this way in the world of video games (unless the character doesn’t jump at all like in the original Legend of Zelda).

What does Mario do with all those coins? They are about the same size as him. Imagine seeing a coin the same size as you and putting it in your pocket. Then collecting 50 more of them within the next 20 seconds. That’s gottta be heavy!

And what’s so bad about touching an enemy? If you touch a wild creature in the woods, let’s say a mountain lion for example, do you instantly die? No, the mountain lion would have to at least bite you or something. But in Mario’s world, you die if you touch any other living creature. Unless it’s a mushroom or fire flower. And in that case, what is he doing with them? Eating them? Again, how do you eat a five foot tall mushroom instantly?

And what’s up with all the holes in the road? What’s at the bottom of those holes? I mean, I would think that at least some of the time when Mario falls down a hole, he could grab on to a branch or something and not lose his life. But there really shouldn’t be that many holes in the first place.

Lastly, why can Mario hit his head on all those bricks and never get a concussion?  Or if he’s using his first to break the bricks, why is Mario’s fist not a bloody pulp pretty much immediately? 

Nevermind the fact the bricks are floating in the air. I’m willing to get past that. Mario isn’t even wearing a helmet when he busts the bricks with his head or gloves on his hands if he’s punching them!

We have overlooked so much ridiculousness because this game forever changed our lives for the better and for the weirder.  Without this American staple of growing up in the 1980’s, I imagine a world where people in their late 20’s and early 30’s would be more boring and less weird.