Dear Jack: You and Your Sister Willingly Shared a Bed During the Christmas Holidays

8 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

Though you could have slept down the hall in your very own bed in the bonus room while we stayed at Nonna and Papa’s house last week during Christmas vacation, you opted to sleep on the trundle bed attached to your sister’s bed.

But I noticed that all four nights, you and your sister ended up in the same actual bed. She would roll off her bed in the middle of the night onto your bed.

And then by the 3rd night, she decided she wanted to sleep on the trundle bed instead. But of course, she crawled up into your bed those nights after you fell asleep.

The funny thing is, you had no idea. You slept through all of it either way.

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Jack: We Put Up Our “Clip-On Tie” Christmas Tree on October 25th

4 years, 11 months.

Dear Jack: We Put Up Our “Clip-On Tie” Christmas Tree on October 25th

Dear Jack,

This past weekend, exactly two months before Christmas, our family bought our first official artificial Christmas tree. I call in our “clip-on tie” Christmas tree.

I am very pleased with it. Not only did we only pay $30 for it by the time we used our Lowe’s coupon, but the tree came pre-lit!

It’s no secret that while I am gifted in the creative department, I am completely bankrupt when it comes to mechanical skills.

But there was nothing complicated about assembling this tree. I just took it out of the box and stuck it in its stand.

The tree came in two halves with a connected cord for the lights. So I just simply spread out the twigs like a fan and was done.

In the 7 years Mommy and I have been married, we never really bothered to get a little Christmas tree since we lived in a townhouse and opened the presents at Nonna and Papa’s house anyway.

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Things changed this year, though. We have our own real house.

Romantically Mommy and I liked the idea of a real tree, but Mommy didn’t like the idea of the mess it would bring in our new house, and I didn’t like the idea of having to set it up.

So a 4 and a half foot tall “clip-on” tie version of a Christmas tree ended up being the perfect fit for our family.

As I was taking care of the tree, Mommy was wrapping the gifts for our extended family, while listening to traditional Christmas music on YouTube.

Christmas is about 2 months away, but our tree is up and the gifts are bought and wrapped.

With all the inevitable upcoming holiday clichés, like “the hustle and bustle of Christmas,” this is our family’s attempt to get ahead of the stress.

We are ready for Christmas!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: The Glory Of Classic American Holiday Sweaters

4 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack: The Glory Of Classic American Holiday Sweaters

Dear Jack,

I recently realized that of all people, I didn’t own an official holiday sweater. Seriously, I’m the epitome of dads who should own one!

A few days ago at work, my friend Sam walked in wearing a holiday sweater featuring two reindeer facing each other, with a giant snowflake in between them.

That’s the moment I became aware of my sweaterless condition.

Conveniently, the same day I received a gift card for Target. I was there for probably 30 minutes, not really impressed by any of their holiday sweaters; either too expensive or just not enough character.  But right as I officially gave up, I saw it…

A Captain America sweater! Seriously, how awesome is that?!

It couldn’t be more perfect.

Turns out, today at your school, KinderCare, it was “holiday sweater day.” So you got to wear your grumbly monster sweater, while I wore my new one as well.

Dear Jack: The Glory Of Classic American Holiday Sweaters

So now you and I are both set when it comes to owning that special token holiday sweater. Both of ours are funny, masculine, and awesome… to represent us, right?

I feel that little stories like these really help represent my pride as your dad. I love it that you enjoy making goofy selfies with me.

It’s so much fun to celebrate in stuff like this together with you. I keep reminding you that a year from now, the first of the new Star Wars movies will be in theatres and we’ll get to see it together. What a perfect time to be a little boy!

You’ve already expressed interest in Yoda.

And I think daily about how next summer, we get to camp out in the backyard of a new house, that we are scheduled to close on January 29th.

I like being your Daddy.

Love,

Daddy

How to Purposely Prepare to Not Feel Miserable during the Holidays

While it is indeed important, I’m not talking about truly remembering the real meaning of Christmas – I’m just talking about avoiding a headache, along with possible mild depression and constipation.

Thanksgiving Day wasn’t that long ago, so there’s a good chance you have fresh memories of sitting around the house all weekend, eating too much food, and ultimately feeling miserable.  That was my story for so many years.  Until last year when I decided I didn’t want to feel that way anymore during my days off from work.  So today I share with you two easy tips so that you may truly enjoy my holidays with friends and family.

Bring a case of bottled water and fresh salad to the meal.  Part of the reason it’s so common to feel yuckified during the holidays is because it’s way too easy to become dehydrated (there is such an easy access to both soda and alcohol at these holiday meal gatherings both of which dehydrate the body).  Also, holiday meals are very similar to a Chinese buffet in that they mainly consist of carbs and sodium.  Not only is it too easy to eat too much, but it’s too easy to also eat virtually nothing nutritious in the process.  When the freshest vegetable dish available is green bean casserole, you’re bound to feel down.  Drink plenty of water and make sure there are fresh vegetables available, if it means that you are responsible for bringing it.

Get out of the house and out into the cold. As much time as you will spend watching the 1983 classic A Christmas Story on TBS repeatedly and playing Wii with your nephews and nieces, there’s a good chance that your idea of “getting out” simply means going shopping for good deals or running to the convenience store to buy more milk.  You need real exercise and fresh air during the holidays.  So in addition to bringing the salad and bottled water, your responsibility is to stand up and say, “I’m going for walk outside- who’s with me?”  (Don’t forget your coat, of course.)  You’ll be the hero.  And you’ll be surprised at what interesting conversations can arise from a (30 minute minimum) walk in the cold: Certain conversations just can’t be born while lying in a coma-like state on the couch.

I guarantee you will have a better holiday experience if you try abiding by these two tips.  Cabin fever can be prevented.  And you can be the Holiday Armadillo that changes things in your household.  No matter what you believe the winter holidays are actually about, the importance of giving to others is ultimately attached to your religious or cultural traditions.  So give to the needy.  Care for the orphans and widows.  Love the unloved.  And lastly, give the gift of “not feeling miserable” to others.


Does Facebook Make Life More Real or Does It Actually Take Away from the Realness of Life Instead?

And is it possible that the facebook world is more of the real world than the actual real world?  And why is facebook noticeably less interesting on the weekend and during holidays?


Editor’s note: Keep in mind that with any of my posts, if you see something underlined, you can click on it to read another one my writings specifically about that phrase, or it may even lead you to a Wikipedia entry, which is equally as exciting.

Like most tricky open-ended questions I propose to world-wide audiences, it depends on the perspective and lifestyle of the person being asked.  But since part of my job as a writer who strives to be unpredictably provocative is to choose a side and stick with it, I have a firm answer for this “there’s no wrong or right answer” kind of question.  Often, the side I choose is the least expected one:  I am typically wired to root for the underdog.  So of course, anyone who reads my writings regularly should correctly assume that every time I will be defending the less popular answer.

Obviously, the overtly “correct” answer is that facebook takes away from the realness of life.  It prevents us from actually going over to each other’s houses and playing Yahtzee like we should.  It keeps us from calling our family members on the phone when we can just read their status update or look at their newest pictures.  Facebook is single-handedly deconstructing what real relationships are all about.  Facebook ironically eliminates actual face time with the people we are close to.  Therefore, the people we are “close to” literally become distant from us.

And while I acknowledge the relative truth in the paragraph above, it’s not the school of thought I am compelled to believe as my own reality.  In my version of reality, facebook actually makes life more real.  If I really want to call a person, or invite myself to drive to their house, I will.  Facebook doesn’t stop me from doing that.  Maybe that makes me old-fashioned.  But for me, facebook actually enhances the relationships in my life.  I often actually have more to talk about with people on the phone or in real life, sometimes because of something that happened on facebook.

Admittedly, out of my nearly 800 facebook friends, it’s safe to say that I literally don’t know who a quarter of them are.  The majority of my facebook friends are not people who know me well enough to have programmed my number into their cell phone number.  But when I propose one of my deep questions like the title of this post, or “what makes a person normal?” it’s often these exact people who are the first to respond.  Interestingly, the people who typically respond to my randomness are not the people I see on a regular basis or even within the past year or two.  (And for the people who I actually do see and talk to on a regular basis, I’m asking these questions to their face and they are answering in person so there is no need to answer on facebook.)

So what does that say about how facebook enhances relationships?  For me, I’d say it completely sustains the friendships which would have likely disintegrated if not for the opportunity to casually engage in a brief, random conversation topic without the commitment ever having to say “hello” or “goodbye”.  But is there any possibility that facebook is actually more of a reality than actual reality? I say absolutely yes.  It just depends on your definition of “reality”.

I have written before about how the time we spend at work is not the real world, but instead a necessary Avatar world or Matrix or lucid dream (reference to Vanilla Sky) that we enter in order to fund the actual real world.  Therefore, the true real world is the “off the clock” reality where we spend time with friends and family, along pursuing our own interests and hobbies.  With that being said, if the real world is largely defined by the people who are who are important to us outside of work (though obviously everyone has some “real friends” at work who supersede both realities), then I have to acknowledge that the interactions I am involved with on facebook are in a sense more “real” than most of the other hours spent each day.

To me, when I jokingly harass my arch nemesis/friend Ben Wilder via a wall comment, or I “like” someone’s picture of them embarrassing themselves, or I send a message to a friend about weekend plans, that’s more real than the four collected hours I spent talking to clients on the phone at work that day.  It’s more real than the round-trip hour I spend in the car driving to and from work each weekday.  For me, true reality is all about the people who mean something to me, whether those people are literally in the room there with me, or 700 miles away but on facebook.

The proof in the pudding for me is when I check out readership trends on this site, Scenic Route Snapshots.  There are typically hundreds of more readers on normal weekdays, compared to weekends and holidays.  That’s because people escape the fake real world (their work life) by playing on the Internet, therefore entering the actual real world.  Ironically, this post was written and ready by Thanksgiving Day, but I had allow for the holiday fallout to settle before publishing it.  Otherwise, it could have gone unnoticed.

Granted, I’m old-fashioned in that I still believe it’s rude to answer your phone or reply to a text message while in the physical presence of friends or family, especially during the middle of a conversation.  It’s a matter of prioritizing your reality.  Your top priority is those who are literally in the room with you.  It bugs me so much when I am making an effort to physically be in the same room as a person but I am second rate to another person they are talking to via text message or smart phone, who is just as real as I am, but isn’t actually there like I am.

So despite making an argument that facebook enhances reality and is actually more real than reality in some cases, I still acknowledge that respect for physical presence should not be forsaken.  Of course I completely understand who so many people feel that facebook takes away from real life, because honestly, the invention of the Internet and facebook is a lot like a modern rebuilding of the Tower of Babel- which is something I’ve noticed and written about before.

Ultimately, facebook is an enhancer of the life that already exists- like the way salt magnifies the flavor of food.  If you are already a social person who has healthy relationships with people in real life, facebook probably adds to the quality of these relationships.  If you are already a person who is not good at corresponding with people who are outside of your immediate circle, there’s a good chance you either ignore those “outsider” facebook friends even more or find them to be the most annoying (though you still haven’t gone through the trouble to delete them).  And if you’re a person who loves Farmville… I’m amazed you broke away long enough from tending to your goats to read this.

Statistical Bonus!

Below, notice the typical drop in the number of views on Saturdays and Sundays, the major drop on Thanksgiving Day (November 26), and the overall drop during the entire week  of Thanksgiving as compared to every other week.  That’s why my catch phrase for this site is “a great way to get distracted from life”- because more people visit here when they want to be distracted, not when they are actually hanging with people in their  true “real world”.

Daily Views on Scenic Route Snapshots

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Total Average Change
Oct 25 

676

Oct 26 

747

Oct 27 

885

Oct 28 

695

Oct 29 

749

Oct 30 

809

Oct 31 

701

5,262 752
Nov 1 

652

Nov 2 

823

Nov 3 

910

Nov 4 

927

Nov 5 

835

Nov 6 

612

Nov 7 

588

5,347 764 +1.62%
Nov 8 

817

Nov 9 

766

Nov 10 

889

Nov 11 

741

Nov 12 

642

Nov 13 

552

Nov 14 

621

5,028 718 -5.97%
Nov 15 

732

Nov 16 

1,044

Nov 17 

935

Nov 18 

1,031

Nov 19 

984

Nov 20 

657

Nov 21 

891

6,274 896 +24.78%
Nov 22 

715

Nov 23 

701

Nov 24 

665

Nov 25 

617

Nov 26 

497

Nov 27 

538

Nov 28 

628

4,361 623 -30.49%
Nov 29 

655

Nov 30 

779

Dec 1 

776

2,292 737 +18.25%


The Holidays Can Be Painful, Physically

 St. Patrick’s Day shouldn’t be the only holiday where it’s okay to inflict pain on the people you love as well as random acquaintances. 

Surely the person who started the tradition of pinching people who don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day was OCD and a sadistic individual. And since evidently people enjoy this sort of thing I thought of some similar monthly traditions we could attach to our already existing holidays, as proud Americans. 

New Year’s Day– January 1st: Wet Willy anyone not wearing white.
Valentine’s Day – February 14th: Wedgie anyone not wearing red.
April Fool’s– April 1st: Poke someone in the ribs for those not wearing orange.
Mother’s Day– May 10th: Step on the heels of those not wearing pink.
Father’s Day– June 21st: Get a person in a headlock if they are not wearing blue.

The 4th of July– Place a lit bottle rocket in a person’s back pocket if they don’t appear to be a proud enough American.
Summer Bank Holiday (Scottish Holiday) – August 3rd: Sneak up and surprise someone by playing a bagpipe very loudly if the person isn’t wearing plaid.

Labor Day– September 7th: Make a person mow your lawn if they are not wearing a leisure suit.
Halloween– October 31st: Force feed a person vegetables if they are not wearing a costume.
Thanksgiving– November 26th: Sneak a live turkey into someone’s bed while they are asleep if they come to the dinner table not wearing one of those black and white pilgrim outfits with the bonnet thing on their head.
Christmas– December 25th: Make a person sign an affidavit swearing they will not mail out Christmas cards with their family dressed in reindeer sweaters the following holiday season if they do not dress up as the Holiday Armadillo during gift exchange on Christmas morning.

Take This Year’s New Year’s Resolutions Seriously Because Convenient Procrastination is Self-Sabotage.

“No more messing around and living underground and New Year’s resolutions… To tell you the truth I’ve said it before; tomorrow I start in a new direction.” –excerpt from the song “Come Downstairs and Say Hello” by Guster

A general rule of life that I have stumbled upon more recently is this: If I really wanted to be doing something, I would already be doing it. And if I don’t yet have the means to do it, I will save the money to afford it or study the material to become qualified or expose myself to the daily discipline and patience it takes to accomplish the goal. So in theory, nothing is holding me back from doing anything I want to do. Not even myself is holding me back.

And really, we ourselves are often the biggest obstacle keeping us from accomplishing our goals. For the most part.

People are consistently late to events because they consistently leave the house 10 minutes late. Not because of an alarm clock or too many red lights.

Some people consistently set themselves up for failure. Not because they themselves are failures or are incapable of change, but because they don’t truly want to accomplish the goal. As the 4th grade cliché goes, they are simply not applying themselves. Subconsciously, they are assuring themselves they won’t have to make an inconvenient change.

The biggest red flag I know of is the sure-to-fail system we call New Year’s Resolutions. Two of America’s most popular resolutions every year are to lose weight and quit smoking. But the holidays are filled with constant stressful situations and plentiful meals of comfort food. So people wait until the testing time is over (January 1st), trying to outsmart the system. It’s easier to “start over” in the New Year. But like uncooked spaghetti thrown at a wall, it doesn’t stick.

The holidays are the necessary boot camp, the true test whether a person is serious about making a lifestyle change. The new year isn’t a magical time that makes things suddenly easier.

The argument is that some people need goals to be motivated. I am one of them. But to set a goal further out into the future for no other reason other than convenient procrastination is self-sabotage.