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.

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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.

Dear Jack: Today was Your Last Day of 2nd Grade

8 and a half years years old.

Dear Jack,

Exactly a week after turning 8 and a half years old, today was your last day as a 2nd grader.

It’s also been one of those weeks where Mommy and I both noticed individually, and then announced to each other, that you seem bigger all of the sudden.

And I’m sure that is the case. With my birthday being in April, by the time I was 8 and a half years old, I was already a couple of months into my 3rd grade year.

You’ve got a fun summer ahead, including “Zoo Camp” for a week at the Nashville Zoo, as well as our upcoming family vacation in Lake Tahoe and Sacramento next month.

In a few more months, you’ll officially be a 3rd grader. But first, it’s time to have some fun summer adventures!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: In 3 Weeks’ Time, You Watched All 50 Episode of Disney’s Bunk’d for the 1st Time

7 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack,

We began our recent two week-long family vacation in northern California by staying a few nights in a cabin in Truckee, which is just a 25 minute drive from Lake Tahoe. Whenever we travel, you discreetly take advantage of the fact that I tend to let you get away with binge watching The Disney Channel.

It was then and there you were introduced to a summer camp-themed kids’ show called Bunk’d.

By the 5th episode, you had already memorized all the words to the opening theme song and were singing along.

When I was kid, the summer camp-themed show for kids to watch was Salute Your Shorts or even Hey Dude. But for your generation, it’s definitely Bunk’d.

I think the fact we were staying up in the mountains of California only reinforced the concept of the show. We even ended up going out on pedal boat on Lake Tahoe, thanks to your insisting on it.

Could that notion have been inspired by the adventures you had been seeing on Bunk’d? I submit that it was.

By the time we got back to Grandma’s house where we stayed for most of our 2 weeks, you were able to continue watching your new favorite show each day on her TV.

Meanwhile, back at our home in Tennessee where we only have the free channels that came bundled with our Internet, you discovered that Bunk’d is on Netflix!

Needless to say, you spent all of your designated screen time on finishing every episode you didn’t already see in California. Apparently, you watched 50 episodes of Bunk’d in about 3 weeks’ time.

But never fear, it just so happened that the newest season of Bunk’d, Season 3, recently premiered. So give it until Christmas vacation, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to watch the entire new season before you even get a chance to open the presents.

Love,

Daddy

 

The Search for Wisdom, Truth, and Meaning Ends with Life’s Responsibilities; Including Marriage, Children, and a Mortgage (Or, “I Used to Be a Lot More Fun, Yet Self-Centered and Emotionally Needy”)

As my 20th high school reunion is coming up in less than a year, I think it’s funny how certain people probably remember me as a person I no longer am; for better or worse.

Sure, I used to be a lot more fun back before I was so well immersed in all my current responsibilities. But I also know for a fact that I used to let a lot of things bother me that I no longer do.

One of the least favorite years of my life was when I was 20 years old, back in 2001. And no, it wasn’t necessarily because that was the year of the September 11th attacks. It was because, at the time, my identity as an adult was still forming.

I was finishing up community college, before transferring to Liberty University where I would get my English degree. I had a part-time job as the supervisor of an after-school program. I was a Junior High Sunday School teacher and youth leader at my hometown church. And I was single.

Back then, I was still on a noble quest for things like wisdom, truth, and meaning in life.

Fast forward to present day: I’m 37, I have been married for 10 years (as of next Thursday), I have 2 kids, and I have a full time office job in the Nashville area; in addition to my 4 side hustle jobs that also generate income (this blog, doing SEO for a major university, and 2 YouTube channels).

My wife and I are on a passionate mission to pay off our mortgage early, as we’ve been otherwise debt-free for many years now; including no car payments. We are very inspired to outsmart the system of having to work our entire adult lives just to pay interest to the bank for our home loan.

That’s where I’m at in life.

So honestly, I can’t remember the last time I thought about searching for wisdom, truth, or meaning. I don’t need to.

By default, I get my daily share of wisdom, truth, and meaning through all of my many responsibilities in life; as a married father of 2, with a total of 5 income-generating jobs.

It may seem a bit anticlimactic or unromantic, but responsibility is the answer to trying to find wisdom, truth, and meaning.

Plant-Based Millennial Family Checks Out Vegan-Friendly Restaurant Called “Squeeze In” in Truckee, California (Featuring the 2018 Mazda3), by Manly Vegan, Nick Shell

I didn’t choose the vegan life: The vegan life chose me.

Yes. I’m saying it: If I didn’t have to be a vegan, I wouldn’t be. Right about now, I would totally be downloading some greasy fried fish, dipping it in gobs of tartar sauce, and then washing it down with a Super Big Gulp size cup of sweet tea.

Amazingly, that is my fantasy non-vegan meal choice; not a big steak or a juicy burger with bacon and cheese.

If I ever returned to eating meat, eggs, and dairy, my thorns in the flesh would return as well: dyshidrotic eczema, constant sinusitis, and extreme allergies to animals.

But for over 5 years now, I’ve completely been cured of my ailments. For me, being a vegan is a choice of the head, not of the heart.

Either way, being a vegan has been part of my identity for over half a decade. Not to mention, I’ve also been a vegetarian for 6 and a half years and kosher (no pork or shellfish) for 9 and a half years.

My wife has been a vegetarian as long as I have, and both our our children have been their entire lives.

So naturally, road trips have to be a little bit more planned out for us; since we can’t just stop at the first exit we see. This month we took a road trip across northern California as we made our way to Lake Tahoe. Since I didn’t know about meal prep delivery at the time, my wife found a place called Squeeze In, which is located in the center of a nearby town called Truckee.

If your family is also plant-based like mine, then research no further. Squeeze In is where you’ll be dining next time you go to Tahoe.

I was so pleased with my veggie burger and elaborate salad. It’s such a cool environment, too.

And I really appreciated the bucket of toys the waitress brought to the table, to help occupy my tired and hungry kids as we waited for our food.

After our beautiful drive in the 2018 Mazda3 through the scenic mountains of northern California, the Squeeze In was quite the oasis for us.

I’m convinced that even if you aren’t forced to be a vegan like I am, you will still have a wonder meal and a great time at Squeeze In.

Thanks for checking our my blog; for I am the manly vegan. And you never know, maybe next time, I’ll be coming to your town.

Have you read all 3 of my blog posts featuring my family’s road trip to Lake Tahoe in the 2018 Mazda 3? Here’s a table of contents just to be sure. Click on the title of the blog post you would like to see:

Lake Tahoe Family Road Trip for Our 10th Wedding Anniversary 
Cabin Life in Truckee, California for Our 10th Wedding Anniversary 
Plant-Based Millennial Family Checks Out Vegan-Friendly Restaurant Called “Squeeze In” in Truckee, California