How I Accidentally Retired as a Stay-at-Home Dad 3 Months Ago and Went Back to Work Full-Time… Finally, I’m Ready to Talk about It

It was exactly 6 months since I had accidentally become a stay-at-home dad. That’s when I got the unexpected (and overdue?!) phone call.

A recruiting firm in Jacksonville, Florida had discovered my resume on Career Builder and assured me that I was more than perfectly qualified for a Forbes Fortune 500 employer that was just down the street from where I had worked for nearly 12 years.

The irony is that I had applied to work for this company just 3 weeks after I became unemployed. But apparently, the timing wasn’t right when I was most ready to go back to work.

Instead, the timing was right after I had made “stay-at-home dad who works side-jobs online” part of my identity for 6 months.

By mid-April, I had already assumed I wouldn’t be returning to work in an office until perhaps my 2 year-old daughter started Kindergarten. That was because it only took a month after losing my job to realize that most of my income had been basically just cancelling our day care costs for both of our kids and covering most of the gas money it took for both my wife and I to commute to work in separate cars to different parts of Nashville. (My wife, who has her master’s degree, has been bringing in significantly more income than me for most of our 10 year marriage.)

In other words, being a stay-at-home dad actually made more sense anyway.

But in the likeness of the classic sitcom trope where the TV character has no interest in making a deal until they hear how much money that opportunity is surprisingly worth, I quickly changed my mind from “Thanks, but…” to “How much money did you just say?!”

It turns out, my 11 years working at the same company serving in roles of recruiting, HR, and retention made me quite marketable for the right company who was looking for someone with that kind of background.

The new job offer came with a 50% raise, compared to what I had been making where I had worked for the 11 years prior. Not to mention, the hours are much more flexible, so that I can get to home more than an hour sooner each day.

With all that being said, the pay increase of my new job matches the increase of the challenge level.

I have never used my brain at such a high-functioning level on such a consistent basis as I have since starting my new job in May. But I love the challenge of what I do!

So in the same way I found myself suddenly without a job after working at the same place for over a decade and had to reinvent my identity… just 6 months later, I was thrown back into the corporate world, but this time, in a much more advanced version.

It’s almost exactly like the beginning of Rambo: First Blood Part II. I feel like an action star of the 1980s who was called out of retirement for the sequel.

I am basically Rambo right now.

Photo by Mohamad Alaw.

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A Vegan Man’s Thoughts On McDonald’s “Our Food, Your Questions” Transparency Campaign

I will say, I do have respect for McDonald’s for their vulnerability in their new transparency campaign: Our Food, Your Questions.

Granted, I don’t think they’ve resorted to this measure because they sincerely care about informing the general public…

It appears pretty evident their bottom line has been affected by enough people (like me) who have either stopped eating fast food (due to preventative health reasons) or by people who were freaked out by the movie Supersize Me and/or those pictures on Facebook about pink slime in relation to their McNuggets.

A Vegan's Thoughts On McDonald’s "Our Food, Your Questions" Transparency Campaign

People are becoming more aware and curious about the food they are consuming; why helps add to the relevance of this Our Food, Your Questions campaign.

After watching their recent commercial, featured above, it comes across more like, “Okay, fine… let’s do this.”

I’m really curious to see how this plays out. At best, I think their vulnerability could possibly make them less of a target; which is something they could really help them as a business.

Something I’ve learned is that things can often be downplayed if they are simply addressed. I think that’s their plan.

Is-your-beaf-real-Our-food.-Your-questions.-McDonalds

I don’t think McDonald’s will ever be the empire they once were. I don’t see them continuing to expand the way they did for so long.

Isn’t Ronald McDonald himself pretty much retired by now? It seems like he’s laying low these days.

As comedian Jim Gaffigan points out in his special Mr. Universe, most adults are ashamed to admit eating there. Look it up on YouTube…

This article in Time does a good job of reviewing the main questions and answers.

One of the questions that has been asked is “Why doesn’t McDonald’s offer a veggie burger?”

A Vegan's Thoughts On McDonald’s "Our Food, Your Questions" Transparency Campaign

I think it’s because they know a guy like me who is concerned with GMOs is going to have bigger concerns. At least Burger King started offering veggie burgers a few years back….

The question of GMOs did come up. I respect their answer on that; which was basically that McDonald’s is too big of a company to be able to offer non-GMO food because most of America has been, in my own words here, been marked by the mark of the beast of Monsanto.

Ultimately, I do give credit to McDonald’s for being willing to have these (difficult) conversations with their customers and skeptics. Not many companies are willing to discuss where their food comes from; now that people are really starting to ask.

Wildposting

The Best Time Of The Month To Buy Stuff Cheap

January 25, 2014 at 7:18 pm , by 

3 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

To say we are a frugal family is an understatement. While some might consider the term “penny pincher” as an insult, I would take that as a compliment.

For the fact we don’t have smart phones or cable/satellite TV, it sets us apart from mainstream America. I realize that.

It means we’re a bit removed from modern technology and entertainment; and to a degree, we’re a bit removed from society, as well.

But on the flip side, we get to put that money in savings each month; which will help with down payment for the house we plan to buy later this year…

I actually consider being frugal as one of my hobbies. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Mommy and I worked our way out of nearly $60,000 of debt and become debt-free last summer. There’s no way our perspective on money can or will ever be the same.

So I’m always looking for tricks that will help us save money. One example is knowing when not to buy retail items; and more importantly, the best time to do so.

My full-time job is in the HR side of freight logistics for a transportation company. Yeah, I know that sounds pretty random, but it’s a real thing; and it’s the main way I contribute to our family’s income.

I know that the next-to-the-last Tuesday of the month, until the first Monday of the next calendar month, is the best time for people to buy stuff cheap. I see it happen every month at my job; enough so that I predict logistics decisions based on that concept.

During that two week period, stores drop their prices in an effort to move the product out before the new month begins, which helps them avoid having to pay taxes on the merchandise they don’t sell by the end of the month.

That is why yesterday, our family met up at Old Navy after work and school. “Good Freight Tuesday,” as I call it, was just a couple of days ago. This is the best time of the month to buy retail products.

So we did.

We found the best items on clearance; as the store wants the “old stuff” off the racks to make room for the new stuff for next month, which begins next week.

Here’s how I look at it. I don’t want to be the sucker who pays full price for anything… ever.

One way I can accomplish my goal is to only shop for merchandise once the next-to-the-last Tuesday of the month occurs.

(I also recognize the importance of shopping for seasonal and holiday items after the season or holiday is over, or coming to an end.)

And just as important, I avoid doing any shopping, other than food and gas, during the first two weeks of the month, when stores are in no hurry to clear their shelves.

While we’re not eager to buy a new car, I will keep this in mind the next time we do; hopefully years from now.

If at a dealership, we will go during the last two weeks of the month, when I predict the salesman will be more desperate to meet his sales quota.

I feel that money management lessons are one of the best gifts I can hand down to you to eventually prepare you to adulthood, as the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad teaches.

So stick this lesson in collection: Don’t buy stuff until the next-to-the-last Tuesday of the month.

 

Love,

Daddy

What Makes a Person “Cool”? (Being Subtle, Aware of Social Cues, and Having Something Exclusive)

I asked dozens of people in real life and on facebook in order to find the answer.

There are some things in life we recognize and encounter everyday, yet we don’t understand them.  For example, questions I constantly ask myself as I am writing each day are “is this funny?” and more importantly “is this interesting?” Both humor and being able to captivate a person’s attention are not really cut-and-dry, black-and-white issues, though I am definitely a cut-and-dry, black-and-white person.  It takes being very observant of social cues and even pop culture, at least in my experience, to make it work.  The difficulty and creativity in the search to be both funny and interesting is that both of those things are abstract, moving targets.

I am so overaware (it’s a made-up word but if I keep using it I think I can get it to catch on) and intrigued by marketing tools and methods.  For example, from now on, anytime you see an ad for a clock (not digital) or even just a new clock for sale in a store, you will be amazed at how many of the clocks show “10:10” as the time.  My guess is that “10:10” easily shows both arms of the clock and also it’s a time that many people are awake for both times each day, both morning and night.

Another interesting observation is how many African-American models wear purple in magazine ads and commercials on TV.  From JC Penny catalogs to The Princess and the Frog, purple is present.  Notice how few people of all other races were purple in ads.  I’m sure it’s because the color purple compliments darker skin tones much better than it does for lighter ones, and because purple is a color of royalty, which is a common theme in African-American culture- like the way bishops are often common in African-American churches.  And it may be stretching this concept, but the Disney movie The Lion King takes place in Africa, and as the title explains, it is a movie about a kingdom, even though it’s about animals instead of humans.

So keeping all these things in mind, I started thinking about an important and invisible factor in selling a product: being cool.  Apple computers are definitely cool, as is Steve Jobs who started and runs the company.  Is it because of those TV ads starring Justin Long, portraying PC’s as nerdy and Mac’s as hip?  I don’t think so.  Those ads just cleverly symbolized what many clued-in consumers were already aware of: Mac’s are cooler than PC’s.

Apple has always made their own rules, not being limited to the guidelines and expectations of other computer programs or even customers.  But they get away with it because Apple basically writes The Book of Cool when it comes to media technology: User-friendly computers that don’t really get viruses, iPods, iPhones, and iPads, all of which use a minimal number of buttons, and are so cool they don’t easily interact with other Apple products.

This being said, “coolness” is important in selling a product.  And that’s why marketing departments exist- to try and figure out, or at least convince people what is cool, so the product can be sold.  But the art of being cool doesn’t just apply to big companies and marketing teams, it also matters to us as individuals.  People are often drawn to other people who they think are cool; therefore being cool yourself may in turn attract other cool people.  I mean, some people are fine with regularly attending Star Wars conventions or sharing a house with 8 cats all named after cupcake flavors.  But just as that “uncool” example shows, even if we truly don’t care what other people think about us, being cool is definitely better than being uncool, if given the choice.

So what makes a person “cool”?  I’ve asked dozens of people both in real life and on facebook to find out the answer.  There were mainly just a few different answers, some being gender specific, some not:  Some males answered “money and material possessions” while some females answered “appearance and clothing”.  But the most reoccurring answer I received was “being confident to the point that the person truly doesn’t care about what other people think or say about them”.  Another similar answer that resonated well with me was “a cool person has something you don’t, even if it’s just confidence”.

Interestingly, the age of the people I asked made no difference to the kind of answer I got.  Not only do older people think that “confidence” defines being cool, but I also realized that being young isn’t a requirement in order to be cool.  I can think of three musicians who I’ve listened to my entire life who are still making music and for whom I’m still buying their albums and happen to all be currently right around 60 years old: Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Phil Collins. Age has nothing to do with being cool.  If anything, being young is a major disadvantage in being cool, since life experience is lacking.  Most teenagers only think they know what is cool, but many of them are trying so hard to be cool that they are not- which brings me to the first Rule of Being Cool.

The Rules of Being Cool

1) If you realize or acknowledge that you are cool, you either never were cool or are now no longer cool. Like John Mayer.  I will always love his music, but I refuse to think he’s cool anymore.  By the time he publicly started dating celebrities then disrespecting them later in magazines while making an arse of himself with prideful comments and talking about how much money he makes, it became official: John Mayer is aware that he’s cool, which officially disqualifies him for being cool.  I can’t totally discredit the guy, after all, he did pen the song “83” (I’ve been obsessed with the year 1983, since 1995) and it was one of his concerts that transformed a friendship into a dating relationship into a marriage into a family (the first date my wife and I went on was a John Mayer concert).  But John Mayer is officially disqualified from being cool.

2) You must be aware of social cues, but not become ruled by the expectations of other people. Obviously if a person doesn’t care whatsoever what people think, he could be rude, selfish, and only shower once a week.  But it takes more than not caring what people think and participating in personal hygiene, it takes being aware of the social expectations that actually matter: Like being friendly, positive, and simply passionate about things that are important, while not being self-centered, vain, or overly aggressive. Why?  Because a person who has these attributes I just listed in italics is a confident person.  When I meet a person who is constantly being negative and is generally condescending to others, I see a person who is unhappy, unfulfilled and desperate to find confidence; needless to say, that’s not a cool person.

3) You must have something that others inspire to have. Whether it’s wit, aggressiveness, style, a high income level, or personal character, just to name a few examples, we use other people as models for our lives.  Yes, being cool depends on who you ask, since it’s largely based on perception.  Yet still, confidence can always be found as the foundation of coolness.

And that’s it.  That’s how I define what makes a person cool.  From Zack Morris in the fictional world, to my own family and friends in the real world, I am blessed to know cool people.  Just as iron sharpens iron, so do cool people enhance each other’s coolness. Therefore, be cool to one another.


Unnecessary Bonus…

Ethnic Backgrounds of Celebrities Mentioned in This Post:

Steve Jobs (half Syrian, half English)

Justin Long (half Polish, Sicilian, English)

Phil Collins (English, Irish)

Bruce Springsteen (50% Italian, 37% Irish, 13% Dutch)

Tom Petty (English, 1/4 Native American Indian)

Henry Winkler as “The Fonz” (Jewish)

John Mayer (half Jewish, half German)

Mark-Paul Gosselaar (half Indonesian, half Dutch)






The Curious Case of Collecting

Collect them all… whiles supplies last!

The marketing teams working for our favorite kids’ cereals brands and fast food restaurants obviously had a good reason to promote collecting the whole series of toys they attached with the food they were selling: to increase profit. But what is strange is the way my actual response was often “sure, okay” or “I won’t make any promises, but I’ll try”. Because in the bottom drawer of my dresser at my parents’ house back in Alabama are several complete collections of plastic figurines.

A few months ago I gladly let a co-worker borrow my Dave Ramsey CD series on Financial Peace. Within a few weeks, she was no longer employed where I work. When I called her to say I’ll drive to her side of Nashville to get my CD’s back, she assured me that she will bring them to me when she’s finished with them. I waited two more months and called again- her phone is out of service.

The funny thing is, I don’t even need the CD’s. I’ve already listened to them and daily apply what I learned. At this point, I should consider them a gift that she needed more than I did. In fact, I didn’t even buy the CD’s myself. Someone gave them to me as a gift.

But they were MINE. And now she has them.

Why must I feel so compelled to want to possess things? Things I definitely don’t need. Things that aren’t even mine.

I am learning to convert this desire of collecting material items to collecting memories of new experiences instead. Collecting all the state quarters does me no good but travelling to random states like Rhode Island (which my wife and I did) stays with me. And I don’t even need a souvenir. As long as I have a memory, I’ll always remember when my wife and I got hot stone massages from two very strong hippie women in downtown Providence. And if one day my memory does fail me, I’ve got the pictures on facebook to remind me.

“There’s something missing in us, we long to make it whole. Though it never feels like it, I know you have it all.” -Pete Yorn (Social Development Dance)

After These Messages… We’ll Be Riiiiight Back!

I am a marketing department’s worst nightmare.  Because while I completely appreciate good commercials, they never influence me to buy the product.  Kudos to McDonald’s for their retro “Give Me Back My Filet-O-Fish” commercial, equipped with a Ford Ranchero and a catchy 8-bit sounding song via text message.  And those guys in the Sonic commercials, what’s not to love about “get those taste buds going, danga-langa-langa-langa-langa… Mornin’ Gents!” or “YOU’RE A CHEAP DATE!”

Yet I never buy from or eat at McDonald’s or Sonic.  I respect their commercials, but they’re just entertainment.  That’s all.  Completely ineffective as far as getting me to actually spend money.

Which causes me to think about this question:  When is the last time I bought a product or service based on an advertisement, of any kind?  Through a TV commercial, radio commercial, or magazine ad.  Any sort of marketing ad.

And I’m not counting the times I was already searching for a general product and came across a website.  That doesn’t count. 

I’m talking about this situation:  I never heard of the product.  I see an advertisement.  I buy it.

The last purchase I made was a food purchase.  I bought some cupcakes from Gigi’s Cupcakes.  Because my wife heard about how awesome they are from some people at work.  So I bought the cupcakes through word-of-mouth.

Other than other mundane purchases like groceries and gas, the only other item I purchased in the last few weeks was a Rubik’s Cube, which I knew of through years of word-of-mouth.   

Three years ago I bought an i-pod, but not because of the commercials.  Because my friends had them.  Then I bought mine from amazon.com.

Same thing with my GPS. 

Same thing with choosing Verizon Wireless as my cell phone company.

And my subscription to Details magazine. 

And going through wordpress.com to get my own website.

And my town house.  My wife’s friend already lived in that neighborhood.

And my Wii.  I was sold on it well over a year before it even came out.

Even when I see a commercial for a movie, I won’t go see it or rent it or even watch it at all until I’ve talked to someone who’s seen it or until I’ve read a promising online review.  Word-of-mouth.

As for buying music, I may buy a new CD if I hear it playing on the radio or at Borders, but that’s not advertising, that’s exposure. 

So there’s the pattern.  I only buy things based on the recommendation of a person I trust.  And of course they’re never the ones actually selling me the product.

Okay, I can finally remember a time when I bought a product based on a commercial or ad.  It was high school.  My freshman year: 1995.  I bought a Trix t-shirt because I looked through a t-shirt magazine my friend gave me.

Oh wait, nevermind.  I only got the magazine because a friend gave it to me and said that I would like it.

So the last time I bought a product directly because of an advertisement was probably back in the early ‘90’s when I would buy Ninja Turtle action figures.  Toys.  When I was a kid. 

As an adult, I guess I kinda like the idea of outsmarting the advertising departments of companies.

Bottom line:  If a product or service is worth purchasing, word will get around and eventually get to me.  That’s the only advertising that honestly matters to me.