My Parents’ 40th Wedding Anniversary Celebration in Hawaii

Yes, today is Father’s Day. So, Happy Father’s Day! (Even though 73% of my blog readers are actually female.)

But for my parents, it’s an especially epic day: Exactly 40 years ago today, my parents got married.

The date was June 18, 1977. My dad was 20. My mom was 19.

And now, 40 years later, they have two children and four grandchildren.

For their special 40th wedding anniversary, they decided to go big, as it was literally years in the making:

They had been planning and putting aside $20 a week, for the past few years, to fund their tropical vacation/anniversary celebration in Hawaii.

And now, after a whole week spent in the Aloha State, my parents are back.

The whole time they were out there, my mom kept me up to speed by sending me pictures from her phone. I am glad my parents were not shy about asking strangers to take their photos, at each place along the way.

So much for taking it easier. Instead of the word vacation, it seemed more like an expedition!

They were so proud of the Mazda 3 they rented and were able to go exploring in.

It is obvious they made the most of their journey to Hawaii. Instead of just hanging under an umbrella on the beach all day, they were on the move!

Among many other adventures, they hiked a volcano, swam in a waterfall, and visited Pearl Harbor where they met a 97 year-old survivor of the attack.

Not to mention, they definitely enjoyed the local cuisine.

It’s funny because if it were my wife and I taking this trip, I am convinced we wouldn’t have been so ambitious! But my parents were dedicated to making the most of their 40th wedding anniversary celebration.

They got their money’s worth.

And now, they will have these memories as their souvenirs.

Happy 40th Anniversary to my parents!

This is 36: A Symbol of Our Love for a Decade, Broken and Restored

Travel back in time with me over a decade. On March 8, 2007, a month away from my 26th birthday, I walked into Kay Jewelers at the Cool Springs Mall in Franklin, Tennessee. A kind salesman, of Indian descent yet who spoke with an English accent, helped me find the perfect piece of jewelry.

I had only been dating this California girl for a month, but I felt compelled with all my being to spend $238 on a diamond bracelet as a gift to show her how serious I was about her.

It was simple: I knew she was the one. I knew that if she’d let me, I would promise the rest of my life to her.

This diamond bracelet would be followed by an engagement ring just 10 months later. But whereas the engagement ring (and wedding ring) would be taken off at times, like to wash the dishes and to get the rings cleaned, this special bracelet would ultimately never been taken off.

For the whole time we dated, then were engaged, then were newlyweds, then became parents the first time, then became parents the second time, then even saw our 2nd child turn a year-old and saw our 6 and a half year-old son prepare to graduate Kindergarten… my wife wore that diamond bracelet. For 10 years and 2 months.

And then, it snapped in two:

“Sad day—my heart bracelet broke after more than 10 years—I was playing with it on my wrist and then it snapped 😦   My arm already feels naked.”

The very next day I journeyed back to the same Kay Jewelers and happened to immediately see the very same kind man from a decade before, as if time hadn’t even passed. He was impressed that I remembered him from a decade ago, but he was even more impressed how well the bracelet held up for over 10 years.

He began looking at the snapped bracelet through a special microscope, confused on why a silver bracelet had not turned at all after so long. Then he began typing on his computer, searching the records on my purchase from March 2007.

Then he explained, “I figured it out… This isn’t a silver bracelet… it’s white gold. The price for white gold has greatly increased in the past decade. There is no way you could purchase a bracelet like this, for what you paid for it back then. Just no way. This would go for at least $700 or $800 today. At least that much…”

What did I know about buying jewelry back in 2006, as a 25 year-old? Well, just that this classy diamond bracelet seemed to perfectly match the special girl I was buying it for. I definitely had no idea that the investment I was making back then would transcend beyond a symbol of my love for her- that the investment would also be financial, as well.

So two weeks ago, I paid the nice man at Kay Jewelers $42 to send off the bracelet to be repaired, and just a few days ago, I picked up the bracelet- good as new.

That bracelet, and what it symbolizes, holds so much personal value to both of us. I’m very glad to see it back on my wife’s wrist.

This is 36.

The Awkward Paradox of Gender Roles in Parenting (in a Society Now Less Divided by Gender)

Last week I published Top 10 Masculine Traits of Men (Plus, “I’m a Masculinist, Which is Not the Opposite of a Feminist”), in which presented the theory that a man’s masculinity is subconsciously and collectively judged by society based on what extent he is perceived as being a confident, decisive, funny, healthy, physically active, emotionally intelligent, committed leader who respects women, helps his fellow man, and finds his identity in his skill set.

I had more than one woman respond by agreeing with these masculine traits, but adding that these traits would be good and beneficial for women as well. One told me, “I would say that perhaps we should change our expectations as a society so they are less divided by gender.”

Well said. So true. Very relevant to the conversation.

I feel that out of necessity and by default, our society is becoming less divided by gender. I find it simply irrelevant and outdated when advertising agencies (as well as people) make comments to insinuate that men hate and/or fear changing dirty diapers. Or when people call it “babysitting” when a dad takes care of his own children for the day while his wife goes out running errands.

Sure, I admit there is some personal awkwardness in always understanding my role in the household- to be both “the man” my wife needs me to be and at the same time for me to assume roles that would traditionally have been feminine.

It used to be that if a man was heavily involved in his children’s lives, as well as household chores, that man would be praised by society, and even by his wife, while she would be merely expected to do those things.

But it’s no longer ironic to see the opening sequence of Who’s the Boss?, as the ever-masculine Tony Danza vacuums the drapes.

Men clean toilets. Men do the dishes. Men feed babies. Men sit on the carpet and play with their kids.

None of this is ironic.

In fact, I would be willing to present a theory that a man who is a father and husband, but who is not heavily involved in household chores and the care of his children, is not considered a good dad or a good husband by his wife.

By today’s standards, a good husband is not simply a man who loves his wife, but who also is extremely actively involved in chores and childcare. The two roles are inseparable, now more than ever.

A failure to see that shift in culture is a failure to be relevant as a spouse and a parent.

To me, that’s obvious. To me, it’s not a theory. It’s simply fact.

But then again, this is coming from a happily married man who cleans the toilets and changes those dreaded dirty diapers.

I’ve Got Walls Up, because I’m a Guy

Welcome to the deep, mysterious, likely un-relatable, rarely revealed cavern of the emotionally intelligent male mind.

Back in 2010, when my wife was pregnant with our son, my blog was featured in American Baby magazine; which eventually led to me becoming the official daddy blogger of their sister magazine, Parents; from May 2011 to June 2014.

In the initial write-up in American Baby, they pitched my blog to their readers with this invitation: “Wondering what your hubby’s really thinking?…”

At the time, I remember reading that and thinking, “Yeah, but I’m not that kind of guy. That’s not me. I don’t keep things to myself. My thoughts are no mystery to anyone…”

That was in 2010, before I actually had kids. Plus, I had only been married about 2 years at that point.

One of the great advantages of being married now for 8 and a half years and having 2 kids is that, by default, I have gained emotional intelligence. I grew up on in the inside. I got toughened up.

I became the husband and father I needed to be. The sensitive, and therefore “offendable”, guy I was before wasn’t enough to get the job done.

Essentially, to the outside world, I transcended from “optimistic nice person who everybody likes” to “hopeful yet realistic personable man who doesn’t necessarily measure up to everyone’s expectations anymore.”

Nostalgically put, I evolved from Luke Skywalker into Han Solo.

It was a necessary transformation for me. Perhaps one of the major milestones of this journey was when I published a blog post (and accompanying video) inviting the free world to attempt to offend me.

I had discovered that the only person who has power and authority over my emotions is me. In other words, no one in this entire world can “offend” me or “hurt my feelings” if I don’t first give them permission.

So I simply stopped giving anyone permission to offend me. And up came the walls…

I now live in a reality where I am unoffendable. Since making this conscious decision, the quality of my life has undeniably…

Improved.

Things in life just don’t bother me as much. Life is smoother now.

I am now in control of my emotions instead of them controlling me. For example, I have no shame in admitting I allow myself to cry every time I watch Disney Pixar’s Inside Out. I am in touch with, and in control of, my emotions to the point where the cartoonish yet realistic presentation of a parent’s love for their child gets to me.

Needless to say, on the other hand, other people’s Facebook comments claim no effect on my day.

I have simplified my life so that I can enjoy and appreciate it that much more.

Granted, there’s a perceived downside to the lifestyle of male emotional intelligence.

I’ve got those walls up now. I’m more detached from the popular distractions of the world- and I know this.

But this, for me, is safe- and it’s efficient; less complicated.

In other words, I’ve become that guy I couldn’t relate to back in 2010:

I keep a lot of things to myself. Most of my thoughts are now a mystery to everyone.

I’ve adopted a Libertarian approach to the opinions and lifestyles of other people. What they do doesn’t bother me and I don’t bother them. I don’t try to change them. I don’t need to change them.

Because now, I am truly confident in myself and my beliefs, despite being completely aware of my unending faults.

This is not a classic case of bottling up my emotions, only to erupt later on. To me, that would be weak.

Instead, it’s a matter of consciously deciding not to let people or things bother me anymore.

In turn, I have noticed that I am that much more focused on my own family and close friends, in real life. Not on Facebook.

The 2010 version of me simply wouldn’t function in my life today in 2017. I have evolved out of necessity.

I now see life for the tragicomedy it is. Life is both sad and funny. It’s both inspiring and depressing.

By evolving to my emotionally intelligent state, I have made it possible to recognize when to express my emotions, accordingly.

Ultimately, I choose joy. I choose hope.

My hope today is that others can relate to my transformation.

You are no longer dealing with the young and naïve Luke Skywalker.

For better or worse, you’ve got Han Solo now.

Exactly 10 Years after Our First Date

Exactly 10 Years after Our First Date

On February 5, 2007, the 25 year-old version of me was successful in finally escaping “the friend zone” with a girl who I had known exactly 4 months; a 25 year-old girl from California who I had met while waiting in line to be an extra for a taping of CMT’s Crossroads.

It was a week before Valentine’s Day, which I kept in mind. Meanwhile, she wasn’t aware that the John Mayer concert a couple hours away in Huntsville, Alabama wasn’t actually a “just as friends” thing. I was sneakily being very deliberate in my specific plan to get her to see me as more than just “the nice guy” she had been hanging out with at Starbucks most Sunday nights.

I knew that a road trip could provide an environment for her to see me in a different way than before. Knowing that we’d need to eat dinner but wouldn’t have time to since we both were leaving straight from work, I had used my lunch break to pick up some sub sandwiches for us Lenny’s. I also made sure to grab some Twizzlers, as I had remembered her saying she liked them.

Once we arrived in the parking garage next to the concert arena, I presented her with our dinner; while playing the Counting Crows through the stereo of my Honda Element; the car I still drive today.

The date went exactly as I had planned. And by the time we got back to Nashville, sometime after midnight, I asked her a very strategic question:

“Next week is Valentine’s Day, and I would be honored to take you out. Would you like to go out with me for Valentine’s Day?”

That was exactly a 10 years ago today. And we’ve been together ever since.

So glad I got out of the friend zone.

Though I guess you could say that being together and in love with a person for a decade, and being married 8 and a half of those years, and having 2 kids together… it sort of makes you best friends by default.

Exactly 10 Years Ago Today, I Met the Girl I Would Marry

I Married the Right One

Exactly 10 years ago today, on October 5, 2006, I met the girl who I would start dating 4 months later, and marry within 2 years. In a crowded building called The Factory in Franklin, Tennessee, I saw who I thought was a beautiful Puerto Rican or maybe even half-Korean girl.

I was wrong in both my assumptions on her ethnicity, but as I introduced myself to her in a line of hundreds waiting to get into the main room where an episode of CMT’s Crossroads was soon to be filmed, I knew right away that this fellow “extra” for the audience of that episode was A) out of my league and B) someone very intriguing and special.

Now flash-forward to this past August. It was close to midnight in the parking lot of the movie theatre in Spring Hill, Tennessee after having just seen the premiere of Suicide Squad. My friend Jarred and I were laughing as we reminisced about the “10 years-ago” versions of ourselves; back when we lived in a house together along with other bachelors.  During that time frame is when we happened to meet and begin dating our future wives.

He then said something that has stuck with me: “We married the right girls.”

It’s weird to think that the more naïve, less mature version of you is responsible for making one of the most serious (and permanent) decisions of your entire life; a decision that will not only affect other people’s lives but also create new life.

I feel like only now do I know enough about life to begin to make a decision like that. But it doesn’t work that way. Instead, it’s the opposite:

The reason I am now the mature and experienced person I am now is because of the girl I married 8 years ago.

It turns out, the 25 year-old versions of ourselves knew enough of what they were doing when met nearly 10 years ago, fell in love, and got married.

By “doing life” together for nearly a decade now, we have by default taught ourselves and each other what emotional intelligence is all about; making daily conscious decisions to choose to be victorious, not allow ourselves to be victims.

I see emotional intelligence as the inside-out version of what love is. By choosing to love your spouse, you choose to victorious instead of allowing yourself to become a victim.

A decade ago she and I were 25 year-old kids trying to figure out life. Now were are 35 year-old adults with two beautiful children. For the most part, we’re settled down and along for the ride.

I don’t know which surprises and adventures are ahead, but I do know this: She’s the one I want to spend the rest of my future with.

Victors versus Victims

Victor: compliments others

Victim: criticizes others

Victor: embraces change

Victim: fears change

Victor: forgives others

Victim: holds grudges

Victor: always learning

Victim: thinks they know everything

Victor: accepts responsibility for their failures

Victim: blames others for their failures

Victor: has a sense of gratitude

Victim: has a sense of entitlement

Victor: sets goals and develops plans

Victim: never sets goals

Bissell CleanView Vacuum with OnePass: A Dad’s Review (Including Unboxing Video and Demonstration)

Bissell CleanView Vacuum with OnePass: A Dad’s Review (Including Unboxing Video & Demonstration)

I feel like there was this cliché storyline in 1980s sitcoms where the husband buys his wife a new vacuum cleaner as a gift, only to learn that gesture upsets his wife.

The moral of the story in these sitcoms is this: Men like to receive useful tools as gifts, women do not.

For a husband to get his wife a new vacuum cleaner, it has to be completely unrelated to her birthday, anniversary, or any other expected time to give her a gift.

However, it is my observation that men actually like to receive useful tools during these gift-receiving opportunities.

Maybe it’s not the best example, but with my 35th birthday coming up in a couple of weeks, my wife helped me get a brand-new Canon Powershot G7 X camera. (I pitched in a couple hundred dollars, as the price was beyond the budget of a typical gift.)

As a blogger, I see a camera as a work tool; yet it’s the one thing I really wanted. Men like receiving tools as gifts.

At the same time, our nearly 8 year-old Bissell vacuum cleaner finally saw its final day. So my wife looked online at Target and discovered we could buy the updated model for only $75. So we did.

And boy do we both love it!

I’m referring to the Bissell CleanView Vaccuum with OnePass. I was so passionate about it, I made this unboxing and demonstration video:

I’m the one in our household who does the vacuuming every weekend. I noticed immediately how lightweight and agile it is. My wife has tried it out as well and agreed completely.

And it’s amazing to us that we purchased it for only $75 at Target!

By the way, Bissell is not endorsing me in any way to do this review. They were not even aware of me until I Tweeted them this story today.

That’s how much I like this vacuum!

Bissell CleanView Vacuum with OnePass: A Dad’s Review (Including Unboxing Video & Demonstration)

Flowchart below courtesy of ProFlowers.com.