Dear Jack: Your Week at Nashville Zoo Camp

8 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

You are one lucky kid. Last week, you got to spend 5 days of summer camp at the Nashville Zoo!

It was especially cool since you got to spend that time alongside your friend Duncan, who you have known since before you were born:

We were in birthing class with his parents back in 2010 when then two of you were still in the womb!

Needless to say, you had such a great time that we’ve already decided to send you back again next year.

Not to mention, your sister is already saying she wants to go in a few years once she is old enough!

Love,

Daddy

Advertisements

2010 Jeep Wrangler JK Sport to the Nashville Zoo with the Kids

It is exactly 30 miles from our garage to the Nashville Zoo; which really isn’t bad for such a great source of family entertainment.

Somehow though, it’s been a solid two years since our family has journeyed down there.

But as I’ve mentioned before, now that we have a Jeep Wrangler as our family weekend vehicle, suddenly anywhere we go is not only more exciting, but also worth the journey.

Despite being an SUV, the JK series of the Jeep Wrangler doesn’t have much storage capacity. However, I was still have to squeeze in the double stroller in the back, which made things much easier for my wife and I to shuttle the kids across the Nashville Zoo. It takes a solid 3 hours of constantly moving if you want to see all the animals.

We actually started off our visit to the Nashville Zoo with my son and and my wife (Jack and Jill) finally getting to try out the Soaring Eagle.

Check out the quick video I made of their ride…

As the population of Nashville continues to rapidly grow, so does the number of exhibits at the Nashville Zoo. For example, I don’t remember there being rhinos the last time we were there…

But as you can see from these pictures from this weekend…

There was a lot to see and do…

And we were so exhausted, Mommy and Daddy took a nap when we got home…

Even if our kids didn’t.

A Man Driving a Manual Jeep Wrangler is the Same Thing as He-Man Riding Battle Cat

Nearly a month into driving my 6 speed Jeep Wrangler JK Sport, I have come to the obvious revelation:

When I am driving my Jeep, it is virtually just like He-Man riding Battle Cat.

I realize there are much more practical vehicles I could be driving; like any Asian-made commuter car.

But for me, I would much rather drive my made in the USA 2010 Jeep Wrangler. Even if it’s not so practical to be driving a manual transmission in Nashville traffic. Even if I could definitely be getting better gas mileage driving a Prius. Even if it would be easier to fit two kids in the back seat of nearly anything else.

There is some scarcity these days regarding what percentage of the American population knows how to drive a manual transmission. There is even more scarcity for people who own a manual transmission Jeep Wrangler and drive it daily.

I feel like this is the equivalent of being able to remove the sword from the stone. Or being able to pick up Thor’s hammer.

It is a Jeep thing and I totally understand. It’s like having bragging rights about something so sacred in American culture, yet much of the population could not appreciate something so glorious yet so impractical.

When you drive a Jeep Wrangler, you not only drive a toy… you drive a beast.

This is a beast you must tame and teach to control; because after all, it is a wild animal.

You have to learn the beast and the beast must learn you. You must master the art of switching to the right gear at the right time, at any given second. You must know when it’s necessary to switch into 4 wheel drive. You must know which days are worth taking off the top- and which days are worth taking off the doors too!

Yes, this beast is able to drive across a river and through deep mud and up mountains.

I am He-Man and I ride Battle Cat.

Yeah, this is pretty much who I am now.

 

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

2010 Jeep Wrangler Date Night: Seeing Sara Evans and Fairground Saints at The City Winery in Nashville, Tennessee

This past Saturday, my wife and I did something we have only done once before in our 8 and a half years of being parents: We hired a babysitter!

And if you know us in real life, you know how strange that truly is. Because when it comes to money, we are extremely conservative. We never leave the house without the kids unless our parents are visiting from out of state.

But yes, we not only paid a babysitter for the night but we also paid full price for tickets to see Sara Evans and Fairground Saints perform at The City Winery in Nashville; which is about 40 miles away from the bedroom community we live in.

And on top of all that, we got to take our new Jeep (it’s a 2010 with 60K miles, but we paid cash for it, thanks to being faithful followers of Dave Ramsey) to Nashville for the first time.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Everywhere we go is automatically more fun when we go in the Jeep!

It’s always seemed a bit ironic that though I was born and raised in Fort Payne, Alabama, while my wife was born and raised outside of Sacramento, California, yet she is the big country music fan.

With that being said, Fairground Saints (pictured above) are actually from Santa Barbara, California.

We stopped halfway there to have a glorious dinner at Local Taco in Brentwood. When you and your spouse have spent the greater half of this past decade being a vegan and vegetarian, you can try to imagine how awesome eating “normal food” is again…

It was so good, I’m already plotting the next time we can go back so I can have the Korean BBQ Braised Beef, as well as the Nashville Hot Chicken tacos again!

As for the show, this makes our 2nd time to see a performance at The City Winery in Nashville. I’m convinced at this point, it’s undeniably my favorite place to see musicians perform in the entire Nashville area.

The place is classy, intimidate, and a lot of fun.

So this is what it’s like to hire a babysitter and drive out to Nashville for a date night?

We really should do this more often!

2010 Jeep Wrangler JK Sport 4WD 6 Speed: Family Ride in Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tennessee

It’s been two weeks now that I finally obtained my dream vehicle, a Jeep Wrangler. As part of the fun for Mother’s Day for my wife, I announced we would be going for our very first family leisurely drive through the not-so-faraway Jeep-friendly spot: Percy Warner Park in Nashville.

This weekend’s drive confirmed what I always believed about owning a Jeep Wrangler; that you don’t simply own a vehicle, you own a mobile amusement park.

Automatically, anywhere you drive is suddenly more exciting. The view is undeniably better. Whenever you see a road you want to go down, or go up, that you wouldn’t normally be able to… well, now you can.

And we did. Many times.

There is no fear of getting stuck in the mud, because now we have 4 wheel drive.

There is no fear of not being able to turn around if we get to the end of a narrow dead-end road, because the Jeep is so short.

There is no fear of boredom, because we are ultimately riding in a mini monster truck.

Something really crazy about my 7 and a half year journey to finally getting my Jeep Wrangler is that I never ever drove one until I had already bought mine!

That’s how much I knew I was destined to own one.

I can’t remember the last time I bought anything for myself that made me so happy.

When you’re the husband and the father, you just sort of go along with whatever is going on with your family. There was honestly nothing I needed or even wanted anyway.

Except for the Jeep, which I couldn’t afford until now; and was able to pay cash for. (My wife and I are very serious about Dave Ramsey!)

But this Jeep isn’t just for me: My whole family enjoys it.

It’s simply more fun to drive now; even in bumper to bumper commuter Nashville traffic.

That’s how good a Jeep Wrangler is.

After 13 Years of Driving of My 2004 Honda Element, I Paid Cash for a 2010 Jeep Wrangler for My 38th Birthday: This is the Top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid for Me

Exactly one year ago today, I began my job as a recruiter at a Fortune 500 company; after a 6 month stint of being thrown into the role of stay at home dad, when the company I had recruited for and managed retention for 12 years closed down their branch at my location.

For half a year, I applied for over 100 jobs; while also focusing on my 5 online side hustles: running two YouTube channels, managing the SEO for a majority university here in Nashville, plus selling guest blog spots and planting Amazon links here on my website.

When I started my new job a year ago, it undeniably pushed me to my limits and challenged me in ways I had not been before. There were moments I had serious doubts I could survive it. But the position did come with a more than 62% pay increase compared to my former employer; so I did what it took to not only survive at my new job, but to excel.

By March 2019, I was the #2 recruiter out of 31 nationwide for my company for that month.

My wife and I had become debt free (other than our mortgage) 6 years ago, thanks to following the strategy and teachings of Dave Ramsey. (That includes tithing 10% to our church.) By the end of 2018, we had the recommended amount in our savings, according to Ramsey Solutions.

That’s when we were able to start investing money at Charles Schwab, in a serious effort to have at least $2 million by the time we retire; assuming there will be no social security left for us Millennials.

After 13 Years of Driving of My 2004 Honda Element, I Paid Cash for a 2010 Jeep Wrangler for My 38th Birthday: This is the Top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid for Me

So in January of this year, my wife and I were finally able to start planning the replacement of my 2004 Honda Element; which I bought the same month I started my recruiting career, in January 2006; before I even met my wife!

I was considering a Hyundai Veloster, as some sort of a consolation to my dream vehicle:

A Jeep Wrangler.

The first time I announced my goal on this blog of eventually owning a Jeep Wrangler was back in December 2012, in a letter I wrote to my son:

“If we can find a way to be content with what we already have, then happiness becomes a by-product of the integrity of that lifestyle.

Yet at the same time I recognize my personal need for a materialistic goal to inspire me to work harder. Strangely, mine is a Jeep Wrangler.

Actually, you and I both have a bizarre infatuation with Jeep Wranglers.

It all started several months back when Jeep Wranglers became one of the first vehicles you could identify by name. Despite being completely content with my Honda Element that I drive you around in, I had never really noticed how, at least here in Nashville, it appears that for every 10 vehicles on the road, one of of them is a Jeep Wrangler.”

Then, after 7 and a half years, the dream began to come true when my mom showed me where on her Facebook feed, her dentist’s sister was selling a 2010 Jeep Wrangler JK Sport 6 Speed for much less than market value.

I was the first person to call. It was mine as long as I could be the first person to show up with money to pay the asking price.

The problem was that I live 5 hours away from where the seller was in Georgia.

Good thing I have amazing parents. On April 1st, they drove over 3 hours to go pick up the Jeep, on a Monday night; in order to beat another would-be buyer who would be there to buy the Jeep the following morning.

My parents didn’t get back to their house in Alabama until after 1 AM; my dad was able to sleep about 3 hours before he had to go back to work the next morning.

Not to mention, they decided to buy my Honda Element as a spare vehicle, or as my mom calls it, their “farm truck”.

On April 29th, thanks to several divine interventions (as buying a vehicle outside of a dealership means a much more complicated process!), I was able to get the title signed over to me and get my very own license plate for the Jeep.

My entire month of April was consumed with me finally obtaining my dream vehicle, while coincidentally, my 38th birthday was on April 20th.

I am extremely grateful for all I have been given and all I have worked hard for in my life. Now that I finally own the vehicle I have been aspiring toward for 7 and a half years, and my goal is met, I am able to realize this:

At age 38, I have now officially made it to the top of my own Maslow’s Hierarcy of Needs Pyramid.

That means not only does a person obtain a comfortable state of financial means, but they also reach a great understanding of emotional intelligence.

For example, I no longer live under the delusion that I am a “good person”. As long as a person perceives they are “good” (comparing themselves to others who they believe are “bad”), they are in danger of believing they deserve goods thing to happen to them, but that they also don’t deserve bad things to happen (like the “bad people” do).

In reality, it is often the “bad things” that happen to us which are actually crucial life lessons we need to learn in order to mature in life. Believe me, I personally have experienced many of these. (See the 1st paragraph of this article, for an example.)

By age 35, I had learned the importance of not allowing other people to control my emotions: to hurt my feelings, to disrespect me, or to offend me. Because just like with forgiveness, it’s always a choice.

It’s a personal decision that we all get to make on a daily basis; to control our own emotions in relation to other people.

Similarly, making it to the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid also means a person independently and internally understands who they are; no longer depending on society to confirm their identity, purpose, or value.

In an age where people are constantly posting on social media, subconsciously seeking confirmation and/or secretly judging others in a sense of “at least my life is better than theirs” voyeurism, the concept of not basing one’s self-esteem on the perceptions of others is somewhat revolutionary.

If I am fortunate to live as long as the average lifespan of an American man, then my journey of life is halfway complete.

No, it doesn’t make me feel old knowing that my 20th high school reunion is coming up in a few months. Because I’ve never had more focus and life experience than I have now, for Life: Part 2.

If the American Dream is a real thing, I am aware that I am currently living it. This is what the American Dream looks like. I am able to process that these are the good ole days.

But unlike the man who slaves away his life for his career and loses his family in the process, or the lottery winner who still isn’t happy when he instantly becomes millionaire (only to be broke a few years later due to poor money management), I am able to recognize, in real time a very important truth:

I have been blessed by God, and I know that every good thing I have comes from God. I believe it is no coincidence that as I strive to lead my family in God’s teachings (including the Biblical model of wisely managing money and talents), God has honored my efforts; though I fall short on a daily basis.

At age 38, I have come to the same conclusion as King Solomon:

“A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God; for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

Photo above by Mohamad Alaw.