Dear Jack: You Subliminally Taught Your Sister to Ask for Chips at Starbucks

7 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack,

There has been an unspoken rule in our family for years now:

When we go out as a family to run errands in the car, Mommy is always going to ask me, “Coffee?”

That’s her way of saying she wants to go to Starbucks. I always say yes; knowing that I might as well enjoy a cold brew.

And if Mommy and I are getting coffee, you know that you can ask for a snack:

“Can I get a croissant?”

And the answer is always yes:

“Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? -Matthew 7:9

So after quietly watching that scenario play out weekend after weekend, your sister decided it was her time to join in on the action.

As our family made our way to the Nashville Sounds baseball game a couple of weeks ago, as we pulled up to the drive-through at Starbucks, you said the magic words:

“Can I get a croissant?”

Without missing a beat, your sister immediately jumped in:

“Chips?…”

It was equally amazing and hilarious how she already had a prepared request. She knew the place, she knew the cue, and she even knew the specific yet seemingly random food she wanted while the gettin’ was good.

However, you suggested to her that she get a croissant instead. In your experience and wisdom, you knew she might want some of yours once she saw it.

That was a good call. Both of you ended up with your own personal croissant.

I couldn’t help but notice though, she completely downloaded hers by the time you had taken the third bite of yours.

Well, I guess now it will be no surprise what will happen the time next our family ends up at Starbucks:

There will be two simultaneous requests:

“Croissant?…”

Love,

Daddy

My 1st Visit to Los Angeles: The Manly Vegan Takes on the Sheraton Gateway Hotel (Near LAX)

My 1st Visit to Los Angeles: The Manly Vegan Takes on the Sheraton Gateway LAX Hotel

Though I’ve traveled the world, I’ve never been to New York City; and until a few days ago, I had never visited Los Angeles… unless you count a 30 minute layover at the airport on my way to Bangkok, Thailand back in 2004.

In the year 2018, I’ll be able to explain why exactly I was in Los Angeles this past week and how it all came down to a blog post I did back in the summer. But for now, I suppose all I can really say is I have now officially been shuttled through Los Angeles and visited an actual Hollywood set…

And when I wasn’t on set, I was at my hotel- the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel. It was undeniably strange being in California without my wife and children. After all, we were just in San Diego back in September; as my wife’s family is from California.

You might expect that I spent a good amount of my time in the pool, or the hot tub, or the gym… or at least hanging out upstairs in my room catching up on TV shows that I never have time for anymore.

But, nope.

I slept 10 hours my first night there and 9 hours my second night. As an actively involved husband and father, who not only has a full-time job but also this blog and my YouTube Channel, it is quite uncommon that I get the privilege of falling asleep at 8 or 9 PM, for two nights in a row.

Clearly, I took advantage of the situation. The room was like a sleep chamber for me.

At this point in my life, uninterrupted sleep has a much greater value than entertainment or leisure time.

I didn’t use my phone while I was there. I didn’t even bring my laptop. I just slipped into peaceful oblivion.

My 1st Visit to Los Angeles: The Manly Vegan Takes on the Sheraton Gateway LAX Hotel

Granted, I did have to eat. And as you know, I am a vegan. A manly vegan, to be exact- which is an exceptionally rare demographic.

For breakfast, I headed downstairs to Starbucks. I began the day with a fruit cup and some Evolution Sweet Greens cold-pressed juice; along with a Core Meal bar (made of oats and nuts) which I brought with me from Whole Foods back in Nashville.

For dinner, there were two stand-out vegan options on the menu at Costero California Bar + Bistro; which is located near the lobby of the hotel.

My 1st Visit to Los Angeles: The Manly Vegan Takes on the Sheraton Gateway LAX Hotel

For just $16, I was able to enjoy a luscious roasted vegetable pizza. (Of course, I specifically ordered it without the cheese.) I was perfectly pleased. In fact, I could totally consume another gourmet pizza like that right now.

Or if one might be in the mood for something a little more “beefy”, there is also the veggie burger served with fries.

My 1st Visit to Los Angeles: The Manly Vegan Takes on the Sheraton Gateway LAX Hotel

Honestly, between those two options, I’d be good every night of the week: I wouldn’t need any other options at the hotel for dinner.

I will likely be staying at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel a year from now as well. So it’s good to have a plan and know what to expect when I go back.

After a few nights in Los Angeles, I was shuttled back to LAX, where I stopped by Real Food Daily (Organic Plant-Based Food) for lunch for noodles, sea vegetables, and seitan.

http://www.evolutionfresh.com/juice/sweet-greens-lemon/

Thanks to American Airlines, where you actually get to watch movies for free on the flight, the 5 hour flight back to Nashville went by so quickly I didn’t even have to get up to use the restroom.

The next morning back at the cul-de-sac, my wife let me sleep in until 7 AM… which is when she allowed our 6 year-old son to start shooting me with his brand new fart-sound gun; to be followed by my wife lowering our 6 month-old daughter onto my chest, as our baby girl both smiled and drooled with the same intensity.

Clearly, I was missed.

My 1st Visit to Los Angeles: The Manly Vegan Takes on the Sheraton Gateway LAX Hotel

@SheratonLAX @corefoods @RealFoodDaily @AmericanAir #vegan #LAX

Dear Jack: You Saw Your 1st Parade… By Accident

5 years, 6 months.

Dear Jack: You Saw Your 1st Parade... By Accident

Dear Jack,

On Saturday morning, our family decided to introduce your Aunt Jenny, Uncle Tom, and cousins Taylore and Rachel (visiting from Pennsylvania) to our favorite vegan-friendly pizza place: Mellow Mushroom in downtown Franklin, Tennessee; just 11 miles from our house.

Dear Jack: You Saw Your 1st Parade... By Accident

We were surprised at how difficult it was to find a parking space, though. Ultimately, we took the last remaining spot at the top of the downtown parking garage.

Dear Jack: You Saw Your 1st Parade... By Accident

All the girls wanted to stop by Starbucks first, which is 2 blocks away and across the street. By the time the girls got their coffee, we realized that people were lining up on the sidewalks, facing the street.

We soon learned that the Franklin Rodeo Parade would be beginning in 10 minutes, which explained why it was so difficult to find a place to park. Fortunately, the 8 of us had claimed the giant table next to the giant window, facing the street. In other words, we had front row seats for the parade.

Dear Jack: You Saw Your 1st Parade... By Accident

To my knowledge, you had never seen a parade before. Obviously, you enjoyed it! You loved the school bands- you were amazed by the tubas.

Dear Jack: You Saw Your 1st Parade... By Accident

You got to see horses, clowns, tiny eighteen-wheelers, classic cars, and people dressed up in animal costumes. Once you realized they were throwing candy, you decided to upgrade your seat to the sidewalk outside.

Dear Jack: You Saw Your 1st Parade... By Accident

After the parade ended, we made our way to Mellow Mushroom. Because of all the people who showed up for the parade, it was an hour wait to get a table.

Dear Jack: You Saw Your 1st Parade... By Accident

So we followed the girls around to the shops there on Main Street. Once we got to White’s Mercantile, you found something of interest: a wooden glider plane. Anytime you go to the dentist, you always choose the Styrofoam glider plane from the prize box; but now, you had access to the Lexus version.

While there, we noticed a decorative wooden box up on the shelf with your sister’s name on it: Holly.

Dear Jack: You Saw Your 1st Parade... By Accident

The girl running the cashier explained that Holly is the owner’s name; as in Holly Williams, the granddaughter of country music legend Hank Williams. I thought that was pretty cool.

Dear Jack: You Saw Your 1st Parade... By Accident

During lunch at Mellow Mushroom, you were preoccupied with building your glider plane, so I helped you with that as we waited on the food- though I admit, you knew how to do the rubber band part of the propeller before I could even figure it out.

Dear Jack: You Saw Your 1st Parade... By Accident

Once we got home, you and I tested out your plane in the backyard. The next afternoon, we all headed over the Arrington Vineyards for a picnic. It was a great area to fly your plane.

Dear Jack: You Saw Your 1st Parade... By Accident

Imagine this: Had we simply gone straight to Mellow Mushroom on Saturday, we would have missed the parade, as well as going into White’s Mercantile to buy your plane.

Dear Jack: You Saw Your 1st Parade... By Accident

It was just meant to be.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: You Saw Your 1st Parade... By Accident

I’m Not a Christian Who Cares about Starbucks Cups

I’m Not a Christian Who Cares about Starbucks Cups

This is something I’ve noticed about my daily Facebook feed: The top 10 posts (and therefore, the most popular, as determined by the free market of my Facebook friends) tend to be pictures of people with their family. Those are the things that naturally earn the most Facebook “likes.”

If I keep scrolling down past those, before I get to the comic relief categories of “sarcastic memes” and “cat pictures”, and eventually the underworld “domestic life drama,” there is what I classify as “pop culture headline news.”

Last night, a couple of the stories in this category were referring to how an “internet pastor” named Joshua Feuerstein is “outraged” about the secular coffee giant Starbucks (which is ran by a Jewish CEO, Howard Schultz) “removing Christmas” from their cups.

(With a name like Joshua Feuerstein, I’m actually surprised he’s not Jewish, himself.)

By writing this blog post today, I just want to take a moment to remind the free world that there are Christians in America who simply don’t care at all about Starbucks cups.

I believe it’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of Christians don’t care at all about this “issue” of the non-Christmas Starbucks cups. I am part of that 99.9% majority.

As a Christian, there are countless other issues that concern me which I can, to some degree, help for the better. By being involved in my local Christian church, I know that a portion of my weekly tithe goes to helping people across the world have access to clean drinking water; and for widows and orphans to be cared for.

For most of our 7 year marriage, my wife and I have been financially supporting a little boy in South America; via World Vision. I say this not to brag, but to show you that I am passionate enough about serving others, the way Jesus taught us to be, that I literally put my money towards actually fixing this problem.

It’s one thing to say the cliche to someone, “Have a blessed day,” but another to actually bless their day.

But those issues of serving others are boring. They don’t go viral with such over-the-top fascination. “Internet pastor is offended by coffee cups” is sensational, therefore it goes viral.

I believe that when someone is already indifferent about an issue, the way much of the “outside world” sees Christianity, it’s easier for them to examine the most extreme specimens of Christianity as a deciding factor on whether or not Christianity is legitimate.

This “Internet pastor is offended by Starbucks cups” story serves as perfect fodder to help paint all Christians as extremely right wingers who believe they are entitled to everything. I imagine that for an agnostic or an atheist or a person of a different religion, it could be natural to stereotype all, or most, Christians into the category of these Starbucks Cup Christians.

But in reality, this one Internet pastor does not represent the majority. By this story going viral though, it does potentially provide an opportunity for people to believe that the .01% of the population represents the 99.9%.

So allow me to be the voice of reason. It doesn’t.

This is simply another sensational “pop culture headline news” story that was just asinine enough to go viral. It’s entertainment and nothing more.

These types of stories often involve cartoonish characters, where it’s easy for people to pay attention to an assumed villain making a scene in a public square.

But no one can offend me with a coffee cup.

Not to mention, I stopped drinking coffee 2 years ago when I realized I was truly addicted to caffeine; the world’s most popular, unregulated, psychoactive drug in the world. And I was often paying close to $5 for a cup of this stuff; which is what a person who is addicted to nicotine pays for a pack of cigarettes.

Now, please go buy your coffee in peace, or don’t buy it at all. Whatever you do, just don’t believe that this Internet pastor Joshua Feuerstein represents my own feelings (or most Christians’ feeling) on the cups you see at Starbucks.

How to Marry Your Best Friend (May Require Starbucks)

February 5, 2012 at 12:12 am , by 

14  months.

It was five years ago today that my wife and I went on our first date. Even if she didn’t realize it at the time.

The picture you are seeing now was taken back in March 2007; about a month after our first date… already so much in love.

But how did it all begin?

Jill Tuttle was the only one of my friends who wanted to go with me to see John Mayer in concert two hours away in Huntsville, Alabama.

This was convenient for me because I had a huge crush on her for the past four months, since meeting her at a CMT taping of the show, Crossroads.

I had been deliberately nurturing an authentic friendship with her by initiating a Sunday night tradition of meeting at Starbucks to “catch up.” We had both talked about our mutual love for John Mayer’s music. I knew that her favorite song of his was “Back To You.”

So I made the most of this concert opportunity. This was my chance.

I knew she liked Lenny’s Subs and Twizzlers. So that’s the dinner I packed in a picnic basket for us; we dined in my Honda Element in the parking lot before the show.

When we got back to Nashville around midnight, I put the car in park, looked her right in the eyes, and told her straightforwardly:

“Conveniently, next week is Valentine’s Day. And I really, really like you. I would like to take you out for Valentine’s.”

And the rest is history. We married about a year and half later; then about two and half years after that, our son Jack was born.

That’s the story of us. You could say it all started with us both responding to an email about participating in the taping of a TV show for CMT, as audience members. Or that it all actually started at Starbucks. Or the John Mayer concert. Or even Valentine’s Day 2007.

But ultimately, it started with me taking the initiative to pursue her, carefully and patiently. I wanted to marry my best friend. So I did.

Now I look around the room and see pictures featuring the memories of the mutually shared past five years of our lives, along with a corner of our living room filled with the noisy plastic toys of a blonde haired, blue eyed little boy known to many as “Jack-Man.”

Sure, I believe God orchestrated it all. He caused our paths to cross.

Yet still, when I survey my life of Jill and Jack, I can’t help but think, “Man, I made this happen. I convinced this girl to fall in love with me five years ago. Now we not only have a life together but also a son whom we love like crazy.”

I forever changed Jill Tuttle’s life. I just couldn’t leave her alone. I pursued her and won over her heart.

Of course, it will be an ongoing process. I’m not finished falling in love with her and I never will be.

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Currently Uber Popular Status Update Phrases: “Dear [Inanimate Object, Abstract Idea, or Business]”, Followed by a Hypothetical Question

Dear facebook status, how did I survive before you came along?

Dear Organic Baby Carrier, when will you stop making me feel like a man who has been castrated?

 

Nobody likes a whiner, right?  Well, now thanks to this uber popular status update method, you can complain while sounding “cute” and funny.  This formula can also be used to say you like something- but in a more creative way.  Just address a subject that will never actually see your status update or even have the ability to respond, then ask a question that either has no real answer or an implied answer. Here are a few examples:

“Dear Starbucks, what would I ever do with you?”

“Dear teenager in the car in front of me who is texting, when will you realize what you are doing is going to get you in an accident? Ugh!”

“Dear Friday, why were you late this week?”

It’s really that simple.  In fact, this format of a status update is so popular that there’s a good chance that at any given moment of the day, you will not be able to read your entire status update page without seeing it used at least once, in some form.  Now, get to work.  Use the formula and you too can appear to be creative, funny, and “cute”.  (Also works well on Twitter.)

“Dear [Inanimate Object, Abstract Idea, or Business]”, Followed by a Hypothetical Question

Being Active in the Blogging World Yet Hanging Out in the Background: My First 50,000 Hits on WordPress

Thanks for 50,000 hits.

Maybe it makes perfectly good sense or maybe it’s just a quirk of mine, but the word “blog” repulses me.  For me, it’s a four letter word.  When I hear the word “blog” I think of a sweaty and bloated 25 year-old guy with a faux-hawk and hairy arms, sleeves rolled up, sipping down his third cup of Starbucks coffee, much too eager to turn what he perceives as a clever Tweet into a post (like “Note to self: Never again combine cold leftover pizza and a PB&J sandwich for lunch.  Ugh, will my stomach ever forgive me?”, hoping for no less than 12 people to click “likes this” on his facebook wall).

And that’s what brought about #5 of The Code:  Avoid referring to the website as a “blog”. Blogs are for people still using MySpace who are stuck in 2006 or that are obsessed with facebook status updates.  I write.  I put up new posts.  I even write articles.  But I don’t have a blog.

Technically, I am camped out on the edge of the outer circle of the blogging world, since I do write regularly on a website that facilitates my hobby/passion of creative (and ideally not too egocentric) writing consisting of whatever random thing I think of that day.  So how do I differ from a full-on blogger?

1)     I am completely aware that I have no celebrity status whatsoever and that what I write is not a substitute for some vain reality TV show that I secretly want to be a part of.

2)     I do not write in a careless and casual tone, like I’m sending a mass email to everyone in my contacts.

3)     I mock facebook and Twitter culture in my writing; despite the fact my posts are automatically linked to both of those websites.

Being that I’m now nearing a thousand hits a day, I’ll be refraining from writing another post in my “10,000 Clicks” series (the title always starts with “being” and ends with “ground” and I usually feature one of the nine parts of The Code) until I reach a hundred thousand clicks, otherwise I’d be writing them too frequently at this point.  The reason I write this series is to document the growth of Scenic Route Snapshots.  When I reach a million a hits, I want to be able to look back and see how exactly I got there, not just simply based on fuzzy memories.

Other posts of this “10,000 Hits” series:

Being Down to Earth, Yet Never Really Touching the Ground (posted April 11, 2010)

Being Original, Yet Never Really Breaking New Ground (posted May 18, 2010)

Being Engaging, Yet Never Really Standing on Dangerous Ground (posted on June 10, 2010)

Being Excessive and Eventually Finding Common Ground (posted on June 24, 2010)