A “Work Date”with My Wife at ENAR 2018 in Atlanta (Featuring the 2018 Mazda CX-5)

Last week during Spring Break, our family opted not to go somewhere slightly exotic, like Destin, Florida; as usual. Instead, I dropped my wife off at the Nashville International Airport for her flight to Atlanta, then I drove our kids to my parents’ house, in Fort Payne, Alabama; where I grew up.

My wife went to work immediately, as she was there to help represent Vanderbilt University’s Biostatistics Graduate Program in at the ENAR 2018 Spring Meeting. (In case you happen to be out of the loop, ENAR stands for Eastern North American Region of International Biometric Society.)

I spent the first day of Spring Break at Ruby Falls with our son (more on that in the near future, so stay tuned…). But the very next morning, I left early for Atlanta; in the 2018 Mazda CX-5.

This SUV was the perfect size for my 3 hour scenic drive down Lookout Mountain into the Rome, Georgia; and eventually Atlanta. I appreciated not only the great gas mileage it got (25 city, 31 highway), but also how well it handled all those sneaky curves on my route.

As a stay-at-home dad who works from home as a Social Media Specialist and Influencer, I haven’t commuted to an office since last October. So I do admit, it was nice being able go back and forth between The Beatles and Tom Petty for a few hours. There’s a part of me that misses that 2 hour round trip everyday to work, where I could sort of just think about my life as I listened to good music.

Thanks to the trusty GPS, I had arrived at lunch time at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. My wife met me right away at front doors, where I introduced her to our new ride for the week, and from there we drove just about 5 miles away to our favorite vegan restaurant in Atlanta: Cafe Sunflower in Buckhead.

Our lunch every bit as magnificent as we expected; so much so, that we went back again the next day for lunch! Though my wife is an amazing plant-based chef, I love being able to take her somewhere nice where she not only doesn’t have to cook, but a place that is also as committed to our lifestyle as we are. (My wife has been a vegetarian and I have been a vegan, for well over 5 years now.)

Afterwards, we headed back to ENAR 2018, where I took photographs of Vanderbilt’s booth; as I will be writing an article for Vanderbilt’s website to promote their presence at the event. I was proud to see my video series on display on the monitor, as one of my many roles working as a freelance Social Media Specialist is to create promotional videos for companies.

Over the course the past few weeks, I had interviewed several current students and professors from Vanderbilt’s Biostastics Graduate Program, then made a series of short promo videos. Not only were these playing on a loop during the whole event, but I will eventually upload them to a YouTube channel that I will be creating and managing for the department.

I also also very proud to see my wife there in her role, as well; serving as a beautiful model and spokesperson for prospective students. More importantly though, she had helped coordinate the booth for the department, including all the logistics in getting it there, along with other Vanderbilt employees.

After a hard day’s work, we took advantage of a special attraction there at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta: They have a restaurant called Polaris, on top of the hotel. You have to take a special, exclusive, elevator there. And the over the course of an hour, the entire restaurant spins; so you get to see a 360 degree view of Atlanta. We will definitely go there again!

The next day after ENAR came to an end, we headed back to Cafe Sunflower for lunch again, then took a different route back to my parents’ house in Alabama. Our adventures were far from over, as we would be taking a family trip to Rock City the next morning.

I was very grateful to be able to have a “work date” with my wife. Sometimes, or maybe I should say usually, it requires some creativity in being able to plan fun dates when both parents work and have young children.

Perhaps at some point, our lives will be a little less crazy. As for now, we are truly making the most of what we have!

To check out the entire trilogy of blog posts about the cool trips my family took in the 2018 Mazda CX-5, just click the related link below:

A “Work Date”with My Wife at ENAR 2018 in Atlanta (Featuring the 2018 Mazda CX-5)

My Family’s Road Trip to Rock City in Chattanooga in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 (Featuring the Original New Theme Song I Wrote)

My Road Trip with My Son to Ruby Falls in Chattanooga in the 2018 Mazda CX-5 (Featuring the Original New Theme Song I Wrote)

Advertisements

Dear Jack: You Took Care of Your Sister While I Was Sick This Week

7 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

I don’t get sick… especially ever since I became a vegan over 5 years ago, when even most of my allergy and sinus problems went away. However, this week has been the exception to the rule.

Exactly a week ago, right as the dogwood trees turned from white to pink, it was like I was overtaken by the flu. (I can’t be sure what it’s like to have the flu, since I’ve never had the flu before; nor have I ever had a flu shot.)

My body began aching all over. My throat swelled up. My appetite went away.

And when Mommy checked my temperature, it was 103!

Last Friday, especially, was just a blur to me. I remember Mommy had to stay home because I pretty much just stayed in bed all day and slept. I really couldn’t do anything else anyway; I couldn’t even stand up straight or walk, without falling over.

For the past week, I have been living off of allergy pills and smoothies. Each day, I have felt a little better. Finally, today, I feel mostly back to normal.

Yeah, apparently it was just a really bad reaction to the pollen. I wasn’t actually sick; in terms of needing to go to a doctor. I didn’t have the flu. At least I don’t think so.

I can easily imagine how much worse things would have been for me if I was still eating dairy. I would have ended up with a sinus infection. Instead, my sinuses were completely clear. I am a vegan out of necessity- and it’s times like these I am violently reminded of that.

During all of this, you have been a major help to me. You could see I wasn’t myself.

So you took it upon yourself to help your sister. You filled in for me.

You helped get her snacks. You helped entertain her by getting her craft supplies. You even helped her rest after she got tired of playing.

It’s been a rough week, but you made it a little better for me. Thank you!

Love,

Daddy

My 2018 MLB Spring Training Grapefruit League Toyota Florida Road Trip: From Cape Coral to Manalapan in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 3 of 3)

While I obviously loved the entire Toyota Grand Slam Road Trip across Florida last week, I have to say that my final day of the tour stood out as my favorite.

For me, there was much intrigue surrounding the 2018 Toyota C-HR; a new vehicle which I had yet to see in person until last week at the event.

On the first day when we were presented with the vehicles, I was immediately drawn to the aqua (radiant green) colored SUV with the white top. As I began walking around it, taking pictures, I realized this was Toyota’s new SUV.

The C-HR, which stands for “compact high rider” (but is also understandably identified as a “cross hatch run”), ultimately became known to me as the “High Roller”. At least, that’s the name several of us automotive writers referred to it as.

As I am regularly loaned vehicles here on my blog throughout the year, I especially look forward to being able to travel in the C-HR with my family. I can already imagine how cool my 7 year-old son will think it is.

Day 3 started off great with the “choose your Toyota and your driving partner for the day” part, where I was instantly invited by Chris Chin to team up with him in the maroon (ruby flare) C-HR. Toyota had provided two C-HRs to help ensure each of us writers had a chance to spend at least half of the day driving one.

Something I learned about myself during the Toyota Grand Slam event was just what a niche my blog is: I am a daddy blogger who happens to write about cars a lot, as my family takes a lot of road trips. Therefore, when I feature new vehicles on my blog, I focus a lot on how much backseat space there is with two child car seats; and also, how much 3rd row seat space there is if an adult sits back there.

In other words, I write about being a parent first and foremost, and therefore, about cars on the side. In contrast, my driving partner Chris Chin (along all the other guys on the trip) are true automotive writers. That’s their main focus.

So as we were driving across the more uninhabited parts of Florida, and we made our way from Cape Coral to Port St. Lucie to see the Yankees play the Mets, he was talking about all kinds of technical stuff that I could barely follow him on; meanwhile, I was just thinking:

“This sure is fun. I like being in the C-HR. I can’t wait for my family to ride in it with me. I wonder where we’ll drive in it? Maybe North Carolina like when we drove the Sienna last fall? Or to Kentucky when we drove the 4Runner last spring?”

My thoughts were interrupted when Chris and I couldn’t help but notice that we were driving down a road surrounded by orange groves on both sides of it. With both of us being focusing heavily on photography in our writing, we decided it would be a sin not to pull over the C-HR for a perfect photo op.

We weren’t breaking any rules. This was a public road with no “private property” or “no trespassing” signs anywhere; no fences or gates.

And we were right: It made for some really cool pictures of the C-HR, in the midst of the orange grove. I particularly focused on some shots of the wheels in the sandy dirt. I felt those pictures really helped match the fun character of the C-HR.

But then, after Chris and I had captured all the shots we needed, we loaded back in the C-HR to continue on our way back on the route. He started the ignition and pushed the gas pedal, but all we heard or felt were the tires spinning.

It took me back to my childhood in the 1980s, when cartoons and movies were constantly warning and preparing me for the inevitable danger of quicksand as an adult.

Chris continued revving the engine and attempting to maneuver us out of the sand and back on the dirt road. It helped that he is truly a professional driver who tests out cars’ power for a living.

Just as I was thinking how I probably needed to get out of the vehicle and help push, the tires made their way onto the dirt road again; as there was barely a distinction between the sand on the dirt in the first place.

It wasn’t much longer until we made our way to Lake Placid, where we stopped for lunch at the Good News Juice and Smoothie Cafe; which conveniently for me on the week of my 5th anniversary of being a vegan, happened to be a vegan-friendly cafe.

Once we arrived in Port St. Lucie, I was definitely in the mood to watch a baseball game. The fact that it happened to be the Yankees playing the Mets made things that much more exciting. It was nothing short of hilarious to hear the zany banter between opposing fans during the entire game.

Plus, it was nice that we had such good seats, right behind the action, and out of the sun. By this 3rd game, I had realized how much I truly enjoy watching baseball. It’s a different mode of thinking; so much different than basketball or football or hockey.

It had been a wonderful action-packed week, but it was time for everything to come to a close. That night all of us guys had a classy Mediterranean feast at Temple Orange, the restaurant there at the Eau Palm Beach Resort in Manalapan where we were staying the final night.

Our server couldn’t help but notice our Toyota name tags, and so he decided to incorporate the Toyota logo into our dessert play. That was so cool.

After a perfect day though, I knew I needed to head back to my room, since I had to leave the hotel at 5:00 AM to catch my flight.

My hotel room was amazing. My balcony faced the ocean. I would love to go back there some day with my wife.

As if I needed to point out the obvious, it was honor to be asked to join the Toyota Grand Slam road trip. Selfishly, it makes me feel good to know that my blog’s SEO is healthy enough to qualify as a social media influencer, to this degree.

I had so much fun. I met great people. And I got to experience an exciting week of adventure and entertainment.

So yeah, my calendar is already marked for next year!

To read all 3 parts of My 2018 MLB Spring Training Grapefruit League Toyota Florida Road Trip series, just click on the link below for the ones you haven’t read yet:

An Awesome Dad Vacation (Part 1 of 3)
From Orlando to Fort Myers in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 2 of 3)
From Cape Coral to Manalapan in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 3 of 3)

 

 

My 2018 MLB Spring Training Grapefruit League Toyota Grand Slam Road Trip: From Orlando to Fort Myers in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 2 of 3)

After waking up at Loews Portofino Bay at Universal Studios, I began the 2nd day of my road trip across Florida by rushing downstairs to call dibs on the Toyota I would be driving that day.

It was the 2018 Toyota Camry that had drawn my attention. Not only is it a sporty (and fast) looking car, but I’m a sucker for red interior. As I began loading up my gear, I realized I wouldn’t even need to find and choose a driving partner for the day, as I noticed someone else’s gear was already loaded up.

Of the 8 of us automotive writers there for the event and 5 vehicles to choose from, my driving partner and I found each other simply by the process of choosing the car first.

Ray Logan, of 50Bold.com, had also chosen the Camry, and therefore, he had chosen me as well. It was no surprise that Ray and I hit it off quite easily.

Our mission was to take the Camry from Orlando to Fort Myers, where we would be watching the Orioles play the Twins at Hammond Stadium.

The midpoint stop on our journey was a vegan shop in Sarasota called CROP (which now that I am looking closely at their sign, stand for “coldpressed, raw, organic, produce”).

Of all days to be introduced to this wondrous place, it just happened to be my 5th anniversary of being a vegan. So as you can imagine, the owner was truly able to celebrate with me.

I explained to him how I have been free of dyshidrotic eczema, constant sinus pressure, and pet allergies for the past 5 years in which I have not consumed any meat, eggs, or dairy. While he was obviously happy to hear this, he wasn’t surprised, as he also personally believes in the power of plants alone.

It was such a thrill for me to be able to stock up on all kinds of manly vegan goodies for the 2nd half of the road trip. I enjoyed a HeartBeet Burger, a peanut butter and banana smoothie, chia coconut pudding, and some delectable vegan chocolates.

Yeah, I may have went overboard, and but hey… what a fun way to celebrate 5 years being healed of eczema (thanks to my vegan lifestyle) than to stock up at Crop!

By the time Ray and I made it to the game, food was no longer on my mind. But having gotten a little too much sun from the game the day before, we decided to hang up in the shade up at the top of the stadium; enjoying the game from a nearly aerial view.

After a good time at the game, we made our way to The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village. I loved how right there at the balcony near my bed, I had a nice view of yachts on the water. It made me think of the 1983 Jimmy Buffett song, “One Particular Harbor”.

I admit though, I felt kind of guilty not being able to share this amazing hotel experience while my wife was back home with the kids. Either way, I slept like a rock.

And I would need every minute of that solid sleep for the adventure ahead the next day in the Toyota C-HR, with a new driving partner.

This was an action packed road trip, for sure.

Work hard while playing hard. That was my theme.

To read all 3 parts of My 2018 MLB Spring Training Grapefruit League Toyota Florida Road Trip series, just click on the link below for the ones you haven’t read yet:

An Awesome Dad Vacation (Part 1 of 3)
From Orlando to Fort Myers in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 2 of 3)
From Cape Coral to Manalapan in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 3 of 3)

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: I Lost 11 Pounds in the Past 2 Months, From Overweight to Optimal (A Testimonial about Vegan Weight Loss)

Exactly two months ago on January 8th, 2018, I was very vocal and public about the fact I had become overweight, as a vegan. I was getting too much protein, and fat, and sugar.

I wanted to make sure it was common knowledge, and beyond anyone’s doubt, that with a BMI of 26. At 5’9″, I was officially 6 pounds overweight, at 176 pounds.

So I decided to cut out empty calories, and even extra protein, like the chia seeds in my morning smoothie and the mixed nuts in my oatmeal. I started eating whole apples and oranges. I switched back to just balsamic vinegar instead of oil-based salad dressing. I began drinking tea at night, lest I be tempted by anything more alluring.

A month later, which was a month ago in February, I had lost 7.5 pounds (at that point 168.5 pounds) and lowered my BMI to 24.5; which meant I was no longer overweight.

So what progress have I made since then? I lost another 3.5 pounds (now 165 pounds); which means my BMI is now 24, and I’ve lost a total of 11 pounds!

Here’s something that some fitness freaks won’t like hearing:

I haven’t been working out at a gym.

The weight I have lost has been exclusively because of the empty calories, and well as the extra calories, I’ve been cutting out of my diet.

I still haven’t reached my goal, though. For me, it’s about comfortably fitting into every pair of size 31 pants I own; as I was able to a few years ago.

That means I’m aiming to get down to 156 pounds; which would be a total of 20 pounds lost since January 8th of this year. That’s another 9 pounds to go.

And then once I reach my goal, it’s a matter of maintaining that weight.

I feel, though, since my formula is clearly working, I should be able to maintain the weight loss as long as I remain faithful.

This is my personal story about vegan weight loss.

Google, YouTube, and Amazon: How People are Constantly Making Money from All 3 Forces of the Trifecta of the Modern Day Tower of Babel

Allow me to introduce you to the underworld of the Internet, where people earn passive incomes, thanks to the rest of the world constantly searching for answers on Google, products on Amazon, and education and entertainment on YouTube. These are the 3 forces that help sustain the modern day Tower of Babel.

I think of it as the perfect relationship between creators and consumers.

While it might make us uncomfortable to admit it, these 3 search engines combined serve as a man-made, all-knowing, instantly accessible, god-like entity with instant answers that people can literally see right there on the screen.

No praying required, no real faith involved here. Just type a few words and immediately become more enlightened.

It’s like we’re climbing the stairs to the top of the Tower of Babel, like finding our own way to Heaven; or at least to a more convenient version of life. But hey, if that thought really makes you feel bad; that in theory, we’re all participating in the the modern day Tower of Babel, just promise to never use Google, YouTube, or Amazon again.

Do you want to instantly know how to predict if a young man is going to go bald? Just Google it, and you’ll get to me.

Do you want to know what the best yet affordable espresso machine is on the market? Just Google it, and you’ll get to me.

Do you want to instantly know how to be cured of dyshidrotic eczema without depending on prescriptions from a doctor? Just Google it, and you’ll get to me.

Okay, so maybe you personally aren’t currently looking for answers to these questions. That’s okay. Because somebody else is. All the time. And I am getting a piece of the pie.

How so? This is a glimpse at the way it works.

Having an SEO rich website, for people to stumble upon while searching something on Google:

I own the equivalent of real estate here on the Internet. I have this blog you’re reading now, which has been around since May 2009, which contains over 2400 different articles, all of which contain a minimum of 300 words each. This serves as my dragnet to “capture” a decent portion of a great number of things people might be searching at any giving moment on the Internet. Every second of every day.

Because of this, and other secret reasons, my blog (this website) has good SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Therefore, companies realize this when they themselves search for certain keywords (which I carefully implanted here on my website). They obviously want their product featured on easy-to-find platforms like mine, so they reach out to me; offering a free product and/or payment in exchange for being featured here on my “real estate”.

Having a YouTube channel with a decent amount of subscribers:

I have come to the realization that most people don’t realize YouTubers actually make money every time someone clicks on an ad that shows before a YouTuber’s video. With over 2,000 videos, and each one averaging at least 4 minutes long, I have a steady stream of newcomers landing on my YouTube channel each day.

The more who subscribe, the more views I get, the more money I make. From there, I make videos to coincide with certain blog topics that I write about here on my blog. That way, I can use both my blog and YouTube channel in connection with one another; potentially bringing my audiences together.

Having an Amazon Affiliate account to earn a commission from any items sold, from links I plant on my website and YouTube videos:

Fathom this truth… anytime you click on a link that takes you to Amazon and you end up buying anything, the person who put that link there gets a portion of that sale. The link you clicked may have been for a children’s booster car seat, but after clicking the link, you may have wandered off and instead, ended up buying organic vegan Ramen noodles. 

It doesn’t matter. Amazon rewards people like me who have popular enough platforms to usher people over to Amazon and buy a product.

So obviously, in each of my most popular blog posts and YouTube videos, as well as most of my newest ones, there is at least one link to an Amazon product; as I capitalize on the fact I have a decent sized blog, with an accompanying YouTube channel.

Now knowing this about me, do you think differently of this family friendly daddy blogger?

Am I a sneaky guy who preys on unassuming people who are casually searching things on the Internet?

Or am I just another business-minded creative personality who understands how the system works; that consumers are constantly searching for answers and that I might as well be the one with some of those answers. I have just enough answers to get more than a thousand people to stumble upon my website and YouTube channel each day.

So the next time you Google something random end up on someone’s website, think, “I’m improving their power and presence on the Internet.”

The next time you need to learn something by watching a YouTube video and click on the ad that shows before it, think, “I just made that person a fraction of a penny.”

And the next time you click on a link on a website than transports you to Amazon and you buy something, think, “Somebody somewhere is getting a percentage of this sale.”

You now understand the basics of the business model of the modern day Tower of Babel.

Stay-at-Home Dad 101: I’m No Longer an Overweight Vegan- I Lost 7.5 Pounds in the Past 30 Days, BMI is Now 24.5

Exactly a month ago, I revealed to the free world that I had officially become an overweight vegan. At 5’9” and 176 pounds, I had a BMI of 26; which put me about 6 pounds past the “normal” or “optimal” BMI range.

Yes, this concept might explode in the face of some out-of-touch people who still assume vegans don’t get enough protein. By the way, I’ve noticed a pattern in which the same people who are the most vocal about the misconception that vegans don’t get enough protein, tend to be overweight men with onset diabetes or who are pre-diabetic. Perhaps that in itself is more ironic that the fact that a vegan can be overweight…

But as the video above proves, I have undeniably lost 7.5 pounds in the past 30 days. I went from 176 pounds to 168.5. I went from a BMI of 26 (overweight) to now a BMI of 24.5 (normal).

How did I do this? Starve myself? Go around hungry? Pay a lot of money to join a program to keep me accountable? Join a gym and slave away to intense cardio 2 hours a day?

Nah, that’s not my style. Instead, here are the changes I have made since a month ago:

I started eating 2 apples or 2 oranges every day; which provides natural sugar and fiber.

I stopped eating vegan ice cream and vegan candy bars at night after the kids are asleep.

Other than one Cliff bar each day as my only “treat”, I stopped eating any snacks that are processed; including whole grain waffles with vegan butter and maple syrup.

I also started drinking unsweetened “slumber” tea before I go to bed each night; to help keep my mind off of consuming any last minute empty calories.

For my salad each night with dinner, I only use balsamic vinegar; no longer any oil-based vegan dressings.

That’s it.

As far as exercise, there was one day the weather was decent enough that I went on a 2 mile run.

Obviously, this new regimen is working for me, so I will continue making this my new norm. My goal is to get down to the mid-150s for my weight; which at this point, is only 13 pounds away.

So a month from now, I will return with the newest update on my journey from overweight vegan to ideal-weight vegan.

In case you missed it, here’s the video from 30 days ago when I proved I was an overweight vegan. I want there to be no doubt in anyone’s mind I was indeed overweight just one month ago.